Sean's Blog

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Saturday, May 17, 2003

The other day I sent Andrew Sullivan a letter complaining that he was beginning a whisper campaign of sorts to discredit the president and I suggested that the reason was because the president wasn't sufficiently pro-gay rights. Andrew sent me this letter in response:

"sean
you are way off. my positions have been consistent for a long time. and
my criticisms aren't whispers; they're arguments offered in good faith.
andrew"

Fair enough. I respected his response and I agree that I chose the wrongs words to describe what I see happening. He isn't exactly whispering his dissatifaction.

That seemed to be the end of it, but today I read another post by him that caused me to write another letter. Here's the letter:

"Andrew

I want to use your own words to show you what I was talking about when I said you were engaging in a whisper campaign (ok, that was the wrong choice of words) to discredit the president. Here's what you said:

"But the bottom line of Lacey's argument is that our intelligence caused Bush and Blair to commit extraordinary errors in front of the entire world. Where is the accountability for that?"

Extraordinary errors? I know you are presenting Lacey's argument, but it's clear that you buy the argument that President Bush and Tony Blair made a tremendous blunder. You've decided that the only explanation is that they screwed up. That our intelligence was just plain wrong. Why isn't it just as likely that the WMD's WERE destroyed or that they are still unfound? You decided and that's how you are going to frame the issue from here on out. You'll say, "President Bush screwed up...." or "Tony Blair was duped...."

I think that's grossly unfair of you. I don't know what's happened to the WMD's either, but I would never say that the president made "extraordinary errors." You could at least say that, "perhaps he made extraordinary errors" or "It appears that he made extraordinary errors", but to say point blank that, yes indeed, "he made extraordinary errors" is irresponsible and insinuates that you were privy to intimate intelligence briefings.

The bottom line is that you have stated opinion as fact. It is not fact that President Bush made "extraordinary errors." It is opinion that, "HE MAY have committed extraordinary errors."

I don't mean to lecture you because I am not your intellectual equal, but you have touched a sore spot that I have for media types in general.

Extraordinary errors. Wow. What a choice of words. The New York Times would be proud.

Take care.

Sean Roper"

I was shocked that the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinal series in their bid to become the first team to win four consecutive NBA championships since the Boston Celtics.

This is just my opinion, but I think that the Lakers lost because they lack chemistry. Reports indicate that Kobe Bryant is a prima donna and that he and Shaquille O'Neal didn't get along very well. Shaq is the man and Kobe wants to be the man. I think it's time to break them apart and my pre-draft scenario calls for the Lakers to trade Kobe, a first-round draft pick or even two, and maybe a second round pick for the first overall choice. With that pick, I suggest that the Lakers take Lebron James, the high school phenom who's entering the NBA. Lebron will let it be Shaq's team. He will gladly take a back seat to Shaq until Shaq retires in a few years. Shaq will be happy and rejuvenated, and we will see a new version of the Lakers dynasty.

That's my recipe for the Lakers success. There is no future for Shaq and Kobe until and unless Kobe learns to be much more humble and learns his role. Shaq is the reason the Lakers won three in a row, but for some reason Kobe thinks he was reason no matter what he says publicly. I don't mean to understate Kobe's role, but the plain fact of the matter is that Kobe can be replaced; Shaq can't.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I swear I'm not obsessed with it, but Jonah Goldberg also has an excellent piece on The New York Times-Jayson Blair controversy.

Goldberg's article takes a broader view of The New York Times habit of glossing over racially sensitive stories with several examples. Here's my favorite:

"In a less politically correct age, we would refer to the Most Reverend Prophet Alpha Omega Bondu as a witch doctor. Maybe even an "ooga-booga guy." But when Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., gave the Most Rev. twelve grand to evict seven evil spirits from a Haitian psychiatric patient (that's $1,714 per spirit — a great value), the New York Times refused to traffic in any stereotypes. In fact, it bent over the other way, even refusing to call the service an exorcism. Instead, the Times reported that the $12,000 in taxpayer dollars had been spent on "religious counseling."

"(A few quick asides on the Rev. story, just for color: The patient had hacked his wife to death and set her on fire in front of her children. Even though the Most Rev. only managed to exorcize four out of the seven spirits — a mere $6,800's worth — he was paid the full amount. The $12,000 payment was approved by the business manager of the hospital, who was also member of Bondu's church. The Times ignored the story entirely for three months, and then only mentioned the exorcism in passing, as part of a general story about the hospital's problems.)"

Goldberg also addresses the media's overall reluctance to address affirmative action with an exchange that took place on Fox News Sunday:

"Here's a perfect example from Fox News Sunday. Juan Williams was the first person to bring up the issue of Blair's race, so he could immediately dismiss it: "I don't think it has anything to do with race, but I fear, as a black person, that it's going to be turned in just that fashion by people who don't have anything but politics on their mind."

Brit Hume then asked him "Juan, let's assume for a second that it didn't have anything to do with race. Was he qualified, in your view, based on experience, to be doing the kinds of stories for the New York Times that he was doing?… In your view, based on experience, would you have put him in that position?"

Williams: "I don't have enough information to know better. I don't know sufficiently his background, how well he was doing. It could have been that he was doing very well."

Well, wait a second. If Williams "doesn't have enough information," then how can he — how dare he — rule out race as an issue?"

Heather MacDonald's piece about The New York Times-Jayson Blair story is even better than Ann Coulter's. I'm glad I didn't miss it:

"This story line is absurd on its face. From the moment Blair arrived at the Times through a minority-recruiting program, supervisors noted his high error rates and sloppy work habits. Before every promotion, at least one editor had called attention to his inadequate skills and endemic inaccuracies—the paper ran 50 corrections on Blair stories over three and a half years. He behaved unprofessionally—circulating confidential documents, talking back to supervisors, and running up a hefty bar tab on the company account. Management was on repeated notice of his severe shortcomings as a reporter yet chose to ignore and even suppress them."

The New York Times and Jayson Blair have nearly ruined any credibility that affirmative action may have had. As MacDonald puts it:

"The practitioners of affirmative action believe that they are bestowing a great favor on minorities by admitting them into academic or professional environments for which they are less prepared than their peers. This is a self-serving fiction. Being put into a tough competitive world with fewer tools to compete than your colleagues is no picnic. While there are some happy endings to such deliberate mismatches between qualifications and academic or job demands, in many cases these mismatches do more for the egos of the social engineers than for their alleged beneficiaries. Now the Times is walking away from its own culpability in pushing an out-of-his-depth black reporter too far, too fast. “Let’s not begin to demonize our executives—either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher,” warns publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. Meanwhile, those highly qualified minority applicants who would have gotten a position under a color-blind system are unjustly but unavoidably stigmatized as affirmative action recruits."

Ann Coulter's latest piece is about The New York Times and it's affirmative action policy:

"In the Soviet-style reporting preferred at the Times, its self-investigation of the Blair scandal included copious denials that race had anything to do with it:

"Mr. Boyd [managing editor] said last week that the decision to advance Mr. Blair had not been based on race."

"Mr. Blair's Times supervisors ... emphasize that he earned an internship at The Times because of glowing recommendations and a remarkable work history, not because he is black. The Times offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom."
Did Blair write that? If the Times "diversity" program refused to consider Blair's race, then it wasn't much of a diversity program, now was it? This is like job advertisements that proclaim: "Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action Employer." Well, which is it?

In one of several feverish editorials supporting the University of Michigan's race-based admissions program, the Times denounced the Bush administration for imagining "that diversity can be achieved without explicitly taking race into account." Any diversity program that failed to do so, the Times lectured, was "necessarily flawed." But then it gets caught publishing Jayson Blair and the Times demurely insists that its own affirmative action program scrupulously ignored race.

The Times not only expressly took race into account, but also put Blair's race above everything – accuracy, credibility and the paper's reputation. It hired a kid barely out of college. In fact, it turns out he was not yet out of college. He had no professional journalistic experience, except at the Times. He screwed up over and over again and the paper had to print 50 corrections to articles he'd written."

Coulter is devastating.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Fred Barnes writes about the expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference and how it might mean the creation of an eight team playoff that would determine the national champion in college football.

An Arab News editorial condemns yesterday's attack and calls for change:

"It’s about time we got our act together. The time of pretending that radicalism does not exist in Saudi Arabia is long past. The time for pretending that we are above errors and could not possibly commit terrorist attacks is no longer with us. It has got to stop. Change must come now. We as a nation cannot afford to leave it to its own slow pace. It’s either now or never. It also must cover all aspects of our life — the school, the mosque, the home, the street, the media.

How can we tell the rest of the world that we are tolerant of other religions and faiths when some of us are not even tolerant of other schools of Islamic thought?

How can we expect others to believe that a majority of us are a peace-loving people who denounce extremism and terrorism when some preachers continue to call for the destruction of Jews and Christians, blaming them for all the misery in the Islamic world?"

It looks like the Arabs are coming to terms with terrorists in their midst. Good. It's about time.

NOW the Saudi's are outraged? Where've they been?

"The crown prince said in a televised address Tuesday there was "no place for terror" in his country and vowed to "destroy" the group responsible for the attacks. Another Saudi official called the bombings "a declaration of war against Saudi Arabia."

This is what it will take for countries like France and Germany to realize that the U.S. isn't in this alone. The Saudis will cooperate now, but it took this devastating attack to shake them from the belief that they could appease the terrorists in their own country.

The religious leaders in Saudi Arabia have been inciting this very sort of violence against Jews, Christians, and other westerners in general for years and the crown prince did nothing. In fact, he went so far as to deny that Saudi Arabia had anything like this going on in his country. There is also evidence that shows that the Saudis actually financed the people who did this. If I had to guess, I would say that's all over now.

I haven't written an "I'm outraged!" letter in a long time. I must be slipping.

I did write a nice, polite letter to Andrew Sullivan earlier this morning.

It appears to me that Sullivan is angry because President Bush supported and defended Senator Rick Santorum's recent remarks. Here's my letter to Sullivan:

To: Andrew Sullivan
From: Sean Roper
Subject: whisper campaign

Andrew

I have been a fan for well over a year now and I think I have noticed a trend in your commentary.

I'm talking about your recent whisper campaign of sorts to discredit the Bush administration and it looks like you have launched this because of President Bush's support for Senator Santorum.

I call it a whisper campaign, but I think it would probably be more accurate to call it a rolling campaign to punish the Republicans for a personal affront. Of course you have every right to do this, but I felt compelled to email you about it.

The tried and true tactic seems to involve sniping at President Bush's policies, or failures as you see them, in Iraq or by implying that support for the president is eroding at an accelerated pace. I wonder what other failures you will find to comment on in the run up to the 2004 election and I wonder if the pace of the criticisms will steadily increase until or unless some sort of public support is given for homosexual rights.

In short, I guess what I'm saying is that it looks like you have launched some sort of a campaign to discredit the president on a range of issues because he pissed you off on the one issue that is most important, or personal, to you.

Of course, I could be way off. I could be reading something in your recent commentaries that isn't there, but it certainly appears that way to me.

Take care.

Sean Roper

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

This is incredible.

58 Democrats legislators left the state of Texas so that the Texas House of Representatives would be denied a quorom that is required before that body can vote on legislation.

That is unbelievable. 58 of 62 Democrats went into hiding to keep the Republicans from passing a bill that would redraw the state's congressional districts. Talk about sore losers. Wow.

The Democrats lost. The people of Texas have spoken, but the Democrats don't care. They are acting like spoiled brats who are having a tantrum because they aren't getting their way. Wow. This is just one more reason why I could never be a Democrat. This demonstrates to me that they could care less about democracy. They don't like the process when they aren't in control.

They know what's best for the people even if the people disagree. This is the same rationalization that the communists and socialists used when they were slaughtering tens of millions, perhaps up to a hundred million people in the 20th century. Stalin, Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, Castro, and Hitler all used the justification that they were doing what was best for the people. And Noam Chomsky agrees. I'm telling you. Beware of the left. They have a long history of slaughtering people, especially in the name of the people. I think this is why the people of the U.S. haven't given them the complete reigns of power that the Republicans have right now.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that President Bush has been campaigning heavily these past few days for a tax cut in the $550 billion range over a ten year period. That's about $55 billion a year out of a $2 trillion dollar a year budget. It ain't that much.

I'm ambivalent towards a tax cut. Ideally, I would prefer if our government paid down our deficit which has swollen to a record amount, but I'm also a realist. Congress is not going to pay down our deficit. The Democrats are howling about the deficit and it is a cause for mild concern, but the fact remains that both the Republicans and the Democrats will spend any extra money that makes it to D.C. They don't have any incentive to pay down the debt. They do have every incentive to send money home to their districts. In case I have to say it, the money they send home will help get them reelected by grateful voters.

If our Senators and Congressmen would pay down the debt I would be all for it, but those bastards won't do it. They'll spend any extra money that they can get their grubby little hands on. I know it, you know it, and they know it. For now the Democrats are merely using the deficit as a campaign issue, but I would bet money that if they won the general election next year they would suddenly find a lot of excuses to spend our money just like the Republicans are doing right now.

I have to say I am giving the Republican some leeway right now. We are fighting a war, our economy is sputtering, and we are still feeling the effects of September 11 in our overall economy. We have to pay for Homeland security and the war, and we also have to stimulate the economy. It's going to cost us in the short term. We have to finance the recovery and war no matter what the Democrats say. If they want to help, then they should limit discretionary spending to the 4 percent increase that President Bush is asking.

I am willing to give the Democrats a chance to show that they are serious about paying down the debt. If they will limit discretionary spending like President Bush is asking then that will be a signal to me and others that they are serious. We'll see. If they start calling a 4 percent increase a budget cut like they have done in the past then I'll know they aren't serious. That's right, the Democrats call it a budget cut when the increase in spending is not as much as they asked for. Or at least they have done it in the past. We'll see if they try that again.

Monday, May 12, 2003

I really should learn to anticipate responses to this sort of virulent anti-Americanism.

I read the article and I was so outraged by what I was reading that I chose to simply ignore it. I mean, surely there are this kind of foaming-at-the-mouth leftists in every country and if I responded to each outburst I would be a very busy person indeed. Well I'm delighted that a fellow Brit has responded to Margaret Drabble's willful ignorance:

"The key to understanding Drabble's lunatic rant is her reaction to what she says she saw on CNN celebrating the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. She describes an old, shabbily dressed Vietnamese man bartering for dollars. The horror of this moment - an "elderly, impoverished" Vietnamese man wanting that terrible currency, American dollars, for heaven's sake - just put the lid on it for Drabble. She writes: "The Vietnamese had won the war, but had lost the peace."

Well no, Miss Drabble. The Vietnamese fought the war for communism and they won communism. That, indeed, is why the old man is impoverished, shabbily dressed and bartering for dollars. In your deliberate obtuseness, you become blind to the most self-evident conclusions and an apologist for the appalling regimes that are so far removed from your ostensible values."

Amen sister. Then there's this:

"If American unipolarity is dangerous and we need to replace the nuclear-equipped Soviet balance of power with a north-south combination, Dame Margaret and her UN might equip their Durban Conference participants with some nuclear weapons. North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong-Il should do the trick. "I don't think it's in the interests of anybody," explains Dame Margaret, "including the United States, to have a situation in which the world as a whole is policed and run by the United States."

These are the arguments of idiots or scoundrels. The last thing America wants is to be alone in the world trying to uphold the values of liberal democracy. The problem is that it does find itself alone, forced into unilateralism by Dame Margaret's UN, which would not enforce any of its 17 resolutions on Iraq. But for her and her ilk, everything comes back to the fault of the US."

I suggest reading the whole thing.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The New Criterion has a rather long article about Noam Chomsky that is must reading. Here are some of the most outstanding excerpts from the piece, but as I said, it's a must read:

"There has now been enough analysis of the Vietnam War to demonstrate conclusively that the United States was not defeated militarily. South Vietnam was abandoned to its fate because of the war’s political costs at home. The influence of radical intellectuals like Chomsky in persuading the student generation of the 1960s to oppose the war was crucial in elevating these political costs to an intolerable level.

The result they helped produce, however, was far worse than any bureaucratic solution that might have emanated from the behavioral sciences of the 1960s. From our present vantage point, we can today see the long-term outcome of the choice Chomsky posed in 1967 between the “comparative costs” of revolutionary terror in Vietnam versus the continuation of private enterprise agriculture in the Philippines.

The results all favor the latter. In 2001, the average GDP per head in the Philippines was $4000. At the same time, twenty-five years of revolution in Vietnam had produced a figure of only half as much, a mere $2100. Even those Vietnamese who played major roles in the transformation are now dismayed at the outcome. The former Vietcong General Pham Xuan An said in 1999: “All that talk about ‘liberation’ twenty, thirty years ago, all the plotting, all the bodies, produced this, this impoverished broken-down country led by a gang of cruel and paternalistic half-educated theorists.”

Also:

"There are, however, two glaring omissions from their analysis: the role of journalists and the preferences of media audiences. Nowhere do the authors explain how journalists and other news producers come to believe they are exercising their freedom to report the world as they see it. Chomsky and Herman simply assert these people have been duped into seeing the world through a pro-capitalist ideological lens.

Nor do they attempt any analysis of why millions of ordinary people exercise their free choice every day to buy newspapers and tune in to radio and television programs. Chomsky and Herman fail to explain why readers and viewers so willingly accept the world-view of capitalist media proprietors. They provide no explanation for the tastes of media audiences.

This view of both journalists and audiences as easily-led, ideological dupes of the powerful is not just a fantasy of Chomsky and Herman’s own making. It is also a stance that reveals an arrogant and patronising contempt for everyone who does not share their politics. The disdain inherent in this outlook was revealed during an exchange between Chomsky and a questioner at a conference in 1989 (reproduced in Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002):

Man: The only poll I’ve seen about journalists is that they are basically narcissistic and left of center.
Chomsky: Look, what people call “left of center” doesn’t mean anything—it means they’re conventional liberals and conventional liberals are very state-oriented, and usually dedicated to private power.

In short, Chomsky believes that only he and those who share his radical perspective have the ability to rise above the illusions that keep everyone else slaves of the system. Only he can see things as they really are."

This belief that "Only he (Chomsky) can see things as they really are" is defining characteristic of leftists in general. They are smarter and morally superior to everyone else and if you don't belief it just ask them. They'll tell you they are.

The New York Times is dealing with the fallout from revelations that one of their reporters fabricated comments, plagiarized from other news reports, and selected details from photographs that lead people to believe he had been to places he had not been.

Sadly, this is not new. This has happened several times in the past. For me, one deception stands out from the rest. In 1999, Rigoberta Menchu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was found to have fabricated many important details in a book. The sad part is that many on the left didn't care. It didn't seem to matter that the things she said weren't true. What mattered was that they wanted it to be true:

"Best exemplifying this academic stubbornness and indifference to evidence is Wellesley College Professor Marjorie Agonsin. The professor at the all-female college told The Chronicle of Higher Education in January, “Whether her book is true or not, I don’t care.” She went on to suggest, “I think Rigoberta Menchu has been used by the Right to negate the very important space that multiculturalism is providing in academia.”