Friday, September 09, 2011

Obama owes Barnum an apology

If you were having a discussion with someone and mentioned that you hated racists, only to have a person respond incongruously and vehemently that you shouldn't have called him a racist, wouldn't you suspect that person protests too much? That he actually does have racist views and realizes it? By that same logic, I think Michelle Bachmann realizes she's a clown.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Pontius Perry

Go read Tom Junod.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Media bias: the proof

Remember when Terry Moran was "admitting" that "anti-military bias" was a problem in the media?
There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong.
Well, it seems now there's some proof of bias in military coverage, but it works the other way. Matthew Schofield was a Kansas City Star reporter in Iraq in 2006 and covered a possible war crime in Iraq in which it was alleged that "US forces had handcuffed and then "executed" 10 people in the home of Faiz Harrat Al-Majma'ee" then "called in an airstrike that destroyed the house" to cover up evidence. The release of a formerly secret document by Wikileaks suggests that the UN investigator believed these charges which the Pentagon dismissed. Schofield spoke to Salon's Justin Elliott about his coverage of the event and it is, to my mind, shocking to see how much bias colored his views
What did we learn from the cable just released by WikiLeaks?

One, it shows different sources of information than what I was dealing with. It shows that officialdom was concerned about this. They were not admitting they were concerned when we were on the story back then. They gave much more credence to the story than they had suggested to the press at the time. Behind the scenes, there was a great deal of concern over what exactly had happened there.

The cable outlines pretty much exactly what the worst-case scenario was when we were reporting on it. I didn't really pursue the worst-case scenario because I didn't believe it was possible. We looked into it and we reported on the allegations at the time, but we were always looking for other explanations, for other ways this could have happened. This cable seems focused on that worst-case scenario, which I found fascinating.
So, get this:
  • Ten people--including "five children under the age of five, the youngest being five months old"--were killed.
  • Schofield's stringer on the ground told him he was being given wrong information by the DoD, to which military spokespeople eventually admitted.
  • The American-trained Iraqi police who investigated the incident said the killings were "execution-style killings."
  • US military investigators who dismissed the charges spent less than an hour on the ground.
Despite all that, Schofield admits he "didn't really pursue the worst-case scenario because I didn't believe it was possible."

Tell me again the one about the biased reporter...

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Rights are not based on merit

Today, Jay Nordlinger, in his NRO blog Impromptus (a low-rent Page 6 for people who still believe in voodoo economics), made the following statement:
In the summer of 2001, a minor miracle occurred: Harvard named a president who respected the U.S. military. He was Lawrence Summers. He has an article in the current New Republic, recalling how it was.

“While university presidents are routinely called upon to be on hand to cheer athletic triumphs and to lend their presence to student cultural performances, no Harvard president spoke at an ROTC commissioning ceremony from 1969 until 2002.”

And I had forgotten — or never knew — this repulsive fact: “Harvard refused to permit undergraduates doing their ROTC training at MIT to note their service in the Harvard yearbook.”

You have to wonder whether these SOBs really deserved the protection of the U.S. military.
Apparently that was dashed off a bit more impromptu than most of his posts, since many of his readers wrote to point out that was a bit much. Nordlinger apologized implied they were acting like children ("Come on. Look both ways before you cross the street, too. And don’t swim on a full stomach.") and defended his post:
In defense of my venom and hyperbole: I said “deserved” — “really deserved the protection of the U.S. military.” Often, it’s right to extend protection to people who don’t necessarily deserve it.
Is any of this important? Is a tossed-off comment by a silly conservative writer worth mentioning and highlighting? After all, there's nothing new about "patriotic" right-wingers hating on their fellow Americans when those Americans act in ways "conservatives" don't like — Nordlinger himself once wrote this "is, in many ways, a sick country" because a supposed "friend" of his said she hated Sarah Palin. Her vitriol toward Palin, you see, was somehow inexplicable despite Palin's role as the McCain campaign's attack dog. His argument that some Americans shouldn't get the protection of the military because of their views that the ROTC leads to militarism is, on the other hand, defensible "venom and hyperbole." (He goes on in his own defense, though, and actually makes it all worse, showing that he both doesn't understand the term "Nuclear Free Zone" and that he really does think it would be "kind of cool" if some Americans received less protection than others*.)

So, why bother even mentioning this? Because I think it gets to a root problem in the current "conservative" zeitgeist, a belief that government exists to serve and defend the "deserving."

Rather than believing that all people deserve a government that treats them fairly and equally, "conservatives" today believe citizens must earn basic rights by thinking, living and just generally being the way they want. This is becoming more and more obvious. If you decide you don't want the military at your private university**, you don't deserve military protection. If you use government programs Republicans don't believe in, then you don't deserve to vote (someone should tell the Tea Partiers). If you're not a citizen, you don't deserve to be protected from crime. If you're not a member of the preferred religion then you don't deserve First Amendment protections (because Saudi Arabia should be our role model or something).

According to modern right wingers, people have to earn the right to, well, rights. Deciding someone is "deserving," however, is inherently subjective, so people on the right have decided to make it simple. Think the "wrong" thing, act in a way that conservatives don't like or just be the wrong kind of person and you can kiss those rights goodbye. Government, they seem to believe, is just a way to reward the deserving and we all know who that is, don't we?

Don't worry, though. Nordlinger's just being hyperbolic right? After all, he says it's "often...right to extend protection to people who don’t necessarily deserve it." Often, but not, you know, always.

* Nordlinger writes, "I remember back in the Reagan ’80s, when little places like my Ann Arbor, Mich., were declaring themselves 'nuclear-free zones.' I used to think, 'Yeah, but the American nuclear deterrent protects you regardless.' I also thought, 'Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if places like Ann Arbor could actually exempt themselves? If there could be precise holes in the nuclear umbrella? Maybe Dr. Teller could set his mind to it?'" In other words, Nordlinger, who grew up in Ann Arbor, thinks it would be kind of cool if future Nordlingers were deprived of military protection because their local government disagrees with militarism. Complicated, this democracy stuff. He's also written that he has "been teased or damned all my life for my pro-American views..." While I'm tempted to call bullshit on this — I doubt very much Nordlinger was "teased" for "pro-American views" unless he went to school dressed like Uncle Sam to drive the point home — it does make some sense that a lot of this might be driven by his inner, stunted, weeping adolescent Nordlinger, crying out, "Oh yeah, just wait till we really don't protect you from the Russkies! That'll teach you to pick on me!"

** I disagree with this policy because, in my experience in the military, ROTC officers not only seemed to be the better officers, but ROTC training seemed to have the opposite effect its critics suppose. Rather than militarizing universities, it actually seems liberalize the officer corps. Think about it: Do you think it's better for more officers to come from strict, insulated academy programs or mightn't it be better for America's officers to come from diverse universities from across the country?