Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kerry Belittles U.S. Troops

American Legion to Sen. Kerry: Apologize Now

INDIANAPOLIS, October 31, 2006 - The National Commander of The American Legion called on Sen. John Kerry to apologize for suggesting that American troops in Iraq are uneducated.

“As a constituent of Senator Kerry’s I am disappointed. As leader of The American Legion, I am outraged,” said National Commander Paul A. Morin. “A generation ago, Sen. Kerry slandered his comrades in Vietnam by saying that they were rapists and murderers. It wasn’t true then and his warped view of today’s heroes isn’t true now.”

While addressing a group of college students at a campaign rally in Pasadena, CA., Monday, Kerry suggested that they receive an education or “if you don’t, you’ll get stuck in Iraq.”
“While The American Legion shares the senator’s appreciation for education, the troops in Iraq represent the most sophisticated, technologically superior military that the world has ever seen,” Morin said. “I think there is a thing or two that they could teach most college professors and campus elitists about the way the world works.

“And while we are on the topic of education, why doesn’t the senator and his comrades in Congress improve the GI Bill so all of today’s military members – reserves and guard included – can achieve the educational aspirations that the senator so highly values?” Morin said. “The senator’s false and outrageous attack was over-the-top and he should apologize now.”

The 2.7-million member American Legion, www.legion.org, is the nation’s largest veterans organization.

Hat Tip: Drudge Report (new media)

Monday, October 30, 2006

How's This for Fair?

Steve Mayes of the Oregonian wrote an article on the race between Rep. Darlene Hooley and challenger Mike Erickson. Here's his assessment of the Erickson campaign:

Erickson got some help a few weeks ago from the conservative Economic Freedom Fund, bankrolled by Texas homebuilder Bob Perry. The group, known for its "Swift boat" attack ads in 2004 that distorted John Kerry's military record, started running a pair of powerful anti-Hooley television commercials and mailing several negative fliers. It's unclear how much the effort, which distorts Hooley's positions on national defense and immigration, will sway voters. Those who follow politics closely see Erickson as a strong competitor who might come close but won't beat Hooley.
(emphasis mine)

Not a word of proof from Mayes backing up his “this is a fact” assertion that Erickson’s ads distort. Mayes says it, and it’s so. For him the fact that the ads were made by a group who made anti-Kerry ads in 2004 and is bankrolled by a conservative is sufficient.

Also, not a word from Mayes that Hooley’s ads might also distort.

I noted one distortion just from watching two of the ads. Erickson’s ad said Hooley missed lots of committee meetings. Hooley’s follow up ad said Erickson was lying about her because she attended almost all of her House votes. What she did was smart politicking in changing the issue to one she had a good record on, but it was a distortion of what Erickson's ad said. Apparently Mayes didn’t pick up on that or thought it wasn’t really a distortion of Erickson's criticism of Hooley.

I’m not even going to get into the personal attacks in Hooley’s ads on Erickson’s character. I admit that I have not seen all of Erickson’s ads, but I don’t remember one that attacked Hooley’s personal character--just her positions and congressional job performance.

What's unfortunate is that Mayes obviously thinks he doesn't have to give any proof that Erickson is distorting Hooley's positions. The distortions are so clear to him from his political viewpoint, he thinks its clear to his readers.

This kind of reporting based on personal opinion rather than investigation is part of why the mainstream press has a bad name. It is opinion commentary--not reporting. Masquerading it as reporting is just another indication of why Oregonian subscription rates keep slipping. If you want real news with real evidence, there are better sources.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Michael J. Embryo

Here's another YouTube standout. Thanks to ScrappleFace.

Hat Tip: George at Alamo Nation.
Poster Girl

Here's the Aussie response to the Dixie Chicks. Beccy Cole wrote this after some of her fans were unhappy when she visited and entertained Australian troops (Diggers) serving in Iraq.

Hat Tip: SaveLiberty's comment at Alamo Nation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What Are Oregonians Doing?

I have some old issues of the Oregonian from World War II. The Oregonian actually printed a servicemen’s edition which was miniaturized to be more easily sent to servicemen. That edition carried news of the war effort (which often was the front page headline story), the editorial page, some national and local news, sports news, and, of course, the comics.

A servicemen’s edition wouldn’t even be considered today. A main feature of the WWII edition was news of what US and allied troops were doing. But one rarely hears from today's Oregonian what US and allied troops, not to mention Oregon troops, are actually doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. From the news coverage one assumes they are doing, well, nothing--except to die now and again.

Journalists didn't cover WWII, as opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan, because it was safe. In fact the WWII issue that I highlight in the photo reports on the death of war correspondent William Makin, who “died Tuesday of wounds suffered while reporting United States army attacks in the Cherbourg peninsula.”

If there are modern “war correspondents”, none of them seems to write well enough to get a story published very often on "United States army attacks" in Iraq and Afghanistan. It looks like war correspondent covering US troops is no longer the place where the media puts ace reporters. If you want a quick trip to oblivion, sign up for that job.

The place for quick advancement is to be embedded, not with US troops, but with terrorists and insurgents. When they capture and kill, it gets headlines. When our troops capture and kill, it doesn’t even merit a yawn.

Except to the folks back home. I have yet to talk to an Oregonian who says they would not be interested to hear what Oregon servicemen and women are encountering and accomplishing. I bet none of those interested Oregonians would be turned off if the reports were published in a daily section on the front page.

To the Oregonian: How many of the enemy have our troops captured or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan today?

It looks like the people not interested in US (and Oregon) troops are reporters and editors. What a sad commentary.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Elegant Plan to Leave Iraq

Jonah Goldberg’s recent column gives an elegant, face saving plan for retreat in Iraq.

If that’s what you are aiming for.

Goldberg's plan:

. . . I think we should ask the Iraqis to vote on whether U.S. troops should stay.

Polling suggests that they want us to go. But polling absent consequences is a form of protest. With accountability, minds may change and appreciation for the U.S. presence might grow.

If Iraqis voted “stay,” we’d have a mandate to do what’s necessary to win, and our ideals would be reaffirmed. If they voted “go,” our values would also be reaffirmed, and we could leave with honor. And pretty much everyone would have to accept democracy as the only legitimate expression of national will.

If we do use the Goldberg plan, give it a little while, and we can recycle it for an elegant, face saving plan to leave Afghanistan--and any other area where terrorists cause violence (like the Europe of Spain and Britain).

Goldberg and some other conservatives seem to forget the reason we are in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Do you remember? Afghanistan had Al Qaeda training camps. President Bush said not only would we go after Al Qaeda but after anyone who harbored Al Qaeda. We were going to take the fight to the places where Al Qaeda (and others like them) were--not just wait until they attacked before we responded.

So, is Goldberg saying that the effort to take out their bases before they strike in the US is not a good plan?

To be fair Goldberg gives an out. If the Iraqi people vote that they want us to stay, we will stay. It will be a publicity coup. Though how that will change even publicity for other than the few months any poll is good for he doesn’t say.

Goldberg assumes that we are in Iraq primarily for the benefit of Iraqis. So, of course, if they don’t think the present plan is good, we should leave.

But, aren’t we there primarily for our benefit?

Like occupying Japan after WWII. We did try to benefit Japan. We helped them frame a democratic form of government and get their society and economy started again. But, we weren’t there primarily to help the Japanese. That’s why we didn’t run a plebiscite in Japan on whether they wanted us to stay or not. We were there to help them restructure so that they wouldn’t be a threat to us (or to the rest of Asia). It has worked for six decades and looks like it may go a bit longer.

Worked in Germany too.

Granted it may not work in Iraq. Or Afghanistan. We may have to resort to the Derbyshire model of “smack and run”. But does the price we have paid so far in dead and wounded Americans show that we have made the wrong choice?

In World War II we lost over 400,000 military (mostly men) who never got the chance to live a post-war life, not to mention the 670,000 wounded. That’s over a million casualties.

Why were Americans, both average citizens and leaders, willing to pay that high price? Because Japan and Germany were imminent threats to take over the U.S.? No, it was because they were long term threats.

The WWII generation believed that immense sacrifice against those able to carry out even a relatively small long distance hit (more died in 9/11 than at Pearl Harbor) was worth the price of more than a million men dead or wounded--not to mention the massive disruption of society by the draft, rationing and turning industrial output from domestic products to war materials. In WWII everything in U.S. society was focused on winning the war at whatever cost.

Jonah Goldberg believes the cost in Iraq has been too high:

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction is a side issue. The WMD fiasco was a global intelligence failure, but calling Saddam Hussein’s bluff after 9/11 was the right thing to do. Washington’s more important intelligence failure lay in underestimating what would be required to rebuild and restore post-Hussein Iraq. The White House did not anticipate a low-intensity civil war in Iraq, never planned for it and would not have deemed it in the U.S. interest to pay this high a price in prestige, treasure and, of course, lives.

If 2,700 military deaths in Iraq are enough to make us blink (the last time it was a bit under 60,000 for Viet Nam), our problem will not be the high price of security. It will be the lack of vision on the part of political leaders, the media and pundits like Jonah Goldberg about how important it is to avert a terrorist threat.

Fortress America was passé even in the 1940's. It’s insanity in the nuclear age.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Where Do They Find These Silly Commentaries?

The Oregonian ran an opinion piece by a guy who says he's a conservative--Paul Mulshine--who writes an opinion column for a New Jersey newspaper.

Maybe he is a conservative, but he doesn’t write like one in this column. For one thing he claims to be able to tell who is and is not a conservative by whether they work in sales or not. A strange claim on the face of it and one that belongs more to the “I’m king of the world” club rather than to conservatives.

Mulshine's column trashes Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Not for any of their positions but because Hannity and O’Reilly do commercials on their radio talk shows and Fox News doesn’t see a problem with that.

But that Freudian slip got me thinking about why, as a conservative, I am appalled by the conduct of the people at Fox. It's not that their reporting fails to meet the "fair and balanced" standard to which the network claims to aspire. Truth is, nobody meets that standard. That's fine with me. A smart reader can weigh one point of view against the other and come up with a close approximation of the truth.

No, what bothers me about Fox News is its ethics code. It doesn't seem to have one. Consider the two stars of the Fox News TV lineup, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Both do something that is so far outside the ethical boundaries for journalists that it isn't even listed in most ethics codes: They do commercials.

Hmm. I think I remember William F. Buckley, Jr., saying how he would be willing to have his recommendation used in an ad (“shill” in Mr. Mulshine’s vocab) for a typewriter company and a peanut butter company because he liked their products so much. So much for his ethics! And an obvious painting of himself outside the conservative circle by being willing to do a commercial.

What does doing commercials have to do with being or not being conservative?

But after dinner when I turn on my TV there is that same pitchman posing as a journalist. Sean Hannity is not a conservative. He just plays one on TV. The same goes for Bill O'Reilly. The man who claims to work in a "no-spin zone" in the evenings spends his afternoon not just spinning but pitching.

None of this would bother me if these characters didn't purport to be conservatives. We conservatives have principles. We don't say things because people pay us to say them. We say things because we believe in them.
[emphasis mine]

Oh, really. Doesn't Mr. Mulshine accept pay for writing his column? Using the above definition all those who get paid for what they write or say aren’t true conservatives.

Mr. Mulshine may be a conservative, but he can’t think his way through a fruit loop.

My preferred conservative commentators are Mark Steyn (new line) and William F. Buckley, Jr. (old line) rather than Hannity or O'Reilly, but it’s crazy to criticize a political talk show host for doing commercials. Commercial sales and journalism are intimately wed.

Does Mr. Mulshine ever watch TV news or read magazines or even his own New Jersey newspaper? They are chuck full of commercials and ads--which pay the salaries of their journalists. Without commercials and ads there would be no forum for Mulshine’s fulminations--unless he wrote for free like bloggers.

Hmm. Apparently bloggers are the only true conservatives writing.

Where does the Oregonian find these silly commentaries?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Political Demonizing Bites the Oregonian

The Oregonian supports passage of Measure 42 prohibiting the use of credit scores as a basis of setting insurance rates. But it can't conjure up even a single word of praise for the Measure's chief sponsor (Bill Sizemore) and chief funder (Loren Parks). Actually Parks doesn't even rate a mention.

The best the big O can do is call Sizemore a "controversial activist".

Insurers have poured almost $4 million into the campaign to defeat Measure 42, which would forbid them from using a customer's credit score to set rates. They cite many reasons for opposing the measure, but their favorite two words seem to be "Bill Sizemore," the controversial activist who wrote the initiative.

Though the editorial notes that Sizemore has few public allies in the campaign, there's not a word about his good sense, courage or hard work on Measure 42. Instead a minor player who seems to have had no part in getting the measure on the ballot, the Consumers Union, gets the credit for raising "legitimate questions" and doing "meticulous research".

In the lonely campaign in favor of 42, Sizemore is joined by the Consumers Union, which raises legitimate questions about the accuracy, lack of transparency and apparent unfairness of using credit scores as a tool to set insurance prices. The nonprofit organization's meticulous research points to a troubling problem with credit scores: They appear to disproportionately penalize ethnic minorities and underprivileged people.

The Consumers Union may be an ally, but there is nothing from them in the Voters’ Pamphlet or in any high profile campaign. Have they even contributed any money?

Actually the only other public ally filing in the Voters’ Pamphlet is, eek!, Loren Parks.

Can any good thing come from Bill Sizemore and Loren Parks? Actually, yes. But, the demonizing of political opponents has a real impact.

The Oregon Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, in their bid to bring Sizemore down, may be responsible for bringing Measure 42 down. In fact, if they had their way, the Measure wouldn’t even be on the ballot because Sizemore shouldn’t have the right to participate in the initiative process. Loren Parks is also on their “bad guy” list.

In 2002, an Oregon jury found Bill Sizemore guilty of racketeering related to petition fraud. His current Measure 41 Tax Scam campaign is managed by the Oregon chapter of FreedomWorks, and almost entirely funded by Loren Parks. FreedomWorks is a national special interest group funded by oil companies and Big Tobacco. Loren Parks is a Nevada businessman and professed hypnotist. It’s hard to see how this trio of Sizemore, FreedomWorks, and Loren Parks has the best interests of Oregon at heart.

The Oregonian also has its share in this. That's why its editors can't bring themselves to praise the two people most responsible for a ballot measure they support.

It’s time to stop demonizing people and just agree or disagree with ideas and specific issues. The Measure 42 campaign is a case in point about how poisoning the atmosphere of political discourse victimizes good ideas.

Measure 42 is similar to legislation passed in Oregon in 2003 for existing policy holders, who are the vast majority of policy holders. Did your insurance rates rocket through the ceiling? Mine didn’t.

Will adding new policy holders or those who change insurance companies to the mass of policy holders already shielded cause any significant change in rates? Not likely.

I agree with “lonely” Bill Sizemore, Loren Parks and the Oregonian. Vote yes on Measure 42.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is Democracy too Dicey?

Steven K. Green’s argument against initiative petitions in today’s Oregonian presents a number of troubling electoral standards.

Green is a specialist (law professor and director of the Willamette Center for Law and Government at Willamette University College of Law). He thinks specialists are the people who should make laws. Why?

Well, “choices can be confusing”.

The choices can be confusing, and most voters have limited access to information and time to study the proposed laws. Although the state Voters' Pamphlet will contain statements by proponents and opponents of the various measures, they usually offer more heat than light. Studies indicate that most voters make up their minds about initiatives at the last minute and often base their decisions on gut-level reactions to key words or concepts associated with particular initiatives, not on the language itself.

Of course, that’s an argument against democracy itself. Most voters don’t have a lot of information on candidates either. Gut-level reactions to candidates are, with few exceptions, more important than candidate positions on issues.

As to “heat” vs. “light” in the Voters’ Pamphlet, initiative petition arguments are light years ahead of candidate arguments. You gotta be really good to figure out even a candidate’s general political philosophy in the Voters’ Pamphlet, let alone a specific position on even the most major of issues. If we used Prof. Green’s standards, we would avoid the confusing process of actually electing public officials. That could be better done by a committee of specialists.

Green has another concern--these laws are drafted without “popular input”.

The problem with all initiatives, whether written locally or elsewhere, is that they are drafted without the transparency or popular input that we demand as a prerequisite for all of our other laws. The language is presented as a fait accompli -- take it or leave it.

Uh, I hate to tell Prof. Green this, but laws passed by government agencies come to the public without even that much choice. It’s always “take it”--never even a chance to “leave it”. Except, if the public can use another great tool of modern democracy: the referendum. But, one assumes that Green would have the same problems with referendum as he does with initiative petition. The voter cannot be trusted to understand budgetary, policy or legal implications.

The greater concern with lawmaking by initiative, however, is the law of unintended consequences. Oregon voters may be pretty bright and understand what a particular measure truly says. But that doesn't mean we necessarily appreciate the budgetary or policy implications for a measure or how it affects existing law.

Prof. Green believes a better way to discover the possible implications of a law is by “research and public hearings”.

It's the job of legislators to uncover the intended and unintended impact of a proposed law through research and public hearings and then, we hope, to refine the proposal's language to reduce the negative impact. This process is bypassed through the initiative system.

Elections are “public hearings”. The difference between election public hearings and the ones held by the legislature is that only an infinitesimal fraction of citizens are consulted when the legislature writes a law. And most of the citizens heard are from organized special interest groups.

When’s the last time someone in charge of a legislative hearing asked you how a proposed law would affect you? By contrast, 1.8 million citizens were directly consulted on initiative petition legislation in 2004. Sure, it was a yes or no question. But, yes or no is better than not being asked at all.

Oregon voters may not understand budgetary implications, but they can understand the implications of a law on their day-to-day lives. That’s something each voter knows better than even specialists like Prof. Green. Which is why the initiative petition and referendum processes were adopted by Oregon voters in 1902. They also voted in:

. . . Direct Primary Law (1904), extension of initiative and referendum to local laws, city home rule, indictment by grand jury, taxes on telephone, telegraph, and railroad companies (all 1906), a recall amendment to the State Constitution, the Corrupt Practices Act (both 1908), three-fourths verdict in civil cases, employers' liability act (both 1910), women's suffrage, prohibition on private employment of convict labor, eight-hour day on public works (all 1912), presidential preference primary (1913), prohibition, and an eight-hour day and room ventilation for women workers (both 1914). Other laws abolished capital punishment, the infamous Oregon Boot, a heavy manacle attached to legs of prisoners, and required publication of the Oregon Blue Book.

Not a bad list of achievements for non-specialist voters who didn’t “necessarily appreciate the budgetary or policy implications for a measure or how it affects existing law.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where Is Investigative Reporting?

Two bloggers have managed to track down a source that none of the national media could find. Apparently no professional news reporter had any questions about the identity of the ABC source for Rep. Foley's IM's and whether that person, like Monica Lewinsky, was legally an adult. Or, if they did, they couldn't muster the savvy or resources that two bloggers did.

Blogger William Kerr at Passionate America and Ms. Underestimated cracked a story using internet investigation and native intelligence.

Kudos to them for investigative reporting that no one else did.

Where's ABC's professionalism? Do they research their sources before broadcasting a story? One wonders how ABC got the information. At this point it doesn't look like ABC tried to find or interview Jordan Edmund, the young man who received the IM's.

It's an ill wind that blows no one any good. At the least this scandal may result in a system that better protects young people like pages and interns. A system that interviews them periodically and monitors those who have access to them would be a good start.

But, the question is raised about the lack of journalistic competency in the mass media. The blogosphere keeps showing that the mass media emperorers have no clothes.