Assume the Position

Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Jamal Khashoggi, Deputy Editor in Chief of Arab News, Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, wrote an editorial that appeared in the Arab News "9/11 Special - Tragedy Revisited" and in Cairo, Egypt's Al-Ahram Weekly the week of 12-18 September, 2002. In both, it was titled, "To whom it may concern." Unlike the usual anti-American diatribes or the milder 'terrible-but-you-know-its-America's-fault' routine, this editorial wasn't addressed to America. I don't know if it was published in Arabic, but here are the Arab News and Al-Ahram Weekly versions (the only differences between them are the paragraph breaks, Arab News' seem to be correct). Although it has plenty of fiskable elements ("misguided Saudis" indeed), Khashoggi is possibly being as blunt as he can (emphasis added):
WE Saudis have not yet even begun to look realistically and objectively at the attacks of Sept. 11. We have not yet realized the full implications of the event on our society. If we had, we would have authorized study after study to analyze and understand the causes and so to protect ourselves and our future generations from a repeat of the horror.

Osama Bin Laden’s hijacked planes apparently destroyed more than the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. They inflicted a mortal blow to Islam as a religion of tolerance and co-existence. His acts irreparably damaged the interests of entire Muslim countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. Some of us here in the Kingdom still deny and doubt the identities of those who carried out the attacks. We tend to believe in every wild conspiracy theory, particularly if it comes from foreign sources. We are not willing to look at the 19 Muslims — mostly Saudis — as the real culprits though it has been established that their families lost trace of them and their friends say they went on jihad. Yet some of us are still obsessed with such questions and comments as:

“Are you sure that these youths are the real hijackers? There is every possibility their passports were stolen as part of a deliberate attempt to distort the image of Arabs and Muslims?”

“Those men could have been ordinary innocent airline passengers who were implicated by US authorities.”

“Isn’t it far-fetched to believe that Osama had access to the sophisticated technology needed to carry out airborne precision attacks?” or “Haven’t you heard the French expert who says that the Pentagon was attacked, but not by a plane?”

We should stop such incoherent and pointless twaddle and acknowledge that 15 of the hijackers were misguided Saudis. Hundreds of our young men lost their lives between Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan in the most tragic circumstances. Is it not a huge deception to believe that these youths are martyrs and heroes who attempted to defend Islam? Has not the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that when two Muslims fight each other both of them — the killer and the killed — are in hellfire? Did not our youth in fact go to Afghanistan to kill other Muslims?

Yes, we do have extremists and fanatics just like the rest of the world. Step No. 1 should be to stop denying this fact. Step No. 2 should be to confront these extremists and tell them that they are a part of a system and that they have to respect the voice of the majority. And who constitute that majority? We, the moderate people of Saudi Arabia.

Khashoggi gets away with naming Osama bin Laden (stripped of Saudi citizenship in 1994), but he doesn't tackle the fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics as directly,
What in our society produced the change that allowed and tolerated the preachers of extremism to make their ideas acceptable to the young?

Why did the “unknown propagandists” succeed in persuading young Saudi men to go to Afghanistan?
though there is little doubt they are who he is talking about. While this missive might be part of the Saudi PR campaign for US consumption, it could also be a not-so-subtle hint from the House of Saud (assuming they control Arab News) that the "unknown propagandists" aren't so unknown and that established semi-official wellspring of forebearance is about to run dry.

Coups and rumors of coups. Bill Quick posted a STRATFOR bulletin that says another coup in Venezuela is "imminent."
A military coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is imminent, according to STRATFOR sources in Caracas and the United States. The attempt could be launched within days or even hours.

The Chavez regime already has deployed hundreds of soldiers throughout Caracas. The government also has begun conducting raids on the homes of politicians and military officers suspected of direct involvement in the plot.

Confirmation of an imminent effort to oust Chavez comes less than 48 hours before a planned Oct. 10 protest march in Caracas. Some opposition groups predict the march will attract between 600,000 and 1 million people demanding Chavez's resignation and new national elections.

Chavez has said repeatedly during the past two weeks that the Oct. 10 march is part of a conspiracy to topple him. Simultaneously, the government has unleashed an escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation against political opponents. The Chavez regime also is warning that violence is likely at the march in an effort to discourage people from taking part.

Reuters put out an alert on the same subject.

CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities said on Monday they were investigating an alleged coup plot against President Hugo Chavez, but did not immediately charge the former foreign minister accused of being the ringleader.

The confusing coup allegations -- swiftly dismissed by foes of Chavez -- fueled rumors of fresh conspiracies in the world's fifth largest oil exporter six months after rebel military officers briefly deposed the populist president.

Opposition leaders have dismissed the conspiracy as a government-orchestrated show aimed at discrediting them and sabotaging a large anti-government march planned for Thursday.

In the off chance that there is a coup and Chavez is tossed out of office again, and considering the spasms of the idiotarians when Bush didn't get sufficiently upset over the brief April coup, I've a suggestion for how Bush should handle this one.
  • Immediately denounce the coup.
  • Announce that the US will take no unilateral action.
  • Make the following public statement to the United Nations and European Union:
  1. Whereas the United States still has military forces performing peacekeeping missions in Macedonia, Kosovo, and elsewhere on the European continent,
  2. Whereas the United States still has military forces maintaining the No-Fly Zones over northern and southern Iraq to protect the Kurdish and Shiite minorities, and
  3. Whereas the United States still has military forces engaged in Afghanistan, searching out remaining al Qaeda and Taliban forces and engaging in nation building, and
  4. Remaining cognizant of applicable articles of the United Nations charter and Geneva Conventions,
  5. Calls for the United Nations and European Union to take any necessary action required to restore the democratically elected President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, to his office;
  6. Charges the UN and EU to ensure the physical safety of President Chavez and his family; and
  7. Determines that the United States will take no action regarding this matter aside from bitching and moaning about any and every action you propose,
  8. Further stresses that the United States will revile and ridicule you for any and every mistake you make if you eventually get around to taking any action, and
  9. Will remain seized of the issue to ensure that we don't miss any opportunity point and laugh at your fumbling.

Carnival of the Vanities #3 is up over on Silflay Hraka and Blogcritics. Drop by and check out a new (to you) blog.

Spin, spun, splat. The Grey Lady's heavy-handed bias was on front page display again according to both David Tell in the Weekly Standard (link via Media Minded) and Dick Morris in the New York Post (link via Drudge). Both Tell and Morris slam the NYT over its reporting on the latest CBS/NYT poll.
David Tell:
The bias in question, however, may well be without precedent; I can't remember anything quite like it, at least. "Poll Says Bush Needs to Pay Heed to Weak Economy," written up by Times correspondents Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder, and awarded pride of place--the front-page lede--in yesterday morning's edition, isn't just slanted (or misleading or imbalanced or overstated or any other word commonly applied to such things). The story is an outright fraud, a falsehood, a work of fiction.
Dick Morris:
"PUBLIC Says Bush Needs To Pay Heed To Weak Economy," blared yesterday's New York Times. Based on a telephone survey last week of 564 registered voters, the article claimed a majority of American voters believed that the president is spending too much time talking about Iraq while neglecting domestic problems. But take a close look at the poll: The phrasing of the questions is so slanted and biased that it amounts to journalistic "push polling" - the use of "objective" polling to generate a predetermined result, and so vindicate a specific point of view
Morris' characterization of the poll is apt for the questions he uses as examples. Considering the rest of the questions in the poll, however, it does not appear that the poll is necessarily too slanted—but that the NYT cherry-picked the questions it reported on and provided in a pop-up chart. The four slants Morris nails come straight from the chart. He apparently didn't see the actual poll results, he used only what NYT readers and website viewers would get.

Tell, on the other hand, gives a nod to CBS News: "But CBS News, which has reported the same poll with a great deal more circumspection, and therefore has less to be embarrassed about, has posted the survey's entire script--along with all the relevant raw numbers (readers with Adobe Acrobat software can see for themselves here). And those numbers, it turns out, say the New York Times has . . . well, lied about its own public opinion research."

He's right, the CBS reports on the poll are much more even-handed than the NYT's. What's difficult however, is that CBS split their reporting on the poll into two stories, "Poll: What Voters Care About" and "War With Iraq: Americans In No Hurry" (the link in Tell's article). Likewise, the raw numbers are provided in separate pdf files linked to in the two stories. To get the whole poll, and understand the interplay of the questions, you need both pdf files:

The first pdf file is on the November elections and contains questions 1-9, 11, 12, 14-26, 29, 31, 34, 35, 59, 61, 62, and 68-87.

The second pdf file is about war with Iraq and contains questions 27, 28, 32, 33, 36-58, 60, 66, and 67.

Questions 10,13, 30, and 63-65 are not in either file; they may have been demographic, tossed out, or possibly separated out for another CBS News story.

Neither pdf is over 20k, so downloading them both and reading the actual results (including breakdown by major party affiliation: Rep-Dem-Ind) is probably better than reading the CBS coverage, and definitely better than reading the NYT's slant. Don't be upset, however, if none of the results seem very surprising.

Monday, October 07, 2002
Now the fun begins. The US Supreme Court denied the stay requested by Republicans in the NJ Senate race. The order [pdf] reads:



    The application for stay presented to Justice Souter and by him referred to the Court is denied.

That means NJ can produce ballots with Lautenberg on them in place of Torricelli.

That, apparently, does not mean the Court refused to hear the case. They could have denied cert, but they haven't; at least not yet.

Nor does it mean the the Court "approved" the substitution. It does tend to indicate several probabilities:

  • The Court thinks it will probably deny cert.
  • The Court thinks it would probably find for the Democrats if they hear the case.
  • The Court thinks that even if they found for the Republicans, the potential harm caused by the substitution is not likely to be substantial enough to warrant a stay pending hearing the case.
There is a long-shot possibility that the Supreme Court could simply wait until after the election before deciding whether to hear the case or not. If Lautenberg wins, they could deny cert, which would mean they wouldn't overturn the election by finding for Forrester; but, if Forrester wins, they could hear the case and decide to lay the smack on the NJ Supreme Court (and all other state supreme courts by extension) without being accused of interferring in the election. (It's a very long-shot because the Court rarely takes on cases that have already been rendered moot by events.)

Meanwhile, this is probably a good decision for the Republicans. They can shrug and say they tried to uphold the law and then get on with the campaign. The thing for them to really go after will be Lautenberg's campaign spending. I think the Democrats are going to find it incredibly difficult to run a one-month campaign for the Senate seat without violating various campaign finance laws. That's what the Republicans need to keep an eye on.

UPDATE: The grey material above is wrong; I misunderstood and thought the request for a stay was just part of Forrester's appeal to the Supreme Court.

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