Monday, September 24, 2012

Libya: Blunder or scandal?

Stephen Hayes:
Permanent Spin

So we are left with this: Four Americans were killed in a premeditated terrorist attack on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, and for more than a week the Obama administration misled the country about what happened.

This isn’t just a problem. It’s a scandal.

(HT: Beldar who leaves room for a lot of blunder inside the scandal)

Two other pieces that together make the case for SCANDAL:

First, In from the Cold looks at what we knew or should have known prior to the Benghazi attacks.

Who Knew, Redux

Mr. Stevens and his colleagues didn't have to have to die--it's that simple. There were warnings of a possible attack up to three days prior, from Libyan officials and Egyptian intelligence. There are also indications that the Brits knew something was up and shared that information with us, but to no avail. Ambassador Stevens, who reportedly told co-workers he "had a price on his head," elected to travel to the unsecure Benghazi facility, with no dedicated security detail. However, it is unclear if Stevens received the latest threat information before setting out for the consulate.

Next, Mark Steyn weighs the harm done to free expression in the wake of the attack and the spin.
Bowing to the mob

For background, this CSPAN interview with Richard Miniter paints a devastating picture of the Obama style-- lazy, disengaged, and besotted with self-regard.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Michelle Malkin captures the essence of David Brooks

Eddie Haskell Brooks

New York Times columnist David Brooks is the Eddie Haskell of the Fourth Estate. Like the two-faced sycophant in "Leave It to Beaver," Brooks indulges in excessive politeness while currying favor with political authority. He prides himself on an oily semblance of maturity and rational discourse.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Unconventional wisdom

Charles Gasparino
Soft on Wall Street

Among the many falsehoods pushed at last week’s Democratic Convention is that this is the party of the people, unafraid to hold Corporate America responsible for its many ills.

Judging by the records of the last two Democratic administrations, just the opposite appears to be true. Certainly, President Obama and, to some extent, Bill Clinton like to talk a good game in terms of class warfare, but under both men, real corporate crime-fighting has been at best a side issue — despite the immense amounts of white-collar fraud their administrations faced.

In fact, neither Obama nor Clinton can hold a candle to the corporate crime-fighting record of George W. Bush, that supposed lapdog for large corporate interests.

Ross Douthat on a conservative classic

Ross Douthat on a conservative classic

The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience

The whole thing is a gem (as is Nisbet's book) but i thought these two passages help explain why Romney is struggling:

Many conservative politicians have been better friends to big business—ignoring Nisbet’s warning that “decentralization is just as necessary in the operation of the other great associations of modern society”—than they have been foes of big government.

The Ayn Rand Express is just a fast track to defeat.

Worse still, since Obama’s elevation to the presidency, America seems once more divided between “the party of the state” and “the party of the individual.” Conservatives are cracking open Atlas Shrugged and shouting about socialism, but they seem to have lost the appetite for thinking through the problem of community in an individualistic age—which is, of course, precisely the problem that make socialism so appealing in the first place.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The Katyn Massacre Cover-Up

Winston Churchill had said he he would "sup with the devil" if it would help bring about victory. So he—and Franklin Roosevelt—did. They allied themselves with Stalin, even pretended, at least publicly, that he was a fine man and the Soviet Union an even finer place. Now, with the release of numerous documents from the National Archives about Stalin's murder of over twenty thousand Polish officers and intellectuals in the Katyn forest in 1940, we know in even more detail just how far they were prepared to go to extol and defend the Soviet Union.

Stalin's aim was to break the spirit of the Polish nation, to destroy its governing class. The Nazis discovered the graves in the spring of 1943 and tried to blame the massacre on the Soviets. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels hoped the announcement would cause dissension among the wartime allies. But Churchill and Roosevelt were having none of it. England had gone to war over Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939. Churchill and Roosevelt didn't want to disrupt relations with Stalin, who was always accusing them of trying to cut a separate peace with Berlin. What Katyn indicates, I think, is that the West had effectively given up on Poland's freedom far before the Yalta conference.

The new documents prove that the US government knew that the NKVD committed the atrocity. The public defense of Stalin was a cover-up, not an honest mistake about who did the killings.

Realpolitik explains why FDR and Churchill chose this course. Stalin was a necessary ally in the war with Hitler and Japan. Still, there are some interesting historical threads which deserve to be followed.

Adam Scrupski from 2004

Historians Have Yet to Face Up to the Implications of the Katyn Massacre

No one who was not alive and aware in the United States during the war can imagine the deference to the Soviet Union and its war effort exhibited by Franklin D. Roosevelt's war-time administration and the American media. For example, not only did the Office of War Information blame the Katyn executions on the German army; OWI also implicitly threatened to remove licensure from the Polish language radio stations in Detroit and Buffalo if they did not cease broadcasting the details of the executions. In all the long years when Alan Cranston served as U.S. Senator from California no one mentioned his part as an OWI functionary in the intimidation of the Polish-American radio station managers. The London-based Polish government-in-exile, whose leaders had requested a Red Cross investigation of the affair, was characterized as having "stupidly walked into Goebbels' trap".

Perhaps the OWI functionaries had motives beyond placating a dangerous ally. As Klehr and Haynes note in the book on Venona the OWI was penetrated by by Soviet intelligence. Of special note:

But after the war several members of the OWI's Polish-language section emerged as defenders of the Communist takeover of Poland and as close relatives of officials in the new Polish Communist regime.

Siege of Vienna

First posted 12 September 2003

In the summer of 1683 the Ottoman Turks advanced up the Danube, occupied Hungary, and, in July, laid siege to Vienna. They had 200,00 men and over 300 cannon. The defenders of the city numbered less than 22,000 only 6,000 of whom were regular soldiers; the remainder were civilians pressed into service at the start of the siege.

The relief of the city was complicated by European politics. Louis XIV of France hoped to gain German territory on the Rhine while the Hapsburgs were occupied in the east. To that end, he worked to create am anti-Hapsburg alliance with Hungary and Poland which would deny Austria aid against the Turks. (Incidentally, the Ottoman artillery were commanded by a Frenchman, a former Capuchin no less).

By September, conditions were desperate inside the city- low supplies, disease, and weakening defenses. The Hapsburgs had raised a relief army of only 21,000. But, fortunately, Poland had spurned Louis's maneuvers and sent an army of 24,000 under their King John Sobieski.

On September 12, the two relief armies and the forces inside the city attacked the besiegers. The critical moment came in mid-afternoon when Sobieski sent his cavalry into the heart of the Ottoman camp. The battle became a rout. The next day the Polish king wrote his wife: "the Vizer took such hurried flight that he had time to escape with only one horse."

He also noted the Turks "left behind a mass of innocent Austrian people, particularly women; but they butchered as many as they could." Separate from that slaughter, the Ottomans had sent 67,000 Austrians east as slaves and 14,000 girls to the harems of Constantinople.

Sobieski's troops captured the Ottoman battle flag ("The green standard of the Prophet") in the fighting. This he sent to the Pope with the message "Veni vidi, Deus Vicit" ("I came, I saw, God conquered").

The lifting of the siege is usually marked as the turning point for the Ottoman empire. For centuries they had advanced against Europe, conquering the Byzantium empire, capturing lands in the Balkans and islands in the Mediterranean. After 1683 they began 250 years of retreat. (Funny how many of these critical turning points find the Poles fighting on the right side).

Today is the 329th anniversary of the lifting of the siege.

Monday, September 10, 2012

This is how the world ends

Not with a bang but a tramp stamp

A Few Arguments Against Tattoos
Doctors traced an outbreak of skin infections back to bacteria in the ink.

An editorial in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine drew attention to the outbreak of skin infection caused by tattooing. The bacteria that cause the infection are of the same family as that which causes tuberculosis. They are difficult to detect, grow in culture, or treat.

The infecting bacteria can be transmitted even where the tattoo “artist” practices the strictest hygiene, for it is the inks that have been contaminated before use from sources such as water.

This calls to mind Tom Wolfe's great essay "The Great ReLearning". Jonah Goldberg discusses it here.

Years ago, Tom Wolfe wrote a wonderful essay called the "Great Relearning." He first came upon the idea while reporting on the San Francisco hippie scene in 1968. "At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic," Wofe wrote, "there were doctors treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot."

The reason all of these diseases turned up is simple. The thousands of hippie migrants seeking free love and communal living had deliberately "thrown off" all the accumulated "bourgeois" hang-ups of their parents. Which meant giving up on showers, sex with people you know by name and other "old fashioned" concepts of hygiene. This in turn brought back creepy-crawlies not seen since the age of toga parties.

Wolfe's essay is here.

Ed Driscoll gets it

‘Operation Demoralize Is Working Just as Planned’

Friday, September 07, 2012

Physician heal thyself

The local paper ran the Cass Sunstein piece on polarization and information cocoons.

It's hard, but electorate can escape from partisan cocoons

I wonder if anyone in the newsroom understands that Sunstein's research applies to them?

Sanctimonious puffery

Clueless in the bubble

Cass Sunstein explains the root cause of Rathergate

The rotten heart of investigative journalism

Journalism and its watchdogs

Poynter is supposed to uphold professional standards and improve the practice of journalism. It's pretty sad when they turn to Wendy Murphy as an expert on covering sexual assault cases.

What Ebony story can teach journalists about covering sexual assault

This is not a one-time lapse in judgement. See this KC Johnson piece from earlier this year:

Poynter and The Serial Fabricator

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The weakness of our current public intellectuals

Or "Our civic debates are getting dumber because our Thought Leaders are greedy and superficial."

Justin Fox:

Niall Ferguson and the Rage Against the Thought-Leader Machine

The path to lucrative thought-leaderdom blazed over the past couple of decades was to establish yourself with dense, serious work (or a big, important job) and then move on to catch-phrase manufacturing (I spent a few weeks following Tom Friedman around in 2005, and learned that he had made this transition very deliberately). Nowadays ambitious young people looking to break into the circuit often just aim straight for the catch-phrases. Speakers bureaus need pithy sales pitches, not complex erudition — and while speaking fees might be spare change for Mitt Romney, for journalists and academics they often represent their only real shot at a top-tax-bracket income.

The result is an intellectual environment that seems to increasingly reward the superficial, and keeps rewarding those who make it into the magic circle of top-flight speakers even if they don't have anything new or interesting to say.

I touched on this a while back in this post:

Conquest's Laws

One of the laws is "everyone is conservative about what he knows best." As i noted then:

In a business context Conquest's Law suggests that those who promote the Next New Thing-- be they consultants, IT salesmen, journalists, or would-be gurus-- fall into one of two categories:

1. Ignorant, naive amateurs whose knowledge of the subject is superficial but whose enthusiasm is genuine.

2. Cynical hucksters who know better but hope their audience does not.

As for the executives who fall prey to the charlatans and enthusiasts, this passage by Andre Maurois often fits:

Like all intelligent men who are not in any way creative, Sir Robert Peel was dangerously sympathetic towards the creations of others. Incapable of formulating a system, he threw himself voraciously on those he came across, and applied them more vigorously than would their inventors.

I hope this book makes it to America soon

The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley: review
Miranda Seymour thrills to The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley, about the intrepid agent Christine Granville.

Spies like her
A biography of a uniquely brave and complicated patriot

The Spy Who Loved:
The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville by Clare Mulley

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Boring and biased is no way to go through life

The Harrisburg Patriot-News just announced that they will publish only three days a week beginning in January 2013. The editor, Cate Barron, discussed the reasons for this move with our local NPR station (listen here)

As Ms. Barron explained the new strategy, she focussed on forces beyond the control of the paper-- rising production and logistical costs, falling advertising revenue, demographic trends.

They did not discuss one of the few trends that journalists can directly influence: falling public trust in newspapers and journalists. According to Pew Research the credibility of major news organizations is at its lowest point ever measured (they started tracking this in 2002.

This seems important. Newspapers need more paying customers. Yet many potential and former customers view them with suspicion and think that the product is tainted.

The response of most journalists when faced with this problem is to explain it away. Journalism is fine, it is the public that's biased or stupid. This head in the sand posture is an odd stance for a profession that is supposed to look hard facts right in the eye.

They remind me of GM circa 1982. Faced with declining sales and evidence that the public was shifting to foreign cars, Detroit blamed everything and everybody but themselves. It was the high dollar, unfair trade practices, customers who did not know what was good for them, governmental regulations.....

The excuses kept coming while Detroit kept shrinking.

I expect that the MSM will share the same fate.

Most newspapers also suffer because they are boring. One that isn't is the UK's Daily Mail. Not surprisingly, it is enjoying growing readership both on paper and on the web. Its website has more readers that the New York Times.


A badge of honor, but maybe not the best business model

The newspaper today and tomorrow

Lots of good stuff here

Clarice Feldman

Media Madness, and the Reckoning

As it turned out, Mitt Romney headed out to flood stricken Louisiana at the close of the convention, and only after that became known did Obama cancel his fund raising plans elsewhere and head out there, too.

In fact, Obama has a history of ignoring all citizens suffering from catastrophe. In 2009 when an ice storm killed 42 and left millions of Americans without power or water or shelter, Obama hosted a lavish Super Bowl cocktail party with $100/lb Wagyu beef appetizers. Worse, as Chalian was leveling that mendacious, hate-filled charge, Obama was chatting online on Reddit with his supporters, not flying to the scene of the destruction.


An Oldie but a goody

Jonathan Last:

American Narcissus
The vanity of Barack Obama

HT: Steve Sailer