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Political Rants & interesting thought pieces
Topic: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces (Read 333255 times)
Reply #50 on:
September 08, 2004, 07:11:08 PM »
I wholeheartedly agree with the bottom line of your response:
American citizens should be able to say what they damn well please
As for the linear nature of the question being debated among my friends, the question was put to me in that manner and so I passed it on as such. And yes, the debate (at least among my friends) has definitely devolved into a circular mishmash.
The original debate was whether or not an individual who had served had carte blanche when it came to discussing another service member's record. And you can see what a can of worms that opens
Bottom line for me is that framing the issue in an either/or manner isn't particularly constructive
Absolutely! I believe that one of the biggest problems in our society today is the lack of gray areas (i.e. everything is either black or white). I, for one, would love to hear a discussion of our society's issues (political, economic, industrial, environmental, etc.) that didn't become into a shouting match based solely on one's political stance/party.
Thanks for the response...
Reply #51 on:
September 16, 2004, 10:59:43 AM »
Not sure if this video qualifies as a rant, but I think it's funny...
Reply #52 on:
September 16, 2004, 11:24:17 AM »
I can't get the video to open but this is horrendous:
"Americans must be able to trust the facts in political ads. Every voter has the right to truthful advertising. Free speech is no defense to massive, purposeful fraud.
"You, the FCC, have an obligation to ensure that broadcast stations around the country do not transmit misleading, deceptive and fraudulent advertising.
"We, the undersigned American citizens, demand that you require proof of fact before airing political advertisements. Laws must change to protect our democracy. "
Said with love, but are you crazy?!? You have to prove truth to a government agency before engaging in political speech?!?!?!?!?!? Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Naderian, whatever-- this is profoundly ass-backwards.
McCain-Feingold is one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation to pass in a long, long time and shame on President Bush for signing it, and shame on the Supreme Court for upholding it. Our First Amendment has taken a serious blow with this.
Reply #53 on:
September 16, 2004, 11:48:34 AM »
"Said with love, but are you crazy?!? You have to prove truth to a government agency before engaging in political speech?!?!?!?!?!? Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Naderian, whatever-- this is profoundly ass-backwards. "
I agree wholeheatedly. Freedom of speech means just that.
The site sucks, but the video is great. Will Ferrell doing an amazing GW impersonation.
Reply #54 on:
September 16, 2004, 12:27:27 PM »
Glad we agree on that!
This on Dan Rather:
Reply #55 on:
September 16, 2004, 01:16:38 PM »
That is too f-ing funny!
The media has sadly become a hotbed of ineptitude and shoddy reporting. From plagiarism (Jayson Blair) and the latest CBS blunder (hey, how about checking the veracity of your story before releasing it?), we should all be embarassed.
If I was a journalism major, I'd be considering a different career path.
Reply #56 on:
September 16, 2004, 01:28:15 PM »
If you liked that, try this rant from Ann Coulter
September 15, 2004
Why do TV commentators on CBS' forgery-gate insist on issuing lengthy
caveats to the effect that of course this was an innocent mistake and no one is accusing Dan Rather of some sort of "conspiracy," and respected newsman Dan Rather would never intentionally foist phony National Guard documents on an unsuspecting public merely to smear George Bush, etc., etc.?
I'll admit, there's a certain sadistic quality to such overwrought decency
toward Dan Rather. But how does Bill O'Reilly know what Dan Rather was
thinking when he put forged documents on the air? I know liberals have the paranormal ability to detect racism and sexism, but who knew O'Reilly could read an anchorman's mind just by watching him read the news?
What are the odds that Dan Rather would have accepted such patently phony documents from, say, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?
As we now know, CBS' own expert told them there were problems with the documents -- the main one being that they were clearly fakes dummied up at a Kinko's outlet from somebody's laptop at 4 a.m.
According to ABC News, document examiner Emily Will was hired by CBS to vet the documents. But when she raised questions about the documents' authenticity and strongly warned CBS not to use the documents on air, CBS ignored her. Will concluded: "I did not feel that they wanted to investigate it very deeply."
Within hours of the documents being posted on CBS' Web site, moderately observant fourth-graders across America noticed that the alleged early '70s National Guard documents were the product of Microsoft Word. If that wasn't bad enough, The New York Times spent the following week hailing Rather for his "journalistic coup" in obtaining the documents that no other newsman had (other than Jayson Blair).
By now, all reputable document examiners in the Northern Hemisphere dispute the documents' authenticity. Even the Los Angeles Times has concluded that the documents are fraudulent -- and when you fail to meet the ethical standards of the L.A. Times, you're in trouble.
In Dan Rather's defense, it must be confessed, he is simply a newsreader. Now that Walter Cronkite is retired, Rather is TV's real-life Ted Baxter without Baxter's quiet dignity. No one would ever suggest that he has any role in the content of his broadcast. To blame Dan Rather for what appears on his program would be like blaming Susan Lucci for the plot of "All My Children."
The person to blame is Ted Baxter's producer, Mary Mapes. Mapes apparently decided: We'll run the documents calling Bush a shirker in the National Guard, and if the documents turn out to be fraudulent we'll:
a) Blame Karl Rove;
b) Say the documents don't matter.
But if the documents are irrelevant to the question of Bush's Guard duty,
then why did CBS bring them up? Why not just say: "The important thing is for you to take our word for it!"
Interestingly, the elite (and increasingly unwatched) media always make
"mistakes" in the same direction. They never move too quickly to report a story unfavorable to liberals.
In 1998, CNN broadcast its famous "Tailwind" story, falsely accusing the
U.S. military of gassing American defectors in Laos during the Vietnam War. (This was part of liberals' long-standing support for "the troops.") The publishing industry regularly puts out proven frauds such as: "I, Rigoberta Menchu" (a native girl's torture at the hands of the right-wing Guatemalan military), "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" (a liberal fantasy of a gun-free colonial America), "Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President" (a book by a convicted felon with wild stories of George Bush's drug use), and the unsourced nutty fantasies of Kitty Kelley.
In a book out this week, Kelley details many anonymous charges against the Bush family, such as that Laura Bush was a pot dealer in college, George W. Bush was the first person in America to use cocaine back in 1968, and he also regularly consorted with a prostitute in Texas who was then silenced by the CIA.
Kelley backs up her shocking allegations with names of highly credentialed people -- who have absolutely no connection to the events she is describing. No one directly involved is on the record, and the people on the record have never met anyone in the Bush family. In other words, her stories have been "vetted" enough to be included on tonight's "CBS Evening News" with Dan Rather.
The New York Times review blamed Kelley's gossip mongering on "a cultural climate in which gossip and innuendo thrive on the Internet." Kelley has been writing these books for decades, so apparently, like the Texas Air National Guard, Kelley was on the Internet -- and being influenced by it -- back in the '70s. As I remember it, for the past few years it has been the Internet that keeps dissecting and discrediting the gossip and innuendo that the major media put out.
Curiously, all this comes at the precise moment that speculation is at a
fever pitch about whether Kitty Kelley is in the advanced stages of
syphilis. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases: "Approximately 3 percent to 7 percent of persons with untreated syphilis develop neurosyphilis, a sometimes serious disorder of the nervous system.
Dr. Jonathan Zenilman, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Johns
Hopkins University, has found there is an "inter-relationship" between STDs and truck routes in Baltimore. I'm not at liberty to reveal the names of my sources, but there are three or four highly placed individuals in the publishing industry who say Miss Kelley or someone who closely resembles her is a habitue of truck routes in Baltimore.
While opinions differ as to whether Miss Kelley's behavior can be explained by syphilis or some other STD, people who went to Harvard -- and Harvard is one of the top universities in the nation -- say her path is consistent with someone in the advanced stages.
Amid the swirling dispute over her STDs, there is only one way for Kelley to address this issue: Release her medical records. As someone who would like to be thought of as her friend said anonymously: "For your own good, Ms. Kelley, I would get those medical records out yesterday." This doesn't have to be public. She may release her medical records to me, or if she'd be more comfortable, to my brothers.
Since TV commentators have assured me that Dan Rather is an equal
opportunity idiot, Kelley had better clear all this up before someone slips
this column to CBS. As a precaution I've written this on a 1972 Selectric
Reply #57 on:
September 22, 2004, 11:29:54 AM »
Rather's producer assured CBS execs on Guard papers
By Peter Johnson, USA TODAY
Mary Mapes, the Dallas-based producer of Dan Rather's controversial Sept. 8 60 Minutes segment questioning President Bush's military record, is the focus of attention following published reports that
she arranged for her Texas source on the story to talk to a top aide to Democratic hopeful John Kerry.
CBS News executives want to know why Mapes, one of Rather's most trusted producers, repeatedly assured them that both Bill Burkett and the documents he gave her could be trusted ? only to have both widely called into question by Internet bloggers and rival news organizations soon after 60 Minutes aired the story. On Monday, CBS said the story should have never run, and Rather apologized to viewers.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Mapes arranged for Burkett to talk to a top aide to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Standard journalistic ethical practices forbid reporters from doing anything that could be perceived as helping a political campaign.
CBS News hopes to name an independent panel today that will investigate how Burkett, a Texas Democratic operative and opponent of President Bush, deceived 60 Minutes in its now-retracted story about Bush's military record ? and who at the network is responsible.
"It's clear that something went seriously wrong with the process," CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves said. He called the review "both necessary and important."
Mapes also produced 60 Minutes' follow-up segment a week ago in which Marion Knox, the secretary to the National Guard officer who supposedly wrote the disputed memos, Col. Jerry Killian, said the information in the documents was correct but that the memos themselves were fake.
But now, with Mapes' credibility seriously questioned, CBS News staffers say they're puzzled why Mapes is still apparently actively working on the memos story. CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius refused to comment on that. She said that Mapes, 48, remains on CBS' payroll.
Neither Mapes nor Rather, who said recently that Mapes has his "trust, respect and admiration," could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Mapes is a popular producer at CBS News, which she joined in 1989. She worked mostly on The CBS Evening News, joining the Wednesday edition of 60 Minutes? called 60 Minutes II until the current season ? in 1999.
In television news and on newsmagazines such as 60 Minutes, producers do the lion's share of the reporting legwork, with correspondents and anchors such as Rather the stars who take credit ? or in this case, the blame. Rather, who identifies himself on The CBS Evening News as "reporting" from New York, is known in the industry as being very active in the nuts and bolts of actual reporting, but producers such as Mapes are the unseen hands behind the stories.
Until now, her reporting skills were close to the stuff of CBS News legend: Mostly recently, she and Rather broke one of the biggest stories of the year by uncovering photos of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
Mapes, who is known as a fast, tenacious reporter with a quick wit and sense of humor, spent two months on the prison story getting it ready for broadcast. Network executives say she has spent five years digging into Bush's history in the Texas Air National Guard.
"She has done so many incredibly strong stories in her career here and at CBS News," said 60 Minutes producer Jeff Fager, who worked closely with her in recent years on 60 Minutes II before he replaced Don Hewitt at the helm of the Sunday version of the newsmagazine this summer.
"How this went so horribly wrong is hard to understand," Fager said.
Reply #58 on:
September 22, 2004, 12:47:32 PM »
Since I'm on a roll:
Laurence W. Britt
Free Inquiry readers may pause to read the ?Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles? on the inside cover of the magazine. To a secular humanist, these principles seem so logical, so right, so crucial. Yet, there is one archetypal political philosophy that is anathema to almost all of these principles. It is fascism. And fascism?s principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. The clich? that people and nations learn from history is not only overused, but also overestimated; often we fail to learn from history, or draw the wrong conclusions. Sadly, historical amnesia is the norm.
We are two-and-a-half generations removed from the horrors of Nazi Germany, although constant reminders jog the consciousness. German and Italian fascism form the historical models that define this twisted political worldview. Although they no longer exist, this worldview and the characteristics of these models have been imitated by protofascist1 regimes at various times in the twentieth century. Both the original German and Italian models and the later protofascist regimes show remarkably similar characteristics. Although many scholars question any direct connection among these regimes, few can dispute their visual similarities.
Beyond the visual, even a cursory study of these fascist and protofascist regimes reveals the absolutely striking convergence of their modus operandi. This, of course, is not a revelation to the informed political observer, but it is sometimes useful in the interests of perspective to restate obvious facts and in so doing shed needed light on current circumstances.
For the purpose of this perspective, I will consider the following regimes: Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco?s Spain, Salazar?s Portugal, Papadopoulos?s Greece, Pinochet?s Chile, and Suharto?s Indonesia. To be sure, they constitute a mixed bag of national identities, cultures, developmental levels, and history. But they all followed the fascist or protofascist model in obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. Further, all these regimes have been overthrown, so a more or less complete picture of their basic characteristics and abuses is possible.
Analysis of these seven regimes reveals fourteen common threads that link them in recognizable patterns of national behavior and abuse of power. These basic characteristics are more prevalent and intense in some regimes than in others, but they all share at least some level of similarity.
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people?s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice?relentless propaganda and disinformation?were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite ?spontaneous? acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and ?terrorists.? Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.
5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes? excesses.
7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting ?national security,? and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite?s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the ?godless.? A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.
9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of ?have-not? citizens.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. ?Normal? and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or ?traitors? was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.
14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.
Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.
1. Defined as a ?political movement or regime tending toward or imitating Fascism??Webster?s Unabridged Dictionary
Shotgun Approach, Anyone?
Reply #59 on:
September 22, 2004, 10:06:26 PM »
I hear members of most fascist regimes also were breast fed as babies, utilized bipedal locomotion, and had at least one X chromosome.
Cast a net widely enough there's not much you won't catch.
Reply #60 on:
September 23, 2004, 10:11:32 AM »
Damn! I knew my mother was involved in this somehow!
Christopher Hitchens Piece
Reply #61 on:
October 01, 2004, 05:30:18 PM »
I often disagree with Christopher Hitchens, a self-described recovering Marxist, but the guy thinks deeply and writes well. More of his work can be found at this website:
Flirting With Disaster
The vile spectacle of Democrats rooting for bad news in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, Sept. 27, 2004, at 11:35 AM PT
There it was at the tail end of Brian Faler's "Politics" roundup column in last Saturday's Washington Post. It was headed, simply, "Quotable":
"I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month." Teresa Heinz Kerry to the Phoenix Business Journal, referring to a possible capture of Osama bin Laden before Election Day.
As well as being "quotable" (and I wish it had been more widely reported, and I hope that someone will ask the Kerry campaign or the nominee himself to disown it), this is also many other words ending in "-able." Deplorable, detestable, unforgivable. ?
The plain implication is that the Bush administration is stashing Bin Laden somewhere, or somehow keeping his arrest in reserve, for an "October surprise." This innuendo would appear, on the face of it, to go a little further than "impugning the patriotism" of the president. It argues, after all, for something like collusion on his part with a man who has murdered thousands of Americans as well as hundreds of Muslim civilians in other countries.
I am not one of those who likes to tease Mrs. Kerry for her "loose cannon" style. This is only the second time I have ever mentioned her in print. But I happen to know that this is not an instance of loose lips. She has heard that very remark being made by senior Democrats, and?which is worse?she has not heard anyone in her circle respond to it by saying, "Don't be so bloody stupid." I first heard this "October surprise" theory mentioned seriously, by a prominent foreign-policy Democrat, at an open dinner table in Washington about six months ago. Since then, I've heard it said seriously or semiseriously, by responsible and liberal people who ought to know better, all over the place. It got even worse when the Democratic establishment decided on an arm's-length or closer relationship with Michael Moore and his supposedly vote-getting piece of mendacity and paranoia, Fahrenheit 9/11. (The DNC's boss, Terence McAuliffe, asked outside the Uptown cinema on Connecticut Avenue whether he honestly believed that the administration had invaded Afghanistan for the sake of an oil or perhaps gas pipeline, breezily responded, "I do now.")
What will it take to convince these people that this is not a year, or a time, to be dicking around? Americans are patrolling a front line in Afghanistan, where it would be impossible with 10 times the troop strength to protect all potential voters on Oct. 9 from Taliban/al-Qaida murder and sabotage. We are invited to believe that these hard-pressed soldiers of ours take time off to keep Osama Bin Laden in a secret cave, ready to uncork him when they get a call from Karl Rove? For shame.
Ever since The New Yorker published a near-obituary piece for the Kerry campaign, in the form of an autopsy for the Robert Shrum style, there has been a salad of articles prematurely analyzing "what went wrong." This must be nasty for Democratic activists to read, and I say "nasty" because I hear the way they respond to it. A few pin a vague hope on the so-called "debates"?which are actually joint press conferences allowing no direct exchange between the candidates?but most are much more cynical. Some really bad news from Iraq, or perhaps Afghanistan, and/or a sudden collapse or crisis in the stock market, and Kerry might yet "turn things around." You have heard it, all right, and perhaps even said it. But you may not have appreciated how depraved are its implications. If you calculate that only a disaster of some kind can save your candidate, then you are in danger of harboring a subliminal need for bad news. And it will show. What else explains the amazingly crude and philistine remarks of that campaign genius Joe Lockhart, commenting on the visit of the new Iraqi prime minister and calling him a "puppet"? Here is the only regional leader who is even trying to hold an election, and he is greeted with an ungenerous sneer.
The unfortunately necessary corollary of this?that bad news for the American cause in wartime would be good for Kerry?is that good news would be bad for him. Thus, in Mrs. Kerry's brainless and witless offhand yet pregnant remark, we hear the sick thud of the other shoe dropping. How can the Democrats possibly have gotten themselves into a position where they even suspect that a victory for the Zarqawi or Bin Laden forces would in some way be welcome to them? Or that the capture or killing of Bin Laden would not be something to celebrate with a whole heart?
I think that this detail is very important because the Kerry camp often strives to give the impression that its difference with the president is one of degree but not of kind. Of course we all welcome the end of Taliban rule and even the departure of Saddam Hussein, but we can't remain silent about the way policy has been messed up and compromised and even lied about. I know what it's like to feel that way because it is the way I actually do feel. But I also know the difference when I see it, and I have known some of the liberal world quite well and for a long time, and there are quite obviously people close to the leadership of today's Democratic Party who do not at all hope that the battle goes well in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I have written before in this space that I think Bin Laden is probably dead, and I certainly think that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a far more ruthless and dangerous jihadist, who is trying to take a much more important country into the orbit of medieval fanaticism and misery. One might argue about that: I could even maintain that it's important to oppose and defeat both gentlemen and their supporters. But unless he conclusively repudiates the obvious defeatists in his own party (and maybe even his own family), we shall be able to say that John Kerry's campaign is a distraction from the fight against al-Qaida.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His new collection of essays, Love, Poverty and War, is forthcoming in October.
Reply #62 on:
October 04, 2004, 07:15:34 PM »
The following was posted on the Naval Institute Proceedings Magazine web site:
I met Joe Galloway, referenced below, a couple weeks back at a miltary vehicle museum I do volunteer work for. Hadn't thought of him as an embedded reporter until now; Galloway's book
We were Soldiers Once, and Young
tells the story of a battle in Viet Nam's Ia Drang valley and was later adapted into a movie by Mel Gibson.
Lengthy article follows:
The military laments that its successes in Iraq and Afghanistan have gone unnoticed, while any bad news is immediately set on by a national media intent on painting every U.S. commitment as a quagmire. This might be true, but the military is not without responsibility for this state of affairs.
Military-media relations have improved since General William Sherman announced, ?I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.?
Almost a century and a half later, no serving flag or general officers are on record advocating the extermination of journalists. Still, despite the success of the embed process and the tens of millions of dollars spent on public affairs infrastructure, relations continue to be strained. Military officers constantly lament that most of the successes in Iraq and Afghanistan went unnoticed, while every little setback or problem seemingly received national attention. Many believe national policy is set by the media intent on painting every U.S. military commitment as an unwinnable quagmire.
They are right.
But who is responsible for this state of affairs? While it is easy to blame the media for failing to get the true story or to accuse journalists of a liberal bias against military operations, this fails to identify the true culprit. The reason the military is losing the war in the media is because it has almost totally failed to engage, and where it has engaged, it has been with a mind-boggling degree of ineptitude. It is a strange circumstance indeed when virtually every senior officer agrees that the media can make or break national policy, but no more than a handful can name the top military journalist for The Washington Post, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. Thousands of officers who spend countless hours learning every facet of their profession do not spend one iota of their time understanding or learning to engage with a strategic force that can make or break their best efforts.
The military is paying a high and continuing price for its inability to engage the media. There have been 30 years of studies, conferences, and meetings since Vietnam dealing with just this topic, and still the magic formula eludes the military. As the only embedded journalist in Iraq who still was carrying a military ID card (Army Reserve), I feel uniquely placed to comment on the military-media relationship. I served on active duty for more than a dozen years and came to journalism late. However, my stint in journalism focused on military affairs, which allowed me to develop a clear picture of the frustrations most journalists encounter when dealing with the military. Many readers will counter: But what about the frustrations of the military with the media? Who cares? That is like blaming enemy action for the failure of a brilliant plan. The media will always get a story out; it is the military?s responsibility to make sure that story is informed and correct. It is useless for officers to scream in frustration that the media got a story wrong, particularly if they did nothing to help journalists get it right.
As a journalist, when given an assignment, I will not fail. To a journalist, an assignment is the same as a mission order. If the people in the know will not tell me, I will go to their soldiers. If that does not work, I will go to the families of the soldiers and get the versions of the story their sons and daughters have sent them by e-mail. Then I will write the story based on what I was able to get from whatever source was available. All the after-the-fact howling in the world from those who think I got the story all wrong will have no effect. Even if I wanted to go back and fix it, I probably would not bother. The news cycle has moved on, and I have moved on with it.
Anyone who thinks a journalist is ethically bound to go back and fix wrong information or impressions is fooling himself. Even current military stories are competing for space against J-Lo?s latest wedding. Editors are not giving up space to rehash the past?historical record be damned. Besides, too many corrections will begin to make it look like I could not get the right story in the first place, and what compelling reason is there to make myself look incompetent?
Even with knowledge of how the military works, I still found virtually my every attempt to get information from public affairs officers (PAOs) to be akin to getting water from a stone. Many times I sat looking at the phone in disbelief at some answer or non-answer a PAO had given me. Too often, I hung up the phone and thought to myself, if the Secretary of Defense only knew how one of his PAOs was treating a man about to write a column for national distribution. Sometimes, I had to sit back and count off the reasons I should not just start writing mean little articles about the military.
After major combat operations ended, Time magazine took me home. My final article on the war and the military was called ?The Men Who Won the War.? This one article alone should have marked me as a journalist worth being nice to. So, when I called the PAOs at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to work out some access for my return to Iraq, I was stupefied by the response. My offer, which was given to half a dozen civilian and military public affairs folks over the course of 20 or 30 calls was pretty extraordinary. At a time when everyone in Iraq was screaming that the media were failing to cover the military?s accomplishments, I said I wanted to tell the country what was going right.
If given the right access, I told them, I probably could get the cover of a major newsweekly several times over the course of a couple of months. In addition, I had several national opinion magazines lined up that would publish all I could send them. I also was in conversations with producers of a network TV news magazine, and they were interested in doing a piece along the same positive lines. Finally, I reminded these public affairs people that Time and CNN were owned by the same company and that I probably would be able to get substantial air time during what I expected to be an extended stay in Iraq.
I was coming to Iraq to look for the news the rest of the media were missing. In short, I had an agenda that correlated exactly with the military?s and the CPA?s, but no one wanted to be bothered. Excuses about it being a hectic period should fall on deaf ears. At one point, I asked for access to Paul Bremer, civil administrator for Iraq, and was told I would have to get in line behind 250 other requests for the same thing. I reminded that PAO what I was bringing to the table and that it was ludicrous I should be placed in line behind a request from the Podunk Gazette. He hung up on me.
Giving up, I asked the 101st Airborne if I could re-embed with them and report on what they were doing. Within an hour of my e-mail request, I had a note from the commanding general telling me to hurry back. He said he had a lot of good news and it had to get out. An hour after his e-mail arrived, the 101st PAO office was on the phone telling me what flight I would be on going back to Iraq. Here was an organization that knew how to treat friendly journalists. It also helped that they have the best PAO of my acquaintance.
I could spout off more about the indignities, incompetence, and rudeness I have been subjected to by PAOs, but the high ground in this discussion is not going to be held by whining. It will be won and held with constructive solutions, and as luck would have it, I have some.
First, a few words about the embed process. What a wonderful idea. Anytime you can get a journalist living in the sand and mud with real soldiers it is a major plus. It is impossible for anyone to be associated with U.S. soldiers in combat and not walk away impressed. As one CBS reporter told me, ?I just had no idea our army was filled with such quality people.? When journalists are sharing the fatigue, deprivations, and danger of the soldiers they are covering, a new respect develops, and it is not long before the Galloway effect (Joe Galloway, a renowned military correspondent, has never written a bad thing about soldiers since he left Vietnam) takes hold.
While the embed process can be improved, such as by ensuring the journalists are mobile and have access to electrical power, I have only one major suggestion for the future. Make sure thought is given to placing embeds at places and levels appropriate for their organizations. My experience will illustrate why this is important. I was embedded at brigade headquarters and saw everything the brigade commander saw. All the other Time and Newsweek embeds were at lower levels. Just after the sandstorm-enforced halt in the assault on Baghdad, Time sent me the copy for that week?s cover story entitled ?Why Are We Losing? and asked me to find comments to feed into the story.
That day I saw Colonel David Perkins of the 3rd Infantry Division and talked to many of his officers. Their reaction to the story was, ?Tomorrow we laager up to refuel and rearm. The next day we move out to hit the Medina Division. It?s beat up, facing the wrong way, and does not know we?re coming. The day after that we ride onto Baghdad International Airport.? After a few calculations, I figured out Time was going to declare the war lost on the same day we entered Baghdad. This was not good.
I sent a note to Time telling them they were about to look very foolish. Unfortunately, I was alone in my estimation of the situation. All of the talking heads on TV were shouting about disaster. However, expert talking-head opinions on the threat Saddam?s paramilitaries were posing to the 3rd?s supply line were not in line with the reality I was witnessing. Battlefield commanders in Iraq, rather then being alarmed at attacks on the supply lines, were thankful, ?Isn?t it nice of them to come out of hiding in the cities and attack across open desert to be slaughtered.? In addition to the talking heads, most of my fellow embeds were echoing the disaster sentiment. When you are living in the dirt with an infantry platoon, it is easy to miss the progress that becomes visible when you get the big picture at a brigade headquarters or higher. After a six-hour meeting, the compromise at Time was to rename the story ?What Will It Take to Win.?
Newsweek went with the cover story ?Quagmire? in big red letters, which allowed Time to claim a major journalistic coup by not looking as foolish as Newsweek.
The key point here is that it behooves the military to make sure the journalists with the most national impact are placed in locations where they will be able to get a full appreciation of events.
Now, some questions. Did anyone keep track of the embeds after the war was over? Were any of the media invited back to unit homecomings, unit formals, to view unit training, or to follow up on individuals they had covered during the war? Were any of them asked to join unit associations? In fact, there has been virtually no effort whatsoever to try to make the journalists, who shared the misery and danger of war, part of the team. A chance to bond hundreds of journalists to the military is being let slip away.
Each of these journalists should have been cultivated by the units they were with, as well as by the military as a whole. By giving them preferred access, the military would help many of their careers and bind them closer then ever. Some journalists, not given this kind of treatment, will scream that journalists covering the military this way will lose all objectivity. This is a facile argument and hardly worthy of comment. Why do the journalists who have the crime beat in New York City and hang out at One Police Plaza never get accused of being too cozy with the police force? How is it the White House Press Corps, which gets all kinds of privileged access and perks, is never accused of being too cozy with the President?
Neither should anyone in the military assume that just because journalists have been brought into the fold everything will be rosy. Joe Galloway has never said anything bad about the American soldier, but that has not stopped him from pointing his rhetorical weaponry at the Pentagon, the top brass, and the system whenever he has spotted a wrong or injustice. A journalist with a negative story is still going to publish. That is how he gets page one, promotions, and the praise of his peers. However, the military can expect to receive the benefit of the doubt more often than is now the case, and the journalists at least will know what they are talking about, making them more likely to get the story right.
The PAO process needs to be radically rebuilt. Critical to accomplishing this is reversing the passive mind-set of the PAO community such that it ceases being a filter for information and becomes actively engaged in making sure information gets out the door. There is no reason PAOs should be sitting back waiting for journalist inquiries or requests for interviews. Every day they should be out executing an aggressive media plan to get the military story in front of the public. This has to go beyond the sterility of a periodic press release or press briefing. It means spending every day trying to get important stories into the hands of journalists or facilitating stories already in the works.
To do this, military public affairs organizations need to employ some radical new business concepts.
Every businessperson knows that if you want to stay in business you have to anticipate customers? needs and supply them. PAOs have two customers?the organization they serve and the media who come to them for information. They are failing both. Ask your average PAO what information the command wants to get out next week or over the course of a year and the vast majority will give you a blank stare, or worse. Worse would include, ?We want to make sure everyone knows what a magnificent job the soldiers in this organization are doing. On a daily basis they are accomplishing the mission under the most . . .? Thank you, but journalists have all the pabulum they need. PAOs need to get more knowledgeable about the specifics of what their organizations are doing and then be aggressive in getting that story out.
When it comes to getting closer to or understanding the media, the PAO community is failing miserably. Yes, there are some bright lights, but they are few and far between. Programs such as ?Working with Industry? are a step in the right direction, but they are much too small to have any serious practical effect.
One step in the right direction would be to assign a captain/lieutenant to each of the major media organizations. I like to use the term ?reverse embed,? but that could be interpreted as having that officer reporting back to the Pentagon on what the media is doing. What I envision is not a spy, but an informed individual that members of a media group can turn to as a source. Someone who can explain that while a second lieutenant outranks a sergeant major, he gives him an order only at great peril. The manpower costs would be relatively insignificant (three networks, three major news magazines, three cable channels, and maybe a half dozen leading newspapers or syndicates). There is, of course, the chance the media organizations will be wary. This is easily overcome?offer it to only a few groups or on a first come, first served, basis and wait for the rest to clamor for their fair share.
Once in place, this individual could provide context for ongoing stories and facilitate journalist dealings with various commands (local PAOs). At the very least, it would not hurt to have a permanent goodwill ambassador inside organizations that often are viewed as hostile to all things military. It will take a long time before this officer is trusted by the editors, and many of those assigned this duty may feel entitled to combat pay. By its very nature, this will have to be a long-term effort, but I am sure it will not be too many years before the military-media attach? is being given space on the masthead of many media outlets.
A seemingly easy fix would be to give journalists a single point of contact at the higher level depending on what media they work for. For instance, a group of PAOs would be assigned to print magazines and another to news channels. Every journalist at Time or Fox News would know who to call for information. Long-term relationships would be built, and PAOs would gain a thorough understanding of the media with which they are working. Understandably, no PAO team would be able to answer every question that came in, but they would be able to point journalists in the right direction and facilitate contact with local PAOs who might have the information. A side benefit would be that they often would be able to give local PAOs a heads up. And if someone from the national media called a local PAO, that PAO would know who to alert about the inquiry. In an era when even what appears to be local trivia can have a strategic impact, this kind of intelligence would be critical in any attempt to get ahead of a story or at least to get the broad context of an event in journalists? hands.
In fact, failure to provide broader context to events is another major shortcoming of the PAO community. Recently, an article in The Washington Post screamed out about 91 cases of misconduct toward Iraqis being investigated by military authorities. U.S. soldiers and Marines were presented as marauding barbarians in tone if not in words. Some said this was an unfair portrait, but the article was correct in every factual detail. But what if there had been a PAO office somewhere that was responsible for putting this kind of information in context? Alerted by the captain/lieutenant assigned to the Post (who is passing information, not spying) or by the PAOs covering major newspapers, they would have gotten the gist of the article. Then they could have produced something like this:
? .05% of soldiers in Iraq were accused of any misconduct toward Iraqis in the past year.
? 15% of New York?s Police Department is accused of some misconduct during the year.
? .003% of military patrols have resulted in investigation.
? .16% of NYPD patrols result in investigation.
? Remove the incidents committed by one terribly led unit of prison guards (800th Military Police), and the military?s performance improves by more than 100%.
? In an environment at least 850 times as deadly as New York City, with a force of tens of thousands of teenagers who have no police training and who are working in communities where they do not even know the language, the U.S. military has done its policing job with 1/300th of the complaints that NYPD receives annually.
? On a per patrol basis, the military is 50 times less likely to receive a complaint than the NYPD.
? In the past year, New York City has lost one officer in the line of duty, or .002% of its force.
? Over the same period, the U.S. military in Iraq lost 842 or .7% of the in-country force (and 5,000 more wounded).
This kind of context could have been given to the article?s author before the story ran or to others after the fact. While even one case of misconduct is a tragedy, the above context puts a new complexion on the problem. The military no longer is a bunch of barbarians pillaging the Iraqi countryside. It is now clear that while there has been some abuse, the vast majority of our men and women in Iraq are doing a great job under very dangerous conditions.
The military would also do well to look into funding various media operations. The reason most embeds came home as soon as major combat operations ended is that it was costing a fortune to keep them in Iraq. News organizations were losing millions covering the war, but they could not decrease their coverage in the face of brutal competition. However, as soon as it was safe to pull the plug, the accountants made them do it. Just when it became critical for the military to have embeds who could tell the full story in Iraq, they vanished. The military needs to come up with a way to foot the bill for extended media operations.
There are several arguments against this. First, the military does not owe the media a stipend to cover their commercial enterprise. Many would claim the military is doing enough by giving journalists access and providing security. That is all well and good, except that it is the military that has a strong vested interest in getting out the entire story. New organizations will get enough copy to cover the news cycle from just a small office in Baghdad. If the military wants journalists to go see what is happening in the rest of the country and how soldiers are coping as they perform their missions, then it has to be ready to pony up the money to finance it. Otherwise, it is useless to complain about the lack of perspective journalists have on events because all they do is sit in offices in Baghdad. Given a choice, the journalists would all be out with the troops because that is where the accolades and Pulitzer Prizes are to be found.
The second objection is that this would give the appearance of a state-controlled media. This might be a long-term problem, but I do not see the media giving in to state control of content anytime soon. However, if we must have a solution, creating an independently administered fund that media outlets could draw on as required would fit the bill. It might be messy as each group fought over its share, but I am confident it would not take long before accommodations were made and some equilibrium achieved.
The military also would be well served by sending some of its more fluent and entertaining PAOs on regular tours of journalism classes throughout the country, possibly even teaching classes at universities. Here is a real chance for the military to catch budding journalists on the ground floor and educate them about the functions and realities of the military. There already are some programs to send fellows to places such as the Shorenstein Center for Press and Public Policy, but once again the numbers are too few to make a significant impact.
In addition, the military needs to expand and formalize programs to get media representatives out to any and all kinds of training and daily events. A lot of this is being done at the local level, but it needs to be expanded to include the national press. This does not mean that marksmanship training will find its way onto national news, but it will begin to establish a new tone and familiarity between the elite press and the military. Once again, I advocate that the military pick up the bill for all of this.
Not all journalists will accept these offers, but some will. Those who do should be brought into the fold. Each media person who shows up for anything should be made an honorary member of the unit, given a unit coin, put on the unit newsletter distribution list, and invited to every social event. This holds doubly true if the visiting journalist writes a negative story. Remember to be nice to the young journalists. You never know which one is going to become a news anchor.
Finally, the military needs to develop programs to get more of its senior officers and civilian officials in front of the press on a regular basis. Too many see the press as their enemy or something to be feared. If the media are the enemy, then the military needs to wade into them as if storming ashore on D-Day. Officers who will run any personal risk in combat to ensure mission accomplishment must learn to be equally fearless when dealing with this new foe. Besides, once they wade in, they might find the enemy is not so bad after all.
Mr. Lacey is a Washington-based writer focusing on defense and international affairs issues. He was embedded with the 101st Airborne during the war in Iraq.
Reply #63 on:
October 07, 2004, 06:59:37 PM »
Very long, read part two only if you are short on time
Reply #64 on:
October 14, 2004, 09:40:54 PM »
To call this interesting read by Arthur Miller a "Political Rant" is an injustice, but I didn't know where else to put it
On politics and the art of acting
Here are some observations about politicians as actors. Since some of my best friends are actors, I don't dare say anything bad about the art itself. The fact is that acting is inevitable as soon as we walk out our front doors and into society. I am acting now; certainly I am not using the same tone as I would in my living room. It is not news that we are moved more by our glandular reactions to a leader's personality, his acting, than by his proposals or by his moral character. To their millions of followers, after all, many of them highly regarded university intellectuals, Hitler and Stalin were profoundly moral men, revealers of new truths. Aristotle thought man was by nature a social animal, and indeed we are ruled more by the social arts, the arts of performance--by acting, in other words--than anybody wants to think about for very long.
In our own time television has created a quantitative change in all this; one of the oddest things about millions of lives now is that ordinary individuals, as never before in human history, are so surrounded by acting. Twenty-four hours a day everything seen on the tube is either acted or conducted by actors in the shape of news anchormen and -women, including their hairdos. It may be that the most impressionable form of experience now for many if not most people consists in their emotional transactions with actors, which happen far more of the time than with real people. In the past, a person might have confronted the arts of performance once a year in a church ceremony or in a rare appearance by a costumed prince or king and his ritualistic gestures; it would have seemed a very strange idea that ordinary folk would be so subjected every day to the persuasions of professionals whose studied technique, after all, was to assume the character of someone else.
Is this persistent experience of any importance? I can't imagine how to prove this, but it seems to me that when one is surrounded by such a roiling mass of consciously contrived performances it gets harder and harder to locate reality anymore. Admittedly, we live in an age of entertainment, but is it a good thing that our political life, for one, be so profoundly governed by the modes of theater, from tragedy to vaudeville to farce? I find myself speculating whether the relentless daily diet of crafted, acted emotions and canned ideas is not subtly pressing our brains not only to mistake fantasy for what is real but to absorb this falseness into our personal sensory process. This last election is an example. Apparently we are now called upon to act as though nothing very unusual happened and as though nothing in our democratic process has deteriorated, including our claim to the right to instruct lesser countries on how to conduct fair elections. So, in a subtle way, we are induced to become actors, too. The show, after all, must go on, even if the audience is obligated to join in the acting.
Political leaders everywhere have come to understand that to govern they must learn how to act. No differently than any actor, Al Gore went through several changes of costume before finding the right mix to express the personality he wished to project. Up to the campaign he seemed an essentially serious type with no great claim to humor, but the presidential-type character he had chosen to play was apparently happy, upbeat, with a kind of Bing Crosby mellowness. I daresay that if he seemed so awkward it was partly because he had cast himself in a role that was wrong for him. As for George W. Bush, now that he is president he seems to have learned not to sneer quite so much, and to cease furtively glancing left and right when leading up to a punch line, followed by a sharp nod to flash that he has successfully delivered it. This is bad acting, because all the dire overemphasis casts doubt on the text. Obviously, as the sparkly magic veil of actual power has descended upon him, he has become more relaxed and confident, like an actor after he has had some hit reviews and knows the show is in for a run.
At this point I suppose I should add something about my own bias. I recall the day, back in the fifties, during Eisenhower's campaign against Adlai Stevenson, when I turned on my television and saw the general who had led the greatest invasion force in history lying back under the hands of a professional makeup woman preparing him for his TV appearance. I was far more naive then, and so I still found it hard to believe that henceforth we were to be wooed and won by rouge, lipstick, and powder rather than ideas and positions on public issues. It was almost as though he were getting ready to assume the role of General Eisenhower instead of simply being him. In politics, of course, what you see is rarely what you get, but Eisenhower was not actually a good actor, especially when he ad-libbed, disserving himself as a nearly comical bumbler with the English language when in fact he was a lot more literate and sophisticated than his public-speaking style suggested. As his biographer, a Life editor named Emmet John Hughes, once told me, Eisenhower, when he was still a junior officer, was the author of those smoothly liquid, rather Roman-style speeches that had made his boss, Douglas MacArthur, so famous. Then again, I wonder if Eisenhower's syntactical stumbling in public made him seem more convincingly sincere.
Watching some of our leaders on TV has made me wonder if we really have any idea what is involved in the actor's art, and I recall again a story once told me by my old friend the late Robert Lewis, director of a number of beautiful Broadway productions, including the original Brigadoon. Starting out as an actor in the late twenties, Bobby had been the assistant and dresser of Jacob Ben-Ami, a star in Europe and in New York as well. Ben-Ami, an extraordinary actor, was in a Yiddish play, but despite the language and the location of the theater far from Times Square, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, one of its scenes had turned it into a substantial hit with English-speaking audiences. Experiencing that scene had become the in thing to do in New York. People who had never dreamed of seeing a Yiddish play traveled downtown to watch this one scene, and then left. In it Ben-Ami stood at the edge of the stage staring into space and, with tremendous tension, brought a revolver to his head. Seconds passed, whole minutes. Some in the audience shut their eyes or turned away, certain the shot was coming at any instant. Ben-Ami clenched his jaws. Sweat broke out on his face. His eyes seemed about to pop out of his head; his hands trembled as he strove to will himself to suicide. More moments passed. People in the audience were gasping for breath and making strange asphyxiated noises. Finally, standing on his toes now as though to leap into the unknown, Ben-Ami dropped the gun and cried out, "Ikh ken nit!" I can't do it! Night after night he brought the house down; Ben-Ami somehow compelled the audience to suspend its disbelief and to imagine his brains splattered all over the stage.
Lewis, aspiring young actor that he was, begged Ben-Ami to tell him the secret of how he created this emotional reality, but the actor kept putting him off, saying he would tell him only after the final performance. "It's better for people not to know," he said, "or it'll spoil the show."
Then at last the final performance came, and at its end Ben-Ami sat in his dressing room with the young Lewis.
"You promised to tell me," Lewis said.
"All right. I'll tell you. My problem with this scene," Ben-Ami explained, "was that I personally could never blow my brains out. I am just not suicidal, and I can't imagine ending my life. So I could never really know how that man was feeling, and I could never play such a person authentically. For weeks I went around trying to think of some parallel in my own life that I could draw on. What situation could I be in where, first of all, I am standing up, I am alone, I am looking straight ahead, and something I feel I must do is making me absolutely terrified, and finally that whatever it is I can't do it?"
"Yes," Lewis said, hungry for this great actor's key to greatness. "And what is that?"
"Well," Ben-Ami said, "I finally realized that the one thing I hate worse than anything is washing in cold water. So what I'm really doing with that gun to my head is, I'm trying to get myself to step into an ice-cold shower."
Now, if we translate this situation to political campaigns, who are we really voting for? The self-possessed character who projects dignity, exemplary morals, and enough forthright courage to lead us through war or depression, or the person who is simply good at creating a counterfeit with the help of professional coaching, executive tailoring, and that whole armory of pretense that the groomed president can now employ? Are we allowed anymore to know what is going on not merely in the candidate's facial expression and his choice of suit but also in his head? Unfortunately, as with Ben-Ami, this is something we are not told until the auditioning ends and he is securely in office. After spending tens of millions of dollars, neither candidate--at least for me--ever managed to create that unmistakable click of recognition as to who he really was. But maybe this is asking too much. As with most actors, any resemblance between the man and the role is purely accidental.
The Stanislavsky system came into vogue at the dawn of the twentieth century, when science was recognized as the dominating force of the age. Objective scientific analysis promised to open everything to human control, and the Stanislavsky method was an attempt to systematize the actor's vagrant search for authenticity as he works to portray a character different from his own. Politicians do something similar all the time; by assuming personalities not genuinely theirs--let's say six-pack, lunchbox types--they hope to connect with ordinary Americans. The difficulty for Bush and Gore in their attempts to seem like regular fellas was that both were scions of successful and powerful families. Worse yet for their regular-fella personae, both were in effect created by the culture of Washington, D.C., and you can't hope to be president without running against Washington. The problem for Gore was that Washington meant Clinton, whom he dared not acknowledge lest he be challenged on moral grounds. As for Bush, he was forced to impersonate an outsider pitching against dependency on the federal government, whose payroll, however, had helped feed two generations of his family. There's a name for this sort of cannonading of Washington; it is called i acting. To some important degree both gentlemen had to act themselves out of their real personae into freshly begotten ones. The reality, of course, was that the closest thing on the political stage to a man of the people was Clinton the Unclean, the real goods with the six-pack background, whom it was both dangerous and necessary to disown. This took a monstrous amount of acting.
It was in the so-called debates that the sense of a contrived performance rather than a naked clash of personalities and ideas came to a sort of head. Here was acting, acting with a vengeance. But the consensus seems to have called the performances decidedly boring. And how could it be otherwise when both men seemed to be attempting to display the same genial temperament, a readiness to perform the same role and, in effect, to climb into the same warm suit? The role, of course, was that of the nice guy, Bing Crosby with a sprinkling of Bob Hope. Clearly they had both been coached not to threaten the audience with too much passion but rather to reassure that if elected they would not disturb any reasonable person's sleep. In acting terms there was no inner reality, no genuineness, no glimpse into their unruly souls. One remarkable thing did happen, though--a single, split-second shot that revealed Gore shaking his head in helpless disbelief at some inanity Bush had spoken. Significantly, this gesture earned him many bad reviews for what were called his superior airs, his sneering disrespect; in short, he had stepped out of costume and revealed his reality. This, in effect, was condemned as a failure of acting. In the American press, which is made up of disguised theater critics, substance counts for next to nothing compared with style and inventive characterization. For a millisecond Gore had been inept enough to have gotten real! And this clown wanted to be president yet! Not only is all the world a stage but we have all but obliterated the fine line between the feigned and the real.
Was there ever such a border? It is hard to know, but we might try to visualize the Lincoln-Douglas debates before the Civil War, when thousands would stand, spread out across some pasture, to listen to the two speakers, who were mounted on stumps so they could be seen from far off. There certainly was no makeup; neither man had a speechwriter but, incredibly enough, made it all up himself. Years later, Lincoln supposedly wrote the Gettysburg Address on scraps of paper while en route to a memorial ceremony. Is it imaginable that any of our candidates could have such conviction and, more importantly, such self-assured candor as to pour out his heart this way? To be sure, Lincoln and Douglas were civil, at least in the record of their remarks, but their attack on each other's ideas was sharp and thorough, revealing of their actual approaches to the nation's problems. As for their styles, they had to have been very different than the current laid-back cool before the lens. The lens magnifies everything: one slight lift of an eyelid and you look like you're glaring. If there is a single, basic requirement for success on television it is minimalization: whatever you are doing, do less of it and emit cool. In other words--act. In contrast, speakers facing hundreds of people without a microphone and in the open air must inevitably have been broader in gesture and even more emphatic in speech than in life. Likewise, their use of language had to be more pointed and precise in order to carry their points out to the edges of the crowd. And no makeup artist stood waiting to wipe up every bead of sweat on a speaker's lip; the candidates were stripped to their shirtsleeves in the summer heat, and people nearby could no doubt smell them. There may, in short, have been some aspect of human reality in such a debate.
Given the camera's tendency to exaggerate any movement, it may in itself have a dampening effect on spontaneity and conflict. There were times in this last campaign when one even wondered whether the candidates feared that to raise issues and engage in a genuine clash before the camera might set fire to some of the more flammable public. They chose instead to forgo the telling scowl or the passionate outburst in favor of that which ran less risk of a social conflagration: benign smiles on a glass screen.
No differently than with actors, the single most important characteristic a politician needs to display is relaxed sincerity. Ronald Reagan disarmed his opponents by never showing the slightest sign of inner conflict about the truth of what he was saying. Simpleminded as his critics found his ideas and remarks, cynical and manipulative as he may have been in actuality, he seemed to believe every word he said. He could tell you that atmospheric pollution came from trees, or that ketchup was a vegetable in school lunches, or leave the impression that he had seen action in World War II rather than in a movie he had made or perhaps only seen, and if you didn't believe these things you were still kind of amused by how sincerely he said them. Sincerity implies honesty, an absence of moral conflict in the mind of its possessor. Of course, this can also indicate insensitivity or even stupidity. It is hard, for example, to think of another American official whose reputation would not have been stained by saluting a cemetery of Nazi dead with heartfelt solemnity while barely mentioning the many millions, including Americans, who were victims of that vile regime. But Reagan was not only an actor; he loved acting, and it can be said that at least in public he not only acted all the time but did so sincerely. The second best actor is Clinton, who does occasionally seem to blush, but then again he was caught in an illicit sexual act, which is far more important than illegally shipping weapons to foreign countries. Reagan's tendency to confuse events in films with things that really happened is often seen as intellectual weakness, but in reality it was--unknowingly, of course--a Stanislavskian triumph, the very consummation of the actor's ability to incorporate reality into the fantasy of his role. In Reagan the dividing line between acting and actuality was simply melted, gone. Human beings, as the poet said, cannot bear very much reality, and the art of politics is our best proof. The trouble is that a leader comes to symbolize his country, and so the nagging question is whether, when real trouble comes, we can act ourselves out of it.
The first obligation of the actor, just as with the politician, is to get himself known. P. T. Barnum said it for all time when a reporter asked if he wasn't ashamed at having tricked the public. He had originated the freak show, which had drawn an immense audience to his Bridgeport, Connecticut, barn to see the bearded lady and the two-headed calf. But the show was such a great hit that his problem was how to get people to leave and make room for new customers. His solution was to put up a sign, with an arrow pointing to the door, that read, "This way to the Egress." Since nobody had ever seen an "egress" before, the place emptied satisfactorily, and the audience found itself in the street. The reporter asked if this ploy wouldn't anger people and ruin his reputation. Barnum gave his historic reply: "I don't care what they write about me as long as they spell my name right." If there is a single rubric to express the most basic requirement for political or theatrical success, this is it.
Whether he admits it or not, the actor wants not only to be believed and admired but to be loved, and what may help to account for the dullness of this last campaign was the absence of affection for either man, not to speak of love. By the end it seemed like an unpopularity contest, a competition for who was less disliked by more people than the other, a demonstration of negative consent. Put another way, in theatrical terms these were character actors but not fascinating stars. Ironically, the exception to all this lovelessness was-Nader, whose people, at least on television, did seem to adore their leader, even after he had managed to help wreck Gore and elect Bush, whom they certainly despised far more than they did Gore. At this point I ought to confess that I have known only one president whom I feel confident about calling "the President of the United States," and that was Franklin Roosevelt. My impulse is to say that he alone was not an actor, but I probably think that because he was such a good one. He could not stand on his legs, after all, but he took care never to exhibit weakness by appearing in his wheelchair, or in any mood but that of upbeat, cheery optimism, which at times he certainly did not feel. Roosevelt was so genuine a star, his presence so overwhelming, that Republicans, consciously or not, have never stopped running against him for this whole half-century.
The mystery of the star performer can only leave the inquiring mind confused, resentful, or blank, something that, of course, has the greatest political importance. Many Republicans have blamed the press for the attention Bill Clinton continued to get even out of office. Again, what they don't understand is that what a star says, and even what he does, is incidental to people's interest in him. When the click of empathic association is made with a leader, logic has very little to do with it and virtue even less. Obviously, this is not very encouraging news for rational people who hope to uplift society by reasoned argument. But then, not many of us rational folk are immune to the star's ability to rule.
The presidency, in acting terms, is a heroic role. It is not one for comedians, sleek lover types, or second bananas. To be credible, the man who acts as president must hold in himself an element of potential danger. Something similar is required in a real star.
Like most people, I had never even heard of Marion Brando the first time I saw him onstage not long after the end of World War II. The play was Truckline Cafe, a failed work by Maxwell Anderson that was soon to close, hardly a promising debut for an ambitious actor. The set is a shabby cafe on some country highway. It is after midnight, the place miserably lit and empty. There is a counter and a few booths with worn upholstery. A car is heard stopping outside. Presently, a young man wearing a worn-leather jacket and a cap strolls in, an exhausted-looking girl behind him.
He saunters down to center stage, looking around for a sign of life. For a long time he says absolutely nothing, just stands there in the sort of slouch you fall into after driving for hours. The moment lengthens as he tries to figure out what to do, his patience clearly thinning. Nothing has happened, he has hardly even moved, but watching him, the audience, myself included, is already spellbound. Another actor would simply have aroused impatience, but we are in Brando's power; we read him; his being is speaking to us even if we can't make out precisely what it is saying. It is something like an animal that has slipped from its cage. Is he dangerous? Friendly? Stupid? Intelligent? Without a word spoken, this actor has opened up in the audience a whole range of emotional possibilities, including, oddly enough, a little fear. Finally he calls out, "Anybody here?!" What a relief! He has not shot up the place. He has not thrown chairs around. All he wanted, apparently, was a sandwich.
I can't explain how Brando, wordlessly, did what he did, but he had found a way, no doubt instinctively, to master a paradox--he had implicitly threatened us and then given us pardon. Here was Napoleon, here was Caesar, here was Roosevelt. Brando had not asked the members of the audience merely to love him; that is only charm. He had made them wish that he would deign to love them. That is a star. That is power, no different in its essence than the power that can lead nations.
Onstage or in the White House, power changes everything, even how the aspirant looks after he wins. I remember running into Dustin Hoffman on a rainy New York street some years ago; he had only a month earlier played the part of the Lomans' pale and nervous next-door neighbor, Bernard, in a recording session with Lee Cobb of Death of a Salesman. Now as he approached, counting the cracks in the sidewalk, hatless, his wet hair dripping, a worn coat collar turned up, I prepared to greet him, thinking that with his bad skin, hawkish nose, and adenoidal voice some brave friend really ought to tell him to go into another line of work. As compassionately as possible I asked what he was doing now, and with a rather apologetic sigh he said, after several sniffles, "Well, they want me for a movie." "Oh?" I felt relieved that he was not about to collapse in front of me in a fit of depression. "What's the movie?"
"It's called The Graduate," he said.
"Well, yeah, I guess it's the lead."
In no time at all this half-drowned puppy would have millions of people at his feet all over the world. And once having ascended to power, so to speak, it became hard even for me to remember him when he was real. Not that he wasn't real, just that he was real plus. And the plus is the mystery of the patina, the glow that power paints on the elected human being.
The amount of acting required of both President Bush and the Democrats is awesome now, given the fractured election and donation by the Supreme Court. Practically no participant in the whole process can really say out loud what is in his heart. They are all facing an ice-cold shower with a gun to their head. Bush has to act as though he were elected, the Supreme Court has to act as though it were the Supreme Court, Gore has to act as though he is practically overjoyed at his own defeat, and so on. Unfortunately, such roles generally require hard work ahead of time, and the closest thing I've seen so far to deliberately rehearsed passion was the organized mob of Republicans banging threateningly on the door of a Florida vote-counting office and howling for the officials inside to stop counting. I must confess, though, that as a playwright I would be flummoxed as to how to make plausible on the stage an organized stampede of partisans yelling to stop the count and in the same breath accusing the other side of trying to steal the election. I can't imagine an audience taking this for anything but a satirical farce.
An election, not unlike a classic play, has a certain strict form that requires us to pass through certain ordained steps toward a logical conclusion. When, instead, the form dissolves and chaos reigns, the audience is left feeling cheated and even mocked. After this last, most hallucinatory of elections, it was said that in the end the system worked, when clearly it hadn't at all. And one of the signs that it had collapsed popped up even before the decision was finally made in Bush's favor; it was when Dick Armey, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives, declared that he would simply not attend the inauguration if Gore were elected, despite immemorial custom and his clear obligation to do so. In short, Armey had reached the limits of his actor's imagination and could only collapse into playing himself. You cannot have a major performer deciding, in the middle of a play, to leave the scene without utterly destroying the whole illusion. For the system to be said to have worked, no one is allowed to stop acting.
The play without a character we can really root for is in trouble. Shakespeare's Coriolanus is an example. It is not often produced, powerful though it is as playwriting and poetry, no doubt because, as a totally honest picture of ambition in a frightening human being, the closest the play ever gets to love is Coriolanus' subservience to his mother. In short, it is a truthful play without sentimentality, and truthfulness, I'm afraid, doesn't sell a whole.tot of tickets or draw votes. Which inevitably brings me again to Clinton. Until the revulsion brought on by the pardon scandal, he was leaving office with the highest rating for performance and the lowest for personal character. People had prospered under his leadership, and, with whatever reluctance, they still connected with his humanity as they glimpsed it, ironically enough, through his sins. We are back, I think, to the mystery of the star. Clinton, except for those few minutes when lying about Monica Lewinsky, was relaxed on camera in a way any actor would envy. And relaxation is the soul of the art, because it arouses receptivity rather than defensiveness in an audience.
That receptivity brings to mind a friend of mine who, many years ago, won the prize for selling more Electrolux vacuum cleaners in the Bronx than any other door-to-door salesman. He once explained how he did it: "You want them to start saying yes. So you ask questions that they can't say no to. Is this 1350 Jerome Avenue? Yes. Is your name Smith? Yes. Do you have carpets? Yes. A vacuum cleaner? Yes. Once you've got them on a yes roll, a kind of psychological fusion takes place. You're both on the same side. It's almost like some kind of love, and they feel it's impolite for them to say no, and in no time you're in the house unpacking the machine." What Clinton projects is a personal interest in the customer that comes across as a sort of love. There can be no doubt that, like all great performers, he loves to act, he is most alive when he's on. His love of acting may be his most authentic emotion, the realest thing about him, and, as with Reagan, there is no dividing line between his performance and himself he is his performance. There is no greater contrast than with Gore or Bush, both of whom projected a kind of embarrassment at having to perform, an underlying tension between themselves and the role, and tension, needless to say, shuts down love on the platform no less than it does in bed.
On every side there is a certain amount of lamenting about the reluctance of Americans to condemn Bill Clinton, but rather than blaming our failed moral judgment I think we would do better to examine his acting. Clinton is our Eulenspiegel, the mythical arch prankster of fourteenth-century Germany who was a sort of mischievous and lovable folk spirit, half child, half man. Eulenspiegel challenged society with his enviable guile and a charm so irresistible that he could blurt out embarrassing truths about the powerful on behalf of the ordinary man. His closest American equivalent is Brer Rabbit, who ravishes people's vegetable gardens and, just when he seems to be cornered, charmingly distracts his pursuer with some outrageously engaging story while edging closer and closer to a hole down which he escapes. Appropriately enough, the word "Eulenspiegel" is a sort of German joke: it means a mirror put before an owl, and since an owl is blind in daylight it cannot see its own reflection. As bright and happy and hilariously unpredictable as Eulenspiegel is, he cannot see himself, and so, among other things, he is dangerous.
In other words, a star. Indeed, the perfect model of both star and political leader is that smiling and implicitly dangerous man who likes you.
In part because Gore and Bush were not threatening, their offer of protective affection was not considered important. Gore was so busy trying to unbend that he forfeited whatever menace he may have had. Bush did his best to pump up his chest and toughly turn down the corners of his mouth, but it was all too obviously a performance, and for too long his opponents failed to take him as anything more than the potential president of a fraternity. Risking immodesty, to say the least, he actually referred to himself as a "leader" and claimed that his forth-coming administration would fill the vacuum of "leadership." Caught time after time fouling up his syntax, thus shaking the image of manly command, he has improved since real power has descended upon him, and his sentences, saving on grammar, have gotten shorter and shorter--to the point where, at times, he comes close to sounding like a gunslinger in a Clint Eastwood film. He is, though, beginning to relax into his role and, like most presidents, may in the fullness of time come to seem inevitable.
The ultimate foundation of political power, of course, has never changed: it is the leader's willingness to resort to violence should the need arise. Adlai Stevenson may have seemed too civilized to resort to violence without a crippling hesitation, and Jimmy Carter was so clearly restrained by Christian scruple that a single military accident involving a handful of unfortunate soldiers destroyed all his credibility in one stroke. An American leader may deliver the Sunday lesson provided his sword is never out of reach, the two best examples being FDR and John Kennedy. But this type, which doesn't come along every day, is the aristocratic populist, and the aristocrat learns how to act at a very early age; it is part of his upbringing. A Nixon, on the contrary, has to learn as he goes along. Indeed, once he had ordered himself bugged, Nixon was acting during all his waking hours; his entire working life became a recorded performance.
The case of President Truman and the atom bomb is particularly rich in its references to acting and power. When several of the scientists who had built the first bomb petitioned Truman to stage a demonstration off the Japanese coast rather than dropping it on an inhabited city, he chose the latter course; the fear was that the first bomb might fail to work, encouraging the Japanese to refuse peace overtures even more resolutely. However frightful the consequences, it was better to bomb a city and in one flash bring the war to an end. The weakness in this reasoning is that if the bomb was so uncertain to explode, why drop it on a city, where Japanese scientists might examine and maybe even copy it? A more persuasive argument, I'm afraid, is that if the Japanese had been warned to expect a demonstration of a terrible new weapon, and it had been a dud, a dead iron ball splashing into the sea, Truman's unwillingness to kill would have threatened his leadership, and he, personally and symbolically, would have lost credibility. I'm not at all sure what I would have done in his position, confronted with the possibility of terrible American losses in a land invasion of Japan. But the issue is not Truman so much as the manifestations of power that people require their leaders to act out. Jesus Christ could not have beaten Hitler's Germany or Imperial Japan into surrender. And it is not impossible that our main reason for cloaking our leaders with a certain magical, extra-human, theatrical aura is to help disguise one of the basic conditions of their employment--namely, a readiness to kill for us.
Whether for good or for evil, it is sadly inevitable that all political leadership requires the artifices of theatrical illusion. In the politics of a democracy the shortest distance between two points is often a crooked line. While Roosevelt was stoutly repeating his determination to keep America out of any foreign war, he was taking steps toward belligerency in order to save England and prevent a Nazi victory. In effect, mankind is in debt to his lies. So from the tragic necessity of dissimulation there seems to be no escape. Except, of course, to tell people the truth, something hat doesn't require acting but may damage one's own party and, in certain circumstances, the human enterprise itself. Then what?
Then, I'm afraid, we can only turn to the release of art, to the other theater, the theater-theater, where you can tell the truth without killing anybody and may even illuminate the awesomely durable dilemma of how to lead without lying too much. The release of art will not forge a cannon or pave a street, but it may remind us again and again of the corruptive essence of power, its tendency to enhance itself at the expense of humanity. The late director and critic Harold Clurman called theater "lies like truth." Theater does indeed lie, fabricating everything from the storm's roar to the lark's song, from the actor's laughter to his nightly flood of tears. And the actor lies; but with all the spontaneity that careful calculation can lend him, he may construct a vision of some important truth about the human condition that opens us to a new understanding of ourselves. In the end, we call a work of art trivial when it illuminates little beyond its own devices, and the same goes for political leaders who bespeak some narrow interest rather than those of the national or universal good. The fault is not in the use of the theatrical arts but in their purpose.
Paradox is the name of the game where acting as an art is concerned. It is a rare, hardheaded politician who is at home with any of the arts these days; most often the artist is considered suspect, a nuisance, a threat to morality, or a fraud. At the same time, one of the most lucrative American exports, after airplanes, is art--namely, music and films. But art has always been the revenge of the human spirit upon the shortsighted. Consider the sublime achievements of Greece, the necrophilic grandeur of the Egyptians, the glory of the Romans, the awesome power of the Assyrians, the rise and fall of the Jews and their incomprehensible survival, and what are we left with but a handful of plays, essays, carved stones, and some strokes of paint on paper or the rock cave wall--in a word, art? The ironies abound. Artists are not particularly famous for their steady habits, the acceptability of their opinions, or their conformity with societal mores, but whatever is not turned into art disappears forever. It is very strange when you think about it, except for one thing that is not strange but quite logical: however dull or morally delinquent an artist may be, in his moment of creation, when his work pierces the truth, he cannot dissimulate, he cannot fake it. Tolstoy once remarked that what we look for in a work of art is the revelation of the artist's soul, a glimpse of God. You can't act that.
This essay was adapted from the 2001 Jefferson Lecture, sponsored annually by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Established in 1972, the Jefferson Lecture is the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for distinguished achievement in the humanities. Arthur Miller is the author of numerous plays, including Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. His memoir "A Line to Walk On" appeared in the November 2000 issue of Harper's Magazine.
Reply #65 on:
October 25, 2004, 01:04:38 AM »
THE FACES OF DENIAL
By RALPH PETERS October 24, 2004 -- EUROPEANS insist that the United States overreacted to 9/11. Conde scendingly, they observe that they've been dealing with terror ism successfully for three dec ades, that it can be
managed, that life goes on.
What Europeans fail to grasp - what they willfully refuse to face - is that
the nature of terrorism has changed.
The alphabet-soup terrorists of the past - the IRA, ETA, PLO, RAF and the
rest - were essentially political organizations with political goals. No
matter how brutal their actions or unrealistic their hopes, their common
intent was to change a system of government, either to gain a people's
independence or to force their ideology on society.
The old-school terrorists that Europe survived did not seek death, although they were sometimes willing to die for their causes. None were suicide bombers, although a few committed suicide in prison to make a political statement.
Crucially, their goals were of this earth. All would have preferred to
survive to rule in a government that they controlled.
Now we face terrorists who regard death as a promotion - who reject secular ideologies and believe themselves to be instruments of their god's will.
Indeed, they hope to nudge their god along, to convince him through their
actions that the final struggle between faith and infidelity is at hand.
While they'd like to see certain changes here on earth - the destruction of
Israel, of the United States, of the West, of unbelievers and heretics
everywhere - their longed-for destination is paradise beyond the grave.
THE new terrorists are vastly more dangerous, more implacable and crueler than the old models. The political terrorists of the 1970s and '80s used bloodshed to gain their goals. Religious terrorists see mass murder as an end in itself, as a purifying act that cleanses the world of infidels. They don't place their bombs for political leverage, but to kill as many innocent human beings as possible.
Yesteryear's murderers of European politicians and businessmen by the old crowd seem almost mannerly compared to today's religion-fueled terrorists, who openly rejoice in decapitating their living victims in front of cameras.
When political terrorists hijacked airplanes, they hoped to draw attention
to their cause. When Islamic terrorists seize passenger jets, they do it to
kill as many people as possible.
The old terrorists were sometimes so rabid that they had to be killed or
imprisoned. But others became negotiating partners for governments. From Yasser Arafat to Gerry Adams, some gained international respectability. (It even may be argued that Adams became part of the solution, rather than simply remaining part of the problem.)
For today's apocalyptic terrorists, negotiations are no more than a tool to
be used in extreme situations, to allow them to live to kill again another
day. And no promises made to infidels need be honored.
The Islamic terrorists we now face will never become statesmen. They wish to shed our blood to fortify their faith, to impose their beliefs upon the world, to placate a vengeful god.
That doesn't offer much room for polite diplomacy. Islamic terrorists have
reverted to the most primitive of religious practices: human sacrifice.
Their brand of Islam is no "religion of peace." They're Aztecs without the
art. And it takes a Cortez to deal with them.
Europeans' experience of negotiating with political terrorists has allowed
them to deceive themselves into a false sense of security. Forgetting the
pain inflicted on their societies by tiny bands of assassins (whether the
Baader-Meinhof gang, the Red Brigades or the IRA-Provos), Europeans refuse to imagine what tens of thousands of fanatics bent on destruction might do if not faced down with courage and resolution.
It wasn't the United States that didn't "get" 9/11. It was the Europeans,
anxious that their comfortable slumber not be disturbed. They insist that
terrorism remains a law-enforcement problem, refusing even to consider that we might face a broad, complex, psychotic threat spawned by a failed civilization.
EUROPE will pay. And the price in the coming years will be much higher than any paid by the United States. Europe, not North America, is the vulnerable continent. Our homeland-security efforts, unfairly derided at home and abroad, are making our country markedly safer. Yes, we will be struck again. But "Old Europe" is going to be hit again, and again, and again.
American Muslims not only become citizens - they become good citizens.
Despite the assimilation hurdles that face every new group of immigrants,
our Muslims have opportunity and hope. A disaffected few may make headlines, but American Muslims overwhelmingly support their new country and do not wish it harm. They see no contradiction between faith in their god and faith in America. Our worries are their worries, and their dreams are our dreams.
Europe is another, grimmer story. Not a single European state - not even the United Kingdom - has successfully integrated its Muslim minority into
While the United Kingdom has done the best job, countries such as France and Germany have time-bombs in their midst, large, excluded Muslim populations that the native majority regard as hopelessly inferior. If you want to see bigotry alive and well, visit "Old Europe."
It wasn't a random choice on the part of the 9/11 terrorists that led them
to do so much of their preparation in Europe. They know that American-Muslim communities won't offer hospitality to terrorists. But Germany, France, Spain and neighboring states contain embittered Islamic communities glad to see any part of the West get the punishment it "deserves."
As the United States becomes ever harder to strike - and as we respond so fiercely to those attacks that succeed - soft Europe, with its proximity to the Muslim world, its indigestible Muslim communities and its moral
fecklessness, is likely to become the key Western battleground in the
Islamic extremists' war against civilization.
Europeans don't want it to be so. But they are not going to get a choice.
Europeans are simply in denial. They've lived so well for so long that they
don't want the siesta from reality to end. One of the many reasons that
continental Europeans reacted so angrily to our liberation of Iraq was that
it made it harder than ever for them to sustain their myth of a benign world in which peace could be purchased and the government welfare checks would never stop coming.
America's crime was to acknowledge reality. It will be a long time before
Europeans forgive us.
IN many ways, the civilizations of North America and Europe are diverging. Eu rope has a crisis of values behind its failure of will. Their anxiety to tell everyone else what to do reflects their own uncertainty. Corrupt, selfish and cowardly, old Europe has fallen to moral lows not seen since 1945.
The one factor that will finally bring us closer again is terrorism.
In this horrid election year, we've heard endless complaints that Washington needs allies. Of course, we already have many allies. The old-thinkers just mean France and Germany. But the truth is that France and Germany - weak, blind, duplicitous and inept - will need us far more than we could ever need them.
The nature of terrorism has changed profoundly. It's no longer about
ideology, but about slaughter for its own sake. Nothing we could do would
placate these terrorists. They must be fought and destroyed, no matter how many decades that requires. For Europe to pretend otherwise harms the general counter-terror effort. But, above all, it sets Europe up for
Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World."
Reply #66 on:
October 26, 2004, 12:48:36 PM »
The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: "It Can Happen Here"
by Thom Hartmann
The Republican National Committee has recently removed from their website an advertisement interspersing Hitler's face with those of John Kerry and other prominent Democrats.
This little-heralded step has freed former Enron lobbyist and current RNC chairman Ed Gillespie to resume his attacks on Americans who believe some provisions of Bush's PATRIOT Act, his detention of American citizens without charges, his willingness to let corporations write legislation, and the so-called "Free Speech Zones" around his public appearances are all steps on the road to American fascism.
The RNC's feeble attempt to equate Hitler and Democrats was short-lived, but it brings to mind the first American Vice President to point out the "American fascists" among us.
Although most Americans remember that Harry Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt's Vice President when Roosevelt died in 1945 (making Truman President), Roosevelt had two previous Vice Presidents - John N. Garner (1933-1941) and Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945).
In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have
we? How dangerous are they?" Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.
"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a
Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" - the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)
As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote, "If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government." But not a government of, by, and for We The People - instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.
In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their
money to folks like Tom DeLay and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.
Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out in his 1944 Times article his concern about the same happening here in America: " If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They
are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."
Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who had run for political office, and, in Wallace's view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels. "American fascism will not be really dangerous," he added in the next paragraph, "until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information..."
Noting that, "Fascism is a worldwide disease," Wallace further suggested that fascism's "greatest threat to the United States will come after the war" and will manifest "within the United States itself."
In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new "patriotic" laws that make it illegal to criticize the President.
As Lewis noted in his novel, "the President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy." And, President "Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used."
Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book "It Can't Happen Here." And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler. These events all, no doubt, colored Vice President Wallace's thinking when he wrote: " Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases."
Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary (
) notes, fascism/corporatism is ?an attempt to create a 'modern' version of feudalism by merging the 'corporate' interests with those of the state." Feudalism, of course, is one of the most stable of the three historic tyrannies (kingdoms, theocracies, feudalism) that ruled nations prior to the rise of American republican democracy, and can be roughly defined as "rule by the rich."
Thus, the neo-feudal/fascistic rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, an irony not lost on author Thomas Frank, who notes in his new book "What's The Matter With Kansas" that, "You can see the paradox first-hand on nearly any Main Street in middle America - 'going out of business' signs side by side with placards supporting George W. Bush." The businesses "going out of business" are, in fascist administrations, usually those of locally owned small and medium-sized companies.
As Wallace wrote, some in big business "are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage." He added, "Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself."
But American fascists who would want former CEOs as President, Vice President, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don't generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people. Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a "them" to pin with blame and distract people from the harm of their economic policies.
In a comment prescient of George W. Bush's recent suggestion that civilization itself is at risk because of gays, Wallace continued: " The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment
and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination..."
But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation's largest corporations - who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media - they could promote their lies with ease."The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," Wallace wrote. "Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the
common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy."
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added, "They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
Finally, Wallace said, "The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. ... Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels."
This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1881 Sherman Anti-TrustAct (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of "Trust Buster" Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).
As Wallace's President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party's renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia, "...out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man...."
Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core: "These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power." But, he thundered in that speech, "Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!"
In 2004, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself compassionate conservatism."
The RNC's behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, "In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."
It's particularly ironic that the CEOs and lobbyists who run the Republican National Committee would have chosen to put Hitler's fascist face into one of their campaign commercials, just before they launched a national campaign against gays and while they continue to arrest people who wear
anti-Bush T-shirts in public places.
Thom Hartmann (
) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk radio show.
His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," and "We The People: A Call To Take Back America." His new book, "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy," based on four years of research in Jefferson's personal letters, begins shipping this
week from Random House/Harmony.
Current Cyrstalnachts & Other Considerations
Reply #67 on:
October 26, 2004, 10:24:47 PM »
Uhm, so how do the sundry Cyrstalnachts occurring at RNC offices; the non-brown shirted union thugs early voters are forced to wade through in Florida and elsewhere; Democratic party bastions like Philadelphia who have more voters on the roles than census counted citizens; big lies about support for second amendment protections told by a candidate in camo; and so on, fit into the construct listed above?
Reply #68 on:
October 30, 2004, 12:02:06 AM »
Why Muslims always blame the West
Husain Haqqani International Herald Tribune
Saturday, October 16, 2004
WASHINGTON When Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, warned against the descent of an "iron curtain" between the West and the Islamic world, he appeared to put the onus of avoiding confrontation only on the West.
The Palestinian issue and the pre-emptive war in Iraq have undoubtedly accentuated anti-Western sentiment among Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia. But the conduct and rhetoric of Muslim leaders and their failure to address the stagnation of their societies has also fueled the tensions between Islam and the West.
Relations between Muslims and the West will continue to deteriorate unless the internal crisis of the Muslim world is also addressed.
After 9/11, General Musharraf switched support from Afghanistan's Taliban to the U.S.-led war against terrorism. He has since received a hefty package of U.S. military and economic assistance and spoken of the need for "enlightened moderation."
According to an opinion poll conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Center as part of its Global Attitudes Survey, 86 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of General Musharraf while 65 percent also support Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is viewed favorably by large percentages in other Muslim countries with "moderate" rulers.
Quite clearly, some Muslims find it possible to like Musharraf, who is regarded by the U.S. as the key figure in the hunt for bin Laden, while admiring his quarry at the same time. The contradiction speaks volumes about the general state of confusion in parts of the Muslim world, including Pakistan.
Instead of hard analysis, which thrives only in a free society, Muslims are generally brought up on propaganda, which is often state-sponsored. This propaganda usually focuses on Muslim humiliation at the hands of others instead of acknowledging the flaws of Muslim leaders and societies.
The focus on external enemies causes Muslims to admire power rather than ideas. Warriors, and not scholars or inventors, are generally the heroes of common people. In this simplistic "us vs. them" worldview, both Musharraf and bin Laden are warriors against external enemies.
Ringing alarm bells about an iron curtain between the West and the Islamic world without acknowledging the internal flaws of Muslim rulers and societies helps maintain the polarization as well as the flow of Western aid for the flawed rulers.
Ironically, a cult of the warrior has defined the Muslim worldview throughout the period of Muslim decline. Muslims have had few victories in the last two centuries, but their admiration for the proverbial sword and spear has only increased.
Textbooks in Muslim countries speak of the victories of Muslim fighters from an earlier era. Orators still call for latter-day mujahedeen to rise and regain Islam's lost glory. More streets in the Arab world are named after Muslim generals than men of learning. Even civilian dictators in the Muslim world like being photographed in military uniforms, Saddam Hussein being a case in point.
In the post-colonial period, military leaders in the Muslim world have consistently taken advantage of the popular fascination with military power. The Muslim cult of the warrior explains also the relatively muted response in the Muslim world to atrocities committed by fellow Muslims.
While the Muslim world's obsession with military power encourages violent attempts to "restore" Muslim honor, the real reasons for Muslim humiliation and backwardness continue to multiply. In the year 2000, according to the World Bank, the average income in the advanced countries (at purchasing price parity) was $27,450, with the U.S. income averaging $34,260 and Israel's income averaging $19, 320.
The average income in the Muslim world, however, stood at $3,700. Pakistan's per capita income in 2003 was a meager $2,060. Excluding the oil-exporting countries, none of the Muslim countries of the world had per capita incomes above the world average of $7,350.
National pride in the Muslim world is derived not from economic productivity, technological innovation or intellectual output but from the rhetoric of "destroying the enemy" and "making the nation invulnerable." Such rhetoric sets the stage for the clash of civilizations as much as specific Western policies.
Ironically, Western governments have consistently tried to deal with one manifestation of the cult of the warrior - terrorism - by building up Muslim strongmen who are just another manifestation of the same phenomenon.
Reply #69 on:
November 24, 2004, 02:50:45 PM »
HOW TO STEAL A COUNTRY
By RALPH PETERS
November 24, 2004 -- UKRAINE remains an indepen dent state. For now. But last week's shamelessly rigged presidential-election results were engineered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin's security services.
Exit polling, opinion polling, international election observers, Ukrainian local authorities and the people agree that opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, a pro-Western Democrat, won. But the pro-Moscow government of Ukraine claims that the spectacularly corrupt incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych received the major ity of votes.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to Kiev's streets in protest. Even Yanukovych has been wary of declaring his own victory. Yet Putin immediately extended his congratulations to the nervous "victor."
The Kremlin poured massive funding into the election campaign. The pro-Russian mafia that has a bully's grip on the Kiev government stuffed ballot boxes, manipulated absentee ballots, extorted votes and then simply changed the numbers to give Moscow's man a 49 percent to 46 percent lead.
This is the biggest test for democracy on Europe's frontier since the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia always seemed fated for a hybrid government ? part elections, part strongman rule ? but Ukraine could go either way. Especially in the country's west and center, Ukrainians have struggled for freedom for centuries.
But Russia regards Ukraine as its inalienable possession, stolen away as the U.S.S.R. collapsed.
Fatefully, the ties were never severed between the successors of the KGB in Moscow and Kiev. Now the grandchildren of the Russian thugs who mercilessly put down Nestor Makhno's Ukrainian revolt against the Bolsheviks, who slaughtered Ukraine's prosperous peasantry and murdered Ukraine's intelligentsia are back at work.
This election may have been Ukraine's last chance.
The tale begins almost a millennium ago. Converted to Christianity, Kiev was the jewel of the north, a magnificent city of churches and piety; Moscow was a shantytown. Then the Mongols came, destroying "Kievan Rus." Muscovy slowly expanded to fill the vacuum left by the destruction of the great Slavic civilization of the Steppes.
For centuries, Ukraine's Cossacks resisted Polish and Russian attempts to rob them of freedom. But by the end of the 18th century, Russia finally broke the Cossacks, dragooning them into its own military forces.
Subjugated, Ukraine responded with a 19th-century cultural revival. The Bolsheviks put an end to that. The first and greatest victims of Lenin and Stalin were the people of Ukraine.
Finally, in 1991, after six centuries, Ukraine regained its independence. Putin intends to take it away again.
With its declining population and threatened Far-Eastern territories, Russia desperately wants the additional population and strategic position of Ukraine back within its own borders, beginning as a "voluntary" federation. An ethnic-Russian population in eastern Ukraine serves as a fifth column.
Disgracefully, the international community appears ready to give Putin a free hand in subverting the freedom of a sovereign, democratic state. President Bush values his relationship with Putin, although Putin hasn't hesitated to undermine Washington's policies.
While constructive cooperation makes sense, there are times when the United States must draw a line ? unless we intend to make a mockery of our support for freedom and democracy.
This is one of those times. President Bush should not let a bunch of gangsters in Kiev and the sons of the KGB in Moscow destroy the hopes of a major European state. Ukraine isn't Russia's to steal.
The people of Ukraine who went to the polls to elect Viktor Yushchenko as their president, who want to be democratic, Western and free, need to hear from the White House. So does Mr. Putin.
If we allow Ukraine's freedom to be destroyed without so much as a murmur from our president, we will have betrayed the ideals we claim to support at home, in Iraq and around the world.
Ralph Peters worked as a Russia expert during his military career. (Colonel)
Letter to Europe
Reply #70 on:
November 30, 2004, 12:03:21 AM »
An Open Letter to Europe by Harold E. Meyer
Hi. Are you nuts?
Forgive me for being so blunt, but your reaction to our reelection of President Bush has been so outrageous that I?m wondering if you have quite literally lost your minds. One of Britain?s largest newspapers ran a headline asking ?How Can 59 Million Americans Be So Dumb??, and commentators in France all seemed to use the same word ? bizarre -- to explain the election?s outcome to their readers. In Germany the editors of Die Tageszeitung responded to our vote by writing that ?Bush belongs at a war tribunal ? not in the White House.? And on a London radio talk show last week one Jeremy Hardy described our President and those of us who voted for him as ?stupid, crazy, ignorant, bellicose Christian fundamentalists.?
Of course, you are entitled to whatever views about us that you care to hold. (And lucky for you we Americans aren?t like so many of the Muslims on your own continent; as the late Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh just discovered, make one nasty crack about them and you?re likely to get six bullets pumped into your head and a knife plunged into your chest.) But before you write us off as just a bunch of sweaty, hairy-chested, Bible-thumping morons who are more likely to break their fast by dipping a Krispy Kreme into a diet cola than a biscotti into an espresso ? and who inexplicably have won more Nobel prizes than all other countries combined, host 25 or 30 of the world?s finest universities and five or six of the world?s best symphonies, produce wines that win prizes at your own tasting competitions, have built the world?s most vibrant economy, are the world?s only military superpower and, so to speak in our spare time, have landed on the moon and sent our robots to Mars ? may I suggest you stop frothing at the mouth long enough to consider just what are these ideas we hold that you find so silly and repugnant?
We believe that church and state should be separate, but that religion should remain at the center of life. We are a Judeo-Christian culture, which means we consider those ten things on a tablet to be commandments, not suggestions. We believe that individuals are more important than groups, that families are more important than governments, that children should be raised by their parents rather than by the State, and that marriage should take place only between a man and a woman. We believe that rights must be balanced by responsibilities, that personal freedom is a privilege we must be careful not to abuse, and that the rule of law cannot be set aside when it becomes inconvenient. We believe in economic liberty, and in the right of purposeful and industrious entrepreneurs to run their businesses ? and thus create jobs ? with a minimum of government interference. We recognize that other people see things differently, and we are tolerant of their views. But we believe that our country is worth defending, and if anyone decides that killing us is an okay thing to do we will go after them with everything we?ve got.
If these beliefs seem strange to you, they shouldn?t. For these are precisely the beliefs that powered Western Europe ? you -- from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, on to the Enlightenment, and forward into the modern world. They are the beliefs that made Europe itself the glory of Western civilization and ? not coincidentally ? ignited the greatest outpouring of art, literature, music and scientific discovery the world has ever known including Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Bach, Issac Newton and Descartes.
Europe is Dying
It is your abandonment of these beliefs that has created the gap between Europe and the United States. You have ceased to be a Judeo-Christian culture, and have become instead a secular culture. And a secular culture quickly goes from being ?un-religious? to anti-religious. Indeed, your hostility to the basic concepts of Judaism and Christianity has literally been written into your new European Union constitution, despite the Pope?s heroic efforts to the contrary.
Your rate of marriage is at an all-time low, and the number of abortions in Europe is at an all-time high. Indeed, your birth rates are so far below replacement levels that in 30 years or so there will be 70 million fewer Europeans alive than are alive today. Europe is literally dying. And of the children you do manage to produce, all too few will be raised in stable, two-parent households.
Your economy is stagnant because your government regulators make it just about impossible for your entrepreneurs to succeed ? except by fleeing to the United States, where we welcome them and celebrate their success.
And your armed forces are a joke. With the notable exception of Great Britain, you no longer have the military strength to defend yourselves. Alas, you no longer have the will to defend yourselves.
What worries me even more than all this is your willful blindness. You refuse to see that it is you, not we Americans, who have abandoned Western Civilization. It?s worrisome because, to tell you the truth, we need each other. Western Civilization today is under siege, from radical Islam on the outside and from our own selfish hedonism within. It?s going to take all of our effort, our talent, our creativity and, above all, our will to pull through. So take a good, hard look at yourselves and see what your own future will be if you don?t change course. And please, stop sneering at America long enough to understand it. After all, Western Civilization was your gift to us, and you ought to be proud of what we Americans have made of it.
Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan Administration as Special Assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and Vice Chairman of the CIA?s National Intelligence Council. His DVD on The Siege of Western Civilization is a nationwide best-seller.
Reply #71 on:
December 05, 2004, 06:45:01 PM »
What is Man? Competition Attrition
December 4, 2004
Nowadays, especially via TV and Hollywood, men are seen as despicable, cruel, pusillanimous, selfish, ineffectual oafs, veritable bumbling idiots who need women or some gay guy with a Queer Eye ? to help us through our primal fog towards metrosexual healing.
If you?re a guy who wants to keep his guy-ness and not trade it in for the androgynous pomosexual image of the 21st century, then you will receive more scorn than Michael Moore at a NRA luncheon. From the college classroom to the corporate boardroom, men have been meeting with man-hatred for quite some time now.
Look ? I?m sure men need some retooling, and I confess we do egregious things for which we need to take responsibility. Y?know, just the other day while I was on a hunting trip without my wife during our anniversary, after not bathing for 5 days, while eating cold refried beans out of a can, chasing the beans with a hot Budweiser and belching so loudly that a Bull Elk came to our cabin looking for a fight, I was thinking that maybe I need to take some etiquette classes.
However, the little tweaking that I?ll admit to needing with respect to balancing out my mannish weirdness will not be coming from our current culture of castration but from the scripture and from classical masculine values of days gone by (not from a re-run of Friends).
What are the basic elements of the masculine spirit? Well, from Homer to Gomer, from Abraham to the Apostle Paul, there are three primary traits that men, if properly raised and allowed to express their biology, will and should naturally exhibit.
They are the following:
Let?s look at number one, competition. Guys will fight over anything ? and you know what? We?re supposed to. Probably the thing that separates the men from the ladies more than the Austin Power-like hair on our backs is man?s innate combative nature.
Take the animal kingdom, for instance. While on one of my glorious and many hunting trips, I had two bucks feeding in front of my stand about 75 yards away. To my right, out of a thick stand of trees, comes a doe in to feed with the grass-munchin? boys, and the next thing you know ? it?s a WWE match in a South Florida palmetto patch. The two young bucks commenced to smashing their heads together over Bambi?s cute sister. The kicker is ? while Frick and Frack are locked up vying for dominance ? a more mature buck appears and begins to walk off with the doe ? that is, until I shot him!
Male animals will fight over who gets to breed, who gets to eat, and who owns a particular piece of turf, and aside from our cell phones ? we bipods are no different. Men clash over women, ideas, politics, business, war, and if that does not suffice, we will make up stuff to wrangle over.
Nowadays, men are reviled and harangued for this traditionally esteemed and essential, God-wired, gung-ho spirit. It is this positive bellicose behavior that causes men to rightly protect, even to the point of death, women and kids from whatever threatens them. This is what men have been classically known for, and this is what should be re-tabled for men in this Age of Wussification.
In addition to and closely connected with this confrontational role, is the classic male mission of fetching vittles and acquiring a killer crib. Men looked for the new castle in a safer hamlet. Men sought increased opportunity for their kids and a greater slice of the bliss pie for the entire family.
And lastly, the male competitive spirit caused the production of a better breed of people. You know, in the animal kingdom, you don?t get to mate if you don?t exert your masculinity in the field by dominance.
The competitive spirit within the man, together with its spin-off fruits, is a must for our nation to continue to be the solid country it is. Sure, this viable spirited competitive distinctiveness, allowed to grow on its own, ungoverned by greatness, can fester into an O.J. However, the competitive spirit, governed by biblical ethics, has always produced powerful and productive patriarchs who were the backbone of whatever culture they grew up in. That?s why traditional Judeo-Christian communities invested so much time, capital and oomph in the ordering of this potential force through the institution of rights, rules and heroic narratives.
My ClashPoint is this: As society becomes more secular, dispensing with Judeo-Christian values that relate to man, and diluting the values which address their combativeness in a constructive fashion, man?s competitive bent will deteriorate rapidly into free-for-all competition, Scott Peterson weirdness, and success at all costs. On the flip side of that competition-minus-character coin is the current overcorrection of poo-pooing competition and turning men into Charmin-like creatures.
Traditional society esteemed and structured man?s aggressiveness, realizing that men who like to fight were a must for the good society. Our forebears bridled the bad fruits and released the good produce of combative behavior by recounting great biblical narratives, by conducting ceremonies, and by maintaining an ethical code built around properly releasing this warrior spirit.
Part two, Independence, to follow?
I Was a Tool of Satan
Reply #72 on:
December 09, 2004, 04:17:55 PM »
A piece that wanders a bit out of Columbia Journalism Review
An Equal-Opportunity Offender Maps the Dark Turn of Intolerance
BY DOUG MARLETTE
Last year, I drew a cartoon that showed a man in Middle Eastern apparel at the wheel of a Ryder truck hauling a nuclear warhead. The caption read, "What Would Mohammed Drive?" Besides referring to the vehicle that Timothy McVeigh rode into Oklahoma City, the drawing was a takeoff on the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign created by Christian evangelicals to challenge the morality of owning gas-guzzling SUVs. The cartoon's main target, of course, was the faith-based politics of a different denomination. Predictably, the Shiite hit the fan.
Can you say "fatwa"? My newspaper, The Tallahassee Democrat, and I received more than 20,000 e-mails demanding an apology for misrepresenting the peace-loving religion of the Prophet Mohammed ? or else. Some spelled out the "else": death, mutilation, Internet spam. "I will cut your fingers and put them in your mother's ass." "What you did, Mr. Dog, will cost you your life. Soon you will join the dogs . . . hahaha in hell." "Just wait . . . we will see you in hell with all jews . . . ." The onslaught was orchestrated by an organization called the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR bills itself as an "advocacy group." I was to discover that among the followers of Islam it advocated for were the men convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. At any rate, its campaign against me included flash-floods of e-mail intended to shut down servers at my newspaper and my syndicate, as well as viruses aimed at my home computer. The controversy became a subject of newspaper editorials, columns, Web logs, talk radio, and CNN. I was condemned on the front page of the Saudi publication Arab News by the secretary general of the Muslim World League.
My answer to the criticism was published in the Democrat (and reprinted around the country) under the headline With All Due Respect, an Apology Is Not in Order. I almost felt that I could have written the response in my sleep. In my thirty-year career, I have regularly drawn cartoons that offended religious fundamentalists and true believers of every stripe, a fact that I tend to list in the "Accomplishments" column of my r?sum?. I have outraged Christians by skewering Jerry Falwell, Catholics by needling the pope, and Jews by criticizing Israel. Those who rise up against the expression of ideas are strikingly similar. No one is less tolerant than those demanding tolerance. Despite differences of culture and creed, they all seem to share the notion that there is only one way of looking at things, their way. What I have learned from years of this is one of the great lessons of all the world's religions: we are all one in our humanness.
In my response, I reminded readers that my "What Would Mohammed Drive?" drawing was an assault not upon Islam but on the distortion of the Muslim religion by murderous fanatics - the followers of Mohammed who flew those planes into our buildings, to be sure, but also the Taliban killers of noncompliant women and destroyers of great art, the true believers who decapitated an American reporter, the young Palestinian suicide bombers taking out patrons of pizza parlors in the name of the Prophet Mohammed.
Then I gave my Journalism 101 lecture on the First Amendment, explaining that in this country we do not apologize for our opinions. Free speech is the linchpin of our republic. All other freedoms flow from it. After all, we don't need a First Amendment to allow us to run boring, inoffensive cartoons. We need constitutional protection for our right to express unpopular views. If we can't discuss the great issues of the day on the pages of our newspapers fearlessly, and without apology, where can we discuss them? In the streets with guns? In caf?s with strapped-on bombs?
Although my initial reaction to the "Mohammed" hostilities was that I had been there before, gradually I began to feel that there was something new, something darker afoot. The repressive impulses of that old-time religion were now being fed by the subtler inhibitions of mammon and the marketplace. Ignorance and bigotry were reinventing themselves in the post-Christian age by dressing up as "sensitivity" and masquerading as a public virtue that may be as destructive to our rights as religious zealotry. We seem to be entering a Techno Dark Age, in which the machines that were designed to serve the free flow of information have fallen into the hands of an anti-intellectual mobocracy.
Twenty-five years ago, I began inciting the wrath of the faithful by caricaturing the grotesque disparity between Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's televangelism scam and the Christian piety they used to justify it. I was then working at The Charlotte Observer, in the hometown of the Bakkers' PTL Club, which instigated a full-bore attack on me. The issues I was cartooning were substantial enough that I won the Pulitzer Prize for my PTL work. But looking back on that fundamentalist religious campaign, even though my hate mail included some death threats, I am struck by the relative innocence of the times and how ominous the world has since become - how high the stakes, even for purveyors of incendiary doodles.
One of the first cartoons I ever drew on PTL was in 1978, when Jim Bakker's financial mismanagement forced him to lay off a significant portion of his staff. The drawing showed the TV preacher sitting at the center of Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper informing his disciples, "I'm going to have to let some of you go!" Bakker's aides told reporters that he was so upset by the drawing that he fell to his knees in his office, weeping into the gold shag carpet. Once he staggered to his feet, he and Tammy Faye went on the air and, displaying my cartoons, encouraged viewers to phone in complaints to the Observer and cancel their subscriptions.
Jim Bakker finally resigned in disgrace from his PTL ministry, and I drew a cartoon of the televangelist who replaced him, Jerry Falwell, as a serpent slithering into PTL paradise: "Jim and Tammy were expelled from paradise and left me in charge."
One of the many angry readers who called me at the newspaper said, "You're a tool of Satan."
"You're a tool of Satan for that cartoon you drew."
"That's impossible," I said. "I couldn't be a tool of Satan. The Charlotte Observer's personnel department tests for that sort of thing."
Confused silence on the other end.
"They try to screen for tools of Satan," I explained. "Knight Ridder human resources has a strict policy against hiring tools of Satan."
Until "What Would Mohammed Drive?" most of the flak I caught was from the other side of the Middle East conflict. Jewish groups complained that my cartoons critical of Israel's invasion of Lebanon were anti-Semitic because I had drawn Prime Minister Menachem Begin with a big nose. My editors took the strategic position that I drew everyone's nose big. At one point, editorial pages were spread out on the floor for editors to measure with a ruler the noses of various Jewish and non-Jewish figures in my cartoons.
After I moved to the Northeast, it was Catholics I offended. At New York Newsday, I drew a close-up of the pope wearing a button that read "No Women Priests." There was an arrow pointing to his forehead and the inscription from Matthew 16:18: "Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church." The Newsday switchboard lit up like a Vegas wedding chapel. Newsday ran an apology for the cartoon, a first in my career, and offered me a chance to respond in a column. The result - though the paper published it in full - got me put on probation for a year by the publisher. That experience inspired the opening scene of my first novel, The Bridge.
The novel's protagonist, a political cartoonist named Pick Cantrell, is fired after beating up his publisher and returns with his wife and son to North Carolina, where he confronts the ghosts of his past in the form of his grandmother, Mama Lucy, the family matriarch and his boyhood nemesis. In an attempt to show how the grandmother became such a formidable ogre, the book flashes back to mill life in the thirties, when Lucy, like my own grandmother, was bayoneted by a National Guardsman during a textile strike. There were obvious autobiographical elements of The Bridge. Like Pick, I would have beaten up my publisher if it had been legal. And The Bridge's fictional setting of Eno, North Carolina, is based loosely on Hillsborough, a former mill village where my ancestors once worked in the cotton mill's weave rooms and where I now live with my family. These days the town features an advanced white-wine-and-Brie-in-bulk community of writers and other bourgeois bohemians. Various members of the community were given highly fictionalized analogs in the novel, from a vegan restaurateur to a sex-toy manufacturer. But most of the book came straight from the imagination.
I'm not sure I expected my foray into what Mark Twain called the "littery" world to be a stroll through a Bloomsbury garden, but I surely did not expect the Taliban, or as some people in my town of Hillsborough called the literary terrorists who went after my book, "HillQaeda."
A neighbor of mine thought he recognized himself in the gay-writer character, Ruffin Strudwick, the author of a Civil War best seller, "told from the point of view of a female Confederate spy," which had "created an uproar among Civil War scholars by suggesting that the relationship between Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson was latently homosexual." It's true, my neighbor made a name for himself by taking on the fictional persona of a Confederate female (not a spy), but the fictional Strudwick was a composite. In fact, his troubled relationship with his father prompted Pat Conroy's sister to write and thank me for basing Strudwick on her brother. Their father, The Great Santini, "would just love how you made Pat gay," she said. The only literal trait my neighbor shared with Strudwick was a weakness for vintage costumes and red high-tops. If I had to defend myself for lifting those details, I would contend that dressing like that around a cartoonist amounts to entrapment.
Sadly, the title of my first chapter - "A Gift for Pissing People Off" - proved to be all too nonfictional. As the galleys of the novel circulated, the offended writer wept like a televangelist to anyone who would listen, claiming he had been viciously caricatured. Another local writer known for her "niceness" called urging me to change my book. Amused as I was to see literary sophisticates behaving like small-town provincials (this is North Carolina; hadn't they read Thomas Wolfe?), the smile was presently wiped off my face. A local publicist I had hired to promote my book called in tears after being told by the nice writer's husband that she would never work in this town again if she continued to represent me. Then the rector of the Episcopal church my family attended complained about the Strudwick character and, lest he be mistaken for the earthy minister in the novel, contacted my publisher and asked to have his name removed from the acknowledgments. This, of course, set off alarms within my publishing house, which brought in lawyers to vet the novel for libel.
Then the weeping writer's close friend who managed the campus bookstore at the University of North Carolina (where I had just become a visiting professor) canceled my book signing there. She tried to get other booksellers around the state to do likewise, on the ground that The Bridge was "homophobic trash." (Her bookstore sells T-shirts that proclaim, "I read banned books.")
Reviews were posted on Amazon.com trashing The Bridge, repeating the homophobia charge, all with similarly worded, weirdly personal talking points. A bit of verse was sent anonymously to my home address: "May maggots munch your belly-bone and rats chew on your ears . . . ." My wife, who had already been shunned on the street and at the local latt? bar, read it as a death threat.
I resisted the impulse to respond. My day job requires enough gladiatorial duty on behalf of free speech. And the attempts to censor my novel weren't really a First Amendment abuse: the government wasn't trying to shut me up (unless you count that state-owned campus bookstore) - only a bunch of unarmed and dangerous writers. Besides, my brothers and sisters in the free press covered my flank nicely. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, for instance, called the attack "a panty-wadding fatwa," adding "I, for one, can't wait for the cartoon."
But how do you cartoon a cartoon? It's a problem of redundancy in this hyperbolic age to caricature an already extravagantly distorted culture. When writers try to censor other writers, we're in Toontown. We are in deep trouble when victimhood becomes a sacrament, personal injury a point of pride, when irreverence is seen as a hate crime, when the true values of art and religion are distorted and debased by fanatics and zealots, whether in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Prophet Mohammed, or a literary Cult of Narcissus.
It was the cynically outrageous charge of homophobia against my book that brought me around to the similarities between the true believers I was used to dealing with and the postmodern secular humanist Church Ladies wagging their fingers at me. The threads that connect the CAIR and the literary fatwas, besides technological sabotage, are entreaties to "sensitivity," appeals to institutional guilt, and faith in a corporate culture of controversy avoidance. Niceness is the new face of censorship in this country.
The censors no longer come to us in jackboots with torches and baying dogs in the middle of the night. They arrive now in broad daylight with marketing surveys and focus-group findings. They come as teams, not armies, trained in effectiveness, certified in sensitivity, and wielding degrees from the Columbia journalism school. They're known not for their bravery but for their efficiency. They show gallantry only when they genuflect to apologize.
The most disturbing thing about the "Mohammed" experience was that a laptop Luftwaffe was able to blitz editors into not running the cartoon in my own newspaper. "WWMD" ran briefly on the Tallahassee Democrat Web site, but once an outcry was raised, the editors pulled it and banned it from the newspaper altogether.
The cyberprotest by CAIR showed a sophisticated understanding of what motivates newsroom managers these days - bottom-line concerns, a wish for the machinery to run smoothly, and the human-resources mandate not to offend. Many of my e-mail detractors appeared to be well-educated, recent ?migr?s. Even if their English sometimes faltered, they were fluent in the language of victimhood. Presumably, victimization was one of their motives for leaving their native countries, yet the subtext of many of their letters was that this country should be more like the ones they emigrated from. They had the American know-how without the know-why. In the name of tolerance, in the name of their peaceful God, they threatened violence against someone they accused of falsely accusing them of violence.
With the rise of the bottom-line culture and the corporatization of newsgathering, tolerance itself has become commodified and denuded of its original purpose. Consequently, the best part of the American character - our generous spirit, our sense of fair play - has been turned against us. Tolerance has become a tool of coercion, of institutional inhibition, of bureaucratic self-preservation. We all should take pride in how this country for the most part curbed the instinct to lash out at Arab-Americans in the wake of 9/11. One of the great strengths of this nation is our sensitivity to the tyranny of the majority, our sense of justice for all. But the First Amendment, the miracle of our system, is not just a passive shield of protection. In order to maintain our true, nationally defining diversity, it obligates journalists to be bold, writers to be full-throated and uninhibited, and those blunt instruments of the free press, cartoonists like me, not to self-censor. We must use it or lose it.
Political cartoonists daily push the limits of free speech. They were once the embodiment of journalism's independent voice. Today they are as endangered a species as bald eagles. The professional troublemaker has become a luxury that offends the bottom-line sensibilities of corporate journalism. Twenty years ago, there were two hundred of us working on daily newspapers. Now there are only ninety. Herblock is dead. Jeff MacNelly is dead. And most of the rest of us might as well be. Just as r?sum? hounds have replaced newshounds in today's newsrooms, ambition has replaced talent at the drawing boards. Passion has yielded to careerism, Thomas Nast to Eddie Haskell. With the retirement of Paul Conrad at the Los Angeles Times, a rolling blackout from California has engulfed the country, dimming the pilot lights on many American editorial pages. Most editorial cartoons now look as bland as B-roll and as impenetrable as a 1040 form.
We know what happens to the bald eagle when it's not allowed to reproduce and its habitat is contaminated. As the species is thinned, the eco-balance is imperiled.
Why should we care about the obsolescence of the editorial cartoonist? Because cartoons can't say "on the other hand," because they strain reason and logic, because they are hard to defend and thus are the acid test of the First Amendment, and that is why they must be preserved.
What would Marlette drive? Forget SUVs and armored cars. It would be an all-terrain vehicle you don't need a license for. Not a foreign import, but American-made. It would be built with the same grit and gumption my grandmother showed when she faced down government soldiers in the struggle for economic justice, and the courage my father displayed as a twenty-year-old when he waded ashore in the predawn darkness of Salerno and Anzio. It would be fueled by the freedom spirit that both grows out of our Constitution and is protected by it - fiercer than any fatwa, tougher than all the tanks in the army, and more powerful than any bunker-buster.
If I drew you a picture it might look like the broken-down jalopy driven by the Joads from Oklahoma to California. Or like the Cadillac that Jack Kerouac took on the road in his search for nirvana. Or the pickup Woody Guthrie hitched a ride in on that ribbon of highway, bound for glory. Or the International Harvester Day-Glo school bus driven cross-country by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Or the Trailways and Greyhound buses the Freedom Riders boarded to face the deadly backroads of Mississippi and Alabama. Or the moonbuggy Neil Armstrong commanded on that first miraculous trip to the final frontier.
What would Marlette drive? The self-evident, unalienable American model of democracy that we as a young nation discovered and road-tested for the entire world: the freedom to be ourselves, to speak the truth as we see it, and to drive it home.
Reply #73 on:
January 03, 2005, 02:10:00 AM »
Sent to me by a friend in the Israeli IDF
ISRAELI ACHIEVEMENTS FRUSTRATE
FRENCH AMBASSADOR IN ENGLAND!
By Prof. D. Koller
Here is a capsule of accomplishments you may not be fully aware of. I thought you might find these statistics interesting.
The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year. Israeli trees are now yielding 400 pounds/year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder.
Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world's population, can lay claim to the following:
The cell phone was developed in Israel by Israelis working in the Israeli branch of Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel. Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel.
The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel. Both the Pentium-4 microprocessor and the Centrino processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel.
The Pentium microprocessor in your computer was most likely made in Israel.
Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.
Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel.
The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.
Israel has the fourth largest air force in the world (after the U. S, Russia and China). In addition to a large variety of other aircraft, Israel's air force has an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16's. This is the largest fleet of F-16 aircraft outside of the U. S.
According to industry officials, Israel designed the airline industry's most impenetrable flight security. U. S. officials now look to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats.
Israel's $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined. Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.
Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world.
Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin - 109 per 10,000 people -- as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.
In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the U. S. (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech).
With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and startups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world -- apart from the Silicon Valley, U. S.
Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the U. S.
Outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.
Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK.
On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech startups.
Twenty-four per cent of Israel's workforce holds university degrees -- ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland - and 12 per cent hold advanced degrees. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.
In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted a total of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews at risk in Ethiopia, to safety in Israel.
When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, she became the world's second elected female leader in modern times.
When the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day -- and saved three victims from the rubble.
Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship -- and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 - in the world.
Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.
Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as "conflict free."
Israel has the world's second highest per capita of new books.
Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, made more remarkable because this was achieved in an area considered mainly desert.
Israel has more museums per capita than any other country.
Medicine... Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer.
An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment. Every year in U. S. hospitals 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes.
Israel's Givun Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. Used to view the small intestine from the inside, the camera helps doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.
Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device is synchronized with the heart's mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors.
Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions.
Israel places first in this category as well. A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the Clear Light device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct -- all without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.
An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California's Mojave desert.
All the above while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth.
AND THE FRENCH AMBASSADOR IN ENGLAND SAYS WE ARE NOTHING BUT A "SH***Y LITTLE COUNTRY"!!!
Prof. D. Koller is at the Institute of Life Sciences, The Hebrew University.
The Toothless Teeth Gnashers
Reply #74 on:
February 04, 2005, 12:33:40 PM »
Whoo, still trying to catch my breath after reading this one. No prisoners taken here:
February 04, 2005, 7:50 a.m.
The Global Throng
Why the world?s elites gnash their teeth.
Do we even remember "all that" now? The lunacy that appeared after 9/11 that asked us to look for the "root causes" to explain why America may have "provoked" spoiled mama's boys like bin Laden and Mohammed Atta to murder Americans at work? Do we recall the successive litany of "you cannot win in Afghanistan/you cannot reconstruct such a mess/you cannot jumpstart democracy there"? And do we have memory still of "Sharon the war criminal," and "the apartheid wall," and, of course, "Jeningrad," the supposed Israeli-engineered Stalingrad ? or was it really Leningrad? Or try to remember Arafat in his Ramallah bunker talking to international groupies who flew in to hear the old killer's jumbled mishmash about George Bush, the meanie who had ostracized him.
Then we were told that if we dared invade the ancient caliphate, Saddam would kill thousands and exile millions more. And when he was captured in a cesspool, the invective continued during the hard reconstruction that oil, Halliburton, the Jews, the neocons, Richard Perle, and other likely suspects had suckered us into a "quagmire" or was it now "Vietnam redux"? And recall that in response we were supposed to flee, or was it to trisect Iraq? The elections, remember, would not work ? or were held too soon or too late. And give the old minotaur Senator Kennedy his due, as he lumbered out on the eve of the Iraqi voting to hector about its failure and call for withdrawal ? one last hurrah that might yet rescue the cherished myth that the United States had created another Vietnam and needed his sort of deliverance.
And then there was the parade of heroes who were media upstarts of the hour ? the brilliant Hans Blixes, Joe Wilsons, Anonymouses, and Richard Clarkes ? who came, wrote their books, did their fawning interviews on 60 Minutes, Nightline, and Larry King, and then faded to become footnotes to our collective pessimism.
Do not dare forget our Hollywood elite. At some point since 9/11, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, Whoopi Goldberg, and a host of others have lectured the world that their America is either misled, stupid, evil, or insane, bereft of the wisdom of Hollywood's legions of college drop-outs, recovering bad boys, and self-praised autodidacts.
Remember the twisted logic of the global throng as well: Anyone who quit the CIA was a genius in his renegade prognostication; anyone who stayed was a toady who botched the war. Three- and four-star generals who went on television or ran for office were principled dissidents who "told the truth"; officers in the field who kept quiet and saved Afghanistan and Iraq were "muzzled" careerists. Families of the 9/11 victims who publicly trashed George Bush offered the nation "grassroots" cries of the heart; the far greater number who supported the war on terror were perhaps "warped" by their grief.
There were always the untold "minor" embarrassments that we were to ignore as the slight slips of the "good" people ? small details like the multibillion-dollar Oil-for-Food scandal that came to light due to the reporting of a single brave maverick, Claudia Rosett, or Rathergate, disclosed by "pajama"-clad bloggers without journalism degrees from Columbia, sojourns at the Kennedy School, or internships with the Washington Post. To put it into Animal Farm speak: elite New York Times, CBS News, and PBS good; populist bloggers, talk-radio, and cable news bad.
In place of Harry Truman and JFK we got John Kerry calling the once-maimed Prime Minister Allawi a "puppet," Senator Murray praising bin Laden's social-welfare work, Senator Boxer calling Secretary of State Rice a veritable liar for agreeing with the various casus belli that Boxer's own Senate colleagues had themselves passed in October 2002. And for emotional and financial support, the Democratic insiders turned to George Soros and Michael Moore, who assured them that their president was either Hitlerian, a dunce, or a deserter.
Then there was our media's hysteria: Donald Rumsfeld should be sacked in the midst of war; Abu Ghraib was the moral equivalent of everything from Saddam's gulag to the Holocaust; the U.S. military purportedly tried to kill reporters; and always the unwillingness or inability to condemn the beheaders, fascists, and suicide murderers, who sought to destroy any shred of liberalism. Meanwhile, the isolation of a corrupt Arafat, the withdrawal of 10,000 Americans from a Wahhabi theocracy, the transformation of the world's far-right monstrosities into reformed democracies, and the pull-back of some troops from Germany and the DMZ went unnoticed.
What explains this automatic censure of the United States, Israel, and to a lesser extent the Anglo-democracies of the United Kingdom and Australia? Westernization, coupled with globalization, has created an affluent and leisured elite that now gravitates to universities, the media, bureaucracies, and world organizations, all places where wealth is not created, but analyzed, critiqued, and lavishly spent.
Thus we now expect that the New York Times, Harper's, Le Monde, U.N. functionaries who call us "stingy," French diplomats, American writers and actors will all (1) live a pretty privileged life; (2) in recompense "feel" pretty worried and guilty about it; (3) somehow connect their unease over their comfort with a pathology of the world's hyperpower, the United States; and (4) thus be willing to risk their elite status, power, or wealth by very brave acts such as writing anguished essays, giving pained interviews, issuing apologetic communiqu?s, braving the rails to Davos, and barking off-the-cuff furious remarks about their angst over themes (1) through (3) above. What a sad contrast they make with far better Iraqis dancing in the street to celebrate their voting.
There is something else to this shrillness of the global throng besides the obvious fact of hypocrisy ? that very few of the world's Westernized cynical echelon ever move to the ghetto to tutor those they champion in the abstract, reside in central Africa to feed the poor, give up tenure to ensure employment for the exploited lecturer, or pass on the Washington or New York A-list party to eat in the lunch hall with the unwashed. Davos after all, is not quite central Bolivia or the Sudan.
First, there is a tremendous sense of impotence. Somehow sharp looks alone, clever repartee, long lists of books read and articles cited, or global travel do not automatically result in commensurate power. So what exactly is wrong with these stupid people of Nebraska who would elect a dense, Christian-like George Bush when a Gore Vidal, George Soros, Ben Affleck, Bruce Springsteen, or Ted Kennedy warned them not to?
If the American Left is furious over the loss of most of the nation's governorships and legislatures, the U.S. House, the Senate, the presidency, and soon the Supreme Court, the Europeans themselves are furious over America's power ? as if Red America is to Blue America as America is to Europe itself. Thus how can a mongrel culture of Taco Bell, Bud Light, and Desperate Housewives project such military and political influence abroad when the soft, subtle triangulation of far more cultured diplomats and sophisticated intellectuals from France, Germany, and Scandinavia is ignored by thugs from Iran, North Korea, and most of the Middle East?
Why would the world listen to a stumbling George Bush when it could be mesmerized by a poet, biographer, aristocrat, and metrosexual of the caliber of a Monsieur Dominique de Villepin? Why praise brave Iraqis lining up to vote, while at the same hour the defeated John Kerry somberly intones on Tim Russert's show that he really did go into Cambodia to supply arms to the mass-murdering Khmer Rouge ? a statement that either cannot be true or is almost an admission of being a party to crimes against humanity if it is.
Second, political powerlessness follows from ideological exhaustion. Communism and Marxism are dead. Stalin and Mao killed over 80 million and did not make omelets despite the broken eggs. Castro and North Korea are not classless utopias but thugocracies run by megalomaniac dictators who the world prays will die any minute. The global Left knows that the Cold War is over and was lost by the Left, and that Eastern Europeans and Central Americans probably cherish the memory of a Ronald Reagan far more than that of a Francois Mitterrand or Willy Brandt.
But it is still more disheartening than that. In the 1960s and 1970s we were told that free-market America was becoming an anachronism. Remember Japan, Inc., whose amalgam of "Asian Values" and Western capitalism presaged the decline of the United States? Europeanists still assured us that a 35-hour work week, cradle-to-grave entitlement, and secularism were to be the only workable Western paradigms ? before high unemployment, low growth, stagnant worker productivity, unassimilated minorities, declining birthrates, and disarmament suggested that just maybe something is going very wrong in a continent that is not so eager for either God or children.
Perhaps the result of this frustration is that European intellectuals damn the United States for action in Iraq, but lament that they could do nothing in the Balkans. Democrats at home talk of the need for idealism abroad, but fear the dirty road of war that sometimes is part of that bargain ? thus the retreat into "democracy is good, BUT..." So here we have the global throng that focuses on one purported American crime to the next, as it simmers in the luxury of its privilege, education, and sophistication ? and exhibits little power, new ideas, intellectual seriousness, or relevance.
In this context, the Iraqi elections were surely poorly attended, or illegitimate, or ruined by violence, or irrelevant, or staged by America ? or almost anything other than a result of a brave, very risky, and costly effort by the United States military to destroy a fascist regime and offer something better in its place.
Yet as Yeehah! Howard Dean takes over the Democratic party, as Kojo Annan's dad limps to the end of his tenure, and as a Saddam-trading Jacques Chirac talks grandly of global airfare taxes to help the poor, they should all ask themselves whether a weary public is listening any longer to the hyped and canned stories of their own courage and brilliance.
? Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.
Re: The Toothless Teeth Gnashers
Reply #75 on:
February 05, 2005, 05:32:02 AM »
Quote from: buzwardo
Do we recall the successive litany of "you cannot win in Afghanistan/you cannot reconstruct such a mess/you cannot jumpstart democracy there"?
No, we don't. I recall an international effort by most of the nations that the author is attacking, to get retribution for a terrorist attack on America. Obviously that would get in the way of the "Euros and Liberals are all asshats" rant so never mind.
Reply #76 on:
February 05, 2005, 08:52:46 AM »
That's pretty witty.
In particular the UK, Australia, and Poland have been good friends to us in all this, with the UK being especially noteworthy. Point gladly acknowledged.
That said, there were quite a few voices out there on Afghanistan as VDH says. That you didn't notice them speaks well of you
so may I offer that his words be taken as a matter of "If the shoe fits, wear it"?
PS: There is a reason this thread has the word "Rant" in its name
Reply #77 on:
February 06, 2005, 05:01:46 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog
PS: There is a reason this thread has the word "Rant" in its name
haha ok fair enough
That's pretty witty.
In particular the UK, Australia, and Poland have been good friends to us in all this, with the UK being especially noteworthy. Point gladly acknowledged.
That said, there were quite a few voices out there on Afghanistan as VDH says. That you didn't notice them speaks well of you
so may I offer that his words be taken as a matter of "If the shoe fits, wear it"?
In fact French Special Forces are
helping US troops in hunting for Osama Bin Laden. Most of Europe had troops in Afghanistan. Yet many people ignore that fact when labelling the French as traitors in the War On Terror, and Euros in general as lazy, corrupt, elitist bystanders.
Westernization, coupled with globalization, has created an affluent and leisured elite that now gravitates to universities, the media, bureaucracies, and world organizations, all places where wealth is not created, but analyzed, critiqued, and lavishly spent.
(1) live a pretty privileged life; (2) in recompense "feel" pretty worried and guilty about it; (3) somehow connect their unease over their comfort with a pathology of the world's hyperpower, the United States; and (4) thus be willing to risk their elite status, power, or wealth by very brave acts such as writing anguished essays, giving pained interviews, issuing apologetic communiqu?s, braving the rails to Davos, and barking off-the-cuff furious remarks about their angst over themes (1) through (3) above.
Those comments are pretty funny coming from a Fellow of Stanford University.
Reply #78 on:
February 06, 2005, 08:29:42 AM »
"In fact French Special Forces are still helping US troops in hunting for Osama Bin Laden. Most of Europe had troops in Afghanistan. Yet many people ignore that fact when labelling the French as traitors in the War On Terror, and Euros in general as lazy, corrupt, elitist bystanders."
Agreed that in some cases the support in Afghanistan was reasonably substantial, but in some cases it was rather minimalist and required pulling teeth.
Although I supported and despite some poor execution by our civilian leadership continue to support our efforts in Iraq and elsewhere, I readily agree that a fair case could and was made that our actions in Iraq were not a good idea and would end badly and the nations of Europe are free and sovereign (well maybe not so sovereign anymore with the Euro Union
) to support us or not.
Where I think the anger with France and (certain elements elsewhere in Europe) comes is in its activities to actively sabatoge our play in Iraq. These are NOT the actions of a friend. I have not the time or mood to rehash this again, but it was France that:
1) sold the nuclear technology to SH that it was using in its efforts to go nuclear. Thank God that the Israelis acted at Osirak to take it out-- otherwise we would have been facing a nuclear SH when he invaded Kuwait and the west would have lacked the will to oppose him, which IMHO means he would now be the ruler of the entire Arabian peninsula with all the power that comes from being militarily successful in this way and all the oil revenues he would be receiving.
BTW it was Chirac himself who was responsible for the sale of the nuke tech to SH and there has been extensive warm correspondence between the two of them over the years.
2) disallowed US overflights of France when we had to go after Qadaffi n Libya.
3) for some 20 years had a deal with various terrorist organizations that they could go through France as long as they left France alone
4) there's more of this sort of thing, but at 0600 this Sunday AM it slips my mind.
This is the background of France's perfidy in actively undercutting our play against SH.
So far the investigations of the Oil for Food program show that three members of the UN Security Council were on the take: France, Russia and China. (Not on the SC but also on the take were many other countries from Eruope and elsewhere as well.)
Russia and China are not our friends, but France was supposed to be and its actions (and those of other Euro friends) have cost American lives by making things harder for us. It is pretty natural for us to be upset about this.
What drives all of this? In Chirac's case the answer appears to be pretty ugly. As for the part of Europe that opposes us in our course of action (and I do note just how much of Europe does support us) here is one German's answer:
ONE GERMAN WHO GETS IT
Matthias Dapfner, Chief Executive of the huge German publisher Axel Springer AG, has written a blistering attack in DIE WELT, Germany's largest daily newspaper, against the timid reaction of Europe in the face of the Islamic threat.
EUROPE - THY NAME IS COWARDICE
(Commentary by Mathias Dapfner CEO, Axel Springer, AG)
A few days ago Henry Broder wrote in Welt am Sonntag, "Europe - your family name is appeasement." It's a phrase you can't get out of your head because it's so terribly true.
Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless agreements.
Appeasement legitimized and stabilized Communism in the Soviet Union, then East Germany, then all the rest of Eastern Europe where for decades, inhuman, suppressive, murderous governments were glorified as the ideologically correct alternative to all other possibilities.
Appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Kosovo, and even though we had absolute proof of ongoing mass-murder, we Europeans debated and debated and debated, and were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, and do our work for us.
Rather than protecting democracy in the Middle East, European appeasement, camouflaged behind the fuzzy word "equidistance," now countenances suicide bombings in Israel by fundamentalist Palestinians.
Appeasement generates a mentality that allows Europe to ignore nearly 500,000 victims of Saddam's torture and murder machinery and, motivated by the self-righteousness of the peace-movement, has the gall to issue bad grades to George Bush... Even as it is uncovered that the loudest critics of the American action in Iraq made illicit billions, no, TENS of billions, in the corrupt U. N. Oil-for-Food program.
And now we are faced with a particularly grotesque form of appeasement...How is Germany reacting to the escalating violence by Islamic fundamentalists in Holland and elsewhere? By suggesting that we really should have a "Muslim Holiday" in Germany.
I wish I were joking, but I am not. A substantial fraction of our (German) Government, and if the polls are to be believed, the German people, actually believe that creating an Official State "Muslim Holiday" will somehow spare us from the wrath of the fanatical Islamists.
One cannot help but recall Britain's Neville Chamberlain waving the laughable treaty signed by Adolf Hitler, and declaring European "Peace in our time".
What else has to happen before the European public and its political leadership get it? There is a sort of crusade underway, an especially perfidious crusade consisting of systematic attacks by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians, directed against our free, open Western societies, and intent upon Western Civilization's utter destruction.
It is a conflict that will most likely last longer than any of the great military conflicts of the last century - a conflict conducted by an enemy that cannot be tamed by "tolerance" and "accommodation" but is actually spurred on by such gestures, which have proven to be, and will always be taken by the Islamists for signs of weakness.
Only two recent American Presidents had the courage needed for anti-appeasement: Reagan and Bush. His American critics may quibble over the details, but we Europeans know the truth. We saw it first hand: Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War, freeing half of the German people from nearly 50 years of terror and virtual slavery. And Bush, supported only by the Social Democrat Blair, acting on moral conviction, recognized the danger in the Islamic War against democracy. His place in history will have to be evaluated after a number of years have passed.
In the meantime, Europe sits back with charismatic self-confidence in the multicultural corner, instead of defending liberal society's values and being an attractive center of power on the same playing field as the true great powers, America and China.
On the contrary - we Europeans present ourselves, in contrast to those "arrogant Americans", as the World Champions of "tolerance", which even (Germany's Interior Minister) Otto Schily justifiably criticizes. Why? Because we're so moral? I fear it's more because we're so materialistic, so devoid of a moral compass.
For his policies, Bush risks the fall of the dollar, huge amounts of additional national debt, and a massive and persistent burden on the American economy - because unlike almost all of Europe, Bush realizes what is at stake - literally everything.
While we criticize the "capitalistic robber barons" of America because they seem too sure of their priorities, we timidly defend our Social Welfare systems. Stay out of it! It could get expensive! We'd rather discuss reducing our 35-hour workweek or our dental coverage, or our 4 weeks of paid vacation... Or listen to TV pastors preach about the need to "reach out to terrorists. To understand and forgive".
These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewelry when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbor's house.
Appeasement? Europe, thy name is Cowardice
Reply #79 on:
February 06, 2005, 10:27:14 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog
Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as England and France, allies at the time, negotiated and hesitated too long before they noticed that Hitler had to be fought, not bound to toothless agreements.
Appeasement? Europe, thy name is Cowardice
That's also an interesting twisting of the facts to attack the Euros. FYI WWII started in 1939 when France and Britain declared war on Germany in support of their ally, Poland. The US entered the war in 1941 only after being attacked by both Germany and Japan and with a formal declaration of war from both.
Maybe the US should feel guilty for having "hesitated too long".
I don't want to turn my own posts into Euro-centric rants either by the way. The last thing I want to do is disrespect you in your own forum, so maybe we should drop it.
Incidentally although I thought the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea to start with I firmly believe that now the damage is essentially done (in terms of the cost in military and civilian lives) our only course is to finish the job as intended - doing everything we can to help build an economically functional, democratic Iraq. It is the only way to get even close to the end justifying the means.
Sheesh. . . .
Reply #80 on:
February 06, 2005, 12:57:46 PM »
That's also an interesting twisting of the facts to attack the Euros. FYI WWII started in 1939 when France and Britain declared war on Germany in support of their ally, Poland. The US entered the war in 1941 only after being attacked by both Germany and Japan and with a formal declaration of war from both.
Maybe the US should feel guilty for having "hesitated too long".
Oh my goodness. There is no reason to believe that anything fruitful will spring from further discussion, but there are a couple of comments here that I'm afraid I can't abide
WWII started when France and Britain declared war? That measure utterly ignores causality; many better lines of demarcation exist. Perhaps it began when the treaty of Versailles was utterly abrogated by Germany; maybe it began when Hitler staged fake attacks from Poland he then used as pretext; then again maybe when the Fascists in Germany usurped power by extra-constitutional means best marks the date; or perhaps the onset of the Nazi's eugenic madness can be considered the start.
After trying long and hard to ignore Hitler's imperial ends, France and Britain finally and formally acknowledged that a madman's brinkmanship left them no other choice but to fight. Claiming WWII started when the obvious was acknowledged is like saying the AIDs epidemic began when HIV was named. In both instances a lot of death and destruction occurred long before the talking heads made formal noise.
As for any guilt the US should feel . . . the US was in the midst of an economic depression, a strong strain of isolationism had swept the land, a significant portion of the population traced its roots back to Germany, nations most proximate to the threat were embracing appeasement, and indeed the threat was on the other side of the freaking Atlantic ocean. The surprise is not that the US stayed out of the war for so long, the surprise is that despite all sorts of very compelling reasons to let the Euros settle their own affairs many US politicians took very large political risks that almost certainly lead the US into another war far removed from its shores.
Was Lend Lease a sign of US hesitance? How about the massive rearmament program undertaken in the midst of a depression? Perhaps supplying Chenault and allowing our fighter pilots to resign their commissions and fight in China shows how we sought to duck and cover? Maybe the massive intelligence effort started up from near scratch demarks our hesitance? Or perhaps American meddling merely demonstrates we are parochial dunces before the feces hits the fan, and hesitant fools if we wait for the sh*t storm to reach our shores.
Sheesh. . . .
Re: Sheesh. . . .
Reply #81 on:
February 06, 2005, 01:59:41 PM »
Quote from: buzwardo
Or perhaps American meddling merely demonstrates we are parochial dunces before the feces hits the fan, and hesitant fools if we wait for the sh*t storm to reach our shores.
Sheesh. . . .
Is that better than the logic which blames the whole of Europe for a world war which covered Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, Asia and the Pacific?
I do not blame the US for waiting until Pearl Harbour to realize the threat from the Axis powers. The fact remains that British and French soldiers and civilians were giving their lives to end the threat of National Socialism long before the Americans entered the war.
The current American trend towards citing European action pre-WWII as symptomatic of the same attitudes towards Iraq clearly ignore the fact that at best the US held the same "stick your head in the sand" attitude, but for longer - despite the fact that the threat from the Axis always DID include a direct threat to America, but from the West rather than the East.
This is not an attack on America for the action in Iraq. I can understand perfectly the logic behind the action. But I can also understand that people can disagree with the reasoning behind it without being Elitist-liberal Eurocowards, and referencing a war 60 years old fought under a totally different set of circumstances is a perfect example of an ad hominem attack on those who opposed this action in Iraq.
That's why writers always ignore Afghanistan when using this comparison - the fact that virtually every western nation supported the US in removing the Taliban (and still does in the hunt for Osama) makes a nonsense of the argument that Euros have some kind of character flaw dating back to 1933.
Reply #82 on:
February 06, 2005, 02:27:08 PM »
Or perhaps American meddling merely demonstrates we are parochial dunces before the feces hits the fan,
the attitude that some people hold. I just want everybody to know, I don't agree with it. The trend towards generalized labelling of a people and/or culture as one thing or another, frankly makes me sick.
I am a great admirer of many aspects of American culture and values, this European "Yanks are dumb" snobbery is for ignorant jerks.
Reply #83 on:
February 06, 2005, 06:32:45 PM »
Like the warden says in
Cool Hand Luke
: ?What we got here . . . is failure to communicate.?
I?m home with two kids today both recovering from strep and so have exhausted my ration of thoughtful keyboard time for the day. Can?t escape the sensation, moreover, that all I?ll manage to do is further contribute to cascading non-sequiturs producing more heat than illumination. As such I?ll let things lie.
Will say that I?m a fan of well-crafted invective and so will continue to post select pieces when they cross my path. Not looking to pick on anyone in particular; just admire wordsmiths who can narrowly collimate their ire in a sensible fashion.
Compare and Contrast
Reply #84 on:
February 11, 2005, 12:41:59 PM »
An effective use of the old compare and contrast essay:
Masters of the Game
The Left on Churchill and Summers.
If you're a liberal who's still moping like a dog whose food bowl has been moved, thanks to all the conservative victories of late, I have some words of encouragement for you: You guys are still way, way smarter than we are about some things.
Consider the current flap about Ward Churchill and the recent one about Harvard President Larry Summers.
Ward Churchill, as you've probably heard, is a tenured professor of "ethnic studies" at the University of Colorado. Until recently he was the chairman of the department. When invited to another school to give a talk, it came out that he had written an essay comparing the civilian victims of 9/11 to "little Eichmanns." This was a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust.
Known for making factually unencumbered statements about the evils of America, Churchill recently gave an interview in which he said he wanted the "U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether." He thinks "more 9/11s" are necessary. He holds no Ph.D., and his scholarship ? for want of a better word ? is under relentless attack. Before the current kerfuffle, he'd attained whatever prominence he had by pretending he was an American Indian radical. He likes to pose with assault rifles. The Rocky Mountain News did a genealogical search of Churchill's past and found that he's basically a vanilla white guy playing Indian and enriching himself in the process. The American Indian Movement called Churchill a fraud years ago.
OK, flash back to the hysteria over Larry Summers. By now his auto-da-f? is old news. But let's recap. One of the most respected economists in America, president of Harvard University, and the former secretary of the Treasury, Summers was invited to a closed-door, off-the-record academic conference at which everyone was encouraged to think unconventionally. Warning his audience several times that he was going to be deliberately "provocative," he suggested that there might be some innate cognitive differences between men and women.
This is not a controversial hypothesis in macroeconomics, and it is losing its taboo status in psychology, genetics, and neuroscience. Thousands of peer-reviewed academic papers have been written on the differences between men and women when it comes to various cognitive functions. Note that I said "differences." Superiority and inferiority don't play into it, and Summers never said otherwise. Indeed, he ventured this hypothesis, after showing his obeisance to the more politically correct explanations: discrimination, not enough effort to recruit women, etc., etc.
So what was the reaction?
An MIT feminist biologist ? who moonlights as a feminist activist ? quickly got the vapors and stormed out of the room for fear of fainting. If she stayed any longer, she explained, she'd vomit. Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe compared Summers to people who cavalierly bandy about the N-word or who thoughtlessly wear swastikas. One hundred members of the Harvard faculty drafted a letter demanding that he apologize. The National Organization for Women demanded that he resign.
The dean of engineering at the University of Washington called his comments "an intellectual tsunami." Since the Asian catastrophe had only just transpired, the tastelessness of the metaphor may not be as apparent now as it was then. Regardless, if his comments were a tsunami, Summers's critics have certainly cashed in on the disaster-relief effort.
Forced to apologize over and over, Summers was then bullied into appointing not one but two new "task forces" on gender equity. Staffed with 22 women and five men, the task forces will no doubt discover that much more work needs to be done and that Summers should apologize more.
In the Summers affair, free speech and academic freedom barely came up, except among a few conservative commentators and one or two academics who were already known for their political incorrectness. Instead, Summers was a pinata to be bashed for material rewards and to send the message that some subjects ? no matter what the evidence ? are simply taboo even for serious scholars to discuss in closed-door, off-the-record meetings.
Meanwhile, Ward Churchill, whose scholarship is a joke, whose evidence is tendentious at best, and who called the victims of 9/11 the moral equivalent of a man who sent babies to the gas chambers, is a hero of free speech. He has refused to apologize. Many conservatives are forced to defend free speech and "diversity" in academia while liberals let the NOWers feed on Summers's flesh.
Liberals may despise what Churchill said, but it's a matter of principle now. The normally insightful and fair Mort Kondracke declared on Fox News, "I really think it's useful for universities to have people like this around, to show students and the rest of us just how odious some of the ideas of the far Left are." Would Kondracke punt on a professor who'd endorsed slavery? I somehow doubt it.
Hopefully ? and, I think, probably ? someone will find enough academic fraud to fire Churchill for cause. No doubt, we'll hear from many on the left about the "chilling effect" such a move would have on "academic freedom," and many conservatives will clear their throats in embarrassment. You really have to marvel at how the other side has mastered this game.
Some Simple English for A$$hats
Reply #85 on:
February 18, 2005, 06:14:47 PM »
February 18, 2005, 1:05 p.m.
How to Euro-Speak
A phrasebook for the presidential tourist.
Europeans hate the way Americans talk. They think we're loud and uncouth and they don't like our jokes, except for
Michael Moore. Plus, they resent the fact that they?ve had to learn our language because if they didn?t we wouldn?t buy their stupid metric widgets or visit their overpriced ruins.
So when the president goes to Europe to give his speech to all the EU-niks in Brussels on Tuesday, it?s important that he speak clearly ? or at least clearfully. Because there are a few things he needs to say, and they can all be summed up in seven handy, easy-to-utter phrases:
1. Get a job. With their endless vacations and pint-sized workweeks, Europe can?t produce enough of anything ? including more Europeans ? to save themselves from doom. So the French and Germans have only one realistic strategy when it comes to revitalizing their comatose economies: Wait for the U.S. economy to rise high enough to float their petits bateaux. Meanwhile, the EU?s own reports have long shown the complete failure of the Lisbon strategy that was supposed to have the EU on a competitive par with the U.S. by 2010. Now, as noted in the EU Observer, the EU is failing to compete in technology and research, lagging behind not only the U.S., but also countries such as India. ?The EU is falling behind,? admitted EU commissioner Janez Potocnik. ?And we are now under pressure not only compared to our traditional rivals like the U.S. or Japan, but also China, India or Brazil. We are facing a much tougher competition in talent and knowledge than we are used to.? Why? ?We don?t want to achieve our economic growth by lowering the social or environmental standards.?
2. Clean up your mess. As reported here and elsewhere, French leadership of EU and U.N. missions in Congo and Ivory Coast, among other African countries, have led to massive moral and tactical failures as ?peacekeepers? have turned into rapists, thugs, robbers, and killers. In France, according to Le Monde, some survivors of the Rwanda genocide, which would have been impossible without French complicity, are finally being given a chance to ask for a hearing in a French court of law. This will almost certainly be blocked by the government, which has been covering up this gruesome scandal by burying it in slow-mo ?investigations? for a decade now.
3. Stop taking bribes. Humanitarian groups have been screaming about the crisis in Darfur for a long, long time. The U.S. calls what is happening there a ?genocide? ? but the EU won?t buy that because if it did, it?d be forced by law to intervene, something it not only doesn?t want to do, but, logistically, could barely do if it had to. The U.N. Security Council is paralyzed because France, Russia, and China have blocked sanctions against Sudan. They blocked the sanctions because they all have very large oil and other investments there. Of course, this was the same reason the French rendered Security Council resolutions meaningless before the Iraq invasion, so not surprisingly, as the BBC reports, France is doing the same thing once again. The EU has introduced even more delay in bringing peace to Darfur because of a new insistence that war crimes ? assuming anything ever occurs to bring them to justice ? be tried before the ICC, where the U.S. does not participate.
4. Since you can?t defend yourselves, get out of our way. NATO became a work-around for the U.S. in Iraq, and the alliance is now paralyzed because of the EU?s own ambitions, as the International Herald Tribune reports. ?There is paralysis between the EU and NATO,? the paper quotes an EU official as saying. ?We do not discuss anything serious.? If that?s the case, then why are we spending serious billions to keep the thing alive?
5. Knock off the eco-hypocrisy. The Europeans like to parade their agreement to abide by the provisions of the Kyoto pact like members of an Earth Shoe drill team. According to a piece in the IHT, ?[J?rgen] Strube, the chairman of BASF?s supervisory board, responds with a hint of impatience when asked how European industry plans to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, which requires Germany and 34 other countries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. As the treaty takes effect Wednesday, worries about its fairness are mixed with mild resentment [because] in their view? American and Chinese companies will not bear these extra costs.? The item is a pick-up of a New York Times story by Mark Landler, so of course the rather salient fact not reported is that neither France, Germany, nor the rest of the EU will comply with the treaty provisions either. They aren?t about to ?bear these extra costs? when they can barely afford to drive to the beach in August as it is. In fact, the EU has treated Kyoto like its now-toothless debt-limit treaty and given up on it altogether. ?Kyoto im Koma,? were the words of a memorable Suddeutsche Zeitung headline a little over a year ago when the EU?s Kyoto failure was first widely noticed.
6. Start a ?No European Left Behind? program. Anti-Semitism, like anti-Americanism, is a permanent part of the European cultural landscape. But, according to an EU study reported in Le Nouvel Observateur, the situation has ?seriously degraded? in the last five years. Anti-Semitism, needless to say, is a pretty reliable indicator of a lousy education. As a result, it?s impossible to make the French, Germans, Belgians, and others understand that Israel is a consequence of their own bloody history and that they therefore have a responsibility to protect that which they forced into creation. This lack of basic education shows sometimes even among those who go to fancy schools like Eton. In Britain, only a small fraction of people under 30 knew anything about Auschwitz until Prince Charles?s clever lad, Harry, decided to go partying with a swastika on his Nazi costume.
In France, it?s not at all uncommon to meet schoolchildren who have no clear understanding that their government eagerly collaborated in the Holocaust. ?We never learned that in school,? a couple of kids in Provence remarked. Because peace in the Middle East means a greater likelihood of peace in the world, European leaders must explain to their citizens their responsibilities regarding Israel, and stop playing enabler to anti-Semitic terrorism, as France is doing with Hezbollah by refusing to call the terrorists what they are ? and that would be terrorists to anyone but the French and Reuters. This quiet support of Hezbollah is hardly reported in the French press, as this rather disingenuous Lib?ration piece describing Chirac?s flying to Beirut suggests. The description of his gray suit is nice, though.
7. Jacques, Gerhard, get a better campaign issue. Chirac and Schr?der are running nations that, if they were American sitcoms, would be cancelled and sold to European TV networks where they?d run forever, dubbed and dumber. Both nations are in economic sloughs; the Germans in fact are approaching Weimar-levels of unemployment. If they ran on their records in their coming elections, they?d crash faster than this cheap laptop of mine. So for both of these guys, the only campaign issue available is anti-Americanism. In the case of Chirac, it?s just cynical opportunism, sort of what you?d expect from a guy wanted on fraud once he loses his office. In the case of Schr?der and especially German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, it?s blind ideology. As John Vinocur reports in the IHT, the small, cubical Schr?der is not hiding his ambition behind his arrogance:
[A] speech by Gerhard Schr?der, billed as a German-take-on-the-world and read out by Defense Minister Peter Struck (Schr?der called in sick), grated. The Bush folk, trying so hard to be Europe-amenable seven days before the president?s arrival, suddenly found themselves laboring not to look too wrong-footed, embarrassed or provoked by a message from the chancellor they did not fully expect ?
His text restated his determination that Germany get a UN Security Council seat cum veto power. It fled any mention of his quest to have the European Union lift its embargo on arms sales to China, a proposal that has enraged Congress across the board. And it urged an end to Iran?s isolation and consideration for the mullahs? ?legitimate security concerns? ? on a day when James Woolsey, a Clinton administration director of U.S. central intelligence, was asking a seminar panelist if he knew of a single shard of fact indicating that Iran was not about to produce atomic weapons. (No answer.)
This latest burst of anti-Americanism in France and Germany has been aimed not just at the policies of the American government and the war in Iraq but also the culture of the American people, the popularity of which is something Chirac described as an ?ecological disaster? during a visit to southeast Asia, just before the tsunami.
This kind of knee-jerk hatred colors the judgments of both men and their fellow citizens. If Germany and France hadn?t already demonstrated their ability to market brutal hatred during World War II, this might not matter. But to fan the flames of grotesque intolerance during a war on terror just to keep two political hacks out of their own growing unemployment lines is a bit much. If that?s worth deep-sixing the Atlantic ?alliance,? that?s jake. Or maybe we could give Germany our Security Council seat (and our share of the bills) on our way out of the U.N. Let Europe pay its own way for a decade or two. If Bush makes nothing else clear when he arrives in Brussels Monday night for a ?working dinner? with Chirac it should be that ultimately European anti-Americanism isn?t our problem. It?s Europe?s problem, and Euro-leaders should take the lead in solving it.
So there?s your seven-phrase speech, and good luck on that ?fence-mending? mission of yours, Se?or President. However, as a man who keeps a blind donkey in a pretty small pasture, I want to make a little suggestion: If you?re going to mend a fence, go for the barbed stuff, minimum two strand 12.5ga galvanized ? which, as you know, is just enough to cut the bull.
? Denis Boyles is author of Vile France: Fear, Duplicity, Cowardice and Cheese.
Reply #86 on:
February 21, 2005, 09:58:10 AM »
The effects of American policy throughout the Middle East are gradually being felt.
Last week, Mr. Abbas ordered the ruins of Yasir Arafat's Gaza headquarters cleared away. The Israelis had destroyed the building in 2002, and Mr. Arafat had kept the ruins as a kind of memorial. Suddenly, in a day, it was gone." ? New York Times, Sunday, February 13, 2005.
In the war against the Islamic fascists and their supporters there have been a number of unheralded victories that have played some role in changing the landscape of the Middle East and eroding the power of the Islamists.
The first bold move was to censure and then ignore Yasser Arafat for his complicity in unleashing suicide bombers, his rampant corruption, and his stifling of Palestinian dissidents. At the time of the change in American policy, other members of the quartet ? the Russians, the Europeans, and the U.N. ? were aghast. The "moderate" Arab world protested vehemently. Pundits here alleged Texas recklessness and clung to the silly idea of the Arafat/Sharon moral equivalence, as if a freely elected democratic leader, subject to an open press and a free opposition, was the same as a thug who ordered lynchings and jailed or murdered dissidents.
Review press accounts from the summer of 2002: Neither ally nor neutral approved of Bush's act of ostracism and instead warned of disaster. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, whose country then held the EU's rotating presidency, lectured that without dialogue with Arafat "Israel could not stop Palestinian violence through force." A circumspect Colin Powell visited the region often to smooth over hurt feelings and in the process to soften Bush's bold action. Dennis Ross, remember, had met with the American-subsidized Arafat almost 500 times, and it was said that the latter visited the Clinton White House more than any other foreign leader ? a fact apparently lost on the Palestinian street, which still spontaneously cheered on news of September 11.
Lost in all the controversy was the simple fact that Arafat had come to power through a rigged vote. He proceeded to corrupt the state, censure the media, and let thugs terrorize Palestinian reformers while he systematically looted public monies. His legacy was a ruined economy, murder, and systematic theft.
All knew this; few would say it publicly; none would do anything about it.
Calumny followed as the Israelis unilaterally went on to start their fence, take out the terrorist elite of Hamas, plan to abandon Gaza, and, pace Mr. Moeller, precisely through force crush the intifada. In those bleak months of suicide murdering, Arafat courted the world's sycophantic press as he railed against Sharon from his pathetic bunker at Ramallah.
Then something unexpected happened. Almost imperceptibly in his last two years, he devolved from a feared dictator to a defrocked terrorist to finally an irrelevant functionary. That metamorphosis proved critical as a prerequisite to his demise, as Arafat slowly lost his four-decade-acquired capital of intimidation ? critical for any Middle East autocrat ? and with it his grip on the popular imagination of the West Bank. In the Middle East a tyrant can look murderous or even psychopathic, but not impotent ? and especially not ridiculous.
Thus when he died, far from being sanctified as a mythical strongman, he was almost immediately forgotten and his legacy is currently undergoing a sort of Trotsky-like erasure. Postmortem stories almost immediately spread about absconded funds, tawdry fights broke out over his estate, and, mirabile dictu, a few signs of freedom emerged on the West Bank as elections mysteriously followed and with them renewed discussions of peace. The American ostracism did not ensure that we would see a settlement, only the chance that we could ? and that is some progress in the Middle East.
Later in April 2003, the United States withdrew its troops from Saudi Arabia ? most pilots and crews in the desert. The ostensible reason for their original deployment ? protection from Saddam Hussein's army in Kuwait and monitoring the no-fly zones ? was no longer valid. But many strategists thought Americans were still needed in the kingdom to ensure the free flow of the world's oil supply and perhaps to secure the royal family from the very terrorists that many in the clan had subsidized and abetted. Were we "abandoning" an "old and trusted" ally, or finally coming to our senses that the subsidized protection of a near-criminal state had to cease under the changed conditions of the post-Cold War Middle East?
In reality, Americans in uniform were subject to humiliating conditions, such as female military personnel being forced to veil when leaving bases, while helping to ready planes to protect a country where a great many were privately happy that 15 of their jihadists had murdered 3,000 Americans. Our presence among the "holy shrines" only played into bin Laden's hands, as his 1998 fatwa revealed. The Saudi state media often blamed the Americans or the Zionists for most of their own self-inflicted pathologies, hoping that such smears and billions in bribes to terrorists and Wahhabi fanatics might deflect popular outrage onto us.
But by withdrawing, the United States took the first steps in a long overdue disengagement from an autocratic dynasty that will either change under a consensual government into a titular and ceremonial royalty ? like the British crown heads ? or, as in the case of Iran's shah, be driven out by theocratic fundamentalists. Finally, the United States at last is beginning to cut loose from an octopus whose petroleum tentacles have wrapped deeply around banks, lobbyists, defense contractors, and lawyers in Washington and New York, both Republicans and Democrats, oilmen and multiculturalists alike. It is neither a wise nor a moral thing to have much to do with 7,000 royal cousins who have siphoned $700 billion from their country while unemployment there reaches 40 percent and while women, laborers from the third world, Christians, and assorted others are treated as undesirables.
Now in hindsight, few seem to object to the ostracism of Arafat or estrangement from Saudi Arabia. The moral?
As a rule of thumb in matters of the Middle East, be very skeptical of anything that Europe (fearful of terrorists, eager for profits, tired of Jews, scared of their own growing Islamic minorities) and the Arab League (a synonym for the autocratic rule of Sunni Muslim grandees and secular despots) cook up together. If a EU president, a Saudi royal, and a Middle East specialist in the State Department or a professor in an endowed Middle Eastern Studies chair agree that the United States is "woefully na?ve," "unnecessarily provocative" or "acting unilaterally," then assume that we are pretty much on the right side of history and promoting democratic reform. "Sobriety" and "working with Arab moderates" is diplo-speak for supporting or abetting an illiberal hierarchy.
There are other key decisions to be made that will go mostly unnoticed by the world's media. We should decide now to distance ourselves from the Mubarak regime, and to be ready for a dynastic squabble with the passing of the present strongman. We have over the years given $50 billion to that "moderate" dictatorship not to attack Israel ? as if it would really start a fifth war it would surely lose. It didn't.
But Egypt did unleash venom against us and become the intellectual nexus of Arab anti-Americanism. In the Arab world, a change in American policies to promote democracy was publicized as "anti-Arab" by state-run media ? in almost the identical manner that former support for the corrupt status quo was once condemned as "anti-Arab" by Middle East intellectuals. No matter: Despite the short-term lose-lose proposition, no one ever went wrong in the long-term by standing on the side of freedom.
No longer should we remain in thrall to any Arab government that with its left hand rounds up over-the-top terrorists, while with its right gives others less violent a pass to unleash virulent hatred of America. The Rubicon has been crossed in Iraq, and we can no longer watch Americans die for democracy in the Sunni Triangle while giving billions to a regime that kills off consensual government in Cairo. Diplomats can work out the details without sounding either moralistic or naive, smiling and assuring the Egyptians that our friendship will be only strengthened from a new understanding, as the money dries up and we part without acrimony ? even as in desperation Mubarak readjusts to his "helpful" role as a third-party interlocutor in Iraq and Palestine.
The American effort to democratize postwar Afghanistan and Iraq has placed a heavy burden on the United States to develop a coherent and consistent policy of supporting reformers throughout the Middle East. We should continue with demands for elections in a Lebanon free of a tyrannical Syria, elevate dissidents in Iran onto the world stage, pressure for change in the Gulf, and say goodbye to Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. If Western elites are really worried about the legitimacy of past elections in Iraq, let them go instead to Lebanon where they can worry first about having any at all, and then later complain about the proper degree of voter participation. The forces of history have been unleashed and we should cease apologizing for the deluge and instead steer the waves in the right direction.
Americans understandably focus on the hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet just as important are the unsung successes that received little praise, and then have a weird tendency to drift off into the collective global amnesia as if they arose from natural, not American-induced, reform.
? Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.
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Reply #87 on:
February 25, 2005, 01:21:44 PM »
February 25, 2005, 7:48 a.m.
Merchants of Despair
Sort of for the war, sort of...
Victor Davis Hanson
Much of the recent domestic critique of American efforts in the Middle East has long roots in our own past ? and little to do with the historic developments on the ground in Iraq
1. "It's America's fault."
Some on the hard left sought to cite our support for Israel or general "American imperialism" in the Middle East as culpable for bin Laden's wrath on September 11. Past American efforts to save Muslims in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Kuwait, and Afghanistan counted for little. Even less thanks were earned by billions of dollars given to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. The Islamofascist vision of a Dark Age world run by unelected imams ? where women were in seclusion, homosexuals were killed, Jews were terrorized, Christians were routed, and freedom was squelched ? registered little, even though such visions were by definition at war with all that Western liberalism stands for.
This flawed idea that autocrats supposedly hate democracy more for what it does rather than for what it represents is not new. On the eve of World War II isolationists on the right insisted that America had treated Germany unfairly after World War I and wrongly sided with British imperialism in its efforts to rub in their past defeat. "International Jewry" was blamed for poisoning the good will between the two otherwise friendly countries by demanding punitive measures from a victimized Germany. Likewise, poor Japan was supposedly unfairly cut off from American ore and petroleum, and hemmed in by provocative Anglo Americans.
By the late 1940s things had changed, and now it was the turn of the old Left, which blamed "fascists" for ruining the hallowed American-Soviet wartime alliance by "isolating" and "surrounding" the Russians with hostile bases and allies. The same was supposedly true of China: We were lectured ad nauseam by idealists and "China hands" that Mao "really" wanted to cultivate American friendship, but was spurned by our right-wing ideologues ? as if there were nothing of the absolutism and innate thuggery in him that would soon account for 50 million or more murdered and starved.
Ditto the animosity from dictators like Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. The Left assured us instead that both were actually neo-Jeffersonians whose olive branches were crushed by Cold Warriors, and who then ? but only then ? went on to plan their own gulags in Vietnam and Cuba.
2. "Americans are weak."
Before we went into Afghanistan, we were hectored that the country's fierce people, colonial history, rugged terrain, hostile neighbors, foreign religion, and shattered infrastructure made victory unlikely. We also forget now how the Left warned us of terrible casualties and millions of refugees before the Iraq war, and then went dormant until the insurgents emerged. At that point it resurfaced to assure that Iraq was lost and precipitate withdrawal our only hope, only to grow quiet again after the recent Iraqi election ? a cycle that followed about the same 20-month timetable of military victory to voting in Afghanistan.
Now a new geopolitical litany has arisen: The reserves are "shattered"; North Korea, Syria, and Iran are untouchable while we are "bogged down" in the Sunni Triangle; a schedule for withdrawal from Iraq needs to be spelled out; there is no real American-trained Iraqi army; the entire Arab world hates us; blah, blah, blah...
In 1917, "a million men over there" was considered preposterous for a Potemkin American Expeditionary Force; by late 1918 it was chasing Germany out of Belgium. Charles Lindbergh returned from an obsequious visitation with Goering to warn us that the Luftwaffe was unstoppable. Four years later it was in shambles as four-engine American bombers reduced the Third Reich to ashes.
Japanese Zeroes, supposed proof of comparative American backwardness in 1941-2, were the easy targets of "Turkey Shoots" by 1944 as American fighters blew them out of the skies. Sputnik "proved" how far we were behind the socialist workhorse in Russia, even as we easily went to the moon first a little over a decade later. The history of the American military and economy in the 20th century is one of being habitually underestimated, even as the United States defeated Prussian imperialism, German Nazism, Italian fascism, Japanese militarism, and Stalinist Communism.
Nor in our more recent peacetime were we buried by stagflation, Jimmy Carter's "malaise," Japan, Inc., and all the other supposed bogeymen that were prophesized to overwhelm the institutional strength of the American state, its free-enterprise system, and the highly innovative and individualistic nature of the American people.
3. "They are supermen."
When suicide murderers dominated the news of the Intifada, followed by the car bombers and beheaders of the Sunni Triangle, many in the West despaired that there was no thwarting such fanatics. Perhaps they simply believed more in their cause than we did in ours. How can you stop someone who kills to die rather than merely dying to kill?
That Ariel Sharon in two years defeated the Intifada by decapitating the Hamas leadership, starting the fence, announcing withdrawal from Gaza, and humiliating Arafat was forgotten. In the same manner few now write or think about how the United States military went into the heart of darkness in Fallujah and simply destroyed or routed the insurgents of that fundamentalist stronghold in less than two weeks, an historic operation that ensured a successful turnout on election day and an eventual takeover by an elected Iraqi government.
So this paradox of exaggerating the strength of our weaker enemies is likewise an American trademark. Spiked-helmeted Prussians were considered vicious pros who would make short work of doughboy hicks who had trained with brooms and sticks. Indeed, the German imperial army of World War I may have been made up of the most formidable foot soldiers of any age. Still, it was destroyed in less than four years by supposedly decadent and corrupt liberal democracies.
The Gestapo was the vanguard of a new Aryan super-race, pitiless and proud in its martial superiority. How could soda-jockeys of the Depression ever fight something like the Waffen SS with poor equipment, little training, and a happy-go-lucky attitude rather than an engrained death wish? Rather easily as it turned out, as the Allies not only defeated Nazism but literally annihilated it in about five years. Kamikazes were also felt to be otherworldly in their eerie death cult ? who, after all, in the United States would take off to ram his Corsair or Hellcat into a Japanese ship? No matter ? the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Army Air Corps were not impressed, and rather quickly destroyed not merely the death pilots but the very culture that launched them.
4. "We are alone."
George Bush was said to have alienated the world, as if our friends in Eastern Europe, Britain, Australia, and a billion in India did not matter. Yet the same was said in 1941 when Latin America, Asia, and Africa were in thrall to the Axis. Neutrals like Spain, Argentina, and Turkey wanted little to do with a disarmed United States that had unwisely found itself in a two-front war with the world's most formidable military powers.
By the 1950s we seemed to have defeated Germany and Japan only to have subsequently "lost" China and Eastern Europe once more. Much of Asia and Latin America deified the mass-murdering Stalin and Mao while deriding elected American presidents. The Richard Clarks and Joe Wilsons of that age lectured about a paranoid Eisenhower administration, clumsy CIA work, and the general hopelessness of ever defeating global Communism, whose spores sprouted almost everywhere in the form of Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, Baathism, Castroism, and various "national liberationist" movements.
Why do Americans do all this to themselves? In part, the nature of an open society is constant self-critique, especially at times of national elections. Our successes at creating an affluent and free citizenry also only raise the bar ever higher as we sense we are closer to heaven on earth ? and with a little more perfection could walk more like gods than crawl as mere men.
There are also still others among us who are impatient with the give and take of a consensual society. They harbor a secret admiration for the single-mindedness of the zealot in pursuit of a utopian cause ? hence the occasional crazy applause given by some Americans to the beheading "Minutemen" of the Sunni Triangle or the "brave" "combat teams" who killed 3,000 on September 11.
Finally, the intellectual class that we often read and hear from is increasingly divorced from much of what makes America work, especially the sort of folk who join the military. They have little appreciation that the U.S. Marine Corps is far more deadly than Baathist diehards or Taliban remnants ? or that a fleet of American bombers with GPS bombs can do more damage in a few seconds than most of the suicide bombers of the Middle East could do in a year.
It is wise to cite and publicize our errors ? and there have been many in this war. Humility and circumspection are military assets as well. And we should not deprecate the danger of our enemies, who are cruel and ingenious. Moreover, we should never confuse the sharp dissent of the well-meaning critic with disloyalty to the cause.
But nor should we fall into pessimism, when in less than four years we have destroyed the two worst regimes in the Middle East, scattered al Qaeda, avoided another promised 9/11 at home, and sent shock waves of democracy throughout the Arab world ? so far at an aggregate cost of less than what was incurred on the first day of this unprovoked war. Car bombs are bad news, but in the shadows is the real story: The terrorists are losing, and radical reform, the likes of which millions have never seen, is right on the horizon. So this American gloominess is not new. Yet, if the past is any guide, our present lack of optimism in this struggle presages its ultimate success.
A final prediction: By the end of this year, formerly critical liberal pundits, backsliding conservative columnists, once-fiery politicians, Arab "moderates," ex-statesmen and generals emeriti, smug stand-up comedians, recently strident Euros ? perhaps even Hillary herself ? will quietly come to a consensus that what we are witnessing from Afghanistan and the West Bank to Iraq and beyond, with its growing tremors in Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, and the Gulf, is a moral awakening, a radical break with an ugly past that threatens a corrupt, entrenched, and autocratic elite and is just the sort of thing that they were sort of for, sort of all along ? sort of...
Reply #88 on:
March 17, 2005, 03:10:11 PM »
It's always amusing when Hitchens takes on newspeak contradictions.
This Was Not Looting
How did Saddam's best weapons plants get plundered?
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Tuesday, March 15, 2005, at 5:29 AM PT
Once again, a major story gets top billing in a mainstream paper?and is printed upside down. "Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says." This was how the New York Times led its front page on Sunday. According to the supporting story, Dr. Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, says that after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, "looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein's most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms."
As printed, the implication of the story was not dissimilar from the Al-Qaqaa disclosures, which featured so much in the closing days of the presidential election last fall. In that case, a huge stock of conventional high-explosives had been allowed to go missing and was presumably in the hands of those who were massacring Iraqi civilians and killing coalition troops. At least one comment from the Bush campaign surrogate appeared to blame this negligence on the troops themselves. Followed to one possible conclusion, the implication was clear: The invasion of Iraq had made the world a more dangerous place by randomly scattering all sorts of weaponry, including mass-destruction weaponry, to destinations unknown.
It was eye-rubbing to read of the scale of this potential new nightmare. There in cold print was the Al Hatteen "munitions production plant that international inspectors called a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory." And what of the Al Adwan facility, which "produced equipment used for uranium enrichment, necessary to make some kinds of nuclear weapons"? The overall pattern of the plundered sites was summarized thus, by reporters James Glanz and William J. Broad:
The kinds of machinery at the various sites included equipment that could be used to make missile parts, chemical weapons or centrifuges essential for enriching uranium for atom bombs.
My first question is this: How can it be that, on every page of every other edition for months now, the New York Times has been stating categorically that Iraq harbored no weapons of mass destruction? And there can hardly be a comedy-club third-rater or MoveOn.org activist in the entire country who hasn't stated with sarcastic certainty that the whole WMD fuss was a way of lying the American people into war. So now what? Maybe we should have taken Saddam's propaganda seriously, when his newspaper proudly described Iraq's physicists as "our nuclear mujahideen."
My second question is: What's all this about "looting"? The word is used throughout the long report, but here's what it's used to describe. "In four weeks from mid-April to mid-May of 2003 ? teams with flatbed trucks and other heavy equipment moved systematically from site to site. ? 'The first wave came for the machines,' Dr Araji said. 'The second wave, cables and cranes.' " Perhaps hedging the bet, the Times authors at this point refer to "organized looting."
But obviously, what we are reading about is a carefully planned military operation. The participants were not panicked or greedy civilians helping themselves?which is the customary definition of a "looter," especially in wartime. They were mechanized and mobile and under orders, and acting in a concerted fashion. Thus, if the story is factually correct?which we have no reason at all to doubt?then Saddam's Iraq was a fairly highly-evolved WMD state, with a contingency plan for further concealment and distribution of the weaponry in case of attack or discovery.
Before the war began, several of the administration's critics argued that an intervention would be too dangerous, either because Saddam Hussein would actually unleash his arsenal of WMD, or because he would divert it to third parties. That case at least had the merit of being serious (though I would want to argue that a regime capable of doing either thing was a regime that urgently needed to be removed). Since then, however, the scene has dissolved into one long taunt and jeer: "There were no WMD in Iraq. Liar, liar, pants on fire."
The U.N. inspectors, who are solemnly quoted by Glanz and Broad as having "monitored" the alarming developments at Al Hatteen and elsewhere, don't come out looking too professional, either. If by scanning satellite pictures now they can tell us that potentially thermonuclear stuff is on the loose, how come they couldn't come up with this important data when they were supposedly "on the ground"?
Even in the worst interpretation, it seems unlikely that the material is more dangerous now than it was two years ago. Some of the elements?centrifuges, for example, and chemical mixtures?require stable and controlled conditions for effectiveness. They can't simply be transferred to some kitchen or tent. They are less risky than they were in early 2003, in other words. If they went to a neighboring state, though ? Some chemical vats have apparently turned up on a scrap heap in Jordan, even if this does argue more for a panicky concealment than a plan of transfer. But anyway, this only returns us to the main point: If Saddam's people could have made such a transfer after his fall, then they could have made it much more easily during his reign. (We know, for example, that the Baathists were discussing the acquisition of long-range missiles from North Korea as late as March 2003, and at that time, the nuclear Wal-Mart of the A.Q. Khan network was still in business. Iraq would have had plenty to trade in this WMD underworld.)
Supporters of the overdue disarmament and liberation of Iraq, all the same, can't be complacent about this story. It seems flabbergasting that any of these sites were unsecured after the occupation, let alone for so long. Did the CIA yet again lack "human intelligence" as well as every other kind? The Bush administration staked the reputation of the United States on the matter. It won't do to say that "mistakes were made."
Reply #89 on:
March 25, 2005, 01:45:36 PM »
The classy Peggy Noonan was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan (e.g. his 40th Anniversary of Normandy speech and many others) and the author of "When Character was King" (stellar biography of Reagan) and other works. IMHO a great writer.
In Love With Death
The bizarre passion of the pull-the-tube people.
Thursday, March 24, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
God made the world or he didn't.
God made you or he didn't.
If he did, your little human life is, and has been, touched by the divine. If this is true, it would be true of all humans, not only some. And so--again, if it is true--each human life is precious, of infinite value, worthy of great respect.
Most--not all, but probably most--of those who support Terri Schiavo's right to live believe the above. This explains their passion and emotionalism. They believe they are fighting for an invaluable and irreplaceable human life. They are like the mother who is famously said to have lifted the back of a small car off the ground to save a child caught under a tire. You're desperate to save a life, you're shot through with adrenaline, your strength is for half a second superhuman, you do the impossible.
That is what they are trying to do.
They do not want an innocent human life ended for what appear to be primarily practical and worldly reasons--e.g., Mrs. Schiavo's quality of life is low, her life is pointless. They say: Who is to say it is pointless? And what does pointless even mean? Maybe life itself is the point.
I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people. What is driving their engagement? Is it because they are compassionate, and their hearts bleed at the thought that Mrs. Schiavo suffers? But throughout this case no one has testified that she is in persistent pain, as those with terminal cancer are.
If they care so much about her pain, why are they unconcerned at the suffering caused her by the denial of food and water? And why do those who argue for Mrs. Schiavo's death employ language and imagery that is so violent and aggressive? The chairman of the Democratic National Committee calls Republicans "brain dead." Michael Schiavo, the husband, calls House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "a slithering snake."
Everyone who has written in defense of Mrs. Schiavo's right to live has received e-mail blasts full of attacks that appear to have been dictated by the unstable and typed by the unhinged. On Democratic Underground they crowed about having "kicked the sh-- out of the fascists." On Tuesday James Carville's face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren't a buffoon.
Why are they so committed to this woman's death?
They seem to have fallen half in love with death.
What does Terri Schiavo's life symbolize to them? What does the idea that she might continue to live suggest to them?
Why does this prospect so unnerve them? Again, if you think Terri Schiavo is a precious human gift of God, your passion is explicable. The passion of the pull-the-tube people is not.
I do not understand their certainty. I don't "know" that any degree of progress or healing is possible for Terri Schiavo; I only hope they are. We can't know, but we can "err on the side of life." How do the pro-death forces "know" there is no possibility of progress, healing, miracles? They seem to think they know. They seem to love the phrases they bandy about: "vegetative state," "brain dead," "liquefied cortex."
I do not understand why people who want to save the whales (so do I) find campaigns to save humans so much less arresting. I do not understand their lack of passion. But the save-the-whales people are somehow rarely the stop-abortion-please people.
The PETA people, who say they are committed to ending cruelty to animals, seem disinterested in the fact of late-term abortion, which is a cruel procedure performed on a human.
I do not understand why the don't-drill-in-Alaska-and-destroy-its-prime-beauty people do not join forces with the don't-end-a-life-that-holds-within-it-beauty people.
I do not understand why those who want a freeze on all death penalty cases in order to review each of them in light of DNA testing--an act of justice and compassion toward those who have been found guilty of crimes in a court of law--are uninterested in giving every last chance and every last test to a woman whom no one has ever accused of anything.
There are passionate groups of women in America who decry spousal abuse, give beaten wives shelter, insist that a woman is not a husband's chattel. This is good work. Why are they not taking part in the fight for Terri Schiavo? Again, what explains their lack of passion on this? If Mrs. Schiavo dies, it will be because her husband, and only her husband, insists she wanted to, or would want to, or said she wanted to in a hypothetical conversation long ago. A thin reed on which to base the killing of a human being.
The pull-the-tube people say, "She must hate being brain-damaged." Well, yes, she must. (This line of argument presumes she is to some degree or in some way thinking or experiencing emotions.) Who wouldn't feel extreme sadness at being extremely disabled? I'd weep every day, wouldn't you? But consider your life. Are there not facets of it, or facts of it, that make you feel extremely sad, pained, frustrated, angry? But you're still glad you're alive, aren't you? Me too. No one enjoys a deathbed. Very few want to leave.
Terri Schiavo may well die. No good will come of it. Those who are half in love with death will only become more red-fanged and ravenous.
And those who are still learning--our children--oh, what terrible lessons they're learning. What terrible stories are shaping them. They're witnessing the Schiavo drama on television and hearing it on radio. They are seeing a society--their society, their people--on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life.
Our children have been reared in the age of abortion, and are coming of age in a time when seemingly respectable people are enthusiastic for euthanasia. It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.
Once you "know" that--that human life is not so special after all--then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz. Today that road runs through Pinellas Park, Fla.
Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "A Heart, a Cross, and a Flag" (Wall Street Journal Books/Simon & Schuster), a collection of post-Sept. 11 columns, which you can buy from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.
With friends like these...
Reply #90 on:
March 28, 2005, 03:53:13 PM »
Fortunately, you also have guys like this on Ms. Schiavo's side:
Christian activist Randall Terry has reappeared in the news in recent days as the spokesman for the parents of Terri Schiavo. Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and the Society for Truth and Justice, appeared on Fox News at least four times in the past four days -- on the March 18 edition of Hannity & Colmes, and during live coverage of the Schiavo case on March 20 and March 21. But Terry has a controversial past that was not fully disclosed in any of his Fox News appearances or on the March 19 edition of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, which aired a brief clip from Terry. In all but one of those instances, Terry was identified only as the Schindler family spokesman.
Only when Terry appeared on a March 21 "Fox News Alert" did another guest -- Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist Susan Estrich -- point out that Terry was "involved in the anti-abortion movement" and with Operation Rescue, which "operated outside the law."
On his own website, Terry noted that he "has been arrested over forty times for peaceful opposition to abortion," but he neglected to mention the details of his anti-abortion activities with Operation Rescue in the 1980s and 1990s. In an April 22, 2004, Washington Post article, staff writer Michael Powell summarized some of Terry's anti-abortion actions:
In 1988, Terry and his legions started standing in front of local abortion clinics, screaming and pleading with pregnant women to turn away. They tossed their bodies against car doors to keep abortion patients from getting out. They waved crucifixes and screamed "Mommy, Mommy" at the women. When Terry commanded, hundreds went jellyfish-limp and blockaded the "death clinics."
In 1989, a "Holy Week of Rescue" shut down a family planning clinic in Los Angeles. More than 40,000 people were arrested in these demonstrations over four years. Subtlety wasn't Terry's thing -- he described Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, as a "whore" and an "adulteress" and arranged to have a dead fetus presented to Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
Additional evidence suggests that actions by Terry and Operation Rescue may have provoked violence at abortion clinics. As the New York Times reported on July 20, 2001, "One of his [Terry's] most avid followers in Binghamton was James E. [sic: C.] Kopp, now charged in the 1998 murder of a doctor who performed abortions in Buffalo [New York]." Kopp was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. A November 6, 1998, Times report further detailed Terry's connection to Kopp:
In July 1988, when Randall Terry drove through the night from his home in Binghamton, N.Y., to Atlanta to start the series of anti-abortion protests that would finally put his new hard-line group, Operation Rescue, onto America's front pages, James Charles Kopp was in the van riding alongside him, said former leaders of Operation Rescue.
And when Mr. Terry was arrested on the first day of Operation Rescue's "Siege of Atlanta," Mr. Kopp followed him into jail, said the leaders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Along with more than 100 other Operation Rescue members, according to some people who were there, Mr. Kopp remained in jail for 40 days and adhered to Mr. Terry's orders not to give a real name to the police or courts.
After his release, Mr. Kopp returned to Operation Rescue's Binghamton headquarters, and was there working alongside Mr. Terry as the group's power and influence in the anti-abortion movement surged in late 1988 and 1989, according to the former leaders of Operation Rescue.
Further, the Miami Herald reported on March 20 that Operation Rescue's "sympathizers continue to make an impact, some serving for the Bush administration."
As CNN noted on March 4, 1998, Terry was named in a lawsuit -- seeking to "force anti-abortion leaders to pay for damages caused in clinic attacks" -- which was filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and Terry settled with NOW out of court. The New York Times reported on November 8, 1998, that Terry "filed for bankruptcy last week in an effort to avoid paying massive debts owed to women's groups and abortion clinics that have sued him." As the Los Angeles Times reported on February 28, Terry's use of bankruptcy law to avoid paying for the judgments against him helped prompt Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) to propose an amendment to the bankruptcy bill recently passed by Congress that "specifically would prevent abortion opponents from using the bankruptcy code to escape paying court fines," although it was not included in the final version of the bill. Versions of that amendment appeared in earlier versions of the bankruptcy bill, which stalled action on it in 2002 and 2003 when "a core of House Republicans balked" at the provision, the Los Angeles Times noted.
According to a June 14, 2003, report by the conservative World Magazine (no longer available online, but reprinted on the right-wing bulletin board Free Republic), Terry solicited donations by declaring on his website that "
The purveyors of abortion on demand have stripped Randall Terry of everything he owned," but failed to disclose that the money would be used to pay for his new $432,000 house.
The report noted Terry's defense: "Terry told World that he wanted a home where his family will be safe and where 'we could entertain people of stature, people of importance. I have a lot of important people that come through my home. And I will have more important people come through my home.' " World noted that the same month he paid the deposit on his new home, a court ruled that Terry, who divorced his first wife and has remarried, "was not paying a fair share of child support." In an article on his website, Terry denounced the World report as "journalistic trash, a 'hit piece' of malice and misinformation."
Terry's words and personal life have also stirred controversy. As the Fort Wayne (Indiana) News Sentinel reported on August 16, 1993, at an anti-abortion rally in Fort Wayne, Terry said "Our goal is a Christian nation. ... We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism. ... Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules." In that same speech, Terry also stated that "If a Christian voted for [former President Bill] Clinton, he sinned against God. It's that simple." According to a March 18, 2004, press release, Terry declared on his radio program that "Islam dictates followers use killing and terror to convert Western infidels." As The Washington Post reported on February 12, 2000, in his 1995 book The Judgment of God Terry wrote that "homosexuals and lesbians are no longer content to secretly live in sin, but now want to glorify their perversions." In a May 25, 2004, interview about his gay son with The Advocate, Terry stated that homosexuality is a "sexual addiction" that shouldn't be rewarded with "special civil rights."
According to the February 12, 2000, Washington Post report, Terry was censured by his church, the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York, for a "pattern of repeated and sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women." Terry denies the accusation.
Reply #91 on:
April 08, 2005, 01:28:43 AM »
'We Want God'
When John Paul II went to Poland, communism didn't have a prayer.
Thursday, April 7, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
Everyone has spoken this past week of John Paul II's role in the defeat of Soviet communism and the liberation of Eastern Europe. We don't know everything, or even a lot, about the quiet diplomatic moves--what happened in private, what kind of communications the pope had with the other great lions of the 1980s, Reagan and Thatcher. And others, including Bill Casey, the tough old fox of the CIA, and Lech Walesa of Solidarity.
But I think I know the moment Soviet communism began its fall. It happened in public. Anyone could see it. It was one of the great spiritual moments of the 20th century, maybe the greatest.
It was the first week in June 1979. Europe was split in two between east and west, the democracies and the communist bloc--police states controlled by the Soviet Union and run by local communist parties and secret police.
John Paul was a new pope, raised to the papacy just eight months before. The day after he became pope he made it clear he would like to return as pope to his native Poland to see his people.
The communists who ran the Polish regime faced a quandary. If they didn't allow the new Pope to return to his homeland, they would look defensive and frightened, as if they feared that he had more power than they. To rebuff him would seem an admission of their weakness. On the other hand, if they let him return, the people might rise up against the government, which might in turn trigger an invasion by the Soviet Union.
The Polish government decided that it would be too great an embarrassment to refuse the pope. So they invited him, gambling that John Paul--whom they knew when he was cardinal of Krakow, who they were sure would not want his presence to inspire bloodshed--would be prudent. They wagered that he would understand he was fortunate to be given permission to come, and understand what he owed the government in turn was deportment that would not threaten the reigning reality. They announced the pope would be welcome to come home on a "religious pilgrimage."
John Paul quickly accepted the invitation. He went to Poland.
And from the day he arrived, the boundaries of the world began to shift.
Two months before the pope's arrival, the Polish communist apparatus took steps to restrain the enthusiasm of the people. They sent a secret directive to schoolteachers explaining how they should understand and explain the pope's visit. "The pope is our enemy," it said. "Due to his uncommon skills and great sense of humor he is dangerous, because he charms everyone, especially journalists. Besides, he goes for cheap gestures in his relations with the crowd, for instance, puts on a highlander's hat, shakes all hands, kisses children. . . . It is modeled on American presidential campaigns. . . Because of the activation of the Church in Poland our activities designed to atheize the youth not only cannot diminish but must intensely develop. . . In this respect all means are allowed and we cannot afford any sentiments."
The government also issued instructions to Polish media to censor and limit the pope's comments and appearances.
On June 2, 1979, the pope arrived in Poland. What followed will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
He knelt and kissed the ground, the dull gray tarmac of the airport outside Warsaw. The silent churches of Poland at that moment began to ring their bells. The pope traveled by motorcade from the airport to the Old City of Warsaw.
The government had feared hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands would line the streets and highways.
By the end of the day, with the people lining the streets and highways plus the people massed outside Warsaw and then inside it--all of them cheering and throwing flowers and applauding and singing--more than a million had come.
In Victory Square in the Old City the pope gave a mass. Communist officials watched from the windows of nearby hotels. The pope gave what papal biographer George Weigel called the greatest sermon of John Paul's life.
Why, the pope asked, had God lifted a Pole to the papacy? Perhaps it was because of how Poland had suffered for centuries, and through the 20th century had become "the land of a particularly responsible witness" to God. The people of Poland, he suggested, had been chosen for a great role, to understand, humbly but surely, that they were the repository of a special "witness of His cross and His resurrection." He asked then if the people of Poland accepted the obligations of such a role in history.
The crowd responded with thunder.
"We want God!" they shouted, together. "We want God!"
What a moment in modern history: We want God. From the mouths of modern men and women living in a modern atheistic dictatorship.
The pope was speaking on the Vigil of Pentecost, that moment in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit came down to Christ's apostles, who had been hiding in fear after his crucifixion, filling them with courage and joy. John Paul picked up this theme. What was the greatest of the works of God? Man. Who redeemed man? Christ. Therefore, he declared, "Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude. . . . The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man! Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland." Those who oppose Christ, he said, still live within the Christian context of history.
Christ, the pope declared, was not only the past of Poland--he was "the future . . . our Polish future."
The massed crowd thundered its response. "We want God!" it roared.
That is what the communist apparatchiks watching the mass from the hotels that rimmed Victory Square heard. Perhaps at this point they understood that they had made a strategic mistake. Perhaps as John Paul spoke they heard the sound careen off the hard buildings that ringed the square; perhaps the echo sounded like a wall falling.
The pope had not directly challenged the government. He had not called for an uprising. He had not told the people of Catholic Poland to push back against their atheist masters. He simply stated the obvious. In Mr. Weigel's words: "Poland was not a communist country; Poland was a Catholic nation saddled with a communist state."
The next day, June 3, 1979, John Paul stood outside the cathedral in Gniezno, a small city with a population of 50,000 or so. Again there was an outdoor mass, and again he said an amazing thing.
He did not speak of what governments want, nor directly of what a growing freedom movement wants, nor of what the struggling Polish worker's union, Solidarity, wanted.
He spokeof what God wants.
"Does not Christ want, does not the Holy Spirit demand, that the pope, himself a Pole, the pope, himself a Slav, here and now should bring out into the open the spiritual unity of Christian Europe . . .?" Yes, he said, Christ wants that. "The Holy Spirit demands that it be said aloud, here, now. . . . Your countryman comes to you, the pope, so as to speak before the whole Church, Europe and the world. . . . He comes to cry out with a mighty cry."
What John Paul was saying was remarkable. He was telling Poland: See the reality around you differently. See your situation in a new way. Do not see the division of Europe; see the wholeness that exists and that not even communism can take away. Rhetorically his approach was not to declare or assert but merely, again, to point out the obvious: We are Christians, we are here, we are united, no matter what the communists and their map-makers say.
It was startling. It was as if he were talking about a way of seeing the secret order of the world.
That day at the cathedral the communist authorities could not stop the applause. They could not stop everyone who applauded and cheered. There weren't enough jail cells.
But it was in the Blonie Field, in Krakow--the Blonia Krakowskie, the fields just beyond the city--that the great transcendent moment of the pope's trip took place. It was the moment when, for those looking back, the new world opened. It was the moment, some said later, that Soviet communism's fall became inevitable.
It was a week into the trip, June 10, 1979. It was a sunny day. The pope was to hold a public mass. The communist government had not allowed it to be publicized, but Poles had spread the word.
Government officials braced themselves, because now they knew a lot of people might come, as they had to John Paul's first mass. But that was a week before. Since then, maybe people had seen enough of him. Maybe they were tiring of his message. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
But something happened in the Blonie field.
They started coming early, and by the time the mass began it was the biggest gathering of humanity in the entire history of Poland. Two million or three million people came, no one is sure, maybe more. For a mass.
And it was there, at the end of his trip, in the Blonie field, that John Paul took on communism directly, by focusing on communism's attempt to kill the religious heritage of a country that had for a thousand years believed in Christ.
This is what he said:
Is it possible to dismiss Christ and everything which he brought into the annals of the human being? Of course it is possible. The human being is free. The human being can say to God, "No." The human being can say to Christ, "No." But the critical question is: Should he? And in the name of what "should" he? With what argument, what reasoning, what value held by the will or the heart does one bring oneself, one's loved ones, one's countrymen and nation to reject, to say "no" to Him with whom we have all lived for one thousand years? He who formed the basis of our identity and has Himself remained its basis ever since. . . .
As a bishop does in the sacrament of Confirmation so do I today extend my hands in that apostolic gesture over all who are gathered here today, my compatriots. And so I speak for Christ himself: "Receive the Holy Spirit!"
I speak too for St. Paul: "Do not quench the Spirit!"
I speak again for St. Paul: "Do not grieve the Spirit of God!"
You must be strong, my brothers and sisters! You must be strong with the strength that faith gives! You must be strong with the strength of faith! You must be faithful! You need this strength today more than any other period of our history. . . .
You must be strong with love, which is stronger than death. . . . When we are strong with the Spirit of God, we are also strong with the faith of man. . . . There is therefore no need to fear. . . . So . . . I beg you: Never lose your trust, do not be defeated, do not be discouraged. . . . Always seek spiritual power from Him from whom countless generations of our fathers and mothers have found it. Never detach yourselves from Him. Never lose your spiritual freedom.
They went home from that field a changed country. After that mass they would never be the same.
What John Paul did in the Blonie field was both a departure from his original comments in Poland and an extension of them.
In his first comments he said: God sees one unity of Europe, he does not see East and West divided by a gash in the soil.
In this way he "divided the dividers" from God's view of history.
But in the Blonie field he extended his message. He called down the Holy Spirit--as the Vicar of Christ and successor to Peter, he called down God--to fill the people of Poland, to "confirm" their place in history and their ancient choice of Christ, to confirm as it were that their history was real and right and unchangeable--even unchangeable by communists.
So it was a redeclaration of the Polish spirit, which is a free spirit. And those who were there went home a different people, a people who saw themselves differently, not as victims of history but as strugglers for Christ.
Another crucial thing happened, after the mass was over. Everyone who was there went home and turned on the news that night to see the pictures of the incredible crowd and the incredible pope. But state-controlled TV did not show the crowds. They did a brief report that showed a shot of the pope standing and speaking for a second or two. State television did not acknowledge or admit what a phenomenon John Paul's visit was, or what it had unleashed.
The people who had been at the mass could compare the reality they had witnessed with their own eyes with the propaganda their media reported. They could see the discrepancy. This left the people of Poland able to say at once and together, definitively, with no room for argument: It's all lies. Everything this government says is a lie. Everything it is is a lie.
Whatever legitimacy the government could pretend to, it began to lose. One by one the people of Poland said to themselves, or for themselves within themselves: It is over.
And when 10 million Poles said that to themselves, it was over in Poland. And when it was over in Poland, it was over in Eastern Europe. And when it was over in Eastern Europe, it was over in the Soviet Union. And when it was over in the Soviet Union, well, it was over.
All of this was summed up by a Polish publisher and intellectual named Jerzy Turowicz, who had known Karol Wojtyla when they were young men together, and who had gone on to be a supporter of Solidarity and member of Poland's first postcommunist government. Mr. Turowicz, remembering the Blonie field and the Pope's visit, told Ray Flynn, at the time U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, "Historians say World War II ended in 1945. Maybe in the rest of the world, but not in Poland. They say communism fell in 1989. Not in Poland. World War II and communism both ended in Poland at the same time--in 1979, when John Paul II came home."
And now he is dead. It is fitting and not at all surprising that Rome, to its shock, has been overwhelmed with millions of people come to see him for the last time. The line to view his body in St. Peter's stretched more than a mile. His funeral tomorrow will be witnessed by an expected two billion people, the biggest television event in history. And no one, in Poland or elsewhere, will be able to edit the tape to hide what is happening.
John Paul gave us what may be the transcendent public spiritual moment of the 20th century. "We want God." The greatest and most authentic cry of the human heart.
They say he asked that his heart be removed from his body and buried in Poland. That sounds right, and I hope it's true. They'd better get a big box.
Reply #92 on:
April 29, 2005, 12:15:53 PM »
VDH takes no prisoners. . . .
April 29, 2005, 8:03 a.m.
On Being Disliked
The new not-so-unwelcome anti-Americanism.
Victor Davis Hanson
Last year the hysteria about the hostility toward the United States reached a fevered pitch. Everyone from Jimmy Carter to our Hollywood elite lamented that America had lost its old popularity. It was a constant promise of the Kerry campaign to restore our good name and "to work with our allies." The more sensitive were going to undo the supposed damage of the last four years. Whole books have been devoted to this peculiar new anti-Americanism, but few have asked whether or not such suspicion of the United States is, in fact, a barometer of what we are doing right ? and while not necessarily welcome, at least proof that we are on the correct track.
The Egyptian autocracy may have received $57 billion in aggregate American aid over the last three decades. But that largess still does not prevent the Mubarak dynasty from damning indigenous democratic reformers by dubbing them American stooges. In differing ways, the Saudi royal family exhibits about the same level of antagonism toward the U.S. as do the Islamic fascists of al Qaeda ? both deeply terrified by what is going on in Iraq. Mostly this animus arises because we are distancing ourselves from corrupt grandees, even as we have become despised as incendiary democratizers by the Islamists. Is that risky and dangerous? Yes. Bad? Hardly
At the U.N. it is said that a ruling hierarchy mistrusts the United States and that a culture of anti-Americanism has become endemic within the organization. No wonder ? the Americans alone push for more facts about the Oil-for-Food scandal, question Kofi Annan's breaches of ethics, and want investigations about U.N. crimes in Africa. If we are mistrusted for caring about those thousands who are inhumanely treated by a supposedly humane organization, then why in the world should we wish to be liked by such a group?
EU bureaucrats and French politicians routinely caricature Americans, whipping up public opinion against the United States, even as they fly here to profess eagerness to maintain the old NATO transatlantic ties. Is it to our discredit that what Europe has now devolved into does not like the United States?
Mexico, we are told, is furious at the United States. Mexico City newspapers routinely trash Americans. Vicente Fox usually sounds more like a belligerent than the occasional visitor at the presidential ranch. That is not so bad either.
In short, who exactly does not like the United States and why? First, almost all the 20 or so illiberal Arab governments that used to count on American realpolitik's giving them a pass on accounting for their crimes. They fear not the realist Europeans, nor the resource-mad Chinese, nor the old brutal Russians, but the Americans, who alone are prodding them to open their economies and democratize their corrupt political cultures. We must learn to expect, not lament, their hostility, and begin to worry that things would be indeed wrong if such unelected dictators praised the United States.
The United Nations has sadly become a creepy organization. Its General Assembly is full of cutthroat regimes. The Human Rights Commission has had members like Vietnam and Sudan, regimes that at recess must fight over bragging rights to which of the two killed more of their own people. The U.N. has a singular propensity to find flawed men to be secretary-general ? a Kurt Waldheim, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, or Kofi Annan. Blue-helmeted peace-keepers, we learn, are as likely to commit as prevent crimes; and the only thing constant about such troops is that they will never go first into harm's way in Serbia, Kosovo, the Congo, or Dafur to stop genocide. Even worse, the U.N. has proved to be a terrible bully, an unforgivable sin for a self-proclaimed protector of the weak and innocent ? loud false charges against Israel for its presence in the West Bank, not a peep about China in Tibet; tough talk about Palestinian rights, far less about offending Arabs over Darfur. So U.N. anti-Americanism is a glowing radiation badge, proof of exposure to toxicity.
The EU is well past being merely silly, as its vast complex of bureaucrats tries to control what 400 million speak, eat, and think. Its biggest concerns are three: figuring out how its nations are to keep paying billions of euros to retirees, unemployed, and assorted other entitlement recipients; how to continue to ankle-bite the United States without antagonizing it to the degree that these utopians might have to pay for their own security; and how not to depopulate itself out of existence. Europeans sold Saddam terrible arms for oil well after the first Gulf War. Democratic Israel or Taiwan means nothing to them; indeed, democracy is increasingly becoming the barometer by which to judge European hostility. Cuba, China, Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ? not all that bad; the United States, Taiwan, and Israel, not all that good. Personally, I'd rather live in a country that goes into an anguished national debate over pulling the plug on a lone woman than one that blissfully vacations on the beach oblivious to 15,000 elderly cooked to well done back in Paris.
Mexico, enjoying one of the richest landscapes in the world, can't feed its own people, so it exports its poorest to the United States. Its own borders with Central America are as brutal to cross as our own are porous. Illegal aliens send back almost $50 billion, which has the effect of propping up corrupt institutions that as a result will never change. Given its treatment of its own people, if the Mexican government praised the United States we should indeed be concerned.
Who then are America's friends? Perhaps one billion Indians, who appreciated that at a time of recession we kept our economy open, and exported jobs and expertise there that helped evolve its economy.
Millions of Japanese trust America as well. Unlike the Chinese, who on script vandalized Japanese interests abroad in anguish over right-wing Japanese textbooks, Americans ? who at great cost once freed China ? without such violence urge the Japanese to deal honestly with the past. After all, the Tokyo government that started the war is gone and replaced by a democracy; in contrast, the Communist dictatorship that killed 50 million of its own and many of its neighbors is still in place in China. At a time when no one in Europe seems to care that Japan is squeezed between a nuclear North Korea and a nuclear China, the United States alone proves a reliable friend. The French, on spec, conduct maneuvers with the ascendant Communist Chinese navy.
Eastern Europeans do not find the larger families, religiosity, or commitment to individualism and freedom in America disturbing. Apparently, millions in South America don't either ? if their eagerness to emigrate here is any indication.
It is the wage of the superpower to be envied. Others weaker vie for its influence and attention ? often when successful embarrassed by the necessary obsequiousness, when ignored equally shamed at the resulting public impotence. The Cold War is gone and former friends and neutrals no longer constrain their anti-American rhetoric in fear of a cutthroat and nuclear Soviet Union. Americans are caricatured as cocky and insular ? as their popular culture sweeps the globe.
All that being said, the disdain that European utopians, Arab dictatorships, the United Nations, and Mexico exhibit toward the United States is not ? as the Kerry campaign alleged in the last election ? cause for tears, but often reason to be proud, since much of the invective arises from the growing American insistence on principles abroad.
America should not gratuitously welcome such dislike; but we should not apologize for it either. Sometimes the caliber of a nation is found not in why it is liked, but rather in why it is not. By January 1, 1941, I suppose a majority on the planet ? the Soviet Union, all of Eastern Europe, France, Italy, Spain, and even many elsewhere in occupied Europe, most of Latin America, Japan and its Asian empire, the entire Arab world, many in India ? would have professed a marked preference for Hitler's Germany over Churchill's England.
Think about it. When Europe orders all American troops out; when Japan claims our textbooks whitewash the Japanese forced internment or Hiroshima; when China cites unfair trade with the United States; when South Korea says get the hell off our DMZ; when India complains that we are dumping outsourced jobs on them; when Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians refuse cash aid; when Canada complains that we are not carrying our weight in collective North American defense; when the United Nations moves to Damascus; when the Arab Street seethes that we are pushing theocrats and autocrats down its throat; when Mexico builds a fence to keep us out; when Latin America proclaims a boycott of the culturally imperialistic Major Leagues; and when the world ignores American books, films, and popular culture, then perhaps we should be worried. But something tells me none of that is going to happen in this lifetime.
? Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His website is victorhanson.com.
Reply #93 on:
May 19, 2005, 06:15:33 PM »
May 17, 2005, 1:07 p.m.
The Smug Delusion of Base Expectations
Count me out of the Newsweek feeding frenzy.
We're in the grips of a pathology. And it's not media bias.
Here's the late-breaking news (you'll want to be sitting down for this): The mainstream media is ideologically liberal and instinctually hostile to George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy, and the American military.
No kidding. Really. If you want to throw the off-switch for the cognitive part of your brain- as many conservatives seem only to happy to do this week- then, by all means, that is the story you want to run with in this latest media scandal.
Newsweek, in reckless pursuit of a scoop that might score the daily double of embarrassing the Bush administration while heaping more disrepute on the Left's favorite punching bag, Guantanamo Bay, falsely reported a martial toilet-flushing of the Koran. Oops, I'm sorry, I mean the Holy Koran- after all, I don't want to be left out of the new, vast right-wing "we can be just as nauseatingly pious as they can" conspiracy.
The false report, according to the New York Times, instigated "the most virulent, widespread anti-American protests" in the Muslim world since...well, since the last virulent, widespread anti-American protests in the Muslim world- particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where at least 17 people have been killed.
That's right. The reason for the carnage is said- again and again, by media critics and government officials- to be a false report of Koran desecration. The prime culprit here is irresponsible journalism.
Is that what we really think?
Here's an actual newsflash- and one, yet again, that should be news to no one: The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more.
Newsweek merely gave the crazies their excuse du jour. But they didn't need a report of Koran desecration to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers, to blow up embassies, or to behead hostages taken for the great sin of being Americans or Jews. They didn't need a report of Koran desecration to take to the streets and blame the United States while enthusiastically taking innocent lives. This is what they do.
The outpouring of righteous indignation against Newsweek glides past a far more important point. Yes, we're all sick of media bias. But "Newsweek lied and people died" is about as worthy a slogan as the scurrilous "Bush lied and people died" that it parrots. And when we engage in this kind of mindless demagoguery, we become just another opportunistic plaintiff-- no better than the people all too ready to blame the CIA because Mohammed Atta steered a hijacked civilian airliner into a big building, and to sue the Port Authority because the building had the audacity to collapse from the blow.
What are we saying here? That the problem lies in the falsity of Newsweek's reporting? What if the report had been true? And, if you're being honest with yourself, you cannot say-- based on common sense and even ignoring what we know happened at Abu Ghraib-- that you didn't think it was conceivably possible the report could have been true. Flushing the Koran down a toilet (assuming for argument's sake that our environmentally correct, 3.6-liters-per-flush toilets are capable of such a feat) is a bad thing. But rioting? Seventeen people killed? That's a rational response?
Sorry, but I couldn't care less about Newsweek. I'm more worried about the response and our willful avoidance of its examination. Afghanistan has been an American reconstruction project for nearly four years. Pakistan has been a close American "war on terror" ally for just as long. This is what we're getting from the billions spent, the lives lost, and the grand project of exporting nonjudgmental, sharia-friendly democracy? A killing spree? Over this?
In the affirmative-action context, conservatives have written trenchantly about the "soft bigotry of low expectations" - the promotion of a vile dependency-ethos that says "you don't need to strive for better," as a result of which many people who might, don't. Our cognate sense of the Islamic world has become the smug delusion of base expectations.
Someone alleges a Koran flushing and what do we do? We expect, accept, and silently tolerate militant Muslim savagery and lots of it. We become the hangin' judge for the imbeciles whose negligence "triggered" the violence, but offer no judgment about the societal dysfunction that allows this grade of offense to trigger so cataclysmic a reaction. We hop on our high horses having culled from the Left's playbook the most politically correct palaver about the inviolable sanctity of Holy Islamic scripture (and never you mind those verses about annihilating the infidels - the ones being chanted by the killers). And we suspend disbelief, insisting that things would be just fine in a place like Gaza if we could only set up a democracy - a development which, there, appears poised to empower Hamas, terrorists of the same ilk as those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who see comparatively minor indignities as license to commit murder.
"Minor indignities? How can you say something so callous about a desecration of the Holy Koran?" I say it as a member of the real world, not the world of prissy affectation. I don't know about you, but I inhabit a place where crucifixes immersed in urine and Madonna replicas composed of feces are occasions for government funding, not murderous uprisings. If someone was moved to kill on their account, we'd be targeting the killer, not the exhibiting museum, not the "artists," and surely not Newsweek.
I inhabit a world in which my government seeks accommodation with Saudi Arabia and China and Egypt, places where the practice of Christianity results in imprisonment...or worse; in which Jews have been driven from almost every country in the Middle East, and in which the goal of destroying their country, Israel, is viewed by much of the globe as legitimate foreign policy; and in which being a Christian, an animist, or the wrong kind of Muslim in Sudan is grounds for genocide ? something the vaunted United Nations seems to regard as more of a spectator sport than a cause of action.
In my world, militant Muslims, capitalizing on the respectful deference of others, have been known tactically to desecrate the Koran themselves: by rigging it with explosives, by using it to secrete and convey terrorist messages, and, yes, even by toilet-flushing parts of it for the nuisance value of flooding the bathrooms at Guantanamo Bay. Just as they have used mosques as sanctuaries, as weapons depots, and as snipers' nests.
There's a problem here. But it's not insensitivity, and it's not media bias. Those things are condemnable, but manageable. The real problem here is a culture that either cannot or will not rein in a hate ideology that fuels killing. When we go after Newsweek, we're giving it a pass. Again.
Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
'NEWSWEEK DISSEMBLED, MUSLIMS DISMEMBERED!' By Ann Coulter
Wed May 18, 7:01 PM ET
When ace reporter Michael Isikoff had the scoop of the decade, a thoroughly sourced story about the president of the United States having an affair with an intern and then pressuring her to lie about it under oath, Newsweek decided not to run the story. Matt Drudge scooped Newsweek, followed by The Washington Post.
When Isikoff had a detailed account of Kathleen Willey's nasty sexual encounter with the president in the Oval Office, backed up with eyewitness and documentary evidence, Newsweek decided not to run it. Again, Matt Drudge got the story.
When Isikoff was the first with detailed reporting on Paula Jones' accusations against a sitting president, Isikoff's then-employer The Washington Post -- which owns Newsweek -- decided not to run it. The American Spectator got the story, followed by the Los Angeles Times.
So apparently it's possible for Michael Isikoff to have a story that actually is true, but for his editors not to run it.
Why no pause for reflection when Isikoff had a story about American interrogators at Guantanamo flushing the Quran down the toilet? Why not sit on this story for, say, even half as long as NBC News sat on Lisa Meyers' highly credible account of Bill Clinton raping Juanita Broaddrick?
Newsweek seems to have very different responses to the same reporter's scoops. Who's deciding which of Isikoff's stories to run and which to hold? I note that the ones that Matt Drudge runs have turned out to be more accurate -- and interesting! -- than the ones Newsweek runs. Maybe Newsweek should start running everything past Matt Drudge.
Somehow Newsweek missed the story a few weeks ago about Saudi Arabia arresting 40 Christians for "trying to spread their poisonous religious beliefs." But give the American media a story about American interrogators defacing the Quran, and journalists are so appalled there's no time for fact-checking -- before they dash off to see the latest exhibition of "Piss Christ."
Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas justified Newsweek's decision to run the incendiary anti-U.S. story about the Quran, saying that "similar reports from released detainees" had already run in the foreign press -- "and in the Arab news agency al-Jazeera."
Is there an adult on the editorial board of Newsweek? Al-Jazeera also broadcast a TV miniseries last year based on the "Protocols of the Elders Of Zion." (I didn't see it, but I hear James Brolin was great!) Al-Jazeera has run programs on the intriguing question, "Is Zionism worse than Nazism?" (Take a wild guess where the consensus was on this one.) It runs viewer comments about Jews being descended from pigs and apes. How about that for a Newsweek cover story, Evan? You're covered -- al-Jazeera has already run similar reports!
Ironically, among the reasons Newsweek gave for killing Isikoff's Lewinsky bombshell was that Evan Thomas was worried someone might get hurt. It seems that Lewinsky could be heard on tape saying that if the story came out, "I'll (expletive) kill myself."
But Newsweek couldn't wait a moment to run a story that predictably ginned up Islamic savages into murderous riots in Afghanistan, leaving hundreds injured and 16 dead. Who could have seen that coming? These are people who stone rape victims to death because the family "honor" has been violated and who fly planes into American skyscrapers because -- wait, why did they do that again?
Come to think of it, I'm not sure it's entirely fair to hold Newsweek responsible for inciting violence among people who view ancient Buddhist statues as outrageous provocation -- though I was really looking forward to finally agreeing with Islamic loonies about something. (Bumper sticker idea for liberals: News magazines don't kill people, Muslims do.) But then I wouldn't have sat on the story of the decade because of the empty threats of a drama queen gas-bagging with her friend on the telephone between spoonfuls of Haagen-Dazs.
No matter how I look at it, I can't grasp the editorial judgment that kills Isikoff's stories about a sitting president molesting the help and obstructing justice, while running Isikoff's not particularly newsworthy (or well-sourced) story about Americans desecrating a Quran at Guantanamo.
Even if it were true, why not sit on it? There are a lot of reasons the media withhold even true facts from readers. These include:
A drama queen nitwit exclaimed she'd kill herself. (Evan Thomas' reason for holding the Lewinsky story.)
The need for "more independent reporting." (Newsweek President Richard Smith explaining why Newsweek sat on the Lewinsky story even though the magazine had Lewinsky on tape describing the affair.)
"We were in Havana." (ABC president David Westin explaining why "Nightline" held the Lewinsky story.)
Unavailable for comment. (Michael Oreskes, New York Times Washington bureau chief, in response to why, the day The Washington Post ran the Lewinsky story, the Times ran a staged photo of Clinton meeting with the Israeli president on its front page.)
Protecting the privacy of an alleged rape victim even when the accusation turns out to be false.
Protecting an accused rapist even when the accusation turns out to be true if the perp is a Democratic president most journalists voted for.
Protecting a reporter's source.
How about the media adding to the list of reasons not to run a news item: "Protecting the national interest"? If journalists don't like the ring of that, how about this one: "Protecting ourselves before the American people rise up and lynch us for our relentless anti-American stories."
Reply #94 on:
May 20, 2005, 11:14:18 PM »
Related to the 'nuclear option' debate below is the question of which nominees are 'extremists', in a negative sense.
What Sens. Schumer and Reid call extremists are exactly the type of jurists that candidate Bush said he would appoint. Almost 55 Senators share a similar view. By definition, a nominee chosen by an elected President and favored by a majority of senators is not far out of the mainstream, but the critics might be (IMO).
This controversial speech is cited by both sides of the Janice Rogers Brown confirmation argument. She seems to favor a market economy over a big government, collectivist system.
"A Whiter Shade of Pale": Sense and Nonsense
The Pursuit of Perfection in Law and Politics
Speech of Janice Rogers Brown,
Associate Justice, California Supreme Court
The Federalist Society
University of Chicago Law School
April 20, 2000, Thursday
Thank you. I want to thank Mr. Schlangen (fondly known as Charlie to my secretary) for extending the invitation and the Federalist Society both for giving me my first opportunity to visit the City of Chicago and for being, as Mr. Schlangen assured me in his letter of invitation, "a rare bastion (nay beacon) of conservative and libertarian thought." That latter notion made your invitation well-nigh irresistible. There are so few true conservatives left in America that we probably should be included on the endangered species list. That would serve two purposes: Demonstrating the great compassion of our government and relegating us to some remote wetlands habitat where ? out of sight and out of mind ? we will cease being a dissonance in collectivist concerto of the liberal body politic.
In truth, they need not banish us to the gulag. We are not much of a threat, lacking even a coherent language in which to state our premise. [I should pause here to explain the source of the title to this discussion. Unless you are a very old law student, you probably never heard of "A Whiter Shade of Pale."] "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is an old (circa 1967) Procol Harum song, full of nonsensical lyrics, but powerfully evocative nonetheless. Here's a sample:
"We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels cross the floor
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more.
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away.
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray."
There is something about this that forcibly reminds me of our current political circus. The last verse is even better.
"If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean...."
Sound familiar? Of course Procol Harum had an excuse. These were the 60's after all, and the lyrics were probably drug induced. What's our excuse?
One response might be that we are living in a world where words have lost their meaning. This is certainly not a new phenomenon. It seems to be an inevitable artifact of cultural disintegration. Thucydides lamented the great changes in language and life that succeeded the Pelopennesian War; Clarendon and Burke expressed similar concerns about the political transformations of their own time. It is always a disorienting experience for a member of the old guard when the entire understanding of the old world is uprooted. As James Boyd White expresses it: "
n this world no one would see what he sees, respond as he responds, speak as he speaks,"1 and living in that world means surrender to the near certainty of central and fundamental changes within the self. "One cannot maintain forever one's language and judgment against the pressures of a world that works in different ways," for we are shaped by the world in which we live.2
This is a fascinating subject which we do not have time to explore more thoroughly. Suffice it to say that this phenomenon accounts for much of the near hysterical tone of current political discourse. Our problems, however, seem to go even deeper. It is not simply that the same words don't have the same meanings; in our lifetime, words are ceasing to have any meaning. The culture of the word is being extinguished by the culture of the camera. Politicians no longer have positions they have photo-ops. To be or not to be is no longer the question. The question is: how do you feel.
Writing 50 years ago, F.A. Hayek warned us that a centrally planned economy is "The Road to Serfdom."3 He was right, of course; but the intervening years have shown us that there are many other roads to serfdom. In fact, it now appears that human nature is so constituted that, as in the days of empire all roads led to Rome; in the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery. And we no longer find slavery abhorrent. We embrace it. We demand more. Big government is not just the opiate of the masses. It is the opiate. The drug of choice for multinational corporations and single moms; for regulated industries and rugged Midwestern farmers and militant senior citizens.
It is my thesis today that the sheer tenacity of the collectivist impulse ? whether you call it socialism or communism or altruism ? has changed not only the meaning of our words, but the meaning of the Constitution, and the character of our people.
Government is the only enterprise in the world which expands in size when its failures increase. Aaron Wildavsky gives a credible account of this dynamic. Wildavsky notes that the Madisonian world has gone "topsy turvy" as factions, defined as groups "activated by some common interest adverse to the rights of other citizens or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community,"4 have been transformed into sectors of public policy. "Indeed," says Wildavsky, "government now pays citizens to organize, lawyers to sue, and politicians to run for office. Soon enough, if current trends continue, government will become self-contained, generating (apparently spontaneously) the forces to which it responds."5 That explains how, but not why. And certainly not why we are so comfortable with that result.
America's Constitution provided an 18th Century answer to the question of what to do about the status of the individual and the mode of government. Though the founders set out to establish good government "from reflection and choice,"6 they also acknowledged the "limits of reason as applied to constitutional design,"7 and wisely did not seek to invent the world anew on the basis of abstract principle; instead, they chose to rely on habits, customs, and principles derived from human experience and authenticated by tradition.
"The Framers understood that the self-interest which in the private sphere contributes to welfare of society ? both in the sense of material well-being and in the social unity engendered by commerce ? makes man a knave in the public sphere, the sphere of politics and group action. It is self-interest that leads individuals to form factions to try to expropriate the wealth of others through government and that constantly threatens social harmony."8
Collectivism sought to answer a different question: how to achieve cosmic justice ? sometimes referred to as social justice ? a world of social and economic equality. Such an ambitious proposal sees no limit to man's capacity to reason. It presupposes a community can consciously design not only improved political, economic, and social systems but new and improved human beings as well.
The great innovation of this millennium was equality before the law. The greatest fiasco ? the attempt to guarantee equal outcomes for all people. Tom Bethell notes that the security of property ? a security our Constitution sought to ensure ? had to be devalued in order for collectivism to come of age. The founders viewed private property as "the guardian of every other right."9 But, "by 1890 we find Alfred Marshall, the teacher of John Maynard Keynes making the astounding claim that the need for private property reaches no deeper than the qualities of human nature."10 A hundred years later came Milton Friedman's laconic reply: " 'I would say that goes pretty deep.'"11 In between, came the reign of socialism. "Starting with the formation of the Fabian Society and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall, its ambitious project was the reformation of human nature. Intellectuals visualized a planned life without private property, mediated by the New Man."12 He never arrived. As John McGinnis persuasively argues:
"There is simply a mismatch between collectivism on any large and enduring scale and our evolved nature. As Edward O. Wilson, the world's foremost expert on ants, remarked about Marxism, 'Wonderful theory. Wrong species.'"13
Ayn Rand similarly attributes the collectivist impulse to what she calls the "tribal view of man."14 She notes, "[t]he American philosophy of the Rights of Man was never fully grasped by European intellectuals. Europe's predominant idea of emancipation consisted of changing the concept of man as a slave to the absolute state embodied by the king, to the concept of man as the slave of the absolute state as embodied by 'the people' ? i.e., switching from slavery to a tribal chieftain into slavery to the tribe."15
Democracy and capitalism seem to have triumphed. But, appearances can be deceiving. Instead of celebrating capitalism's virtues, we offer it grudging acceptance, contemptuous tolerance but only for its capacity to feed the insatiable maw of socialism. We do not conclude that socialism suffers from a fundamental and profound flaw. We conclude instead that its ends are worthy of any sacrifice ? including our freedom. Revel notes that Marxism has been "shamed and ridiculed everywhere except American universities" but only after totalitarian systems "reached the limits of their wickedness."16
"Socialism concentrated all the wealth in the hands of an oligarchy in the name of social justice, reduced peoples to misery in the name of shar[ed] resources, to ignorance in the name of science. It created the modern world's most inegalitarian societies in the name of equality, the most vast network of concentration camps ever built [for] the defense of liberty."17
Revel warns: "The totalitarian mind can reappear in some new and unexpected and seemingly innocuous and indeed virtuous form. [?]...
t ... will [probably] put itself forward under the cover of a generous doctrine, humanitarian, inspired by a concern for giving the disadvantaged their fair share, against corruption, and pollution, and 'exclusion.'"18
Of course, given the vision of the American Revolution just outlined, you might think none of that can happen here. I have news for you. It already has. The revolution is over. What started in the 1920's; became manifest in 1937; was consolidated in the 1960's; is now either building to a crescendo or getting ready to end with a whimper.
At this moment, it seems likely leviathan will continue to lumber along, picking up ballast and momentum, crushing everything in its path. Some things are apparent. Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible.
But what if anything does this have to do with law? Quite a lot, I think. In America, the national conversation will probably always include rhetoric about the rule of law. I have argued that collectivism was (and is) fundamentally incompatible with the vision that undergirded this country's founding. The New Deal, however, inoculated the federal Constitution with a kind of underground collectivist mentality. The Constitution itself was transmuted into a significantly different document. In his famous, all too famous, dissent in Lochner, Justice Holmes wrote that the "constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory, whether of paternalism and the organic relation of the citizen to the State or of laissez faire."19 Yes, one of the greatest (certainly one of the most quotable) jurists this nation has ever produced; but in this case, he was simply wrong. That Lochner dissent has troubled me ? has annoyed me ? for a long time and finally I understand why. It's because the framers did draft the
Constitution with a surrounding sense of a particular polity in mind, one based on a definite conception of humanity. In fact as Professor Richard Epstein has said, Holmes's contention is "not true of our [ ] [Constitution], which was organized upon very explicit principles of political theory."20 It could be characterized as a plan for humanity "after the fall."
There is nothing new, of course, in the idea that the framers did not buy into the notion of human perfectibility. And the document they drafted and the nation adopted in 1789 is shot through with provisions that can only be understood against the supposition that humanity's capacity for evil and tyranny is quite as real and quite as great as its capacity for reason and altruism. Indeed, as noted earlier, in politics, the framers may have envisioned the former tendency as the stronger, especially in the wake of the country's experience under the Articles of Confederation. The fear of "factions," of an "encroaching tyranny"; the need for ambition to counter ambition"; all of these concerns identified in the Federalist Papers have stratagems designed to defend against them in the Constitution itself. We needed them, the framers were convinced, because "angels do not govern"; men do.
It was a quite opposite notion of humanity, of its fundamental nature and capacities, that animated the great concurrent event in the West in 1789 ? the revolution in France. Out of that revolutionary holocaust ? intellectually an improbable melding of Rousseau with Descartes ? the powerful notion of abstract human rights was born. At the risk of being skewered by historians of ideas, I want to suggest that the belief in and the impulse toward human perfection, at least in the political life of a nation, is an idea whose arc can be traced from the Enlightenment, through the Terror, to Marx and Engels, to the Revolutions of 1917 and 1937. The latter date marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution. All of these events were manifestations of a particularly skewed view of human nature and the nature of human reason. To the extent the Enlightenment sought to substitute the paradigm of reason for faith, custom or tradition, it failed to provide rational explanation of the significance of human life. It thus
led, in a sort of ultimate irony, to the repudiation of reason and to a full-fledged flight from truth ? what Revel describes as "an almost pathological indifference to the truth."21
There were obviously urgent economic and social reasons driving not only the political culture but the constitutional culture in the mid-1930's ? though it was actually the mistakes of governments (closed borders, high tariffs, and other protectionist measures) that transformed a "momentary breakdown into an international cataclysm."22 The climate of opinion favoring collectivist social and political solutions had a worldwide dimension.
Politically, the belief in human perfectibility is another way of asserting that differences between the few and the many can, over time, be erased. That creed is a critical philosophical proposition underlying the New Deal. What is extraordinary is the way that thesis infiltrated and effected American constitutionalism over the next three-quarters of a century. Its effect was not simply to repudiate, both philosophically and in legal doctrine, the framers' conception of humanity, but to cut away the very ground on which the Constitution rests. Because the only way to come to terms with an enduring Constitution is to believe that the human condition is itself enduring.
For complex reasons, attempts to impose a collectivist political solution in the United States failed. But, the political failure was of little practical concern, in a way that is oddly unappreciated, that same impulse succeeded within the judiciary, especially in the federal high court. The idea of abstract rights, government entitlements as the most significant form of property, is well suited to conditions of economic distress and the emergence of a propertyless class. But the economic convulsions of the late 1920's and early 1930's passed away; the doctrinal underpinnings of West Coast Hotel and the "switch in time" did not. Indeed, over the next half century it consumed much of the classical conception of the Constitution.
So secure were the intellectual underpinnings of the constitutional revolution, so self-evident the ambient cultural values of the policy elite who administered it, that the object of the high court's jurisprudence was largely devoted to the construction of a system for ranking the constitutional weight to be given contending social interests.
In the New Deal/Great Society era, a rule that was the polar opposite of the classical era of American law reigned. A judicial subjectivity whose very purpose was to do away with objective gauges of constitutionality, with universal principles, the better to give the judicial priesthood a free hand to remake the Constitution. After a handful of gross divisions reflecting the hierarchy of the elite's political values had been drawn (personal vs. economic rights, for example), the task was to construct a theoretical system, not of social or cultural norms, but of abstract constitutional weight a given interest merits ? strict or rational basis scrutiny. The rest, the identification of underlying, extraconstitutional values, consisted of judicial tropes and a fortified rhetoric.
Protection of property was a major casualty of the Revolution of 1937. The paradigmatic case, written by that premiere constitutional operative, William O. Douglas, is Williamson v. Lee Optical.23 The court drew a line between personal rights and property rights or economic interests, and applied two different constitutional tests. Rights were reordered and property acquired a second class status.24 If the right asserted was economic, the court held the Legislature could do anything it pleased. Judicial review for alleged constitutional infirmities under the due process clause was virtually nonexistent. On the other hand, if the right was personal and "fundamental," review was intolerably strict. "From the Progressive era to the New Deal, [ ] property was by degrees ostracized from the company of rights.25 Something new, called economic rights, began to supplant the old property rights. This change, which occurred with remarkably little fanfare, was staggeringly significant. With the advent of "economic right
s," the original meaning of rights was effectively destroyed. These new "rights" imposed obligations, not limits, on the state.
It thus became government's job not to protect property but, rather, to regulate and redistribute it. And, the epic proportions of the disaster which has befallen millions of people during the ensuing decades has not altered our fervent commitment to statism. The words of Judge Alex Kozinski, written in 1991, are not very encouraging." 'What we have learned from the experience of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union ... is that you need capitalism to make socialism work.' In other words, capitalism must produce what socialism is to distribute."26 Are the signs and portents any better at the beginning of a new century?
Has the constitutional Zeitgeist that has reigned in the United States since the beginning of the Progressive Era come to its conclusion? And if it has, what will replace it? I wish I knew the answer to these questions. It is true ? in the words of another old song: "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear."27
The oracles point in all directions at once. Political polls suggest voters no longer desire tax cuts. But, taxpayers who pay the largest proportion of taxes are now a minority of all voters. On the other hand, until last term the Supreme Court held out the promising possibility of a revival of what might be called Lochnerism-lite in a trio of cases ? Nollan, Dolan, and Lucas, Those cases offered a principled but pragmatic means-end standard of scrutiny under the takings clause.
But there are even deeper movements afoot. Tectonic plates are shifting and the resulting cataclysm may make 1937 look tame.
Lionel Tiger, in a provocative new book called The Decline of Males, posits a brilliant and disturbing new paradigm. He notes we used to think of a family as a man, a woman, and a child. Now, a remarkable new family pattern has emerged which he labels "bureaugamy." A new trinity: a woman, a child, and a bureaucrat."28 Professor Tiger contends that most, if not all, of the gender gap that elected Bill Clinton to a second term in 1996 is explained by this phenomenon. According to Tiger, women moved in overwhelming numbers to the Democratic party as the party most likely to implement policies and programs which will support these new reproductive strategies.
Professor Tiger is not critical of these strategies. He views this trend as the triumph of reproduction over production; the triumph of Darwinism over Marxism; and he advocates broad political changes to accommodate it.
Others do not see these changes as quite so benign or culturally neutral. Jacques Barzan finds the Central Western notion of emancipation has been devalued. It has now come to mean that "nothing stands in the way of every wish."29 The result is a decadent age ? an era in which "there are no clear lines of advance"; "when people accept futility and the absurd as normal[,] the culture is decadent."30
Stanley Rosen defines "our present crisis as a fatigue induced by ... accumulated decisions of so many revolutions."31 He finds us, in the spirit of Pascal, knowing "too much to be ignorant and too little to be wise."32
I will close with a story I like a lot. It's a true story. It happened on June 10, 1990. A British Airways jet bound for Malaga, Spain, took off from Birmingham, England. It was expected to be a routine flight. As the jet climbed through the 23,000-foot level, there was a loud bang; the cockpit windshield directly in front of the captain blew out. The sudden decompression sucked Captain Lancaster out of his seatbelt and into the hole left by the windscreen. A steward who happened to be in the cockpit managed to snag the captain's feet as he hurtled past. Another steward rushed onto the flight deck, strapped himself into the captain's chair and, helped by other members of the crew, clung with all his strength to the captain. The slipstream was so fierce, they were unable to drag the pilot back into the plane. His clothing was ripped from his body. With Lancaster plastered against the nose of the jet, the co-pilot donned an oxygen mask and flew the plane to Southampton ?approximately 15 minutes away ? and lande
d safely. The captain had a fractured elbow, wrist and thumb; a mild case of frostbite, but was otherwise unharmed.
We find ourselves, like the captain, in a situation that is hopeless but not yet desperate. The arcs of history, culture, philosophy, and science all seem to be converging on this temporal instant. Familiar arrangements are coming apart; valuable things are torn from our hands, snatched away by the decompression of our fragile ark of culture. But, it is too soon to despair. The collapse of the old system may be the crucible of a new vision. We must get a grip on what we can and hold on. Hold on with all the energy and imagination and ferocity we possess. Hold on even while we accept the darkness. We know not what miracles may happen; what heroic possibilities exist. We may be only moments away from a new dawn.
1 James Boyd White, When Words Lose Their Meaning (Univ. of Chicago Press 1984) p. 4.
3 F. A, Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Univ. of Chicago Press 1994).
4 Golembiewski & Wildavsky, The Cost of Federalism (1984) Bare Bones: Putting Flesh on the Skeleton of American Federalism 67, 73.
6 Hamilton, The Federalist Papers No. 1 (Rossiter ed. 1961) p. 33.
7 Michael W. Spicer, Public Administration and the Constitution: A Conflict in World Views (March 1, 1994) 24 American R. of Public Admin. 85 [1994 WL 2806423 at *10].
8 John O. McGinnis, The Original Constitution and Our Origins (1996) 19 Harv. J.L.& Pub. Policy 251, 253.
9 Tom Bethell, Property Rights, Prosperity and 1,000 Years of Lessons, The Wall Street J. (Dec. 27, 1999) p. A19.
13 John O. McGinnis, The Original Constitution and Our Origins, supra, 19 Harv. J. L.& Pub. Policy at p. 258.
14 Ayn Rand, Capitalism the Unknown Ideal (New American Lib. 1966) pp. 4-5.
16 Jean Francois Revel, Democracy Against Itself (The Free Press 1993) pp. 250-251.
17 Id. at p. 251.
18 Id. at pp. 250-251.
19 (198 U.S. at p. 75.)
20 Clint Bolick, Unfinished Business (1990) p. 25, quoting Crisis in the Courts (1982) The Manhattan Report on Economic Policy, Vol. V, No. 2, p. 4.
21 Jean Francois Revel, The Flight From Truth (Random House N.Y. 1991) p. xvi.
22 Id. at p. xxxvii.
23 348 U.S. 483.
24 Tom Bethell, The Noblest Triumph (St. Martin's Griffin, N.Y. 1998) p. 175.
25 Id. at p. 176.
26 Alex Kozinski, The Dark Lesson of Utopia (1991) 58 U.Chi. L.R. 575, 576.
27 Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth (1966).
28 Lionel Tiger, The Decline of Males (Golden Books, N.Y. 1999) pp. 21, 27.
29 Edward Rothstein, N.Y. Times (April 15, 2000) p. A l7.
31 Stanley Rosen, Rethinking the Enlightenment (1997) 7 Common Knowledge, p. 104.
Reply #95 on:
May 25, 2005, 12:15:56 AM »
Leaving the left
I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.
I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.
I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.
My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. Out of the corner of my eye I watched what was coming for more than three decades, yet refused to truly see. Now it's all too obvious. Leading voices in America's "peace" movement are actually cheering against self-determination for a long-suffering Third World country because they hate George W. Bush more than they love freedom.
Like many others who came of age politically in the 1960s, I became adept at not taking the measure of the left's mounting incoherence. To face it directly posed the danger that I would have to describe it accurately, first to myself and then to others. That could only give aid and comfort to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and all the other Usual Suspects the left so regularly employs to keep from seeing its own reflection in the mirror.
Now, I find myself in a swirling metamorphosis. Think Kafka, without the bug. Think Kuhnian paradigm shift, without the buzz. Every anomaly that didn't fit my perceptual set is suddenly back, all the more glaring for so long ignored. The insistent inner voice I learned to suppress now has my rapt attention. "Something strange -- something approaching pathological -- something entirely of its own making -- has the left in its grip," the voice whispers. "How did this happen?" The Iraqi election is my tipping point. The time has come to walk in a different direction -- just as I did many years before.
I grew up in a northwest Ohio town where conservative was a polite term for reactionary. When Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of Mississippi "sweltering in the heat of oppression," he could have been describing my community, where blacks knew to keep their heads down, and animosity toward Catholics and Jews was unapologetic. Liberal and conservative, like left and right, wouldn't be part of my lexicon for a while, but when King proclaimed, "I have a dream," I instinctively cast my lot with those I later found out were liberals (then synonymous with "the left" and "progressive thought").
The people on the other side were dedicated to preserving my hometown's backward-looking status quo. This was all that my 10-year-old psyche needed to know. The knowledge carried me for a long time. Mythologies are helpful that way.
I began my activist career championing the 1968 presidential candidacies of Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy, because both promised to end America's misadventure in Vietnam. I marched for peace and farm worker justice, lobbied for women's right to choose and environmental protections, signed up with George McGovern in 1972 and got elected as the youngest delegate ever to a Democratic convention.
Eventually I joined the staff of U.S. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio. In short, I became a card-carrying liberal, although I never actually got a card. (Bookkeeping has never been the left's strong suit.) All my commitments centered on belief in equal opportunity, due process, respect for the dignity of the individual and solidarity with people in trouble. To my mind, Americans who had joined the resistance to Franco's fascist dystopia captured the progressive spirit at its finest.
A turning point came at a dinner party on the day Ronald Reagan famously described the Soviet Union as the pre-eminent source of evil in the modern world. The general tenor of the evening was that Reagan's use of the word "evil" had moved the world closer to annihilation. There was a palpable sense that we might not make it to dessert.
When I casually offered that the surviving relatives of the more than 20 million people murdered on orders of Joseph Stalin might not find "evil'" too strong a word, the room took on a collective bemused smile of the sort you might expect if someone had casually mentioned taking up child molestation for sport.
My progressive companions had a point. It was rude to bring a word like "gulag" to the dinner table.
I look back on that experience as the beginning of my departure from a left already well on its way to losing its bearings. Two decades later, I watched with astonishment as leading left intellectuals launched a telethon- like body count of civilian deaths caused by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Their premise was straightforward, almost giddily so: When the number of civilian Afghani deaths surpassed the carnage of Sept. 11, the war would be unjust, irrespective of other considerations.
Stated simply: The force wielded by democracies in self-defense was declared morally equivalent to the nihilistic aggression perpetuated by Muslim fanatics.
Susan Sontag cleared her throat for the "courage" of the al Qaeda pilots. Norman Mailer pronounced the dead of Sept. 11 comparable to "automobile statistics." The events of that day were likely premeditated by the White House, Gore Vidal insinuated. Noam Chomsky insisted that al Qaeda at its most atrocious generated no terror greater than American foreign policy on a mediocre day.
All of this came back to me as I watched the left's anemic, smirking response to Iraq's election in January. Didn't many of these same people stand up in the sixties for self-rule for oppressed people and against fascism in any guise? Yes, and to their lasting credit. But many had since made clear that they had also changed their minds about the virtues of King's call for equal of opportunity.
These days the postmodern left demands that government and private institutions guarantee equality of outcomes. Any racial or gender "disparities" are to be considered evidence of culpable bias, regardless of factors such as personal motivation, training, and skill. This goal is neither liberal nor progressive; but it is what the left has chosen. In a very real sense it may be the last card held by a movement increasingly ensnared in resentful questing for group-specific rights and the subordination of citizenship to group identity. There's a word for this: pathetic.
I smile when friends tell me I've "moved right." I laugh out loud at what now passes for progressive on the main lines of the cultural left.
In the name of "diversity," the University of Arizona has forbidden discrimination based on "individual style." The University of Connecticut has banned "inappropriately directed laughter." Brown University, sensing unacceptable gray areas, warns that harassment "may be intentional or unintentional and still constitute harassment." (Yes, we're talking "subconscious harassment" here. We're watching your thoughts ...).
Wait, it gets better. When actor Bill Cosby called on black parents to explain to their kids why they are not likely to get into medical school speaking English like "Why you ain't" and "Where you is," Jesse Jackson countered that the time was not yet right to "level the playing field." Why not? Because "drunk people can't do that ... illiterate people can't do that."
When self-styled pragmatic feminist Camille Paglia mocked young coeds who believe "I should be able to get drunk at a fraternity party and go upstairs to a guy's room without anything happening," Susan Estrich spoke up for gender- focused feminists who "would argue that so long as women are powerless relative to men, viewing 'yes' as a sign of true consent is misguided."
I'll admit my politics have shifted in recent years, as have America's political landscape and cultural horizon. Who would have guessed that the U.S. senator with today's best voting record on human rights would be not Ted Kennedy or Barbara Boxer but Kansas Republican Sam Brownback?
He is also by most measures one of the most conservative senators. Brownback speaks openly about how his horror at the genocide in the Sudan is shaped by his Christian faith, as King did when he insisted on justice for "all of God's children."
My larger point is rather simple. Just as a body needs different medicines at different times for different reasons, this also holds for the body politic.
In the sixties, America correctly focused on bringing down walls that prevented equal access and due process. It was time to walk the Founders' talk -- and we did. With barriers to opportunity no longer written into law, today the body politic is crying for different remedies.
America must now focus on creating healthy, self-actualizing individuals committed to taking responsibility for their lives, developing their talents, honing their skills and intellects, fostering emotional and moral intelligence, all in all contributing to the advancement of the human condition.
At the heart of authentic liberalism lies the recognition, in the words of John Gardner, "that the ever renewing society will be a free society (whose] capacity for renewal depends on the individuals who make it up." A continuously renewing society, Gardner believed, is one that seeks to "foster innovative, versatile, and self-renewing men and women and give them room to breathe."
One aspect of my politics hasn't changed a bit. I became a liberal in the first place to break from the repressive group orthodoxies of my reactionary hometown.
This past January, my liberalism was in full throttle when I bid the cultural left goodbye to escape a new version of that oppressiveness. I departed with new clarity about the brilliance of liberal democracy and the value system it entails; the quest for freedom as an intrinsically human affair; and the dangers of demands for conformity and adherence to any point of view through silence, fear, or coercion.
True, it took a while to see what was right before my eyes. A certain misplaced loyalty kept me from grasping that a view of individuals as morally capable of and responsible for making the principle decisions that shape their lives is decisively at odds with the contemporary left's entrance-level view of people as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces, hence political wards who require the continuous shepherding of caretaker elites.
Leftists who no longer speak of the duties of citizens, but only of the rights of clients, cannot be expected to grasp the importance (not least to our survival) of fostering in the Middle East the crucial developmental advances that gave rise to our own capacity for pluralism, self-reflection, and equality. A left averse to making common cause with competent, self- determining individuals -- people who guide their lives on the basis of received values, everyday moral understandings, traditional wisdom, and plain common sense -- is a faction that deserves the marginalization it has pursued with such tenacity for so many years.
All of which is why I have come to believe, and gladly join with others who have discovered for themselves, that the single most important thing a genuinely liberal person can do now is walk away from the house the left has built. The renewal of any tradition that deserves the name "progressive" becomes more likely with each step in a better direction.
Keith Thompson is a Petaluma writer and the author of "Angels and Aliens" and "To Be a Man." His work is at
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"Spoons Don't Make Us Get Fat"
Reply #96 on:
June 01, 2005, 05:51:47 PM »
On Target ? Gun Owners Against Violence
By John J. Cahill
May 30, 2005
There is no group organized as Gun Owners Against Violence. At least no group with that name was found in a web search. There is an obvious reason. At least a reason obvious to gun owners. No such group is needed because all gun owners are against violence. Gun Owners Against Violence would be a redundant nomenclature, like Mammals for Breathing.
Gun owners are categorically against violence in our communities because that is a natural position for law-abiding civic minded members of our society. Violence involving firearms is particularly repugnant because too often the result is an illogical condemnation of equipment. Some people get mad at guns.
Gun owners I know get confused by emotional responses to hardware. These are folks like myself that have been at shooting matches large and small and have never observed a gun act out violently. At the Winter Range shooting match near Phoenix I was with 500 or so shooters in an area of a few acres. Each had a minimum of four guns as required to compete in that SASS Cowboy Shooting event. Most had spare guns too. Hardware does break. Spare hardware is a good thing.
Every shooter had at least two hundred rounds of ammo for each gun. None of those many guns or that considerable ammo acted out violently. All were well behaved, for several days. If you believe some guns are good and some are bad then you might conclude that was an impressive gathering of quite well mannered good guns. I don?t ascribe human qualities to machinery, so I just saw some real fine hardware and noted the pleasant and polite people, and great costumes.
I worked in corrections many years. I worked juvenile, not adult, but officers pay attention to the whole business so I made observations on the adult side. I observed that when guns are removed from a community, completely and totally removed, violence does not end. In fact, the result is the highest murder rate per capita of any community in our nation. But how can this be true?
Violence follows individuals who have threaded violence into their lives. Prisoners who have no access to guns will kill each other with toothbrushes melted and shaped into thrusting weapons, or with any scrap of metal, plastic, glass, even wood that can be fashioned into a stabbing or slashing implement. They will kill and maim each other with tools designed for kitchen work, custodial work, manufacturing, or with their bare hands. There is much violence in that population group, inside or outside of a controlled community, with or without guns.
My conclusion is that violence resides in the individual. Circumstances and backgrounds affect the behavior of each and every person, for better or worse. But the individual makes the decision. Guns don?t make anybody kill, cars don?t make anyone speed or drive drunk, spoons don?t make us get fat.
Never doubt that gun owners are against violence, but please do allow doubt to form when you are told that eliminating guns will decrease violence in a community.
Reply #97 on:
June 02, 2005, 04:13:11 PM »
Whenever the MSM all start singing from the same hymnal I figure it's time to seek another opinion. Found this in my wanderings.
For those who weren't around in those days in the mid-70s, there were a lot of spooky things going on. Back in my hippy days I hung with a lot of street worker and social activist types. Many of 'em had the special garbage truck show up to haul off their trash. A buddy of mine sent an unflattering cartoon featuring Richard Nixon to the National Lampoon; he was very proud of the letter he got back that basically said "Burn this thing, kid, or you'll end up on an enemies list so fast it'll make your head spin." I recall the Church hearings and remember being scandalized when some of the details of COINTELPRO were reported. In short I don't feel Felt is quite ready to be fitted with a halo. . . .
My Secret Life with W. Mark Felt
His agents probably broke into my office, and may have monitored my bedroom one night. Even as journalists hail the deeds of Deep Throat, no one should forget he was also an architect of the nefarious COINTELPRO spy program. The man truly knew a thing or two about illegal break-ins.
By Greg Mitchell
(June 01, 2005) -- I'll never know for sure, but it's possible that I was once on, ahem, fairly intimate terms with W. Mark Felt, the leak artist formerly known as Deep Throat.
Journalists and many others lionizing the former FBI official -- rightly -- for his contribution in helping to bring down Richard Nixon, should not overlook the fact that Felt was one of the architects of the bureau's notorious COINTELPRO domestic spying-and-burglary campaign. He was convicted in 1980 of authorizing nine illegal entries in New Jersey in 1972 and 1973 -- the very period during which he was famously meeting Bob Woodward in a parking garage. Only a pardon, courtesy of Ronald Reagan, kept him out of jail for a long term.
So the man knew a thing or two about illegal break-ins. COINTELPRO was the Patriot Act on steroids. And that's where I come in.
Back in the bad old/good old days of the early 1970s, a fellow I'll call "Stew" used to write, off and on, for a rather legendary magazine that I helped edit in New York City, before I went straight, called Crawdaddy. (We had plenty of other contributors, including Joseph Heller, P.J. O'Rourke, Tom Waits, Richard Price, William Burroughs, and Tony Kornheiser, to name a few.) Stew was a proudly left-wing guy, but from the fun-loving ex-Yippie side of the antiwar spectrum, as opposed to the violent Weatherman sector. By 1973, he had a bad ticker, and was pretty much retired from any organized political activity.
Stew had both the good and bad fortune to live in an isolated area of the Catskills, sharing a humble cabin on a hilltop near Hurley, N.Y., with his wife Judy (also a politico). Occasionally I spent a weekend with them there, or stopped by on the way to somewhere else.
In those days, at least one famous left-wing fugitive seemed to be on the loose at all times, ranging from Patty Hearst to Abbie Hoffman. Given their location, and backgrounds, Stew and Judy were, at least on paper -- or in the fertile minds of Mark Felt's FBI agents -- plausible candidates to, perhaps, shelter at least one of the runaways. So they'd joke about their phone being tapped, or spotting spooks hiding behind trees in the woods, or expecting to find a listening device installed somewhere in their house.
Well, as we used to say, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't watching you. Turns out all of those fears were justified, and then some, thanks to Mr. Deep Throat and the program he helped organize.
Our fears first spiked when someone broke into the Crawdaddy office on lower Fifth Avenue one night. The intruder busted the gate protecting our rear entrance, and opened a few drawers, but nothing of true value or embarrassment was missing. You might say, in the parlance of the time, that we were only "Felt up." Unfortunately, we had very little to hide, beyond Bruce Springsteen's home phone number.
Then, I got a call from Stew on a Sunday morning, Dec. 11, 1975. He had come out to his old car, parked in front of a friend's house in Greenwich Village, and noticed the band of grime on his rear bumper was brushed away in one spot. Investigating, he reached under the bumper -- and found a crude homing device, about the size of a pack of cigarettes, with a cute little antenna sticking out. He had no idea how long it had been there or who, exactly, had been following them.
Naturally, Crawdaddy's editor, Peter Knobler, called a photographer, and we published a story about the episode the following month, which drew national attention. Pardon my French, but I recall that we called the story, "Bug Up My Ass!" (Remember: I was still a boy.)
With this rather firm evidence in hand, the couple launched a lawsuit against the government. During the course of it, FBI documents were released, and we all learned that, indeed, G-men had hidden in the woods watching them -- and worse, had broken into their cabin at least half a dozen times. The feds also monitored all their mail at the local post office, and opened some of it. Of course, in my editorial duties, I had sent them many letters: Remember snail mail? They also perused the couple's bank records. What incriminating evidence did they find? Zip. Nada.
One of the agents, according to the documents, had the wonderful name of George T. Twaddle.
Oh, one more thing: A listening device had been planted in their bedroom. I used that bedroom at least once while I visited them -- with a girlfriend, no less.
This was all standard fare for many FBI agents at the time, when they weren't infiltrating, or even starting, lefty political groups. "There was no instruction to me," Felt later told Congress, "nor do I believe there is any instruction in the Inspector's manuals, that inspectors should be on the alert to see that constitutional values are being protected."
Stew and Judy managed to win a cash settlement from the government, though I forget the figure and the details. Still, I doubt if they are joining in the chorus of hero worship today for W. Mark Felt, who has good reason to prefer going down in the history books as Deep Throat, not Deep Doodoo.
Some of my fellow geezers may recall that the chief probe of COINTELPRO and similar lawless intelligence operations was carried out by the so-called Church Committee (headed by Senator Frank Church). It issued a chilling report in 1976 that briefly had tremendous impact. Here is one section that deals with Felt:
"Internal inspection at the FBI has traditionally not encompassed legal or ethical questions at all. According to W. Mark Felt, the Assistant FBI Director in charge of the Inspection Division from 1964 to 1971, his job was to ensure that Bureau programs were being operated efficiently...He could not recall any program which was terminated because it might have been violating someone's civil rights.
"A number of questionable FBI programs were apparently never inspected. Felt could recall no inspection, for instance, of either the FBI mail opening programs or the Bureau's participation in the CIA's New York mail opening project. Even when improper programs were inspected, the Inspection Division did not attempt to exercise oversight in the sense of looking for wrongdoing. Its responsibility was simply to ensure that FBI policy, as defined by J. Edgar Hoover was effectively implemented and not to question the propriety of the policy. Thus, Felt testified that if, in the course of an inspection of a field office, he discovered a microphone surveillance on Martin Luther King, Jr., the only questions he would ask were whether it had been approved by the Director and whether the procedures had been properly followed.
"When Felt was asked whether the Inspection Division conducted any investigation into the propriety of COINTELPRO, the following exchange ensued:
"Mr. FELT. Not into the propriety.
"Q. So in the case of COINTELPRO, as in the case of NSA interceptions, your job as Inspector was to determine whether the program was being pursued effectively as opposed to whether it was proper?
"Mr. FELT. Right, with this exception, that in any of these situations, Counterintelligence Program or whatever, it very frequently happened that the inspectors, in reviewing the files, would direct that a certain investigation be discontinued, that it was not productive, or that there was some reason that it be discontinued.
"But I don't recall any cases being discontinued in the Counterintelligence program."
Greg Mitchell is editor of E&P and author of, among other books, "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady" (Random House, 1998).
Reply #98 on:
June 07, 2005, 09:59:53 PM »
THE GEOPOLITICAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
The Motives of Deep Throat
June 07, 2005 17 56 GMT
By George Friedman
The United States (or at least its Baby Boomers) has been gripped by the
revelation that the fabled Deep Throat, the person who provided the
legendary Woodward and Bernstein the guidance needed to cover the Watergate scandal, was Mark Felt, a senior official in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In spite of the claims of some, Felt was never high on the
list of suspects. The assumption was always that Deep Throat was a member of the White House staff, simply because he knew so much about the details of the workings of the Nixon White House. A secondary theory that floated around was that Deep Throat was someone from the CIA -- that the CIA, for some unclear reason, wanted to bring Nixon down.
The revelation that Deep Throat was a senior FBI official -- in fact, so
senior that he was effectively J. Edgar Hoover's heir at the FBI -- is full
of historical significance. Even more, it has significant implications
today, when U.S. intelligence and security forces are playing a dramatically enhanced role in American life, and when the question of the relationship between the constitutional life of the republic and the requirements of national security is at a cyclical pitch. If Felt is Deep Throat, then the history and implications of this revelation need to be considered.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the question of Nixon's guilt. It has
been proven beyond doubt that Nixon was guilty of covering up the Watergate burglary, a felony that required impeachment, even if presidents before him had committed comparable crimes. It is not proven, but we are morally certain, that Nixon knew about and possibly demanded the break-in both at the Democratic National Committee headquarters and in Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office. There are too many hints of this in the famous Nixon White House tapes -- and in the existence of an 18-minute gap inserted into one tape -- to doubt that. Nixon was guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.
None of this, however, has anything to do with Mark Felt's motives in
leading Woodward and Bernstein to water and teaching them the fundamentals of drinking. Felt's motives are important regardless of whether Nixon was guilty because they tell us something about what was going on in the FBI at the time and how the FBI operated. That is what has to be thought through now.
Felt's position has been simply presented. He is portrayed as a patriot who was appalled by the activities of the Nixon White House. Having had Patrick Gray slipped in above him for the top Bureau job, Felt believed that resorting to the normal procedures of law enforcement was not an option. Gray, a Nixon appointee and loyalist, would have isolated or fired Felt if he tried that route, keeping Felt away from grand juries and the normal process of the legal system. The only course of action for Felt was, according to this theory, to leak information to the press. His selection of Woodward and Bernstein for the prize was happenstance. Felt needed national coverage, and that was provided by the Washington Post. Felt claimed a passing acquaintanceship with Bob Woodward, a very young and inexperienced reporter, and this became a convenient channel. In short, Felt was protecting the republic by the only means possible.
Let's consider who Felt was for a moment. He rose in the ranks of the FBI to serve as the No. 3 official, ranking behind only J. Edgar Hoover and
Hoover's significant other, Clyde Tolson. He reached that position for two
reasons: He was competent and, of greater significance, he was absolutely loyal to Hoover. Hoover was obsessed with loyalty and conformity. He expected his agents, even in the junior ranks, to conform to the standards of the FBI in matters ranging from dress to demeanor. Felt did not rise to be the No. 2 of the Hoover-Tolson team by being either a free-thinker or a gadfly. The most important thing to understand about Felt was that he was Hoover's man.
As Hoover's man, he had a front row seat to Hoover's operational principles. He had to have known of Hoover's wire taps and the uses to which they were put. Hoover collected information on everyone, including presidents. It is well known at this point that Hoover collected information on John F. Kennedy's sexual activities before and during his tenure as president -- as he had with Martin Luther King -- and had used that information to retain his job.
Hoover stayed as head of the FBI for decades because he played a brutal and unprincipled game in Washington. He systematically collected derogatory information on Washington officials, tracking their careers for years. He used that information to control the behavior of officials and influential private citizens. Sometimes it was simply to protect his own position, sometimes it was to promote policies that he supported. At times, particularly later in his life, Hoover appeared to be exercising power for the sheer pleasure of its exercise.
One of Hoover's favorite tactics was the careful and devastating leak.
Hoover knew how to work the press better than just about anyone in
Washington. He used the press to build up his reputation as a crime fighter and to burnish the FBI's reputation. Reporters knew that maintaining good lines of communication with the FBI could make careers, while challenging the FBI could break them. In one famous case, Hoover leaked information to Life magazine that claimed that bodies were buried in the basement of a congressman who had angered Hoover. The rumor was that the congressman got Hoover to force Life to retract the story when the congressman threatened to go public about Hoover's homosexual relationship with Clyde Tolson. That part may or may not be true, but we know that the story was retracted.
In most Washington insider cases, Hoover was not interested in the grand
jury route. The information he collected frequently was less concerned with criminal behavior than embarrassing revelations. What Hoover wanted to do was shape the behavior of people to suit him. It was the threat of revelation -- coupled with judicious leaks to the press, proving that Hoover was prepared to go all the way with it -- that did the trick. Hoover perfected the devastating leak -- and Mark Felt did not rise to power in the FBI by failing to learn that lesson or by following ethical codes other than J. Edgar Hoover's.
The first point that is obvious is that Felt wanted to be director of the
FBI. When Hoover died and Tolson resigned, he expected to replace Hoover. When Nixon appointed Gray, it is clear from his book that Felt felt betrayed and angry. Gray was an outsider who, in his view, was loyal to the president and not to the Bureau. Now, forgetting for the moment that the president was Nixon, this raises the interesting question of whether the primary loyalty of a director of the FBI -- or any other security or intelligence organization -- ought to be to the organization he serves or to the president who appoints him. There are arguments on both sides, but when you take Nixon out of the equation, the elected president would seem to have prima facie status in the equation. Loyalty to an institution, not superseded by loyalty to democratic institutions, would appear to be
dangerous for a security force and a republic. On the other hand, insulation from politics might protect the organization, keeping it from being used as a political instrument. The question is complex. Felt chose to side with the institution.
One can debate the nature of the FBI. Felt himself admitted he was a
disgruntled employee. We can infer his loyalty to Hoover. What we have,
therefore, is a disgruntled FBI employee -- bitter at being passed over for
promotion, angry at having the legacy of his patron dismantled and running a covert operation against the White House. Within days of the Watergate Hotel break-in, Deep Throat -- Felt -- was telling Woodward of the role of E. Howard Hunt. That meant that Felt knew what had happened. He could not have known what had happened had he not inherited Hoover's mechanisms for monitoring the White House. It is clear that Gray was not given that mechanism, and it is clear that Gray didn't know about it -- since Nixon didn't know about it. But Felt did know about it. What the mechanism was, whether electronic eavesdropping or informants in the White House or some other means, is unclear, so we will refer to it as "the mechanism." What is clear is that Felt, without the knowledge of his director, was running an operation that had to precede the break-in. Hoover died in May 1972; the Watergate break-in occurred in August 1972. Felt did not have time to set up his own operation in the White House. He had clearly taken over Hoover's.
Felt could not admit that he had penetrated the White House. The No. 2 man at the FBI could have forced a grand jury investigation, but he did not force one because to do so, he would have had to reveal his covert mechanism in the White House. Felt didn't go to a grand jury not because he was boxed in, but because he could not reveal the means whereby he knew precisely what Nixon and his henchmen were up to. It is fascinating that in all the discussion of Felt as Deep Throat, so little attention has been paid to how Felt would have acquired -- and continued to acquire -- such precise intelligence. It has been pointed out that Felt could not have been the only Deep Throat because he could not personally have known all the things he revealed. That is true, unless we assume that Felt was the beneficiary of an intelligence operation run by Hoover for years deep into successive White Houses. If that is the case, then it makes perfect sense that Felt was the one and only Deep Throat.
Woodward and Bernstein, along with Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee,
didn't care, since they were being fed the goods. Nixon did care, and the
leaks further damaged him by triggering wild-goose chases in search of the source. In fact, one of the most important consequences of Felt's leaks was that the White House spasmed and started looking for the leak. It compounded Nixon's paranoia -- he really did have enemies. Indeed, the entire plumbers unit built to stop leaks in the White House has to be re-evaluated from the standpoint of the FBI operation and its leakages. It would be interesting to determine how many of the leaks Nixon was looking for originated with his suspects (people like Henry Kissinger) and how many were the results of Hoover's covert penetration. If we think of Hoover in his last days less as an ideologue and more as a megalomaniac, the notion that he was trying to cripple Nixon is not absurd.
However, what is clear is that the White House was deeply penetrated, and Felt was operating the mechanism of intelligence. It is also clear that Felt decided not to proceed with the legal route but instead to continue Hoover's tradition of controlling his environment by leaking information. For the leak, he chose a major newspaper with a great deal of credibility and two junior reporters sufficiently ambitious not to ask the obvious questions. That they were on the city desk and not the national desk was an added benefit, since they would lack the experience to understand what Felt was up to. Finally, Bradlee -- a close ally of the Kennedys and someone who despised Richard Nixon -- would be expected to fly top cover for the two minor reporters.
What is critical is how Felt managed Woodward and Bernstein. He did not
provide them with the complete story. Rather, he guided them toward the
story. He minimized what he revealed, focusing instead on two things. First, he made certain that they did not miss the main path -- that the scandal involved the senior staff of the White House and possibly the president himself. Second and more important, Felt made certain that the White House could not contain the scandal. Whenever the story began to wane, it was Felt who fed more information to Woodward and Bernstein, keeping the story alive and guiding them toward the heart of the White House -- yet usually without providing explicit information.
One consequence of this was John Dean. Felt, the veteran of many
investigations, knew that the best way to destroy a conspiracy was to
increase the pressure on it. At some point, one of the conspirators would
bolt to save himself. Felt couldn't know which one would bolt, but that
hardly mattered. As the revelations piled up, the pressure grew. At some
point, someone would break. It didn't have to be John Dean -- it could have been any of perhaps a dozen people. But Felt made certain that the pressure was there, treating the White House the way he would treat any criminal conspiracy.
What is most interesting in all of this is what Felt did not provide but had
to have known: Why did the White House order the break-in to Larry O'Brien's office? Why was the break-in carried out with such glaring incompetence? Consider the famous part in which a security guard removes a piece of tape blocking a door lock that had been placed horizontally rather than vertically, only to have it replaced by one of the burglars, leading to their discovery. If Felt had penetrated the White House and Committee to Re-elect the President deeply enough to be Deep Throat, then he had to know the reason for the break-in. And what else did he control in the White House? Were G. Gordon Liddy's people as stupid as they appeared, getting caught with revealing phone numbers on them? Could anyone be that stupid? Why was the break-in ordered, and why did professionals bungle it so badly?
This is the thing that Felt never gave to Woodward and Bernstein and which, therefore, Woodward and Bernstein never were able to explain. Yet Felt had to know it. The event wasn't random, and whatever else could be said about Nixon and his staff, they weren't stupid. They had their reasons, and it is hard to believe that Felt, who seemed to know everything about the conspiracy, didn't know this. We note -- in pure speculation -- that a covert operation not only uncover what is going on, but also can plant information that will trigger an action.
Richard Nixon was a criminal by the simplest definition of the term -- he
broke the law and tried to hide it. His best defense is that other
presidents were also criminals. Possibly, but that doesn't change Nixon's
status. His closest aides were also, in many cases, criminals. Woodward and Bernstein were lottery winners, selected by Felt precisely because they were easy to lead and asked few questions. Felt, the dispossessed heir of J. Edgar Hoover, played out the hand of his master. He used his position to bring down the president. That the president needed to be brought down is true. That he could have been brought down only by Felt's counterconspiracy is dubious.
There are three issues that must be raised here. One, does a senior FBI
official have the right to leak the fruits of a clandestine operation in the
White House to favored reporters in order to bring about a good outcome?
Two, does the press have a responsibility to report not only what is leaked to them but also to inquire about the motive of the leaker? Didn't the public need to know that Deep Throat was a senior FBI official -- and, at the very least, a disgruntled employee? Doesn't the manner in which the truth is known reasonably affect the public perception? Finally, and most important, who will guard the guardians when all have agendas?
Reporting's a Shell Game and the Truth's the Pea
Reply #99 on:
June 08, 2005, 02:09:12 PM »
This is a pretty inside baseball matter; few who live outside the DC area will give a hoot. Still in the context of the above, amazing, post it does shed some light on the Washington Post's journalistic ethics, or lack thereof.
June 07, 2005, 7:50 a.m.
Was the Washington Post used by Democratic operatives in Maryland?
By Stephen Spruiell
Last week, Vanity Fair scooped the Washington Post when it revealed the identity of the Post?s legendary anonymous source Deep Throat. Once Vanity Fair had reported that Deep Throat was actually W. Mark Felt of the FBI, speculation began to circulate about his motives for feeding information to the Post. Bob Shieffer on Face the Nation Sunday argued that Felt?s motives were unimportant, because his actions had saved America from becoming ?a nation of men, not laws.?
Fair enough. Suppose, however, that Deep Throat had orchestrated the Watergate break-in and then leaked to the Washington Post in order to frame his co-conspirators. Would his motives matter then? Judging by the Post?s recent reporting on a political scandal in Maryland, the motives of anonymous sources feeding information to the paper are not important if the result is a chance to relive the Post?s glory days of Watergate, if only in some small way.
In October of 2004, a Maryland state employee named Joseph Steffen entered into a discussion on FreeRepublic.com using the screen name ?NCPAC.? Another Free Republic user (or ?freeper?) using the screen name ?MD4Bush? engaged Steffen in a friendly way on the public message board. The two began exchanging private e-mails, in which they discussed longstanding rumors about the personal life of Baltimore mayor and likely 2006 Maryland gubernatorial candidate Martin O?Malley (D).
In early 2005, the e-mails were ?given? to the Washington Post by a source that remains unidentified in the paper?s reporting. Post reporter Matthew Mosk confronted Steffen, who verified that he had written them. When Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) found out that the Post was planning to portray Steffen as part of a coordinated effort to spread rumors about O?Malley, Ehrlich had little choice. He accepted Steffen?s resignation.
February 8, 2005 ? hours before the Post?s story appeared online ? MD4Bush posted excerpts from the private e-mails to a Free Republic message board. MD4Bush had underlined damaging passages and only posted e-mails that NCPAC had written ? even though according to Free Republic spokesman Kristinn Taylor, posting such private e-mails (or ?freepmails?) without permission is a violation of Free Republic posting guidelines. MD4Bush then vanished from the site and has not posted since.
The most obvious explanation for this behavior is that someone who knew that Steffen was NCPAC set him up. The Post did not report this strange activity. Instead, on February 11 Mosk and David Snyder co-wrote a story headlined: ?Uproar brings focus on role of bloggers.? The first half of the article focused on Free Republic, its history and its nature as a place where people traffic in rumors and gossip. But the last half posted more of the exchanges between MD4Bush and NCPAC. The Post chose paragraph 12 to reveal that MD4Bush ?drew Steffen into a private conversation and appeared to coax him to share more details about his role in spreading the rumor.? The Post printed the following exchange at the end of the article:
A few weeks later, MD4BUSH contacted NCPAC again, asking, ?If some of my friends and I were interested in keeping the story floating, do you have suggestions for us on how best to do it??
Here, Steffen backed away: ?I am sure you will understand, I cannot and will not offer suggestions that may be considered unethical concerning what you should do, campaign-wise. This is especially true concerning [Mayor O?Malley?s] personal life.
(Mosk declined to comment on the placement of information in the article.)
The Post abruptly shifted the focus of its coverage of the Steffen matter to his relationship to Gov. Ehrlich and his role in Ehrlich?s administration. Meanwhile, several other reporters, including Dave Collins and Jayne Miller of WBAL TV in Baltimore, started to investigate some of the more curious aspects of the story. For instance, it seemed interesting, Collins said, that the story breaking when it did simultaneously solved a political problem for the mayor (rumors that had plagued him for years) and focused the blame for those rumors on someone connected to his chief political opponent.
Over the course of the following months, reporters for WBAL TV, WBAL Radio and the Maryland Gazette uncovered the following bits of information that the Post neglected in its reporting:
Real Source of the Rumors
Rival coverage: WBAL Radio reported on the existence of a story that appeared in March of 2000 in the Washington Post, in which Mayor O?Malley?s wife mentioned the rumors (?That he?s running around on me. That he has been running around on me for years.?) and attributed them to political opponents from O?Malley?s days on the Baltimore City Council.
Post coverage: In its initial coverage of the Steffen story, the Post reported that the rumors had been ?widespread? for at least 18 months. However, the Post did not report that these rumors, according to the Mayor?s wife herself, originated from local political opponents from O?Malley?s days as a councilman. This information could have provided context for O?Malley?s charges, aired in the Post, that for 18 months Ehrlich himself had overseen an orchestrated campaign to smear him. After WBAL Radio reported on O?Malley?s wife?s comments, the Post also did a story.
Nature of the Private E-mails
Rival coverage: WBAL TV posted more of the e-mail exchanges between MD4Bush and NCPAC, demonstrating clearly that MD4Bush had asked leading questions and trying to prompt replies from NCPAC that would look as damaging as possible.
Post coverage: The Post reported extensively on Steffen?s e-mails, even creating a webpage for some of them. However, the Post failed to report the extent to which MD4Bush attempted to put words into NCPAC?s mouth (compare the WBAL TV story to the Post?s most thorough treatment of this angle: the ?Uproar brings focus on role of bloggers? story).
Rival coverage: Collins and Miller of WBAL TV, Thomas Dennison of the Maryland Gazette and others noticed that a third person had been cropped out of a now-famous picture of Gov. Ehrlich with his arm around Steffen ? a picture that had been anonymously distributed to all the local news outlets including the Post. Curious, Collins asked Ehrlich?s office about the identity of the missing person. At first, the governor?s office refused to cooperate with Collins. Then, Dennison asked the governor about the photo in public. Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick said, ?We had been very reluctant to release that photograph, because we didn?t see any advantage to it, but once that horse got out of the barn, we decided to go with it.?
On March 24, the governor?s office revealed that the third person in the photograph was a former state employee named Michelle Lane. Further, Ehrlich revealed that Lane had sent his office an e-mail on February 12, accusing him of masterminding a ?whisper campaign? against her and threatening to release information about Joseph Steffen that she said would damage the administration. Collins and Miller started looking for more information about Lane. From their reporting, the following timeline emerges:
Lane and Steffen were friends at one point. When both worked for Ehrlich, they became close and exchanged e-mails often. At some point, however, they had a falling out and stopped communicating.
While working for the state of Maryland, Lane asked for a promotion three times. Instead, in July 2004 she was let go.
Weeks after she was fired, Lane began meeting with key members of the O?Malley administration. In one e-mail, according to Miller, she wrote that she had ?potentially useful information to share.?
When Collins started reporting these facts, he began to receive calls from important state Democrats, who all sounded like they were reading from the ?same script,? he said. ??Why are you guys trying to expose Deep Throat?? They all asked me that. And I said, ?Deep Throat was a source of information, and MD4Bush was possibly an operative. Don?t you see the difference?? And [they] didn?t.?
As Collins and Miller were filing these reports, someone sent an anonymous letter to the Baltimore City Paper attacking Collins?s credibility as a journalist. ?I do find it coincidental that it occurred in the middle of our aggressive pursuit of who is MD4Bush and trying to answer the question, ?Was this an orchestrated effort??? he said.
Post coverage: The Post story focused on Lane?s attorney?s claim, supported by documents she produced, that she was fired for trying to draw the governor?s attention to the state?s broken foster care system. The next day, the Post ran a story headlined, ?Md. foster care draws scrutiny; Ehrlich?s challenge to media on former state worker backfires.? The headline referred to Ehrlich?s challenge to reporters to identify MD4Bush, which he made during the press conference. Instead of accepting the challenge, the Post wrote a fawning profile of Michelle Lane as a courageous whistleblower who was fired for daring to speak truth to power. To date, the Post has not reported on Lane?s rebuffed attempts to get promoted or her recently acquired ties to Democrats.
The Post continues to focus its coverage almost exclusively on items that reflect well on O?Malley and poorly on Ehrlich. The Post has focused primarily on two things: Democrats in the state legislature who complain about Steffen?s role in the hiring and firing of state employees; and Steffen?s personal eccentricities. In the 28 stories Mosk wrote or co-wrote about Steffen, only three stories mention MD4Bush. One is the aforementioned story that focused more on Free Republic than anything. The other two quote Ehrlich officials challenging reporters to find out who MD4Bush is ? a challenge the Post has thus far refused to accept.
None of this necessarily proves an anti-Ehrlich bias at the Post. However, it is increasingly clear that the Post has been used by political operatives to simultaneously help O?Malley and hurt Ehrlich, and that the Post doesn?t seem to care. When asked if he shared this view of things, Mosk said, ?The articles about Steffen?s behavior reported on the actions of a man long associated with Ehrlich?s campaign activities ? actions that weren?t previously known. The reaction of the governor was to fire the aide, and the reaction of the mayor was to express concern and ask for an apology.
?What the reporting did is what we were supposed to do as reporters,? Mosk said. ?The reporting exposed an area of government activity that was not previously known to the public. I feel comfortable that the reporting did a public service.?
This answer does not address the matter of what a newspaper owes its readers when it uses (or is used by) anonymous sources. Post editor Leonard Downie Jr. tried to articulate a policy on the use of anonymous sources when he wrote in March of 2004:
? we will try to explain to readers why a source is not being named. We also will strive to tell our readers as much as we can about why such a source would be knowledgeable and whether the source has a particular point of view? We want at least one Post editor to know the identity of each unnamed source cited in the newspaper, as was the case during Watergate, so that editors can help decide whether to use the source in a story.
When I asked Mosk how he could trust the source who gave him the private e-mails from Free Republic, he reminded me that Steffen had confirmed that he had written the e-mails. But this does not tell his readers anything about the way in which these private e-mails were brought to the attention of the Post in the first place. Isn?t that important for readers to know? Don?t readers deserve to know why this source wasn?t named? What does this source have to hide? And why hasn?t the Post made available to its readers the entire e-mail exchange between NCPAC and MD4Bush? Or told its readers about how MD4Bush posted excerpts of the e-mails on Free Republic on February 8 and then vanished? By failing to answer these questions, the Post has failed to live up to its own guidelines.
Who is MD4Bush? ?We will find out,? Dave Collins told me. ?I have full confidence it?ll come out.? In addition to the reporting of Collins and Miller, Joseph Steffen has retained a lawyer, who said he is attempting to get MD4Bush?s account information from Free Republic. Hopefully the truth will come out before it gets to that point.
Does the Post care about MD4Bush?s identity? Mosk would not tell NRO whether the Post is investigating. It would be in the Post?s best interest to do so. It has already been scooped on the identity of one anonymous source this year.
? Stephen Sprueill reports on the media for National Review Online's new media blog, which debuts today.
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