Monday, May 31, 2004

Does The Progressive Know... 
That the Howard Zinn essay in the current issue is a reedited version of what seems to be the exact same manuscript as one published in The Nation just a few weeks ago?
Do they know they bought a reprint?

Did The Nation buy anything more than one time rights? I usually sign contracts granting publication rights for a year.

Any editor I know would be furious. If I got a reputation for sneaking rehashed stuff as new I'd never work again. Especially for a magazine that reaches substantially the same audience.

If neither publication bought exclusive rights AND they knew what they were getting, then no big deal. Otherwise, I'd be pretty peeved if I edited either mag.

Splash, out


An Impenetrable Cheesecloth 
Here's a spokesperson for the French Ministry of Defense on the extraordinary security measures being taken in preparation for the expected attendence of 16 heads of state at the 60th anniversary of D-Day:

"The dangers are multiple, from a hijacked airliner being crashed into the stands at the main international ceremony at Arromanches to a tiny bomb being detonated remotely. But we are stretching an impenetrable fabric of protection above Normandy."

Yeah. The Maginot Line worked out so well for you guys last time.

Think you'll be able to get a UN Security Council authorization to shoot in time?

You don't want to waste a minute! Better make sure the surrender documents are already drawn up and sitting on the French Ambassador to Germany's desk, waiting to be presented at the first hint of trouble.

Splash, out


Sunday, May 30, 2004

"It Lies:" The latest polling from CBS 
Captain's Quarters has dissected the latest CBS presidential election poll, and noticed something rather damning:

"It lies."

Here's why:

The CBS poll uses only 1113 registered voters, broken down in an unusual manner: 346 Republicans, 390 Democrats, and 377 independents. Since when are there that many more Democrats than Republicans? The poll then shows its "weighting" (although it doesn't explain what it means), and the numbers get even worse: 330-R, 401-D, 381-I. According to the University of Pennsylvania in 2003, Republicans accounted for 32.5% of the registered electorate, while Democrats accounted for 33.7%. In a sample of 1113 voters, you would then expect to see 361-R, 375-D, 376-I. The result CBS's sample is to throw off representation for Republicans by 8.6%, while bolstering Democrats by 7% and independents by 1.3%, using CBS' weighting.

Captain's Quarters has more (scroll down a bit.)

It smells like a regional bias to me. The polling was likely done from a couple of boughten marketing lists that are, for whatever reason, biased towards blue states or the coastal regions.

Nonetheless, it's pretty embarrassing for a major network to get busted on such sloppy methodology.

Good catch, CQ!

Splash, out


The World's Greatest Humanitarian Catastrophe 
The Washington Post has some suggestions for dealing with the genocide now occuring in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Here's a chance for the UN to shake its well-earned image as the world confederacy of the craven.

Don't count on these leopards to change their spots, though.

Splash, out


Will the Democrats Invite the Boy Scouts to their Convention This Year 
And risk a replay of them getting booed off the stage as they present our nation's colors, like they did last time?

I'm interested.

French Crowd Boos Serena Williams 
Very classy.


"Two Vain, Young, Trash-Mouthed Skanks" 
Here's Michelle Malkin on the media attention given to the Capitol Hill Callgirl and the Elder Stateswoman of Smut, Wonkette:

This female Beavis and Butthead duo illustrate what normal Americans hate about the Capitol scene: narcissism, moral bankruptcy and self-congratulatory media-political incest. The Washington Post's legitimization of this shallow "story" illustrates something else: the mainstream media's perverted moral values. The paper's recent profiles and features of social conservatives drip with condescension and ridicule. Religious activists are portrayed as intolerant homophobes; Republicans as gun-toting rubes; abstinence promoters as freaks.

But give The Washington Post two vain, young, trash-mouthed skanks who couldn't care less about what their parents think of their sex-drenched infamy, and the newspaper can't wait to help make them full-fledged members of the media elite.

Hey, if Jayson Blair, Monica Lewinski, and Kelli Flynn, and Micah Ian Wright can all score book deals, I guess I know what I have to do.

More off color anagrams!


Hat tip, ironically, to Wonkette, who issues a barbed and humorous counterattack of her own (smutty though it may be.)

A Frightening Prospect: 
Here's John Leo:

Pew reports that just 7 percent of journalists and news executives call themselves conservative, compared with 33 percent of the general public. The self-identified liberals (34 percent) are five times as common as conservatives in the news business. As you might imagine, this got very little play in the mainstream media. Howard Kurtz did a good job with it at the Washington Post. But that was about it. Those who did report or comment on the survey tended to play up the large number of news people (54 percent) who call themselves moderate. Why is it such a big deal to have a newsroom that's only a third liberal? asked Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?

I would say that the big deal is that media workers are becoming more liberal at a fairly rapid pace--up from 22 percent nine years ago to 34 percent now, according to Pew. It would be a bigger deal if the hiring of liberals reached the point (as it has in the academic world) where conservatives don't bother to apply for jobs.

I hadn't thought of the subject in those terms. And the prospect is truly disturbing.

Have we reached that tipping point already? John Leo works in media, and those in media would be the last to realize what was happening.

I've known conservatives and moderates who have quit journalism in frustration and disgust--generally over absurd requirements to find black experts to give their lacrosse story ethnic balance. But I have no sense as to how widespread that phenomenon is. Anecdotes?

Splash, out


Unpatriotic vs. Treasonous: A Survey 
From a reader:

I'm writing because I just read your reply to the critical e-mail from the
"moderate conservative". I'm asking you, please, to stay the course (Bush
41 :-)). The liberal media is becoming more extreme in its slanted
reporting and you're just holding them to account. It's almost as if the
closer Bush 43 comes to succeeding at anything, this media goes out of its
way to try to smear any success. So please do not alter your editorial bias
nor your meticulous critical style. This leads me to a simple, yet vexing,
question that you may wish to explore with your readers.

We know that free speech has limitations. The typical example given is
hollering "Fire" in a crowded theatre. We know that the right to dissent is
guaranteed by the Constitution. But my simple question is: "At what point
does dissent cross the line into unpatriotic and at what point does
unpatriotic cross the line into treasonous?". I'm reminded of Jane Fonda's
acts during the Vietnam War.

My view of unpatriotic behavior is a lot like Justice Potter's famous view of pornography: "I know it when I see it."

I don't feel the need to criminalize unpatriotic behavior. I've never been a supporter of laws banning flag burning--they just make it easier to figure out who the idiots were. Besides--the flag is a national emblem--not a graven image.

Since treason is a crime--and we have an overwhelming national interest in keeping it that way--then the definition of treason needs to be carefully defined for the purpose of legal prosecutions, and carefully limited so that the harsh penalties that treason rightly warrants are not vested upon the merely unpatriotic.

Americans such as John Walker Lindh and Nick Padilla, who join Al Qaeda or the Taliban or conspire to assist them long after Al Qaeda had publicly declared war against the United States, I believe are clearly guilty of treason.

I am not a death penalty supporter, generally, but Lindh's case really pushed my limits.

If nothing else, Lindh should have become an intelligence source four our side after September 11th, 2001.

I do not believe that Jane Fonda's trip to Hanoi constituted treason. She did not take up arms against our country, nor did she materially assist those who did. Any propaganda advantage the communists gained from the photo opportunity was marginal and speculative. Her views were aligned with a sizable minority of the American public at the time, and so not nearly so far outside of the mainstream as Lindh's. Her trip to Hanoi aside, her views, while misguided, could reasonably be classified as legitimate dissent.

I've seen some apocryphal reporting that our own POWs nearby recieved extra torture correlated with her visit. But such treatment could not reasonably have been foreseen by a barely post-adolescent idiot.

So Fonda was not guilty of treason, but simply of reprehensible and unpatriotic behavior.

I can't imagine a journalist committing outright treason in the normal course of his duties. If he learns a state secret and passes that on to the enemy to give them some advantage, then that would certainly be treason, but it is not part of his job as a journalist.

If he learns a state secret and deems it newsworthy and reports it out of the interests of exposure, public service, watchdogism, etc. (i.e., Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers), then he may be guilty of violating a state secrets act, but not of commiting treason.

One of the legal tests in that case should be whether the enemy--or potential enemy--gains any *material* advantage from learning the information. A propaganda coup should not, of itself, be sufficient to warrant the harshest penalties under the law.

And if the only reason the information was classified was to prevent embarrassment to the military or other government bodies, then obviously the government was wrong to classify it, and such classification was merely an abuse of power.

And if the reporter happens to uncover a deliberate, classified scheme to mislead the American people or their representatives in congress, then viva la fourth estate!

If the first amendment protects pornography, then certainly it affects unpatriotic journalism too, including odious opionion pieces by Ted Rall and Robert Scheer. Their columns are not treasonous by any definition. Ted Rall's content is unpatriotic. I'm not sure yet if I'd drop Scheer in the category, because I still believe in the concept of a 'loyal opposition;' even a fierce one.

But I'm glad the truly unpatriotic are out there, and protected under the First Amendment, because the free press helps me efficiently discern the morons in our midst.

Splash, out


Saturday, May 29, 2004

Ted Rall Strikes Again... 
I don't know how I missed this Ted Rall gem when it came out:

Now it's official: American troops occupying Iraq have become virtually indistinguishable from the SS. Like the Germans during World War II, they cordon off and bomb civilian villages to retaliate for guerilla attacks on their convoys. Like the blackshirts who terrorized Europe, America's victims disappear into hellish prisons ruled by sadists and murderers. The U.S. military is short just one item to achieve moral parity with the Nazis: gas chambers.


Longtime readers may recall that I once defended Ted Rall.

Now I'm sorry I did.

Splash, out


On Bloggers and Blogging 
G.A. Cerny has a worthwhile post on bloggers, blogging, and authenticity. (Scroll down to "Poets, Bloggers, and Emailers")

How should we assess first hand accounts of the situation in Iraq?
Sullivan prints, quite uncritically, even without any attempt at authentication, e-mails from the front. Other bloggers do the same.

Quite a few on the pro-war side, notably Roger Simon, promote a few Iraqi bloggers as proof that things are better than the media is telling you.

Most striking is the unanimity of opinion these bloggers reproduce. For all the support our troops have, at least according to these sources, it's a wonder that any uniformed American ever gets shot at.

Partly, this is because of the sources they choose. Anyone writing to a pro-war blogger is likely to be pro-war. The English-language Iraq bloggers are, whatever else they may be, capable of writing in English. Moreover, dissenting voices, or even different ones, don't get linked to as often, as least not from these bloggers. Riverbend comes to mind, as does this gripping account of an American soldier Alex Zucker linked. (To be fair to the right, Juan Cole doesn't link to Iraq the Model.)

Time and time again, bloggers and soldiers are given primacy over journalists. Which is not to say, of course, that newspaper accounts shouldn't be taken with some salt, but rather to question the practice of wolfing down some information without any seasoning at all.

Let me focus on the anonymous e-mails from soldiers. They run to a type, as Neal Pollock pointed out. Without in any way challenging the authenticity of the experiences of these soldiers, the honesty of the letter-writers, or the value of first-hand experience, there is much reason to be skeptical of an account by any particular soldier.

I don't challenge the validity of the blogs and emails from Iraq. But I question whether they are exhaustive.


Update: An officer serving in Iraq writes in:

The difference between soldier-bloggers and journalists is that they rarely claim their reports are reflective of all events in the country. They almost universally use the term "from my foxhole" or one like it. They don't pretend they understand the totality of the situation from their own limited experience. The same cannot be said for most of the 'journalists' who file reports from the Al Rasheed Hotel that are based on press releases, not even their own experiences. Many or most of them claim an understanding of the environment that a mere soldier doesn't have the intellect to grasp.

Just for fun 
Match these often disgusting Anagrams to prominent names in the news:

Fondles Dr. DuMal
Let Rage Orb
Ham Labia Chad
Horny Jerk
Rubbed a Goy's Huge...
Be Saud Boy Hugger
I Deny Check
A hard-on dew
Top Wiz; Foul Law
A Not Ungay Bath
Boob Wordwad
A Hirsute Porn Maniac

Damn lies, Guardian Lies, and Statistics (Off Topic) 
The Guardian's Polly Toynbee has a theory that 1.) The US is the most unequal society in the world, while the Scandinavians had the most equal; 2.) That the US is the most obese society in the world, while the Scandinavians are the least obese society in the world, and that 3.) It follows that inequality must cause obesity. Simply increase the levels of equality in the US, and we'll lose weight like magic.

Point number 3 is logically fallacious on its face. Correlation does not demonstrate causality.

But she's even dead wrong about the correlations, as the Daily Ablution convincingly points out.

Splash, out


The New York Times and a Look at Sourcing. 
Given MoveOn.org's prominence in the Democratic party circles, Al Gore's recent hysterics, Air America's calls that Rumsfeld ought to be tortured and Bush ought to be taken out and shot, Michael Moore's headline-making new movie, and the recent decision of the editors of the Nation to devote most of an issue to how to make a speedy exit from Iraq, it's hard to imagine any serious and informed reporter suggesting that the left wing of the Democratic party has been "muted."

Well, unless you work for the New York Times, of course.

The article, of course, doesn't mention MoveOn. It doesn't mention Air America. It doesn't mention Michael Moore. It doesn't even mention Gore's speech.

The New York Times missed the story entirely.

Here's why: Look at the sourcing of the article.

Liberal/Democrat/Green party sources: Kerry advisor Bob Shrum. Representative Barney Frank. Ralph Nader. Liberal Manhattan Democrat and anti-war voice Jerrold Nadler. Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi. Anti-war activist Tom Andrews. Connecticut Democrat Rosa Del Lauro, who opposed the war.

Conservative/Republican/Hawkish Democrat sources:


No wonder they missed the story.

The Times was intent on taking everything Shrum and the doves told them at face value. They couldn't be bothered with conducting a reality check from some people with a different perspective. And the Times is apparently too culturally ensconsed in Manhattan liberalism to be capable of noting it themselves.

They couldn't pick up the phone and call the Bush campaign? They couldn't call a Democratic hawk like Zell Miller?

And the editors let this Bush League echo-chamber sourcing slip?


Splash, out


A Splashhead No More... 
A reader writes in with this critical email:

splashheads? you know, you're cultivating a nice little right-wing radio program. i'm a moderate conservative, so theoretically i should be lapping
all this up, but i'm not. i dislike extremist conservatives more than moderate liberals. i've been reading your blog for a while now. in recent weeks
its content seems to have taken a hard right.

Yeah, I've noticed that, too, and was wondering why that is. Maybe I need to switch my homepage from the NY Times to the Washington Post.

I don't regularly read conservative news sources, except maybe when Instapundit or Ranting Profs links to them. I usually get my news from NPR, or the New York Times' website. And for national roundups I'll hit Drudge (center-right, but tougher to pigeonhole than the New York Times will admit), and Buzzflash (unabashedly Anti-Bush).

There was always a strong media emphasis in the blog content, and my intent from day one was to differentiate myself from other warbloggers by focusing not so much on the war as the way the media covers it. This is partly because I wanted to attract an audience of journalists more than a military audience, but also because I was thinking ahead 5 months and I wanted to have a niche I could keep up when I was no longer in Iraq.

My intent was never to become partisan, and I was careful to avoid any hint of it in Iraq. The tone and content of the blog has certainly become so in recent weeks. I'm not entirely comfortable about that. This is not a "Blog for Bush."

But Gore's meltdown was impossible for any satirist worth his salt to ignore.

the biting, sardonic analysis of the war was what hooked me in the first place, but the comparison of al gore to ted bundy, the chops against jesse jackson (too easy),

I don't think I ever took a chop against Jesse Jackson. Easy though it may be. The Gore-Bundy comparison was maybe over the top. I mean, after all, Bundy wasn't crazy!

and all of these amber alerts about missing headlines are, quite frankly, lame. you seem to confuse editorial restraint with a media blackout. some of the so-called missing headlines, such as the possible al qaeda attack this summer, appeared the day after your alert. good journalists and editors resist pressure to be the first, when the facts are still unclear. case in point: CNN.com is this comment under its front page story:
"After two days of conflicting assessments and mixed signals on the urgency of the terrorist threat within the United States, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge late Friday issued a joint statement citing "credible intelligence" of a threat to the nation."

I don't think that's such a great example at all. There might have been a minor internecine turf war between Homeland Security and the Justice Department about who ought to be the controlling authority for public warnings. But to focus on the interbureaucracy tiff at the expense of the BOLO itself is a failure of proportionality.

I never saw any mixed message at all. Justice wanted these people, based on suspected Al Qaeda connections and multiple sources of intelligence warning of an unspecific intent to attach the US this summer.

Nothing Tom Ridge ever said undercut that.

under such conditions, do you really think there is a massive conspiracy involving the new york and los angeles times to keep the public uninformed about a potential repeat of 9-11, especially since such headlines would undoubtedly sell lots of papers?

Nope. I never ever suggested a massive conspiracy involving the New York or Los Angeles Times. Rather, I have merely argued that our major market news outlets, having located themselves in New York and Los Angeles, are simply reflecting the cultural biases of the demographics of those communities. And so their news coverage is slanted for that reason.

or is it more plausible that the nation's newspaper editors, having been burned big time by one fiasco after another (WMD, jessica lynch), are taking extra time to corroborate the info they're getting from the government?

Apparently they're not taking the time to corroborate much of anything. Otherwise they wouldn't be publishing inflated body count numbers and attributing them to US and British arms, they wouldn't have let a Green party city councilman get away with distributing obviously bogus photos from a porn site and pass them off as depicting American soldiers engaged in rape. And they wouldn't have systematically misquoted General Mattis on the wedding party incident.

I don't particularly blame the press for falling for Chalabi, because everybody fell for Chalabi. A reasonable journalist would get a tip from Chalabi, and try to corroborate it with sources in some intelligence service, and a source or two on the ground. If it checked out there, I don't blame the NY Times or anyone else for going with it.

In hindsight we know that the reasoning was circular. Reporters were verifying Chalabi's claims by checking them against intelligence services that also relied on Chalabi's claims. And then checking them against foreign agencies that also relied on shared intelligence from the US.

It is not realistic to expect reporters and editors to be omniscient. Only careful and thorough.

don't you think these newspapers would love to publish that story about the marine winning the navy cross?

Nope. Because the story's available, verifiable, well-sourced, and independently checked out by Snopes, among others, and yet they haven't published the story. QED.

Well, the Wall Street Journal published it. But they're obviously in league with Satan.

war heroes and war stories sell papers. from what i've read, this guy sounds like he's the real deal, but so did jessica lynch, and she turned out to be manufactured by the pentagon.

No. She was born. Flesh and blood. To a West Virginia couple. Her story was largely manufactured. But not by the Pentagon. It was manufactured by reporters.

i would expect journalists and editors to do some hardcore fact-checking this time around...

Me, too. When do you think they'll start?

and if the story could not be corroborated I would expect them not to report it.

Well, that would be nice. I think someone will report it, though, because everybody wants to break news. And once someone reports it, everybody has to go with it, whether it's corroborated or not. I.e., the fraudulent Mirror photos of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners.

I don't blame the Mirror, particularly, though, either. Those pics would have fooled me, although I'm sure I would have traced their provenance as far as I could.

p.s. i don't disagree with all your media analysis. the stuff about the san francisco chronicle and howard zinn was right on. just please be more careful about "calling out" respected newspapers.

Thanks for writing. And the criticisms are well taken.


Friday, May 28, 2004

Eeyore the Editor Strikes Again. 
Today's top US Economics news story in the Washington Post:

Personal Income Increased In April

Personal income jumped 0.6 percent in April, up from 0.4 percent in March, for the biggest monthly increase since November, the Commerce Department reported yesterday.

So what does the New York Times lead with?

AP: Consumer Confidence Slips in May

Splash, out


Greetings from the Denver Post! 
Just thought you might like to know what one Denver Post columnist thinks of the troops.

And I don't think "slave" is too strong a word to describe someone who is not permitted to quit his job no matter how dangerous it becomes or how much he hates it. For most of us, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and guaranteed that we have the right to withhold our labor. It doesn't protect soldiers.

The U.S. Army has an official video game that can be downloaded at www.americasarmy.com It's a recruiting tool aimed to win the hearts and minds of children of all ages. The goal is catch them before they develop critical thinking skills that might lead them to question the wisdom of volunteering for slavery.

Parents are further assured that the brainwashing of their kids will be conducted without undue exposure to the horrific reality of warfare.

If we truly care about our young slaves, we should do everything we can to get them out of harm's way.

If you want to let the Post know how you feel about them calling you, your son, husband, brother, sister, daughter, wife, or friend a "slave," you can let the columnist know by writing him at regrivers@msn.com. You can also drop the editor, Gregory Moore, a line at gmoore@denverpost.com.

If you really want to play hardball, though, you can also write the President and CEO of the publishing company, Kirk MacDonald.

And if you really want to pitch inside, you can borrow a tactic from the Civil Rights movement by clicking on Ad Search, viewing one of their special inserts, contacting one or more of their major national advertisers--the ones that actually have a choice where to advertise-- and suggesting that you don't care to associate with businesses that associate with newspapers that run columnists like Smith, and suggest that you'll be shopping and referring customers elsewhere. (It's called a boycott. Jesse Jackson uses it all the time.)

Just a thought. :-)

Splash, out


(hat tip to the irrepressible Cori Dauber)

Iraq Body Count Lies About Its Own Methodology! (And the Boston Globe Blows It Again!) 
The Iraq Body Count project has been cited in dozens of media outlets as an authority on the death toll imposed on Iraqi civilians by the US led military intervention in Iraq.

Citing news outlets include PBS News Hour, Newsweek, Newsday, the Guardian, the Toronto Star, the Village Voice, Cox News Service, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Boston Globe.

Here's an example, from the Globe, of how the cite typically shows up in print:

Bush went to Fort Campbell, Ky., to tell soldiers that they had liberated a nation "in which millions of people lived in fear, and many thousands disappeared into mass graves. That was the life in Iraq for more than a generation until the Americans arrived."

The soldiers applauded. There was no mention of the civilian carnage caused by the arrival of the Americans.

At both Fort Campbell and in another speech in Orlando, where the crowd chanted "USA! USA! USA!" Bush said America will do whatever it takes to defeat and destroy the terrorists "so that we do not have to face them in our own country."

In his three speeches, Bush made no mention of the Iraqis who were permanently defaced.

Bush cannot mention them because the invasion had no grounds. Neither weapons of mass destruction nor proof of an imminent threat was found. Bush cannot mention them because he knows a needless invasion was not worth up to 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed by US and British forces. [emphasis added.]

And this unquestioning citation from the UK outlet, The Independent:

On its website, the organisation says: "So far, in the 'war on terror' initiated since 9/11, the USA and its allies have been responsible for over 13,000 civilian deaths, not only the 10,000 in Iraq, but also 3,000-plus civilian deaths in Afghanistan, another death toll that continues to rise long after the world's attention has moved on. "Elsewhere in the world over the same period, paramilitary forces hostile to the USA have killed 408 civilians in 18 attacks worldwide. Adding the official 9/11 death toll (2,976 on 29 October 2003) brings the total to just under 3,500." (Again, emphasis added.)

Here's the problem:

Iraq Body Count lies about its own methodology.

Here's a passage from the methodology page of IBCs own website:

Our methodology requires that specific deaths attributed to US-led military actions are carried in at least two reports from our approved sources. This includes deaths resulting from the destruction of water treatment plants or any other lethal effects on the civilian population. The test for us remains whether the bullet (or equivalent) is attributed to a piece of weaponry where the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger, or is due to "collateral damage" by either side (with the burden of responsibility falling squarely on the shoulders of those who initiate war without UN Security Council authorization).

Here are some examples of instances where "the trigger was pulled by a US or allied finger," or are just "collateral damage,"
according to IBC:

Zarqawi's murder of 182 Shiite pilgrims in a series of bombings on 2 March 03.

The terrorist bombings of the PUK and KDP offices in Irbil, which killed 107.

The 21 April car bombings in Basra and Zubair, which killed 74.

The truck bomb at Iskandiyah police station which killed 75.

The 11 February car bomb at Muthara Airport, killing 47 Iraqi recruits.

No coalition action caused these deaths--nor were their deaths 'collateral damage' on the part of either side. Their deaths were entirely the result of a calculated campaign of terror and murder by the insurgents. Yet neither the IBC, nor the useful idiots in the press corps who believe anything they say, draw a distinction between collateral damage and outright murder.

Rather, the IBC uses the murders to inflate their counts to play politics with the dead.

Going through the IBC database, and using only minimum numbers of reported dead, I counted 2,146 civilian deaths which can be attributable entirely to the actions of the enemy.

The deaths were the result of 202 separate incidents. Which means that of the 500-odd incidents recorded by IBC, nearly 40% cannot be laid at the feet of the coalition--contrary to IBC's stated intention.

Some of the more egregious abuses of IBC's discretion are particularly difficult to swallow:

--IBC counts 10 killed when terrorists blew up the Red Cross Headquarters in Baghdad on 27 Oct.
--IBC counts 12 killed when insurgents detonated a car bomb at the Italian MP headquarters, Nov.12.
--IBC counts 14 killed when terrorists detonated a truck bomb at al-Baya'a police station in April 2004.
--IBC counts the abduction and subsequent murder, by terrorists, of a prominent Shiite judge on 3 November.

I ask the Boston Globe--how in the world can you explain having charactarized these deaths as having been "killed by US and British forces?

In addition to the 2,146 Iraqis clearly murdered by insurgents and terrorists, there are an additional 4,442 deaths of questionable provenance, since they record only 'violent deaths' reported by Iraqi hospitals and morgues.

There is no way to reliably discern how many of these people were victims of coalition gunfire, nor how many were Fedayeen operatives in civilian clothes, nor how many may have been simply the victims of street crime or vengeance killings on the part of other Iraqis.

Perhaps that distinction is impossible to draw. The situation in Iraq during the spring of 2003 was simply too chaotic. And yes, the true total number of dead is almost certainly undercounted.

But it does no good to fail to draw a distinction between those who are doing the best they can to mimimize civilian casualties, and those who are going out of their way to wreak wonton murder, destruction, and mayhem.

And news outlets who let this kind of crap analysis slip by--numbly allowing the body count figures to be manipulated for partisan purposes without taking a good look at the methodology and data are failing at their jobs.

Other outlets simply report the total number of dead, oblivious to their underlying causes, or simply buying blindly into the implicit assumption that the Coalition must somehow bear culpability for every civilian death in Iraq.

Oh, did I mention that the IBC's definition of "Iraqi civilian" also extends to include Qusay's 14 year old son who was killed bearing arms against US troops?

The Boston Globe has been had again--publishing verifiably false information.

Every civilian death is awful. But we are still capable of drawing meaningful distinctions between tragedy and murder.

Even if reporters can't.

Splash, out


Boston Herald on Al Gore 
"The real disgrace is that this repugnant human being once held the second highest office in the land."

So say the editors of the Boston Herald.


Update: The original headline erroneously mentioned the Boston Globe. It was the Herald. I regret the error.

Meatgrinder Metrics: A Brief Look at Body Counts 
The next time you see a news outlet cite www.iraqbodycount.net, keep in mind that while the Iraq Body Count site is counting a minimum figure of 9,187 Iraqi deaths as a result of the intervention in Iraq, the Brookings Institute counts 1,611 Iraqi civilians killed "as a result of acts of war," through April 30th. (Scroll down to page 5).

The difference is obviously radical.

The Brookings estimate smells low to me--especially since an Associated Press survey documented 3,240 Iraqi civilian deaths between March 20 and April 20, 2003, and concludes the real total is much higher.

What a difference a methodology makes. The Brookings Institution works hard to exclude crime victims. They are accounted for elsewhere in its report.

The Brookings institute also estimates 819 deaths from mass casualty bombings. Don't know if they're double counted in their tally of 'civilian deaths from acts of war' or accounted for separately.

Nevertheless, there remains a huge discrepency between the Brookings and IBC tallies, which should be reported on.

Splash, out


Documentary on Those Guys Who Got Their Hands Cut Off 
A reader graciously sends in a link to a Don North documentary on seven Iraqi men who had their hands chopped off by Saddam Hussein for dealing in U.S. currency.

It's an hour and 40 minutes long, so I haven't seen it and can't comment directly except to vouch that the link works. It comes with an introduction from someone at the Heritage Foundation.

You can download a streaming video of a CSPAN interview with the producer from CSPAN's website, here. It includes some footage from the film, including actual footage of Saddam's doctors cutting off their hands, and carving "X's" in their heads to further stigmatize them, as well as the excavation of mass graves just outside Abu Ghraib prison.


Zarqawi Acquired Weapons From Saddam Regime 
So says ABC News, citing unnamed officials.

Well, it's obvious that Saddam was willing to shelter Zarqawi. It doesn't seem like such a huge leap of logic to imagine he might slip some weapons to Zarqawi, too.

Heck, if I had to hide some WMDs for safekeeping, Zarqawi might be the guy. As a stateless entity, he would have nothing to lose by making such a deal. Especially if Saddam could arrange a truce with Al Qaeda in exchange for the weapons.

By this logic, the fact that Saddam was secular gives him even more of a reason to cut side deals with someone like Zarqawi. If he decided not to play ball, then his own regime would become an Al Qaeda target.

Better to cut a deal and let Zarqawi focus on targets in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States.

It could also happen that Al Qaeda sympathizers within Iraqi intelligence were cutting side deals of their own.

After all, in a tyrannical and murderous police state such as Saddam's, it would be a simple matter to blackmail an official by luring him into a conversation critical of Saddam, taping it, and then telling him he can either cough up the weapons or money or whatever else he controls, or he's going to find himself getting his tongue cut off in an Abu Ghraib torture chamber. If he's lucky enough to survive the experience of watching his wife and daughter gang-raped by a squad of Baathist goons.

All of that, of course, is pure conjecture.

Nevertheless, I'd love to learn more about the provenance of the officials' claims. What do they have to prove the transactions occured?

This is an awfully big revelation to bury in the last three paragraphs of the article.

Predictions 04...How'm I Doin??? 
...As former NYC Mayor Ed Koch would say.

Here's what I wrote on Saturday, April 10th:

My best guess is that within about 4-6 weeks the Sadr brigade and Mahdi militias will have gone to ground once again, or be destroyed by American forces, at which time we will see a return to the baseline levels of violence and insurgent activities we have seen over most of the winter.

I hate to fall into the tired saw that "the only thing Iraqis understand is force." Iraqis aren't dogs. But they do understand force very well. And they will soon find out that amateur militias unsupported by regular troops don't last very long in the face of a determined onslaught by the opposing force's regulars.

The militiamen have taken control of several cities at the moment. They cannot hold them. If they try, they will be dispatched very handily. Which will cost the militia a lot of the short-term support they've built up--which is still a minority of the Shia community.

Sistani is still the stronger and wiser man. Iraqi's aren't totally clueless--they'll figure this out, soon. And they'll realize that Sadr brings nothing but suffering to his people.

Mostly, Iraqis don't want to kill or be killed. They want to keep their heads down, rebuild their country, send their children to school, and get on with their lives. More than anything, they want security. So far, Coalition forces and our allies in the Iraqi Police have been hard-pressed to provide it. But Al Sadr will be further discredited when it becomes apparent to the Iraqis that he can provide even less.

Insurgency will come in and out of fashion. But Iraqis will soon tire of the idiots in their midst causing trouble and attracting disruptive coalition troops. And when their towns are retaken, there will be many willing sources eager to finger the militia ringleaders.

Ok, so it's been 7 weeks instead of six. But as far as it goes, I think things are working out pretty much as I thought they would. I was never all that worried that the Al Sadr uprising would spread much beyond those few towns and Sadr City in Baghdad. Fallujah was much the tougher nut to crack.

Now the guerrillas in Najaf and Karbala are going to ground, rather than face annihilation along with their shrines--something nobody really wants. Not even the Al Sadr militia. Well, Al Qaeda might enjoy the prospect. But Al Sadr is not Al Qaeda, and those shrines are more important to them than they are to Al Qaeda.

Al Sadr exercised power very publicly in those cities. But now that the militia has gone to ground, Iraqi security forces, with US muscle, will be able to round up the ringleaders one by one-and do so much more easily and efficiently, with less risk--than they would be if the open uprising were to continue.

The battle still rages. But silently.

I don't think we're giving up all that much. A cease fire benefits us almost as much as the militia. Continued hostilities would merely mean hundreds more dead 16 year-old kids with AKs. Hardly a meaningful long-term gain when compared with the prospect of bypassing their resistance and simply rousting the ringleaders, one by one, based on the tips of a fed up populace.

And the two bulls sauntered slowly down the hill.

Splash, out


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Amber Alert: Missing Headlines III 
All Splashheads, all Splashheads, now hear this:

IraqNow headquarters is issuing another all points bulletin for any headlines related to one Brian Chontosh, who's name has been reported abducted from newspaper headlines all over the country.

Brian was first sighted on US Marine Corps News websites, having recieved the Navy Cross, our nation's second highest award for valor, for his heroic actions in disrupting and then destroying an enemy ambush on his platoon in Iraq. He was then brought to the attention of the blogosphere by Bob Lonsberry on May 7th, 2004, after which time he circulated briefly among milbloggers, made a brief appearance in the Sacramento Bee, the San Diego Tribune (running a story with a local Camp Pendleton angle) and his own hometown newspaper. Despite the gripping story and narrative, and despite the all important availability of photographs, he has not been seen in any national mass media outlet.

Here is his story:

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

IraqNow investigators have scoured the archives of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, Reuters, and the Associated Press and found no evidence that they even know the man exists.

IraqNow suspects that either no reporter in any major media organization is actually monitoring Marine Corps news--hard to believe, given all the attention to operations in Fallujah over the past 60 days--or they have people monitoring Marine Corps news outlets, and just don't care.

Splash, out


Separated At Birth? 
Mild-mannered former Vice President Al Gore...

...and notorious evil serial murderer Ted Bundy

Magnum P. Ike 

That's Tom Selleck!?!?!?!?


I can't wait for the sequel, Hawai'i Five-Omar

Splash, out


The New York Times Gets Even More Pathetic 
Not to be bothered with the 5-W's--the who, what, when, where, and why basic building blocks of good straight journalism, the New York Times manages to run a news article that the FBI is putting out an APB for the following suspects, and then doesn't even mention a single suspect by name!!!!

What's more, Cori Dauber is now reporting that the New York Times teases the Ashcroft Press conference, buries the story on page A-14, and somehow doesn't bother to run the mugshots!?!?

If this is true, this is a major failing of public responsibility. I mean, they missed the central point of the freaking press conference!

Well, they did see fit to use their precious webspace on a photo of Ashcroft and Mueller. Oh, and they did publish two of the mugshots. Oh, wait...you can't see them! You can't see them because rather than publish something actually useful, the self-absorbed navel-gazers at the New York Times decided they would publish not the mugshots, but a photograph of a photographer photographing the mugshots!

I mean, how dumb is that?

Is Obtuseness 300 now a requirement at J-school now? (Apparently, but you have to have had the prerequisite Opaqueness 201 before you can enroll.)

And the headline is a parody of itself:

As Ashcroft Warns of Attack, Some Question Threat and Its Timing

I guess it's too much to ask of the New York Times to play it straight.

Can't say I didn't warn you, though.

There's nothing wrong with giving the critics some play in the article. Or even the subhead. But the critics are not the story. So let's not pretend they are by giving them equal prominence, you know, at the expense of the very point of the story itself.

Maybe next time Ashcroft asks the media for help he'll have better luck making the front page of the New York Times by photoshopping some hoods over the mugshots.

Splash, out


Weapons Training: The Way It Oughta Be 
This from a reader:

When I was in the Marines (1966-70) we had to be able to field strip every
weapon we famfired and might conceivably have to use in combat. My tour
came while the M-16 was being phased in over the M-14. I could field strip
and reassemble both of those blindfolded (had to, or have a big green meanie
screaming in my ear). Besides that I could keep an M-60 machine gun going.
Field strip an M-whatever grenade launcher (now integrated with some
M-16's), 45 cal pistol, a Winchester 12 gauge pump action shotgun, AK-47,
and WWII vintage M1's and BARs for good measure. The only weapon we didn't
get to blow lots of ammo through was the grenade launcher. That ammo was
costly so we only got one each, and I was Air Wing. Yeah. Even a guy who
was never likely to go on patrol knew how to put rounds on target with a
half dozen different weapons. Infantry got to fire grenades until they got
good at it.

That kind of training was a big part of why I picked the Marines in the
first place. I wanted to come back alive.

Al Gore, Then and Now 
Nevertheless, Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.

--Al Gore, 23 September, 2002

President Bush "has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every town and city to a greater danger of attacks by terrorists because of his arrogance, willfulness and bungling at stirring up hornets' nests that pose no threat whatsoever to us,"

--Al Gore, 26 May 2004

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The Politics of Book Reviews 
Remember when I suggested any time you read a book review, do a little research on the author?

Well, now it's more important than ever.

The Nation is now hailing the rebirth of the New York Review of Books as an openly political arm of small-'l' liberalism:

But the election of George W. Bush, combined with the furies of 9/11, jolted the editors. Since 2001, the Review's temperature has risen and its political outlook has sharpened. Old warhorses bolted from their armchairs. Prominent members of the Review "family"--a stable that includes veteran journalists (Thomas Powers, Frances FitzGerald, Ian Buruma), literary stars (Joan Didion, Norman Mailer) and academic heavyweights (Stanley Hoffmann, Ronald Dworkin, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.)--charged into battle not only against the White House but against the lethargic press corps and the "liberal hawk" intellectuals, some of whom are themselves prominent members of the Review's extended family.

Longtime editor Robert Silvers is not eager to discuss the Review, but he does allow, "The pieces we have published by such writers as Brian Urquhart, Thomas Powers, Mark Danner and Ronald Dworkin have been reactions to a genuine crisis concerning American destructiveness, American relations with its allies, American protections of its traditions of liberties." He worries that critical voices are being silenced: "The aura of patriotic defiance cultivated by the Administration, in a fearful atmosphere, had the effect of muffling dissent."

Wow...those dissenters must be awfully cowardly, to have been so easily muffled.

It's silly to Fisk the article. And the article is smart, perceptive, and too good to Fisk. The New York Review of Books is what it is.

But take a look at the political-intellectual landscape of publishing. The three high-status book review houses, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, and the London Review of Books, are all unabashedly liberal in their outlook. The New Yorker is less so, but certainly not in the same league.

Each of these publications has considerable penetration into media and academic circles--which as the article points out--leverages their influence out of all proportion to their circulation.

But despite the near monopoly of the left on the powerhouse review collection market, everytime I walk into a Borders or Barnes and Noble, and look at the bestseller list, I see Savage and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter and Bernard Goldberg running neck and neck for hot seller space with Michael Moore and Al Franken.

The publishing press has gotten radically out of kilter with the American public (although it's probably not so far out of kilter with academia.)

Is there an opening here? Will a heartland publisher be able to take up the reins and put together an intellectual, challenging book review publication for those shameless diehards who still take pride in this country?

Conservative book publishers are doing an end run around the Big Three, and marketing themselves directly to the reader. I can hardly click on a site anymore without closing a pop-up ad for the Conservative Book Club. And it's annoying.

But I'm sure it's effective, or they would have stopped by now.

There are really two separate politics book markets--each growing more separate and more strident. (I found a book the other day called the "I Hate George Bush Reader." What kind of pathetic way to go through life is that? To define yourself and your readership by who you hate? C'mon!)

What we don't have yet is any kind of honest book review system to provide independent quality control on the conservative side. Ronald Reagan could release the greatest political memoir since Grant tomorrow, but there's no way it would get a fair shake in the New York Times, and it would get trashed right along with the sloppy, clunky vendettas of Bernard Goldberg or the over-the-top nonsense of Michael Savage (while pathological morons like Michael Moore rake in the free publicity from an adoring left-presse.)

The talent is out there. The market is out there. Who's going to do it? Chicago Tribune? Dallas Morning News? Atlanta Journal Constitution? University of Southern California? Are you listening?

Is anybody out there?

Ammo Follies 
The creaks in the ol' Military Industrial Complex are starting to turn into cracks.

You can't blame it on having to arm support troops. Arming support troops is not a surprise. Every M16 shooter is supposed to go into battle with his uniform basic load of ammunition. For M16 gunners, that's--well, nevermind how much it is, exactly. But every M16 gunner is supposed to have it whether he's an infantry team leader or a desk clerk in Baghdad.

By extention, every unit is supposed to go into battle with a specific uniform basic load (UBL) of ammunition, which is set in doctrine, and it's pretty hard to get exceptions to that UBL.

We got our hands on some great HK MP-5 submachine guns that shot 9mm ammo. But the Army told us to get rid of the MP-5s and go back to arming our pistol shooters with 9-mils, rather than come up with the extra 9mm ammunition they'd use up.

(More on the ammunition bureaucracy from me here.)

It's not a matter of having to arm combat support troops, then--they are supposed to be armed anyway. To the full UBL.

It's a matter of neglecting our military-industrial complex for too long. Remember, we fought a much higher intensity war on two fronts for four years, in WWII. And then fought Korea a few years after that. And then fought in VietNam for nearly a decade--all of these campaigns were much higher in intensity and ammo consumption rates than the low to mid-intensity counterinsurgency now happening in Iraq.

We had 500,000 troops in Viet Nam at our peak, and still maintained a large presence in Europe and Korea.

Our army is smaller than it was a decade ago by entire divisions.

And we still can't keep our troops in bullets?

Where's George Marshall when you need him.

Splash, out


P.S. The best solution to ammo shortages is better marksmanship.

Which costs ammo. Training ammo. Which in the Army, is woefully inadequate. The USMC puts the Army to shame when it comes to marksmanship training, and pride in marksmanship.

But it's an investment which pays handsome dividends.

P.P.S., I was the investigating officer for one instance where a soldier accidentally shot himself in his ankle with an M203 grenade launcher. Fortunately, the round did not go off.

It was not his M203. He was a SAW gunner. They needed his SAW for a mission and he swapped his SAW. He had never qualified on the M203. He didn't know how it worked. He didn't realize it was loaded, and didn't know how to clear the weapon. Yeah, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to clear the weapon. But he also didn't realize that you can actually see a chambered M203 grenade by looking behind the catch mechanism.

As with almost all accidents, there were a variety of contributing factors that all had to happen together. But one of the problems was that units do not get enough training ammunition to cross train soldiers on different weapons. So a young soldier--in this case a 20 year-old pfc--can serve on a fire team with an M203, three M16s, and an M249 SAW, and in Iraq, a .50 cal machine gun or Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher in his squad, and never have qualified on anything other than the M16.

At the company level, units can't crosstrain, and still qualify their soldiers to standard. Even if they had the range time, they often can't get the ammo allocated.

We've got to do better.

Good One CNN! 
So this morning you have a story that states that the Feds are rereleasing photographs of wanted Al Qaeda suspects. It's the lead story on your home page.

You have room in the slot for two close-up, head and shoulders shots, or one good two-shot.

And you run them. There are seven suspects. You can run two of them on the homepage.

With the world on the lookout for these murderers--some of whom already implicated in terrorist attacks which have cost hundreds of lives, and time of the essence, which two do you run?

Why, John Ashcroft's and Robert Mueller's of course!

You own one of the world's biggest milk cartons, but instead of posting a photo of the missing child, or the suspect, you run a photo of the cop on the case.


Splash, out



The photos you chose to run aren't even good photos. In fact, they're lousy. What were you thinking?

The Lexington Herald Leader Responds! 
Here's a note I got from the Lexington Herald Leader today, responding to this post criticizing them for the headline: "Army May Send Special Reserves to Iraq Involuntarily."

Thanks for your note. In the newspaper's archives, I can't find any instance
of the phrase "special reserves" occurring in 2004, so I assume you are
referring to the May 19 headline on Kentucky.com, "Army may send special
reserves to active duty involuntarily."

This story seems to have been placed on the Web site by the national office
of our online editors. The online editors at Knight Ridder Digital sometimes
add their own stories to the Web content of the various Knight Ridder
papers. This headline was not written by anyone in Lexington; the headline
we used in the print version of the newspaper was: "Army calling up
involuntary reserves -- Soldiers normally considered off-limits are needed
to maintain troop levels in Iraq."

To respond to your broader point, the headline-writing staff of the
Herald-Leader includes two Army veterans as well as several others who have
had family members in the service.

Thanks again for keeping us on our toes
Brian Throckmorton
Copy Chief
Lexington Herald-Leader

And lo and behold, he's right! The error is duplicated in The Macon Telegraph, and the Wichita Eagle

Many thanks to the Lexington Herald Leader and to Brian Throckmorton for their response!

Splash, out


You're Gonna Have To Face It, You're Addicted to Blog 
They're on to me!


Splash, out


Amber Alert: Missing Headlines II 
All splashheads, all splashheads, be on the lookout for another headline, reported missing from the front page of the New York Times.

The headline, first reported missing by a North Carolina resident, describes suspected plans for an Al Qaeda strike this summer, and has been seen in a variety of other media outlets.

The headline was last seen on the 26 May hard copy editions of the Daytona Beach News Journal, the Arizona Daily Star, the Los Angeles Daily News, The Oakland Tribune, the Orange County Register, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the San Diego Union Tribune, the Ventura County Star, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Washington Post, the Indianapolis Star, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and, well, you get the idea.

New York residents are reporting that the headline may have been stolen, and replaced with yet another story breathlessly announcing more marginal developments in a weeks old story.

Residents of Los Angeles are also reporting that the headline has now gone missing from the front page of the Los Angeles Times, and has been mysteriously been replaced with the headline, "Justices Wary of S.F. Gay Unions."

While the apparent New York abduction bears the hallmarks of a media obsession with pornography, investigators in Los Angeles have not yet ruled out an elaborate prank.

The Orlando Sentinel's decision to lead with a panel's deliberations on the dangers of Toxic Mold appears to be rooted in a decline in faculties stemming from toxic mold.

Do not try to apprehend these editors yourselves. Instead, keep them occupied with polite letters and emails to the editors and reporters on the story, and report missing headlines, mangled quotes, blatant bias, and factual errors to the bleary-eyed team of specialists at IraqNow.

Splash, out


No Greater Love 
Marine Corporal Jason L. Dunham, of Scio, New York, has been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor.


Update: The Wall Street Journal's account is by far the most vivid. It's outstanding. You may need a subscription to access the link.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Abu Ghraib Witness Disciplined: What's Missing 
The Daily Telegraph reports that a witness to Abu Ghraib is being administratively disciplined for talking to reporters in violation of an order given to him by his company commander.

What's missing from the story is that the 'flagging' appears to have been done as part of a field grade Article 15 hearing before the battalion commander. The Article 15 hearing is a nonjudicial, but formal proceeding in which the defendant is made aware of his rights, is entitled to due process, consultation with an attorney, etc.

No mention of this is made in the article, but it seems to me that that's the only way the battalion commander could legally slap an administrative 'flag' on the soldier, or take other adverse action (although he may be able to revoke a security clearance--especially if it's provisional, since those are often granted on the signature of the battalion commander anyway, pending formal vetting by the FBI and other agencies)

It seems to me that once this soldier was notified that he would be a witness in the investigation, the Army was fully within its rights to order him not to discuss the investigation with anyone else, pending the investigation. This in order to protect the integrity of his testimony.

I don't see any suggestion that anyone in the unit pressured him to falsify statements to investigators, though.

"I wanted to make sure I got out what I could in what time I had before I was silenced at a higher level," he said. "I'm standing behind my First Amendment right to free speech, and it's a matter of does the constitution have more weight than a company level commander?"

I'd love to hear from the military lawyers on this point. Soldiers do not give up the entirety of their constitutional rights by a long shot. And Army policy does not forbid them, generally, from speaking to reporters about events within their level of expertise and experience. Lieutenants are discouraged from waxing philosophical about DoD level grand strategy, but they can talk to reporters all they want about what goes on within their platoons and companies. And they can even be quite forthright with bad news.

It seems to me, though, that the Army had a legitimate, compelling interest in prohibiting this soldier from discussing his testimony, pending the investigation. I can quibble whether the mere act of talking to reporters actually compromised the investigation either way, but administrative discretion leads me to defer to the judgement of the command.

Now, if the Bn Commander did not conduct an Article 15 proceeding, but simply summarily flagged the soldier's records on his own, then that's probably grounds for an IG complaint.

Sure, there's a lot of media people who would love to make this into a case of "a-HAAA!!!! Gotcha! You're punishing your whistleblowers!"

And I'd certainly take a hard look at that angle if it were my story, too.

But as things stand now, this story doesn't strike me as a very big deal.

Splash, out


More on Media Bias 
Powerline has some good analysis on the Pew research study here.

I particularly liked the comparison of this Pew report with reports from prior to the 2000 elections:

Pew asked, "How much trust and confidence do you have in the wisdom of the American people when it comes to making choices on election day?" Thirty-one percent of national journalists replied "a great deal," compared to 68% who said "a fair amount," "not very much," or "none." Here is what is interesting: as recently as 1999, 52% of journalists said they had a great deal of confidence in the wisdom of American voters. What has caused the press' sudden and precipitous dropoff in confidence in the American public? There is no possible explanation other than the fact that President Bush was elected in 2000, and the Republicans gained in the 2002 Congressional elections. Conservatives who have always suspected that national journalists are mostly elitists who don't trust the voters, and try to shape the news to move readers in a more liberal direction, are right.

and this:

when asked to name "any daily national news organization that you think is especially liberal in its coverage of the news," only 38% answered "yes," while 58% said they couldn't think of a single liberal-leaning news organization! Not the New York Times, not PBS, not the L.A. Times. Keep that in mind when you read that most journalists describe themselves as "moderates."

Powerline comes to about the same conclusions I did--that self-identification as moderate among this group is unreliable-- but adds more depth to the argument.

Splash, out


"Hold This Hard-Won Ground" 
You will find the President's speech to the Army War College here.

Monday, May 24, 2004

All Right You Bastards! I'm Calling You Out! 
To: the editors of almost every news report I've seen who quote General Mattis saying "I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

As exhibit A, I present to you a verbatim transcript of the press conference in question.

As exhibit B, I further note the pertinent part of the conference:

Unnamed Reporter: What happened yesterday at 3 a.m. in Al Qaim? Was there a wedding on? A wedding celebration?

Gen. Mattis: You joined us a little late, as I said to the young lady here, I said how many people how many people go to the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border and hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization? Over two-dozen military-aged males... let's not be naïve. Let's leave it at that.

(Question unintelligible)

Gen. Mattis: I can't...I've seen the pictures, but I can't...bad things happened. Generally...in Fallujah, I never saw a Marine hide behind a woman or a child or hold them in their house and fire out of the building. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my Marines.

As you can plainly see, General Mattis clearly shifted his point of reference from the site of the so-called 'wedding party' to Fallujah. When he said he did not have to apologize for the conduct of his Marines, he was contrasting his own Marines' tactics with those of the insurgents, who make a common practice of hiding behind women and children.

Contrast this with these accounts:

The Globe and Mail: "Bad things happen in wars," said Major-General James Mattis, the U.S. Marine commander in charge of occupation forces in western Iraq.

"These were more than two dozen military-age males. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

That's right, they blow the quote, they take the last sentence out of the Fallujah context and mix it in with the "wedding," and they don't bother with the ellipses normally expected of a journalist when he omits portion of the text of remarks.

From the UK Guardian:

Major General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was scathing of those who suggested a wedding party had been hit. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive."

When reporters asked him about footage on Arabic television of a child's body being lowered into a grave, he replied: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

Again, no ellipsis. They quote Mattis as saying he has not seen the pictures but in the transcript he says he had. And again, the last sentence is removed from its original context and placed in with the wedding stuff.

The New York Times:

Maj. Gen. James Mattis, the commander of the First Marine Division responsible for the remote stretch of desert where the strike was carried out, asked, "How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?"

At a news conference in Falluja, west of Baghdad, he said that two dozen men of military age were among those killed.

"Let's not be naive," he said. "Bad things happen in wars."

"I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men," he added.

Again, the decontextualization from Fallujah. And I'm still looking for "bad things happen in wars" in the transcript.


"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?" Mattis said in Falluja.
"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive...Bad things happen in wars.

"I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

Again, Reuters seems to invent "bad things happen in wars," skips the expected ellipses, and distorts the context of Mattis's assertion that he does not have to apologize for the conduct of his Marines. (Why are so many outlets distorting the exact same way? Are they not doing their own reporting, perchance?)

Agents France-Presse:

Asked about the footage, Mattis said: "I have not seen the pictures, but bad things happen in war."

In this case, AFP quotes Mattis as saying the enemy owes the world an apology. But bizarrely, they say he was referring to the Nick Berg beheading--NOT the alleged wedding party. Look over the transcript. There's no mention of the Berg beheading anywhere.

The Independent engages in perhaps the most egregious distortion of all:

"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive," Major General James Mattis, commander of the US 1st Marine Division, said. But he had no explanation of where the dead women and children in the video came from. "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars," he said cryptically. "I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men."

Ummm, there's nothing "cryptic" about the General's comment to someone actually familiar with the source material, putz.

The Washington Post, to its credit, gets it right.

For the most part, though, the news outlets are committing the same sins: distorting the general's meaning by omission, by skipping the ellipses (in the same places), and by making the same mistakes.

Essentially, it looks like they're quoting each other, or some apocryphal Q source material. They're not quoting General Mattis. They didn't even show up at the press conference, and they didn't bother to get a transcript or listen to the tape. But all these reporters are passing their crap off as if they were right from the source material.

Absolutely, completely pathetic.

If this is what passes for news coverage, then they ought to fire their reporters and hire some boy scouts to write for them. At least they'll be honest.


Splash, out


UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! (Even if you apparently blow out the Blogspot server!)

Fake ID Making "Party" 

I got what I wanted back in "Wedding Party Update." (scroll down to May 20th). I wanted to know if any of the passports they found were blanks.

According to Brigadier General Kimmitt, they actually found a counterfeit ID-making operation in place.


And in that part of the world, they don't make fake IDs for the purpose of underage drinking and so kids can get into the cool nightclubs.

I didn't care so much about the weapons, such as I've heard them described. And lots of well-to-do people in the desert have satellite phones.

Hell, I don't even care that much about the dormitory--it's not incomprehensible to me that someone might be running a bed and breakfast out by the border.

But put it all together with the changes of clothing and the on-site fake ID operation, and it's a no-brainer. This place was a waystation for smugglers and guerrillas (and no, you can't usefully separate the two.)

If General Kimmitt's remarks are true--and If I thought the Army was lying I'd say so--then this place was asking to be flattened.

Splash, out


Prediction: A Sister Souljah Moment is Coming 
Even with gas prices at nominal highs and Abu Ghraib dominating news headlines, Kerry is still trailing Bush in battleground states.Kerry has no chance of winning the Red States. But his lead is commanding in blue states--north of 10 percentage points, if Ralph Nader is excluded from the race. (scroll down to the tables.)

Kerry cannot win where he is. He can afford to give up some on his left. He must pick up battleground moderates in order to win.

If Kerry is a rational decision maker--and I believe he is--then you will soon see Kerry's own "Sister Souljah" moment. His declaration of independence from the moonbat wing of the coast-dwelling Democratic party, which hangs like an albatross around any national Democratic candidate.

Al Gore tried to win without a Sister Souljah moment of his own and failed. John Kerry will not make that same mistake.

The question: Who's gonna be Sister Souljah, this time around?

Splash, out


Refighting the Viet Nam War, Redux 
A reader emails:

There was undoubtedly some initial support of the Khmer from the NVA, but it was the US supported overthrow of Prince Sihanouk by General Lon Nol and the destruction of much of easter Cambodia by US bombing and invasion that provided the Khmer Rouge with their root. The relationship between the Khmer Rouge and the North Vietnamese Communists was always strained by competing interpretations of what it means to be Communist and by the historical rivalry between the two peoples. Note that it was the Vietnamese who put an end to the Khmer reign of terror in 1979. Certainly our failure to support our South Vietnamese allies against the invasion in 1975 made it clear that there would be no intervention to support Lon Nol, but what little support we supplied prior to '75 had not been enough to deter an inevitable Khmer victory; the people of Cambodia hated the Lon Nol devil they knew more than they feared the demonic Khmer that did not know.

Nevertheless, my point stands: had the US remained in Viet Nam, the Khmer Rouge could not have risked staking all on their 1975 offensive, and Lon Nol would not have been as weak and made so inviting a target for such an offensive.

The US began bombing Cambodia in 1968, and had engaged in numerous cross border operations even before then. Khmer Rouge strength was estimated at 3,000 in 1970. So between 1968 and 1970, the Khmer Rouge gained only 3,000 adherants. It wasn't until the US became committed to 'Vietnamization,' began its public withdrawal in 1969 and thereby squandered its credibility in the region, that the Khmer Rouge strength exploded--which it did, 10 fold, between 1970 and 1973. In inverse relation to US strength in Viet Nam.

Correlation is not causality. But I cannot imagine a general Khmer Rouge offensive could have been feasable with their base threatened by US ground troops, the likelihood that any tactical successes against the Cambodian government would be dampened by US airpower, and any tactical failures made disastrous by the same. and the prospect that the US would not allow a communist insurgency to overthrow Lon Nol or anyone else.

And of course, the presence of powerful friends abroad makes it easier for a ruler to retain powerful friends at home. And the Khmer Rouge would have a hard time recruiting motivated guerrillas for a losing fight.

The Khmer Rouge could have made themselves a thorn in the side of the Cambodian government almost indefinitely. They could not have taken control of the country.

It is interesting--and rather damning--that years after the North Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge, the United Nations continued to recognize the Khmer Rouge as the official government of Kampuchea.

My central point, however, is that Howard Zinn has publicly written that an anticipated bloodbath after US withdrawal "did not happen."

That is an ouright lie even if you discount the Khmer Rouge, and needs to be confronted.

Splash, out


Blogging Might Be Light... 
I have a writing assignment I need to obsess over for a while. Maybe as long as a month. Gotta pay the bills. We'll see.

Speaking of paying the bills, you can help me support this site without it costing anything extra out of your own pocket.

All you have to do is this: whenever you go shopping, for books, CDs, jewelry, or anything else, just click on the Amazon link over on the right. When you purchase anything from Amazon from a link on this site, I get a few cents off of the dollar.

Plus, I get to see what you're buying (no, not by name), and I think that's interesting.

I think I've earned enough so far to buy a book if I get a discount. Two books if I buy paperbacks. :)

Thanks for all your support, and especially to those of you who've sent me links to interesting news items I might not have found on my own.

Splash, out


Memo to the Washington Post 
Re: The cluelessness of your newswriting staff

The Acronym "NCO," in a military context, does not stand for "senior enlisted officers."

I'm sorry, are there just not enough military veterans in Norfolk/Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. to recruit from? Nobody caught this?

I understand taking jargon out of an article. But I don't understand looking ignorant in the process.

You were better off just putting [noncommissioned officers] in brackets.

Your readers aren't as stupid as, say, newswriters.

Splash, out


News Flash: Conservatives Underrepresented in Newsrooms 
Editor and Publisher reports the latest release from the Pew Research Center, and NEWS FLASH: newsrooms are more politically liberal, with a lower percentage of self-described conservatives, than the public at large.

You can find the actual release here, no thanks to E&P, who don't bother providing a link to source material on their website.

(The link goes to the overview. Click on "Values and the Press" to get to the politics part.)

Here are some of the key findings.

34% of national journalists self identify as liberal, compared to 19% of the general public.

23% of local journalists self-identify as liberal.

33% of all Americans self-identify as conservatives; only 7% of national journalists, and 12% of local journalists self-identify as conservatives.

National journalists, of course, are far more likely to live and work in New York. It would be interesting to see a good regression analysis on how much of the difference between local and national journalist politics can be explained simply by the political demographics of New York City.

Unfortunately, the Pew research doesn't address regional demographics as a possible factor.

I also don't trust the idea of allowing people to self-identify as 'liberal,' 'moderate,' or 'conservative,' because New York media circles and college campuses are such political echo chambers that many liberal journalists think they're moderates--and that's part of the problem.

Indeed, some of the data in the Pew report suggests to me that even the self-identified conservatives are social moderates, since they reflect public opinion on homosexuality or the moral requirement of theism--as one would expect a 'moderate' population to do by definition--rather than camp out to the right of the population at large.

This isn't really a liberal bias website--my interest is in veteran representation in the newsroom more than in political representation. But I've argued that news coverage of military affairs is affected by the demographic pool from which employees are recruited.

Splash, out


Catching Howard Zinn in a Lie 
I hate to refight the Viet Nam war, here, but I can't let this one slide.

Here's Howard Zinn, author of "A People's History of the United States," in an essay published by The Nation.

The only rational argument for continuing on the present course is that things will be worse if we leave. In Vietnam, they promised a bloodbath if we left. That did not happen.

That, quite simply, is a contemptible lie.

In fact, following the fall of Saigon, at least 65,000 people, and possibly as many as 100,000, were murdered in the communist reeducation camp system.

And in addition, we have the monstrous Khmer Rouge, who took root with Viet Cong aid and who were sufficiently emboldened by the US pullout in Viet Nam to overthrow the Cambodian government in 1975 and went on to slaughter 1.5 million in just 4 years--an annual rate rivalling that of the slaughter of Jews during the Third Reich.

And Zinn's breathtaking intellectual cravenness here ranks him squarely in the same league with the Holocaust deniers.

Splash, out


More Flak Vest Follies 
This time in New Jersey.

Apparently, the Army is staying out of its own way this time.

The Price and The Value 
Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
--Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde must have been watching the news and reading the papers.

Here's a lead paragraph from an Associated Press story today:

More than 5,500 Iraqis died violently in just Baghdad and three provinces in the first 12 months of the occupation, an Associated Press survey found. The toll from both criminal and political violence ran dramatically higher than violent deaths before the war, according to statistics from morgues.

Well, obviously, morgue statistics don't include many deaths at the hands of Saddam Hussein's security forces: they preferred to do their work in mass graves outside of town.

And to its credit, the AP does make that point in the story--and even cites unnamed human rights organizations to support a figure of 500,000 deaths at Saddam's hands--which is substantially more than the 300,000 figure the US claims and is the one I hear thrown around most often.

So kudos to the AP for at least trying to bring the prewar body count numbers into perspective.

But here's the missing link:

According to the United Nations' own prewar estimates, up to 5,000 Iraqi children were dying *every month* as a result of the sanctions.

That's 60,000 children dying every year.

Which I gather isn't much of a concern at all for Anthony Zinni, or for the majority of the UN, but it kind of bothered me at the time.

So now the sanctions have been lifted for almost a year. It will take a bit of ramp up time to fix the damage done by years of sanctions and neglect. And that damage was substantial.

But there's no escaping the fact that tens of thousands of children were saved last year, and even more will be saved this year, as a result of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Yet there's no mention of that in the story whatsoever.

Yes, the cost is terrible. Over 800 US lives, dozens of other coalition soldiers, and thousands of Iraqis.

But the more you weight the costs, then the more you must weight the value of what is gained.

In terms of Iraqi lives, the unit of measurement is exactly the same. But the numbers are telling. Disregard the fact that a substantial but substantially unkowable number of the Iraqi violent deaths after the occupation are killings of terrorists, Saddam Fedayeen, revenge killings of Baathist monsters, and others who got what was coming to them. The number of lives saved dwarfs the increase in violent deaths in the last year.

You cannot arrive at truth by decontextualizing the loss of Iraqi lives--separating them from the broad gains of Iraqi society. To do so is to dishonor the dead by cheapening their sacrifice.

To do so is to become Oscar Wilde's poster boy.

To do so is to teach the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Splash, out


Seisun (Music Nuts Only.) 
Well, I had an unexpected change of plans last week, and had more free time than I thought I would. So on a lark, I threw my fiddle in the car on Wednesday afternoon and drove the three and a half hours to Orlando to play in a traditional Irish music seisun that happens every other Wednesday at a place called Claddagh Cottage, at 4308 Curry Ford Road.

Great fun. They had about 10 or 12 players there at the peak--three or four fiddles, a tenor banjo player/bouzouki player who runs it, a couple of flutes, two whistles, two bodhrains, and a very good button accordian player.

It wasn't Boston, but people could get through the tunes just fine. And the tune selections were very traditional and appropriate throughout.

Actually, everybody there could play except for the bodhrain player who sat next to me. Rushed the tempo something fierce. And I'm guilty of pushing tempos too far. So if someone else is rushing even ahead of me then something is seriously wrong.

But I can ignore it if I have to.

Nevertheless, I think they should have a special licensing board for percussionists before they're allowed to play out in public.

I didn't start that many tunes until later--I'd rather just hang out and listen and keep a low profile. Especially as the new guy. Later I started some, just with the after-midnight die-hards.

(For those few of you who follow along, I started The Repeal of the Union, Fisher's Hornpipe, Flowers of Edinburgh, Lord Gordon's Reel, and Maudabawn Chapel.

Overall, I just had a blast doing what I love doing, with people who appreciate it as much as I do. The music was not professionally played, but it was played capably, respectfully, and in a very traditional way.

Didn't eat dinner, so I can't vouch for the food one way or the other.

I hope to attend again very soon.
If you're in Orlando, I hope to see you there!

Splash, out


A Declaration of Independence. Of Sorts. 
Ok, news flash: I've got other interests besides the war. Especially acoustic music, fiddles, media, books, politics, media, and whatever.

Yes, the headline and name of the blog is IraqNow, and I've thought of changing it. But it's kinda tagged with the URL, and changing that's going to be more trouble than it's worth.

So I've just decided that once in a while, if I post something that's totally off-topic, I'm just not going to feel guilty about it.

So there. :)

Thanks so much for reading, though, and for putting up with my crotchetyness and my inane rantings and frequent spelling errors--especially late at night.

I hope it's been half as enjoyable for you as it has been for me.

All the best,


Total. Leadership. Failure. 
I'm not talking about Abu Ghraib. I'm talking about the utter failure of UC Berkeley officials to insist on a modicum of academic discipline and maturity on the part of their students.

A lively debate over Palestine is fine. There's certainly plenty of room for it. But UC officials have clearly created an environment in which dissenting voices are intimidated and in which students and speakers are routinely threatened and even assaulted, and allowed it to fester.

How can a university claim excellence and yet have a critical mass of students so stupid?

And how can our academics stand for an environment with such lax standards of intellectual discipline?

And California taxpayers are feeding a professor who is teaching the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as something other than the grand slander it has long been demonstrated to be?

The governor should be asking for some resignations. If tenure becomes a problem, then their chairs should simply be defunded en masse, and we should start again from scratch.

Democrats--here's your Sister Souljah moment for the 21st century.

Want to win back the Presidency? Start by pissing off the Berkeley Islamonuts. It will cost you nothing in California. It will pay off huge dividends in Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and West Virginia. You know--all those states you lost in 2000 but should have won?

Don't get all nuanced on me, now. There's the ball. Hit it.

Splash, out


Thanks to Instapundit for finding the link.

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