There Are Players and Then There Are Players

This is too cool not to share.

Gerard Van Der Leun, the funniest person I’ve ever sat in a car for an hour with, links across to his friend Robert Fulghum’s website.

I was always too cool for Fulghum’s homilies, which in retrospect may reflect worse on me than on him, because this piece is spot on and wonderful.

No permalinks, just look for Feb 12, 2006 and “Are You A Player?”

Definition: Persons with enough nimbleness of mind to accept a surprise invitation to jump into a quick game of imagination.

Example: Here’s a city bus driver standing in the door of his vehicle, staring into the rain. An invitation from me, passing by: “OK, here’s the deal: I’ll pay for the gas, and you’ll drive us straight to the beach at Santa Monica.”

He smiles. “OK, meet me here at midnight. It’s the end of my run and they won’t miss me or the bus until morning. I’ll get some barbecue.”
A player.

Example: Early morning. Lady standing at a bus stop. All seven people waiting with her have wires coming out of their ears. Radios, I-pods, Walkmans, or something. All seven are in a zone – nodding heads in time to music or staring off into space. As I pass, I say to the lady: “They’re all alien robots, you know. Their souls have been sucked out of them.” The lady gives me a hard look and moves closer to the curb.
Not a player.

A man who has just walked up says, “Yes, but they aren’t useless. They’re a street-theater company and I’m their manager. We’re on our way to a gig downtown.” “Really? What’s the name of the performance?” “Bus Stop Stupor. Look for us everywhere.”
A player.

Right on target. Those are the people I want in my tribe.

Life In The Bubble

Two posts from MyDD and one from Kaus; the first from Matt Stoller:

The RNC cannot afford to embrace their netroots as an audience because of the increasingly extreme and racist nature of their base. It’s not Redstate specifically, it is, as Glenn Greenwald notes, their entire pundit class. Actually, it goes beyond that, to their leadership. For instance, it’s not just James Dobson embarrassing Republicans anymore; Senator Jeff Sessions, Senator Sam Brownback, and Senate candidate Michael Steele have all compared stem cell research to the holocaust.

But the right-wing blogosphere is where racist and extreme sentiment is most obvious and trackable, it is a veritable steady diet of the stuff. No matter how persuasive Patrick Ruffini might be, and he seems like a smart fellow, the RNC cannot afford to be tagged with their base sentiment, whether it’s Little Green Footballs calling for nuclear attacks on Muslims (or ‘constitutionally protected hate speech’ as advertisers who don’t want to be associated with the site see it), right-wing and neo-Nazi embraces of extremist groups like the Minutemen, voxday calling rape victims ‘stupid’, or front-pager Blanton at Redstate calling Coretta Scott King’s funeral which President Bush spoke at a ‘Def Comedy Jam spectacle’ with ‘demands for handouts’.

The second from Chris Bowers:

Later yesterday, I wrote a post arguing that what the progressive netroots wants in Democratic candidates is also what the general public wants. Now, I would like to point out that the topics and issues the netroots focuses on are the same issues on which the general public and / or the Democratic Party is focused.

Mainstream issues, mainstream candidates, and mainstream ideology. For all our carping about the “MSM” (and I really hope we can all dump that term), it turns out that within the world of politics, we, the progressive netroots are as mainstream as any institution comes.

Mickey Kaus perfectly explains why I shake my hands in the air in frustration when I read things like this:

2. The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S. of the sort that consistently hurts Democrats (and others who believe it): B.S. is B.S.. Bloggers are allowed to point it out (he says defensively)–especially if it’s B.S. the mainstream press has no particular interest in pointing out (because it kills the story, or because they’ll seem homophobic).** But this B.S. falls into a special category: the sort of gratifying myth that in the past has helped lull liberals (and gay rights activists who may or may not be liberals) into wild overconfidence. Remember when Democrats actually believed that Fahrenheit would help push Bush out of office? It didn’t work out that way. Moore’s film didn’t change many minds in part because, as York puts it, it “never reached audiences that had the power to defeat the president at the polls.” Despite all the “heartland” hype, it was a blue-state movie. York notes that Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ–a mirror-image “red state” movie that did well where Fahrenheit did badly, badly where Fahrenheit did well–prefigured the 2004 results, in that it attracted an audience roughly three times the size of Fahrenheit‘s (or four times Brokeback‘s!).

Much of Democratic politics seems to now consist of embracing and fanning similarly comforting, but ultimately deceptive, liberal memes. Enron has fatally damaged Bush, Abu Ghraib has fatally damaged Bush, Katrina has fatally damaged Bush, Abramoff has fatally damaged Bush, the Plame investigation will fatally damage Bush–you can catch the latest allegedly devastating issue every day on Huffington Post or Daily Kos (and frequently in the NYT). If you believe the hype–if you don’t compare Michael Moore’s box office with Mel Gibson’s box office, in effect–you’ll believe that Democrats don’t need to change to win. They just need to push all these hot memes forcefully. If you don’t believe the hype–if you think that netroots Dems are too often like the Iraqi Sunnis who think they’re a majority–you’ll look for a Bill Clinton-like alternative with greater red-state appeal.

I looked at it a little less calmly:

I don’t like a lot of what the Republican party has to offer; that’s OK, I think we need a national dialog to make good policies. It takes two.

But given that, it may be puzzling to some (hey, JC, how’ re you?) why it is that I bash the media for their blind partisanship toward establishment liberalism, instead of cheering them as an ally.

It’s because I find myself in a risky place surrounded by people who have lost the ability to tell bullshit from reality. Our party is wounded, leaking ideologically and demographically, and we sit here drinking quack nostrums made from apricot pits and listening to fake spirit mediums tell us everything will be OK because our dead ancestors FDR, JFK, and LBJ are looking over us.

They’re not.

Iran ^2

Trent is positive that Iran has or will shortly have one or more working nuclear weapons, and that they will test them soon (within months) and then blackmail us with those tests.

I’ll skip over the notion that his position represents the absolute-worst case possibility, and that there are much higher-probability states for the situation, that no one who is likely to know is acting like this is true, and that the actors most likely to know – and act – the Israelis – haven’t acted.

So I don’t see a lot of evidence that supports his case.His specific claim as I read it is that Iran has bought fissile materials, or a working bomb from the Norks, and that they are likely to test it this spring or summer.

Again, a possibility, but not a probability much less a certainty, and I’d suggest that we’d see Israeli action – diplomatic and military – if they believed it to be the case.

So I don’t think it’s true.

Having said that, let me take it to another level – what difference does it make?

Trent doesn’t have a specific set of actions he proposes in his post, so I’m assuming he’s simply echoing what Tom H or Joe suggested a while ago – that we invade or bomb Iran.

And I’ll reply now, as I did then – ‘then what?’ Because the issue simply isn’t going to solved by defeating Iran alone, and alone we don’t have the power to defeat – as opposed to kill – everyone we’d have to defeat in order to make the problem go away.

We know for a fact that the Iranians have an interest in getting a bomb; they have said so. We believe that they are taking actions in the direction of researching and developing nuclear weapons capability. We know for a fact that they are taking actions that would support making a bomb – in the form of enrichment, at minimum.

So pretty much anyone reasonable is aware of the direction things are taking. I’m going to put aside the folks who take the Iranian claims at face value – I flat don’t believe that they are entering into a nuclear enrichment program solely for peaceful purposes. There are substantial differences between the “it doesn’t matter if they get a bomb” group and the “it’s better to go to war than let them get a bomb” group, and those differences are well worth exploring – another time.

Right now, the issue is what to do to keep from getting to that crossroads, and there’s a simple question I’ll toss out. If you were Iran, and you had three nuclear weapons, what would you do with them?

Here’s what I’d do.

I’d put them in cargo containers, after a lot of driving and shuffling around, and ship them to Rotterdam, Haifa, and Los Angeles. And I’d set them off.

And I’d do it while there’s still a lot of doubt about my ability to build a bomb, so I could deny it.

Iran gets nothing for a test except a war. What else would Europe, Israel, and the US do? And Saudi Arabia would be happy to see it happen – just as they were happy to see the US invade Iraq.

The only defendable position (i.e. position that leads to stalemate) for Iran is one where, like France, they acquire a nuclear weapons capability strong enough to really sting an opponent – France’s ‘force de frappe’ was meant to allow them to deter a Soviet invasion by plausibly hitting the Soviet Union with 10 or more hydrogen bombs – on a mix of manned bombers and SLBM’s. At that point, they have the equivalent of the Israeli ‘Samson option.’ Until Iran gets that capability, they can’t realistically deter foreign invasion with a conventional nuclear capability. By conventional, I mean ‘acknowledged’ as in the French nuclear forces which are acknowledged to be a part of the French military.

An unconventional nuclear capability – one that can put hard-to-trace nukes in shipping containers or trucks that can be driven across borders – is a time-limited opportunity for them as well, because once you obviously appear have the capability to build bombs, you’ll get blamed for them anyway. If nukes go off in Red Hook next week, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll be going off in North Korea and possibly Iran shortly thereafter.

So the wall they have to climb to get to ‘stalemate’ is a tall and steep one. They’re not nearly there yet, and won’t be this year.

I’m not suggesting that this problem – of a hostile theocracy working to obtain nuclear weapons – isn’t incredibly serious. I’m not suggesting that the click isn’t ticking. I am suggesting that it unlikely that the breakout will consist of saber-rattling in the form of a test, followed by demands (and I’ll suggest that the war in Iraq is part of the reason why – they know we have the will to invade), and most of all what I’m suggesting is that the actions we need to take in a matter of months don’t involve mobilizing troops, but recruiting and training them.

Today, we only have five levels of options: diplomacy, sanctions, bombing, invasion, and nuclear attack.

Trent, Tom, and Joe are pushing for moving ahead toward levels 3 & 4. I’m suggesting we move up option no. 5, put some clear tripwires around it in the sense of ‘if a bomb goes off in New York, you’re getting bombed’ while we work hard on 1 and 2 and build a stronger base for 3 & 4.

We have to deter them – if that’s possible – from a nuclear terrorist strike, not prevent a nuclear test.

This is a scary time, for sure.

But, to recap what I said when we discussed this before:

Let’s remember that Iran is 30 minutes away from becoming a sheet of glass at our command. That power is real, and gives us both the space to maneuver and the responsibility to use it wisely.

Fully-Owned Subsidaries Of The House Of Saud

I’m hammered pretty regularly for claiming that the core of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy “cloud” really doesn’t do a good job of standing for American interests. I’m reminded that Kos isn’t the Democratic Party, Cindy Sheehan isn’t the Democratic Party, Michael Moore isn’t the Democratic Party.

Well, Al Gore is actually pretty damn close to the epicenter of the Democratic Party.In case you’ve missed it, here’s what he said in Saudi this weekend:

Gore said Arabs had been “indiscriminately rounded up” and held in “unforgivable” conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida’s hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

He was in good company in donning kneepads:

Also at the forum, the vice chairman of Chevron Corp., Peter Robertson, said President Bush’s desire to cut U.S. dependence on Mideast oil shows a “misunderstanding” of global energy supply and the critical role of Saudi Arabia.

In his State of the Union address this month, Bush pledged to cut U.S. dependence on Middle East oil by 75 percent by 2025.

“This notion of being energy independent is completely unreasonable,” Robertson said at the economic forum, which opened Saturday.

I can forgive Chevron – he’s an oil company executive; if he wasn’t venal and shortsighted, I’d worry.

But what the hell is Gore thinking? I know that the House of Saud owns a substantial portion of Congress, but I didn’t think they invested in has-been candidates.

And where is someone, anyone in the Democratic Party to smack some sense into him? This is just embarrassing.

Nimrod Was Actually A Good Hunter…

There’s not much I can say about Vice President Cheney’s dumb accident?

Well, for starters, it’s simple; as a shooter, you own everything that goes downrange.There’s nothing else to say; yes Whittington was wrong to walk away from the shooting party without everyone going ‘guns down.’ When I’ve gone field bird shooting, I’ve gone in groups of three or four, and we were all careful to stay in line, not break a 90-degree wedge in front of us. When someone had to leave the line – usually to go answer a call of nature – we all went guns down and wait, usually mocking the absentee.

But Cheney pulled the trigger.

A couple of comments. The press account says that Whittington was wounded in the chest, neck, and face; assume he’s a normal sized guy, that’s about 12″ – 14″. So the minimum distance is probably 8 – 10 yards, since an improved choke patterns to about that size. I think that’s too small a distance – at that range, Whittington would have been hit by most of the load of 200 – 300 pellets. My guess is that he was probably 15 – 20 yards away; at 30 yards or more, I’d say winter clothes would have blocked the small birdshot pellets – so no wounds to the chest – so he was likely closer than that.

But Cheney pulled the trigger.

Having pulled the trigger, there’s just no freaking justification for the evasion of the press. It’s a recurring theme; the Administration is awesome at controlling the message; not so good at learning how to use the press to actually connect with the American people.

And we’ll go right ahead and wait for the inevitable jokes about Cheney shooting a man in Texas just to see him die.

News And Citizenship

What do Jay Rosen’s public journalism, Edward Murrow, Michael Yon, and John Galloway have in common? How do they help me understand why it is that U.S. and U.K. media are so uncomfortable with the idea of printing the cartoons?

Because they focus our attention on the notion of journalists as citizens.

Watching the U.S. and U.K. media twist themselves into ever-tightening logical circles as they explained why they wouldn’t reprint the Danish cartoons – which would have, rightly, been interpreted as thumbing their noses at the Islamists who stirred the controversy – I’m struck by a simple notion.

As Americans, or as citizens of the U.K., defiance is an appropriate response. You don’t like cartoons of your prophet? Too bad. Hell, we dip ours in piss and sell the photos.

But the media world is somehow above that unseemly response; their goal is to be even-handed parents, balancing the claims of both outraged children, and maintaining their stance as rapporteur, not participant.

It wasn’t always so.

I noted the L.A. Times article on Michael Yon, and the author’s (and, to be honest, most of the audience’s) distaste for Yon’s not-well-considered actions in picking up a rifle and attempting to get involved in a firefight. What journalist would do anything like that?

What journalist would have, as the writer put it,

…ignored the barriers that traditionally separated the press from its subjects. He openly rooted for soldiers and helped them collect the wreckage after roadside bombings.

Well, let me give two examples.

After midnight in London, Morgenthau gave an address on CBS Radio to the American people, which Roosevelt’s speechwriter Robert Sherwood and the CBS London correspondent Edward R. Murrow helped to write. He told his audience that while touring the fallout [sic] shelters, the “principal thought that filled my mind and heart” had been “we must never forget!” It was not enough to hope that postwar Germans and Japanese would “behave themselves as decent people”: “Hoping is not good enough…Germany and Japan must be kept disarmed.”

I’ve cited this before ; but let me bring it up again…Edward R Murrow, the demigod of a courageous press, acting as a flack for a U.S. Government official – worse, actively writing a speech for him. And it certainly doesn’t read like a nuanced one.

Go over and read Joseph Galloway’s memoirs of his experiences in Vietnam – they’re interesting reading in general (he’s an interesting guy – he co-authored ‘We Were Soldiers Once, And Young’).

But he had an idea: We would stay the night at the MACV Adviser compound nearby and get a much earlier start than those day-trippers the next morning. Sounded like a plan. At the gate of the compound a very tired looking American captain greeted us warmly. “We have been on 100% alert here for the last five days and nights. We are exhausted and need some relief. You guys are it.” He hooked me up with Saigon on his old-fashioned telephone switchboard. I was yelling down a bad line to Herndon in Saigon, telling him what we had seen that afternoon, when enemy mortar rounds fell on the South Vietnamese compound next door. I ducked under the switchboard and kept talking. Afterward, the captain handed us an M2 greasegun submachine gun and a handful of magazines. He showed us where we would sleep, in an empty bunkroom full of double-decker bunks. And where we would stand guard, in a sandbagged bunker facing a barbed-wire fence with a road beyond that. Henri would stand guard alone, from Midnight to 3 a.m. My turn was 3 a.m. to daybreak.

I lay there in the dark unable to sleep till Henri shook my arm and gestured at the door. I took the gun and ammo and entered the bunker for the longest night of my life to that point. Midway through my tour the Viet Cong pulled a satchel charge attack on the South Vietnamese compound across the road. No one approached our fence. Finally the eastern sky began to brighten slightly. The night was nearly over. Thank God. Just then a Vietnamese on a bicycle with a huge bundle on the handlebars came into view, pedaling up that road. I leveled the gun, safety off, and told myself if he made one false move he was dead. About then the captain slapped me on the shoulder: “Son, if you shoot that man you are going to have to cook our breakfast. He’s the chef.” Whew.

How’s that for your first day at war?

There’s more…

The Cav also brought along with them their hometown reporter, a grizzled and, to we 20-somethings, ancient World War II veteran Marine named Charlie Black of The Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer. We would all go to school on Charlie Black who lived with the Cav 24/7 and loved what he was doing. Charlie would go out with a battalion on operations and stay for a week or ten days or two weeks. When he came back to An Khe he would sit down at a battered old typewriter and write endless dispatches, single spaced, on onion skin paper. His stories were full of names and hometowns. He would find a friendly GI who would frank the letter so it went home airmail for free. His editor would run every line, because his readers included the wives and kids of many of the troops. Charlie was supposed to stay two or three weeks; he ended up staying more than a year that tour. Traded in his return air ticket for pocket money, slept on the ground or in the press tent for free and ate a steady diet of C-rations, also for free. The Cav troops would have happily passed the hat for donations if Charlie had gone totally broke. They loved him, and the love affair was mutual.

And more…

Ray dropped the Huey in rather precipitously to avoid the machine guns. I bailed out, the camp defenders flung some wounded aboard, and Ray was gone, shooting me the bird through the plexiglass. A sergeant ran up and said, “I don’t know who you are, Sir, but Maj. Beckwith wants to see you right now.” I inquired as to which one was the good major. “He is that big guy over there jumping up and down on his hat,” the sergeant replied. In short order I was standing before a man who would become a legend in Special Operations Warfare as the founder of the Delta Forces anti-terrorist teams. The dialogue went something like this: Him: Who the hell are you? Me: A reporter, Sir. Him: I need everything in the goddam world; I need reinforcements; I need medical evacuation helicopters; I need ammunition; I need food; I would love a bottle of Jim Beam whiskey and some cigars. And what has the Army in its wisdom sent me? A reporter. Well, son, I got news for you. I have no vacancy for a reporter but I do have one for a corner machine gunner—and YOU ARE IT! Me: Yes, Sir.

Beckwith took me to a sandbagged corner of a trench and gave me a short lesson in the care and loading and firing f the .30 caliber air-cooled machine gun which sat there, dark, ugly and menacing. He showed me how to unjam it in case of need. How to arm it. His instructions then were simple and direct: You can shoot the little brown men outside the wire; they are the enemy. You may not shoot the little brown men inside the wire; they are mine. For the next two or three days and nights I lived in that corner of the trench, beside the gun. What sleep there was was caught in lulls during the day. One day the Air Force finally managed to air-drop supplies in the right place; in fact right on top of the right place. Huge pallets of crates of ammo and c-rations drifted right down onto the camp, demolishing at least one tin-roofed building and smashing other defensive emplacements. I reached out and grabbed a Newsweek reporter, Bill Cook, and yanked him into my trench right before he was about to be squished by a descending pallet. The snaps of the parachutes billowing all over the camp were pretty good, even if I say so myself.

Finally a South Vietnamese armored column arrived to the rescue. Bob Poos of AP and another old friend, Jack Laurence of CBS, were riding atop the Armored Personnel Carriers. I waved at Poos and asked him where the hell he had been. He gave me the one-finger salute. The North Vietnamese had left by then and the hills were silent for the first time in a week. The air stank with that never-to-be-forgotten smell of rotting human flesh. The hills were ripped apart by the airstrikes brought down on the machine gunners, a stark, shattered landscape. We spent one more night in the camp. Poos was assigned to my machine gun.

Not the AP of this war, I’d suggest.

If there was a turning point, James Fallows covered it, in talking about a 1987 roundtable on ethics with journalists, academics, and the military:

Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening’s panel, better known than William Westmoreland himself. These were two star TV journalists: Peter Jennings of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace of 6o Minutes and CBS. Ogletree brought them into the same hypothetical war. He asked Jennings to imagine that he worked for a network that had been in contact with the enemy North Kosanese government. After much pleading, the North Kosanese had agreed to let Jennings and his news crew into their country, to film behind the lines and even travel with military units. Would Jennings be willing to go? Of course, Jennings replied. Any reporter would-and in real wars reporters from his network often had. But while Jennings and his crew are traveling with a North Kosanese unit, to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by American and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly cross the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst, the northern soldiers set up a perfect ambush, which will let them gun down the Americans and Southerners, every one. What does Jennings do? Ogletree asks. Would he tell his cameramen to “Roll tape!” as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to ambush the Americans? Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds after Ogletree asked this question. “Well, I guess I wouldn’t,” he finally said. “I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans.” Even if it means losing the story? Ogletree asked.

Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. “But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That’s purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction.” Immediately Mike Wallace spoke up. “I think some other reporters would have a different reaction,” he said, obviously referring to himself. “They would regard it simply as a story they were there to cover.” “I am astonished, really,” at Jennings’s answer, Wallace said moment later. He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: “You’re a reporter. Granted you’re an American”-at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship. “I’m a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you’re an American, you would not have covered that story.” Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn’t Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot? “No,” Wallace said flatly and immediately. “You don’t have a higher duty. No. No. You’re a reporter!” Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said. “I chickened out.” Jennings said that he had gotten so wrapped up in the hypothetical questions that he had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached. As Jennings said he agreed with Wallace, everyone else in the room seemed to regard the two of them with horror. Retired Air Force general Brent Scowcroft, who had been Gerald Ford’s national security advisor and would soon serve in the same job for George Bush, said it was simply wrong to stand and watch as your side was slaughtered. “What’s it worth?” he asked Wallace bitterly. “It’s worth thirty seconds on the evening news, as opposed to saving a platoon.” Ogletree turned to Wallace. What about that? Shouldn’t the reporter have said something? Wallace gave his most disarming grin, shrugged his shoulders and spread his palms wide in a “Don’t ask me!” gesture, and said, “I don’t know.” He was mugging to the crowd in such a way that he got a big laugh-the first such moment of the discussion. Wallace paused to enjoy the crowd’s reaction. Jennings, however, was all business, and was still concerned about the first answer he had given. “I wish I had made another decision,” Jennings said, as if asking permission to live the last five minutes over again. “I would like to have made his decision”-that is, Wallace’s decision to keep on filming. A few minutes later Ogletree turned to George M. Connell, a Marine colonel in full uniform, jaw muscles flexing in anger, with stress on each word, Connell looked at the TV stars and said, “I feel utter . . . contempt. ” Two days after this hypothetical episode, Connell Jennings or Wallace might be back with the American forces–and could be wounded by stray fire, as combat journalists often had been before. The instant that happened he said, they wouldn’t be “just journalists” any more. Then they would drag them back, rather than leaving them to bleed to death on the battlefield. “We’ll do it!” Connell said. “And that is what makes me so contemptuous of them. Marines will die going to get … a couple of journalists.” The last few words dripped with disgust.

What answer would John Galloway or Edward R. Murrow given?

The issue, simply, is that members of the media feel they must put their citizenship aside – or possibly tie to a broader flag – in order to do their jobs.

That has an impact in the coverage we see in Iraq, and it also has an impact in the coverage we see here at home.

Jay Rosen, who (as far as I know) coined the term ‘public journalism’ to describe the notion that news media – newspapers and television stations – had obligations as institutions and citizens of communities to do more than simply report, but to engage and participate.

I think that’s a good thing. I think that the media should be citizens.

I’m not unaware that this pulls the rug out from under many claims – including my own – that media ‘bias’ is damaging the media and out communities; I’m going to need some time to work out a response to that.

But a media that’s struggling to stand impartial between the claims of theocrats and those of freedom is a media that isn’t embracing any concept of citizenship I know.

Journalism is struggling with this issue:

As the Columbus experiment became known within the newspaper industry, a variety of other suspicions were raised. During a panel discussion at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference of 1992, Howard Schneider, managing editor at Newsday, spoke out. “I think what Columbus did was bad,” Schneider said. “I think the potential for mischief is great. I do not mean only that they had to report on what their editor was doing, but [also] buying into the idea that they are now a part of the community, and the community’s agenda is the newspaper’s agenda, and suddenly we have to make the community feel good. This may be a temptation to sugarcoat some of the realities of the city.”

This kind of criticism would flare repeatedly in the years ahead as others in the news business decided to “leap across the chasm that normally separates journalism from community,” as Swift put it, while many of their colleagues learned of these leaps and drew back in disgust. “Getting involved” became one of the flashpoints for the controversy that surrounded public journalism when it surfaced as a movement after 1993.

In not publishing the cartoons, it seems to me that the media are stepping back from “Getting involved” here again.

And that’s too bad.

[Update: Through sheer coincidence, American Thinker links to an article in Accuracy In Media on exactly this point:

She adds, “It’s OK for them to spill the beans about everything the White House does, but Heaven forbid they should tell the Bush Administration where some of the terrorists are or that they’re having tea and a casual chat” Come on. Now who’s bordering on treason? Al-Jazeera [is our friend] compared to what our own media will do to the United States with our backs turned. It’s a travesty. They should be charged with treason when they do these types of stories and don’t report their sources to the proper officials.”

The December 27 report in question about ‘Commander Ismail’ was narrated by Myers, who said that “In his first interviews with Western media, Ismail brags about killing three Navy Seals this summer, then downing a Chinook helicopter that came to rescue them, killing another 16 Americans.” Myers explained, “NBC News interviewed Ismail in August and again this month. Both times, the Taliban made sure we could not provide their location to the U.S. military.”


This Is Gonna Piss Off The Blogs…

The LA Times today has a Page 1, Column 1 article on journalist/blogger Michael Yon.

It’s an interesting ‘personality’ article about him; not very deep or analytical – and not much news that those who haven’t followed him in the blogs won’t know.

Pretty unexceptional, I’d say.

Then again, there’s the headline.

Lone Gun in War Reporting

Michael Yon’s blog made him a hero among backers of the effort in Iraq. As his profile grew, so did debate on the quality of his work.

Boy, you’d think the story would go deeply into the wide-ranging debate on the specific quality of his work.
Instead, we get the Carl Prine quote that was widely circulated around the blogs:

“As someone who has seen a great deal of combat in my life and who earns his daily bread as a reporter,” Prine opined on the Internet, “I can assure you that a lot of what Michael Yon writes is misleading, inaccurate and vapid.”

That’s it; that’s the sum of the debate we’re shown in the article.

Look, I know that the author didn’t write the headline, and the article is interesting, if incomplete – there are two fascinating points left untouched by the writer: First, if Yon is the “the reporter of choice for many conservatives and supporters of the war,” what does it say about the gulf between war supporters and opponents and the ways that they look at news? Next, what does it say about the future of journalism that a free agent like Yon can begin to make a living reporting outside the envelope of the media organizations like the Times?

But the headline – and it’s slam on Yon – would be less annoying if the pattern of slams in the Times didn’t lean so clearly in one direction. I’ll sit back and wait for the reaction from Patterico…

I’m thinking hard about this:

From the start, Yon ignored the barriers that traditionally separated the press from its subjects. He openly rooted for soldiers and helped them collect the wreckage after roadside bombings.

I’ll have more to say about this – and it’s relation to the Cartoon War – in a bit.

Security Democrats (2)

Jane Harman is my Congresswoman; I’ve had issues with her beginning with a tetchy dialog we had as she was exploring running for the first time. I’ve publicly complained about the fact that she’s the consummate Washington insider, and more, that when she decided to run for the seat again she simply shoved aside well-qualified local candidates.

But you know, it’s past time for me to get over it.

She (along with Gary Hart, Bob Graham and some others in the Democratic policy circle) has founded a national-security PAC – ‘Secure US.’ the stated goal is:

…to invigorate policy development and strengthen the voice of Democrats on critical national security issues facing the United States of America.

Looking at a study on the site, some interesting data pops up, which suggests several intersting things (note the contradiction to the CAP proposals below).

Americans want an activist approach that prevents terrorist acts, not one that merely responds to them. While voters hold our gallant first responders in high esteem, Democratic focus on them may inadvertently undercut our message. By making first responders “our piece” of the war on terror, Democrats may be inadvertently suggesting that we are more interested in responding to the aftermath of an attack than in preventing one. Moreover, by focusing the dialogue on budgets and spending, Democrats lead voters to believe homeland security is just another pork barrel program. Voters are less interested in the amount being spent than in what is being purchased and how that will enhance their security.


Below is a broad outline of the conclusions we reached as a result of this research:

* The threats posed by terrorist and rogue countries (especially in the context of WMD) were deemed most serious by our groups

* Participants increasingly viewing national security through the prism of the war in Iraq and not only through the September 11th lens

* Participants clearly identified several steps the government has taken to improve security, from increased awareness to airport security to intelligence gathering, but many expressed skepticism about the efficacy of these efforts, with few of our participants able to articulate America’s current anti-terror strategy

* Americans are looking for a strong, intelligent leader when it comes to national security – one who can clearly articulate his or her vision

* Many focus group participants viewed Democrats as indecisive, a party of protest, and without a plan to address national security, while they viewed Republicans as stronger, but also unrealistic and arrogant

* The contrast between perceptions of Democrats and Republicans comes clear when participants are asked to define major differences between the two parties on national security – Republicans were generally viewed as strong and aggressive, while Democrats were viewed as more laid back and willing to negotiate

* Immigration emerged as a major theme in thinking about national security, with participants reasoning that if poorly educated job seekers could easily get into the country, sophisticated terrorists could have an easy time of it

* Beyond immigration, participants were divided over whether the U.S. should take a more diplomatic or a more independent approach

This is useful information for all sides of the national security debate.

First, because it will, hopefully lead the Democrats to get over the “we have great policies, we just can’t explain them to anyone” problam they have today. No, you don’t.

Even Arianna agrees with this:

There are many disturbing aspects to this story — including why, as Atrios and Matt Stoller have pointed out, any sentient Democrat would talk to Nagourney. But hands down the most disturbing takeaway is the fact that Democrats are still iffy about the importance of taking on Bush and the GOP on national security. Are there really Democrats — as Evan Bayh suggests — still “arguing that the party should focus only on domestic issues and run away from national security, since that has been the strong suit for this White House since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11″? Say it isn’t so! (Did someone let Bob Shrum and Stan Greenberg back into the building?)

I’ve said it again and again and again — and I guess I’ll have to keep saying it: the Democrats will never become the majority party until they can convince the American people that they can keep the country safer than the Republicans. All together now: It’s the national security, stupid! And if I sound like a broken record, so should the Democrats.

Now while I agree with Arianna’s diagnosis, her prescription is I believe, deeply misguided and wrong:

Again, at the risk of turning blue in the face, let me help them out: they should follow Jack Murtha’s lead and, as he’s done in letters to Congress and to the president, show how Bush’s imperial adventure in Iraq has had devastating consequences on the real battle at hand — keeping us safe and secure.

The evidence is everywhere: neglected ports and railways. Underfunded first responders. A tripling of terror attacks worldwide. Poor and failing grades from the 9/11 Commission. Osama still on the loose. Iraq as a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists. Al-Qaeda making a comeback in Afghanistan. Depleted troops. Shaky allies. Emboldened enemies.

But at least it’s a position that can be debated. I think it would flunk the test presented by the focus group families above, but it’s better than the ‘two-positions-a-week’ I think we’re seeing now.

And to the readers from the right who are rubbing their hands at the Democrat’s disarry, I suggest not so damn fast. We (you and I) probably agree that we’re in the opening stages of a long war.

What we do in the next year or two will have profound impacts on how long a war, and how painful and costly a war. If – as a nation – we’re paralyzed and divided, we won’t do much. If you believe we’re at war, you have an obligation – a duty – to work to build a national consensus on this. You won’t do it standing aside and letting half the country stagger from position to position as it’s torn between the Jane Harmans and the Cindy Sheehans.

Man Singing

Wednesday nights at Casa de Armed Liberal are “boy’s nights.” Tonight Littlest Guy and I are finishing the DVD of ‘Into The Woods,’ one of my favorite Sondheim musicals. He & his brothers have enjoyed Sondheim since they were small children; Biggest Guy called my tape of ‘Sunday In The Park With George’ “man singing,” and it was one of his favorites.

Tonight, we’re watching the moving finale, and as the cast moves into the climactic “You Are Not Alone,” 9-year old LG says “You know, I think this is going to make me cry. I’ve never watched something that made me cry before.”

That made me misty.