MSM Requiem: After the Dan Rather scandal, American journalism will never be the same

Peggy Noonan wrties in the Wall Street Journal today on the decline of the MSM:

“The Rathergate Report is a watershed event in American journalism not because it changes things on its own but because it makes unavoidably clear a change that has already occurred. And that is that the mainstream media’s monopoly on information is over…”

“Is it annoying that the panel that issued the report did not find liberal bias in the preparation and airing of the Bush National Guard story? Yes, but only that. It’s not as if anyone has to be told. I hate to be cynical, and this is cynical, but the panel that produced the report was not being paid by CBS to find liberal bias. It was being paid to do the anatomy of a failure with emphasis on who did what wrong.”

Comments

  1. Dean Scourtes says:

    I would like to hear the views of others on the Armstrong Williams scandal. Williams was paid $240,000 by the Department of education to support administration policies in his syndicated column and he did not reveal that financial relationship until he was caught.

    See: “Feds paid pundit to push Bush policy; Democrats demand Bush recover payment”

    “WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration paid a prominent commentator to promote the No Child Left Behind schools law to fellow blacks and to give the education secretary media time, records show.

    A company run by Armstrong Williams, the syndicated commentator, was paid $240,000 by the Education Department. The goal was to deliver positive messages about Bush’s education overhaul, using Williams’ broad reach with minorities.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/ALLPOLITICS/01/07/bush.journalist.ap/

  2. Michael R. says:

    Note 1: There is no excuse for this, IMO. We should always be concerned when our government actively engages in propaganda, especially of this nature, regardless of the political message being delivered. George Will wrote a good article on this issue recently, and I think he is right on the money:

    http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/national/will/

  3. Michael R. says:

    Notes 1 and 2:

    That, however, does not take Rather and his ilk off the hook. As far as I know, Williams has never put on airs of being unbiased.

  4. George Will’s analysis is good, especially the warning that government has to be watched. Also, Armstrong William’s has lost a boatload of credibility, IMO. Sure he’s a pundit and doesn’t assume the posture of an “objective” journalist, but a payout is a payout no matter how you cut it. And why the government is hiring these guys is another thing that has to be examined.

  5. Dean Scourtes says:

    RE: No. 4: The answer to your question is “because that is what administration’s with dark, Orwellian agendas do. They beat their message into the minds of the public in a steady, unrelenting manner until all reality is totally obscured.”

    See “Social Security Push to Tap the GOP Faithful; Campaign’s Tactics Will Drive Appeal”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7797-2005Jan13.html

    “White House allies are launching a market-research project to figure out how to sell the plan in the most comprehensible and appealing way, and Republican marketing and public-relations gurus are building teams of consultants to promote it, the strategists said.

    The campaign will use Bush’s campaign-honed techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support — contending that a Social Security financial crisis is imminent when even Republican figures show it is decades away.”

    To repeat: “techniques of mass repetition, never deviating from the script and using the politics of fear to build support.”

  6. Dean, please. Dispense with the conspiracy theories.

  7. Dean Scourtes says:

    It’s true that I have a tendency to slip into a very cynical, jaded, sarcastic frame of mind, and from a Christian point of view that’s probably not a healthy spiritual response to situations. My Priest once gave a sermon comparing the paralysis of a man Jesus healed to the spiritual paralysis that overcomes us sometimes; and my cynicism may well be a form of that.

    That said, I can’t help thinking that the Bush administration is about to embark on a campaign of misinformation about a phony crisis in the social security program very similar to the one it successfully carried out to make Americans think there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    The Dueffler report said that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we launched our war. Similarly projections from both the Congressional Budget Office and the actuaries and trustees who administer the Social Security program totally contradict the statements by President Bush this week that the program is “going broke” and “not going to be there” when today’s young people retire.

    So my perception of the Bush administration, as engaged in Orwellian attempts to manipulate pubblic perception, is not based on vaporous conspiracy theories, but some actual facts.

  8. Armstrong Williams should return the taxpayers money. Just as the advertising company which took $1,000,000.00 to create an advertising campaign to promote “No Child Left Behind” should return those funds. Interesting, isn’t it, that there’s no outcry from MSM about that expenditure, and there’s no call for investigation into the activity of that advertising company. George Will’s column presents a good argument for why Dept. of Education, HHS, and many other unconstitutional federal government departments should be dismantled.

    Let’s also not be so naive as to think that this is something new with the Bush Administration. The Clinton Adminstration used taxpayer’s money to promote a health program for children. The only reason this is getting big play by Leftists and the MSM today is because it fits their view of Pres. Bush as vile manipulator of information (see Dean’s Note 5). When the Clinton administration did the same thing MSM ignored it because everyone knows that what really matters are Democrat’s intentions. “Pres. Clinton meant well, so all is well, and besides, when you look at the divorce record of Newt Gingrich, you realize he’s a hypocrity and has no credibility.”

    Again, I present this as evidence for the dismantling of these agencies, and I would encourage Pres. Bush and the Republican House and Senate to cut back dramatically on their budgets as a small step toward achieving this goal. They are not authorized by the Constitution. If the states want to run education and health departments that’s for them to decide and to fund.

  9. I would like to know why it isn’t a scandal that Paul Begala and James Carville were both activily advising the Kerry Campaign as far back as 2002 while they remained on the air at CNN. When a Democrat, currently holding a Senate Seat, seems to pay off people in the media to present favorable comments during his presidential campaign, that’s OK, but when a federal agency in a Republican Adminstration does pays commentators to promote a program that the Democrats themselves* agree with, well that just goes to far and really gets MSM’s dander up.

    This editorial by the New York Times’s Frank Rich, lambasts Paul Begala for not being hard enough on Armstrong Williams. Yet nowhere throughout Mr Rich’s verbal lynching of Armstrong Williams does Mr. Rich think it important to point out that Paul Begala was activily working for the Kerry campaign during the 2004 election. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to why Begala might have thrown up “softballs” at Mr. Williams? Wouldn’t have anything to do with not wanting to draw attention to Mr. Begala’s own activity during last year’s election cycyle would it?

    *In fact “No Child Left Behind” is the nothing more than the reauthorization of the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was originally enacted in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty” and has … been reauthorized every four to six years.” Therefore, the Bush Administration was promoting a program actually started by the Democrats. That still doesn’t make what they did right. And I still think that if Armstrong Williams is investigated so should the advertising company which took $1 million dollars of taxpayer money to promote NCLB.

    Sidebar: How many commentators frothing at the mouth over Armstrong Williams are going to raise questions as to why the MSM has, for 40 years, failed to critically examine the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s constitutionality, or lack thereof? Not even George Will goes into that issue.

  10. Jim Holman says:

    Daniel writes: “I would like to know why it isn’t a scandal that Paul Begala and James Carville were both activily advising the Kerry Campaign as far back as 2002 while they remained on the air at CNN. When a Democrat, currently holding a Senate Seat, seems to pay off people in the media to present favorable comments during his presidential campaign, that’s OK, but when a federal agency in a Republican Adminstration does pays commentators to promote a program that the Democrats themselves* agree with, well that just goes to far and really gets MSM’s dander up.”

    I don’t believe that Carville was being paid by the Kerry campaign. Someone actually receiving money to promote a particular program really does cross a line.

    But this is a problem whether or not money is involved. I hate to always blame the right-wing for things, but I really think that the practices in the right wing media have led to this. For example, in the days before the election Sean Hannity was actually out campaining for Bush in public appearances.

    In the “good old days” when I was growing up there were always TV pundits and commentators with particular political persuasions. But they didn’t act as de facto spokespersons for particular candidates or parties. For example, William F. Buckley on his _Firing Line_ program obviously came at issues from a conservative veiwpoint. But his guests reflected the entire political spectrum, and you never felt that he was acting as an agent of a party or candidate. And on his show people actually discussed the issues rather than yelling at each other. Thirty years ago having someone like a James Carville functioning both as a commentator and campaign consultant, even unpaid, would have been scandalous. Having a Sean Hannity actually on the campaign trail would have been unthinkable.

    The right-wing talk shows networks have changed all that. In response the liberals have answered with Air America. A lot of lines have been crossed in recent years, much to the detriment of the country, in my opinion.

  11. Note 7. First you attempted a factual congruence between the WMD intelligence failure and the Dan Rather episode. Now you forecast that the social security debate will mirror what you claim is “very similar to the one it successfully carried out to make Americans think there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

    My previous criticism wasn’t about your “cynical, jaded, sarcastic frame of mind,” but your obfuscation of the facts. The conflation of events you mention above — the factual and implied moral congruence that is forced by how you recount these events — doesn’t square with reality. Not all events fit into the same conceptual box, hence my point not to think conspiratorially.

    Dan Rather and the WMD intelligence failure are two distinct events with different causes and contexts. Conflating the two is sloppy. Projecting the faulty conclusion forward into the upcoming social security debate is even sloppier. I’m not sure how to read this but it appears you believe the progressive wing will lose the debate.

  12. What journalistic “good old days” are you referring to, Jim? Do you mean the “good old days” when Walter Conkrite turned a resounding victory for our military forces in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive into a defeat because he had an agenda against the war in Vietnam? Is that the “good old days” that you long for?

    Or perhaps you pine for the “good old days” when Walter Duranty was receiving the Pulitzer Prize by lying on behalf of Stalin about the forced starvation of millions of Ukranians.

    Or perhaps you long for the “good old days” when news reporting was monopolized by 3 network news broadcasts and the “paper of record” was the New York Times. That’s about as reasonable as longing for the days when, if you wanted a car, you had to buy a Ford; and you could have any color you wanted as long as you wanted black.

    It should be noted that no reasonable person views what Sean Hannity says as if it was coming from a non-partisan reporter. He, and his co-commentator Alan Colmes, are quite openly partisan; Republican and Democrat repsectively. Equally no reasonable person should view what Mr. Begala or Mr. Carville say as if it is coming from an unbiased source.

    Mr. Carville may not have been on the payroll of the Kerry campaign but Mr. Begala was, and CNN did nothing about it. Sean Hannity was presenting a favorable view of Pres. Bush because, God forbid, he views it favorably. And Alan Colmes presented a favorable view of John Kerry because he likes Kerry. If Carville, Begala, Hannity, or Colmes want to stump for a candidate while on the air, they are perfectly free to do so as long as this kind of commentary is never presented as “News”. However when their activities are being coordinated by a political campaign, as it was with Carville and Begala, well, as you say, “that crosses a line.”

    Besides, the issue under discussion here is bias in reporting of the News by MSM, not bias among those who present opinion and commentary on the news. Dan Rather presents himself as an unbiased News Reporter. Sean Hannity presents himself as a conservative commentator. There is a significant difference and if you can’t see that then there’s little point in continuing this dialog.

    Furthermore, Network News broadcasts still garner an overwhelming majority of the news viewers. In 2003 Network News averaged over 29 million viewers while Cable News averaged less then 3 million viewers. And of those 3 million Cable News viewers less than half were watching Fox News, while the rest were watching the liberal bias on CNN and MSNBC.

    CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC, all news networks with clear liberal bias in their reporting, garner more then 30 million American viewers and Fox News gets less then 1.5 million viewers. And the problem is with Sean Hannity on Fox? You have got to be kidding?

  13. Jim Holman says:

    Daniel writes: “What journalistic ‘good old days’ are you referring to, Jim? Do you mean the ‘good old days’ when Walter Conkrite turned a resounding victory for our military forces in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive into a defeat because he had an agenda against the war in Vietnam? Is that the ‘good old days’ that you long for?”

    People always bring up the Cronkite thing, but the reasons that you can bring it up is that it was so unusual. And let’s see, that was, what, over 30 years ago? It is the exception that proves the rule. As I recall his statement occurred at the end of the broadcast, so it was clearly a personal opinion. Even so at the time it was controversial. When I talk about the good old days I don’t mean to imply that they were the perfect old days.

    Daniel: “It should be noted that no reasonable person views what Sean Hannity says as if it was coming from a non-partisan reporter.”

    I have to respectfully disagree with that. His programs as well of those of the many other right-wing pundits and talk show hosts create the context for how people think about the issues. In addition, in recent years we’ve seen a breakdown in the distinction between journalists, pundits, and political operatives. Whether on the right or the left, I don’t think that’s a good thing.

    Daniel: “He, and his co-commentator Alan Colmes, are quite openly partisan; Republican and Democrat repsectively.”

    Colmes is a joke. There’s Sean Hannity and Alan Who?. Colmes is there to give the show a patina of fairness. Compared to Hannity he’s a 98-pound weakling, and that’s intentional.

    Daniel: “Equally no reasonable person should view what Mr. Begala or Mr. Carville say as if it is coming from an unbiased source.”

    Carville shouldn’t even be on TV except in the role of a political operative. Again, the breakdown between journalism, punditry, and advocacy.

    Daniel: “If Carville, Begala, Hannity, or Colmes want to stump for a candidate while on the air, they are perfectly free to do so as long as this kind of commentary is never presented as ‘News’.”

    But look against at Hannity’s “interview” with the president. After the debates Hannity asks Bush “When Kerry tells those lies, do you think he knows he’s lying?” This is presented as an “interview.” It looks like an interview. But it’s not an interview in any normal sense of the word.

    Daniel: “However when their activities are being coordinated by a political campaign, as it was with Carville and Begala, well, as you say, ‘that crosses a line.'”

    Indeed it does. The problem with the right-wing hosts is not that they are paid or unpaid campaign workers. It’s that they effectively function as such. In addition, organizations such as Fox News and Sinclair specify what stories are going to be on that day, what the message of the day is, and even what language is to be used. I would find that disturbing whether it happened on the left or on the right.

    Daniel: “Dan Rather presents himself as an unbiased News Reporter. Sean Hannity presents himself as a conservative commentator. There is a significant difference and if you can ‘ t see that then there’s little point in continuing this dialog.”

    You have to look not just at how Hannity presents himself but how millions of people *perceive* him and those like him. Hannity and those like him have to power to define what millions of people are thinking about that day and how the frame the issues.

    Daniel: “CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC, all news networks with clear liberal bias in their reporting, garner more then 30 million American viewers and Fox News gets less then 1.5 million viewers. And the problem is with Sean Hannity on Fox? You have got to be kidding?”

    First of all, in comparing the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media with the conservative bias of the right-wing media you’re comparing handguns to flame throwers. When people talk about mainstream bias they typically refer to things such as worldview and attitude. In the case of the right-wing media we’re talking about overt advocacy for particular candidates and issues.

    Also, you need to look beyond just Sean. Add in Bill, Rush, Michael Savage, Fox News in general, the usual pundits, and hundreds of radio talk show hosts around the country and you end up with tens of millions of listeners and viewers every day. Rush Limbaugh has something like 20 million listeners per week. What does it mean when the Republican freshmen of the 104th Congress designate Rush as an honorary member?

  14. Michael Bauman says:

    Jim, why do you think the right-wing talk shows are so popular? Is it perhaps that they voice and strengthen opinions already held by the majority of the people who listen? Radio program managers are driven by one thing, the market. If the show does not pull ratings and advertisers, it goes. For the most part, people do not tune in shows that offend their sense of what is right or express opinions that are totally at odds with what they already believe.

    The news has never been objective and never will be. It is impossible to report on anything meaningful without bias. The only time in history the new media has pertended to be objective was for the 30 odd years between 1950 and 1980 or so. That time corresponds with the rise to dominance of the TV media over the print media. The patina of objectivity was the new media’s gimmick. Unfortunately, false objectivity is far more corrupting than honest bias. Thus the new media’s gimmick is in-your-face bias. People were tired of he obvious hypocrisy of the TV news readers and producers and the failure to include more diverse points of view in their supposed objectivity.

    In the old days it was the conservatives who were unctiously self important without a sense of humor. Now it is the other way around.

  15. Jim Holman says:

    Michael writes: “Jim, why do you think the right-wing talk shows are so popular? Is it perhaps that they voice and strengthen opinions already held by the majority of the people who listen?”

    I suppose there are several reasons. They are popular in the same way that WWF wrestling is more popular then college or olympic wrestling. Why is fake wrestling more popular? Because it’s more entertaining. Actual objectivity, balance, analysis, and fairness are boring.

    Like WWF wrestling the talk shows are staged. The host picks the topic, and selects the guests, if any. The purpose of the talk show is typically to keep people in a continual state of outrage over something or other. Opposing points of view are very carefully controlled.

    I’ve spent a lot of time listening to local talk shows. In one show, for example, the host had a large number of programs in which he denounced the idea of gay rights. One week he did have a gay man on as a guest for a hour. But you’re talking about countless hours of one viewpoint compared to one hour in which the opposing viewpoint was articulated. On occasion people like me would call in with a contrary opinion. But the host would spend 10, 15, 20 minutes on a diatribe, and then someone like me might get a minute before the commercial break.

    When people with the “correct” point of view call in they are treated with kid gloves, even if they have extreme opinions. So you can have a person call in and say that all gays should be shot. The host might offer a very mild corrective such as “well, I don’t know about that, but I can see how the radical homosexual agenda could make you feel that way.” Then someone with a relatively moderate point of view calls in — perhaps suggesting that landlords shouldn’t be able to evict homosexuals merely because of their orientation — and the host launches into another diatribe denouncing that opinion. If someone with a contrary opinion manages to out-argue the host, the host changes the topic. Or the host can simply talk on top of what the guy is trying to say. When you listen to these shows enough you see that they are very predictable and that there are certain techniques in use.

    One technique commonly used on the national TV shows is stacking the deck. One recent program on evolution/creationism had Pat Buchanan and three well-known conservatives against one self-described “atheist” — a nobody who didn’t seem very well prepared. The guy wasn’t even a scientist. So you have four heavy-hitters who are used to public debate on TV vs. the nobody.

    Another technique is to pit conservative pundits and politicians against one “liberal” journalist (whether or not the guy is actually liberal.) The conservatives rip into the issue with their teeth, while the journalist is trying to be objective and non-partisan. That makes the conservatives seem decisive while the “liberal” seems uncertain and mealy-mouthed.

    And part of that entertainment comes from the strong opinions expressed on the show. Imagine a talk show in which the host said “there are a lot of liberals out there who are very intelligent and have good hearts, but I just disagree with them.” Ever hear something like that? Of course not! It’s boring. Instead we get “Liberals are traitors!” or “Liberals are liars!” “Liberals hate Christians!” “Liberals hate America!” — and so on.

    By the end of the show the host, with his listeners cheering him on, has vanquished the enemy du jour. The liberals, those who hate America, hate God, hate Our Freedoms, hate morality, hate the Constitution, hate truth, hate our Courageous President, have been sent packing with their tails between their legs.

    It’s all staged, but what the hell, it makes for a good show.

  16. Michael Bauman says:

    Jim states he has never heard, ?there are a lot of liberals out there who are very intelligent and have good hearts, but I just disagree with them.? I’ve heard Sean Hannity say similar things many times. He has also challeged Jesse Jackson to show him the facts regarding voter intimidation and fraud. If the facts were there, he, Sean Hannity, would join Rev. Jackson in protest. Jesse promptly changed the subject himself.

    The tactics mentioned are common to radio talk shows of all types. Larry King used them, Tom Leikus uses them, sports show hosts use them. They are part of the medium. In any case, I don’t feel you have addressed my real question, i.e., the preponderance of convervative shows over liberal shows and the much higher failure rate for liberal shows when they do make it to air.

  17. Note 13: “What does it mean when the Republican freshmen of the 104th Congress designate Rush [Limbaugh] as an honorary member?”

    I guess it means they like Rush Limbaugh.

    The Horror! The Horror! ;)

  18. Dean Scourtes says:

    RE: Or it means they have publically allied themselves with a hateful, extremeist ideology that most Americans find repellent.

  19. Dean Scourtes says:
  20. Jim Holman says:

    Daniel writes: “I guess it means they like Rush Limbaugh.”

    It means that many of the same people who continually denounce “liberal bias” felt that they owed their majority to one of the most conservatively biased commentators. The lesson here is to denounce the perceived bias of your political enemies, while embracing and celebrating the bias of your friends.

    Dean writes: “Or it means they have publically allied themselves with a hateful, extremeist ideology that most Americans find repellent.”

    Or used to find repellent. I’m not sure that most do any more. Civilizations forget things. The ancient Aztecs forgot how to build temples and how to farm. The ancient Egyptians forgot how to build pyramids and read their own language. Modern Americans forgot the difference between journalism and propaganda, between telling the truth and bearing false witness. So it goes.

  21. Missourian says:

    How Many Human Rights Watchers can Dance on the Head of a Pin

    From Diplomad.blogspot.com

    HRW’s latest reports are no exception; it blasts the USA and even the EU for their human rights records, while devoting one page to Cuba — and, as noted, partially blaming the US for whatever human rights flaws exist in Castroland. HRW’s newest report on the state of human rights around the world contains two essays on Darfur — comparing the situation there to Abu Gharib (!); in those we see the typically confused mish-mash of contradictory ideas that we expect from liberal foreign policy advocates,

    Immediate action is needed to save the people of Darfur. The U.N. Security Council or, failing action by that body, any responsible group of governments must deploy a large force capable of protecting the civilian population, prosecute the killers and their commanders, disband and disarm the Sudanese government’s militia, and create secure conditions so displaced people can return home safely. Continued inaction risks undermining a fundamental human rights principle that the nations of the world will never let sovereignty stand in the way of their responsibility to protect people from mass atrocities.

    This from the second essay,

    To its credit, the Security Council established an international commission of inquiry for Darfur, a possible prelude to prosecution. When the commission reports back at the end of January, the council will have to decide whether to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.< ...>

    The Security Council’s many professions of concern will ring hollow if its answer to the desperate pleas from Darfur is, through delay or inaction, to let impunity reign. Darfur today stands as testament to a profound failure of will to prevent and redress the most heinous human rights crimes. Despite countless denunciations and endless professions of concern, little has been done to protect the people of Darfur. A failure of this magnitude challenges the fundamental human rights principle that the governments of the world will not turn their backs on people facing mass atrocities. For if the nations of the world cannot act here, when will they act?
    What can we make of this impassioned plea for action to save the people of Darfur? Could not much of what Mr. Roth states be applied to the US intervention in Iraq? Apparently not. In two prior essays Mr. Roth wrote on Iraq that,

    There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a murderous despot, but few consider that alone enough to warrant humanitarian intervention. Because of the death, destruction and disorder that are often inherent in war and its aftermath,
    < ...> a variety of conditions [must] be met to justify a military invasion on human rights grounds.

    These include, foremost, that mass slaughter is ongoing or imminent, because only dire cases of large-scale carnage can justify war’s deliberate taking of life. < ...>

    We conclude that, despite the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s rule, the invasion of Iraq cannot be justified as a humanitarian intervention. In our view, as a threshold matter, humanitarian intervention that occurs without the consent of the relevant government can be justified only in the face of ongoing or imminent genocide, or comparable mass slaughter or loss of life. < ...> Only large-scale murder, we believe, can justify the death, destruction, and disorder that so often are inherent in war and its aftermath. < ...>
    There were times in the past when the killing was so intense that humanitarian intervention would have been justified, for example, during the 1988 Anfal genocide, in which the Iraqi government slaughtered some 100,000 Kurds. Indeed, Human Rights Watch, though still in its infancy and not yet working in the Middle East in 1988, did advocate a form of military intervention in 1991 after we had begun addressing Iraq. As Iraqi Kurds fleeing Saddam Hussein’s brutal repression of the post-Gulf War uprising were stranded and dying in harsh winter weather on Turkey’s mountainous border, we advocated the creation of a no-fly zone in northern Iraq so they could return home without facing renewed genocide. There were other moments of intense killing as well, such as the suppression of the uprisings in 1991. But on the eve of the latest Iraq war, no one contends that the Iraqi government was engaged in killing of anywhere near this magnitude, or had been for some time. “Better late than never” is not a justification for humanitarian intervention, which should be countenanced only to stop mass murder, not to punish its perpetrators, desirable as punishment is in such circumstances.

    The Diplomad finds this line of logic not only weird, but also highly impractical for real policy makers to follow in the real world. We could only act if the killing were classified as either “imminent” or “ongoing mass slaughter” and “genocide.” Who would determine that? Who defines “mass slaughter?” By the time the killing was “imminent” and certainly by the time it was “ongoing,” in almost every case you can think of, military intervention would occur after the fact, and therefore according to HRW criteria, would be unjustified. What about mass slaughter that is not “genocide,” a vague term in the real world? What would you do about mass ongoing killing within an ethnically identical group containing political factions who detest each other?

  22. Jim Holman says:

    Missourian writes: “HRW’s latest reports are no exception; it blasts the USA and even the EU for their human rights records, while devoting one page to Cuba”

    I see that as a good thing. For example, in sports and music it’s the great players and performers who receive the most scathing reviews, while the mediocre and marginal pass by without mention. As with people so with countries. Traditionally the U.S. has aspired to be the human rights model for the rest of the world, and other countries have looked to us as an example. We should be under the microscope. Cuba? No one looks to Cuba as a model for human rights.

    The potential loss of a positive example is far worse than the continuing existence of a negative example. In previous years the U.S. often took the high road even when it didn’t have to. For example, during the Vietnam War the U.S. extended the protections of the Geneva Convention both to NVA *and* Viet Cong prisoners. Now, the current administration decides who is covered and who is not. More disturbingly, the administration had discussions on what does and does not constitute torture. Thus, the administration concluded that “waterboarding,” a technique that is clearly torture, is not torture because it does not rise to the level of pain associated with “organ failure” or “death.”

    The redefinition of torture has other implications as well. One of the reasons why the professional military opposed the administration on this point is that lowering the standards of what counts as torture leads to a breakdown in military discipline, not just in detention facilities but also in the thousands of daily encounters that soldiers have with civilians. Fortunately, the Bush administration appears to have partially backed away from its original position on torture.

    So I hope that the international community and organizations such as HRW hold the U.S. to higher standards. Is that fair? Well, it depends how you want to be known in the world. Is is fair to hold the Loren Maazel and the New York Philharmonic to higher musical standards than Fred Smith and the East Moosejaw Community Orchestra? Again, it depends on how you want to be known.

  23. Note 20: The mind, so-called, of the Modern Left is truly something to behold, especially when it draws parallels between Human Sacrificing Aztecs and 21st century American conservatives.

    Perhaps Fr. Jacobse or Missourian can explain to me the point in discussing media bias with those who can’t tell the difference between someone who gives their opinion on the news and is perfectly open and honest about his biases and someone who reports the news while hiding and lying about his biases. Because I’m starting to think that at some point reasonable people must simply shake the dust off our shoes and leave these folks who are unable to see these distinctions to their sad little delusions.

  24. Note 22. Jim writes: “I see that as a good thing. For example, in sports and music it�s the great players and performers who receive the most scathing reviews, while the mediocre and marginal pass by without mention. As with people so with countries. Traditionally the U.S. has aspired to be the human rights model for the rest of the world, and other countries have looked to us as an example. We should be under the microscope. Cuba? No one looks to Cuba as a model for human rights.”

    This indicates the problem with the left’s slant on human rights. Human rights function only as an abstract ideal. It’s better that free countries are castigated where human rights violations are relatively rare, then tyrannies where real human suffering is frequent, prominent, and brutal. It makes the left feel good while absolving them of any real responsibility. See my article: Mainline Protestants Fail in Defense of Human Rights.

  25. Note 23. Daniel, you have to remember that for the ideological left, politics is a means of aquiring redemption. It’s crypto-religious. That’s why you get the incessant moralizing, the axiom that intentions trump results, the incomprehensible stares when you propose an idea outside of their intellectual universe, the disdain towards structured religion, etc. The world is changing, more specifically, many of the ideas held as sancrosanct since the 1960’s (the lifetime of aging boomers) have proved wanting, and in some cases disastrous, and they are closely linked to a received morality that many of these boomers have assumed as self-evidently true. Ideology is resistant to facts, particularly facts that threaten the presumed veracity of the ideology.

  26. Missourian says:

    Note 22: Serious Matter Not To be Trivialized/Human Rights Watchers Do Real Harm

    The unfairness of the allegations of the Human Rights Watch people matter BECAUSE they give aid and comfort to enemies of the United States. There is a propaganda war going on against the United States and it is important to defend our country from baseless and unfair claims. The world knows full well that Viet Nam ended because of internal opposition. Our enemies want to demoralize our population and the population of Iraq. If you check out campuswatch.com you will see that tenured professors in Middle East Studies Departments openly discourage students from joining the State Department and Defense Department. They are intentionally training anti-Americans and choking off the supply of people whose knowledge of Arab culture would help the United States. Propaganda is a very important part of any conflict.

    An analogy to music criticism is fatuous in the extreme. It demonstrates a lack of seriousness on the part of the writer. Jim Holman thinks that the United States is the Universal Parent who is responsible for everything and the Third World is the Universal Child who is never accountable for anything. To compare the atrocities of Saddam Hussein to an amateur musical group is absurd.

  27. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “This indicates the problem with the left’s slant on human rights. Human rights function only as an abstract ideal. It’s better that free countries are castigated where human rights violations are relatively rare, then tyrannies where real human suffering is frequent, prominent, and brutal.”

    Human rights are not abstract at all. But we have the moral authority to denounce other human rights abuses only inasmuch as we observe human rights. Someone wants to criticize our human rights record? Along with our president I say “Bring it on!” If we’re doing things the right way, we have nothing to fear.

    Daniel writes: “Perhaps Fr. Jacobse or Missourian can explain to me the point in discussing media bias with those who can’t tell the difference between someone who gives their opinion on the news and is perfectly open and honest about his biases and someone who reports the news while hiding and lying about his biases.”

    The problem is that you and the other right-wingers are the ones defining bias. Bias is whatever you say it is. It’s utterly subjective. Whenever someone from the mainstream media asks the president a tough question, that’s “bias.” Whenever they state a fact that fails to serve a Republican interest, that’s bias. When anyone in the mainstream media fails to be a big enough cheerleader for the war, that’s bias. If they fail to slavishly report everything floating around the right-wing propaganda machine, that’s bias. According to Sinclair, if they shows the names and pictures of the soldiers killed in Iraq, that’s bias too.

    It’s not that the mainstream media don’t have bias. It’s that their bias is vastly overblown.

    When I talk about bias I’m talking about campaigning for particular issues and candidates. I’m talking about staged and highly-managed talk shows. I’m talking about how things get funded and the relationship between right-wing media and its financiers. I’m talking about right-wing media corporations dictating what will be talked about and what language will be used.

    But Daniel has no problem with that at all. No, all of those things are seen as being “honest” about bias. In Daniel’s world if the people who work for ABC news tend toward the center or left of the political spectrum, that’s bias, and must be rooted out, examined microscopically, and denounced from the rooftops. When Fox News (note – they still call it “news” don’t they?) commits all the things described above, that’s honesty! When Fox News claims to be “fair and balanced,” but everyone knows they aren’t that’s honesty!. When Sean Hannity pitches softball “interview” questions to Bush, that’s honesty! When talk shows are rigged to the benefit of the conservative viewpoint, that’s honesty! When the wife of a Fox “journalist” interviewing the president is an employee of the Bush campaign, that’s honesty!

    Missourian: “The unfairness of the allegations of the Human Rights Watch people matter BECAUSE they give aid and comfort to enemies of the United States.”

    So if the United States government expands the list of things that are not considered torture and restricts the number of people who are considered covered by the Genev Convention, that’s no problem. If government reports from the military and FBI document abuse and torture throughout various facilities, that’s Ok. If U.S. military professionals object to administration policies on torture, that’s Ok. But when a human rights organization criticizes the U.S. for the very same actions that the military and FBI objected to, that’s aid and comfort to the enemy? Do I have that right?

  28. Dean Scourtes says:

    In preaching non-violence, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, said “we must respond to physical force with soul force”. (CNN rebroadcast his famous Lincoln Memorial address last night).

    What does responding to “physical force with soul force” mean? It means that we must trust Jesus Christ, even if it means doing things that seem counter-intuitive, like turning the other cheek, and loving our enemies. We refrain from torturing our enemies because we have to trust that the benefits and dividends Christ promised us will occur. Human relations will be elevated, hatred will disapate, a measure of trust among enemies will develop.

    The discussion about whether the United States ought to employ torture really is a discussion over whether you can fight evil with evil. Can we fight satan by employing his tactics? The scriptures remind us that it profits us not to gain the whole world if we lose our souls in the process.

  29. Note 27. Jim writes: “Human rights are not abstract at all. But we have the moral authority to denounce other human rights abuses only inasmuch as we observe human rights. Someone wants to criticize our human rights record? Along with our president I say “Bring it on!”? If we’re doing things the right way, we have nothing to fear.”

    The sentence is unclear because it can either mean the US has moral authority to denounce human rights violations, or it can mean that the US has to remain mute (or at least remain mute about tyrannies the left finds favorable) about human rights abuses altogether since it’s history is not lilly white — moral equivalency, IOW.

    To the hard left however, human rights are an abstract notion because the principle is in service to a cause other than the emancipation of oppressed people. If it were different, you would not see the silence towards the tyrants the left likes.

    Continuing:

    “The problem is that you and the other right-wingers are the ones defining bias. Bias is whatever you say it is. It’s utterly subjective.”

    So, the charge that the MSM is biased is really a right-wing bias? Are you saying that the MSM is not biased, and the proof of MSM objectivity is that the only ones calling them biased are conservatives? But how do we know that your analysis is itself not a bias? It appears very subjective. In fact, we could just as easily say that the conservative media is objective because the only ones calling it biased are liberals.

    My point here is that the reasoning doesn’t work. Call it liberal, call it conservative, but lets dispense with this notion that the MSM is “objective.” The term implies an authority that does not exist. “Truthful” would be a better goal, and both liberals and conservatives ought to strive for it. And yes, sometimes the MSM is truthful, just as conservative media can be. I read and watch the MSM all the time, but not through an ideological blinder called “objectivity.”

  30. Missourian says:

    Explaining the Geneva Convention for the 100th Time

    Jim Holman writes (in part)

    Missourian: ?The unfairness of the allegations of the Human Rights Watch people matter BECAUSE they give aid and comfort to enemies of the United States.?

    So if the United States government expands the list of things that are not considered torture and restricts the number of people who are considered covered by the Genev Convention, that?s no problem. If government reports from the military and FBI document abuse and torture throughout various facilities, that?s Ok. If U.S. military professionals object to administration policies on torture, that?s Ok. But when a human rights organization criticizes the U.S. for the very same actions that the military and FBI objected to, that?s aid and comfort to the enemy? Do I have that right?

    *********************************************

    Jim, I think if you participate in discussions, you should take a minute to read what people actually write. For the 100th time I will explain what it means to be covered by the Geneva Convention.

    The Geneva Convention does not cover saboteaurs or terrorists by definition. No responsible legal scholar from any country, at any time has every suggested that the Geneva Convention applies to terrorists. The Geneva Convention was intended to encourage countries to use conventional, uniformed armies rather than saboteurs, spies or terrorists by giving special protection to uniformed soldiers.

    Once the agreement is signed it cannot be changed. The United States has never “changed” the Geneva Convention. To suggest that it had the power to change the Geneva Convention is nonsense.

    The Geneva Convention is an agreement entered into by countries. The Convention first and foremost protects those that actually signed the Convention, that is the nature of an agreement. An agreement binds those that sign the document. The very idea behind the Geneva Convention is that is applies only to a)organized armies of recognized nations b) armies that have regular chains of command and c) soldiers who were uniforms d) soldiers who do not attack non-combatants. Why are these distinctions important? Because the Geneva Convention gives protection to regular soldiers who are part of a recognized army. Lower level soldiers are not held responsible for the acts of the high command. There is, however, a recognizable and publicly acknowledged high command which can be held responsible. The Geneva Convention does not cover saboteaurs or terrorists by definition. No responsible legal scholar from any country, at any time has every suggested that the Geneva Convention applies to terrorists. The Geneva Convention was intended to encourage countries to use conventional uniformed armies rather than saboteurs, spies or terrorists by giving special protection to uniformed soldiers.

  31. Missourian says:

    Use of the Term Torture

    Jim, a recent statement of the International Red Cross has included the position of that particular group of individuals that unlimited detention, or, “detention for the duration” of prisoners at Guatanamo is “tantamount to torture.”

    This lovely little piece of sophistry was picked up by the world press and broadcast all over the world with the phrase “Red Cross condemns U.S. torture.”

    As I have explained more than a dozen times on this blog, the Geneva Convention does not apply to non-signatories (which are countries) or to terrorists or saboteurs or spies. To give the Geneva Convention benefits to terrorists, saboteurs or spies is to eliminate the incentive that countries have to operate by regular and accountable military.

    Even if the prisoners were covered by the Geneva Convention, they would be held for the duration of the hostilities. Neither America nor German prisoners of war in WWII had a guarantee that at some definite date they would be returned to their home country. They just had to wait until the war was over, whenever that was.

    The statements by the Red Cross confuse the world’s limited understanding of the Geneva Convention and apply a ridiculous standard of conduct to the United States. As Justice Goldberg said “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.” There have already been documented cases of jihadis imprisoned at Guatanamo returning to jihad.

  32. I’m not so sure “truthful” is a worthy goal: the manner in which you state “facts” as well as what facts you present can be extremely persuasive. Here, the evil’s not in what is said (which may be 100% accurate) but what is not said.

    Example, here are a few factual statements:
    a) Blacks account for 56 percent of arrests for murder
    b) They make up 42 percent of rape charges
    c) Blacks also account for 61 percent of robberies
    d) Seven percent of black males are in prison
    e) 32 percent of black men are in jail, on parole or probation (compared to 7 percent of white men)

    So, perhaps I’m trying to get you to view all African-Americans with suspicion, yes?
    These facts paint a very dark picture. However, are blacks really involved with more crime, or are they simply caught more frequently? Are certain types of crime committed by non-blacks noticed by law enforcement much less (e.g., “white-collar” crimes?) What other factors are involved? Should we rightly view blacks in general with suspicion?

    The KKK would no doubt be happy to use the above facts to push for a separation of the races. The facts simply serve the biased belief.

  33. Most Americans don’t trust the media.

    “Trust in the media:

    “American attitudes toward the press, radio and television were much more negative than European attitudes. Specifically:

    “- A 62 to 22 percent (almost 3-to-1) majority of Americans did not trust “the press”; Europeans were split 47 to 46 percent.

    “- A modest 43 to 33 percent plurality of Americans were inclined to trust the radio; a larger than 2-to-1 majority (62% to 29%) of Europeans did so.

    “- A substantial 58 to 22 percent majority of Americans did not trust television; a 54 to 39 percent majority of Europeans did trust TV.”

    No doubt Jim thinks this all because of Fox News, talk radio, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, The Weekly Standard and National Review. Did I mention how many people watch Fox News versus other Network and Cable News programs? Oh, that’s right it’s those millions of people listening to talk radio.

    That’s right Jim, all us right wingers are controlling the reigns of mass media and are going to drive this country into a conservative, social darwinist, hell hole; where women can’t work outside the home, church attendance will be legally required, school prayer will be mandatory, homosexuals will be driven back into the closet, the voting rights amendment will be repealled (Let’s see: conservatives are racist, sexist, homophobic theocrats … hmmmm, did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, we’re fascists, too).

    And there’s nothing you Lefties can do about it … Muwhahahahahaha (Sinister Laughter)!

  34. Missourian says:

    Unclear on the Concept of the First Amendment

    Jim you just don’t understand First Amendment theory. It isn’t that some perfect journalist exists out there. It isn’t that we should find that perfect journalist and put him in charge of our news. The idea is that everybody gets to talk regardless of viewpoint.

    Conservatives were complaining of viewpoint exclusion and viewpoint delegitimization. Read Bernard Goldberg’s book BIAS. He reports that everybody in the news department holds the same ideas on abortion, gun control, homosexuality, affirmative action, and foreign policy. Not only is there no intellectual diversity, but, contrary views are considered illegitimate. Just as being a Nazi is considered intellectually and morally illegitimate.

    As I have pointed out, ad nauseum. I have seen Sean Hannity debate Robert Kennedy Jr on FOX news many times. Everybody listening to the show knows Hannity’s slant, and they know Kennedy’s slant. Both Hannity and Kennedy can hold their own in a debate. They debate environmental issues and they do a good job. The audience doesn’t have to listen, it has many sources of information, but, if they do listen they hear two able speakers making the best case possible for their positions.

    The MSN is now being fact-checked by people who don’t belong to their little club.
    Don’t you understand the MSM was a CLUB of buddies. All the buddies agreed on a viewpoint. They would compete somewhat, but, they wouldn’t dig really deeply and critique or seriously fact-check members of their own club. Dan Rather was fact-checked by people outside the MSM journalism club who didn’t mind where the chips fell. Rather had never been subject to this level of accountibility before.

  35. Note 31: Missourian, you’re missing the point.
    While we may not be “legally” obliged to not torture some foreign captive under the Geneva Convention, are we not “ethically” obliged to not do so? Or does anything go?
    How do we maintain the moral high road if the latter?

    Now again I consider torture anything that treatens health or life. A modicum of discomfort does not fall under this when lives are at risk.

  36. Missourian says:

    James’ Note 32: The Point is that the First Amendment Gives You the Right to Refute Misleading, Untrue or Unfair Statements.

    The First Amendment is not a guarantee that everything everyone expresses will be a paradigm of truth and reason. It does guarantee that you will have your say, no matter if it offends your neighbor. The First Amendment protects offensive speech.

    Your First Amendment freedom is not to imprison another speaker but to refute the speaker with facts and reason.

  37. Missourian says:

    James Note 31; Haven’t read my posts.

    No, James, I am most assuredly NOT missing the point.

    I have posted on several occaisions statements by Gonzalez and other Justice Department officials that the United States was voluntarily going to follow many ( not all) of the Geneva Convention standards with respect to the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. The standards that they would follow include those governing the physical treatment of prisoners. The United States will not follow the Geneva Convention rule which properly applies only to foot soldier’s in a regular army that they will restrict interrogation to name, rank and serial number.

    I am sorry James but you are just not very well informed as to the publicly verifiable facts. I posted the Gonzalez quote just a day or two ago. I try not to post on matter upon which I do not have reliable information. I provided reliable information containing a statment of the official U. S. policy and the result is negligible.

  38. Missourian says:

    MSN was a club with a monopoly.

    The MSN was a club. Nearly everyone at the NYT graduated from a small cluster of colleges or universities. They all belonged to the same professional organizations. The smaller newspapers just copied whatever the NYT wrote on many, many national topics. In order to graduate with high grades from an Ivy League or nationally ranked school of journalism, you had to show the liberal professor that you would go out there and be an activist. Journalists made no bones about stating that they entered journalism to “change the world.” What else does that mean then they are using their position to influence public opinion in ways that conform to their view of the world.

    No one who didn’t belong to the club could get a position reading news on the broadcast news channels. No one who didn’t belong to the club could get an editorship at a big city newspaper. That is no longer true. People outside the club are willing to publicize no-holds-barred critiques of the MSN. The MSN can no longer block conservative viewpoints from the public.

  39. Notes 36,37:
    The point of 32 had nothing to do with the First Amendment: the point is that “truth” and “facts” can still be used to persuade others towards your own “biased” view. If I think blacks are a bunch of criminals who should be shipped off to Utah en masse, I’ll just toss out some “data” about crime to get you to agree with me. I’ll use an incredulous tone of voice while stating these “facts” so you find your own animosity coinciding with mine.
    I wasn’t stating anything about anyone being imprisoned for stating a point of view.

    Note 35 is simply a general query towards what ethical constrains are on the US in general towards detained prisoners: I don’t care what Gonzalez thinks or whether the Geneva Convention does not apply as a technicality.

  40. Missourian says:

    Note 30 James Doesn’t Care wwhat Gonzalez Thinks:

    Well, perhaps you should care. Given the Gonzalez is on track to be Attorney General. The Attorney General is the lead policy maker on the issue of treatment of prisonsers. Only the President has more policy influence, and the AG trumps Defense on this issue.

    As to the Geneva Convention, this topic has been raised over and over by many persons on this blog and still the same comments come back. Posters on this blog still believe that a statement that the Geneva Convention does not apply is the same as stating that the United States consideres itself justified in using physical torture. It is uninformed and it is commonly used as a demogagic technique to get people riled up.

  41. Missourian says:

    Response to Note 32

    I am not sure what the response to this should be. Hopefull a decent education will enable someone to evaluate a presentation. Everything needs to be approached with some skepticism until sources are identified. People need to distinguish at least three things when evaluating any written material. What is the underlying worldview of the writer? Have all relevant facts been presented and taken into account? Has the writer employed sound logic in reaching his or her conclusions. Education should equip us to fairly and critically evaluate what we read. We should be able to tap legitimate and reliable sources of information by consulting resources at libraries and archives of documents. Sometimes people can do that, sometimes they can’t.

  42. Glen Chancy says:

    “The Geneva Convention does not cover saboteaurs or terrorists by definition. No responsible legal scholar from any country, at any time has every suggested that the Geneva Convention applies to terrorists. The Geneva Convention was intended to encourage countries to use conventional, uniformed armies rather than saboteurs, spies or terrorists by giving special protection to uniformed soldiers.”

    Missourian – a couple of comments. First of all, let us discuss practicality. The individuals detained in Iraq in the Abu Ghraib prison, and elsewhere within the country, were seized in broad anti-insurgency sweeps. At the time the sweeps were conducted, the United States was exercising jurisdiction in a nation which it had seized by force of arms. It turns out, based on the thousands that have been released after various long terms of confinement, that at least a substantial portion of those detained were completely innocent of being anything other than Iraqis caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time by U.S. soldiers.

    If those Iraqis had been arrested in the United States, they would not have been tortured or abused, as many doubtlessly were, and they would not have been held for 12 to 18 months with no right to challenge their detention in a court of law. Since, however, they were seized in a foreign nation under our control, they have been afforded absolutely no rights whatsoever. In appealing to the fact that the Geneva Convention does not apply, I am simply state that most of the people we are talking about were neither terrorists nor sabateours. They were simply Iraqi men and women who got picked up on some kind of suspicion, and then were held for months based on simple inertia. “No way to prove them innocent. No way to prove them guilty. Better hang on to them just in case!!!”

    Look, forget the Geneva Convention here. The U.S. government was exercising dominion over a foreign nation. How could we do so justly when we refused to recognize even the most basic rights that we in this country take for granted? How could abuse not happen when the Iraqis were all treated as guilty until proven innocent? How would YOU like to be locked up, indefinitely, simply because you were arrested close to where an attack occurred?

    Unlawful combatants may be arrested and prosecuted, even if they have not violated any of the ‘rules of war.’ That includes fighting outside of uniform. However, again I stress this, most of the people detained and abused were subsequently RELEASED! They were not insurgents! They were victims of the U.S. military.

    In addition to simply extending a basic understanding of human rights that we are assured by our Declaration of Independence are inalienable, I feel compelled to bring Christian mercy into the debate. Focusing narrowly on the Geneva Convention is, in my mind, a legalistic debate. If you hold prisoners, what is your Christian duty? Would Christ endorse beatings, rape, torture? Would Christ endorse holding individuals without trial indefinitely? Would Christ say to Graner – “Good job!” Whether the convention applies or not, Christian ethics can not be dismissed if one intends to call oneself a Christian.

  43. Jim Holman says:

    Missourinan writes: “Jim, I think if you participate in discussions, you should take a minute to read what people actually write. For the 100th time I will explain what it means to be covered by the Geneva Convention.”

    For the 100th time I’ll explain that I’m not talking about the *requirements* of the GC but about how the GC has traditionally been used. Traditionally, the United States has *extended* GC protections to enemies, even to those who did not meet the official criteria. Thus, we extended GC treatment to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

    Why did we do that? Because nobody ever read the document before the Bush administration? No, because there are many advantages to following the GC ourselves even when it is not technically required. For example, there have been occasions when the U.S. has supported irregular proxy armies. Should the Afghan insurgents fighting against the Soviet Union have been given GC protection? How about the Nicaraguan contras? Whether or not the people in question are our allies, isn’t it a good thing for the many irregular combatants in the world to be given GC protection, even if not technically required? If you like that idea, then you have to agree that the U.S. should follow that principle as well. Again I’m not talking about what the GC requires, but about acting in accordance with it even when not required.

    Another advantage of following GC requirements in all cases is that it gives us a public relations advantage. It’s nice to be able to affirm that we always adhere to GC with people captured or otherwise detained in or out of a combat zone. But in order to affirm it, you have to do it.

    As far as redefining what constitutes torture — all I can say is that however you want U.S. prisoners treated in future wars, treat current prisoners that way now. If you don’t mind the idea of a U.S. soldier stripped naked, forced to stay motionless in a cold room, forced to undergo simulated drowning, chained naked to the cell door, threats made to family members, beatings, and so on, then you won’t have a problem with the techniques that the administration accepted for a while.

    Missourian: “Jim, a recent statement of the International Red Cross has included the position of that particular group of individuals that unlimited detention, or, ‘detention for the duration’ of prisoners at Guatanamo is ‘tantamount to torture.'”

    The phrase “tantamount to torture” was used in the context of physical and psychological abuse inflicted on detainees “in the early stages of the internment process.” I don’t believe it referred to the (unknown) length of internment. See paragraph 59, p. 23 of the report.
    http://www.truthout.org/mm_01/4.rcr.iraq.pdf

  44. Jim Holman says:

    Glen writes: “It turns out, based on the thousands that have been released after various long terms of confinement, that at least a substantial portion of those detained were completely innocent of being anything other than Iraqis caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time by U.S. soldiers.”

    Red Cross inspectors were told by U.S. military intelligence officers that between 70 and 90 percent of persons detained had been arrested by mistake. The Red Cross also remarked on the “brutality of some of the arrests.”
    http://www.truthout.org/mm_01/4.rcr.iraq.pdf paragraph 7, p.8

    Glen: “If you hold prisoners, what is your Christian duty?”

    Glen, I agree completely, but unfortunately I don’t think you’re going to get much traction with that argument here.

  45. Note 32: James, I would say constructing the facts as you have (as an example of course) could easily be construed as bias if the same slant were repeated again and again. “Truth” enters when those facts are examined from many different angles, just as your critique allows. The “truth” I posit then presupposes a dialogue, a check and balance of sorts, a continuous critique — just as we saw as, say, in the bloggers causing the Rather-CBS implosion, for example.

    Don’t think of “truth” as a singular proposition. That would make “truth” and “objective” synonomous. OTOH, don’t assume truth cannot be discovered. In fact, I would argue that the belief in the knowability of truth, the conviction that truth exists even if hidden or not exhaustively comprehensible, is one of the stark differences between liberalism and conservativism.

  46. Dean Scourtes says:

    The contention has been made that conservatives base their decisions on facts, and liberals on ideology. However in two of the most prominent initiatives of the Bush administration we see action towards goals taken in defiance of the facts and reality from an administration that glories in it’s “faith-based” worldview while scorning the “reality-based” community as lilly-livered nay-sayers.

    No doubt the removal of Saddam Hussein was a worthy goal, but the manner in which it was carried out has been disasterous. The concerns of our allies that the proper diplomacy was not undertaken prior to the invasion was dismisssed, the warnings of our generals that more troops were needed to secure the peace ignored, the actual plan for governing post-war Iraq developed by the State Department, discarded. Today we hear Brent Scowcroft, the most trusted advisor of the Mr. Bush’s father telling us that the insurgency is growing and the situation in Iraq is spiraling towards civil war. Yet the Bush administration continues to present to the public a Potemkin Village of public relations stories to lull us into thinking everything is just fine

    Then there is the President’s social security privatization initiative – an example of faith-based, fantasy economics if there ever was one. The President said just last week that the Social security program would be “flat-broke, busted” when young people today retire. Yet this is not what the trusteees and actuaries of the program say. They say that the program will be able to meet 100% of its obligations until 2042, then payroll deduction will only be able to meet roughly 75% of the costs. The actuaries say that with modest adjustments and cash infusions now amounting to less than the half the cost of either the president’s tax cut, or less than the cost of the new Medicare Drug benefit, we can make the program totally solvent for the next 75 years.

    Bush is pushing privatization even though he has no specific proposal for accomplishing such a major change that economists or the public can be comfortable with. The options that have been discussed, borrowing two trillion dollars, raiding the social security surplus now, and slashing benefits are completely reckless and irresponsible. Yet enthralled by the vague ideological concept of an ownership society Bush keeps pushing privatization in defiance of prudence and reality, Father Jacobse says conservatives cherish.

  47. Michael Bauman says:

    To view torture from a solely a legalistic perspective is not Christian. Torture is an inhuman act. On the other hand, to view any type of coersion as torture is silly. It is equally silly to attempt to extend the legal rights of American citizens (as opposed to human rights) to brutal people who are attempting to destroy us. We have to have a realistic, reasoned debate if we are to arrive at a realistic, moral, resonable solution. Such debate is impossible when all sides of the question resort to emotionalized ideology.

  48. Note 46. Dean writes: “The contention has been made that conservatives base their decisions on facts, and liberals on ideology.”

    Read note 45 again. It says this: “In fact, I would argue that the belief in the knowability of truth, the conviction that truth exists even if hidden or not exhaustively comprehensible, is one of the stark differences between liberalism and conservativism.”

    My comment deals with the certainty of knowledge and implicitly questions why moral relativism afflicts the hard left. How you got a fact-ideology split out of this I have no idea. Maybe it was driven by your animus towards Bush given that after your one sentence misreading we get four paragraphs of “Why I Hate George Bush.”

  49. Jim Holman says:

    Missourian writes: “The MSN was a club. Nearly everyone at the NYT graduated from a small cluster of colleges or universities. They all belonged to the same professional organizations.”

    Actually that may have been more true 30 years ago, but not since then. In the 60s there was William F. Buckley, but not much more. By the mid-70s Safire, Will, Evans, Novak, Rusher, Hart, Kilpatrick, (M. Stanton) Evans, Schlafly, Buchanan, Phillips, Lofton, and yes, Ronald Reagan had been added. These people were all writing newpaper commentaries and showing up on radio and TV broadcasts. Reagan’s column showed up in 175 newspapers and his radio commentaries went out to 200 stations, thus helping to set the stage for his presidential campaign.

    The problem with these peopole wasn’t that they came from the wrong schools but that they didn’t come from journalistic backgrounds. David Brock, in his book _The Republican Noise Machine_, notes that “The Lippmann tradition of detachment and impartiality was contravend by the conservatives. With the exception of Evans and Novak, who left reporting for the more gainful field of punditry, none of the new conservative movement columnists had worked as truth-seeking journalists or academics before they began opining. Rather, they were trained in polemics in the right-wing propaganda mills or came from the hardball world of political campaigns. Yet while they had never worked in newsrooms, their central rhetorical and marketing technique was a running attack on how journalistic professionals did their jobs.”

  50. Note 45: I’d say that is a good assessment. Ideally, anyone who calls themselves a journalist has a responsibility to present not just the “facts” or the “data”, but to describe where that data fits within the totality of the story being related … a tall order, really, as it’s difficult to simultaneously present all facets of the reality of a situation.

    In this sense, a “balanced” representation of a story from one source is rare. Most stories on the news are presented with the sole purpose of leading viewers to a specific conclusion.