Assume the Position

Friday, September 13, 2002
 
Conspiracy or visibility? Scott Koenig refers to conjectures like mine of yesterday as conspiracy theory:
Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, might claim that this was intended as a staged demonstration of the US Customs Service's competence in the wake of an ABC News reporter "smuggling" depleted uranium into Manhattan.
I don't think there was a "conspiracy," nor do I think there was a "staged demonstration." I think what ABC did was a "stunt" and so I used "counter-stunt" as a bit of rhetorical balance. I simply think the authorities made sure the press got plenty of information about the M/V Palermo Senator investigation to get visibility to counter to the ABC report. I don't know if the authorities did much more than they would ordinarily do under the conditions (heightened alert status and the President speaking in New York), but I suspect they would have been a little tighter-lipped about calling in the "Nuclear Emergency Search Team and Special Operations forces" if there had been no ABC "nuclear smuggling" report.


Thursday, September 12, 2002
 
Cinderella Bloggerfeller has posted his review of Jacques Derrida’s book, "Spectres of Marx."
…if I really wanted to play a cruel practical joke on Derrida I'd break into his house and disable all the apostrophes on his keyboard. Taking away a postmodernist's scare quotes is like stealing the white stick from a blind man.
And that's not part of the review, just the intro.


 
Erin O'Connor on the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies honoring Edward Said:
For those who are troubled by the moral relativism and ideological rigidity the academic left brings to its understanding of the 9/11 attacks and to subsequent events in the Middle East, the planned coincidence of Said's recognition and 9/11 remembrance will feel like a cruel joke at history's--and humanity's--expense.


 
Even an self-professed idiotarian ("…those of us who share that distinguished triumvirate's [Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal and Ramsey Clark] world view…") isn't wrong about everything, as this shows. (link via Tim Blair)
The Left of Smith, though, while preaching equality and brotherly love between all races, conveniently does allow for exceptions. All men are equal; all men, that is, except Americans, Serbs, white Africans and Protestants from Northern Ireland. Those unfortunate enough to be members of these groups can be freely called all the names under the sun without fear of opprobrium. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe can yell "Africa is for the Africans" without a single letter of protest in the left-wing Guardian. Were a right-wing European politician to make similar comments about Europe, indignant readers would be sending in their emails within seconds.

After the events of September 11, it has been the Americans' turn to be on the receiving end of the particularly nasty form of racism of the Left. Much of this nastiness is due to an insidious form of left-wing snobbery based on a complete misconception of many aspects of American life and society.

Too bad you've failed to apply that understanding to update your world view, Mr. Clark.


 
Stunt and counter-stunt. So, ABC News pulls it's nuclear smuggling stunt (link via Indepundit) and the following day the government searches a ship for nuclear material (link via LGF).

Despite what ABC says ("'It is a perfect mockup,' said Cochran. 'It replicates everything but the capability to explode.'") their mockup was more equivalent to an air-conditioning compressor from a Chevy Blazer packed alongside a self-illuminating (tritium) "Exit" sign. Notice what they say at the end of their report: "The material ABCNEWS moved was not dangerous and entirely legal to transport." Since depleted uranium can be shielded with aluminum foil, their use of a "steel pipe with a lead lining" for shielding was so much overkill that their mock-up would be undetectable. X-rays would show a metal cylinder, but chemical explosive sniffers and radiation counters wouldn't register anything suspicious. If their mock-up had been emitting detectable radiation, then they certainly would have mentioned it somewhere in their report.

[What would have been really funny is if some curious Turkish customs official had demanded the container in the case be opened and Brian Ross wound up spending 15 years in a Turkish prison for "smuggling nuclear material." ABC was willing to pull this attention-getting stunt because there was ZERO chance of that happening.]

As for the M/V Palermo Senator, my bet is that she turns up empty. "THE SHIP, WHICH arrived in New York Harbor late Monday, was ordered back to sea on Wednesday as a result of the intelligence and initial tests showing slightly elevated radiation levels in a cargo hold, the officials said." Elevated in relation to the open-air background radiation level? I don't think there is a ship in harbor or on the sea that doesn't have "slightly elevated radiation levels in a cargo hold" when compared to the background radiation; and comparing the readings of the various cargo holds, one cargo hold will, of course, always have a "slightly" higher reading than the others, since it's unlikely any will read identically.

The M/V Palermo Senator will get a clean bill of health with the radiation attributed to some routine source, but the government will be able to say that they would have detected ABC's mockup if there'd actually been anything worth detecting.

Neither stunt really means much.


UPDATE: September 13, "Hunt for radioactive cargo leads to batch of clay tiles". (Thanks to this comment to this asparagirl post.)


UPDATE 2: September 13, MSNBC has updated the story at the original link, above. The original head and sub was:

Ship searched for nuclear material
Initial tests found elevated radiation levels in cargo hold

Now it reads:

Tiles suspected in ship radiation alert
Clay from Spain believed responsible for elevated reading
The story itself is substantially modified. I don't know whether there is an ethical problem with that or not, since it's of much more substance than correcting a typo or two. On the one hand, people who linked and discussed the original story might look rather foolish to others who follow the link after the change has been made. On the other hand, updating the story at the original link ensures that people who follow the link get the most updated news about the ship. Personally, I think it would be better to at least indicate it is an updated report and either follow it with the original reporting, or provide a link to a new URL that contains the original story.


 
The King of Bahrain, a tiny archipelago in the Persian Gulf and currently home of the US 5th Fleet, is probably saying, "Told ya so," or its equivalent in Arabic.

From President Bush's speech before the UN, today:

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions.

But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced, the just demands of peace and security will be met or action will be unavoidable and a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind.

By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well.

The King of Bahrain as reported by GulfNews, September 8th:
No one, including the Arabs and the international community, can get in the way of military action against Iraq if the U.S. administration decides to strike, says His Majesty the King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

He nevertheless reaffirmed Bahrain's opposition to "strike any country unless there was a valid justification within the international legitimacy.

"For the sake of the Iraqi people, we urge the Iraqi leadership to accept without delay the return of the international weapons inspectors according to the Security Council resolutions," Sheikh Hamad was quoted as saying in an interview with the new Bahraini Arabic daily, Al Wasat in its first edition yesterday.

"But we all know that if a military strike is decided, no one can stop it," he added.



Tuesday, September 10, 2002
 
Tom Veal of Stromata takes a look at the "European street" and has some surprising findings. (link via Bjørn Stærk)
A new poll of U.S. and European views on war and peace, trendily titled "Worldviews 2002", appeared this week. From its 45 page summary of findings, almost all news accounts have extracted just two factoids: that 60 percent of Europeans believe that the U.S. should invade Iraq only "with UN approval and the support of its allies" and that 55 percent agree with the statement, "American foreign policy has contributed to the September 11 attacks". Those are interesting tidbits, but other results are more significant. If the survey is reasonably accurate, vigorous U.S. action against terrorism in general and Saddam Hussein in particular enjoys far more support on the "European street" than among the continent's politicians, journalists and intelligentsia.
Just two of the numerous items Tom points out:
Europeans like America as well as they like each other. Asking people to rate the warmth of their feelings for a country on a scale of zero to 100 is a pretty fuzzy technique, so one should not lean heavily on these results. Still, the mean score for the U.S. among Europeans was 64 - compared to 70 for the EU as a whole, 65 for Britain and Germany, 62 for France and 47 for Russia. We ranked above everybody else among Britons and Poles, above Germany, Britain and France among Italians, and above Britain and France among Germans.

Though they don't want to pay for military forces, Europeans aren't reluctant to use them. Majorities - generally overwhelming - were willing to commit their country's troops to every mission suggested by the poll takers: "ensure the supply of oil" (49%-45%), "destroy a terrorist camp" (75%-21%), "help bring peace in a region where there is civil war" (72%-24% (only 48%-43% among Americans)), "liberate hostages" (78%-18%), "assist a population struck by famine" (88%-10%) or "uphold international law" (80%-16%).



 
Paul Wright does a thorough takedown of Salman Rushdie's Sydney Morning Herald piece.

It opens:

Salman Rushdie represents the best the Left has to offer: talented, erudite, calm, utterly principled. And wrong.
It closes:
For a writer who owes his very life to continuing protection by Western liberal states, Rushdie is remarkably silent on the need to rid the world of fanatical theocracies and dictatorships. His own experiences at the hand of right-wing religious assassins does not seem to have left him much sympathy for victims unable to command his level of public protection.
Of course, the really good stuff is between those endpoints.


Monday, September 09, 2002
 
Here you go, Zell. Donald Sensing and Cato the Youngest answer Senator Zell Miller's constituents' 10 questions about war with Iraq. May Bush's answers be just as straightforward.


 
Andrea Harris provides one part of the answer to why there is a continuous bleating about a nonexistent censorship accompanied by moans about some mythical demise of dissent.
They are not suffering very much from any real slings and arrows; they are quite comfortably removed from most difficulties, at least of the political variety. They know, intellectually at least, that the sufferings of many of the dissidents of the past were not the same as the sort of irritation caused by having someone challenge their arguments, but so unused are they to any real pain and suffering that they think that the painful shock of having their views rejected is the same as being beaten, and that the continued objections to their screeds is the same thing as being forbidden to emit them.
But, Matt Welch could be mistaken in one respect, maybe "dissent" really is dead; but if so, it's a case of suicide, not murder. Like so many terms, "dissent" and "dissenter" have been almost completely usurped by a self-marginalizing clique so far removed from mainstream thought that when they are not being ignored they deserve little more than derision and ridicule. Matt is right that there is plenty of discussion and argument going on, but the self-styled "dissenters" who have replaced discourse with vilification and fact-based argument with misstatements and fabrications have only two ways of getting attention: 1) couple their pronouncements to cries of "censorship" or 2) exaggerate their claims beyond all bounds of rationality.

"Dissenters" have turned "dissent" into the pastime of fools and I don't know whether it's worth trying to take the word back or not.



 
Two good roundups of bloggers' responses to Alex S. Jones' "Why Do Many Readers Hate Us Again?" in Editor & Publisher. Toren Smith puts together a compilation and adds this good point, among others:
Any time I find myself arguing with someone who insists "it must be true because I read it in the paper," my approach is simple. I ask them about they last time the media reported on their particular area of expertise, be it their job or hobby. Invariably they are unable to resist ranting about how "they got it all wrong." Okay, then--the one time the media reports on something where you know the facts, they screw it up. So why do you believe them on everything else?
Well...?
This falls under the heading Reader Beware. Journalists are rarely experts on whatever subject they are reporting about, and some can hardly be considered experts at journalism. Subject matter experts themselves often find it difficult to accurately summarize and/or simplify their information for a general audience. Experts often have their own agenda, especially those given space to do an article or guest commentary. Additionally, many so-called experts aren't, they're activists who've simply proclaimed themselves to be experts. But even in the case where the basic information comes from a real expert, by the time the writer and editor get done "punching it up" to make it more "interesting" and throw in some "background material" from who-knows-where, the story they produce can wind up being mostly wrong. (Not to mention the times where they get even the basic facts wrong.)

Laurence Simon takes off the clown makeup, puts on a 10-gallon hat, duster and chaps, and corrals 14 bloggers (so far) for his roundup. Toren mentions it, but Laurence's comments in numerous places really stress the business of the media's grasping for viewers to sell to advertisers:

…the Press has contempt for the people because they are deliberately targeting at a least-common-denominator audience…

Since they target the sub-100 IQ-ers and easily influenced into shopping decisions, they feel that they have to tell them how to think because they can do it. They also have to praise themselves constantly for their efforts as a form of advertising and self-promotion…

Bingo.

My own small gripe, since all the big ones have been covered, is press release journalism. I'd rather they just print the press releases, heading and all, instead of pretending they are reporting a story when 90 percent or more of their report is just a direct copy and some slight paraphrasing of an organization's press release. If I can't easily separate the press release spin from what should be the reporter's additions (background, opposing views, etc.) then I'm being misled.


UPDATE - July 20, 2004: Link-rot has struck Toren's and Laurence's compilations, however, at least Toren's is still available through the Google cache, here (scroll down to the September 9th entries).



Sunday, September 08, 2002
 
Hardly a "secret." Helle Dale, "deputy director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation," writes in the Washington Times about France and ICC (link via CPO Sparkey):
As the European nations met last Friday to discuss their common position at the EU meeting — for the EU is supposed to have a common foreign and defense policy these days — it was revealed, much to the surprise of other EU members, that the French government had secretly negotiated a seven-year exemption for its own peacekeepers back in 1998.

"I was somewhat surprised that France, despite signing the ICC, had been granted this exemption," noted Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. Interestingly, demanding exceptions is exactly what Europeans have attacked the Americans for doing.

So the Swedish Foreign Minister was "somewhat suprised" about something I had covered back on July 10th and again on July 14th. Not that I expect any Foreign Minister to read my blog, but since I pulled the information straight off of the UN ICC pages, it shouldn't be a "suprise" because it was never a "secret."


 
Norah Vincent whines about "nasty riffraff and wannabe pundits" in the "so-called blogosphere." Bigwig tells her the score:
Now quit whining. You're a blogger now, even if you prefer to be called a journalist, and you don't get to decide who is a bottom feeding blogmonster and who is not. No one does. We're not interns at the paper, to bring you coffee and hang around hoping to hear a pearl of wisdom drop from your lips, or to flutter our eyelashes and feel faint at the slightest word of praise. Nor will your words of displeasure rock our little world. You're just another blogger, with the same credentials as any other beginner.

We don't really care what your outside credentials are, and you flashing them at us and insisting that we fall down in awe of them isn't going to work. If it did, then the NYT wouldn't catch the hell it catches.
Welcome to a real meritocracy, Norah. You write your own ledes and there's no editor to mess-up clean-up your work—nobody to blame but yourself when things come out wrong (except possibly Blogger/BlogSpot when your archives have trouble). And when somebody in the blogosphere gets around to really fact-checking your ass to the nth-degree, which will happen sooner-or-later (ignoring that overblown Jackson Browne lyric flap), it's going to show up as soon as they post it—not sit in some editor's in-box until you get a heads-up or it goes into the trash instead of on the Letters page. You and Sullivan can pretend you're sitting at the pro-journo table on the balcony while the rest of the peons are standing in line for counter-service, but that won't stop everybody from noticing if you've got spinach stuck between your teeth and a trail of toilet paper snaking away from your heel.



Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.