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“Militant” = Terrorist

Nelson Ascher, for those of you who don’t know, is a Brazillian journalist based in Paris who also writes in English at his blog called Europundits. He speaks, reads and writes, gosh, I don’t know how many languages. He is also a poet and a professional translator. He has forgotten more about languages than I have ever learned with my quarter-knowledge of Spanish and my minimal understanding of Arabic.

So when he writes about words and languages, as he often does, I pay attention. Today he posted an interesting essay about the mainstream media’s use of euphemisms for “terrorist,” such as “militant,” “rebel,” and even “dissident.” I’ve always figured the use of such words, especially “dissident,” unintentionally slanders the likes of the French Resistance, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Those people do not deserve to be lumped in with the likes of Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Baathist dead-enders.

Anyway, Nelson Ascher thinks the use of these euphemisms isn’t working as the media intends because it simply changes the meaning of the euphemisms themselves. That goes hand in hand with what I’ve always thought, but he takes it a step further. Those of you who cringe (as I do) when a gang of thugs who cut off the heads of innocents are called anything other than terrorists are encouraged to read what he has to say.

Don’t Abandon Iraq

I was going to write something about why we should not leave Iraq prematurely, even though it’s looking pretty grim again at the moment. But Victor Davis Hanson said what I wanted to say, and he said it better than I would have. His column is your homework for the weekend.

Honesty = Disloyalty

I’m enjoying the new blog by Eric the Unread, a disgruntled lefty type who lives somewhere in Britain and moved to the center like I did. (Hey, Eric. The Tories are useless, so at least you can stick with the Labor Party. I’m homeless. Can we have Tony Blair when you’re finished with him?)

In an entry titled What’s wrong with the left Eric points to this post at the Washington Monthly by Kevin Drum, formerly of Calpundit fame.

Last Friday I said that I was skeptical that the Killian memos were genuine, and boy did I hear from y’all about that. My inbox is still creaking under the weight of charges of liberal disloyalty.

Sorry about that, Kevin. At least now you know how Eric the Unread and I feel all the time.

Tim Blair published a list of those charges of disloyalty, culled from Kevin’s comments box. It’s pathetic stuff, really, and there is only so long a person can put up with this crap before saying to heck with it.

If you haven’t checked out Eric’s blog yet, treat yourself. It’s good.

Horror Re-enacted by Bunnies

Tired of politics and war? Take a break!

Andrew Sullivan linked to Jaws in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

Sean LaFreniere linked to Alien in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

Now I’m linking to The Shining in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies.

These are great. The first is a little bit funny. The second is a little bit funnier. And like one of those rare jokes that somehow keep getting funnier every time you hear it, The Shining in 30 seconds is the best.

(The Exorcist in 30 seconds isn’t bad, either.)

Dinosaur in a Suit

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, manages to be both an elitist and a reactionary at the same time.

This takes us to another important on-line phenomenon, the rise of bloggers. These individuals publish web logs that offer an ongoing narrative of their thoughts and observations. Some are professional journalists, but the vast majority of them are just folks with something on their minds.

While some of these individuals are making a serious and thoughtful contribution to our global dialogue, too many simply contribute to the sense that we’re in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all.

Bloggers contribute to the sense that we’re in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all? But we are in the midst of an opinion-ridden free-for-all. This is America. Sulzberger can try to feed his opinions to us on a spoon, but he can’t actually do it. Not in this country.

The end of old media as we know it will arrive when the majority of editors come to respect the blogosphere for what it is instead of sniffing at those of us who contribute to it like we’re a bunch of gap-toothed peasants raising pitchforks at the palace.

Yesterday I quoted Nelson Ascher who pointed out that his daily paper in Sao Paolo, Brazil, beat The Washington Post on the Rathergate story for no other reason than that he reads blogs. (He also writes a blog, but it’s the fact that he is a professional journalist who reads blogs that gave his paper an edge.)

Some editors get the blogosphere already. Nick Shulz, editor of Tech Central Station, reads blogs. He also has a blog of his own. He recruits writers out of the blogosphere. (Writers like me, for instance.) The pieces he publishes link to writers in the blogosphere. And a panel on the right side of the main page consists of links to both blog posts and “old media” articles of note.

Nick doesn’t run a daily newspaper, but he gets it.

Sulzberger doesn’t get it. If only he could understand that the blogosphere can work for him instead of against him. Bloggers do a great deal of work for the mainstream media, and they do it for free. Not only can editors use the blogosphere as a talent pool, they can use it to find stories and angles their own reporters and opinion writers often miss. (I would miss all kinds of things if I didn’t read blogs. My own would be hopelessly behind everyone else’s.) More important, they can use the blogosphere to beat their competition by publishing the good stuff first.

That is what will bring old media down. Or, I should say, that is what will transform old media into something better. If editors and publishers like Sulzberger are too isolated from the new media reality, they will lose their prestige to whichever competitor figures it out first.

Come on, editors. You have an enormous new resource, and it doesn’t cost you a penny to use it. How much longer are you going to sit there in your suits and scoff at those in pajamas who keep kicking your asses?

(Hat tip: Kaus)

Closing the Gap Between the First World and the Third

Matthew Yglesias thinks the blogosphere is a little too quick to slap itself on the back for breaking Rathergate.

I’m not quite sure I grasp all the blogosphere triumphalism surrounding the Killian memos. After CBS ran the story, the conservative side of the ‘sphere came up with dozens of purported debunkings of their authenticity, almost all of which turned out to be more purported than debunking. Then after a few days of back-and-forth, traditional reporters at The Washington Post came out with a more careful, more accurate, more actually-debunking story.

I haven’t paid enough attention to this to know if Matthew is right or not. I’ve been impressed with some of the work on this I’ve seen in the blogosphere, even if some or even much of it is off-base. But let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that Matt is mostly right.

Even so. The blogosphere still deserves credit.

Nelson Ascher writes for a Brazilian daily newspaper in Sao Paolo. And his Sao Paolo paper, which usually lags behind First World media, wrote about Rathergate one day before the Washington Post did. The reason?

If I was able to come out with the story in my paper one day before the WaPo, that’s not because I’m a big-shot investigative journalist and this hasn’t been due to my personal merits or hard work either. It simply happened because I’m more attuned to the blogosphere than the average big media guy in the US or Europe. The merit obviously belongs to the blogosphere and, in this specific case, to the people of Powerline, LGF, to Instapundit, Roger Simon etc. But, thanks to them all, I have helped my paper publish the story one day before the WaPo. This, in the big media’s pecking order, is no mean change. In the realm of news there’s no First and Third World anymore.

Cool.

And that’s beside the fact that the Washington Post may never have taken a look at this if the blogosphere hadn’t first hammered it.

Fisking Fisk

Robert Fisk continues to live up to his name.

His new piece is titled We should not have allowed 19 murderers to change our world.

He doesn’t say we should have acted as though nothing had happened, but he practically implies as much at the end.

[W]e should not allow 19 murderers to change our world. George Bush and Tony Blair are doing their best to make sure the murderers DO change our world.

I’d like to know how it could be otherwise. Seriously. The attack on September 11, 2001, was the worst terrorist act ever. It was also the most devastating attack of any kind inside America ever. Does Robert Fisk really think we should have treated such an atrocity the way we would a pipsqueak of a bomb in a trashcan at the mall by the IRA?

No one should doubt Al Qaeda would have used a nuclear weapon had they possessed one. Clearly they sought to maximize, not minimize, the death count. Even without a nuclear weapon the casualties could have been as high as if we’d been nuked. If the Twin Towers fell over sideways on impact the number of civilians murdered could have exceeded the death toll at Hiroshima. As Paul Berman put it in Terror and Liberalism, “It is worth asking if there is anything genocidal in this kind of terrorist impulse.”

Old school terrorists like the IRA and the Basque ETA don’t behave this way, nor will they ever.

History is what it is. It swung on its hinges on September 11. It would have done so if even if Dennis Kucinich sat in the White House and George Galloway ran Britain.

Allow me to back up a bit in Fisk’s piece and address him personally. (Hi, Robert. I hope you track the referral logs in your Web site’s stat meter and read what people have to say about your work.) The ending, obtuse as it is, is a lot less asinine than what led to it.

Merely to ask why the murderers of 11 September had done their bloody deeds was to befriend “terrorism”. Merely to ask what had been in the minds of the killers was to give them support.

Says who, Robert? It’s not the question that leads to this accusation. It’s the answer to the question that does it.

You have been accused of “befriending” terrorists. I agree that putting it that way is over-the-top. The reason this happens, though, isn’t because you ask why terrorists kill people. It’s because you blame the victims.

Hell, you made excuses for people who assaulted you personally. Must I remind?

On December 10, 2001, you wrote the following:

They started by shaking hands. We said “Salaam aleikum” — peace be upon you — then the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn’t see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find. [Emphasis added.]

Really? Would you really have done just the same?

I may be arguing with you here, but I’m honestly sorry you were beat up for being a white guy. It was wrong. You hadn’t done anything to those people. They are precisely the moral equivalents of the criminals who assaulted random Arabs (and even, pathetically, Sikhs) on the streets of America after September 11. It is not okay to lash out at people who share the same ethnicity with those you are pissed at.

One article I wrote for The Independent in 1998 asked why Iraqis do not tear us limb from limb, which is what some Iraqis did to the American mercenaries they killed in Fallujah last April.

There you go again. Or, there you nearly go again.

If someone else had written that sentence, I might give them a pass. But you already said you would assault any random Westerner if you were a refugee in Afghanistan. It’s not a huge leap to think you might want to tear a Westerner limb from limb if you were Iraqi.

Jesus, Robert. Did it not occur to you that most Iraqis have more decency than to tear innocent people limb from limb? Don’t you see how insulting to Iraqis your question is? Let me help you out. I altered your sentence a bit.

One article I wrote asked why Englishmen do not tear French people limb from limb…

Or how about this alteration?

One article I wrote asked why Israelis do not tear Palestinians limb from limb…

How do those read to you? Did the first insult England? Did the second excuse and even suggest hypothetical vicious Israeli behavior?

Later in the same piece you argued with your own title:

America’s relations with the Middle East, especially the nature of its relationship with Israel, was to remain an unspoken and unquestioned subject.

No.

We did change our relations with the Middle East. One of the biggest examples is the one you hate most. We were no longer willing to keep troops on Saudi Arabian “holy ground” to protect a corrupt and reactionary crime family from the fascist next door.

You may also recall that we adjusted our relationship with Israelis and Palestinians. For the first time ever an American president explicitly backed Palestinian statehood and Palestinian democracy. Previously both Israel and the United States relied on the autocratic psuedo-proxy Yasser Arafat to fight a dirty anti-terror war for them. Those days are over.

Meanwhile, most Americans would like to see even more changes in our relationship to the Middle East. We aren’t finished with Saudi Arabia yet. The House of Saud needs to be hanged up and dried. Any time you feel like joining us in questioning our relations in the Middle East, instead of complaining that Bush and Blair changed the world, let us know.

Hat tip: Harry’s Place

Forged!

When the CBS scandal first broke, I vowed to myself that I would stay out of it. The reaction in the media and in the blogosphere was so overwhelmingly partisan I didn’t know who to believe. Bush supporters seemed to me a little too sure of themselves. Kerry supporters were too dismissive and defensive.

But I’ll weigh in now because Jim Treacher pointed me to what looks like an awfully comprehensive debunking of those documents by Peter Duncan.

If you think the documents are genuine and that this is some kind of smear campaign, see if you can debunk Duncan’s evidence before arguing with me in the comments.

I rather doubt (pun intended, sorry) that this will affect the election, though, unless it can be shown that the Kerry campaign itself had something to do with it. That would be a real scandal. It would also be a dumb scandal.

We already know Bush wasn’t the best-behaved boy in Texas. Publishing yet more “evidence” won’t affect anyone’s vote for the same reason Bill Clinton’s approval ratings remained high after each successive bimbo eruption. Everyone familiar with Clinton (and that includes most people in Iceland, Pakistan, and Bolivia, as well as most Americans) already knew he had trouble with women, zippers, and pants. And we all know Bush had problems with responsibility and booze.

If you want to dig up new dirt on Bush, you have to find a new kind of dirt, not more of the same old dirt. We’ve already factored the old dirt in. It won’t move numbers.

It looks like the blogosphere found new dirt on CBS, though. It could move numbers.

Request for Help

Can anyone help me install MT-Blacklist? I’ll pay you if you can make it work. I am not a techie. It’s a bit beyond my level.

My comments are being swamped with so much spam for drugs, porn, and “penis enlargement” I may have to shut down the comments altogether until I can figure out what to do about it. I would rather not. I like my comments. So do other people.

For those of you who read my comments and don’t know what I’m talking about: Most comment spammers are clever enough not to fill up space on current posts. They usually spam the older posts. Then they search Google for their own phrases, click the links, and boost the Google rankings for their own stupid “products.” I’m tired of paying for their bandwidth. Check out the second half of this comments thread and you’ll see what I mean. These spammers now make up almost ten percent of my blog traffic. It needs to stop now.

UPDATE: I got a lot of offers for help. Thanks so much everybody. I’m taken care of now.

Four Words

Here we are on the third anniversary of September 11, 2001, and John Kerry is getting clobbered in the polls. Is anyone really surprised? Does anyone think the odds of him winning are greater than 50 percent?

Bush’s post-convention bounce seems to be sticking.

Here is the latest from Time:

Last week’s seismic voter shift to George W. Bush showed no signs of dwindling in this week’s Time Poll. Bush continues to lead Democratic challenger John Kerry among likely voters by double digits, 52% – 41%, in the three way race, with Nader at 3%, the same as last week.

Yesterday Mark Poling said in my comments section that John Kerry could easily beat George W. Bush with a platform that looked something like this:

Good war, bad occupation, but I’ll make Iraq right, and I won’t make the same mistakes with our other enemies…

Yep.

You could reduce it even further, all the way down to four words:

Good war, bad occupation.

That’s it. Done. Some people would argue with that. But independents and swing voters wouldn’t.

It amazes me that neither Kerry nor any of his highly-paid advisors could come up with these four simple words.

If you want to appeal to the middle, you have to know where the middle is. Centrists may be “wishy washy” when it comes to our two political parties. But that doesn’t mean centrists are wishy-washy on terrorism. Bush beats Kerry by a whopping and insurmountable 23 points on this issue.

Kerry’s Secret Recipe Revealed

Marc Cooper posted the hilarious cook-book style recipe John Kerry apparently uses for his campaign.

How can a cook-book style recipe be funny? Well, it just is. I laughed out loud eight or nine times.

Fiddling on Two Fronts

If you’re surprised by or skeptical of the following, please raise your hand in the comments:

VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran is using negotiations with the European Union’s “big three” on suspending sensitive nuclear activities to buy the time it needs to get ready to make atomic weapons, an Iranian exile and intelligence officials said.

With intelligence sources saying Iran could be months away from nuclear weapons capability, the United States wants Iran reported to the U.N. Security Council immediately, charging Tehran uses its civilian atomic energy program as a front to develop the bomb. Tehran vehemently denies the charge.

France, Britain and Germany want to avoid isolating Iran and have taken a go-slow approach, negotiating with Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

“Iran continues to use existing differences between the U.S. and Europe to their advantage and tries to drag out talks with the EU to buy time,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian exile who has reported accurately on Iran’s nuclear program in the past, told Reuters.

I have a humble request for George W. Bush and John Kerry. Just a small thing, really, if it’s not too much trouble.

Shut the hell up about Vietnam, the National Guard, Swift Boat Vets, the Department of Friggin’ Wellness, and all the rest of your stupid bullshit and tell me what you think about Iran. (If you can find the time.)

Thanks.

Hitchens Eviscerates Klein

My God I hope I never get on the wrong side of Christopher Hitchens in print.

Yesterday he brutally eviscerated Naomi Klein’s latest piece in The Nation:

Another small but interesting development has occurred among my former comrades at The Nation magazine. In its “GOP Convention Issue” dated Sept. 13, the editors decided to run a piece by Naomi Klein titled “Bring Najaf to New York.” If you think this sounds suspiciously like an endorsement of Muqtada Sadr and his black-masked clerical bandits, you are not mistaken. The article, indeed, went somewhat further, and lower, than the headline did. Ms. Klein is known as a salient figure in the so-called antiglobalization movement, and for a book proclaiming her hostility to logos and other forms of oppression: She’s not marginal to what remains of the left. Her nasty, stupid article has evoked two excellent blog responses from two pillars of the Nation family: Marc Cooper in Los Angeles and Doug Ireland in New York. What gives, they want to know, with a supposed socialist-feminist offering swooning support to theocratic fascists? It’s a good question, and I understand that it’s ignited quite a debate among the magazine’s staff and periphery.

When I quit writing my column for The Nation a couple of years ago, I wrote semi-sarcastically that it had become an echo chamber for those who were more afraid of John Ashcroft than Osama Bin Laden. I honestly did not then expect to find it publishing actual endorsements of jihad. But, as Marxism taught me, the logic of history and politics is a pitiless one. The antiwar isolationist “left” started by being merely “status quo”: opposing regime change and hinting at moral equivalence between Bush’s “terrorism” and the other sort. This conservative position didn’t take very long to metastasize into a flat-out reactionary one, with Michael Moore saying that the Iraqi “resistance” was the equivalent of the Revolutionary Minutemen, Tariq Ali calling for solidarity with the “insurgents,” and now Ms. Klein, among many others, wanting to bring the war home because any kind of anti-Americanism is better than none at all. These fellow-travelers with fascism are also changing ships on a falling tide: Their applause for the holy warriors comes at a time when wide swathes of the Arab and Muslim world are sickening of the mindless blasphemy and the sectarian bigotry. It took an effort for American pseudo-radicals to be outflanked on the left by Ayatollah Sistani, but they managed it somehow.

Outflanked on the left by a conservative ayatollah. Psuedo-radicals, indeed. Man.

Marc Cooper, who is one of the editors at The Nation where Klein’s piece was published, takes her apart point by point. His post is more than a week old, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. (I missed it when it was current because I was out of the loop on my road trip.)

How to Read a Newspaper (Updated)

I’m annoyed at the AP. My post yesterday made no sense after several people in my comments box pointed out that a Dick Cheney quote I republished had been Dowdified by the reporter.

I didn’t agree with the Dowdified quote. I didn’t agree with the real quote, either, but at least what Cheney actually said was less obnoxious than what I first thought.

Mark Twain famously said “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” This is so true. I know this in part because when I know a subject well I often scoff at how non-specialty newspapers cover it. My wife says the same thing, and her areas of knowledge are completely separate from mine.

So count me as one who appreciates what Jeremy Brown wrote today on his blog:

The trick is to not just believe what you read in the papers anymore. Naw man, you got to swagger in like you goin’ into a used car dealership. Then you got to show them motherfuckers you ain’t no easy mark, that you ain’t nobody’s two bit skank, never was, and got no plans to be.

Yep. I guess so. It’s been that way for centuries now, hasn’t it Mr. Twain?

UPDATE: Katherine in the comments points to this this Washington Post story:

In a change that highlighted the sensitivity of Cheney’s statement, the White House yesterday released a revised version of the transcript of his remarks. The official transcript, posted on the White House Web site Tuesday afternoon and e-mailed to reporters, said: “(I)t’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again.”

In a version released Tuesday to reporters traveling with Cheney, however, the period at the end of “hit again” was removed and replaced with a comma, which linked his blunter statement to his standard stump language expressing concern that future attacks would be treated as “just criminal acts, and that we’re not really at war.”

(Sigh.)

So, okay. Maybe the quote wasn’t actually Dowdified. It was taken out of context, which is kinda lame but a lot less lame. Then again, I’m going to follow Jeremy’s advice and remain suspicious of newspapers at least for the rest of the day.

I would ask if anyone has an audio link to the Cheney speech, but it isn’t really important. The reason I wanted to comment on this in the first place was to make a couple of points that aren’t even relevant any more anyway. There is a point when a “he said, she said” argument about punctuation gets tiresome (how do you pronounce a comma, anyway?) and I think we’ve passed it. Next subject…

We Cannot Fall Apart (Updated)

Dick Cheney is selling poison in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack.

As if we don’t face the threat of another attack now. Who knew we were so safe? Not me.

“It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States,” Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city.

I don’t need to tell Dick Cheney that terrorists want to hit us again no matter who sits in the White House. But I would tell Dick Cheney, if I were his advisor, that this line of argument is crude, obnoxious, and has serious backfire potential built into it. He is explicitly saying no terrorist attacks can get through if he and George W. hold the White House.

We all know this is b.s. and I shouldn’t even have to point it out. It is not possible to deflect every potential attack. We could turn the United States into a totalitarian fortress and attacks would still get through.

If Dick Cheney is prepared to lay the blame of a future terrorist attack on both a Kerry Administration and even the voters (!) then his administration needs to accept the blame for terrorist attacks that occur on its watch. And that includes the attack on September 11.

I do not blame the Bush Administration for the attack on September 11. Nor do I blame the Clinton Administration. Nor will I blame a possible future Kerry Administration if it comes into being. Nor should anybody.

In The Art of War Sun Tzu famously told how to defeat an enemy’s leadership: “When he is united, divide him.” On that note I’d like to revisit an essay Lee Harris wrote for Tech Central Station on the second anniversary of September 11, 2001. He concludes:

The greatest damage that Al-Qaeda could possibly do to us is not to destroy our buildings or even to murder our people; it is to lure us into abandoning our sense of national unity at the very time we are most in need of it. 9/11 was not our fault, nor the fault of our leadership, of either party. Nor will the next 9/11, if it should come, be our fault, or the fault of those who might happen to be in power, and again of either party.

[...]

[N]one of us may not know for sure what we should do, we can all be absolutely positive about what we shouldn’t do, and that is, we cannot fall apart. For if we in the United States fall apart, who in the world will put us back together?

UPDATE: It looks like Cheney’s quote was snipped in the middle of a sentence. And the AP reporter used a period instead of ellipses to hide that fact. Here is Cheney’s complete sentence:

Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again, that we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we’re not really at war.

That is a lot less inflammatory. The AP ought to be smacked for that. Will they run a correction? I’m runing a correction since I relied on their crappy reporting, so I certainly hope so. (Not holding my breath.)

I still think Cheney is wrong. John Kerry has said he will respond to any attack on the United States, and I believe him. Why wouldn’t he? He is not a peacenik.

What worries me about a Kerry presidency isn’t that he won’t fight back but that he doesn’t have any strategy that isn’t reactive. We could fight terrorism tit-for-tat forever. Bush has his eye on both pre-emption and root causes while Kerry doesn’t.

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