November 29, 2006
Damned if you do . . .
It's hard to know what to make of the New York Times. In its latest escapade, the Times has published an article titled, "Bush Adviser's Memo Cites Doubts About Iraqi Leader," which excerpts a classified report from National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to the President. The memo supposedly questions Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's ability to control sectarian violence in Iraq and recommends that steps be taken to bolster his position.
The memo was reportedly produced by Hadley after a trip to Iraq and a meeting with Maliki that took place on October 30th.
Stop for a moment and completely disregard the content of the memo. Instead ask yourself: how long has the Times had this information? The memo is exactly one month old. Now ask yourself: why are they releasing this story on the very same day that Bush is set to meet with Maliki?
It is really hard to know what to make of the Times.
November 22, 2006
. . . But somebody's got to do it
Der Spiegel carries a slideshow of photos of assassinated Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayal. He is seen in turn with various members of his family, including his wife, when they were married.
The Washington Post reports the details of Gemayal's death.
Gemayel, a 34-year-old father of two and an up-and-coming politician, was killed when his car was ambushed by men from one or two cars that collided with it in the suburban neighborhood of Jdeideh. At least three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons equipped with silencers, hitting him in the head and chest, officials said. Television footage showed the tinted driver's-side window pocked with at least eight shots and the glass on the passenger's side shattered. The silver sedan's hood was crumpled from the collision.
Doctors said Gemayel was dead when he arrived at the hospital, and his bodyguard later succumbed to his wounds.
Is this a consolidation or an overextension? Iran announces it is seeking a new set of centrifuges. Syria tells James Baker it'll help in Iraq in exchange for the Golan Heights. Iran invites Iraq and Syria to a conference. Syria and Iraq re-establish diplomatic ties. Syria offs another prominent Lebanese politician.
Are Syria and Iran overplaying their hands? Have the carefully leaked deliberations of the Iraq Study Group been so much theater, meant to force an over-reaction? Victor Davis Hanson wrote in his book The Soul of Battle that upon hearing of the German offensive that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge, Patton's inclination was to let the Germans go as far west as they could, and then take his Third Army and cut off their rear, blocking their retreat.
Patton, of course, knew from his initial conversation with Bradley that he would be under orders to go north, not to continue east: "That's too daring for them. My guess is that our offensive will be called off and we will have to go up there and save their hides."
Tony Blankley, writing at RealClearPolitics, says this:
In fact, even those Americans who today can't wait to end our involvement in the "hopeless" war in Iraq will -- when the consequences of our irresponsibility becomes manifest -- join the chorus of outrage.Jules Crittenden writes that "It's a dirty job . . .
Expedient Washington politicians, take note: Your public is fickle. They may cheer your decision today to get out of Iraq but vote you out of office tomorrow when they don't like the results . . .
Iran has been our persistent enemy for 27 years -- Syria longer. They may well be glad to give us cover while we retreat, but that would merely be an exercise in slightly delayed gratification, not self-denial, let alone benignity. So long as Iran is ruled by its current radical Shi'a theocracy, she will be vigorously and violently undercutting any potentially positive, peaceful forces in the region -- and is already triggering a prolonged clash with the terrified Sunni nations. Our absence from the region will only make matters far worse.
We need to start undermining by all methods available that dangerous Iranian regime -- as the Iranian people, free to express and implement their own opinions and policies, are our greatest natural allies in the Muslim Middle East.
We have only two choices: Get out and let the ensuing Middle East firestorm enflame the wider world; or, stay and with shrewder policies and growing material strength manage and contain the danger. [emphasis added]
This is the thing about dirty jobs that need to be done. They can only be ignored or left half-done for so long . . .But will any of this happen? What prevents it from happening right now? It is not a lack of resources. It is only a perception that all is lost, held by a large part of the political class. Fortunately, they are wrong. Sadly, they don't know it.
This is why the current move to restrain the militias in Baghdad must be stepped up. This is why the calls for more troops there must be heeded. This is why the United States must pursue and destroy militias there ruthlessly and in force.
This is why these regimes need to know that their missteps will cost them, and that their own infrastructure, seats of power and persons are not immune from our threat of force as long as they abet murder, spread instability through the region, and seek weapons of mass destruction.
Belmont Club takes the pessimistic argument: The Rout Continues:
The most comical aspect of this whole rout is the way the diplomats will continue to prepare for the big meeting with Syria and Iran to broker a regional peace, something they believe "only a Superpower" can achieve. Alas, the habits of self-importance die hard. The countries are already making their own arrangements with the new victors, because those countries realize better than Barack Obama that you cannot charge a price for what you have already given away. And what will come of it all won't be peace. It will be war on a scale that will either draw America back into a larger cauldron or send it scurrying away behind whatever line of defense it thinks it has the will to hold. More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill told the appeasers they had a choice between war and dishonor. They had chosen dishonor, and added that now they would have both war and dishonor.
If Bush lied and people died, then Pierre Gamayel is probably dead today because Nancy Pelosi told the truth last week: Bringing the war to an end is my highest priority as Speaker. James Baker didn't stage that.
November 8, 2006
The Best and the Worst
For the most magnanimous take possible on the election, see Bill Whittle:
Remember one thing before you go. The most important election we are ever likely to see in our lives was not this evening's election. Bush's re-election in 2004 was the one we HAD to have, and we got it. Be grateful for that, acknowledge that this loss is no one's fault but our own, congratulate the Democrats on their impressive wins and start figuring out how we can make sure this never EVER happens again. =)For the most pessimistic, see this, from a reader of the Corner, which I quote in full:
I wish to tell my friends to be cheerful and especially to be of good will. Disappointments come and go, but moments of courage and integrity in dark hours will be there when the stars grow cold. We have lost the election, so let us maintain our determination, our dignity and our sense of humor, and let us take this moment to reflect upon how our actions have fallen short of our ideals. And then, finally, let's act like the Americans we are, roll up our sleeves and start rebuilding. We who have survived Civil War, the Nazis and the Communists can probably manage to find a way to preserve the Republic in the face of Speaker Pelosi.
America is not only much, much stronger than you imagine; it is stronger than you CAN imagine.
To those who have written me in anger over the years, I say sincere congratulations to you on a big win, and I genuinely hope it will remove some of the bitterness in your hearts and restore some belief in a system that was never broken.
As for me, I pledge to re-enter the fight with more energy, not less, and to continue to try to make the case I think needs to be made. I'll start on that tomorrow.
"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing...after they have exhausted all other possibilities." -- Winston Churchill
Welcome to the process of exhausting all other possibilities. This is where we separate the men from the boys. Pick a line and stand in it.
Those people who were serious about criticizing Rumsfeld (as opposed to those who were just vindictive or crazy) did so because they wanted our military to be doing more, not less, but does anyone seriously think that a Democratic Congress is going approve expenditures for the extra 50-70,000 troops that his serious critics say would be required to actually win in Iraq?
As a practical matter, I'm not sure how Iraq is possibly salvageable at this point given our current political situation. Zal is apparently on his way out, not wanting to be scapegoated as the man who lost Iraq and the real travesty is that he will be unlikely to receive half the official honors that Bremer and Tenet got despite his far more capable service to our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once the Baker Commission comes out, the administration is going to be under overwhelming pressure to implement the suggestions of the "bipartisan" commission and their failure to do so is just going to give the Democrats one more issue to run on to a pliable media and (near as I can determine) general public. Sooner or later, Baker's recommendations will likely be implemented, at which point al-Qaeda will be left in control of Anbar, Salahaddin, and possibly Babil and Diyala as well. They won't have any oil, but they'll have their failed state and that will give them a base from which to strike throughout the rest of the Middle East. Whether or not they are able to work out a manageable detente with Muqtada al-Sadr (who I expect will likely seize the southern part of the country), they won't be able to conquer his territory nor vice versa, meaning that we will still have a failed terrorist state made up of what was central Iraq to deal with. Oh, and a lot of innocent Iraqis are going to die, probably in the tens of thousands. But no one here will care about them, just like no one ever cares about the hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and Cambodians who died when we abandoned Vietnam, but the important thing is that we'll all feel that much better. The truly ironic thing is that Iraq is likely to be held up as an example of why "Arabs/Muslims can't handle democracy," because to believe otherwise would be to admit that we should have done more, fought harder, and worked better to save them. And we can't have that. It goes without saying that if this is going to be the result that we never should have gone into Iraq in the first place.
The loss of Iraq is almost certain to coincide with a major push in Afghanistan-Pakistan and having defeated the United States, al-Qaeda is likely to regard the momentum as being with them. My own assessment is that Pakistan is likely to fall (probably in a palace coup) before al-Qaeda and the Taliban make any serious headway in Afghanistan. That may preserve the Karzai government, but it will also turn bin Laden into a nuclear power. The only good news that I can take away from this is that if, not when, this occurs the United States is unlikely to lapse into a "Blame America First" or "Iraq Syndrome." We won't lift a finger to save Somalia (now almost certainly lost) or Iraq, but the fall of Pakistan is likely to awaken the general population from their slumber. If not now, then certainly once the nukes start flying, whether at India or at the United States in Europe. It also now goes without saying that the US will not prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran or take anything more than token gestures regarding North Korea. One thing I want to be clear on is that this isn't the apocalypse and al-Qaeda is not going to take over the Middle East in 2 years but that they will make a great deal of headway there if the US is emasculated in the interim as a result of domestic politics, particularly if the legislative branch now treats the executive as though it is part of an enemy state.
A word on Europe. As you are no doubt seeing in the media coverage, much of the European punditocracy is now giddy that the US has rejected the evils of Bushitleretardespotheocrat and all his works. While this is likely to make American tourist trips and cocktail parties more enjoyable, it is also nothing short of meaningless because, as we have seen over the last several years, Europe wants to be treated as a great power but does not wish to exert the necessary effort to actually be one. Our cooperation with them on intelligence and law enforcement matters would continue regardless of the event because they must [cooperate] for their own self-preservation, but they will not support sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism or increased troop commitments to Iraq or Afghanistan. In the case of the latter, they simply do not have the troops to send or the logistics to sustain them. . . .
The next 2 years are likely to suck, but I could always be wrong and the Democrats could always develop an uncharacteristic amount of sanity.
"You win some and you lose some." "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game." And so forth.
Well, actually, no. When you and your countrymen might die, it is whether you win or lose.
There no doubt are many furtive conversations taking place in both Iraqi kitchens and government councils right now.
"Should we go to Jordan?"
"Should we let the Americans attack Sadr?"
"If I try to tamp down the death squads, but the Americans leave, will the squads come for me?"
November 6, 2006
A toast to heroic journalists!
David Halberstam has written a piece in the Columbia Journalism Review that lauds Peter Arnett's reportage in Vietnam. It ends with this:
Even as I write there are in some parts of the world young men and women going out every day, and doing something difficult and complicated, something that takes a surprisingly varied array of talentsHmm. Who might that be? Warriors?
— the ability to write quickly, a rare, almost intuitive sense of politics, and of course a certain kind of courage, the courage to stand up to powerful people who are always trying to bend you and intimidate you. When I was a young man in Saigon I was privileged enough to witness such work and to see a great institution at its best, at a moment in a democracy when it mattered.
Will these memes ever die? How long can the glory years of the press in Vietnam keep their minds afire? Halberstam's tribute to Arnett is completely without any mention of the coverage of the Tet offensive -- was that a great institution at its best? It was certainly at a moment in a democracy when it mattered. Maybe Arnett was never tarnished -- or blessed -- with participation in that holy event.
November 1, 2006
REDS on DVD
The 1981 film REDS has been released on DVD in a 25th Anniversary Edition. REDS received 12 Oscar nominations and took home three awards. Written, produced, directed by, and starring Warren Beatty as Jack Reed, the American Communist and labor organizer of the early 20th century, it is an excellent story of two love affairs: the first is between Reed and Louise Bryant (admirably portrayed by Diane Keaton) who become lovers, separate, get married, and are then estranged again; and the second is the love affair that a certain class of American intellectuals had with Communism in the period immediately preceding, during, and after the Bolshevik Revolution. Beatty and Keaton do a superb job, and the other excellent part is that of Eugene O'Neill, the playwright, performed by Jack Nicholson.
The DVD quality is excellent. I watch a lot of older films and all too often the DVD versions seem to be straight copies of the VHS original and of poorer quality. In this case, the film quality is excellent.
Nicholson and Keaton crackle as they engage each other throughout the story, and have one exchange that speaks to the degree to which love, sex, and utopian ideas become intertwined in the world of the revolutionary intellectual. Jack has departed for Russia to seek the Comintern's approval of the new Communist Labor Party of America. Louise has refused to go with him and has gone to Eugene O'Neill for solace.
Gene: Louise, something in me tightens when an American intellectual's eyes shine and they start to talk to me about "the Russian people." Something in me says, "Watch it. A new version of Irish Catholicism is being offered for your faith," and I wonder why a lovely wife like Louise Reed, who's just seen the brave new world, is sitting around with a cynical bastard like me, instead of trotting all over Russia with her idealistic husband. It's, um, almost worth being converted.Jack Reed's perpetual dilemma is the fact that he is an excellent writer, yet desires to be a revolutionary. He is forever caught between attempting to sway people through his prose and organize them in labor societies.
Louise: Well, I was wrong to come.
Gene: You and Jack have a lot of middle class dreams for two radicals. Jack dreams that he can hustle the American working man -- whose one dream is to be rich enough not to have to work -- into a revolution led by his party. You dream that if you discuss the revolution with a man before you go to bed with him, it'll be missionary work rather than sex. I'm sorry to see you and Jack so serious about your sports. I'm particularly disappointed in you, Louise. You had a lighter touch when you were touting free love.
Ultimately, and it doesn't spoil the film to say so, Jack and Louise suffer from that inescapable fate of revolutionary utopian idealists: disillusionment that the reality they have helped to create is not what it should be.
REDS is an excellent film about a part of American history often overlooked, and about the passions of intellectuals. Though a bit long at 195 minutes, I recommend it.
Interested readers may also want to see Jack Reed's book on the Russian Revolution, Ten Days That Shook The World.
Thanks to SpecialOpsMedia for my review copy.
October 31, 2006
Second Lieutenant Booth and Senator Kerry
Yesterday Senator Kerry insulted those in uniform. But the day before yesterday he called the parents of Marine Second Lieutenant Joshua Booth, killed in action in Iraq earlier this month, to offer his condolences. His mother explains:
Second Lt. Joshua Booth died on Oct. 17. His mother said that what makes Kerry's words so offensive is that they come one day after Kerry called the family to offer condolences.So was Lieutenant Booth good at anything?
"We did appreciate the call. I am appreciative of anyone who reaches out to me and to then turn around and say something that is so totally incorrect," Booth said.
As to whether Kerry should apologize, Booth said that Kerry needs to do more to make amends.
"In addition to apologizing, he needs to learn a little bit about what our men and women in the military are actually made up of," Booth said. "We don't want to send that kind of signal, that you only go into the military if you are not good at anything."
You decide. Last week National Public Radio did a segment about him and it can be heard in its entirety here.
October 26, 2006
This will make you laugh
Steve Acuff Airs a YouTube Video
Steve Acuff, Republican congressional candidate for North Carolina's 4th District, has just aired what I believe is his first YouTube video, in which he denounces CNN for showing an insurgent snuff film, calls for their investigation, and describes their behavior as treasonous.
I've mentioned before that I did a little bit of volunteer work for Steve's congressional campaign over the summer. I didn't help much, just once a week for a couple of hours over the course of a month or so.
So having met the man, let me say that this is the most angry I've ever seen him. Don't get me wrong. He's still got his emotions in check. But the degree to which he's upset about this issue clearly shows.
Also, the film doesn't even mention his opponent. In fact, it's not really even a political commercial, in a certain sense.
I should make it clear that I didn't assist with making this film.
Steve's campaign site is here.
October 5, 2006
The European Intifada Continues
The violence in northern European banlieus was much in the news a year ago this month, but has strangely dropped from view. But now the French Interior Ministry warns that an "intifada" is pressing on many fronts:
Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.How will the French contain this violence? Can they?
As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.
It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.
The interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also the leading centre-Right candidate for the presidency, has sent heavily equipped units into areas with orders to regain control from drug smuggling gangs and other organised crime rings. Such aggressive raids were "disrupting the underground economy in the estates", one senior official told Le Figaro.There's been quite a bit of Ramadan violence in Belgium as well. See the posts from Brussels Journal here and here. The Journal warns that there may be another flare up this weekend, "The authorities are especially nervous since the Belgian municipal elections are being held on Sunday October 8th. It is likely that the elections will be won by anti-immigrant, “islamophobic” parties. Since ramadan will not be over on October 8th and many immigrants might perceive a victory of the indigenous right (as opposed to their own far-right) as an insult, Muslim indignation over the election results in major cities may spark serious disturbances."
However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.
He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."
He added: "We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."
October 3, 2006
Good Cop, Bad Cop
Suppose you are a member of Britain's security services and are faced with a dilemma: you can either arrest a terror plotter and lose the opportunity to continue rolling up his network, or know that if you don't, the US will swoop him up and send him to a secret prison (aka, "render" him)? Which is worse?
September 27, 2006
Berlin Production of Idomeneo A Little Strange to Begin With
The AP reports:
German politicians condemned on Tuesday a decision by a Berlin opera house to cancel performances of Mozart's "Idomeneo" over concerns they could enrage Muslims and pose a security risk.At first glance, this seems to fit the familiar pattern of:
The Deutsche Oper in west Berlin announced on Monday it was replacing four performances of "Idomeneo" scheduled for November with "The Marriage of Figaro" and "La Traviata."
The decision was taken after Berlin security officials warned that putting on the opera as planned would present an "incalculable security risk" for the establishment.
In the production, directed by Hans Neuenfels, King Idomeneo is shown staggering on stage next to the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Poseidon and the Prophet Mohammad, which sit on chairs.
a) Western person or institution makes a public statement with some sort of content about Islam or Mohammed
b) Muslims go nuts.
Yet perhaps there is something else to this story. First off, what the heck is Idomeneo about and why does its performance include as props "the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Poseidon and the Prophet Mohammad, which sit on chairs?"
Wikipedia's synopsis of the plot makes no mention of any of the these people, except for Poseidon [Neptune] and no mention of his beheading.
My guess is that this is an instance of some pretty ridiculous modern liberties taken with the script of Idomeneo. More akin to the whole "Piss Christ" controversy years ago than to either the Cartoon Jihad or, for lack of a better term, the Pope Jihad.
This doesn't mean that as free speech it shouldn't be defended. It just means that perhaps it's a little less defensible than the other instances. In the end of course, bad taste is not a crime, or shouldn't be.
July 20, 2006
Just what has the Ghana Battalion been up to?
Pajamas Media's editor in Sydney, Australia (aka the author of The Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez), has posted a link to a map showing the disposition of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFL), as of July, 2006. Richard makes the case on his own blog that the site of much of the recent fighting is in the area of operations of the Ghana Battalion of the UNIFL.
I have no problem with Ghana. A friend once did a study abroad there and spoke highly of it. But doesn't one wonder: what have the Ghanan troops and other members of the UNIFL been doing when Hezbollah yokels up and launch a rocket across the border? Any attempts to chase them down? Fight them? Arrest them?
In fact, what's the UNIFL doing right now?
Let me make an assumption that the answer is, "very little." Jed Babbin recently recollected his own experience in this regard:
The UN's years-long record on the Israel-Lebanon border makes mockery of the term "peacekeeping." On page 155 of my book, "Inside the Asylum," is a picture of a UN outpost on that border. The UN flag and the Hizballah flag fly side-by-side. Observers told me the UN and Hizballah personnel share water, telephones and that the UN presence serves as a shield against Israeli strikes against the terrorists.Here we have an answer to the questions implied in a previous post:
The next step will be: how to ensure that no terrorist force metastasizes on Israel's border once again? Or really, how to ensure that no terrorist force can threaten Israel from the north? A buffer zone isn't really helpful if Hezbollah or anyone else can just get longer-range missiles and use them from Northern Lebanon. Instead, one of two things has to happen:If Babbin's account of the actions of UNIFL can be trusted, then the answer to the problem of proxy war and Lebanese sovereignty is rather different than the actions necessary to end the conflict. Instead, the presence of UNIFL actually legitimizes an area of non-state lawlessness, when the goal should be to somehow reduce it.
a) someone responsible has to control Lebanon's borders. It could be the Israelis, though they won't want to; the Lebanese though they'll be questionble in their effectiveness; or the "international community" which probably means the US (though perhaps the French would help, given that they used to own Lebanon).
b) Lebanon's borders must be redrawn and the Beka'a declared an international DMZ of some sort. This is extremely unlikely.
The reason for the necessity of one of these options is because the international system should have no desire for a conflict like the current one to happen again. The only way this is possible is if the next time a terrorist organization supported by Syria launches attacks at Israel, it does so from within Syria. This will then clarify thngs for the rest of the world. Borders, which are among the most sacrosanct of the current system's rules, will have been violated, and that makes consequences easier.
It is hard to see how any United Nations force will be able to offer a solution that is favorable to either of the two states involved, Lebanon and Israel, and unfavorable to the non-state terrorist group, Hezbollah. And shouldn't the reduction of non-state terror organizations be in the interest of the international system?
One is truly left to wonder whether the actual goal is inspried more by anti-Semitism or a desire to frustrate the United States.
No, more likely is the explanation offered by Bruce Bawer in While Europe Slept as to why Europe is so tolerant of the extreme Islam growing in its midst. One of his arguments is that Europe and America learned fundamentally different lessons from WWII: The US learned not to give in to tyranny, even if war is necessary. Europe learned to avoid war at all costs, even if putting up with a bit of tyranny is required.
This is not so different from Robert Kagan's seminal essay of a few years back, Power and Weakness, in which he notes a similar problem:
It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power — the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power — American and European perspectives are diverging. Europe is turning away from power, or to put it a little differently, it is moving beyond power into a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Kant’s “Perpetual Peace.” The United States, meanwhile, remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might. That is why on major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less. And this state of affairs is not transitory — the product of one American election or one catastrophic event. The reasons for the transatlantic divide are deep, long in development, and likely to endure. When it comes to setting national priorities, determining threats, defining challenges, and fashioning and implementing foreign and defense policies, the United States and Europe have parted ways.The UN is a vehicle for the expression of the European attitude to power as described by Kagan, and to war as described by Bawer. And this is why the Ghanans et al. have not stopped Hezbollah's attacks on Israel: Stabiliy, ceasefires, and peacekeeping are preferable to a decisive end to conflicts, because decision requires violence. Europeans are from Venus.
June 27, 2006
Open Letter to the President of the New York Times
I just sent this email to Scott Heekin-Canedy, President and General Manager of the New York Times:
To: firstname.lastname@example.orgI do not expect a response, but will certainly print any I receive.
Subj: Publication of Classified Material
I am outraged that the New York Times chose to publicize an ongoing intelligence operation on its front page on June 23rd, 2006. By the admission of the story itself, the program to track terrorist financing was legal; it was effective; it was limited; it had no history of ongoing abuse; it was independently audited by an outside board; and it was briefed to members of Congress. What else could one want from a classified program? If the t's weren't crossed and the i's weren't dotted, then I challenge the New York Times to mount some constructive criticism that would have made the program better.
While you consider that, I am contacting the largest institutional shareholders in the New York Times Co and asking them to sell their stakes. I am also contacting the three largest buyers of national advertising and asking them to refrain from buying advertising in your publication. Below is a copy of an email I've just sent to Proctor and Gamble, General Motors, and Time-Warner.
On Friday, June 23rd, 2006, the New York Times published on its front page the details of a classified, legal, and effective program to monitor the financial transactions of terrorist networks. The program is legal and had been briefed to members of Congress. It had no known record of ongoing abuse and is audited by an independent board of auditors.
The decision to out such a government program endangers our national security, with such little benefit to the public as to seriously question the judgment of those who decided to publish the story.
As one of the largest national advertisers in the United States, I’d like to recommend that your firm seriously consider not purchasing advertising in the New York Times. Why invest in a media organization that displays such little respect for the security of the United States?
I write on my own behalf, and not for the government. Thanks very much for your consideration.
I am extremely disappointed that the Times has chosen to endanger our national security in such a blatant fashion, with such little to gain from that recklessness. And to be based in Manhattan as well! Unbelievable! Do the memories of our enemies' intent to take innocent life run so shallow on 43rd Street?
Despite your protestations of serving the public interest, I think your newspaper's decision is disgraceful.
Joshua P. Manchester
Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve
UPDATE: Response received from T. Rowe Price:
Dear Captin [sic] Manchester:Pretty standard, but the first paragraph indicates that they did actually read my email, which is better than I could have hoped for.
Thank you for your e-mail to T. Rowe Price.
We appreciate your taking the time to contact us regarding our
investment association with the New York Times Company. Please be
assured that your comments have been forwarded to the appropriate party
If you have any questions or need additional assistance, please call us
at 1-800-225-5132. Representatives are available Monday through Friday
from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. ET and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5
Senior Account Services Representative
June 26, 2006
Hit Em Where It Hurts
SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES
It is sad and unfortunate that the New York Times has chosen to publish the classified details of a legal and effective government program meant to secure the Republic from attack. In fact, it is not just sad, it is enraging. In December, I thought that the outing of the NSA wiretapping techniques was in poor form, but there was a case to be made, and it was made by many, many commentators, that the program was operating in a gray area of the law.
But this latest bit of treason is truly outrageous. The program was legal; it was effective; it was not abused; it had independent auditors; and it was briefed to the members of Congress of both parties who Needed To Know.
I've never written about this on the ole blog here before, but there was a period not long ago when I wrote some things that could have been construed as putting sensitive data in the public realm. Shortly thereafter, I received one email -- one -- from a concerned member of the military. He wasn't a government representative, he was just acting on his own. He made a case that what I had written was not a good idea. I disagreed with him, but I felt disgusted and sickened. I immediately removed the post in question. I emailed the other bloggers who had linked to it and discreetly asked them to remove their links. They complied.
The truth is, I was absolutely horrified that I might have done anything at all to endanger ongoing operations. God forbid I should be the officer who burned an op.
Now this is just a blog, and I had only received one email, but that was enough to make me reconsider. But by its own admission, the President of the United States himself asked the New York Times not to reveal the details of how we spy on terrorist financing. And by its own admission, the New York Times blew him off.
Fortunately for all of you who are as shocked as I am, it turns out that the details of how the New York Times finances its own operations are not secret at all. In fact, The New York Times is owned by a public company, known as The New York Times Company, trading as NYT on the New York Stock Exchange.
I just spent a few fruitful moments on Yahoo Finance and discovered some basic information that may be of interest to many of you readers out there. On the major holdings page, we learn that a significant percentage of the New York Times' stock is held by institutions and mutual funds: 83%, quite a large chunk. Those institutions, especially the mutual funds, are in turn owned by none other than many of you Loyal Readers out there. You might want to find out if you own a little piece of the New York Times in your own 401K or IRA. Take a look at the largest mutual fund holders:
FUND, size of holdingHere's the contact info for some of those funds, if you are an investor:
PRICE (T.ROWE) EQUITY INCOME FUND $196,152,500
FIDELITY EQUITY-INCOME II, FUND $133,709,464
PRICE (T.ROWE) MID-CAP VALUE FUND $59,853,088
FIDELITY EQUITY-INCOME FUND $63,835,036
PRICE (T.ROWE) CAPITAL APPRECIATION FUND $53,100,380
VAN KAMPEN SERIES FUND INC.-GLOBAL FRANCHISE FUND $46,467,059
VANGUARD 500 INDEX FUND 1,362,604 $34,487,507
FIDELITY CAPITAL APPRECIATION FUND $37,926,669
FIDELITY PURITAN FUND INC $37,209,406
FIDELITY VALUE FUND $37,118,280
T. Rowe Price: 800-225-5132
Fidelity: 800-FIDELTY [one might ask them what exactly they render "fidelity" to]
Van Kampen: 800-341-2941 (Say "Representative" or press "**0")
If a few dozen investors were to call the these numbers tomorrow and ask if these respectable blue-chip investment firms are going to continue to hold the stock of a company that sells out the security of the United States, my guess is that would register pretty quickly with the management of those firms. Those firms after all, being in the financial services industry, no doubt have a significant presence in Manhattan. And Manhattan after all, is the site of our most ignominious encounter with our sworn enemies -- whom the New York Times has decided to assist.
Now, what else might we find on Yahoo Finance? Returning to the Institutional Holdings page, [here it is again], one can find a list of Institutional investors in NYT as well, though these are probably less responsive to outraged individuals like you and me . . .
Poking around in the New York Times Annual Report does however yield some useful information. On page 2, we learn that 65% of all advertising revenue for the business segment that contains the Gray Lady comes from national advertisers. Hmm. Interesting. A bit further, on page 12, we find this tidbit [emphasis in original]:
Our largest newspaper properties are dependent on national advertising.Later, on page F3, we learn that the same business segment, the News Media Group, earns 95% of the revenue for the entire company. The role of those national advertisers to the viability of the firm is becoming very clear now.
A significant portion of advertising revenues for our largest newspaper properties is from national advertising. As a result, events that affect national advertisers, such as structural changes and challenges to their traditional business models, may change the level of our advertising revenues. Increased consolidation among major national and retail advertisers has depressed, and may continue to depress, the level of our advertising revenue.
Googling "largest national advertisers" led me to this new article in AdAge magazine, which is dated -- what are the odds? -- June 26, 2006, and consists of the 51st annual listing of the 100 largest national advertisers in the United States. If you clickthrough you'll get to a lovely PDF with all the info you could need about national advertising in it.
Let's focus on, say, the 3 largest national advertisers in the United States. Here are their Investor Relations contact numbers. Perhaps a few calls suggesting that they refrain from buying advertising in the New York Times might not be a bad idea:
Proctor and Gamble 800-742-6253
General Motors 313-667-1500
Time Warner 866-INFO-TWX
I'll be calling each of these myself during regular business hours tomorrow.
To reiterate the facts, as reported by the New York Times itself: the program was legal; it was effective; it was briefed to Congress; there were independent auditors; there was no evidence of abuse. These are the facts. I know they're true cause I read them in the New York Times.
If you contact any of the above-listed numbers, feel free to leave a comment here about your experience. Or shoot me an email. I'd like to know how it goes.
UPDATE: Ah yes, one final bit of info. According to the contact page on the New York Times Company corporate site, here are some good people to know:
Catherine MathisThose might come in handy.
Assistant Director, Investor Relations and Online Communications
UPDATE2: As recommended by a commenter, here are the contact methods for the 3 investment companies, and 3 national advertisers listed above. This is actually a much better way to go. I realized this after calling Fidelity. THe poor person on the other end of the line doesn't really know how to react when politely asked if Fidelity might be able to sell its NYT holdings.
T. Rowe Price (Click on the Contact Us link and a popup window will appear)
And the Time-Warner email, as noted here, is "ir" at "timewarner.com.
UPDATE3: Here's what I sent to the financial institutions:
Your firm is a large institutional investor in the New York Times Co (NYT). On Friday, June 23rd, 2006, the New York Times published on its front page the details of a classified, legal, and effective program to monitor the financial transactions of terrorist networks. The program is legal and had been briefed to members of Congress. It had no known record of ongoing abuse and is audited by an independent board of auditors.
The decision to out such a government program endangers our national security, with such little benefit to the public as to seriously question the judgment of those who decided to publish the story.
I’d like to recommend that your firm seriously reconsider its investment in the New York Times Co. Why invest in a media organization that displays such little respect for the security of the United States?
I write on my own behalf, and not for the government. Thanks very much for your consideration.
Joshua P. Manchester
Captain, US Marine Corps Reserve
April 24, 2006
Economic Determinism and Europe's Descent
Charles Boix has written a fascinating recent article in Policy Review, in which he argues that as universal as the desire for freedom may be, the conditions for the spread of democracy are limited. Chiefly, equality of economic conditions is the primary state in which democracy will take root and thrive:
The insight that equality of conditions is a precondition for democracy has a long and often forgotten tradition in the study of politics. It was apparent to most classical political thinkers that democracy could not survive without some equality among its citizens. Aristotle, who spent a substantial amount of time collecting all the constitutions of the Greek cities, concluded that to be successful, a city “ought to be composed, as far as possible, of equals and similars.” By contrast, he noticed, a state could not be well-governed where there were only very rich and very poor people because the former “could only rule despotically” and the latter “know not how to command and must be ruled like slaves.” They would simply lead “to a city, not of free persons but of slaves and masters, the ones consumed by envy, the others by contempt.” Two thousand years later Machiavelli would observe in his Discourses that a republic — that is, a regime where citizens could govern themselves — could only be constituted “where there exists, or can be brought into being, notable equality; and a regime of the opposite type, i.e. a principality, where there is notable inequality. Otherwise what is done will lack proportion and will be of but short duration.”Boix then goes on to offer a variety of empirical evidence to support this point. He takes particular aim at Islam itself, showing that it is no stronger a force against democracy than any other cultural factors in other parts of the world, and that even Islam is subordinate to economics when it comes to the flowering of democracy:
Islam has been much brandished as the cause of authoritarian attitudes and institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. But as Freedom House recently pointed out, if we take into account the large Muslim populations of countries such as India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Turkey, the majority of the world’s Muslims live now under democratic regimes. In turn, some scholars have noted that, even if Islam is compatible with free elections, the Arab world is not. Indeed, all Arab states remain undemocratic as of today — and do so by employing substantially repressive policies. The problem with this claim, however, is that it never specifies the ways in which Arab culture and behavior may be at odds with the principle of mutual toleration among winners and losers that makes democracy possible. Moreover, the few surveys we do have seem to show that Middle Eastern populations favor democracy by margins similar to those found in Latin American or Asian publics. The truth is that the politics surrounding the control of natural resources, rather than any religious or cultural factor, is what explains the preponderance of authoritarianism in the Middle East (and much of sub-Saharan Africa as well).Boix's is a great article and his ultimate conclusions are not to be dismissed.
His work though raises vexing questions about what he does not discuss. Namely, how does his economically determinate argument explain the rise of semi-autonomous, undemocratic groups within Europe? According to his economics-based theory of democratization, Europe should be a place where democracy continues to thrive indefinitely, not where it is threatened by some other system. Yet the growth of semi-autonomous immigrant communities in Europe's large cities -- places where the democratically created laws of the host society don't apply or aren't enforced -- is a frequent feature of the news these days (and even a slew of recent books).
How to account for this? Especially when all of these communities have one thing in common -- Islam?
My guess is that this phenomenon speaks less to the anti-democratic tendencies of Muslims than it does to the pusillanimous and faint-hearted efforts of the Europeans in defending and justifying their freedoms. But readers are welcome to differ . . .
March 2, 2006
Welcome to Post-Tipping Point politics. There is no upside to doing the right thing – which is to emphasize, as one blogger put it, that there is a difference between Dubai and Damascus. There is tremendous political upside to doing the wrong thing, boldly declaring, “I don’t care what the Muslim world thinks, I’m not allowing any Arab country running ports here in America! I don’t care how much President Bush claims these guys are our allies, I don’t trust them, and I’m not going to hand them the keys to the vital entries to our country!”Geraghty points to this New Republic piece, in which Peter Beinart asks,
Courting these voters will mean supporting proposals that are supported by wide swaths of the American people, but are largely considered nonstarters in Washington circles: much tougher immigration restrictions, including patrolling the Mexican border; racial profiling of airline passengers instead of confiscating grandma’s tweezers; drastically reducing or eliminating entry visas to residents of Muslim or Arab countries; and taking a much tougher line with Saudi Arabia and coping with the consequences of that stance. Since 9/11, the Bush administration, and most leaders on Capitol Hill in both parties have dismissed those ideas as unrealistic, counterproductive, or not in accordance to American values.
If you listen to Democratic criticism of the port deal, the Jacksonian themes are clear. In the words of California Senator Barbara Boxer, "We have to have American companies running our own ports." But nationalism tinged with xenophobia makes Democrats uncomfortable.
For Democrats, stealing the Bush administration's populist, unilateralist thunder would be a remarkable coup. And it would be a remarkable historical irony, since Jacksonianism in Jeffersonian clothes--civil libertarian, anti-globalization, uninterested in transforming the world--inverts the foreign policy of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.
Politically, the opportunity is clear. There's just one catch: Is this really what Democrats believe?
I'm convinced this is all a remake of Naked Gun. You remember the scene: in his zealous pursuit of the Queen's would-be assassin, Lt. Frank Drebin finds himself at an Angels game, suddenly taking the place of the umpire behind home plate. A pitch is thrown. The crowd goes silent. Drebin is quiet. The pitcher stares at him. The batter turns and looks at him. Drebin looks back at him. Then he mumbles, "Strike?"
The crowd goes wild. Drebin smiles. He's got em now! He's forgotten all about the assassin for the moment. The next pitch is thrown. It's obviously way outside. Drebin calls another strike. The crowd goes nuts! Drebin does a little dance behind the plate, with two fingers up in the air, repeating, "Two! Two! Two! Strike Two!" On the next pitch, Drebin calls a strike before the ball even hits the catcher's mitt. Then he polishes it off with a moonwalk and a bit of breakdancing.
This is where the Democratic party finds itself. With their friends in the press, they've thrown out all manner of arguments in their zealous quest to wrest power from George W. Bush. Then, all of a sudden, they find themselves in a position to umpire a large commercial transaction. Everyone waits to see what they're going to say.
The country goes wild! They reinforce their success and continue on this meme. But as Beinart notes above, are they really ready to deal with the underlying reasoning that leads the nation to cheer at their calls?
We all know how that segment of the movie ends. Drebin is having so much fun that he forgets about the sleeper in his midst. Then, when he's reminded, he starts a riot on the field. Of course, it's Hollywood and in the end he's a hero. But is this the kind of national security that we want? Ask a Democrat what kinds of actions he's prepared to take in the war, and he'll say he'll withdraw troops from Iraq. Then he'll list a litany of things he would have done differently. But does he really have a plan of any substance? In the midst of discrediting the Bush Administration, he sees an opening on Bush's right. Finally! But is he really ready to go there and do the things that those constituencies want done? All of a sudden, the pre-9/11 Democrats have gone on a blind date with 2006 voters. I have a feeling that before it is all over, the Democrats will be as terrified of the voters as they are of Arabs.
This all goes back to my post of yesterday: How will our society answer the question: Is Islam compatible with a free society? The Democrats may be about to side with those who say, No. SInce this violates some of their most fundamental principles, and those of multiculturalism, can they even make this journey? Or are we witnessing a transformation of the Democratic party?
Interestingly enough, Naked Gun opens with Drebin "on vacation" in Beirut, if memory serves, where he takes out Ayatollah Khomeini, Gorbachev, Idi Amin, and Qaddafi all at one time.
[Frank has beaten a horde of America's most-feared world leaders in a conference room and heads for a door]This was supposed to be funny back in 1988: a witless American taking the fight to the enemy: basically what the American people would have loved to see done to any of those world leaders. But it's meant to be a farce!
Muammar al-Qaddafi: Hey, who are you?
Frank: I'm Lt. Frank Drebin! Police Squad! And don't ever let me catch you guys in America!
[the door hits Frank in the face and he loses his balance]
Who knew it was prophetic of the possible electoral machinations of the Democratic party in 2006?
February 24, 2006
"Solidarity with Denmark, death to fascism."
Ian Schwartz has a 2 mintue and 27 second video available of Christopher Hitchens' speech at the Danish Embassy in DC today, where Hitchens organized a pro-Denmark rally. [Hat-tip: Instapundit]. I've put together a little transcript of Hitchens' remarks:
"Brothers and sisters, I [inaudible] . . . a speech.I imagine that Hitchens and I might disagree on many points. He's more or less a socialist after all. But he's pretty much won my admiration for all time with his spirited defense of the war in Iraq. The piece he wrote in the Weekly Standard back in September alone is absolutely outstanding [see A War to Be Proud Of], and when I see things like Fukuyama backpedaling, I look back on that piece and feel comforted.
It misses the point . . . [inaudible] [laughter]
[Crowd: "Speech! Speech!"]
Brothers and sisters, I just thought I would thank everyone for coming and say how touching it is that people will take a minute from a working day to do something that our government won't do for us, which is quite simply to say that we know who our friends and our allies are, and they should know that we know it. And that we take a stand of democracy against dictatorship. And when the embassies of democracies are burned in the capital cities of dictatorships, we think the State Department should denounce that, and not denounce the cartoons.
[Cheers of support and applause]
And that we're fed up with the invertebrate nature of our State Department.
[Laughter, cheers, applause]
If we had more time, brothers and sisters, I think that we should have gone from here to the embassy of Iraq, to express our support for another country that is facing a campaign of lies and hatred and violence. And we would -- if we did that we would say that we knew blasphemy when we saw it, we knew sacrilege when we saw it: it is sacrilegious to blow up beautiful houses of worship in Samarra. That would be worth filling the streets of the world to protest about.
[Cheers and applause]
We are not for profanity nor for disrespect, though we are, and without any conditions, or any ifs or any buts, for free expression in all times and in all places
and our solidarity . . . [inaudible]
So, we said we would, I told the Danish embassy that we would disperse at one o'clock. I hope and believe we've made our point, I hope and believe that today's tv will have some more agreeable features, such as your own, to show, instead of the faces of violence and hatred, and fascism, and I think I can just close by saying, solidarity with Denmark, death to fascism.
[Applause as Hitchens steps away]
Today only increases my favor for Hitchens. Three cheers for Denmark!
June 19, 2005
A question for you lawyers out there
If I had worked at Guantanamo Bay, in any capacity, say guard, intelligence specialist, or interrogator, and I wanted to get together with a handful of my fellow guards etc, and sue Senator Durbin for libel, slander, etc, would I have a case?
If any of you legal types can offer opinions on this, I'd be interested to hear them. I haven't seen that mentioned as a possiblity anywhere else.
UPDATE: An Alert Reader draws my attention to this paragraph in Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.So I suppose that a slander or libel lawsuit would include "questioning" in some other place Durbin's speech and therefore, he can't be sued for it. On the other hand, if he was charged with Treason, which I suppose would be a criminal offense, rather than a civil offense, he would not be exempt from arrest. Am I reading this right?
February 1, 2005
The Left Starts to Second-Guess Its War Opposition
Obviously, I'm still curious to see if Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out or to oppose our other foreign policy efforts in the region.
So is the rest of the world.
For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.
If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.
Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.
JON STEWART MAY IMPLODE? [Tim Graham]
Jon Stewart, late in the Daily Show last night to Newsweek pundit Fareed Zakaria: "I’ve watched this thing unfold from the start and here’s the great fear that I have: What if Bush, the president, ours, has been right about this all along? I feel like my world view will not sustain itself and I may, and again I don’t know if I can physically do this, implode. (Hat tip: David Frum).
Posted at 02:04 PM
January 31, 2005
For once I am totally speechless.