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Friday, May 28, 2004

No, Pat, No! 

The excellent Little Green Footballs blog posts its comments on Pat Buchanan's recent article in the Arab News, pointing out that Charles Krauthammer is not, as Buchanan says, a neoconservative. LGF accurately points out that Buchanan is a loser. Their language is a little more restrained than that, but the meaning comes through clear enough. For gooseturds like Buchanan, "neoconservative" means nothing more -- and nothing less -- than "Jew." Here are more deep thoughts from the Paleos' leading caveman:
“So, how do we advance the cause of female emancipation in the Muslim world?” asks Richard Perle in An End to Evil. He replies, “We need to remind the women of Islam ceaselessly: Our enemies are the same as theirs; our victory will be theirs as well.”

Well, the neoconservative cause “of female emancipation in the Muslim world” was probably set back a bit by the photo shoot of Pfc. Lynndie England and the “Girls Gone Wild” of Abu Ghraib prison.

Indeed, the filmed orgies among US military police outside the cells of Iraqi prisoners, the S&M humiliation of Muslim men, and the sexual torment of Muslim women raise a question. Exactly what are the “values” the West has to teach the Islamic world?

“This war ... is about — deeply about — sex,” declaims neocon Charles Krauthammer. Militant Islam is “threatened by the West because of our twin doctrines of equality and sexual liberation.”
On the upside, at least Pat has found a brand new venue for his ravings.


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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"All Lies and Jest" 

Jason van Steenwyk has provided us with an devastating analysis of the ways in which the press distorts the coverage of Iraq. He quotes from the transcript of a press conference given by Major-General James Mattis and others. Here is the relevant passage:
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.
Steenwyk goes on to note:
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.
This is when things get interesting. Steenwyk goes on to dissect the lamestream media's "treatment" of Mattis's quote. A few examples:
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."


[Steenwyk:] 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. [...]

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.


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

Reuters:

"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."


[Steenwyk:] 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?)
Most of the other press outlets make the same mistake, and Agence France-Presse quotes a comment Mattis supposedly made about Nick Berg's beheading, even though there's no mention of it in the transcript.

As Steenwyk notes, the Washington Post is just about the only elite media institution that got the quote right. Everyone else screwed the pooch.

If the MSM were an equal-opportunity screwer-upper, this sort of thing could be ascribed solely to the incompetence of American reporters. But since the distortions always seem to go in an anti-U.S., anti-conservative, anti-Iraq War direction, I think we've got to dig a little deeper in our quest for explanations. Thankfully, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has encapsulated the issue quote nicely. A couple of weeks ago, he said something like this (I can't find the quote online but I know he said it):
If the recent media coverage of our problems in Iraq has you feeling confused, and angry, and depressed, I'd like to suggest that this is no accident. It's the point.
Yep.


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Monday, May 24, 2004

Insult Americans, Win a Prize! 

The New York Times has printed an editorial by one Asla Aydintasbas sticking up for Ahmed Chalabi. Surprised? You shouldn't be. In a comment on NRO's "The Corner" today, Rich Lowry, in one sentence, said absolutely everything that needed to be said: "This is the strange new respect that comes with bitterly denouncing the U.S. occupation."

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A Joke? The Punchline is Sitting in the Senate. 

To Saddam's prisoners, US abuse seems 'a joke'
Gert Van Langendonk
The Daily Star
5/24/04)

BAGHDAD: Ibrahim al-Idrissi, 37, goes to work every day with a handgun in a holster on his hip. In most countries, the line of work Idrissi is in wouldn't require such firepower. But this is Iraq. Idrissi is the president of the Association for Free Prisoners, an Iraqi non-governmental organization that has been documenting the execution of political prisoners under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Many of Saddam's torturers and executioners are still at large. There have been two attempts on Idrissi's life, and three on the organization's headquarters in Baghdad. "Fortunately, their aim hasn't been very good so far," Idrissi says. [...]

So far, the organization has been able to confirm the execution of 147,000 prisoners by Saddam. Last year, the garden of the group's headquarters, in a villa on the bank of the Tigris River in Kahdimiya, was filled with wailing and sobbing as hundreds of families came to check the names of their missing relatives against the lists being posted on a daily basis by the Idrissis and other volunteers. The lists were based on files recovered from Saddam's security apparatus. Behind the house, hundreds of now empty filing cabinets have begun to rust. [...]

Ibrahim Idrissi has mixed feelings about the recent uproar caused by the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib under the US occupation. "As a humanitarian organization, we oppose this," he says. "But these are soldiers who have come to Iraq to fight, not to be prison guards. It was to be expected. Of course, if there are innocent people in there ... it is possible, I guess, that some of them are innocent."

If Idrissi seems a bit callous about the fate of the Iraqis in US-run jails, he has probably earned the right to differ. He recalls a day in 1982, at the General Security prison in Baghdad:

"They called all the prisoners out to the courtyard for what they called a 'celebration.' We all knew what they meant by 'celebration.' All the prisoners were chained to a pipe that ran the length of the courtyard wall. One prisoner, Amer al-Tikriti, was called out. They said if he didn't tell them everything they wanted to know, they would show him torture like he had never seen. He merely told them he would show them patience like they had never seen."

"This is when they brought out his wife, who was five months pregnant. One of the guards said that if he refused to talk he would get 12 guards to rape his wife until she lost the baby. Amer said nothing. So they did. We were forced to watch. Whenever one of us cast down his eyes, they would beat us."

"Amer's wife didn't lose the baby. So the guard took a knife, cut her belly open and took the baby out with his hands. The woman and child died minutes later. Then the guard used the same knife to cut Amer's throat." There is a moment of silence. Then Idrissi says: "What we have seen about the recent abuse at Abu Ghraib is a joke to us."
Ted Kennedy, as we all know, has declared that Saddam's torture chambers have re-opened under U.S. management. Massachusetts ought to be ejected from the Union for electing this schmuck.


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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Bomb Their Villages With Title Deeds 

The Constituency of Terror
Hernando de Soto
New York Times
(10/15/01)

Newspaper headlines and television anchors across the United States ask, "Who are these people who hate us so much?" We who live in the Third World and the former Soviet nations know terrorism well. [...]

But these terrorist politicians have a common problem. They are small minorities in their own countries. To take power, they need to swell their ranks, and in the developing world, the overwhelming majority of people are poor. The difficulty is that for the past 30 years the poor in most places have been more interested in becoming entrepreneurs than revolutionaries. To improve their lives, they have migrated by the millions to the cities. You can see these migrants in the streets of the Middle East or Asia, selling what they manufacture in their shanties, from carpets and books to tools and engines.

They have worked harder than most people in the West realize. In Mexico alone, according to our research [He means research conducted by his Institute for Liberty and Democracy -- Cato], the poor today own assets worth $315 billion, seven times the value of Pemex, the nation’s oil monopoly. In Egypt, the poor control some $245 billion of goods — 55 times the total foreign investment made in Egypt over the last 150 years. All over the developing world, the poor are inching toward a market society.

What is a terrorist to do to divert the poor from economics to politics? He must try to create an irresistible emotional shock that focuses people on their differences with the West rather than their aspirations to resemble it.

To polarize people in this way, you do something as atrocious as possible and hope that the enemy will retaliate even more violently and indiscriminately, killing more innocent people and creating legions of refugees. The terrorist politicians hope then to sit back and wait for the poor, and those whose hearts go out to the poor, to rally around their leadership. [...]

In my native Peru, we helped undermine the Shining Path terrorist movement in the 1990’s by reforming laws to make it easier for the poor to gain legal title to their homes and small businesses. In my experience, the Shining Path and similar groups elsewhere have protected peasant land claims as part of their politics — and once the state itself protects those claims through granting clear title, the terrorists lose their political hold. This strategy was actually first used by the Prussians to rally their farmers to defeat Napoleon in the early 19th century.

To divert the poor from the siren call of terrorists, America and its allies must appeal to their entrepreneurial interests. It is not enough to appeal to the stomachs of the poor. One must appeal to their aspirations. This is, in a way, what the terrorists do. But their path leads only to destruction.

Up to now, the West’s policies and economic incentives have concentrated on encouraging the rest of the world to follow good macroeconomics: to stabilize currencies, balance budgets and privatize public enterprises. The influence, power and glamour of the West are still so great that most countries have followed these prescriptions. The West did not get involved in the details; its beneficiaries have progressed (or failed) on the strength of their own imaginations and programs. It is now time for the West to create new policies that inspire governments to harness the entrepreneurial energy that is already humming among the poor and focus on development at a micro level, encouraging capitalism from below.

The long-term fight against terrorism needs to offer millions of potential warriors a formal stake in the economic system they are striving to join. Any campaign that does not drive a political and economic wedge between terrorists and the poor is likely to be short-lived.
Here's why we should listen to de Soto: The Shining Path was a huge movement when he came along (it tried to assassinate him three times), and it is now in abysmal shape after the Peruvian government instituted his policies. His two books, The Other Path and The Mystery of Capital, emphasize the importance of providing the poor with legal title to the property they already essentially own. Without this, only the elites get to make money, and the economy stinks to high heaven.

This matter goes beyond the question of terrorism: Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Native American Republican, has cited de Soto's writings in arguing that Indian tribes should sink their communal ownership policies and institute private property. On a personal note, I once worked as a high school teacher's assistant on an Indian reservation once a week, and I could not believe the total lack of direction the kids had. This is no accident: They live in an essentially socialist environment where entrepreneurship is not rewarded, so why should they care about their futures? Since land is communal, a person who wants to start a business doesn't have much collateral for a loan (this is related to the presence of so many mobile homes on Indian reservations: they are easier to repossess), and he has to run a gauntlet of regulations to get anything going (a chart in one of de Soto's books outlines some 200-plus steps that must be navigated to start a business in a typical third-world country). If at any step in this process, a rival family takes over from the current administration of the tribe during an election, they can put the kibosh on whatever project the entrepreneurial Indian is undertaking. There is no independent judiciary. And even the lucky person who gets past all of this faces immense hostility from his neighbors. The same situation exists in any number of poor nations.

I'm not one of those people who think that poverty causes terrorism per se, but I do believe that one of the best ways to combat it is to emphasize how much people have to gain from standing with the United States. De Soto deserves a Nobel Prize for his work outlining how much wealth the world's poor could potentially command, but he won't win it because the economics Nobel tends to go to technical economists who deal with problems most people couldn't care less about. When the Bank of Sweden instituted the prize in 1969, they actually stipulated that it be awarded for technical work and not for, um, helping people, which might be why Ludwig Erhard -- West Germany's version of de Soto -- never won it. He'll just have to settle for the Milton Friedman Prize. And for the satisfaction of being right.


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Moore is Less 

The myths of Moore that are sold as facts
by Fraser Nelson
The Scotsman
(5/19/04)

‘Bush is an idiot." If I say this about ten thousand times, it can become a bestselling book: if I slip a few jokes in it (and a few rude words) it can be a stand-up comedy routine. With a camera, it can be a blockbuster film.

Just ask Michael Moore, a baseball-cap-wearing comedian who has turned his hand to literature and made Stupid White Men - an anti-Bush polemic - a worldwide bestseller in an era when people were supposedly fed up with politics.

The secret of his success: his books are billed as fact, but contain myths woven together with conspiracy theory. [...]

Spurned by his success, Mr Moore has swapped his luxury Manhattan flat for the Cannes Film Festival this week to preview Fahrenheit 9/11 [...] It’s a work intended to expose links between Bush’s allies and the Saudi royal family and, to be fair to Mr Moore, it concludes on a staggering event. In the days after the 11 September terrorist attacks, President Bush allowed his friends in the Saudi Arabian royal family to flee America when a no-fly ban was firmly in place.

Mr Moore takes up the story: "Nobody could go up in the sky. Except the administration allowed a private Saudi jet to go to five American cities and pick up 20 members of the bin Laden family and get them out of the country. And the FBI was very upset that they didn’t get to interrogate them."

This is truly remarkable. But it is also flatly untrue - as proven by the bipartisan 9/11 Committee, which found that the planes with Saudis took off only after airspace reopened and the FBI had interviewed 22 of the 26 suspects. The White House was not involved.

This is, sadly, by no means the only myth masquerading as fact in Moore’s bestselling books. There are entire websites devoted to nailing down the parts where he’s dressed up gossip as gospel, or concocted entire arguments.

Take Bowling for Columbine, his Oscar-winning documentary about the massacre five years ago at Columbine High School in Colorado. Its title is based on the "fact" that the murderers went bowling before starting the slaughter. Except they were nowhere near a bowling alley, as is now proven. This is just the start of the little deceptions which routinely "sex up" Moore’s work. It is not sloppiness. He being deliberately loose with the facts, and it pays.

A while ago, he was challenged by CNN about "glaring inaccuracies" in Stupid White Men. "This is a book of political humour. So, I mean, I don’t respond to that sort of stuff, you know ... How can there be inaccuracy in comedy?"

A wonderful caveat. Mr Moore makes his money from people who think the facts he presents are true. His Oscar was for documentary, not fiction. Yet his policy, it seems, is to make ’em laugh - even if that means bending the truth. [...]

[T]he lure of Moore-style fortune has bent several serious commentators who have found they can treble their sales with a few salacious details. Serious economists such as Paul Krugman and former ministers such as Paul O’Neill, President Bush’s first Treasury secretary, have been on the same money trail discovered by Mr Moore. Noam Chomsky, the linguist and conspiracy theorist, has long been churning out books blaming the US and Israel for everything that’s wrong in the world - backed up by footnotes often found to be spurious. His reward: a poll last week found him to be the US commentator most read by Europeans.
Why should we take Europe seriously when they aren't serious?


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