News You Can Use
Warning: if they don't apply to you, but you're eating or drinking when you read them, you may need the paramedics.
THE HOUSE OF SAUD MUST BE DESTROYED -- AND WILL BE!
All of them recognize that the U.N. is the right body to lead, because it is in no one's pocket.
Eason Jordan was in Davos, speaking off the record, when he said, well, damn!, I hate to admit this, said that the U.S. military has been deliberately killing journalists in Iraq. He was immediately criticized, and tried to back down, but the story leaked into the blogosphere, and Jordan's craven bosses fired him. This shouldn't have happened. It was an innocent mistake, and he would have been allowed to apologize, or just ignore the whole incident, if it weren't for those evil right wingers.
When asked about the biased reporting of Arab media he said that all media reports from the Middle East should be looked on as being propaganda rather than reporting as we thought on[sic] it. He pointed to the fact that Al-Jazeera’s Iraq Bureau Chief was a former employee of the Iraqi Ministry of Information. He said that many of the Arab media reports were suspect or were known to have been staged. He said that these were facts that they were well aware of but couldn’t raise lest they seem to have a pro-American bias. He said that they tried to provide a balance to this reporting by showing the true positive reality of American interaction in the world and the US military in specific. I left thinking that somehow I had never realized that CNN and Fox were doing the same reporting but for the nuances. I was slapped back to reality during the war with CNN’s reporting.
needed to be able to say things that made foreign leaders feel that, yes, Jordan really understood them. Or at least that they could work with him. There is no doubt that this made him say things in foreign capitals that, should these things ever be replayed for his colleagues back at the home office in Atlanta, would cause shock and alarm.
Because things that are accepted as inoffensive and obvious truisms in one part of the world, can be considered outrages in another. Such as the assertion that the U.S. military targets journalists from time to time in its operations. That's a truism in much of the Middle East. And it's an almost treasonous claim in today's U.S.
Every U.S. executive who has a foreign posting for a U.S. multinational knows what I am talking about. When you live overseas, you live in a society with a different set of laws, mores, and cultural understandings. And you have no choice but to go along with them. These understandings are often 180 degrees at odds with U.S. laws and understandings, which in turn requires both sides to maintain a polite facade of agreement that often masks total disparities and contradictions underneath.
There is still apparently no trascript[sic] of what Jordan said at the Davos forum, but people who were there who blogged the event, make it appear there's little doubt that at Davos, Jordan was facilely presenting to the Middle Eastern figures in the crowd what to them was a truism -- that U.S. forces target journalists from time to time. On Al Jazeera and other Middle East news sources, this is an entirely uncontroversial claim, because everyone accepts it as obvious.
My sense is that Jordan, when he made his remarks to the high-level crowd at Davos, was casually showing to his high-level foreign friends that he, too, accepted it as an uncontroversial fact that the U.S. military targeted journalists, including U.S. journalists. Whether he really believed it or not, I don't know; but it's the kind of thing that would immediately get him "buy in" with an otherwise potentially hostile crowd. And under normal circumstances for him -- halfway around the world, behind close doors -- there would be no potential downside.
There was some analysis that some people would have thought of as scholarly.
First of all, there's an argument that somehow I was soft on Eason Jordan. I don't know how any fair-minded reader of my February 10th piece can think that this is a piece that is soft on the guy.
Now at a minimum, it would seem to me that Mr. Morrisey had an obligation to call me up maybe before he republished that and say, "Well, hey. Is this fair? Am I quoting some crank here? Or do you have anything to say before I quote this?" This is what we here at the Wall Street Journal try to do. If someone is going to get attacked, and attacked really viciously, I think there is an obligation to give the other guy a chance to give his side of the story.
That means CNN must try to be there, wherever the news is, not just in times of crisis, but preferably year round. If Iraq shoots down a U.S. warplane tomorrow, for instance, the place to be is Baghdad. It's not London.
CNN is determined to have as many bureaus as possible, in as many countries of the world as possible. And CNN is determined that its staff reflect the diversity of CNN's audience, which is a global audience. There is no adequate substitute for having first-rate journalists who report from the region in which they are based, where they know the players, and where they speak the language.
Because CNN aggressively covers the world, CNN's international reporting occasionally comes under fire from officials of the U.S. government, the Iraqi government and other governments around the world.
Question: I want to ask about access in Iraq.
Eason: Look, CNN is imperfect, as are all news organizations. We would like to have entirely unrestricted and unfettered access everywhere around the world, but this is not an ideal world; it's a real world, and that's not the way it works.
CNN has had tremendous difficulties with the Iraqi government, a government that's accused me during my own trips to Baghdad of being a CIA station chief for Iraq. I feel lucky to have emerged alive from that. But it's very difficult working from Baghdad. It was during the war, and it continues to be today.
Our view is, first of all, we will not consciously pull punches. If I ever find anybody doing it, then those people will be history at this network, as well as with our Iraq coverage.
I just listened to the WSJ's Bret Stephens on Hugh Hewitt's show, and his basic line seemed to be that everybody screws up, so nobody should be criticized too harshly.
Well, everybody does screw up, and there's nothing unforgivable about screwing up. What's unforgivable is either deliberately misleading, as with the Rather bogus-document story, or following a screwup with denials and stonewalls as with Rather or Jordan. The defensiveness with which a lot of Big Media folks are responding to this topic suggest to me that either they're unable to imagine a swift and open correction, or that their work is even worse than we think . . . . At any rate, as I said on Charlie Rose, they could easily incorporate bloggers as unpaid fact-checkers and assistant editors, improving their product and making friends. All they need to do is get off those high horses for a while.
In fact, by taking on Social Security, Mr. Bush gave the Democrats a chance to remember what they stand for, and why.
Last December, when I told Information Minister Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf that we intended to send reporters to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, he warned me they would "suffer the severest possible consequences." CNN went ahead, and in March, Kurdish officials presented us with evidence that they had thwarted an armed attack on our quarters in Erbil. This included videotaped confessions of two men identifying themselves as Iraqi intelligence agents who said their bosses in Baghdad told them the hotel actually housed C.I.A. and Israeli agents. The Kurds offered to let us interview the suspects on camera, but we refused, for fear of endangering our staff in Baghdad.
John Hawkins: Let me ask you this: True or false -- Jimmy Carter's administration approached the Soviets and asked for help in getting elected in 1980?
Peter Schweizer: They did. They actually did it twice, in 1980 in the waning days of the election fearing that he would lose to Reagan. Carter sent an emissary to the Soviet embassy to meet with Anatoly Dobrynin and Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador, writes about this.
This is his account and basically the deal was: if you demonstrate some sort of grand gesture whereby it would make us look good and help us beat Reagan, we will return the favor; we'll give you something in exchange. The Soviets decided not to do it because at that point they thought Carter was so unpredictable and they thought that Reagan perhaps would end up being another Richard Nixon, somebody they could deal with, so they didn't take it.
In 1984, Dobrynin says that Carter approached him at the Soviet embassy and said that, you know, Reagan was a dangerous man who needed to be defeated and that he wanted to have them work together to accomplish those ends. So, you know, you have to say there's at the least an unusual and really quite horrific situation where an ex-President of the United States is pledging to work with our enemies on the international stage to defeat an incumbent President.
Will Democracy Survive the Media?
Annual Meeting 2005
If the frank exchange of views between the media and politicians that characterized this session is anything to go by, the answer to the theme question was an emphatic "no". In a discussion that ranged from the disappearance of the county hall news bureau to the killing of journalists in Iraq, an informal consensus was reached that a healthy media makes for a robust democracy and one cannot survive without the other.
Which is not to say that everything is rosy. Moderator David R. Gergen, Director, Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, USA, opened the session by suggesting that the trivialization of the press means that the public is becoming increasingly disengaged and is less inclined to vote. And because too much of the media is owned by corporations, much of the world isn’t being covered because of the costs.
Barney Frank, Congressman from Massachusetts (Democrat), USA, agreed. "Essentially there’s less news," he said. "Reporters used to come to the city hall and that is a thing of the past. The biggest change is in the corporate ownership. People used to put out newspapers because they wanted to be journalists. Nobody is doing that these days; they do it because they want to make money. Papers are in a circulation race."
The commercialization of the press is having its effect on the TV channels, too. Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive, CNN News Group, USA, said that his organization is under pressure to compete against entertainment-led cable outlets. For his part Richard Sambrook, Director, World Service and Global News, BBC World, United Kingdom, said that the suicide of David Kelly and the subsequent Hutton Report which criticized the BBC had resulted in a new commitment to the journalistic values of objectivity, transparency and accountability. "I think it’s going to become more important to divide the serious media from the others who are driving the bottom line," he said.
The importance of the media to democracy is nowhere more graphically illustrated in the world today than in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Gergen had pointed out in his introduction, the press has taken cameras to various dangerous places.
But it was the fifth panellist who reminded the largely Western audience of the key role that the media has to play in democracy. Abdullah Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, said his country now has its first free press since before the Soviet invasion. "The right of expression is now ensured for our citizens. We have 160 newspapers with only about 5 or 6 publicly supported," he said. "During the election there were debates going on that nobody would have believed possible a few years ago." And did he feel more accountable with a free press? "Certainly."
Although the Forum has long claimed non-plenary sessions are off the record, this is followed far more in the breach than the observance. Much of the reporting from Davos comes out of so-called off-the-record sessions, without the journalist obtaining the consent of all involved. Further, most people recognise that it is futile to claim an event attended by more than a few people can truly be off the record. Larry Summers, when he was deputy Treasury secretary, told me in Davos that the first thing he learned in Washington was that any conversation with more than two participants would never be off the record (a lesson he has had to relearn recently). . . .
Jordan was reported to have said that a dozen journalists who died in Iraq were targeted by the U.S. military. When participants challenged his comments, he quickly backpedaled, but apparently not nearly far enough or fast enough.
Bloggers pushed CNN to ask the World Economic Forum for a transcript of the discussion. The network did not do so, spokeswoman Christa Robinson said, because there's no dispute over what Jordan said and because he tried to clarify his comments.
CNN executives were concerned about his statements, though he was not threatened with firing, one said. . . .
In an e-mail response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he declined to be interviewed for this story.
Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said that 54 journalists were killed in 2003 and 2004 . At least nine died as a result of American fire, she said.
Among Mr. Jordan's responsibilities at CNN was be an advocate - often a forceful one - in discussions with the Pentagon on issues concerning the security of journalists in Iraq.
Jordan was being pounded hourly by bloggers, liberals as well as conservatives, who provided the rocket fuel for a story that otherwise might have fizzled.Kurtz never mentions the demands for the release of the videotape or a verbatim transcript, though, contenting himself with saying in the fourth paragraph:
No definitive account of what Jordan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 27 has been made public, including the forum's videotape of the off-the-record session.In fact, there's some doubt the session was off-the-record originally. And given Jordan's connections with the WEF (Jordan is on the board of the WEF's subsidiary organization, "The Forum of Young Global Leaders,") it certainly seems likely that the WEF would have given Jordan a tape or transcript, of his remarks at least, if he'd asked for them. No, the missing transcript/tape is almost down the memory hole.
As of yesterday, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today had not carried a staff-written story, and the CBS, NBC and ABC nightly news programs had not reported the matter. It was discussed on several talk shows on Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC but not on CNN.
Several CNN staffers say Jordan, who was distraught about the controversy, saw the handwriting on the wall in tendering his resignation. But top executives are also said to have lost patience with the continuing gossip about Jordan, including his affair with Marianne Pearl, widow of the murdered reporter Daniel Pearl, and subsequent marital breakup.Then, after letting that out on the internet, they edit it to:
Several CNN staffers say Jordan was eased out by top executives who had lost patience with both the controversy and the continuing published gossip about Jordan's personal life after a marital breakup. Jordan's authority already had been greatly reduced after a management shakeup.
CBS later fired three executives and a producer over their work on the National Guard story.
Both Clinton and Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee, urged Democrats to build on McAuliffe's work.
But those who suggest that the Iraqi election is just beanbag, and that all we are doing is making the war on terrorism worse as a result of Iraq, are speaking nonsense.Excellent thinking. But he promptly blows it. The next sentence is:
Here's the truth: There is no single action we could undertake anywhere in the world to reduce the threat of terrorism that would have a bigger impact today than a decent outcome in Iraq. It is that important.
And precisely because it is so important, it should not be left to Donald Rumsfeld.
if Iraqis can't forge a social contract, it would suggest that no other Arab country can - since virtually all of them are similar mixtures of tribes, ethnicities and religions. That would mean that they can be ruled only by iron-fisted kings or dictators, with all the negatives that flow from that.Correct, but then Friedman goes on to say:
But - but - if Iraqis succeed in forging a social contract in the hardest place of all, it means that democracy is actually possible anywhere in the Arab world.
Democrats do not favor using military force against Iran's nuclear program or to compel regime change there. That is probably wise. But they don't really have a diplomatic option. I've got one: Iraq. Iraq is our Iran policy.Sure, right, they fund terrorists, they kill 'infidels,' they're going for atomic bombs, but if some of the population gets restless, they'll fold like a cheap tent, allow elections, and stand aside when they lose.
If we can help produce a representative government in Iraq - based on free and fair elections and with a Shiite leadership that accepts minority rights and limits on clerical involvement in politics - it will exert great pressure on the ayatollah-dictators running Iran. In Iran's sham "Islamic democracy," only the mullahs decide who can run. Over time, Iranian Shiites will demand to know why they can't have the same freedoms as their Iraqi cousins right next door. That will drive change in Iran. Just be patient.
Palestinian suicide bombing has stopped not because of the Israeli fence or because Palestinians are no longer "desperate." It has stopped because the Palestinians had an election, and a majority voted to get behind a diplomatic approach. They told the violent minority that suicide bombing - for now - is shameful.Sure, that's why the bombings went down while Arafat was still breathing.
What Arabs and Muslims say about their terrorists is the only thing that will protect us in the long run. It takes a village, and the Iraqi election was the Iraqi village telling the violent minority that what it is doing is shameful. The fascist minority in Iraq is virulent, and some jihadists will stop at nothing. But the way you begin to drain the swamps of terrorism is when you create a democratic context for those with good ideas to denounce those with bad ones.Friedman's right that in the long run, turning the Muslim world against the pretend "Holy Warriors" is the big necessity. But it won't be "ideas" that suppress the jihadis, it will be bullets, just as with any group of thugs. The democrats in Egypt and Lebanon will probably be encouraged by the Iraqis, but the dictators oppressing them may have to be taken out by force. Finally, getting out of Iraq "as soon as we can," and making whether we do the job of nurturing democracy dependent on whether we have "real partners" is just idiotic.
Egypt and Syrian-occupied Lebanon both have elections this year. Watch how the progressives and those demanding representative government are empowered in their struggle against the one-man rulers in Egypt and Syria - if the Iraqi experiment succeeds.
We have paid a huge price in Iraq. I want to get out as soon as we can. But trying to finish the job there, as long as we have real partners, is really important - and any party that says otherwise will become unimportant.
I talked to Mr. Watt on the phone and expressed my own regret at using a quote that I had not myself confirmed. I also told him that I continue to find his policies as secretary of the interior abysmally at odds with what I, as well as other Christians, understand to be our obligation to be stewards of the earth.So, Moyers was wrong, but Watt is a bad Christian.
February 9, 2005 -- A pair of motorcyclists were caught with their pants down — but their helmets still on — along a quiet Brooklyn street. . . .
Robert Wallendorf, 45, and his fiancée Demetra Decolvenaere, 46, were spotted by a cop having sex in the median of a Shore Parkway service road, police said.
She then saw Wallendorf and Decolvenaere in the median "with their buttocks exposed and their helmets still on, having sex," said a police source.
ME: Many are now pointing to the last election and saying that the Democratic party is in deep trouble and needs fundamental change. What do you think?Hat tips: David Corn, via Glenn Reynolds.
KERRY: Those naysayers are completely out to lunch. They don't know what they are talking about. On every issue that speaks to the qualities of people's lives, we won and will continue to win.
Representative Barney Frank, who was on the panel, told The Boston Globe yesterday that attendees "perked up" after Jordan made remarks that ''sounded like accusing the military of deliberate targeting." Frank said Jordan then backed off a bit, saying he wasn't indicating that such targeting represented US military policy.
What we need from the Davos conference organizers is simple - the tape of what Jordan said. It would be good to get the entire event, but really, what is at issue here is what Jordan said, and how much he backtracked.
If the Davos organizers refuse to release it, and CNN refuses to call for its release, and the BBC refuses to call for its release, and every other news agency refuses to call for its release...
...then remember this, the next time the media gets up on a high horse about the public's right to know. Remember this the next time Dick Cheney has a meeting with energy executives. Remember this the next time reporters complain about Bush not holding enough press conferences, and not doing enough interviews. Remember this the next time they talk about the importance of a free press, and an informed citizenry.
Because it's all conditional. None of this applies when the situation includes a media executive says something in a big forum that he later realizes he doesn't want the public to hear. Then all of a sudden, none of this matters, because it's bad form for other news agencies to look into the story if he wants it to go away. "Bad manners, old chap. We journalists have to stick together."
Also, remember the top excuse of Dan Rather and the CBS memos? Those infamous, all-powerful "competitive forces." Mary Mapes, Dan Rather and company just had to do the sloppy, unfair, and shoddy work that they did, because they were just so worried about being beaten by another news agency.
And yet in this case... it seems like no news agency is rushing to be first on this. Everybody's taking their time. Nobody wants to be the first to demand Davos release the tape. For days, it seemed like nobody wanted to be the first to write about this, or put it in their news section.
Just where the heck are these powerful, intense, unavoidable, healthy "competitive instincts" now?
We’ve got two dramatically different interpretations here – the account of Rony Abovitz and Rebecca MacKinnon and Barney Frank, and the account of Eason Jordan. (Dodd’s statement appears to confirm Rony & Company but is brief; Gergen mostly confirms Rony but is sympathetic to Jordan; Richard Sambrook’s account is pretty close to Jordan’s.)
These accounts are so contradictory on so many key elements that one has no choice but to conclude one side is dramatically misrepresenting what happened.
The videotape that the Davos authorities are sitting on would solve this issue immediately.
Either Rony, MacKinnon, and Frank are passing on inaccurate accounts that will trash Jordan’s reputation, or Eason Jordan’s denial is a lie.
Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come back."
Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true -- one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in the rapture index.
Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its "biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.
As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.
I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank.
Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.
8.11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
In the Jordanian newspaper Ad-Dustour, columnist Oraib al Rintawi wrote: "The election in Iraq was dictated by American arrogance against the will of most of its people."
The question of the cultural and economic consequences of declining birthrates has been squarely placed on the table by four new books: The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It, by Phillip Longman; Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future, by Ben Wattenberg; The Coming Generational Storm: What You Need to Know About Americas Economic Future, by Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns; and Running On Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It, by Peter G. Peterson. Longman and Wattenberg concentrate on the across-the-board implications of demographic change. Kotlikoff and Burns, along with Peterson, limn the economic crisis that could come in the absence of swift and sweeping entitlement reform.(hat tip: Real Clear Politics).
Taken together, these four books suggest that we are moving toward a period of substantial social change whose tantalizing ideological implications run the gamut from heightened cultural radicalism to the emergence of a new, more conservative cultural era.
whatever might raise fertility rates above replacement level will almost certainly require fundamental cultural change.
would almost certainly involve greater cultural conservatism. Married parents tend to be more conservative, politically and culturally. Predictions of future dominance for the Democratic Party are based on the increasing demographic prominence of single women. Delayed marriage lowers fertility rates and moves the culture leftward. Reverse that trend by stimulating married parenthood, and the country grows more conservative whether in a religious mode or not.