Same as it ever was...


I've got a new Think Again, column, "The New, New, New Journalism," here.

More evidence that Mearsheimer and Walt are largely right:

1) They've sent around a roughly 80-page response to their critics, which is largely compelling even though I am one of the people they refute.

2) This New York Times article quotes no one at all in support of Carter's position, only critics. Since when does the Times write in its news pages about controversies entirely from one side of the controversy, particularly when it's about someone who was president of the United States? I'll tell you since when. It's since he criticizes Israel ...

3) Michael Kinsley is quoted after writing the crappiest column of his career (see previous post).

4) Abe Foxman is quoted with no hint that he seeks to silence anyone at all who is critical of Israel, including Tony Judt, and (here).

Make no mistake. This book stinks. But it's not because it's venal or anti-Semitic or because it has the word "apartheid" in the title. I've walked, by myself, through Palestinian refugee camps on the West Bank. My life was threatened inside one. They are the worst places I've ever seen. And they are clearly the vicitms of a deliberate apartheid-like policy. And all this focus on what's in the minds of the Israelis when they create these conditions is besides the point. The point is what the Palestinians are forced to endure which is a lot like what Black South Africans were forced to endure. Obviously, the Israelis are not racists in the same way White South Africans were. Obviously, the Palestinians bear a significant measure of responsibility for the misery of their own people, as do other nations. But so do the Israelis. And so do those American Jews who seek, knowingly, to whitewash this fact, and slander those who point it out.

And by the way, did I miss it, or did Alan Dershowitz, Marty Peretz, Charles Krauthammer, Abe Foxman, etc., write a column about the recent reports -- from inside the Israeli government -- that many of the West Bank settlements are built on land that was deliberately stolen by the Israelis, and that the government has purposely covered up this theft and repeatedly lied about it? A report on that is here.

The McCain Suck-Up Watch continues.


Best Springsteen sides ever:

1) Side two of "Live at Winterland," 1978

2) Side three of Live at Winterland," 1978, including bonus tracks

3) Side one of "Live at Winterland," 1978

Good luck finding it.

Greatest people with whom I've ever shaken hands:

1) Vaclav Havel

2) Mikhail Gorbachev

3) Bruce Springsteen

Things that need to be done away with and could be, easily:

1) Those "re-enactments" on the History Channel

From Lt. Col. Bateman ... he's back, too

Getting Your Facts Straight

Hello all, LTC Bob here again, after a moderate hiatus. I want to talk about the news because, well, this is a media site. But first, I should like to get something straight. It is about me, and it is necessary because you need to know who is writing here.

Within my community, that of the Airborne and Ranger Infantry (but more broadly all combat arms types) I am considered a geek. I read, incessantly, I write, I develop new ideas, though admittedly some of them are patently idiotic. I post missives which do not relate to work, in places where it is difficult for my peers to understand the "military utility" of my efforts. What can I say? Some guys hunt, some guys fish, some guys watch sports on TV or do woodwork ... I write. But because of this, I have a moderately unique point of view to offer after seventeen years in uniform.

For example, I believe that the media is the very foundation of our security. I believe this consistently. I even feel this way when I argue against the less-than-stellar track record of some small minority of journalists who fail in relating the facts accurately to the People. Inaccuracy in reporting is dangerous, I believe. And I feel strongly about this because I think good journalism is so damned important. I believe journalism is the #1 defender of our liberties (though that doesn't mean I'm going to stop donating to the ACLU either). On top of this regard for the profession overall is the fact that a good percentage of the men (and some women) I call "friend" are full-time, no-shit, real live journalists. They're from sources like Reuters, and Agence France-Presse, as well as The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (not to mention the Gannett papers). I like journalists. They're fun to drink with. But that does not mean that I automatically give them a pass when they fail to live up to their own standards.

What I do not like is gross inaccuracy, and particularly obfuscation to cover the same. What I detest the most is a cover-up with a bodyguard of counter-accusations to misdirect those who are interested. Now, all of you are free to discuss among yourselves how this process occurs with this political party or that one, or this major corporation or international body, or whatever. But what I believe I am seeing right now is that process appearing, again, in the media. Specifically, it's being pulled off by the Associated Press.

Yesterday, Dr. A linked to a fine fellow (and sometime Altercator) Eric Boehlert. I've met Eric, we have had e-mail correspondence, and even been to a concert with the good Dr. together (and Chalkie, once again, thanks). I think he is a fine fellow. But he is flat-out wrong on what he wrote about yesterday. I believe that in diminishing this story, in twisting it out of shape, both ends of the political spectrum are doing a disservice. But I am getting ahead of myself ...

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, what I am about to write is about the Associated Press, and I have an, um, history with them. I need to explain that so you can evaluate what I will say. In other words, you need to know the context so you can decide for yourself if I am biased.

In early 2001 the AP called my boss at work (an Army colonel) and tried to get my research (and book) about events that occurred at a place called No Gun Ri, in the summer of 1950, stopped. I was teaching History at West Point at the time. In effect their efforts were an attempt to have my career ended through an adverse report by my boss. Why would they do this? Well, because my research collided with that of the mighty AP. (Cue the irony bell) Because of information I had uncovered about an AP story which dealt with an event of military history, information that revealed that the AP had been completely duped by at least one fraud (and perhaps as many as three), the AP was not happy with me. The AP would not admit that there were any problems, though, and insisted everything was just fine. They chose to counterattack rather than re-examine. When their efforts to coerce my boss into squelching me failed miserably, they contacted my publisher and tried to censor me that way. Again, they did all of this rather than admit that their story had serious problems. The irony of the largest news organization in all of human history attempting to silence an individual soldier is almost too much to believe. But there you go.

So we have a history, do the AP and I. But what was lost in all the accusations against me by the AP was the substance of what I was saying. The AP accused me of being racist, biased, anti-journalistic (because I am in the military, I guess was their thesis) and a lousy writer. I'll cop a guilty plea only to the last.

I was not opposed to their reporting because of who they were; this was not an issue of "the military versus the media," no matter how hard the AP tried to spin it that way. It was an issue of a historian versus journalists, dealing with an issue that occurred 50 years in the past, in which the journalists insisted in using journalistic methods, and I insisted that when writing history, you had to be, uh, historical.

OK, so now you know the background. When confronted (by one man) with inaccuracies in their stories and sources, the AP counterattacked with everything short of the kitchen sink. Then they hurled that at me too. (The fact that their source was later convicted of fraud in a Federal courtroom for lying about his military past, No Gun Ri included, never seemed to matter to the AP, or the Pulitzer committee either for that matter.) Follow me now to the present day.

On Thanksgiving weekend the AP published a story about an attack against four separate mosques. They were all Sunni mosques in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad according to the original story. Included in that account, was a primary source, one Captain (of Police) Jamil Hussein. The story said that, according to Hussein, six Sunnis had been dragged from one of the mosques, and set on fire before being killed. The story had one Sunni cleric as a corroborating witness, and another source from the extreme end of the Sunni political spectrum, who said that some dozen or more had been immolated. With me so far? OK, here's where it gets complicated.

The next thing that happened was that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (the MoI is Shia-dominated, one should remember) said that no such captain existed. The U.S. Army concurred, and supplemented that with a report that when they (the U.S. Army, that is) went to the area, they found no signs of immolation (personal or physical), and only one mosque which looked like it had taken some damage from a Molotov cocktail-like device. (This is a glass bottle with gasoline, for those who don't know their WWII Soviet history.) The cleric retracted his statement (something which even I am curious about), and the Association of Muslim Clerics made no more statements, and did not subsequently support the AP version of events.


This is where I enter. I am a sticker for the facts. I want to note now, again, that what follows are personal opinions and analysis (not those of the military or the government), and that in general the media is accurate in their reporting. If you followed some of the links above you'll know that I personally believe that the vast majority of the "mainstream" media is getting it about right in Iraq. But this is also where the story gets twisted.

Eric B is wrong, in my opinion, because the controversy involved in this story of AP reporting is not, after all, a story about the political "Right" (and Military) versus "Left", but in reality a simple one of sourcing. In the original AP story, remember, FOUR mosques were attacked, and firebombed and/or blown up, and six, or perhaps twelve, Sunni worshippers burned to death.

Then some right-wing bloggers noted that the main source, the often-quoted "Captain Jamil Hussein," was only quoted when Sunnis were killed. Folks, that just doesn't make sense. It was at that point that the AP went on the attack. They re-reported, and in their follow-on story, only one mosque was burned, but then the AP rebuts with, "... allegations were checked with the AP reporter, who had been in routine contact for more than two years with Hussein, in some cases sitting in his office in the Yarmouk police station in west Baghdad. Hussein wore a police uniform during the face-to-face meetings." They also said they had new (unnamed) sources, and provided specifics like the "fact" that it was a 1.3 gallon container of kerosene used to immolate the six men.

Now, setting aside the fact that 1.3 gallons would only give about two pints per man. Setting aside also the fact that the AP changed the story from the first version to the second, (where there were four mosques burned and/or blown up in the first version, in the second it is only one, where as many as twelve were killed by burning in the first version, in the second it is only six). Ignore the fact that the Sunnis themselves do not seem to be focusing on this story. And finally, skip over the fact that in the past some American journalism outlets, and particularly their overseas bureaus in a war zone, have in fact harbored real, live, spies for the enemy. (That happened to Time in Vietnam, when they hired a North Vietnamese intelligence officer as a stringer in Saigon.) Forget all of that for a second, and still some facts of geography threw me off as being inaccurate.

The AP, I should note, in their counterattack against those who questioned their story and sources, said, "It's awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad." The AP executive who said that did so from New York City, but ya know what? Unlike that AP editor, I know something about Baghdad. Having lived in Iraq for a year (returning this past February, if you all recall), and knowing Baghdad well, one additional thing that has blown my mind about this, and the silence from the majority of the media (except E&P, which is covering the story well), is a simple element of geography.

The AP cites their source as being an officer in the Yarmouk district of Baghdad. Fine. Most people in the U.S. and the world don't know Baghdad's geography. But the question that hit me is "why is somebody in Yarmouk the main quoted source (originally) for a story about events in Hurriyah?"

Yarmouk is a neighborhood on the north side of what many people know as "Route Irish." Between Yarmouk and Hurriyah neighborhood are the districts of Al Andalous and Al Mansoor (parallel w/ each other), above that is Al Mutanabbi, and above that is Al Urubah ... before you get to Hurriyah. It's more than 3 miles away. Now for country folk like me, 3 miles isn't but spitting distance. But in a city of 7 million, like NYC or Baghdad, 3 miles is a huge distance.

In other words, in going to their "normal" source for this story, the AP went to the equivalent of a Brooklyn local police precinct for a story that occurred in northern Yonkers! Hello? What would a cop in Brooklyn know about a crime in Yonkers? That's what doesn't make sense to me. (And why didn't the AP reveal, until challenged, that this source was not from the district where the events allegedly occurred, or even from a neighboring district, but is from a moderately distant part of this 7-million-person city?)

Here is a map where you can see for yourself where these districts are in relation to each other.

OK, that's enough for now. You can start doing the research on your own. But remember, this is not about right-v-left. It is about accuracy and hubris. Feel free to write to me at

From the Benton Foundation:


After receiving a terrible tongue lashing from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, executives of NBC are saying the Commission is indecent. Actually, NBC says that the FCC's profanity findings against phrases like Cher's "Fudge 'em" on Fox's Billboard Awards or Bono's "Fudging brilliant" on NBC's Golden Globes, both cited by the FCC, are misapplied and contrary to "its own standard, common sense, conventional wisdom and ordinary usage." In its brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in the broadcaster court challenge to that new FCC profanity enforcement policy, NBC says the FCC decision should be reversed and that "no reasonable observer could actually conclude that Cher was exhorting the audience to have 'chocolate activities' with those critics, or that her comment related somehow to chocolate-producing organs." NBC says it is not saying a "properly designed indecency regime could never bar the repeated broadcast of expletives used as intensifiers" but that the FCC cannot "transform a standard that expressly requires material to 'describe or depict' sex into a dragnet for words that neither depict nor describe sexual or excretory activity." NBC also argued that the FCC's decision is invalid under the Chevron test, which holds that an appeals court must first determine if the will of Congress was clear in a statute, and if so, that ends the discussion. NBC argues, as it did in its initial brief to the court, that Congress clearly intended to be blasphemous and that the FCC cannot arbitrarily change the definition to fit its regulatory leanings.


The Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Free Press, Public Knowledge and U.S. PIRG wrote the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Tuesday opposing Commissioner Robert McDowell's participation in the AT&T-BellSouth merger vote expected this month. The groups said in their letter that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's attempt to reverse McDowell's recusal "is a violation of the public trust, sacrificing a valid process of good-faith negotiations among participating commissioners for political expediency and the convenience of the merging parties." The groups said they wrote the letter because the FCC asked AT&T and BellSouth for their views on McDowell's participation but did not ask for public input. Both AT&T and BellSouth said they are not opposed to McDowell's participation. "Given that the combined entity will control half of the business and residential telephone lines in the nation, it is the public, not AT&T or BellSouth, which has the greatest stake in the merger's rejection or approval, with or without conditions," the letter states. "Regardless of how Commissioner McDowell votes on the merger, the public interest is jeopardized."

Alter-review by Sal, NYCD

The Bee Gees, Studio Albums 1967-68 -- When not getting verbally abused for liking the Pet Shop Boys, I'm getting verbally abused for calling the Bee Gees one of the greatest bands of all time. And all I can say to that is, "Your mother was a toaster." For the first time since their initial CD release in the '80s, the first three Bee Gees albums (Bee Gees 1st, Horizontal, and Idea) get remastered and expanded into a limited edition box set. With over 40 bonus tracks, this set is essential. The Bee Gees gained twice as many fans as they lost when they released their legendary soundtrack "Saturday Night Fever," but the majority of those new fans never really knew the brilliant songwriting and Brit-style pop of these seminal records. Hits like "To Love Somebody," "Massachusetts," "New York Mining Disaster 1941," "Holiday," "I've Gotta Get A Message To You," and "World" are all here, with the addition of deep album tracks that were just as strong, and a wealth of unreleased-on-CD B-sides, single mixes and demos. The Bee Gees inspired everyone from the Hollies to XTC to the Posies to Jellyfish and countless others. Take off your propeller hat and nose glasses and be proud to order this box set!

Eric adds: And by the way, the packaging is beautiful and the liner notes richly detailed. This is a real labor of love.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Jim Pharo
Hometown: New York, NY

Re: reasons not to like Bloomberg ...

I too like him overall, but in addition to the reasons you mentioned, there's one more that is as underreported as it is huge: his failure to get the re-building of Lower Manhattan either right or on-time after 9/11. Six years later we still have a hole in the ground and a plan for a ridiculous building to come.

I know the mayor doesn't control the whole thing, but he could have used his bully pulpit to much greater effect (and started to after the first five years!).

I'm not sure why Bloomberg gets a pass for this. Maybe because people like him for the many things he gets right.

Name: Mark Shotzberger
Hometown: Dover, DE

If Bush wants to turn his presidency around, I have a suggestion that makes about as much sense as any idea he has followed so far.

I call it the George Costanza Policy, based upon the episode of Seinfeld in which George turns his life around by doing or saying the exact opposite of the first thing that comes to his mind.

Let's face it, we are in so deep not even Poppy's old "war horses" like Baker and Gates can bail us out. Heck, even the Saudis appear to be "jumping ship!"

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

Geez, that Freepers link in Paul Corrigan's post was something. I guess on its source site, which bills itself as "Exposing and Combating Liberal Bias," slicing and dicing quotes out of context counts as argument. And the two-cents postings that follow show even shallower reasoning and sophomoric insult-flinging. I know there are liberal blogs that traffic in a similarly lame discourse, but c'mon, is that all they got?

The recurring complaint about the anger of the progressives reminds me of the exchange when Emerson came to bail Thoreau out for his act of civil disobedience. Emerson asked, "What are you doing in there?" to which Thoreau responded, "What are you doing out there?"

Why am I so angry? Why aren't you? Don't you think a democratic republican government is a sacred trust?

But fortunately, Freepers aside, the latest polls of Bush's 27% approval rating on Iraq show that the congressional elections were just the beginning. More Americans are expressing their rejection, if not anger, at how that sacred trust has been abused.

Name: Steve LaSala
Hometown: Manahawkin, NJ

For some reason Yahoo chose to use the headline "Chile bids Farewell to Pinochet." Now I can think of loads of things that most Chileans might be saying at Augusto Pinochet's passing, but somehow "farewell" doesn't quite fit.

Name: Sean Clinchy
Hometown: Charlottesville, VA

I'm sure you'll receive many notes like this, but Leo's line in Blood Diamond is stolen from Dog Day Afternoon. The Pacino character is negotiating with a cop, played by Charles Durning. Pacino considers the deal he's being offered to be less than favorable to him, so he asks Durning to kiss him. When Durning asks why, Pacino responds "Because I like to get kissed before I get fucked."

Name: Tom Edmisten
Hometown: Norfolk, Nebraska

Dr. A.,

Did I miss something, or is Peter O'Toole looking surprisingly good for being dead?

Eric replies: It's a line in a movie, bub.

Name: Michael Rapoport


It's a Bob Dylan Christmas!

(Probably worth listening just to hear "On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!" in that inimitable voice.)

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