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Consider:

"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"







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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
A Triple Helping of Minor Unmitigated Gall
Topic: Couldn't be so...

A Triple Helping of Minor Unmitigated Gall

The Appetizer: Logic Soup

Start with an amazing radio interview, one party in New York, one in Baghdad - Wednesday, March 29, 2006. The party in New York is the host, one of the many conservative, pro-Bush, pro-war, commentators on AM radio, Hugh Hewitt, who is definitely of the Bush-can-do-no-wrong school. The party in Baghdad is Michael Ware, Time Magazine's bureau chief there.

Hugh Hewitt is a southern California phenomenon. Here's the bio from his site -
Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show heard in more than 70 cities nationwide, and a Professor of Law at Chapman University Law School, where he teaches Constitutional Law. He is the author of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World as well as the New York Times best selling author of If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat. He has written 4 other books. Hewitt has received 3 Emmys during his decade of work as co-host of the PBS Los Angeles affiliate KCET's nightly news and public affairs show Life & Times. He is a weekly columnist for The Daily Standard, the online edition of The Weekly Standard.
Chapman University, by the way, is down in Orange County, in the City of Orange, near Disneyland and the famous Philip Johnson designed Crystal Cathedral (two photos here at the bottom of the page). At one point Chapman University was California Christian College, but it's all grown up now. Orange County is, of course, famously conservative - the John Birch Society was founded there, down in Newport Beach at the Balboa Bay Club, and the headquarters of the organization that says there was no Holocaust at all is in Costa Mesa, or was at one time. It's sort of the opposite of Hollywood.

Michael Ware, an Australian citizen, in the interview says this about himself -
I'm actually a lawyer or an attorney by training. But after graduating law school, I only stayed in practice for one year after working in our court of appeal, then fell into journalism, working for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation newspapers in Australia, where I eventually covered the conflict in East Timor. After that, I took a job with Time Magazine in Australia, and then after September 11, I was sent to Afghanistan, where I stayed for over a year. And then as the war in Iraq approached, I entered Iraq through Iran, into the Kurdish North, where I hooked up with U.S. Special Forces, and the Peshmerga militia, and covered the Northern front line. Ever since then, I have essentially been living in Baghdad.
So they should get along, right? There's the law, and Rupert Murdoch owns Fox News and has turned it into the voice of the administration.

They didn't get along. Radio Blogger has the full text of the interview here, and it's rather extraordinary. Hewitt is essentially arguing with Ware, and to Ware, that because Ware has interviewed a number of people on the other side Ware cannot be a real reporter. By speaking with those who are pure evil, and reporting what they say are the reasons for what they're doing, he's essentially become their mouthpiece, and maybe he ought to quit right now, no matter how brave he's been in getting the inside story. The idea is everyone knows they're just evil, and Ware has given them one more forum. He needs to stop this reporting. It's morally wrong.

Using that Socratic method in the manner the law has been taught since Harvard Law decided that was the way it should be done, Hewitt sets the guy up.

"Michael, can you quantify for my audience the amount of time you've spent with the jihadis, and the amount of time you've spent with the insurgents?" So Ware explains.

Then there's the classic buddy-trap "Okay, indulge me, a lawyer, and you're a lawyer, so you know. I'm just trying to get a sense of it. Has it been five different times out with the jihadists and 20 different times with the insurgents? I'm not looking for minute counts here, but I am trying to get a sense of how often you'll cross over to the other side and spend time with them." So Ware explains a bit more.

Then the trap is sprung -
HH: All right. So we've got a good grounding here. Now this brings me to the interesting issue that we talked about on CNN, and that is the morality of doing that. Why do you do that?

MW: Well, there's a number of reasons. I mean, you can look at it very, very cynically. One is know thy enemy. Now I cannot begin to tell you how much the American people, not to mention the Brits and the Aussies back home, have been significantly misled about the nature of the enemy. I mean, I've been at press conferences under the CPA. I've been at press conferences under the interim Iraqi government. I've been to press conferences under the current regime. I've listened to all manifestation of U.S. military spokesmen, of diplomats, of ambassadors, discuss and describe the enemy. And so often, it has been wrong. And it's either because these people don't understand what they're up against, or more likely, it's that these people are not telling the public the truth about them, about the fact that they're not just one homogenous group, that there are many different motivations. And that was a very, very valuable thing to come to understand, because it's led to the point now, that we see, where we have this Bush administration opening dialogue and negotiations with the more nationalist, or Baathist elements of the insurgency. So learning that this was not one homogenous, scary boogeyman was vital to not just my and the public's understanding, but also to military intelligence and this administration's. Look what it's led to.
That's it. Hewitt is all over him. Ware says the good guys sometimes either lie or else just don't get what they're really facing. But Hewitt is smug - he has, with his impeccable logic, exposed someone who is undermining our war efforts.

Ware explains our military trusts him and uses his insights, and praises his efforts, and he's been in every major battle but two, and the bad guys have threatened to kills him any number of times, and once kidnapped him. Ware doesn't get the new discourse in America -
HH: Now that's very interesting, because that would indicate that... and I understand it, but that fear is affecting your reporting, or your candor level.

MW: ... I mean, one has to be careful about how you couch things, but it doesn't stop you reporting the facts.

HH: No, but it does, however, get to the question of whether or not media from the West should be... what's the right word, Michael Ware? It's not assisting, but providing information flow to the jihadis about whom I'm quite comfortable, and I think most Westerners are quite comfortable, just declaring to be evil, because they kill innocents, and that killing of innocents is evil, is it not, Michael?
Cool, Time Magazine's bureau chief in Baghdad has just been swift-boated live, on air, by the braver, more heroic man, who knows, like everyone the bad guys are just evil and the details beyond that don't matter, and in any event, shouldn't be discussed, as in this - "Michael Ware, what is the difference between what you've been doing, especially with the jihadists, though to a certain extent with the insurgents as well, and say a World War II-era reporter making numerous trips to the German side to talk with the Nazis, and then coming back and being ambivalent about reporting on the Nazis, or being candid about the Nazis.

Ah ha! The Nazi gambit. That always works in complex arguments. It simplifies matters. Ware must like Hitler, or something.

And as for relative risk and bravery, we get this -
HH: I'm really fascinated by the question of whether or not it's ever good journalism to consort with the enemy in search of interesting stories. And there's not denying, Michael, where you get scoops. It's fascinating to read. You've got a great deal of courage, of physical courage, in doing this. So no one's denying that. I'm just wondering whether or not there's a line that you have in your mind reconciled yourself to crossing not once, but scores and scores of times, to report on the enemy, and whether or not that's a good thing. And you think it is, I think I hear you saying, because the public will not otherwise know what it is that you're reporting. Is that a fair summary?

MW: That is fairly accurate, and let's look at it this way. I mean, you're sitting back in a comfortable radio studio, far from the realities of this war.

HH: Actually, Michael, let me interrupt you.

MW: If anyone has a right...

HH: Michael, one second.

MW: If anyone has a right to complain, that's what...

HH: I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's...civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.
What a hoot! Needless to say, Hewitt was ridiculed mercilessly by the folks on the web for a full day. But then, if George Bush, flying a bit for the Texas Air National Guard in the late sixties and mysteriously dropping out, is the more manly man than John Kerry, decorated combat veteran of the war on the ground in Vietnam, this makes sense. Grabbing a cab to get to midtown takes courage too, and Hewitt actually sat in the actual building as he interviewed Ware. He wants his due. (Some Californians, it seems, think Manhattan is really, really, really scary, but does this look scary?)

But Ware didn't hang up. He just remained calm and took a bit more abuse before he snapped (emphases added) -
HH: Now this raises a question of whether or not American journalists generally, and perhaps you specifically, Michael, have an investment in describing this as a genie out of the bottle, have an investment in ignoring, say, the benefits the Marsh Arabs have achieved, the benefits the stability, relative stability in Mosul... they just had an attack in Mosul, so it's relative stability, not great stability. What is it? Thirteen out of the provinces are generally sedate. It is Baghdad, Anbar, the Syrian Desert there, that are the terrible places of great conflict. And while 50 to 60 bodies a day is a horrible toll, Mark Steyn argues that on a net, there are 100,000 Iraqis more alive every year that Saddam is gone, than every year this insurgency goes on. Does that not make a difference in your understanding of the conflict?

MW: Well, I mean, like I said, it's very hard to compare. If 100,000 more people are alive, then clearly, that's a blessing. How we come to those numbers I wouldn't have a clue. But I mean, what I can say is that I, for one, certainly have no investment in beating one administration, or favoring one party over the other. I'm an Australian who reports for an American magazine. I have no stake in your political process whatsoever. I just call it as I see it. I mean, there's nothing to be gained for someone like me. And look, there's enough people here that I've certainly come across in the three years, and who have been writing or publishing or broadcasting, that would be more than happy to tout the successes. Yet those people either can no longer be here because of the security, or I found that a lot of them like some of the soldiers I know, are just being warn down by the horror and drudgery of this place, to the point where that perhaps their views have changed. So I mean, I can't speak for every journalist. All I can say is that I don't personally have a liberal, anti-administration bias. And I can't say that I say that many of my colleagues do.
Oh yeah? Go to Hugh Hewitt's site here for Hewitt's restrained but smug gloating. He seems to think he finally and definitively, or at least logically, exposed the anti-American bias of the press on the ground in Iraq, and their near treasonous reporting on what the enemy is thinking. And they think they're so brave.

Enroll in the law school at Chapman University for more. And visit nearby Disneyland, paying particular attention to Fantasyland.

The Entrée: Mystery Meat

Actually, in France the entrée is the appetizer, and the plat is the main course, but no matter. This was still a mystery.

Wednesday, March 29th, as the Democrats unveiled their new National Security Strategy, saying they had better ideas than the incompetents in the White House on how to keep the country safe and secure, the president held a news conference. Yep, bad timing there. But they're Democrats, after all.

Of course the situation in Iraq looks dismal, what with twenty or more headless bodies showing up every day, militias roaming around killing for one side or the other, no government being formed and everyone mad at us for this or that. And there are reports of twenty or thirty thousand civilians displaced, afraid to go home to where they used to live, but with no place to go. And we seem to have created a whole new generation of people who want us dead. And the world thinks we're bullies or fools, or both.

But the president calmly explained none of this was his fault. Oddly, he didn't blame Bill Clinton this time.

It all would have worked out fine. But now it's "tough." The problem was Saddam Hussein, not anything at all the Bush administration ever did - "President Bush said Wednesday that Saddam Hussein, not continued U.S. involvement in Iraq, is responsible for ongoing sectarian violence that is threatening the formation of a democratic government."

The logic here? Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. Got it?

And he used violence to aggravate all the sectarian divisions there, to keep himself in power. Got it?

So he started it, we didn't. All this tension between folks over there? "The enemies of a free Iraq are employing the same tactics Saddam used, killing and terrorizing the Iraqi people in an effort to foment sectarian division."

See? Not his fault. The Democrats can come up with whatever plan they want, but what can you do with these Iraqi folks? They had a bad role model.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid - "The president can give all the speeches he wants, but nothing will change the fact that his Iraq policy is wrong. Two weeks ago, he told the American people that Iraqis would control their country by the end of the year. But last week, he told us our troops would be there until at least 2009."

But the president is adamant. What does it matter what plans you make? Damn that Saddam guy. He messed everything up - "Iraq is a nation that is physically and emotionally scarred by three decades of Saddam's tyranny."

Say, about this scarring business, didn't we dismantle (as in "blow up") their infrastructure, and stand aside as the cities were looted, and manage to fail gloriously at putting things back together, like the electrical system, the oil industry, and most basic services?

Ah well, what can you do? Got to stay and see this though. These Iraqi folks have been abused. They need therapy? Something like that.

He did say the folks there really need to meet again, one day soon, let bygones be bygones, smoke a peace pipe or whatever they do in those parts, and form some sort of national government. What's the problem?

But all this bad stuff happening now? "It's not my fault." The weird guy with the moustache did it.

Add your own comment about the era of personal responsibility.

And how are things there as he gave this speech? See this, from the famous Riverbend, posting from Baghdad daily -
I was reading the little scrolling news headlines on the bottom of the page.... Suddenly, one of them caught my attention and I sat up straight on the sofa, wondering if I had read it correctly....

"The Ministry of Defense requests that civilians do not comply with the orders of the army or police on nightly patrols unless they are accompanied by coalition forces working in that area."

That's how messed up the country is at this point... The situation is so bad on the security front that the top two ministries in charge of protecting Iraqi civilians cannot trust each other. The Ministry of Defense can't even trust its own personnel, unless they are "accompanied by American coalition forces."
Some sort of national government may be a long way off. No one is in charge. Anyone in uniform could be, well, anyone. For your safety the government says don't trust the government - there really isn't one yet. You could get killed. If the Americans are tagging along with someone in uniform, maybe you could be okay. You're on your own. Do your best.

But it's Saddam's fault. What did we do? We freed them. What can you do?

Dessert: Mock Apple Pie in the Sky

Oh, the issue has come up before. May 1, 2005 - The Oppressed Minority - Christians in America and Conservative Republicans - one of many commentaries on the Christian right playing victim. Everyone is out to get them. The government won't allow them to require all school children in public schools, whatever the kids' religion at home, recite prayers to their God, which is, after all, the only true God, as everyone knows. They feel they've been denied their rights there. What's the problem? They want their kids to pray in public school. Why insult the religion of most real Americans and say they can't?

And the ACLU backed that atheist who didn't want his kid to be forced to say the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance - but what about their kids? Their kids wouldn't be allowed to say the words, and that's not fair. What's the harm? Why does his kid matter more than theirs? One guy messing everything up.

And the Ten Commandments statue thing had to be removed from that courthouse. That was an insult. Didn't Justice Scalia himself, of the Supreme Court, say it was "a fact" the this country was not really founded on people getting together to form a self-governing republic, but really as a something God directed? You just know "for the people, of the people and by the people" was in God's mind before Lincoln said it that way. Isn't that obvious?

Why is everyone picking on them?

And there was that insulting business when major retailers at Christmas had staff saying "Happy Holidays" and not "Merry Christmas" at the cash registers. That was just a slap in the face. Sure, the Jews have some sort of holiday around that time, and there are a few other holidays, but what about a little respect? It's not fair. The Jews wouldn't have minded.

And there was that business at the Air Force Academy - why couldn't officers there demand all cadets find Jesus or be harassed? If part of your religion is that everyone must agree with you and worship your God, with all the right details, isn't saying you can't demand they do a violation of the that particular officer's right to religious freedom? It's just not fair.

Well, another year has passed. Time to ramp up the victim thing again.

In the Washington Post, Wednesday, March 29, 2006 - 'War' on Christians Is Alleged. This is about the big conference and the subhead is "Conference Depicts a Culture Hostile to Evangelical Beliefs."

Here we go again -
This week, radio commentator Rick Scarborough convened a two-day conference in Washington on the "War on Christians and the Values Voters in 2006." The opening session was devoted to "reports from the frontlines" on "persecution" of Christians in the United States and Canada, including an artist whose paintings were barred from a municipal art show in Deltona, Fla., because they contained religious themes.

"It doesn't rise to the level of persecution that we would see in China or North Korea," said Tristan Emmanuel, a Canadian activist. "But let's not pretend that it's okay."
Oh, let's do. It might be fun.

Why? The keynote speaker was Tom DeLay, under felony indictment in Texas, and there were Senators John Cornyn and Sam Brownback - and Phyllis Schlafly, Rod Parsley, Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes. It was a fun crowd. They were there for "a hard but necessary look at moral relativism, hedonism and Christophobia, or fear of Christ."

Oh my!

Tom DeLay in his keynote address - "Sides are being chosen, and the future of man hangs in the balance! The enemies of virtue may be on the march, but they have not won, and if we put our trust in Christ, they never will ... It is for us then to do as our heroes have always done and put our faith in the perfect redeeming love of Jesus Christ."

Out here in godless Hollywood Harriet-the-Cat watched the Chris Matthews political shouting show on MSNBC, Hardball, where one of the guys from the conference, Tony Perkins, faced off with Reverend Al Sharpton (video clip here at Crooks and Liars). It was amusing. Sharpton asked what DeLay had to do with Jesus, or Christianity, given he seems to be a crook and a bully. Perkins said he hadn't been convicted, just accused, and anyway, the whole thing was cooked up because he was a good Christian and people wanted to see him fall, because they hate good Christians. You figure that out. Matthews was bemused, but in closing said there really was a war on Christians. Odd. He's a Catholic, as he often reminds everyone, but half the evangelicals don't think much of that Cult of Mary. Maybe he was joking. Harriet-the-Cat tells me he was smiling when he said that.

One comment on the web here, at a website with a great name, "Bark Bark Woof Woof" -
There is no war on Christianity; there's just a resistance movement - an insurgency, if you will - against the brand of pompous, arrogant, self-pitying and homophobic brand of "christianity" that these people practice. Other denominations such as the Unitarians, the Quakers, and the more tolerant among the Episcopalians don't label other people who don't toe their line as heretics and blasphemers, and I would hazard a guess that they don't feel as if they're persecuted - except by the bullies of the Religious Reich.
But these other folks are persecuted too.

Who is catching crap? The United Church of Christ. And that has been covered here before, see this from January 30, 2005, explaining the business where James Dobson was all upset about the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. Dobson thought he was kind of gay. So the United Church of Christ adopted SpongeBob SquarePants as a mascot. They had a bunch of ads they couldn't get any television network to accept - "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." Too controversial. So they did the mascot thing for the fun of it. Meet absurdity with absurdity. There were follow-up items in these pages here and here.

And that was that. The issue went away.

But this week the United Church of Christ has more ads they just cannot get anyone to run on national television, no matter what they're willing to pay for airtime. This one is funny, and this one is devastating. Same message - "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."

No one will touch these. There is no war on Christianity - there's a war within Christianity. No national television network wants to get involved in that and be accused of taking sides. The avenging Jesus who turns his back on those who don't do the right thing and abandons them to the pain and death they deserve versus the loving, inclusive Jesus? Who would want to get into that fight? You'd lose viewers either way.

After Dinner: The Digestif

In France, that's what you have after dinner and dessert - cognac, Armagnac, brandy - that sort of thing. Pour a stiff one.

Posted by Alan at 23:12 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006 23:59 PST home

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