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Saturday June 19, 2004

Some cogent thoughts on prisoner interrogation over at Right Wing News.

Sane words from Joe Lieberman:

The terrorists can never defeat us militarily. But they can divide us and defeat us politically if the American people become disappointed and disengaged, because they don't appreciate and support the overriding principles that require us to take military action.

Here are many of the same thoughts, albeit a little more poetic, from The Messopotamian:

Calm seas and easy winds do not test a ship’s worthiness, but it is the tempest and the hurricane that show her true metal. Strength is measured by the intensity of stress that can be withstood. And here we see you standing like a mountain towering over the raging elements.

And you know Mr. President when the lion marches into the bush, the wild dogs, the monkeys, the hyenas and all the other beasts of the wild scurry and run and hide at a safe distance, some perched high in the trees, others hiding in holes under the ground, and each will find his favorite refuge. Yet they will start their squeaking, screaming, barking, hissing and generally making a deafening din and clamor, while apprehensively and attentively watching every move and gesture of the King in great trepidation. Some of the monkeys might dare toss some coconut shells perhaps in his direction, but from a very safe remoteness, and some parasites, too small and contemptible to be observed might give him a sting or two; but all that cannot bother the great one much. It is the racket and noise though that can be most annoying. But who dares to come within range, for they all know very well what fate awaits them then.

But the great noble ship sails on and on braving the elements, majestic, white sails and white flags of honor fluttering high in the sky, for she is carrying bounty and prizes to far off lands hungry for the great gifts. May God bless her course and her mission and grant her safe journey and triumphant return. Amen.

Leslie Stahl called it, "the biggest story of the summer". His Memoirs are to be released on...hold your breath...Tuesday! Sunday evening there will be an hourlong commercial for the book. There will be countless column inches in the papers and untold minutes on cable news. Yes, we're about to encounter a complete season in which we'll have Bill Clinton inflicted on us once again. Might as well get with the program. Here's Fred Barnes on the Incredible Shrinking President:

Presidents are judged by their record, not their memoirs. At best, Clinton is Calvin Coolidge without the ethics and the self-restraint. Clinton is not a failed president, only an insignificant one. In his interview with Rather to plug My Life, he claims two great accomplishments. One is "the creation of 22 million jobs." The other is the toppling of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in the Balkan war. So Clinton takes credit, above all, for high job growth and a positive outcome in a relatively minor foreign policy crisis. One qualification: On jobs, while Clinton deserves credit, presidents merely make jobs a bit easier or harder for the economy to create. They don't create jobs themselves, except by expanding government. In sum, Clinton's twin achievements match Coolidge's almost exactly. The highlights of Coolidge's term were a flourishing economy and triumph in three minor foreign ventures.

Meanwhile, Jason Fodeman offers this interesting observation on media bias:

For twenty years, whenever Richard Nixon appeared in public, the media never missed an opportunity to state that this was “the disgraced former president.” Now, despite actually having been impeached, Mr. Clinton is portrayed prancing with the celebrity and cachet of a movie star. As the cameras flash and the film rolls, leading newsmen jockey for position to kiss his ring. “Disgraced,” “shamed,” and “discredited” are words never uttered.

Just in case you were not aware of how left the UK Guardian was, here's a bit of a story about an upcomming book from an allegedly current senior US intelligence official. This is just a small bit:

A senior US intelligence official is about to publish a bitter condemnation of America's counter-terrorism policy, arguing that the west is losing the war against al-Qaida and that an "avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked" war in Iraq has played into Osama bin Laden's hands. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror, due out next month, dismisses two of the most frequent boasts of the Bush administration: that Bin Laden and al-Qaida are "on the run" and that the Iraq invasion has made America safer. In an interview with the Guardian the official, who writes as "Anonymous", described al-Qaida as a much more proficient and focused organisation than it was in 2001, and predicted that it would "inevitably" acquire weapons of mass destruction and try to use them.

To my mind, this is where "Anonymous" jumps the shark:

"I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," he said. "One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."

Really? Al-Qaida couldn't have a better administration for them? An administration that brought the war to them on their own turf in Afghanistan and routed them from the country. An administration that has sought and killed many of their leaders and has many other leaders on the run or lying low. Was al-Qaida really worse off under, say, the Clinton Administration? Would a Kerry administration be even more aggressive? To assert either of these is simply not credible. Hey, if a guy, "Senior Intelligence Official or no, isn't credible then why would you listen to him? Been there, done that.

Check out Cathy Buckle's weekly submission from (the dictatorial socialist thug Robert Mugabe's) Zimbabwe. Sad. Very sad:

I have been trying to think of a word that most accurately describes life in the small Zimbabwean town in which I live. Lots of words come to mind, many of which are unrepeatable but I think the most appropriate ones are paralyzed and exhausted. Taking my soon to be 12 year old son shopping for a pair of long trousers for his birthday, we stopped in the middle of the road along with all the other pedestrians and cars and stared at a little parade of school children passing to commemorate what was World Environment Day. It was a very cold and windy morning and empty packets, bags and other litter swirled and accumulated on the kerbs. Some who stopped to watch were the men who push great hand carts piled with firewood they have cut from trees on the newly liberated farms. Others who stopped were the women who carry 20 litres buckets filled with little fish they have caught in nearby dams, again from newly liberated farms. There was one thing all of us who watched the parade had in common - we had all just survived a month of drinking the most foul water that both looked and smelled like sewage. For weeks we had been complaining to the Municipality. The water is green, we cried, it smells, we shouted, it has "things" floating in it. None of us had dared to walk through the streets carrying posters saying "we demand clean water" or "we refuse to pay to drink sewage" so we did nothing, boiled the water twice and prayed that diarrhoea would not paralyze our children. For over a month the entire town had suffered and now we stood staring at a parade commemorating "Environment Day". The irony was staggering.

Debkafile reports several glaring errors emanating from the 9/11 comission's interim report. Here's just one:

The most implausible conclusion that suggests the 9/11 panel is influenced by a political agenda is its failure to find credible evidence of links between the Saddam regime and al Qaeda. It is on record that Musab Zarqawi, who is at present running al Qaeda’s terror campaign in Iraq, was seen in that country in 1996 or 1997. From 1998 to 2000, he set up a training base in the northern Kurdistan town of Biyara near the Iranian border, then under the control of Iraqi military intelligence and the Ansar al-Islam terrorist group. Iraqi intelligence officers and instructors helped Zarqawi set up laboratories in Biyara for testing chemical, biological and radiological weapons.

Well, perhaps the "implausible conclusions" are simply an artifact of the media reportage. Check out this from IraqNow: (and if you don't read IraqNow, you should.)

Why are reporters so stupid? Why are respected news organizations letting idiots cover the White House beat? Is the White House press pool bus smaller than most buses? I hate to even ask, but here's a question to the President from a White House reporter I know only as "Deb."

Mr. President, why does the administration continue to insist that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda, when even you have denied any connection between Saddam and September 11th. And now the September 11th Commission says that there was no collaborative relationship at all.

The reporter commits several logical fallacies and falsehoods.

1.) There is no contradiction whatsoever with insisting that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda and denying a connection between Saddam and September 11th. It is entirely possible to have a very close relationship with Al Qaeda and not to have been kept in the loop about September 11th.

2.) The commission did not say that there was no collaborative relationship at all. The commission said that there was no evidence that Saddam had collaborated with Al Qaeda in attacks on the United States. That is quite a different thing. The commission did not find any evidence that would rule out such a collaboration. Nor did the commission take a position one way or the other on whether there was a relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq (prima facie, there was. Zarqawi found shelter and care in Iraq well before the war. The commission does not deny this.)

3.) A "collaborative relationship" != "relationship." A "collaborative relationship" is a subset of "relationship." All collaborative relationships are relationships, but not all relationships are collaborative. I mean, this is 6th grade logic here, but apparently it's simply beyond Deb's grasp.

She doesn't know what's in the commission's report. She doesn't know what the Administration has been arguing all along. She doesn't know who Zarqawi is, apparently, or where he was in February 2003, before the war (along with a dozen other members of his cell who also found refuge in Iraq along with him). She doesn't grasp the English language--the primary tool of her trade--sufficiently to discern the difference between "relationship" and "connection," nor does she grasp the logic that makes "Al Qaeda" a distinctly different entity from "September 11th," sufficient to understand that one can have a relationship or connection with one, but not a direct connection with another, and that this is no contradiction.

Further, she doesn't have the detatched grace to frame her question as anything other than a "gotcha." "i.e.: why does the administration continue to insist." This is an unfair and slanted way to express a question she herself simply does not understand. It's the equivalent of asking the President "Do you still beat your wife?"

A better way to ask the question--an ETHICAL way to ask the question--would be something like this: Mr. President, the Commission reports there is no evidence of a collaborative relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda, w/r/t attacks on the U.S. But you and your administration continue to assert that some sort of relationship existed between the two. Can you clarify what you believe the nature of that relationship to be, and why it is that you believed that relationship to be a threat to the US?

Of course, those aren't journalist ethics. Too many journalists praise the 'gotcha' question. They confuse it with being "tough minded." And in this case, this woman was showboating. The real audience wasn't the American people, because the American people derive no benefit from that line or manner of questioning. Deb's real audience was her fellow journalists in the room. No. There's a time for the gotcha question. But that time is only when the reporter has done his or her homework, and there's a 'gotcha' to be had. Being tough-minded is NOT going for the 'gotcha.' Being tough-minded is clarifying the ideas and solidifying your own understanding of the issues, which this reporter--which much of the entire press corps, has not done.

That's why I don't trust journalism ethics to eliminate bias from the newsroom. Journalism ethics, indeed, are part of the problem. There needs to be less value put on being tough questioners, and more value placed on mastering the CRAFT (not the profession, the CRAFT) of reporting. This lady hasn't mastered her craft, and looks foolish as a result. But if you master the craft, then the tough questioning will follow, and it will be far more en pointe, and far more effective for it.

And journalists may be respected once again.

Is it just me, or do these quotes by Theresa Heinz Kerry portray her hubby as not quite Presidential: