Saturday, January 15, 2005

Candidate Profile Eight - Joe Lieberman

If you've been reading this blog and paying any attention whatsoever (and if you haven't, just browse around for a few minutes), you know I don't have much use for the 'progressive' wing of the Democratic Party. I can't imagine any set of circumstances that would have me on the same side as Howard Dean. I could see myself casting a vote for one Democrat, though - Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. The very qualities that make Lieberman a guy who could win my support are in fact the very same qualities that will ultimately sink his bid.

Joseph I. ('Joe') Lieberman - official biography

Lieberman 2008 blog

Resume - three-term Senator from Connecticut; Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate in 2000; former state senator and Majority Leader of the Connecticut State Senate; former Attorney General of Connecticut; former Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council

The respect that the governing class has for Joe Lieberman is palpable. Contrast the sedate, gentlemanly, and oh-so-refreshing debate he had with Dick Cheney in 2000 with the slugfest that took place between Cheney and Edwards in 2004. I'm sure I'm not the first to think that the 2000 Democratic presidential ticket was upside down. Along with John McCain, Lieberman is probably the most esteemed Senator by his colleagues.

Right, we're all agreed, so it's Lieberman, and he wins by a landslide, right? Not so see, good ol' Joe has some real handicaps as a Democratic candidate:
  1. Lieberman doesn't pander to the Democratic base. You will never catch Lieberman denigrating America to win cheap political points. Here's Joe on Abu Ghraib: We cannot allow the prison scandal in Iraq to diminish our own American sense of national honor and purpose, or further erode support for our just and necessary cause in Iraq. American opponents of the war may try to do the latter, while foreign critics and enemies of the United States will try to do the former. The misdeeds of a few do not alter the character of our nation or the honor of the many who serve in our defense--and the world's--every day. Winning the war we are now fighting in Iraq against Saddam loyalists and jihadist terrorists remains critical to the security of the American people, the freedom of the Iraqi people, and the hopes of all the Middle East for stability and peace. Kind of sounds like Joe's in the wrong party, doesn't it?
  2. Lieberman is for a strong relationship between the United States and Israel. This is not because he is Jewish; there are plenty of Jewish Americans who detest the state of Israel. It is because Lieberman shares the Bush administration's vision of a more democratic and secure Middle East. This infuriates the Radical Left - see this post by paid Dean shill the Daily Kos.
  3. Lieberman sees the War on Terror as a real war, not a paranoid fantasy of John Ashcroft. Again, in his own words: ...[the War on Terror] is fundamentally a war of ideas and a war of values, a war of conflicting visions of humans and history, of faith and country. The war on terrorism we are fighting goes to the very heart of America's national purpose and national security. Our core principles of freedom and opportunity are at stake.

Lieberman's other sins against the Left include support of President Bush's faith-based initiatives, and his 'yes' vote on the Patriot Act.

While disagreeing with Joe on most domestic issues, I think the vast majority of Republican voters hold Lieberman in higher esteem than the Democrats. Much as I admire him, I have to say his chances of gaining the nomination, while not completely nil, are mighty slim. It seems his only hope would be to hang around long enough for the clear front-runner in 2008 to implode. Lieberman remains a better bet for Vice President. I want to see Joe run in 2006, though - for the Senate as a Republican. I can dream, can't I?


UPDATE 07/04/05 10:30 p.m. central:
I may be one of 12 people in the country wishing Lieberman would run...


Miscellanea - I'm a Menshevik Edition

By Power Line's standards, I'm swimming against the Bolshevik tide...

A Small Victory is trying for a big victory over smoking (I quit June 8, 2004 - hang in there, it's worth it)...

Was Abraham Lincoln gay? Not on the evidence before us (hat tip to the Volokh Conspiracy)...

Here's the latest 'statement' on former Weekly Jackass Barbra Streisand's website:
When politicians work to deplete the forests and farmlands -- speak. When they threaten the air and waters -- speak. When they undermine the well-being of our neighborhoods -- speak. When they disregard the rights of humankind -- speak. When they disparage the principles of freedom and democracy -- speak. When they ignore the responsibilities that accompany inordinate power -- speak. When they imperil the possibilities for peace -- speak. And above all, when they demand silence -- speak. Never more than now, the hope and promise of America rests on a rising, insuppressible chorus of voices -- whispering, shouting, proclaiming, protesting, advocating, resisting, singing, supporting, celebrating ... and persevering. speak! -- Richard Nelson
The above little piece of heaven, entitled, curiously enough, 'Speak!', has inspired me to compose my own tribute, called 'Run!':
When Hollywood hotshots try to talk politics - run! When washed up has-beens presume to give you advice - run! When rich widow chasers who own multiple million-dollar houses pretend to speak for the common man - run! When a new Michael Moore movie opens - run (in the opposite direction)! When Barbra Streisand opens her mouth to sing - for God's sake, run!!!! -- Mark Coffey

Enjoy your weekend, folks...

A Tortuous Debate, Part Two: Coercion and the Art of Interrogation

Torture is morally repugnant to Americans and most freedom-loving people. We reflexively recoil from the barbarism of it, and consider it beneath our dignity to even discuss. Consider it we must, however, for the enemy in the War on Terror will not meet us on the battlefield, where the odds are so heavily stacked in our favor. To quote Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo, and this excellent article in the Atlantic Monthly:
To counter an enemy who relies on stealth and surprise, the most valuable tool is information, and often the only source of that information is the enemy himself.
The classic question that illustrates the tradeoff between condemnation of torture and the need for quick information is this: Suppose a terrorist had knowledge of a nuclear device in the heart of New York City. Would torture be acceptable, horrible as it is, in light of the impending death of tens of thousands?

The medieval practices of the rack, burning, and beating are universally condemned by all civilized nations. Bowden instead focuses on what he calls 'torture lite', including:
...sleep deprivation, exposure to heat or cold, the use of drugs to cause confusion, rough treatment (slapping, shoving, or shaking), forcing a prisoner to stand for days at a time or to sit in uncomfortable positions, and playing on his fears for himself and his family.
In 1987, Israel decided that its own quite real version of the ticking time bomb scenario did indeed justify 'moderate' physical pressure.

Bowden interviewed Michael Koubi, the former chief interrogator for Israel's General Security Services. Koubi says most men, when placed under duress, have the following priorities:
1) self, 2) group, 3) family, 4) friends. In other words, even the most dedicated terrorist (with very rare exceptions), when pushed hard enough, will act to preserve and protect himself at the expense of anyone or anything else. "There's an old Arab saying," Koubi says. "'Let one hundred mothers cry, but not my mother�but better my mother than me.'"
Koubi has an answer to the common objection of most opponents of coercion: that it doesn't work, so it is not only repugnant, but useless. Koubi stresses the need for rapid followup if a detail is revealed; if the prisoner is shown that false answers have consequences, he will be less likely to lie.

Still, we're dancing around the crucial questions. Bowden finally addresses them squarely:
Few moral imperatives [as the condemnation of all torture] make such sense on a large scale but break down so dramatically in the particular. A way of sorting this one out is to consider two clashing sensibilities: the warrior and the civilian.

The civilian sensibility prizes above all else the rule of law. Whatever the difficulties posed by a particular sees abusive government power as a greater danger to society. Allowing an exception in one case...would open the door to a greater evil.

The warrior sensibility requires doing what must be done to complete a mission. By definition, war exists because civil means have failed. What counts is winning, and preserving one's own troops. To a field commander in a combat zone, the life of an uncooperative enemy captive weighs very lightly against the lives of his own men. There are very few who, faced with a reluctant captive, would not in certain circumstances reach for the alligator clips, or something else.

"It isn't about getting mad, or payback," says Bill Cowan, [a] Vietnam interrogator. "It's strictly business. Torturing people doesn't fit my moral compass at all. But I don't think there's much of a gray area. Either the guy has information you need or not. Either it's vital or it's not. You know which guys you need to twist."
Bowden clearly believes the logic of the warrior is the one that should prevail in the situation we find ourselves in with Islamic extremists. He then asks:
...why not lift the fig leaf covering the use of coercion? Why not eschew hypocrisy, clearly define what is meant by the word "severe," and amend bans on torture to allow interrogators to coerce information from would-be terrorists? This is the crux of the problem. It may be clear that coercion is sometimes the right choice, but how does one allow it yet still control it?
Upon allowing the use of coercive techniques in 1987, Israel experienced an explosion in their use, to the point that two-thirds of the Palestinian detainees were estimated to have been exposed to moderate physical pressure. Although the procedures had only been approved for ticking-bomb scenarios, clearly the interrogators were taking a very broad view of what constituted such a scenario.

We seem to have reached an impasse; 'light' torture can easily be justified, but rarely controlled. Bowden's solution is essentially the status quo. He believes coercion should be banned but practiced, quietly, behind the scenes. Hypocrisy? Yes, he admits, but lifting the ban, as Israel did, brings out the sadists who respect no limits. By keeping torture illegal, Bowden argues the heavy legal consequences will ensure that it is only used in the most dire of cases, cases that would then allow the investigator a defense of necessity should the matter come to trial. Punishment will remain swift and harsh for those who truly torture to no good end.

Others argue that the ban on torture serves no purpose; given that we know it exists, we should do our best to regulate it. Still others counter that argument by saying that's ridiculous, we know murder occurs as well, but we don't overthrow its prohibition. I'm not comfortable with Bowden's 'wink, wink' solution, though he makes many good points. I would modify his stance slightly. Codify a mandatory review by a civilian court in cases of 'ticking bombs'. Acknowledge that some circumstances force interrogators into difficult moral corners, but let them know their actions will be looked at for justification, and punished harshly if that justification is not apparent to a panel of rank-and-file Americans. Finally, make it clear that under no circumstances is coercion allowed to escalate to life-threating levels. A medical doctor should be close at hand in the event 'moderate physical pressure', to use the preferred phrase, is necessary.

I realize such a stance will make many recoil. As with so many things in this world, I see this through pre- and post-9/11 eyes. My post-9/11 instinct is that harsh times require harsh methods. I don't want to see any more skyscrapers crash and burn in my lifetime; I've already seen two too many.

A Tortuous Debate, Part One: Stress Techniques and the War On Terror

Specialist Charles Graner, Jr., of the Army Reserves has been convicted and awaits sentencing; he was accused of being the ringleader of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Based on the testimony I have seen, Graner is very much a sadist. Regardless of whether humiliating photographs and 'posing' of prisoners constitute torture, a broad debate is taking place, one that is not limited to the pathetic displays we have seen plastered worldwide from Abu Ghraib.

Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales is accused of 'condoning' torture, or at least looking the other way, while serving as White House counsel, and Anne Applebaum, Heather Mac Donald, and Mark Bowden, among countless others, have written eloquently on the subject. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of the seemingly indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay that have stirred up so many cries of 'foul' by civil libertarians.

Hot stuff, indeed. The only place to begin is with questions. What is torture precisely? Is it ever justified? Is it or is it not United States policy to torture terrorists who have not been granted the status of enemy combatants subject to the Geneva Convention? If we permit 'limited' torture, what is the limit and who decides? Why is it that most elements of the left decry the idea of American 'exceptionalism', except when it comes to the conduct of our military?

Some background on the current controversies: the memo that has Gonzales in tight straits argues against tight legal constraints on 'extreme coercive activity', but as described in the Mac Donald piece and here, this has nothing to do with the military, but rather with the CIA, and only in jurisdictions outside the USA, to boot (of course, as is well known, one option is to avoid the tickly moral questions and dump the prisoner off on a nation less squeamish about legal details). What took place at Abu Ghraib was more than an embarrasment to our self-image; regardless of how extreme the treatment was, it was clearly illegal under military regulations. In the discussion that follows, then, we will take it as a given that any discussion of the legality or appropriateness of torture is, in the case of America, largely limited to the CIA.

Mac Donald writes of a 'torture narrative' that rose up from the filth of Abu Ghraib, and allowed the critics of the current administration to connect the dots as follows: 9/11 to Guantanamo to approval of torture of terrorists to prisoner abuse. In fact, says Mac Donald, though the Bush administration ruled in February 2002 that the Afghan prisoners were not enemy combatants subject to the Geneva conventions, it also recommended that the Geneva convention continue to be observed. This was the case, for the most part - the exception being that the interrogators began to use 'stress' techniques that they hadn't used before.

We began to use sleep deprivation, forced prisoners to stand for hours on end, engaged in vague intimations of worse to come, all in the name of increasing the uncertainty of the prisoners as to how far we would go. These techniques were used by the military, and as noted above, I have serious qualms about their legality, and the morality of putting the careers of our soldiers on the line in such a manner. Perhaps because of the CIA's long reputation of playing dirty, I don't really have the same misgivings if the same techniques are used by intelligence agents.

Even these small steps (and, of course, while not denying that smalls steps lead to larger ones quite often) were not taken at Guantanamo; the FBI instructed the interrogators there to avoid even covert threats of harsh punishment, on the grounds that they would cause severe mental anguish. Frustrated with their lack of success with the 20th hijacker, Mohamed al-Kahtani, the Gitmo interrogators requested permission to use the stress techniques mentioned above. Eventually, Rumsfeld approved limited stress techniques. (Critics of the use of even limited stress techniques often claim that torture doesn't work, anyway, so it's worth noting that Kahtani began to sing after the techniques were applied. Also worth noting is that Kahtani was the only prisoner at Guantanamo these techniques were used on).

The real firestorm broke in the summer of 2002. From the Mac Donald piece:

In the summer of 2002, the CIA sought legal advice about permissible interrogation techniques for the recently apprehended Abu Zubaydah,Usama bin Ladin�s chief recruiter in the 1990s... The CIA wanted to use techniques on Zubaydah that the military uses on marines and other elite fighters in Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape (SERE) school, which teaches how to withstand torture and other pressures to collaborate. The techniques are classified, but none allegedly involves physical contact.

In response to the CIA�s request, Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee produced a hair-raising memo that understandably caused widespread alarm. Bybee argued that a U.S. law ratifying the 1984 Convention Against Torture�covering all persons, whether lawful combatants or not�forbade only physical pain equivalent to that �accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death,� or mental pain that resulted in �significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.� More troubling still, Bybee concluded that the torture statute and international humanitarian treaties did not bind the executive branch in wartime.

Mac Donald concludes with a foreceful denunciation of the Abu Ghraib techniques as deplorable lapses in military discipline that had nothing to do with the raging debates over stress techniques at Gitmo and Afghanistan. She also essentially agrees with the Bybee memo in substance - she does not think the stress techniques we have discussed amount to true torture.

Mac Donald's convincing piece provides context to the wild accusations of widespread abuse of prisoners routinely hurled out at us by human rights organizations and 'progressives', but it doesn't answer some of the basic questions. To better understand the big picture, we'll turn to the Mark Bowden piece in Part Two.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Miscellanea - Long Weekend! Edition

A flurry of activity as bebere comes out swinging with a great group of posts (I have it on good authority that she hung the moon)...

A tip of the hat to Instapundit for this article on the new Ralph Nader...

OpinionJournal has this long, excellent article on some conservative footholds in academia...

Also at OpinionJournal, Peggy Noonan writes that Rathergate was only a sign of a change that had already come to pass (hat tip to VodkaPundit)...

In related news, Patrick Ruffini comments on the battling Howards and the MSM as opposition party...

A possible shift in the Bush administration's position on Oil-For-Food? Powell holds Annan accountable for the 'mismanagement' (the nod goes to Friends of Saddam)...

Here's hoping as many of you as possible have MLK day off Monday - for the rest, my deepest sympathy. I'm going to take advantage of the long weekend to do some quality blogging, including a discussion on the torture debate and my latest candidate profile (hint: he's a Democrat), so do check back, won't you?...

Miscellanea - I'm Willing to Sell Out, But No One's Buying Edition

Professor Bainbridge is having the same problem I am - no takers yet for me, either, Professor...

Commonwealth Conservative prefers to keep his integrity intact, while Wizbang names his price (hint: he's taking the high road)...

Tim Blair sees a similarity between the Daily Kos and a certain multinational formerly headed by our Vice President...

Roger Simon is not amused by the whole sorry spectacle...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Miscellanea - Is ANOTHER UN Scandal Brewing? Edition

The ever-resourceful Claudia Rosett looks at the early audits released by Volcker and company and finds some troubling discrepencies in the UN Compensation Commission, yet another program with a budget of billions and lax oversight...

The Radical Left will be engaging in a 'Bush Blackout' on January 20th. Quoting from the website:

On January 20th, 2005, Millions [sic] of People [sic] around the World [sic] will protest the Inauguration of George W. Bush in one form or another. How will you make your voice heard? is suggesting that you be heard through your silence by blacking out your website or blog for the day and displaying a short message of protest.
I'm not sure what these clowns are protesting (the fact that a democratic election didn't go their way?), but what a gift to the world - a whole day of silence from a majority of 'Progressives'! 2005 is off to a whale of a start...

Absolutely, positively DO NOT MISS this David Letterman Top Ten List (hat tip to VodkaPundit by way of Pejmanesque)...

President Bush talks about his faith in the Washington Times...

Howard Fineman on the declining relevance of the MSM and the surging force that is 'Blogger Nation' (hat tip to Mickey Kaus)...

It's Official - No WMDs

The Washington Times puts its best spin on the story, saying we have confirmed that Saddam had the intent to make WMDs again, but let's be honest, the lack of WMDs is a huge blow to our credibility. Count me as an enthusiastic supporter of the Bush Administration and the Iraq War, but don't kid yourself: while convinced of their presence, we used the WMDs as a cover for removing a cancer from the Middle East. I firmly believed the WMDs were there, so did the members of the UN Security Council, so did the U.S. Congress, so did Bush - still, they weren't there. We should have known better than to make WMDs the centerpiece of our war argument, in light of the flimsiness of the evidence, when the better argument was the humanitarian, anti-totalitarian one.

The credibility of the United States was severely damaged by this lack of good intelligence; any military moves we must make in the future will now be scrutinized even more by those who oppose our foreign policy goals. Saddam WAS a direct threat to the United States; he did have to be removed; Bush never said 'imminent' threat - all of this is true, but somewhat beside the point. This blunder has still not resulted in enough rolling of heads, but it's too late now. The damage has been done. The outcome in Iraq is even more crucial in light of this - crucial to the Iraqi people, and crucial to the long view of the Bush Administration. We've got to get this done right, no matter how long it takes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Miscellanea - Is Jennifer Aniston a Conservative? Edition

I'm not a celebrity worshiper, and I could care less about what starlet is dating what hunk, but I found this link intriguing, though I have my doubts. After all, this is the same Aniston who was quoted as calling Bush a f***ing idiot (in fairness, prior to 9/11)...

UPDATE 01/13/05 7:42 pm central: Upon further review, methinks I've fallen for a satire on the item above - d'oh!

The incomparable Arthur Chrenkoff posts on Jean-Marie Le Pen (who, as Arthur mentions, once called the Holocaust a 'detail' of World War II'). Now the French extremist is talking about the relative decency of the German occupiers of France during World War II - relative to, say, the wholesale slaughter that took place in countries like Poland. Chrenkoff's conclusion? ' ...You can make a historically accurate statement and still be an offensive bastard with an ugly political agenda'...

Elsewhere on the Nazi front, My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy notices a similarity between Prince Harry and one Eric Cartman...

It must be depressing to be a left-winger and focus on negativity all day, every day. Extremist history professor Juan Cole posts this diatribe against the legitimacy of the upcoming elections in Iraq. Cole focuses on the Sunni's disenchantment with the new democratic process. You'll look in vain for any mention of the underlying cause of said opposition, that is, the privileged position the Sunnis in Iraq held under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Why clutter your propaganda with context, after all? This is rather akin to shedding tears over the lost rights of the white minority when South Africa's nightmare of apartheid ended. Securing the rights of minorities is a crucial part of democracy, but that goal will never be reached if the 'offended' party refuses to take part in free elections...

Weekly Jackass Number Six : Janeane Garofalo

Janeane Garofalo is a comedienne of considerable talent. I have been aware of her comedy for some time, and considered myself a fan. I watched her standup TV specials, laughed at her work on the Larry Sanders Show, and I even went to see her perform at the Paramount Theater in Austin a couple of years ago. That's when the trouble started. I was having a great time with my date when, at about the mid-point of the show, she started in on the Bush-bashing. Many laughed; a sizeable part of the crowd did not. Garofalo nervously said something along the lines of 'Shouldn't have said that in Bush country'. Let me share something about Austin with you, if you're unfamiliar with my neck of the woods: it is most decidedly NOT Bush country. Austin is an extremely liberal town, like most towns with a major university, in a conservative state. John Kerry got two-thirds of the Austin vote. No Austin City Council member would dare hang the label 'Republican' around his or her neck. People didn't laugh because (1) it was still to close to 9/11, and (2) the humor was very cruel.

Garofalo should not be criticized for opposing Bush, or even for saying it, but she goes over the line of fair discourse again and again. Some examples:
'...[The media] have to stop using dishonest language like "partial-birth abortions", which doesn't exist, and "Unborn Victims Act", which doesn't exist...there is no such thing as a Pro-Life, Pro-War, Pro-Gun, Pro-Death Penalty Christian. This administration has shown no regard for religion, and no regard for women and children in any of their legislation.'

Garofalo:..the Patriot Act passed in the fear of the aftermath of 9/11. It was passed very hastily. It was passed without any congressional scrutiny, because this administration operates like a private corporation, no public oversight, no congressional scrutiny.�
Carlson: �What are you talking about?�
Garofalo: �Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. You have to live here, too, Tucker. And you pretend. And you've got to live with this, too.�
Carlson, mocking her: �It is a conspiracy, Janeane. I agree with that. We're powerless, not really a democracy.�
Garofalo, at same time as Carlson and in a comment missed by the CNN transcribers for the posted transcript: �It is in fact a conspiracy of the 43rd Reich.� - Garofalo co-hosting Crossfire

Mike Barnacle: �Who do you regard as a bigger threat to world peace: George Bush, or Saddam Hussein?�
Garofalo : �I say at this point, for different reasons, they are both very threatening to world peace and to deny that is to be incredibly naive. Right now we are on the brink of global catastrophe. That's why eight million people around the world hit the streets, almost none of them actors, on Saturday. And that's why there is so much resistance to this. This is a manufactured war at this point. There has been a war on the people of Iraq since 1990. The plan to go into Iraq for hegemony over the region has been in play for a very long time and the ideologues in this administration want to go in.�

We are living in neo-McCarthy, post-democratic times. Democracy is being criminalized. Democracy is being ignored.
...a lot of people who like to wrap themselves in the flag, hide behind Jesus, and be aggressive -- some of those people are not intellectual powerhouses. So that's why they cleave into very us-vs.-them, black-and-white visions of the world. They have an almost pridefully parochial worldview and a Darwinian philosophy that these times of war serve them very well.
I went back and read some interviews with Garofalo while putting this piece together. The shame is that she asked some quite reasonable questions about the war - how long will we be there, how good is the evidence of a direct threat, etc. - questions that now look wise in retrospect. Given her talent and intelligence, I can only assume that her hatred of Bush is so great that it has just consumed her and her career, and that's too bad. She really was funny, once, a long time ago.

Miscellanea - Pay Heed to Cosby Edition

Bill Cosby has taken heat from certain parts of the black community for 'airing dirty laundry in public'. His message of personal responsibility and better parenting is dead on; here is a new editorial he has written in support of his stance (hat tip to RealClearPolitics for this story and the George Will column referenced below). I'm not coming at this from a racial angle; Cosby's message is relevant to all classes, all races, and all nations. The number one problem with education is not poor schools, it's poorly educated and apathetic parents...

George Will
dips into the Social Security reform issue. His conclusion? You can't deny choice to a generation that has 35 different ways to order their coffee...

Captain Ed's been a roll lately. He hammers the NYT's Nicholas Kristof for comparing infant mortality rates in China, the land of forced abortions, with those of the USA (hat tip to Patterico's Pontifications)....

Daniel Drezner sure knows this Red-Stater's most vulnerable point (I'm going to have to resort to a mantra: must lose weight...must avoid Hardee's...must lose weight...)

Miscellanea - Failing to Connect the Dots Edition

The Big Trunk at Power Line reaches a conclusion about the Thornburgh report that I can endorse: the individual elements of the report are devestating; it's the conclusions that are too mild. The Big Trunk attributes this to a failure of nerve, since the cumulative effect of the evidence is an indictment of CBS News across the board...

It's World Relief Day at Captain's Quarters (hat tip to Michelle Malkin)...

JustOneMinute with another great article on Social Security reform, and yes, it references the Krugman article...

Carpe Bonum on the CBS affair: just part of the battle against Media Induced Ignorance...

The Return of Wictory Wednesday

PoliPundit has Wictory Wednesday in gear again, so be sure and check out it here. This week, we're looking for support for Progress for America and their television ad campaign for Social Security reform. Here's a chance to be generous with your time and money and help enact the most important domestic agenda item for Bush. Also, take a gander at the blogroll near the bottom right, and give a new blog or two a shot...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Miscellanea - Too Much of a Good Thing Edition

Links, links, links - I got your links here. Even a Weekly Jackass gets one right every once in a what Andy Rooney had to say about Memogate at little green footballs...

Krugman is back, and guess what? He STILL doesn't like Social Security reform...

The great Hitchens on the illegitimacy of the Iraqi 'insurgency'...

This editorial cartoon at Commonwealth Conservative says it all...

If you haven't completely overdosed on Memogate, PunditGuy is here to help you along...

Captain Ed has just ripped Rather a new one, with his usual flair...

Miscellanea - The MSM Responds

The New York Times on the Thornburgh report: CBS News suffered a crushing blow to its credibility yesterday because of a broadcast that has now been labeled as both factually discredited and unprofessionally produced...

Superhack Tim Rutten of the L.A. Times says the question of whether CBS showed political bias remains 'elusive' - yeah, Tim, it's hard to find something when you're not looking for it, I know...

The title of Howard Kurtz's piece in the Washington Post? 'A Setback for a Network, and the Mainstream Media'...

Naturally, Mary Mapes is crying foul...

ScrappleFace on Dan Rather's reaction : 'Our long national nightmare is over'...

How about our good 'progressive buddies? We haven't sampled their take yet. Don't bother looking for a reaction from the Daily Kos - there is not a peep, it's a total non-event next to such stories as Howard Dean's pathetic attempt to stay relevant...likewise at TalkingPointsMemo, where the big story of the week so far has been the cost of the inauguration ceremonies. You can close your eyes, fellas, but you'll have to open them sooner or later...

The Thornburgh Report, Part 2: The Rest of the Good Stuff

Continuing with my summary of the Thornburgh Report (direct quotes in bold, my comments in italics):

Major General Hodges further told the Panel that General Walter(�Buck�) Staudt had never pressured him regarding Lieutenant Bush, as alleged in the August 18, 1973 memorandum. Moreover, Major General Hodges said that when he finally saw the documents after the September 8 Segment aired, he was convinced that they were not authentic and told this to Rather and Mapes in a telephone call on September 10, 2004.

Major General Hodges gave the Panel a number of specific reasons why he did not believe that the documents were authentic, including the use of a number of allegedly erroneous terms and abbreviations. Some of the deviations from standard format and usage mentioned by Major General Hodges included: (i) the location and format of the signature block; (ii) the abbreviations for Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, group and officer efficiency training report; (iii) the use of the terms �billet� and �billets�; and (iv) the reference to a flight review board. While some of these observations may seem trivial, each branch of the military uses specified standard abbreviations and terms. Major General Hodges did not think that Lieutenant Colonel Killian, with whom he served for 20 years, would have written documents with so many deviations from standard format.

Thus, Major General Hodges poured cold water over the entire story, to no avail.

The September 8 Segment should have received the highest degree of vetting because, among other reasons, the Segment:
1. Was a major investigative piece that was produced in a very short period of time;
2. Was pursued intermittently for over five years, which could cause the correspondent and producer to become too personally invested in the story;
3. Was to be released in the middle of a presidential campaign and was highly negative to one candidate (President Bush);
4. Involved a source who did not want his identity disclosed;
5. Involved a second source who had never been located by 60 Minutes Wednesday;
6. Relied on documents that could not be verified by their purported author because he was deceased;
7. Relied on documents that were not originals; and
8. Was the first original story aired under the direction of the new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team.
The Panel finds that the vetting process for the September 8 Segment was seriously flawed. The Panel believes that this was caused in large part by the speed with which this Segment was produced.

Number 2 above is the single most astute statement in the report.

This alleged confirmation by Major General Hodges started to march 60 Minutes Wednesday into dangerous and ultimately unsustainable territory: the notion that since the content of the documents was felt to be true, demonstrating the authenticity of the documents became less important.

This is in line with Rather�s lame initial 'true in substance' excuse.

The Panel was not able to reach a definitive conclusion as to the authenticity of the Killian documents. However, Mapes made oral and written presentations to the Panel during its investigation in an effort to demonstrate that the content of the Killian documents was in fact authentic. These presentations were done primarily by comparing the Killian documents withofficial Bush records to show how well she believed that the Killian documents �meshed� with the official Bush records. The Panel finds that the meshing analysis submitted by Mapes does not withstand scrutiny for two reasons. First, in many instances, the content of the Killian documents does not mesh well substantively with the official Bush records. Second, the Killian documents vary in significant ways from the standard format and jargon of documents issued by the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group in the early 1970s.

Here the panel plays a little CYA, but makes it clear that Mapes was reaching, to say the least.

[In a simply delicious section, the panel goes into great detail about false statements (i.e., lies) that CBS made in the aftermath. In the interest of brevity, I have omitted much good material, but the following is too good to pass up.]

Friday, September 10, should have been a watershed day in dealing with the growing controversy about the Segment. First, CBS News President Heyward, concerned about mainstream media�s increasingly critical reporting about the Segment, directed Betsy West early that morning to investigate the details of the examiners� opinions and confidential sources that allegedly supported the Segment. No such investigation was done at that time. Had this directive been followed promptly, the Panel does not believe that 60 Minutes Wednesday would have publicly defended the Segment for another 10 days.
Second, during the day, three events took place that should have alerted CBS News management that the reporting for the Segment may have been flawed. First, the CBS News strategy to get 60 Minutes Wednesday�s document examiners to defend the Segment was not followed, as only Matley made an appearance. As noted above, Matley did not attest to the authenticity of the documents. Second, a respected typewriter expert, Peter Tytell, contacted Miller and Howard and explained in detail why he believed the Killian documents were likely fakes. His views were not pursued or analyzed in part because 60 Minutes Wednesday was searching only for experts who would defend the September 8 Segment. Third, Major General Hodges contacted Mapes and Rather and told them that Mapes had misquoted him about his alleged confirmation of the Killian documents and now that he had had the opportunity to review them, he believed that the documents were not authentic. Neither Mapes nor Rather asked Major General Hodges to explain why he believed the documents were not authentic and the Panel finds no discussion of this conversation with others at CBS News at the time.

Again, I have to say this is no whitewash. It�s hard to imagine more damaging conclusions that those found above.

Rather told the Panel that he delivered the apology [on September 20th] and gave the WCBS interview in support of CBS News� decision that the time had come to stop defending the Segment and, indeed, to disown it. He told the Panel, however, that he did not fully agree with this decision and still believes that the content of the documents is accurate. The Panel is troubled by these conflicting statements.

Holy Cow, after all this Rather still defends the documents! Have I mentioned that he�s a pompous blowhard?

The Panel is unable to resolve definitively the conflict between the accounts of Howard and Mapes concerning whether permission was given to speak with a representative of the Kerry campaign in connection with the TexANG story. Whether or not permission was given to Mapes, the Panel finds this contact to be highly inappropriate. The September 8 Segment had a strong political focus and it was to air in the middle of a hotly contested presidential campaign. While it is certainly proper to receive information from a variety of sources, this contact crossed the line as, at a minimum, it gave the appearance of a political bias and could have been perceived as a news organization�s assisting a campaign as opposed to reporting on a story.

A news organization�s assisting a campaign as opposed to reporting on a story...that's why CBS is the Tiffany network! That�s worth repeating � a news organization�s assisting a campaign as opposed to reporting on a story�what liberal media, Eric Alterman?

I�ll conclude this two-part post with a listing of the panel�s recommendations. Of course, there�s much more, but you�ve got the juicy bits here. I still believe Rather�s head should roll, but that�s the choice of CBS, not the panel.

� Create a new senior Standards and Practices position (�Standards Executive�), outside of the production structure of 60 Minutes Wednesday and reporting directly tothe President of CBS News, whose mission would be as follows. Before airing any 60 Minutes Wednesday segment that involves investigative reporting, confidential sources or the authentication and/or chain of custody of materials received from outside sources, the Standards Executive must be consulted and must review whetherproper processes have been followed. The Panel observes that CBS News has had a person in charge of �Standards and Practices,� but this position has not been tasked to function as outlined here. The Standards Executive should have the authority to delay or veto the segment.
� The Standards Executive would also be identified throughout 60 Minutes Wednesday as someone with whom the staff can communicate on a confidential basis, withoutfear of retaliation, if they have concerns that a planned story or segment may not meetCBS News� Standards of accuracy and fairness, or for any other reason.
� If the validity of information presented in a 60 Minutes Wednesday segment comesunder a significant challenge, such as occurred with the September 8 Segment, reporting on the challenge should not be left largely or entirely in the hands of those who created the segment at issue. Instead, an additional team, led by someone notinvolved in the original segment, should be assigned to take the lead in the coverage. The Panel notes that once the attacks began on the September 8 Segment, essentiallythe same people who developed the challenged segment had control of the news reports defending it. This resulted in opportunities for other news organizations to dothe reporting that exposed serious problems in the Segment.
� The same standards for accuracy and fairness prescribed by CBS News� Standards Manual for its news stories should be applied to its press releases and public statements. That did not consistently occur here, as our Report on the Aftermath illustrates. CBS News management and the CBS Communications Group should coordinate their efforts and develop a protocol that accomplishes this objective.
� Competitive pressures are a fact of life in journalism and may impact the timing of a news story. The leadership of CBS News should make clear to all personnel that competitive pressures cannot be allowed to prompt the airing of a story before it is ready. It would have been better to �lose� the story on the Killian documents to acompetitor than to air it short of investigating and vetting to the highest standards of fairness and accuracy.
� In sensitive stories relying on sources who cannot be identified on the air, senior management must, as appropriate, know not just the name of the source, but all relevant background that would assist in news decisions. Limitations in this regard must be reviewed with the Standards Executive that the Panel has proposed.

The Thornburgh Report, Part 1: I Read It So You Don't Have To

Some highlights, lowlights and observations related to the Thornburgh Report (boldface type indicates a direct quote from the report, italics are my comments):

Within hours after the Segment aired, questions about the authenticity of the Killian documents were raised, initially in an outpouring from the so-called blogosphere on the Internet�

Whenever someone wishes to deride something, he usually makes use of the phrase �so-called�. Why not say the �so-called� documents? Poor writing � the panel may not be comfortable with the word, but blogosphere is the correct term.

�the stated goal of CBS News is to have a reputation for journalism of the highest quality and unimpeachable integrity. To meet this objective, CBS News expects its personnel to adhere to published internal Standards based on two core principles: accuracy and fairness. The Panel finds that both the September 8 Segment itself and the statements and news reports by CBS News that followed the Segment failed to meet either of these core principles.

I don�t agree with those who say the report is a whitewash � we all wish Rather had received the axe, but the statement above is pretty damning.

The Panel has not been able to conclude with absolute certainty whether the Killian documents are authentic or forgeries. However, the Panel has identified a number of issues that raise serious questions about the authenticity of the documents and their content.

The first sentence above is the one most often quoted disapprovingly. A fair representation requires that the second sentence be included, as well.

The most serious defects in the reporting and production of the September 8 Segment were:
1. The failure to obtain clear authentication of any of the Killian documents from any document examiner;
2. The false statement in the September 8 Segment that an expert had authenticated the Killian documents when all he had done was authenticate one signature from one document used in the Segment;
3. The failure of 60 Minutes Wednesday management to scrutinize the publicly available, and at times controversial, background of the source of the documents, retired Texas Army National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Bill Burkett;
4. The failure to find and interview the individual who was understood at the outset to be Lieutenant Colonel Burkett�s source of the Killian documents, and thus to establish the chain of custody;
5. The failure to establish a basis for the statement in the Segment that the ocuments �were taken from Colonel Killian�s personal files�;
6. The failure to develop adequate corroboration to support the statements in the Killian documents and to carefully compare the Killian documents to official TexANG records, which would have identified, at a minimum, notable inconsistencies in content and format;
7. The failure to interview a range of former National Guardsmen who served with Lieutenant Colonel Killian and who had different perspectives about the documents;
8. The misleading impression conveyed in the Segment that Lieutenant Strong had authenticated the content of the documents when he did not have the personal knowledge to do so;
9. The failure to have a vetting process capable of dealing effectively with the production speed, significance and sensitivity of the Segment; and
10. The telephone call prior to the Segment�s airing by the producer of the Segment to a senior campaign official of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry - a clear conflict of interest - that created the appearance of a political bias.

One could quibble with the choice of words (appearance of a political bias is too cautious a phrase), but again, this is harsh stuff. The laundry list of offenses continues:

Among the more egregious shortcomings during the Aftermath were:
1. The strident defense of the September 8 Segment by CBS News without adequately probing whether any of the questions raised had merit;
2. Allowing many of the same individuals who produced and vetted the by-then controversial September 8 Segment to also produce the follow-up news reports defending the Segment;
3. The inaccurate press statements issued by CBS News after the broadcast of the Segment that the source of the documents was �unimpeachable� and that experts had vouched for their authenticity;
4. The misleading stories defending the Segment that aired on the CBS Evening News after September 8 despite strong and multiple indications of serious flaws;
5. The efforts by 60 Minutes Wednesday to find additional document examiners who would vouch for the authenticity of the documents instead of identifying the best examiners available regardless of whether they would support this position; and
6. Preparing news stories that sought to support the Segment, instead of providing accurate and balanced coverage of a raging controversy.

The Panel expresses the earnest hope, however, that the failures identified in this Report will not induce timidity at CBS News or chill its investigative reporting. Done accurately and fairly, investigative reporting serves a critical role in a free society. Done inaccurately, it can cause great harm.

Why are the last three sentences in the report? Is this a term paper?

The interests of Rather and Mapes in pursuing a story about President Bush�s TexANG service date back to at least 1999.

This should have been a huge red flag. Like Bush�s alleged cocaine use, if something reliable was going to come out, it would have been during the 2000 campaign.

Lieutenant Colonel Burkett told Mapes on either September 4 or 5 that he had received the documents from another former Texas Army National Guardsman, Chief Warrant Officer George Conn, a statement that Lieutenant Colonel Burkett would later admit was not true. Mapes and her team of associate producers did virtually nothing to attempt to contact Chief Warrant Officer Conn to confirm this story and further trace the chain of custody of the documents.

This is the 'rush-to-judgment' that the great jurist Johnny Cochran warned us against in the O. J. trial.

[Associate Producer Yvonne] Miller did not have sufficient time to learn the fundamentals of document authentication. Had she known the basics, she would have realized that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to authenticate the Killian documents because they were copies, the alleged author was dead and no person could be located who was alleged to have been present when the documents were prepared.

Had she known the basics, or alternatively, had a tiny degree of common sense...

Two of the examiners told the Panel that they informed Mapes and Miller that they had various concerns about the documents. Significantly, all four of the examiners told the Panel that they informed Mapes and Miller that they could not authenticate the documents, primarily because they were copies.

The heart of the matter: when told there were concerns about the documents' authenticity, they plowed ahead, so deep was their desire to �get� Bush.

Much more ground remains to be covered, too much for a single post - stay tuned...

Monday, January 10, 2005

The UN Continues to Fail Spectacularly

In all the hubbub surrounding Memogate, I wanted to make sure to get this link in, from CBS, no less (I guess they're trying to show us right-wingers that they're fair and balanced). I quote at length:
The commander of the U.S. military's relief effort in Indonesia says the United Nations was supposed to coordinate the supplies and relief workers sitting idle at the international aid hub in Sumatra.

"Who's organizing the NGOs, I'm not sure. I understand the United Nations was to get them together. Without being critical, I think they are making a nascent attempt at coordination," said Rear Adm. William Crowder, who commands the U.S. presence there.

At the air base in Banda Aceh, many relief, medical and rescue workers from a dozen nations sit unused in what is becoming a tent city.

Cartons of food and medical supplies, unloaded from incoming C-130 transport planes, lay in large piles by the runway, with many water-logged and coming apart from the heavy monsoon downpours of the last two days.

There is no coordination on the ground among the growing number of NGOs, major international organizations and various foreign military units gathered to help tsunami victims in Indonesia, according to some U.S. officers.

In sharp contrast, Navy seaman rush to helicopters landing on a nearby soccer field, forming daisy chains to speed rice bags into the craft or offloading injured survivors on stretchers to an emergency aid station.
If you can't guess the UN's response, you just haven't been paying attention. That's right, they blamed the U.S., after whining for a week about how we weren't letting them grab any attention. I quote again:
On Thursday, the U.N. official coordinating relief efforts on Sumatra, Michael Elmquist, complained to reporters that the U.S. military's aid mission was failing to coordinate and provide critical information to other relief organizations.
But Michael, I thought that was the job of the UN! Surely you aren't suggesting that your organization is impotent without American military support...the Diplomad has more on this sad, sorry state of affairs.

In other UN news, Judith Miller has this story in the New York Times on the Volcker Commission's prelimary findings on the audits of Oil-For-Food. This is an early release of information that was starting to leak, according to Volcker. There is no smoking gun here. I have been very vocal on Oil-For-Food, and I want to be clear that I'm not just stirring flames. The Volcker Commission has, so far, uncovered a great deal of incompetence and lax enforcement of standard accounting procedures resulting in huge amounts of waste, but has yet to release any information that would indicate massive corruption.

Two things are worth stressing: (1) this is a preliminary report on one facet of the program (and not even the official prelimary report, due at the end of January), not a clean bill of health, and (2) many observers doubt that the Volcker Commission has the necessary resources and authority to perform a thorough investigation. Consider these comments from outgoing UN ambassador John Danforth (hat tip to Friends of Saddam):

"The fact that he doesn't have subpoena power, he doesn't have a grand jury, he can't compel testimony, he can't compel production of documents and witnesses and documents that are located in other countries might be beyond his reach," Danforth told FOX News' Jonathan Hunt on Friday.

"Those are tremendous handicaps so what he is � I wouldn't say likely to do � but what is possible, is that his focus would move from the bad acts, from the criminal offenses to something that he will view as more manageable � namely the procedures and was it a tight enough procedural system, which might be interesting but not the key question to investigate."

Wait for the report before you condemn, say my liberal friends (yes, I have a couple). I will make a deal with them and you. If the Volcker Commission can provide convincing evidence that it has thoroughly investigated the allegations and found no major corruption, I will trumpet my mistaken beliefs in huge banner headlines at the top of this blog for a week (convincing evidence, now, not just a claim by partisans on either side). However, I submit to you that given the UN's continued gross mismanagement of the billions of dollars vouchsafed to it, the damage has been done. Clearly, the UN is out of control. Kofi Annan has lost his credibility. The UN needs new, credible leadership, or we need to pull the plug, fast.

Miscellanea - Blaming the Crime Lab for the Murder Edition

It's fairly obvious that most of the conservative-leaning bloggers aren't happy about the CBS report. Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy reports that the panel did find political bias - by the bloggers on the right that exposed the report...

Time Magazine's Blog of the Year, Power Line, has more than a passing interest in the Thornburgh report. Hindrocket's take? Forget the failure to label the documents as fake, any intelligent person can reach that conclusion from the evidence marshalled...but who's going to investigate the coordination between 60 Minutes and the Kerry campaign?...

Vodkapundit is waiting in vain for an admission that the guys in pajamas got it right (hat tip to La Shawn Barber)...

In other news, Hugh Hewitt's 'Blog' has Mover Mike buzzing...

A Mark Sanford bid for the presidency in 2008 is looking increasingly likely (see revised odds here)...

Priority number one for Abbas? Clean house, says this post by Daniel Drezner...

The CBS Report: Initial Reactions

The full report can be accessed here (hat tip to Instapundit for this and other pointers)...

Michelle Malkin says that bias was all over the investigation findings, despite the rather lame contention that the panel found "no persuasive evidence" of such...

Commonwealth Conservative is not convinced by the 'rush to be the first to break the story' excuse...

Confessions of a Political Junkie doesn't think CBS has absorbed the lesson...

CrushKerry is incredulous at the unwillingness of the investigators to acknowledge their own evidence...

Still haven't got your fill? Rathergate has postings galore for you...

I haven't had a chance to read the report yet, but just from what I know of the story, it's apparent the segment was politically motivated. That shouldn't detract from the fact that some serious head-rolling has just taken place. Rather's was not among them because of his high visibility and the unpleasantness of dismissing a long-time anchor. His reputation is permanently tarnished, but I wonder how the four who just got canned are taking his continued employment.

CBS - The Bell Tolls At Last

CBS has fired four executives over the National Guard document flap. This should, but won't, shut up those who still insist this was a 'fringe obsession' of right-wing bloggers. From CNN:
The network fired Mary Mapes, producer of the report; Josh Howard, executive producer of "60 Minutes Wednesday" and his top deputy Mary Murphy; and senior vice president Betsy West. independent panel appointed by the network concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in putting together the piece, which aired September 8. That failure was compounded with a "rigid and blind" defense of the report, the statement continued.

The panel, which was led by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi, added that -- despite accusations of political bias against CBS -- "[the panel] cannot conclude that a political agenda at '60 Minutes Wednesday' drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content."

Still, "the bottom line is that much of the September 8th broadcast was wrong, incomplete or unfair," Les Moonves, co-president of CBS parent Viacom, said in a statement announcing the firings.

Moonves is right - so why not can Rather as well? (I erroneously stated in this earlier post that he was leaving CBS News - in fact, it was the anchor chair he resigned from). We'll discuss some of the reactions in a later post...

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Bloggers vs. MSM - The Thrilla on a Mozilla

Mickey Kaus (who, along with Christopher Hitchens, remains the only saving grace of the once-cool Slate) links to a story by Tim Rutten in the L.A. Times that essentially serves as a tribute to the glories of the MSM (mainstream media, for those who aren't hip to the crazy lingo of these kids today). Rutten talks up the performance of the big news media on the tsunami story, using that as an example of the kinds of stories the top dogs can do that the little guys can't. The good points Rutten makes are swallowed up by his basic misunderstanding of the blogosphere.

When dealing with an article like Rutten's, the rule is: before the analysis comes the fisk, so let's get to it.
In the days since a tidal wave of tragedy swept over South Asia, the performance of the America's [sic] so-called mainstream media has administered a bracing rebuke to both ideological antagonists and corporate apparatchiks.

As the culture war has staggered from one bloodily inclusive engagement to another over the last two years, a cadre of dispirited academics and the handful of partisan commentators and diarists who infest cyberspace have managed to transform "mainstream media" from a description into an epithet.
As so often is the case, the essayist has shown his hand before the last card is even dealt. We see right away that Rutten is going to go on a partison, ideological rant while decrying those who do so. Rutten clearly has no idea of the vastness of the blogosphere; to suggest it consists of a 'cadre' (good choice of words there) of academics and a 'handful' of partisans and diarists is foolishly wrong. Anyone who has tried to follow just one day's worth of comings and goings on, say, any dozen blogs that are updated regularly knows that there are so many good bloggers that it is hopeless to do more than scratch the surface.
...the mainstream editors and news executives whose newspapers, magazines or broadcast divisions have become "properties" in some sprawling conglomerate's portfolio must fight a constant internal battle to preserve their ability to gather and report the news in the face of remorseless demands for cost-cutting.
Showing all the customary skills of an L.A. Times columnist, Rutten has discovered the existence of "businesses" that own "properties" in their "portfolios", but being the great visionary that he is, Rutten goes one step further and unearths the profit motive.
Then along comes something like the South Asian tsunami, and the continuing indispensability of the mainstream media is vindicated, yet again. Only those news organizations that have made the short-term sacrifices required to maintain their ability to gather and report news have been able to respond as the situation demanded. Over the last week, they have fulfilled the most basic of journalistic obligations � the duty of witness. They have placed the suffering and loss of millions before the conscience of the developed world, and the result has been a demonstration of human solidarity across regional, religious and cultural divides that seemed beyond reach just a month ago.
This is a bad piece of writing, with specious reasoning behind it, to boot. What news organizations is he referring to when he speaks of the short-term sacrifices made? Is he talking about an outfit that kept profits lower by holding resources steady, or is he contradicting himself by paying homage to the cruel businesses that kept the news organizations afloat with their cost-cutting? Let's let Rutten conclude his screed before addressing his main point at length.
Real news is covered in the same way that real wars are won: by putting enough boots on the ground.

And only the much-maligned mainstream media have the ability to put those boots where they belong. In the face of such evidence, it's time to consider what an America � or, for that matter, a world � without mainstream media really would look like.

Do Americans really hunger for news media that provide more and more opinions based on fewer and fewer facts? Do they want media in which belief trumps knowledge? Do they really desire media suffused with attitude and bereft of understanding?

The experience of the last two weeks clearly suggests not.
A summary, then, of Rutten's argument might go as follows:
  1. Corporations are bad, and so are bloggers.
  2. Disasters are big stories.
  3. The MSM has a bigger budget than the blogosphere.
  4. Only the MSM can cover disasters.
It's really that simple, when you strip away the 80% of the piece that is just hot air. Surely Rutten didn't go to all this trouble to praise the network's coverage of the tsunami...there's an underlying odor creeping out from under the surface of this piece that smells suspiciously like the idea that only the U.N. can handle disaster relief. What is troublesome to Rutten and Kofi Annan alike is that big, powerful organizations of a traditionally liberal persuasion are seeing their long-time monopolies break down. Rutten is throwing up a smoke-screen, playing a confidence game to convince you that the MSM must be venerated, dammit! It's important! These are big stories, and you bloggers are getting in the way!

No choice needs to be made between blogs and newspapers or television networks. The MSM has angered people not with its news coverage, which can at times, although rarely, be excellent. The problem is that partisan opinions have tainted the coverage to the point that a national news anchor with decades of experience would jeopardize his career with fake documents in a naked attempt to bring down a president. People have no problems with blogs such as this one because our partisanship is advertised, acknowledged and celebrated. The problem, to most, is not opinion, but rather opinion masquerading as 'news'.

Rutten is correct that major stories are sometimes best served by large organizations with multi-million dollar budgets. His 'boots on the ground' analogy leaves something to be desired, for this reason: the beauty of the Internet (indeed, one might say the whole point) is the boots are already there, they are connected in a worldwide network, and they are always 'on'. I watched no (that's right, NO) network news coverage of the tsunami. Not a single minute...but I DID see amazing video at Cheese and Crackers, a blog run by an undergrad in Massachusetts that became a sensation after Drudge linked to it. I was directed to moving stories and first-rate analysis by Arthur Chrenkoff and Wizbang. I even consulted the MSM, but through their websites rather than the television.

The vast majority of blogs are attempts at swaying public opinion or establishing a sense of community between like-minded individuals. That is as it should be...after all, most bloggers have other occupations and blog for the sheer love of sharing their thoughts and feelings and having an audience. Some blogs, however, are quite serious. Dozens of blogs are kept by soldiers and civilians in Iraq, by both Americans and Iraqis. Many blogs are devoted to the study of law, economics, history, or mathematics, both professional and amateur.

The primary concept behind the blog is the hyperlink. A blogger will tell you about an article he read, or an idea she has, or a really cool album, then, if you're interested, you go find out more. The blog is primarily a navigation tool, and your own private 'briefer'. Some people like their Sunday Times, some dig the Instapundit. The MSM isn't going anywhere, but neither can it afford to complacently declare its impartiality while openly favoring one point of view over another. Your precious MSM, Tim, is going to be just fine, if it learns one simple little lesson - if it's opinion, just don't call it news...

Miscellanea - Seahawks Win! Edition

Those of you who watched the AFC wildcard game yesterday may be under the mistaken impression that the Seahawks extended their record streak of playoff futility. If so, you didn't count on the Washington State Supreme Court...

Never one to hide from my own flaws, I confess to being somewhat of a gallophobe (at least politically)...

Yet more stupid tsunami quotes collected by the great Arthur Chrenkoff...

Erdos and Morgan has conducted a study of the ten most influential media outlets, and it's a classic good news, bad news situation. The good: no sign of CBS, network of pompous blowhards. The bad: inexplicably, Decision '08 is not on the list. I'm sure it's an oversight...

Miscellanea - Don't Go Thinking for Yourself Edition

Jack Kelly has some thoughts on the Democratic plantation and conservative blacks (hat tip to Real Clear Politics)...

The worst part, by far, of CNN's cancelling of Crossfire is that Jon Stewart will become even more of an unsufferably pompous bore...

The infinitely-more-talented-and-funny-than-Jon-Stewart Mark Steyn looks at the Orange Revolution in John Kerry's face and elsewhere in the Democratic Party (hat tip to the Big Trunk at Power Line)...

JustOneMinute takes a look at the Wehner memo, Scott McLellan's channeling of Bill Clinton, Democratic scare tactics, and much, much more...