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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Major Media meets the Crabs-In-The-Pot Syndrome!

I'm tired of the election now, so I haven't blogged much lately. But as I sit and make this entry in my lonely room, I find I'm not quite tired of major media dust-ups.

NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski makes a little challenge to the New York Times' reportage on missing ordnance in Iraq, which the Times reported on before CBS' "60 Minutes" could break the story on Halloween night. All this, and the Los Angeles Times takes to tsk-tsking the television and paper outlets for deliberately holding back on to the story 'til closer to election time. This faintly resembles compensatory behavior - the LA Times were certainly tsk-tsked for on Cali Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger's sexual harrassment charges, reportage also held back until the week before the 2003 recall election.

Was it only in September when everybody from the Washington Post to ABC News to Fox News to a Beastie Boys message board (!?) called out CBS News over the fake documents regarding Bush's time in the Texas Air National Guard?

Say what you will about election exhaustion, this is all interesting anyway. Even though the missing-ordnance story isn't over yet (see update at post bottom). Individually, these incidents are at least irritating, at most utterly disgusting. The Beastie Boys board is excepted, of course. But when I put 'em all together in one place, they suggest a pattern. They make me wonder if some of these media are so tired of hearing the 'liberal media' tag they've decided to cram each other to the bottom of the pot. The Beastie Boys board is again excepted, of course. But what will this whole next month be like?

Shoot, let's fit a few more crabs into this one!

Here 'links' a blogger who sees some anti-Bush gold in the NBC / NY Times stories. I see gold there too, but not for the same reason. If these weapons are even just a part of the deadly forces Bush and Co. warned us Hussein had at his disposal, then at last we can all agree on two things: that Bush's assurances as CIC are pretty insufficient, and yet...and yet...his sources were right about WMDs and the UN was wrong, wrong even by antiwar standards. But this will just mean that assurance has become just that much more important.

My two queries on the NBC / NYTimes stories linked above:

1) Why wouldn't this be some proof of Iraq's prewar stash of contraband weaponry? I use 'stash' advisedly - the Coalition claims to have destroyed roughly 600,000 tons of high-explosives, so apparently plenty of outlawed ordnance was available to Hussein. But 'stash' seems like an awfully tiny word to use for even as small an amount as the 380 tons of RDX et al that went missing by April 4, 2003. The link above is from USA Today, and just one of many that can be Googled. Thanks to Michael Totten at www.instapundit.com for the link.

2) Who took the stuff? This is more important than who missed it. Sharper eyes are available to the military, who can replace the offending soldiers who didn't pick up on the theft. But we don't want any replacements for the thieves. We need to find 'em. Syria remains first suspect of possession. What's the magic number where possession becomes intent to use?


According to the gent who blogs at the Belmont Club (www.belmontclub.com), apparently the RDX et al were permitted to Hussein by the UN under dual-use statutes. The chemical makeup of these explosives could be turned to other uses besides explosions. Whatever the Hussein admin was saving the stuff for, they can't say they got their money's worth.

Friday, October 08, 2004

On the second Bush Kerry debate - Bush came to shove...

...but restrained his repetoire of facial expressions. Tonight he merely blinked furiously, snorted when Sen. Kerry accused him of making $84 in interest from a lumber company, and walked all over moderator Charlie Gibson (the best so far)to respond to Sen. Kerry's politely persistant mischaracterizations of the Coalition allies. Other than that, Bush was on. I thought the first debate was strong stuff. Guess I was wrong.

This debate had some added tension because both candidates entered knowing that prime campaign points had been removed out from under them. Kerry's foreign policy claims from debate one have been denied by French and German leaders, and Iran will not be accepted any fissionable material from a President Kerry thank you very much. Meanwhile, Bush had to finally admit that Charles Duelfer's report stated that no WMD stockpiles were found in Iraq, or likely to be found; aside from that, the report largely supported the characterizations of Saddam Hussein's regime made by the Bush adminstration.*

But check out Bush's response tonight on the lack of WMD: "We didn't know that when we went in there." This is an important statement for the voter. Bush trusted the sum of all CIA info collected over the last decade or so, and insisted on its' rightness until very recently. He has been called a liar so loudly, for so long, so insistently, with no moderation or manuevering room for the possibility that he could've made a grave mistake, that the word 'liar' has lost a lot of impact and meaning. If making a grave, gigantic error based on flawed infor is exactly the same thing as deliberately contriving to mislead people for hidden gain,
then 'error' has that much less meaning. Are 'lie' and 'error' really interchangeable concepts?

As for Kerry, whether he won the debate or not pales next to his part in insuring the ascendence of the Bush doctrine. There's a great quote from painter Georges Bracque, found in a fine essay by Roger Shattuck, to the effect: "Every man should keep two ideas. One to destroy the other." Kerry has apparently killed off almost three decades worth of antiwar stances, including a vote against the first Gulf War, in order to stay somewhat relevant to this campaign as something beyond an Anybody-But-Bush space-holder. His foreign policy plans shot out but good, he insists he will still fight the 'wrong' good fight. So I repeat - Kerry, if elected, will be either Lyndon B. Johnson or Richard M. Nixon. But John Kerry himself has flown ('til tomorrow?).

Kerry also scored a few points pointedly pointing out Bush's own changes since the 2000 election, namely stances on health policy and regime change (the latter was covered in Bob Woodward's "Plan Of Attack"). The difference is that Bush changed his mind in the heat of events and the subsequent decision-making. Kerry has adjusted his stances with all the diversity at his command - in the heat of election time.

*If you're interested, here's a brief rebuttal of the report by former weapon inspector Scott Ritter

Thursday, October 07, 2004

"I thank you, Gwen...'

So, after Senator John Edwards warmly thanked Vice-President Dick Cheney for being at the debate - like the VP had something better to do - Cheney had to go out like that, hmm? Wow - he does contempt real good. Apparently, there's a remaining bit of drama we've overlooked under this whole dramatic campaign. Kerry and Bush are representative of a single generation, which contributes to the unusually primal nature of their foreign policy disagreements. But Edwards and Cheney - their contest remained beauty versus age, despite Edward's desire for a contest between experience and 'judgment'.

Edwards was dead on the bumpus in one area,
that of medical malpractice reform. Cheney gave a business response - cap the awards that juries give to the plaintiffs, limit the amount of the awards that lawyers can take. The Veep-presumptive, by contrast, suggested that the better path was to hold the cases themselves to a higher level of pre-trial scrutiny. As litigious as U.S. society is held to be, not every case can get a day in court. Why shouldn't malpractice plaintiffs offer compelling levels of proof to justify a jurist's time? A good, suggestive take on this subject, and there should be more discussions on this before the whole subject vanishes into the future.

But the candidates' discussion of the economy...
...uncovered one little moment that was telling of this campaign's whole approach to economic discussions: after Edwards pointed out 1.6 million net job loss in the private sector through 2003, Cheney responded with the 1.7 million jobs created through the first half of this year. Edwards then narrowed his eyes, held out his hands in pure supplicant form, and pled 'millions of people have lost their jobs.' HAH?? How did he add a 1.6 million net private sector job loss to a 1.7 million priv. sec gain and come up with 'Millions of people have lost their jobs'?

Yes yes, the jobs had to be lost to be gained again. Yes yes yes, I'm making a 'technical' point, because Edwards also mentioned 2.7 million manufacturing jobs lost. But numbers change for better as well as for worse even in the Bush
administration, and it's in moments like this were you can see the inflexibility of Edwards' campaign. Both he and Kerry should update their stats.

Here's another idea to update:
Edwards: "And what the most striking and startling thing is, they are the first presidency in 70 years -- and I'm talking Democrats, Republican, presidents who led us through World War, through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Cold War -- every one of them created jobs until this president."
A statement that won't stand up under literal scrutiny. You can bet every president within my and Edwards' lifetime have been accused of losing people their jobs. Because they probably did. And then jobs came up again. If they hadn't, we'd be approaching way over 70% unemployment. As of today, U.S. unemployment rate is holding at approximately 5.4%, the lowest since October 2001. It's been around that number for a while now. Is it asking too much to synthesize this into your argument and see how it fits?

The above argument gets on my nerves the same way that arguments against raising the minimum wage do: in arguing that a change in the min. wage throws beaucoup people out of work, opponents use a temporary, if painful, statistic as if it's a permanent state of being.

I think Cheney made a mistake...
...when he telescoped the bulk of his response to Edwards' assaults on Haliburton connections into a recommedation for viewers to check out www.factchecker.org , tho' he said 'factcheck.com' on the air - a neat little idea, and a great bit of advertising for a website. But there was really no point in Cheney's assertion that www.factchecke.org is non-partisan. At this stage of the game, 'non-partisan' from the mouth of a Republican is seen as a codeword for 'so partisan it eats peanuts with its' trunk'. Only repeated visits to the site, and repeated examinations of content, can supplant such an impression.

This is what Cheney should've said: 'I can't convince anyone that www.factcheck.org is non-partisan. You shouldn't take my or my opponent's word for this. Just read www.factcheck.org's Haliburton material and make your decision.' Anyway, Cheney sounded evasive about Haliburton and still, with no real proof offered by Edwards that there's much for Cheney to evade.

Of course, hearing Haliburton's name probably does get under Cheney's skin when it's said over and over with such strong accusations to no real political effect in 2000 and probably in 2004.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

October 4. 2004

On the first Bush-Kerry debate.

I feel isolated right now. So alone. The weblogs and the talk radio shows have been alive with disappointment with Bush's performance in last Thursday's debate, and giving Kerry some grudging kudos for his 'style'. My low expectations for a debate between our current giants-in-the-running made me only reluctantly tune in to the debate after getting home from my evening class....and was I surprised by a very civil and relatively straightforward dual press conference with some actual moments of tension for excitement.

Long ago annoyed with Bush's off-the-cuff way with, um, with his way with and such and words, I barely even listen to his speeches now, just read the transcripts when I like. But still, didn't Bush show a command of direct info that he's constantly alleged to not have? And did he ever break through some of Kerry's platitudes with idioms of his own. He'll read better in transcript than he sounded. And no-blood-for-oilmen take note: in the heat of the debate, Bush pled on behalf of the Iraqi people, again and again. The Iraqi people.

And Kerry! The polls giving him higher marks than Bush for performance were well earned. Kerry's basso is none too profundo, but he had a real advantage in vocal presence. The whole thing sounded like a radio show. Kerry was the host and Bush was a petitioner. If last Thursday was the first time I'd ever seen Kerry, I'd have thought he was a cold-eyed bird-of-prey with Iran, the Sudan, and North Korea already visible through to him the underbrush. And without any of these deadly opponents of America having so much as pissed on a wall in our direction (yet). This new Kerry hawk might just act like that. He talked up some kinda resolve, except for this weird tic about Iraq. The whole subject made him go all squiggly, like a radio with signal drift. No need to post any quotes, 'cause Kerry supporters have heard it all before. From him directly and from Bush over and over and over and over and over and over and......

Still, it's truly impressive how Kerry never betrayed the splittest of seconds of regret for some of the stupid things he said during the debate. Bush's folks are wondering why he didn't burst out laughing - in all seriousness - at Kerry's comment about giving Iran nuclear material to sort-of test 'em, find out their true intentions. And it's comments like this that draw out the toxin in my posts on this election.

But thanks to a remarkable set of circumstances, by which I mean my actual prior reading about Kerry, I confidently say that Kerry didn't, can't, and won't win any honest debate on substance until he puts a little of his own on the line: What are his plans for Iraq? Screw Kerry's need for secrecy -at this point, he's seems to be angling to be either Lyndon B. Johnson, or Richard Nixon. Will his supporters really accept war's dirty work if done by an antiwar Democrat? So pry Kerry's mouth open with a set of jaws-of-life if necessary but get him to say how he'll handle Iraq! He didn't mind giving away his North Korea strategy, did he? Next thing we know, he'll ask for your vote for the same reason he talked of sending fissionable stuff to Iran - to 'gimme a chance. Don't be such a square. Then, and only then, you'll find out what I'm gonna do.'

One curiosity of Kerry's stance is that he's the only presidential candidate I've known of who claims direct access to the private opinions of foreign leaders. The status of Senator doesn't really count so much here - did Sen. Bob Dole run against President Clinton in 1996 on a basis of knowing better what Europe et al told him in private? Even if he had, why would I have taken his word? The way Kerry deployed his claim of info about world opinion, it's become a mere tactic of belittlement. A calm insistance that the Texan's administration had tried to shirtsleeve everyone to help out with regime change in Iraq and just wasn't good at getting help. If Kerry didn't turn around and then lambast the Texan for acting "alone" maybe the previous assertion would've stuck. Then Kerry could explain how the incompetant Bush and Co. got the UN Security Council to accept Iraq resolution 1441 in the first place.

One more thing about the whole 'allies' angle of Kerry's campaign. When the UK and Australia and Poland do something with the US, and countries who've kicked in money or soldiers also, they become an alliance. An insufficient alliance, perhaps; a 'phony' alliance, well, no phonier than the alliances among the Iraq insurgents. See below comment.

Yo, what if Iraq really is central to the War On Terror?

Thanks to the grievance system supported by the far reaches of the Islamic faith, the number of Middle Eastern countries represented among the insurgency constitute an alliance that is unique in the Arab world. Where else in the Western world's conflicts with the Muslim world have so many nationals fought so hard (so 'vociferously' - thanks a lot, Bush) on behalf of a Muslim country's turf? In Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, did anyone from any ME nation or terror group help the Muslims against the Christian forces? No. How 'bout the Allied prescence in Kuwait in 1991, did terror groups or national army help Hussein then? No. Did they help fight off the subsequent US forces permitted to stay in Saudi Arabia? In Yemen, yes, but otherwise, no. Did they believe we were justified in these actions. No.

But for Iraq in 2003 onward, various and sundry groups go to the wall. By definition and for whatever reason, Iraq is central to the goals and security of the Islamofascists. And it's unlikely to have been a last-minute decision.

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