Saturday, April 05, 2003

Fire the scoundrels!

Andrew Sullivan writes on 3 April 2003: (our emphasis)

RAINES WATCH I: A jaw-dropping correction in the New York Times today:
A front-page article on Tuesday about criticism voiced by American military officers in Iraq over war plans omitted two words from an earlier comment by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of V Corps. General Wallace had said (with the omission indicated by uppercasing), "The enemy we're fighting is A BIT different from the one we war-gamed against."
One simple question: why are the reporters who used that critical quote to exaggerate the difficulties of the allies still working for the NYT? The reporters in question are Bernard Weinraub, formerly of the Hollywood beat, and Thom Shanker.

Let's see who used the "critical quote", and in what way:

Correctly quoted Wallace Should not "still be working" according to Sullivan
"The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against." "The enemy we're fighting is different than the one we war-gamed against."
Boston Globe FOX News
Maureen Dowd (30 March) St. Petersburg Times
The Nation BBC
. Malay Mail
. United Press International
. The Hindu, India
. Dallas Morning News (subscription), TX
. Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia
. San Francisco Chronicle
. CBS MarketWatch
. CNN International
. Cleveland Plain Dealer
. The Age, Australia
. Daily Times, Pakistan
. Sunday Mirror, UK
. Guardian, UK
. Sunday Times, Australia
. Independent, UK
. Dallas Morning News
. Rediff, India
. Tacoma News Tribune
. Knoxville News Sentinel
. Financial Times (subscription), UK
. Scripps Howard News Service
. ABC Online, Australia
. New Vision, Uganda
. Straits Times, Singapore
. The Globe and Mail, Canada
. Chicago Tribune (subscription), IL
. Bru Direct, Brunei
. Belfast Telegraph, UK
. London Times, UK

  • The initial misquote came from the Washington Post.

  • On the day the story broke (28 March 2003), many newspapers misquoted Wallace, but did say that it was "reported by The Washington Post". Newspapers that identified the quote as being "reported by the Washington Post" are not included in the right hand column above.
Sullivan sure has his work cut out for him. Imagine - getting all those reporters fired.


Helping out:

Calpundit expresses puzzlement over Willliam F. Buckley's latest essay. Calls it "gibberish."

Well now. It seemed clear to us what he was trying to say. So, as a favor to Kevin Drum, we present a diagram of the essential points made by Buckley:

There have been some temporary hosting problems - please check back if the image does not load.

See? It all makes sense. A guard frisking a little girl naturally leads to a discussion of Stalin's last evening, and that brings to mind Abdul's dirty linen, which forces us to suspect that Hollywood actors are in league with the French - whose president should drop his pants the next time he visits 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Calpundit is a pretty bright guy, and we're disappointed that he couldn't follow Buckley's obvious argument.


Friday, April 04, 2003


Michael Kelly killed in Iraq (accident).


There have been many tributes to Kelly, but they fail to remember certain unpleasant aspects of his character. Everybody is saying how nice he was as a person, while occasionally admitting that he could be "fierce" when writing his essays. In fact, he was so rough that he got dismissed from The New Republic (mostly because he was attacking Gore and Clinton). Here is how the magazine announced the change: (emphasis added)
29 September 1997 issue

NOTE TO READERS: As you may have learned from the newspapers, with this issue Charles Lane succeeds Michael Kelly as editor. Lane first came to TNR fresh out of college in 1983. Hendrik Hertzberg was editor at the time and Lane apprenticed closely with him. Then, when Michael Kinsley sat at the editor's desk, he designated Lane to work with him as the magazine's principal editorial writer. After going to Newsweek as its Central American correspondent during the Nicaraguan civil war and subsequently serving as that magazine's Berlin bureau chief in the aftermath of the demise of communism, Lane was summoned back to Washington by then-Editor Andrew Sullivan to be TNR's lead foreign-policy analyst. So Lane represents continuity with the deepest traditions of this journal: political independence, intellectual seriousness, good writing and decency toward those with whom one disagrees. -- Martin Peretz


This is too easy:

Andrew Sullivan tweaks Mickey Kaus:
Here's a pitch-perfect rear-guard "spin and squirm" "what-did-the-Romans-ever-do-for-us?" pirouette from Mickey:
It's true that the military picture has seemingly improved since [Robert] Wright's piece [in Slate] was posted; his how-can-we-trust-the-hawks-who-muffed-the-war-to-remake-the-Middle-East argument has less force than it did even 24 hours ago. But the hawks were surprised by initial resistance in the South (even if it was mainly resistance obtained at gunpoint), and Rumsfeld still did send too few troops, it seems -- even if the war overall is going well so far. So there's still room for doubting the hawks grander rosy scenarios.
The phrase "it seems -- even if the war overall is going well so far" is the qualification only a master blogger could pull off.
That crafty, sneaky, "master blogger" Kaus!   Using the word "seems" to wriggle out of a (potential) jam.

Consider this Andrew Sullivan post from 10 March 2003:
WHAT'S UP WITH THE DRONE?: Compare the reports in the London Times with the New York Times or the Washington Post (zilch) on the alleged undisclosed drone aircraft buried in the appendix to Hans Blix's report to the U.N. last week. I don't know what to make of it. It seems a big deal to me, although the NYT makes a bigger deal about cluster bombs.
By the way, there are many, many other examples of Sullivan using "seems".


Thursday, April 03, 2003

No comment:

From the New York Times editorial:
"Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes," the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, blithely told CongressDaily.


The Republicans never stop trying to stiff the working man and woman:

This story in the New York Post (found by Democratic Veteran):
[Senator Ted Stevens - Alaska]

"I really feel strongly that we ought to find some way to convince the people that there ought to be some volunteerism at home," said Stevens, a Republican who's chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"Those people overseas in the desert - they're not getting paid overtime . . . I don't know why the people working for the cities and counties ought to be paid overtime when they're responding to matters of national security," he said.
When will that 20% (or whatever working class fraction) of Bush supporters realize that the Republicans are screwing them over royally?


Wednesday, April 02, 2003


From USA Today's story, Strain of Iraq war showing on Bush, those who know him say He's said to be 'burdened,' tense, angry at media, second-guessers we read:
  • People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He's being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began.

  • He's a supervisor who manages the competing views and egos of top advisers.

  • News coverage of the war often irritates him. He's infuriated by reporters and retired generals who publicly question the tactics of the war plan. Bush let senior Pentagon officials know that he was peeved when Lt. Gen. William Wallace, the Army's senior ground commander in Iraq, said last week that guerrilla fighting, Iraqi resistance and sandstorms have made a longer war more likely.

  • Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day. His history degree from Yale makes him mindful of the importance of the moment.

  • ... Bush doesn't keep a diary or other personal record of the events that will form his legacy. Aides take notes, but there's no stenographer in most meetings, nor are they videotaped or recorded.

  • He is convinced that the Iraqi leader is literally insane and would gladly give terrorists weapons to use to launch another attack on the United States. The thought of another assault on the United States horrifies Bush. Aides say he believes history and heaven will judge him by his ability to prevent one.

  • He and Rumsfeld spread out maps of the war zone in their meetings. Bush wants to know where U.S. troops are, where they're headed, what weapons are being used and how the enemy is faring.

  • Bush advisers say he will revise the war plan if he becomes convinced that it's not working.

  • On March 17, before he delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam, Bush summoned congressional leaders to the White House. They expected a detailed briefing, but the president told them he was notifying them only because he was legally required to do so and then left the room. They were taken aback, and some were annoyed.

  • Bush copes with anxiety as he always has. He prays and exercises.

  • Bush has imposed an almost military discipline on himself. Even though he's as lean as he was in college, he decided just before the war that he was unhappy with his running times, which were slowing from his preferred pace of 7.5 minutes or less per mile. So Bush gave up his one indulgence: sweets. It worked; he's losing weight and improving his time.

  • When Bush doesn't find time to run three or four miles a day, he still works out. He uses an elliptical trainer, lifts weights and stretches. Exercising regularly, he says, gives him time to think, improves his energy and helps him sleep.


Tuesday, April 01, 2003


The Supreme Court begins the debate on affirmative action. Excerpt (from NPR's audio clip):
SCALIA: I don't know any other area where we decide the case by saying, "well, there are very few people who are being treated unconstitutionally." I mean if this indeed is unconstitutional treatment of this woman because of her race, surely it doesn't make any difference whether she is one of very few that have been treated unconstitutionally.
In other words, we should be vigilant about constitutional issues even when the percentages involved are small.

But what about last year's voucher decision? In the majority opinion (by Rehnquist, joined by Scalia, et al) we read (pdf):
The Establishment Clause question whether Ohio is coercing parents into sending their children to religious schools must be answered by evaluating all options Ohio provides Cleveland schoolchildren, only one of which is to obtain a scholarship and then choose a religious school. Cleveland’s preponderance of religiously affiliated schools did not result from the program, but is a phenomenon common to many American cities. Eighty-two percent of Cleveland’s private schools are religious, as are 81%of Ohio’s private schools. To attribute constitutional significance to the 82% figure would lead to the absurd result that a neutral school-choice program might be permissible in parts of Ohio where the percentage is lower, but not in Cleveland, where Ohio has deemed such programs most sorely needed. Likewise, an identical private choice program might be constitutional only in States with a lower percentage of religious private schools. Respondents' additional argument that constitutional significance should be attached to the fact that 96% of the scholarship recipients have enrolled in religious schools was flatly rejected in Mueller. The constitutionality of a neutral educational aid program simply does not turn on whether and why, in a particular area, at a particular time, most private schools are religious, or most recipients choose to use the aid at a religious school.
In other words, even if percentages approach 100% - turning a "choice" program into a virtual "mandatory religious" one - Scalia sees no reason to be perturbed.


The latest spin:


Why did they do it?

We read in this story entitled WHITE HOUSE TO END DRUGS & TERROR ADS, the following:
The ads were controversial not only because of their message, but because of the way they were produced. While almost all White House Office of National Drug Control Policy creative comes from the Partnership [for a Drug-Free America], the terrorism ads were produced outside the Partnership ...

The Partnership said the ads were off-strategy and refused to do any of the spots. Partnership Vice Chairman Allen Rosenshine ... ripped the campaign in a congressional hearing.
Let's review: The White House office puts out ads about drugs and terror, yet a key anti-drug organization that normally works with the ONDCP thinks they're worthless. If the ads aren't (really) about drugs, then maybe they are designed to highten concerns about terror. And who has an interest in that? Could it be the White House?



How do you turn 518 words into a 2,699 word essay? Simple, if you're Howard Kurtz. Just quote like mad. This was brought home to us forcefully while analyzing a recent Media Notes column. In fact, take out the 125 quote-intro words (e.g. "The Philadelphia Inquirer explores the question of bad advice:") and you're down to 393 words of original material, or 14.5% of the total. For those interested, here's that 14%:
[quote from 1991]

Says another Times report: [quote from 1991]

Both stories appeared in 1991. The president was George H.W.; Cheney was running the Pentagon.

Journalists have been second-guessing the conduct of war for a long time. Even Lincoln got some bad press during the first three years of the Civil War. But how, in the space of 10 days, did the media's portrayal of the combat in Iraq become a front-burner issue - to the point that Don Rumsfeld was complaining yesterday about "hyperventilating" critics?

Do Pentagon officials think that journalists are just genetically hard-wired to be negative? That they're so addicted to instant gratification that they would turn thumbs-down on any war that wasn't wrapped up within a week?

There are three reasons for the generally sour tone of the coverage.

One is that a wide range of experts consulted by reporters - former military officials, Pentagon aides speaking on background, field commanders - say things aren't going all that well. Not that there are debilitating setbacks - it would be ridiculously early to make such pronouncements - but that unexpected problems have cropped up and resistance is fiercer than expected.

The second problem is that the opening act of the war is being measured against expectations that were inflated to unrealistic levels, both by the media and some administration officials. The latter may have been trying to scare Saddam into caving, but in the process sent the message that the Iraqis would quickly fold.

Imagine how different the situation would seem if the pre-game commentary had said the war would probably last about six months. Being 50 miles outside Baghdad in a week would suddenly seem like lightning progress. Instead, there's all this finger-pointing about the long and vulnerable supply lines that are having trouble getting enough food to some units.

The third reason - which we explore in greater depth in our Monday Washington Post column - is that embedded journalists are bringing every mistake and suicide attack into our living rooms in real-time color.

[quotes from 7 sources]

Whew. This is starting to sound like the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

[quotes from 3 sources, the last about military commentators]

What exactly would we expect from folks who spent their entire career saluting?

[quote about Clear Channel backing the war]

The company laughs off the charges.

[quote from National Review about antiwar journalists]

That's certainly not the impression we get from watching John Roberts and Ted Koppel and David Bloom, or reading the newspapers' special war sections.

It had to happen: Embedded reporters turning on other embedded reporters.
So, has the reporting been fair? Are the newspapers accurately reporting the situation? Is Clear Channel acting ethically? Kurtz doesn't say.

And the answer to Howard's "how, in the space of 10 days, did the media's portrayal of the combat in Iraq become a front-burner issue?" question is obvious: Because conservatives like Limbaugh, Kristol, Hume, O'Reilly, Hannity, et al, have raised a fuss. But you'd never know it from reading Kurtz' column.


Idle chatter:

Sullivan "analyzes" Bush Administration claims about the war and finds nothing to get upset about. From his most recent posting:

Sullvian writes what he is saying
I've been floating a few counter-factuals about this war in my head. I've been thinking about different scenarios leading up to the war.
In particular, I'm thinking about what the Josh Marshalls and Joe Conasons (although Josh is in a different league of seriousness than Conason, of course) would have had the administration say just before the war.  
What if Cheney had gone on television and said: "Look, this is going to take months. Saddam's hardcore is highly trained, ruthless and will fight to the death." What if Cheney presented a cautious, non-triumphalist assessment of the war's likely progress?
Wouldn't that have largely removed the chance - even if it were an outside one - of psyching out the Ba'ath leadership and possibly cracking the Saddamite machine at the outset? Wouldn't that eliminate the slim chance of fooling the Iraqi leadership into misjudgments (and possibly surrender)?
Part of what the administration was trying to achieve, it seems to me, was a psychological coup against the Baghdad leadership. I think it was part of the war plan to fool the Iraqi leadership with our braggadocio.
If they could out-psyche the Ba'athists, convince them they were doomed, we'd have had much higher chances of winning this quickly and well. And if it worked, that would have made the task of invading Iraq easier for the U.S.
The problem, of course, was that the message designed for Saddam was also one heard by the domestic audience, and so was a set-up for disappointment. As it turns out, the American public heard the bold, confident assessment as well.
The further problem was that if the leadership survived, they might also feel more confidence for making it through the first couple of weeks.  
But, again, that's only a problem if the British and American publics aren't grown-ups and can't deal with the uncertainties of war, and if we don't have the firepower to win anyway. Which is a problem if they believed it.
But the publics are grown up ... But they knew better.

In other words, it's fine for the Administration to make wild assertions because the public is smart enought to know to dismiss them.

That kind of excuse can be applied in many areas and lets Bush off the hook for whatever claims he makes.
  • Tax cuts not helping the economy? Well, our "grown-up" public isn't surprised.

  • Lax business regulation hurts the overall economy (and not a few individuals)? Of course, what did you expect?

  • Ballistic Missle Defense a waste of money? Hey, we all knew that.


Monday, March 31, 2003

Uranium substitute:

The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, expresses concern about using ammunition out of depleted uranium. They write:
For every minute a pilot holds down the trigger of a 30-millimeter Gatling gun, up to 3,900 bullets tear into enemy lines.

There's no question that these armor-piercing munitions are effective. Nor, however, is there a question that each fragment adds minutely to the 320 tons of radioactive ordnance that allied forces blasted into the soil of Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. When the dust settles at war's end, the military must stop dodging legitimate concerns about the long-term environmental and health hazards posed by depleted uranium. ...
There is some debate about how radioactive the depleted uranium is and if that poses a hazard. Fans of using uranium note how effective the ammunition is. Why? Because the uranium makes for a denser bullet. Let's look at some comon metals, and see how uranium stacks up:
ElementDensity (grams/cc)

Uranium is the "heavyweight" among the group listed, but there are other elements of equal (or greater) density. For example, Tungsten weighs in at 19.35 g/cc (as do others nearby in the periodic table). Perhaps some alternative to depleted uranium should be considered.


Bush "dress-up" watch:

Rest assured, even though things are getty messy in Iraq, your president has time to don yet another military jacket. Today, it's the Coast Guard's (lettering on jacket is USCG). But as we've noted before, this is nothing new.


Thanks, we needed that:

Peggy Noonan writing in the Wall Street Journal in a column titled "We Can Take It    The benefits of the long haul" has this to say:
  • Unanticipated good can come from misfortune.

  • ... this is going to take a while. And that is going to surprise some Americans, including probably some wearing our uniform.

  • The second Gulf War will not be quick. ... A resentful world is about to see that America had to fight for it. They are about to see America could fight for it--that we had and have the stomach for a struggle.

  • The world will be reminded that America still knows how to suffer. In a county as in an individual, the ability to withstand pain--the ability to suffer--says a great deal about character. It speaks of maturity and courage, among other things. The world knew half a century ago that America will absorb pain to reach progress. It is not all bad that they are seeing it again.

  • Americans too may be heartened to see that we know how to absorb pain. Deep in the heart of many pro-invasion thinkers has been a question they do not ponder for it could only be answered in time. It was: Can we still take it? It won't be bad for us to see that the answer is yes.

  • Our armed forces, the professionals, are going to learn that they can do it. They've wondered too. They are also going to learn how to do their jobs better, because they're really going to have to do the job. They are not going to feel when they return that they got all dressed up and the party was canceled.

Feeling better now? The pain and suffering is good for you.

Oh, and how about the condescension towards the military? Some in uniform will be surprised? And they are going to learn how to do their jobs better because they will have to.

It sure is easy to talk big when you're sitting comfortably far from the action.


Required reading:

In the Observer, there is an thought-provoking essay by Will Hutton on Tony Blair and American conservatives. Mostly about the conservatives. Excerpts:
... a new generation of intellectual conservatives took on the apparently effortless liberal dominance, and beat it at its own game - the realm of ideas. The great right-wing thinktanks - the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute - became the intellectual inspiration of the conservative revival. The rich were virtuous and moral because they worked hard; the poor worthless and amoral because they had not boot-strapped themselves out of poverty. Welfare thus bred a dependency culture, they claimed, and made poverty worse. Taxation was an act of coercion and an affront to liberty. Markets worked like magic; choice was always better than public provision. Corporations spearheaded wealth creation. Conservatism was transmuted into a moral crusade.
The capture of universities by the rich and the lack of education for the poor has meant that social mobility in the US has collapsed. American capitalism, in thrall to the stock market and quick bucks it offers, has hollowed out its great corporations in the name of the hallowed conservative conception of share-holder value - the sole purpose of a company is to enrich its owners. Productivity and social mobility are now higher in Old Europe than in the US - despite a tidal wave of propaganda to the contrary.
Is it true that social mobility is higher in Old Europe than in the U.S.? If so, that's quite a development.


Sunday, March 30, 2003

Here's one cook that spoils the broth:



From the New York Post. An editorial by the paper:
March 30, 2003 -- Where's the Ohio National Guard when you really need it?


Hey, if a campus crank can wish for personal calamity to befall U.S. forces in Iraq, why not fantasize about a volley of Kent State-style militia musketry rattled off in his general direction?

Not that Nicholas De Genova, an untenured prof of something or other at Columbia University, is worth the effort.

Even if he did publicly call for a resounding American defeat in Iraq.


Freedom of expression works two ways, after all.

Oh, and just kidding about Kent State.

Free speech, don't you know.

NOTE: The photograph of the Kent State shooting was not part of the editorial. We posted it to remind people what the editorial was referring to.


A neocon who really doesn't get it:

What does WIlliam Kristol - fierce advocate of the Project for the New American Century - have to say in the wake of discouraging news about the war in Iraq? Apparently nothing about planning, diplomacy, or tactics - even though he's a key figure in shaping the policy that led to the invasion. Instead, he has this to say: (From the panel discussion on Fox News Sunday for 30 March 2003)
I would say this: I think American liberalism and the Democratic party are now facing a big split. They seem to face one about once every generation. In 1948 the Truman forces won out over the Henry Wallace forces, and the anti-Communists drove the fellow travelers out of the Democratic party. In 1972 the McGovern forces defeated the Scoop Jackson forces - the Scoop Jackson hawks ended up in the Republican party mostly. We now have a split coming in liberalism that's equally deep and significant, I think. Dick Gephart Democrats, a lot of the Democratic foreign policy establishment, Washington Post editorial page - they want America to win this war and they mostly support the President and the conduct of the war. And they've had their differences with the Bush administration - God knows - but they are pro-American liberals. I really honestly now believe that a certain chunk of the Democratic party, a higher chunk of the liberal commentators, take a certain relish in the fact that when something goes badly in the war, they hate the Bush administration more than they love America. And that is a very bad situation. And I very much hope - it's not really for me to get involved in intra-liberal fights - but I very much hope the decent pro-American liberals, people like Dick Gephardt - Hillary Rodham Clinton, incidentally, has been very good on this, certainly in the last two or three weeks - the Dick Gephart liberals prevail over the anti-American left- which I now see to a degree that really surprises me.
It's a crisis for the American left.
UPDATE: We should've known this: Kristol was repeating lots of material from a column he'd just written in his magazine, The Weekly Standard.



Heard on ABC's This Week:
George Will: Look, this is as Secretary Baker said to you, "a war of choice", and in order to encourage that choice to get made, some people oversold this - perhaps Perle and some others, who are actually not officeholders in the administration.

Michele Martin: Defense advisory board, George, he was the chairman of it.

George Will: I understand that - [but] it's an unpaid position and it's not setting policy.
From the newswire:
Perle offers to resign from U.S. Defense Policy Board

Noting criticism of a possible conflict of interest over his roles as corporate adviser and Defense Department consultant, Perle wrote to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "As I cannot quickly or easily quell criticism of me based on errors of fact concerning my activities, the least I can do under these circumstances is to ask you to accept my resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board."


Famous last words: