A Couple of Thoughts. You Know, On Stuff
Posted on June 5, 2003 Posted by John Scalzi 33 Comments
Here are a couple of reactions to stuff I’ve been reading on sites and blogs.
* I’m awfully sick of the New York Times bashing that blogs seem to be on these days, and the reasons for this are very well encapsulated by Virginia Postrel in comments she made on her own site. While entirely true that the Jayson Blair reality check will be a good one for the Times, the fact of the matter is that most of the people whacking on the Times are just bloviating about things they know little about. Virginia is especially correct about the stupidity of bloggers painting reporters with the same brush they’re using for the editors; the former have very little to do with the political machinations of the latter.
I worked on a paper for a number of years and almost without exception reporters did their best to get as much of the whole story as possible under deadlines, no matter what damn fool thing was going on in the executive editor suite. I was not a reporter myself — I was a critic and a columnist, which is emphatically not the same thing — but I had a ground-eye view of the work and journalistic ethics of my co-workers. They were all proud of what they did, and they all worked to do a good job (Virginia also has positive things to say about editors, too — and once again she’s right. In my experience, most dumbassery from editors has less to do about political slantings than other, more mundane administrative issues).
As Virginia noted, although she didn’t put it in the term I am going to, most of the people whacking at the Times and journalists in general have a parasitic relationship to the newspapers and news sources, which they’ve somehow managed to confuse with a position of superiority. Listen, folks: if it weren’t for the Times and their compatriots, you’d all be blogging about your cats, 24-7. Blogs can have an interesting and vital role spot-checking the facts and the received wisdom from these news sources — be beneficial parasites, in other words. Newspapers aren’t called “the rough draft of history” for no reason, and rough drafts are often refined. But starting from the position that reporters don’t care about their work or aim to slant is both stupid and wrong. The reason for the controversy surrounding Jayson Blair is that Blair is, emphatically, a wild aberration from the norm, not just for the Times, but for any newspaper you’d care to mention.
Treat reporters with respect. They’re working hard, and they’re working hard to get it right.
(Update: NYT editors Boyd and Raines resign. I’ll be a busy day in blogdom, to be sure.)
* Likewise, I’ve been following the WMD fracas with some interest. This one’s pretty simple, people: Bush and his folks said pretty clearly that the big reason to go into Iraq were the WMDs — not only the ones that Saddam could create, but the ones he already had. The inability to find much of anything in that direction of things (so far) means that either our intelligence was grossly poor — which is bad — or that Bush, et al went a-warring’ on false pretenses, which is rather worse. Or it could be some tantalizing mixture of the two, and you can imagine how bad that would be.
Folks are countering that regardless of the reason we went in, the obvious and evident atrocities of the Saddam regime justify our presence. But I think this is crap reasoning. Prior to strapping our guns on, we all knew Saddam was killing his own people left and right. This was no big secret. Yet for some reason that was not a justifiable reason to invade. We needed another excuse to get in, and the WMD weapon was what we used. Now that we’re in, we can’t just backtrack. If the obvious humanitarian rationale wasn’t enough to start a war then, why should it be able to be used as a back door excuse now?
Mind you, my conscience is clear on this one. Longtime readers will remember that while I supported the invasion, I pretty much always thought the WMD rationale was cover, and my personal interest was in dislodging Saddam, which in itself was a perfectly laudable goal. As I wrote last October:
“Let’s get down to brass tacks. On balance, the end results of fighting this war will be (cross fingers) the removal of Saddam and the dismantling of his political state and (incidentally) a clearing out of whatever weapons capability that may exist. For those reasons, I’m not opposed to fighting a war with Iraq now. Be that as it may, even those people who fully support a war against Iraq are rather painfully aware that the stated reasons that the Dubya administration wants to gear up for war are window dressing for a revenge fantasy. It is possible to fight a just war for less than entirely just reasons. We’re about to do it.”
The point here for the Bush administration is that regardless of the substantial benefit of removing Saddam from power, especially for the Iraqi people, the fact is that the primary reason it gave for invading appears to be largely bogus, and it needs to reconcile its rationale with the facts as they exist on the ground.
Let’s all go ahead and grant that the removal of Saddam was a good thing, and Bush deserves credit for that. But let’s also grant that lying to the American public to get a war, if that’s what he did, is an extraordinarily bad thing, and Bush should get the blame for that. This isn’t a case of ticketing someone for jaywalking because he rushed across the street to pull children out a burning building. Lying to the public to get them to back a war is pretty serious stuff. If we were willing to impeach a President for lying about getting some off an intern, lying to start a war is worth at least a glance or two.
Unlike you, I didn’t want to invade Iraq just because Saddam was a bad guy(tm).
But I never understood the lying about the reason. Why couldn’t Bush have said, to the American people, Saddam is a bad guy(tm) and he does terrible things to his people, so let’s go get the son of a gun?
He’d get public support. Maybe not from me, but from the majority. And the majority is what counts.
“Treat reporters with respect. They’re working hard, and they’re working hard to get it right.”
I have a disdain for invasive people. I know it is their job, and perhaps I’m tainted by Media(tm) presentation. But I’ve seen so many situations where the Media Frenzy(tm) caused such disruption to people’s lives that I am not comfortable around them. Add to that the air of “entitlement” that I’ve seen reporters carry. Examples would be reporters who believe they have the “right” to interview sports athletes “within 5 minutes” of the event. Or those that act that it is their “right” to camp on the front lawn of a person they find interesting. I’ve seen so many situations where Media(tm) persons treat the people they are covering as having no rights other than to answer their questions, that I have little respect for the reporter, or their goals.
Granted, I know that the vast majority of reporters do not behave as I see on other Media(tm) reports (statistically speaking), but those few bad apples have created an unsympathetic environment. Now that one of the “high and mighty” reporters and Media Outlets(tm) has been stained with scandal, it is the shoe on the other foot, and a bit of “see how it feels?” attitude.
As for the war, it is scary that there is the possibilty that they had that bad of intel. Regardless of what is found now, it will be considered “tainted”. But, regardless of whether Dubya knew they didn’t exists, it would be a safe bet that he and his administration would claim “We were told there were WMD in them thar sands.”
And yeah, ex-post justification is like explaining the invisible dragon in the garage. Stopping the human tragedies occurring should have been icing on the cake. The meat-and-potato’s should have been the documentation indicating that Saddam was capable of unleahing WMD on the US or Allies. That isn’t here, and it results in a slightly deflated balloon. And possibly sets the stage for a very unfriendly witch-hunt.
You’ll appreciate reporters more when you are getting screwed and they are the only people interested in hearing (and writing) about it.
While that is a nice sentiment, I doubt that such a “rescue” would occur. I’m a UMC White Male with a propensity toward cursing. I won’t get an interview.
There is no doubt that without the Media(tm), untold atrocities would never have been exposed and mostly stopped. Even the labor union that indirectly determines my pay would not exist if it were not for the coverage provided during the tumultuous years of their formation. And equality of black people in the US would not have progressed as it did if Dr. King did not have a camera to record his inspirational words. And for the society that the Media(tm) has helped forge I am grateful.
But the behavior of some of the people in that trade today is despicable. In their competition to achieve ratings (which provides money from advertisers), the “soul” has been sold. The 6 o’clock news isn’t “news” – it is “events”. It is troubling. And I don’t see the Media(tm) correcting themselves. They are basking in their own nuclear glow. They have coverage of their coverage. I view all that they do with a jaundiced eye.
I was afraid this would happen, was keeping my hopes up there would indeed be a large WMD cache someplace, but every day that went by with nothing big getting deployed by Saddam I was more n more worried. I also entertained some vague ‘hopes’ that if they WERE lying they’d at least be good enough to smuggle something in and “discover” it, not that this would in any way be a good thing, but we’d avoid the tedium I had to suffer this morning with my AM talkshow being swamped with “hang Blair” type chatter :P.
I personally think both men should be removed from power as being exceptionally incompetent, the one through stupidity, the other through mind-boggling egocentricity and megalomania. The fact that they basically got a job that needed doing done saves them from being shot! But how likely is any of that happening?
Iraq n Saddam? I really have only one view on that side of things: Saddam blew up my house. Dropped the tail end of a SCUD on it during the first GW, seven and a half years of my life gone kablamo, so I wanted him dead, he probably is now, I’m pleased. The rest is just fringe benefits :P.
We should have been suspicious when the Powers That Be were witholding the proof on grounds of “revealing our intelligence capabilities.” Given the personality of the Bush administration dollars to donuts they would have been unable to resist their Cuban Missile Crisis impression if they had actually had proof of WMD.
ns:Oh good, a brass band is now playing outside my office window (well, outside and 6 stories down, but whatever).
Concerning “the WMD fracas”, there are a few things folks seem to be taking for granted, or consistently spinning in ways that don’t seem logical.
Primarily, why has the “inability to find much of anything” been largely portrayed as de-facto evidence that Bush lied, or at least fell victim abyssmal intelligence failures (no pun intended)? Isn’t this just as likely to be firm indication that Saddam put his five months of post-resolution stalling tactics to effective use (whether destroying, exporting, hiding, or otherwise disposing of weapons and/or weapons programs)?
Further, the frequent call from Bush critics was to “give the inspectors time to do their jobs,” or similar sentiments. If five months of inspections by the UN weapons teams was considered too little time, why are we so quick to conclude there are no weapons to be found in less than half that time, post-war? Especially in light of my previous point?
It just seems to me that between Bush and Saddam, I’m more likely to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. Especially until and unless some actual proof (for or against either of them) comes to light.
Strangely, I have to agree. As much as my gut tells me that GW just wanted a war no matter what it took, I can’t ignore the possibilities. Iraq is a big place and WMD can come in small packages. I would love to hang Bush but I’m not convinced that there is enough evidence.
I hope that the majority of the public will admit that they have been lied to. That they have backed a president and federal administration who are more than willing to kill people to achieve thier goals.
I personally haven’t felt this sort of fear and animosity towards the U.S. govt. since the Reagan years. I had begun to think that maybe all that fear and loathing was just youth’s piss and vinegar. Maybe things weren’t all THAT bad.
I was right. The Reagan administration scared hell out of me for good reason. The Bush Jr. administration has brought back all those fears again. I hope we survive.
But…. On a fun note…
John: Don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Liam Lynch, singer/songwriter/artist type, but here is a URL to his music video “The United States of Whatever”. I couldn’t help but think of you.
(That’s the Windows Media link, if you like RealPlayer instead just go to /media)
“The WMD fracas”
In a “Whatever” entry today, John Scalzi has, in a roundabout way, suggested impeachment of President Bush over the lack…
I think I’m going to have to side with Kurt on this one.
It’s naive to think that Saddam would just roll over and hand over all his proven WMD capability just cuz the AMERCIANS were coming. He had plenty of time to destroy them (smash them to bits and bury them 1000 meters down in one of his bunkers) or smuggle them to Syria (like that $1BILLION dollars that was stopped recently). If he could hide a mass grave for 11,000 people, then I bet there’s an couple of acres where a half dozen trailers could be buried.
I’d like to remind everybody that the world (and Iraq) is a big place and (Guess what!) Bad Guys don’t play by the rules. Lie, obfuscate and misdirect, like he’s been doing for the past decade. He probably figured out that it was inevitable that the Americans would win the ground war, but he could discredit and divide with this neat propaganda move.
Saddam knew this was the endgame and had plenty of time to turn his equipment to junk — or worse, ship it elsewhere. There were a couple trailers found that could have been ‘dual use’ — could have made baby laxative or VX gas. Don’t those count?
And as for sniveling about your president allegedly lying to you, let’s all remember the words “I did not have sex with that woman.” That choice phrase made our last Chief Exec a perjurer and earned him a suspension of his law license and a fine, if I recall. Oh, and a lifetime of never taking live questions at public events, only written, pre-screened ones.
Someone who was too confident of his own rightness to leave his name wrote:
‘And as for sniveling about your president allegedly lying to you, let’s all remember the words “I did not have sex with that woman.”‘
His actual words were “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, and what you and every Starr-ite commentator before you have all failed to mention is that he was using the definition of “sexual relations” provided by Paula Jones’ own lawyers. (A definition under which, presumably, a proposition for oral sex is not sexual harassment, and therefore Paula Jones’ own lawyers were admitting she had no case. Then again, most people, if they thought a magazine had slandered their good name, would not join that magazine in a libel suit against the subject of the article.)
‘That choice phrase made our last Chief Exec a perjurer’
His testimony in re Lewinsky was ruled irrelevant to the Paula Jones case, ergo it is not perjury. Why do you hate the truth so much? Is that why you were afraid to leave a name?
Or is it because you knew that if you did, someone who didn’t share your fatal allergy to facts would use your name to find out your address, drive over to your house, and puke blood in your face (that being all the answer your bullshit is capable of deserving)?
‘and earned him a suspension of his law license and a fine, if I recall.’
You may recall that. You’re recalling wrong, and your recalling it that way doesn’t make it so, but you may well recall it so. I’m not telepathic (unlike you, who know exactly what’s going on in Bill Clinton’s head at any given moment), so I can’t say what you do or don’t recall. I can say, however, that you don’t deserve this reply, or indeed *any* reply more sophisticated than “Suck *all* my dicks, especially the three prehensile ones”. Lucky for you, I’m giving you a reply anyway. The appropriate level of gratitude would be to bow down before me if we ever meet and kiss my beautiful feet. Thank you in advance for that. For the present, however, you’re sorry to have wasted my time, whether you care to admit it or not.
Tuxedo Slack wrote:
“Or is it because you knew that if you did, someone who didn’t share your fatal allergy to facts would use your name to find out your address, drive over to your house, and puke blood in your face (that being all the answer your bullshit is capable of deserving)?”
Now, now. Play nice, kids.
To the anonymous previous poster who thinks that people are “sniveling” about President Bush’s apparent lies to the American public:
We all remember the lies told by Bill Clinton. I also remember the mass hysteria that resulted because our president, caught in an embarassing situation that was being exploited by his political enemies, did what the vast majority of people would in that same situation, which is to try and deny his guilt. I’m not going to comment on whether he was right or wrong to try and deny his affair. The important thing is that a large percentage of the American public was prepared to crucify him for it and, as you point out, he will spend the rest of his life trying to live it down.
Now we have another president who may or may not have lied to the American public. Only these lies are not about some tawdry but largely insignificant personal matter. These lies — if they are in fact lies — go far beyond what Clinton did because the outcome of those lies will be affecting the entire world for years, maybe even decades. Clinton lied about a sleazy little affair that wouldn’t have hurt anyone except its direct participants and their families if it hadn’t been revealed.
Maybe Saddam had the most terrifying weapons imaginable and maybe he was plotting to use them against his American enemies the first chance he got and maybe he managed to get rid of them before we reached Baghdad. And maybe he didn’t.
Maybe our president knew that the American public wouldn’t support a war for humanitarian reasons and we wouldn’t support one for imperialist reasons, so he had to find a reason that would frighten us and outrage us enough to say, “hell, yes, let’s go!” Or maybe the president was not deliberately misleading us because his information was bad. Maybe it is too soon to be accusing Bush of lying. Or maybe we should’ve made the accusation months ago, before the shooting started.
Scalzi’s point is that we have pasted a scarlet letter on one man’s forehead for lying about something that did not have far-ranging geopolitical repercussions. Shouldn’t we at least be investigating the possibility that another man lied about something that will?
Sorry, folks, forgot to include my name before. Shows what happens when you stay up til 11:30PM to paint the garage.
Drove Tuxedo crazy, though, didn’t it.
Hey Tux — if you lie under oath, it is ALWAYS perjury even if it’s not relevant to the case at hand.
And you certainly proved your factual correctness AND moral superiority with that ‘dick’ comment. Nice one.
I can see your anger trumps your intellect. Grow up.
Kurt Haslbauer: “Primarily, why has the ‘inability to find much of anything’ been largely portrayed as de-facto evidence that Bush lied, or at least fell victim abyssmal intelligence failures (no pun intended)?”
It’s not just the inability to find anything, though that certainly encourages the public perception. The accusation comes from intelligence and ex-intelligence people who are complaining that they were told, in effect, “Your mission is to find out whether Iraq has WMD. The answer will be yes. Go investigate.”
Tuxedo Slack: “His actual words were ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’, and what you and every Starr-ite commentator before you have all failed to mention is that he was using the definition of ‘sexual relations’ provided by Paula Jones’ own lawyers.”
In other words, he didn’t perjure himself because what he said under oath didn’t fit the legal definition of a lie. It did, however, fit the common-sense definition of a lie. The public doesn’t dislike a liar nearly as much as it dislikes a smartypants who understands the twists of the legal system and uses them to appear to lie without actually doing so. (For the record, I dislike the liar more.)
Roger commented: “if you lie under oath, it is ALWAYS perjury even if it’s not relevant to the case at hand.”
Why is that the case, exactly? As Eddie Izzard pointed out, the legal system recognizes a difference of the severity of killing someone (murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and so on), so why isn’t there a similiar scaling in perjury? If there was one, there would be less interest in what I believe are referred to as “fishing expeditions” for political gain.
Any legal scholars in the house?
I won’t claim to be one, but I think the definition of perjury is pretty rigorous — the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, etc. — but the prosecution of perjury is much more selective because of the provablity of it — the whole pesky ‘reasonable doubt’ thing.
Did our perjuring witness simply forget a relevant fact? Misremember? People are notorious for being bad witnesses — numerous studies have been done on this.
I guess my ultimate point is that if I went to my wife and said, “honey, I did not have sexual relations with that woman” after receiving several blowjobs from said woman, I’d be lying. Kind of like the example you used recently, Jon, of Athena ‘not touching’ something by placing her hand 2mm away from it, motionless. I’d be adhering to the letter of the law (definition), but certainly not the spirit.
I presume you mean “John Scalzi,” our kind host (as opposed to Jon, _Jon, Jon H, or John). We are many & numerous, aren’t we?
Also: like the sig, ROGER BAKER!
Yeah, he means me. It’s not like he’s known me for years or anything, not to know how to spell my name. Hmph.
I get that all the time. But usually they add in the theoretically missing ‘h’. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen someone drop the ‘h’ instead.
(To JOHN S.)
This from the man who spells his cat’s name with more silent letters than not.
Signed (you betcha),
[QUOTE:And as for sniveling about your president allegedly lying to you, let’s all remember the words “I did not have sex with that woman.” That choice phrase made our last Chief Exec a perjurer and earned him a suspension of his law license and a fine, if I recall.:QUOTE]
John actually allowed for this: “If we were willing to impeach a President for lying about getting some off an intern, lying to start a war is worth at least a glance or two.”
He’s right. If you’re so concerned about lying that you’ll impeach Clinton for saying he didn’t have “sexual relations” with an intern (I’d consider it less about concern re lying and more about hysteria over Clinton), then surely the possibility that Bush lied about Iraq should be investigated?
Personally, I was in favour of the war because, basically, Saddam is a bad man, and should be got rid of. Yes, I’d be in favour of getting rid of Mugabe (and Pinochet, Back in the Day), too, which puts me at odds with the US at the moment, it seems. But I’ve got to admit that a hell of a lot of people were sold on the idea that “SADDAM HAS NUKES AND HE’S SELLING THEM TO TERRORISTS WHO WILL USE THEM TO KILL. YOUR. CHILDREN!!!” This seems to be utter bullshit, and if it is, Bush has a lot to answer for.
[QUOTE:This from the man who spells his cat’s name with more silent letters than not.:QUOTE]
Er… d’yer have a point here?
“[QUOTE:This from the man who spells his cat’s name with more silent letters than not.:QUOTE]
Er… d’yer have a point here?”
He’s just funning with me. Roger and I are friends from way back, so he’s allowed to whack at me from time to time.
In the specific case of American politics (especially for GWB), we need an adjunct of Godwin’s Law that handles Clinton references.
That is all.
Winds of the post-Iraqi war blow heavily these days. Remember the friendly warning that should Saddam Hussein use chemical or biological weapons, if the prevailing winds subsided then reversed, the winds would blow the agents right back in the direction of the Medina Division? Well, those predictions were an anachronism with a future impact far to the west of Bagdad, and in a different venue, seen today, as the backlash to the Bush Administration’s justification for getting into the Iraqi War, in the first place. There were, infact, no WMDs used by the Republican Guard and no WMDs stockpiles have been found so far today by the coalition. What, unheralded individual, was it that coined the term “WMD”? Heck, WMDs was later to become the genie in the bottle that granted its beholder his wish of war, although Aladdin, nowdays, may be standing on some shifting sands of impeachment, or in less dramatic terms, President Bush may have to endure a lot of bad press worldwide for the remainder of the year, with comparisons to Clinton and apparitions of fellow Texan, L.B.J., and the Tonkin Gulf rationale, but nonetheless a ragged ending to the Iraqi excursion. Bush has been unfairly characterized as being the political equivalent of a B2 for what many perceive as his attempts to avenge the first Bush’s inconclusion of the first Gulf War, and for his efforts of redeeming the sins of the father for abandoning the Kurds in the northern Iraqi mountains and the Shiites in the southlands after inciting their revolts, along with retribution for Saddam’s inept, if only alleged, assassination plot on the former Commander-in-Chief in Kuwait City. There is the question of guilt. Bush had won a questionable presidential election by only a few votes, an election culminated in a state where his brother was also its governor. Had not Bush been president, would 9/11 have occurred in all its severity? Were the the terrorists attempting to get back at the first Bush for the original Gulf War and justifying GW’s term in office as more than an appropriate occasion for jihad? But that speculation is just as far off-base as the necessity for the tarmac of a U.S. military airport has in being in Saudi Arabia, a country that the majority of 9/11 hijackers claimed to be citizens of. Meanwhile back at the ranch, while not at the White House, Bush gave to his fellow Americans a 13-week extension on their unemployment benefits. Reagan had previously reduced the unemployment period from a year down to 6 months, only to announce in a speech safely given many months later, that the unemployment figures had dropped in the U.S. and the economy must therefore be in an upswing. There were, in fact, many people who were no longer eligible to collect unemployment benefits, but these same workers were still unemployed, a fact not noted in the massaged statistics. Bush also gave american workers a lumpsum refund from their taxes in addition to any IRS refund they might have already recieved after 9/11. The american worker appreciate Bush, in that sense. Bush’s actions translates into getting my vote in his re-election bid, with or without WMD being uncovered in Iraq, a country that is not my home.
All the above
“If five months of inspections by the UN weapons teams was considered too little time, why are we so quick to conclude there are no weapons to be found in less than half that time, post-war?”
My counterquestion is this: if there was no time to grant the inspectors before the invasion, (which left nuclear facilites unguarded and subject to looting and possible unchecked dissemination of WMD-making materials), how can they ask for more time now with a straight face?
We were told, “We have to strike NOW, sir. Annihilate! Kill! Kill! Kill!” and unfortunately Jack Nicholson wasn’t there to tell the hawks to “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT! UP!” :)
I have a bad memory. Can someone please tell me why Clinton was taken to court?
What I remember was that someone named Tripp accused him of sexual harassment and for some reason an intern named Lewinski was brought into it. She had consensual oral sex with a married man named Clinton. It soon afterward became public knowledge, making his wife (named Hillary) publically aware of the act which she did not find cause to divorce him over. Hillary was okay with it, Lewinski enjoyed herself and Clinton lived out his fantansies.
Why is any of this anyone elses business? Consensual sex, wife’s approval for extramarital affair and a nosy bitch named Tripp- this was not news worthy.
“Why is any of this anyone elses business? Consensual sex, wife’s approval for extramarital affair and a nosy bitch named Tripp- this was not news worthy.”
And yet it drove our public discourse for more than a year. Again, what was that about treating reporters with respect?
(With family in the newspaper business, I’m allowed to whack at it from time to time…)
For the record, I had my nickname ‘Tripp’ LONG before the other one came along and spoiled it for all of us. And you knew my real name, you’d understand the need for a nickname,
Why, Tripp? “Linda”‘s a perfectly normal, acceptable name…