in a New York Times profile: “In the Army, you communicate up the chain of command, and I communicated vehemently with my senior commanders while I was in Iraq,” he said. Of his departure from the Army, he said: “It was the toughest decision of my life. I paced my quarters for days. I didn’t [...]
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[by litbrit] Apparently, it isn't enough that our pets have been poisoned and unknown amounts of ground plastic scrap and swimming-pool chemicals are floating around in America's human food supply. Oh no--US authorities are currently working on a[...]
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Let me paraphrase one of the few decent things I heard on Friday's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO:
"Tony Blair cited his reason for stepping down from leading Great Britainas a desire to spend more time (not with his family BUT)humping Bush's leg, just like a good little lapdog should."Media, Politics, United States, World, War, Terrorism, Propaganda, Constitution, Vermont, US.
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The Sunday Times reports that British diplomats and soldiers are getting increasingly frustrated by U.S. airstrikes and clumsy tactics which they say are undermining "hearts and minds" efforts in Afghanistan.
BRITAIN will step up its presence in Afghanistan this week with the deployment of a high-profile new ambassador as concern mounts that the toll of civilians killed in the war is setting back the coalition?s efforts to win Afghan ?hearts and minds?.How refreshing it is to hear a senior political leader who gets that last point.
There is growing alarm over a wave of US bombing raids in which 110 civilians have died in the past two weeks. Twenty-one people were killed last week after US special forces called in airstrikes on the town of Sangin in Helmand province. ?Sometimes you wonder whose side the Americans are on,? said a British official.
US officials claimed that Taliban militants had sheltered in villagers? homes, using women and children as shields. But local anger was so strong that the Afghan Senate passed a draft law calling for a halt to military offensives by international forces unless they were under attack or had consulted with the Afghan government.
?One mishandled bombing raid wipes out the benefits of months of development work,? said Matt Waldman, head of Afghanistan policy for Oxfam.
When Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, one of the Foreign Office?s top diplomats and former ambassador to Tel Aviv and Riyadh, flies into Kabul this week to become the new ambassador, one of his first tasks will be to defuse the outcry. He will also need to examine how Britain?s aid contributions have become bogged down in controversy.
In a sign that there is a great deal of catching up to do, the Foreign Office is sending 33 extra diplomats to Afghanistan. A senior official yesterday described the shake-up as an ?upgrading? and denied that it was an admission of failure. ?Things have moved in a way people didn?t expect in Afghanistan,? he said. ?There?s a sense that we need to do more and to do that we need more people.?
Expectations in London remain high that Afghanistan, unlike Iraq, is a ?winnable? war. ?The Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office have . . . written off Iraq and all attention is now on Afghanistan,? said a senior diplomat, pointing out that within months Afghanistan will be Britain?s biggest overseas deployment. Gordon Brown emphasised the point yesterday when he said: ?Afghanistan is the front line of the war on terrorism.?
Scores of civilian deaths over the past months from heavy American and allied reliance on airstrikes to battle Taliban insurgents are threatening popular support for the Afghan government and creating severe strains within the NATO alliance.The entire article plays down disagreements between the US and its NATO allies over events in Afghanistan. When the great and good of the American press, such as David Sanger who co-wrote the NYT piece, can't even tell their readers about the deep levels of anger and mistrust that allies like the Brits are feeling over US tactics and motives, then you have a Fourth Estate that isn't doing its job anymore.
Afghan, American and other foreign officials say they worry about the political toll the civilian deaths are exacting on President Hamid Karzai, who last week issued another harsh condemnation of the American and NATO tactics, and even of the entire international effort here.
What angers Afghans are not just the bombings, but also the raids of homes, the shootings of civilians in the streets and at checkpoints, and the failure to address those issues over the five years of war. Afghan patience is wearing dangerously thin, officials warn.
...The anger is visible here in this farming village in the largely peaceful western province of Herat, where American airstrikes left 57 villagers dead, nearly half of them women and children, on April 27 and 29. Even the accounts of villagers bore little resemblance to those of NATO and American officials ? and suggested just how badly things could go astray in an unfamiliar land where cultural misunderstandings quickly turn violent.
The United States military says it came under heavy fire from insurgents as it searched for a local tribal commander and weapons caches and called in airstrikes, killing 136 Taliban fighters.
But the villagers denied that any Taliban were in the area. Instead, they said, they rose up and fought the Americans themselves, after the soldiers raided several houses, arrested two men and shot dead two old men on a village road.
After burying the dead, the tribe?s elders met with their chief, Hajji Arbab Daulat Khan, and resolved to fight American forces if they returned. ?If they come again, we will stand against them, and we will raise the whole area against them,? he warned. Or in the words of one foreign official in Afghanistan, the Americans went after one guerrilla commander and created a hundred more.
Today (the 12th), the newly-elected (he replaced Bernie Sanders who went to the U.S. Senate to replace Jim Jeffords) Peter Welch (Dem), Vermont's only House Rep, took serious heat in a public hearing in Hartford, VT because he will not support impeachment efforts against Bush and/or the entire Bush Administration.
People here are NOT happy about Welch (or Sanders, who has also refused to take up the impeachment gauntlet) and statements like, "Impeachment would get in the way of more important things" (I guess a functioning democracy is a bit too much to ask for anymore) and "Impeachment will just drag out the Iraq War longer" (as if Bush is just racing us out of there as it stands now).
As regular readers know, I am NOT a fan of impeachment. However, there are genuine and very legitimate reasons why the Bush Administration should be removed compared with the whole "blue dress" debacle the GOP perpetrated against Bill Clinton in the latter 1990s.
I continue to feel that the charges to be leveled against the Bushies do not spell impeachment, but treason.Media, Politics, United States, World, War, Terrorism, Propaganda, Constitution, Vermont, US.
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The latest episode of the Joe Klein saga
makes me wanna barf inspires me to address some issues that I think underlie some of the continuing tensions between "mainstream media" journalists and the blogosphere.
In that discussion I was struck by this comment, containing the following quote:
You're going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe. All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I'm up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn't left the efficiency apartment in two years" — Brian Williams, anchor of the "NBC Nightly News," speaking before New York University journalism students on the challenges traditional journalism faces from online media.
Well, that's obviously pretty annoying and insulting on its face. But it should be noted, of course, that we're guilty of some of the same generalizations. Every time we issue sweeping indictments against "the Mainstream Media," we do the same sort of injustice to most working journalists. So, OK: Sorry.
Here's the thing, though. Journalists are, I think, by the nature of their business, limited in their ability to bring a mass audience "the Truth" in doses sufficient for everyone. What I mean is that they're limited in several critical ways, most of which are beyond their control:
This list, too, is a generalization. It's obviously not going to be true of all journalists. But it describes what I think are some of the key constraints of the trade which don't exist in the same form for bloggers, and which I think contributes to the ongoing tension between them. While bloggers are also often generalists, there are no commercial pressures requiring that they maintain a capacity for general subject matter. The other two restraints on traditional journalists simply don't exist at all for bloggers. There are no space limitations, and there are no deadlines. And as a result, bloggers can go into excruciating detail on their chosen subject matter (and it is their chosen subject matter -- no assignments from editors to unwanted stories), and keep after it forever. That can have the effect of turning them into experts, in the best cases, or extraordinarily verbose idiots, in the worst.
But I think that Williams' comment, even taken in the best possible light, misses one of the most fascinating things about the online revolution, that being that you no longer can be sure from just what corners of the known universe you'll find insight and expertise. The two-way nature of online publishing now reveals the mysteries of what's going on inside the previously anonymous and silent audience's heads. These thoughts, of course, were always present in the minds of readers. But never before have the professional journalists who inspire those thoughts really been able to know what they were. Letters to the editor? Please!
And so it has come to pass that the Brian Williamses of the world now have to hear from the Vinnys of the world. Only, here's the catch: what if Vinny has spent those two years inside his efficiency in the Bronx studying (after his fashion) the very issue that Williams put in -- say, to be generous -- a whole week researching?
Have you ever read, seen, or heard a mainstream media account of some event in which you've been personally involved? Or in which you have developed, under whatever circumstances, some sort of expertise? Ninety-nine times out of hundred, people with that sort of personal or specialized knowledge of the events covered will come away with some sort of substantial complaint about the quality of the coverage. Now, much of that is attributable to the three major restrictions, listed above, under which journalists are typically working. The reality is that those restrictions often make it impossible for their understanding or relating of those events to stand up to your own. But for a general audience, it is often more than sufficient.
Why, though, should the general audience settle for "sufficient?" Or perhaps more to the point, why should audience members with specific knowledge of the nuances, shortcomings, omissions, etc. have to settle for it, or keep it to themselves? As I said above, the Internet and the blogosphere now make it impossible to predict with certainty where true expertise lies. The traditional assumption that expertise -- or at least its approximation -- has its locus around a podium and a bank of microphones in the Capitol, or the editorial boards of major newspapers, or around a passed platter of hors d'oeuvres at some soiree in Georgetown is being challenged by a model in which the net is cast far wider. While Williams' complaint has merit, and we may indeed haul in a lower percentage of "keepers," we are also finding that we are catching them in greater numbers.
Who, for instance, among the battery of professional journalists sent to cover the Scooter Libby trial was able to do so with such thoroughgoing knowledge and insight as the business consultant from Ann Arbor, Michigan, known as "emptywheel?" To this day, there is simply no one on the planet with the offhand command of the facts surrounding the case that she has. Certainly Brian Williams comes nowhere close. And yet he'd have emptywheel pigeonholed with Vinny in the Bronx.
I'm not sure exactly what the point of these observations actually is, but hey, that's my prerogative as a blogger. And if I'm no more clear-headed in my conclusions, nor advanced the ball any further than your average pundit's weekend brain dump, then so be it.
The good news is, you have a forum to tell me what a waste of time this has been. And I count that as a good thing on a slow Saturday afternoon.
(Image courtesy of Howie Klein at DownWithTyranny.)When he isn't doing his Steve-Forbes-circa-2000 impression (a Republican of my acquaintance rolled her eyes and nodded vigorously when I pointed the odd similarities between politicially[...]
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Something to occupy you.
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Tommy Thompson's rescinded endorsement of an employer's ability to discriminate against gay employees has a new spin:
Tommy Thompson cited a dead hearing aid and an urgent need to use the bathroom in explaining on Saturday why he said at a GOP presidential debate that an employer should be allowed to fire a gay worker.
Memo to political debaters: visit the facilities before the debate starts so that you can give undivided attention to the questions you can't hear.