Patterico's Pontifications

6/5/2005

Jill Stewart Radio Segment

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Patterico @ 8:04 pm

I just finished talking with Jill Stewart on KABC AM 790. It was a lot of fun. I even managed to get in a plug for Xrlq. If you heard it, let me know how you think it went. You can be honest; I give you permission.

In my experience, new readers rarely appear when the blog is mentioned on the radio (or in print, for that matter). But if there are any new readers coming here because of the radio segment I just did, the post immediately below this one is a pretty good example of the sort of media criticism I do here. If you like it, I hope you’ll bookmark the site.

Thanks again to Jill for the opportunity.

UPDATE: Jill just called to say that she and the producers were happy with the segment. [Like she would tell you if it was terrible. — Ed.] [Hey, back to Mickey Kaus’s blog where you belong, Ed.! — Patterico.] The funniest part is that the time slot is usually occupied by a liberal, so their switchboard was lined up with calls from crazies who were furious at Jill and myself. I laughed hard when I heard that . . .

Promoting Democracy: What a Stupid Idea

Filed under: Dog Trainer,International — Patterico @ 4:07 pm

The lead news article in this morning’s L.A. Times is an undisguised criticism of President Bush’s policy of promoting democracy. If anyone is interested in learning why so many people revile this newspaper, just read this article. It is full of The Times‘s masterful techniques of slandering the conservative position through clever wording and the burying of important facts.

The article is titled Bush’s Foreign Policy Shifting. The sub-head reads: “Spreading democracy has become his top priority, at times trumping urgent issues. Some specialists dismiss his vision as unrealistic.” If that sub-head doesn’t make it clear enough, the first sentence of the article reinforces the point:

President Bush’s ambitious vision of global democratic reform has begun to dominate the administration’s foreign affairs agenda, in some cases pushing aside urgent international issues.

In other words, promoting democracy is not an urgent international issue. Gotcha.

There are two parts to the article. The first part of the article reflects the view trumpeted on the front page: that Bush is overemphasizing democracy in a misguided and fanciful distraction from the “real issues” facing the international community:

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief got a taste of this change during his weeklong visit to Washington last month. Egypt is an important player in the Middle East peace process and a vital, if quiet, ally in the struggle to create stability in Iraq. But Nazief repeatedly was put on the defensive by questions on one topic: Egypt’s plans for democratic reform.

Nazief said two pressing regional issues were largely left out of his May 18 visit with Bush: the unfolding crisis just to Egypt’s south in the Darfur region of Sudan, and Syria’s involvement in Lebanon.

Such “pressing regional issues” are treated as far more important than silly notions of democratization, which are portrayed as naive, pie-in-the-sky daydreaming:

Although few foreign policy specialists interviewed for this article questioned the president’s personal sincerity, some dismissed his plan as little more than fantasy. Others expressed doubt that the U.S. had the credibility to advance such ambitious reforms — especially in the Islamic world.

This analysis studiously ignores a recent surge of democratic sentiment — much of it in the Islamic world — in places like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even Cuba. It’s not working out perfectly everywhere, of course, but the pro-democracy spirit is definitely on the rise. No hint of this tidal wave of passion for self-governance appears on the front page. It is not until paragraph 28 — hidden away on Page A10 — that the article makes any reference to the recent explosion of democratic feeling around the globe:

In public speeches, Bush has reeled off the names of such countries as Ukraine, Georgia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan as proof of democracy’s inevitable triumph and warned authoritarian rulers that they must change.

Naturally, where democracy has succeeded, the success is immediately denigrated:

At one level, experts such as Moises Naim, editor of the Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine, acknowledge that Bush has been effective in presenting a series of recent displays of “people power” in countries such as Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan as part of the inevitable march of history.

But he and others say the administration is merely “picking the low-hanging fruit.” They argue that the real test of Bush’s commitment to change will come in strategically important nations, such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, where the political stakes are far higher for the U.S.

I doubt that more than one person used the phrase “low-hanging fruit” — a phrase that clearly doesn’t apply to Iraq, Afghanistan, or Palestine in any event. Why are these countries not included in the analysis? I don’t know for sure, but I do know that doing so might undercut the theme of the latter part of the article: Bush is not doing enough to promote democracy. Sure, it’s the complete opposite of the theme of the first part of the article — but never mind that:

Some specialists also say the administration reacted more cautiously than many European countries to public uprisings against repressive governments in the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan in March and Uzbekistan last month. One reason: They both house U.S. military bases that are crucial to supporting American forces in Afghanistan.

Administration officials dealing with the democracy issue stress that “prudence” is necessary in pushing nations to become more open politically, but they insist that the political will to move ahead is there because there is no other choice.

Remember that, on Page A1, the problem was that Bush was doing too much to promote democracy — and thereby ignoring other issues that are more “urgent” than spreading democracy. But on the back pages, when the article finally gets around to acknowledging the apparent success of Bush’s strategy, the problem is now that Bush hasn’t done enough — that Bush is, like Daddy 41, being too “prudent.”

It’s a classic Catch-22. Damned if you promote democracy; damned if you don’t. The editors are hoping you won’t notice the inconsistency. In fact, it would be best if you just didn’t turn to the back pages at all. And most readers won’t.

Look for a rash of letters to the editor over the next few days, criticizing Bush’s hopelessly naive policy of bringing democracy to the world. The letters will be written by people who don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world. In other words, by people whose main source of news is the Los Angeles Times.

UPDATE: Jason Van Steenwyk has a similar but more extensive take.

Hezitation

Filed under: General,Politics,Terrorism,War — Dafydd @ 2:46 pm

The parliamentary battle lines in Lebanon are being drawn during their multi-week, rolling election. Today, in the South Lebanon districts, the pro-Syrian factions Hezbollah and Amal swept to victory, capturing all twenty-three seats in a very low-turnout election. Although they’re unlikely to do well in any other regions of that war-torn and long-occupied country, these factions — especially the terrorist group Hezbollah — see their victory in the south as support for continuing their paramilitary role of “resistance,” though it’s unclear who or what they’re resisting: Israel? They pulled out in 2000, under peacenik Ehud Barak, the Israeli Jimmy Carter. Or does Hezbollah mean resistance against the nationalist, anti-Syrian majority of Lebanon itself?

AP’s article was clearly written before unofficial returns showed that Hezbollah/Amal did, in fact, sweep the seats:

Hezbollah Likely to Win Lebanon Elections
Jun 5, 3:59 PM (ET)
By HUSSEIN DAKROUB

BINT JBEIL, Lebanon (AP) – Hezbollah and its Shiite allies looked certain to capture all of southern Lebanon’s 23 parliamentary seats Sunday in the second stage of national elections, a vote the militant group hopes will send a message of defiance to the United States which brands it a terrorist organization.

To everybody’s great surprise, the Reuters article was considerably more triumphalist, crowing:

Hizbollah, allies win landslide in S.Lebanon polls
Jun 5, 4:21 PM (ET)
By Kamel Jaber

HOULA, Lebanon (Reuters) – Syria’s staunchest allies Hizbollah and Amal swept south Lebanon’s general elections on Sunday, in a crushing victory seen as a vote for anti-Israeli guerrillas to keep their weapons.

Official results were not due until Monday but the Amal-Hizbollah slate, dubbed the “steamroller,” claimed it had taken all 23 seats up for grabs in the south. Unofficial counts indicated the alliance had won more than 80 percent of votes.

Both AP and Reuters make clear what was the main (perhaps only) issue in the campaign.

AP:

Hezbollah hopes strong voter support will give it greater political influence to confront international pressure to disarm now that its Syrian backers have withdrawn from the country.

“The people’s participation in the elections is a vote for the resistance and its weapons,” said Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah candidate allied with Amal.

Reuters:

Many in the Shi’ite Muslim heartland see a vote for Hizbollah as a vote for the group to retain its arms as a defense against neighboring Israel, which occupied the south for 22 years until its 2000 pullout….

Banners in many southern towns urged voters to choose the Amal-Hizbollah list as a rejection of international pressure to disarm the guerrilla group, whose attacks were instrumental in driving Israeli forces from southern Lebanon. [emphasis added by moi]

“Your vote is a bullet in the enemy’s chest,” read a banner in the mainly Sunni city of Sidon….

“I am going to vote for Hizbollah because they liberated the south. We owe them our blood,” said Zeinab Yasin in Houla.

Note that Reuters could not resist the temptation to spread the fraudulent meme that Israel was driven out of Lebanon by the heroic resistance of Hezbollah.

Historical detour: in reality, Israel quickly conquered all of southern Lebanon and could have taken the entire country, had they wanted to do; they held it as long as Likud was in power.

In 1999, however, the peacenik Israeli Labor Party ran Ehud Barak. Barak, in a campaign run by Clinton political apparatchiks James Carville, Robert Shrum and Stanley Greenberg, cruised to a 56% victory over Benjamin Netanyahu. Almost immediately, despite the fact that Hezbollah had not been able seriously to threaten the Israeli occupying force, Barak began to plan the pull-out from Lebanon.

When it came time for Barak to execute the pull out, however, rather than carry out the phased withdrawal that was originally intended, he inexplicably rushed the extraction… which caused it to resemble a rout, rather than a voluntary withdrawal. In fact, under Barak’s direct orders, the IDF departed so quickly they left armor behind; they actually had to send in warplanes to bomb their own abandoned tanks, lest Hezbollah become the unexpected recipients of a regiment of armored cavalry. It was unprecedented, unnecessary, and it unintentionally (?) gave the false impression that Israel had been cast out of Lebanon by the mighty Hezbollah militia — which in fact had nothing to do with the removal; it was driven entirely by internal Israeli politics.

But all that is spilt milk over the bridge. Back to the election story.

Even though the combined slate got “80 percent of the votes,” turnout itself was quite low, according to AP:

Although they were virtually assured of success, officials of Hezbollah and Amal made last-minute appeals Sunday to their voters to turn out in large numbers to send a strong signal to Washington.

But Amal and Hezbollah campaigners estimated voter turnout only at about 45 percent. Official results were not expected before Monday….

One reason for the lack of interest by some of the 665,000 eligible voters was that six of the 23 seats were uncontested because there were no major challengers.

Quelle surprise! When the heavily armed Hezbollah runs in Hezbollah space, how many seats do you imagine would be seriously contested? Besides the six that had only a single candidate, I imagine the other seats in the Shi’ite sections of the south were “contested” only in the loosest sense of the word. There was probably more anti-Syrian sentiment in the Sunni, Druze, and Christian neighborhoods… but after the car-bomb assassination of anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir in eastern Lebanon three days ago, I suspect opposition in the south was muted, to say the least.

In addition, there may have been some gerrymandering, according to the Reuters story:

Some Christian opposition politicians had called for an election boycott, complaining the shape of the districts made it difficult to challenge the Amal-Hizbollah slate.

In any event, the different regions of Lebanon are choosing up sides. The biggest topic of conversation when the new parliament convenes is almost guaranteed to be Hezbollah, and whether the Lebanese army will actually try forcibly to disarm them. Of course, if the Brits cannot even disarm the IRA, I’m not sanguine about the chances of the newly formed democratic government in Lebanon having much success with Hezbollah.

Perhaps they should invite the Israelis back, now that Barak and the Laborites are safely back in their box.

NBC: Nothin’ But Condoms!

Filed under: General — See Dubya @ 1:47 pm

When I get unwanted ads for North Korean Viagra in my e-mail inbox, it’s spam and it’s against the law. When I get annoying popups for sex sites while surfing the web, I assume I have a virus on my computer and try to fix it. Microsoft’s technicians-and probably thousands of others in Silicon Valley–are devoting enormous resources to eliminating these problems through both technical and legal means. They’re not happy about the situation, and they want me to enjoy the internet without having to deal with extraneous crap like that, so they’re trying to fix it.

Meanwhile, Warren Bell over at NRO tells us that the condom ads on the WB, and on the NBC (why skimp on definite articles here?) are a feature, not a bug, and if it bothers us we should just deal with it, or perhaps invest in a TiVo and spend extra money and time editing the TV feed ourselves. Or make sure my kid doesn’t come around at all during prime time. Or mute the commercials, corral the tot or run her out of the room when they show the ads, make up a story about how they’re actually medicine, something. But for the bright guys in TV land, it’s my problem to deal with.

You know, it’s not the ads themselves that bother me so much as this arrogant attitude that I’m the one with the problem here, and I should just be thrilled with whatever the network hotshots think I ought to like.

Sorry, Warren, it’s just not worth the trouble for me. The solution I will use is the “off” button.

UPDATE: It’s like they just come into my living room and pass gas. The smell isn’t pleasant, but it’s the presumption that rankles. Especially when they recommend that I invest in air freshener if I don’t like it.

UPDATE II: Warren Bell himself has kindly dropped by and left a civil, gas-free response in the comments! I’ll put up a response late this AM.

The Herd Is Getting Spooked….

Filed under: Politics — Dafydd @ 1:34 pm

Do I detect a shrill note of panic among the Democratic herd?

Listen to former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) at “an annual state Democratic fundraising dinner,” talking about Howard Dean:

“The chairman of the DNC is not the spokesman for the party,” Edwards said.

Exsqueeze me? Perhaps the extremely experienced, long, long serving former junior senator from North Carolina has forgotten in all the excitement; but “spokesman” is pretty much the definition of the job of Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In fact, I think the official title is something like Chairman, Spokesman, Visible Face, Speaker to Gentiles, and All Around Go-To Guy for This Here Party — isn’t it?

A few more unthinking remarks by Dean like the ones over the past few days, and the entire herd of Democratic cattle might break into a full-out stampede. Possibly over the nearest cliff.

Eye in the Sky on the Limey Guy

Filed under: General — See Dubya @ 12:45 pm

A while back Patterico covered California’s plan to put a GPS chip in our cars that will track our position and charge us a user fee for every mile we drive within the state. There were also plans at the Federal/DOT level to implement the same sort of thing. Over at the Jawa Report a couple weeks ago, I covered a similar initiative in Oregon in quite a bit of detail. (The link to patterico’s original piece is in there).

If this still seems far-fetched, consider now that England is on track to implement a similar program in a couple of years. That’s fine for a surveillance-happy society that has no objection to state-sponsored scanners prowling their neighborhoods to monitor whether they are watching TV without paying their exorbitant Baathist Broadcasting Company tax. But I don’t see it flying here.

Dude, this is America. We love our cars because they give us freedom. The (amazingly talented) country guitarist Junior Brown has a great song about his car called “Freedom Machine”, about exactly that. You can go where you want, when you want, with whom you want. If you don’t like the town you’re in, you can pack up and bug out. Cars have been responsible for amazing social changes and much of the dynamism of American society.

And yet the Supreme Court has already held that cars and roadways are “pervasively regulated”, that we have little expectation of privacy in our cars, and so there’s probably not much stopping a statist court from blessing this incipient big Brotherism.

In other words, this will be unpopular with the public, but fine with our black-robed judicial betters, and probably with our tax-happy legislators too. Welcome to 1984.

Pundit Review Radio Tonight

Filed under: Blogging Matters — Patterico @ 9:02 am

Pundit Review Radio will interview Scott Johnson of Power Line tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern (that’s 6 p.m. Pacific, for those of you who can’t subtract. You know who you are.). You can listen on the Web. Details here.

But don’t let it stop you from listening to me on 790 KABC in Los Angeles! I told you yesterday that it should be between 7 and 8 p.m., but it could start as early as 6:30 p.m. (and could end as late as 8:45 p.m.). Whenever it is, it’s going to be a half-hour segment — but I haven’t been told yet specifically when. I’ll update you today once I know more.

UPDATE: It’s looking like 7-8 after all. Jill Stewart (who will be your radio personality conducting the interview) may be taking calls as well. You can listen live by going to this link.

What Daf Ab Said

Filed under: General — See Dubya @ 5:34 am

In the post below, Dafydd Ab Hugh fisks the AP’s attempt to TANG John Bolton. It’s a scuzzy last-minute article full of conjecture and innuendo. The AP’s, that is. Daf’s is great.

Allow me to pile on: let’s assume everything in the AP article is true. If so, it suggests that John Bolton
A: takes no guff when dealing with vital WMD issues;
B. successfully removed an administrator whom he (or his superiors) felt was incompetent and/or detrimental to the interests of the United States; and
C. masterfully exploited the rules of the OPCW to implement his policy.

It’s a smoking gun all right: Just like with the PSI, Bolton gets the job done. No wonder Kofi & co. are scared.

Bustani or Bust!

Filed under: Fiskings,International,Law,Politics,War — Dafydd @ 2:11 am

AP’s title:

Bolton’s role in diplomat’s ouster questioned
U.N. tribunal ruled arms-control chief’s dismissal ‘unlawful’
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:05 p.m. ET June 4, 2005

I thought of fisking this AP story earlier; but I honestly thought nobody could be so disingenuous as to cite it as some sort of justification of the Democratic attempt to vilify John Bolton, both preventing his ratification as ambassador to the UN and also, if possible, destroying his life and career. Foolish me. The ink was barely dry (the phosphors were barely glowing) before it was being quoted all over the place by triumphalist liberals: ah-HA! It’s the smoking gun!

Note that indented paragraphs are taken directly from the AP story; my responses are unindented.

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