Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 21st, 2013

Quirky, independent comedy—with Toni Collette, produced by Julia Roberts

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I enjoyed it and never knew quite where it would go. It’s a written and directed by. Jesus Henry Christ.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Free comic books to turn kids onto physics

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Books, Science

Destruction of the Plain of Jars

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Fred Branfman writes at AlterNet:

I learned firsthand about the realities of executive branch power 40 years ago, when I discovered that a handful of U.S. executive leaders from both political parties, liberals and conservatives, had secretly destroyed the 700-year-old Plain of Jars civilization in northern Laos without congressional or public knowledge, let alone consent.

The Executive and Congress: Craven Fear

I learned then that one key to executive power is its secrecy and deception. As described in an earlier piece, executive officials did not inform Congress it was bombing Laos, as Senator J. William Fulbright stated in the fall of 1969. Even after the refugees from U.S. bombing had been brought to the capital city of Vientiane in September 1969 (each said their villages had been partially or completely destroyed, and I had photographed dozens who had been blinded, burned by napalm, and lost arms and legs), U.S. Executive Branch officials still lied to legislators by denying they had bombed civilian targets.

Back in D.C. on April 22, 1971, I saw an executive branch representative, former U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan, look directly into the eyes of a legislator, Senator Edward Kennedy, and lie to his face, saying, “It was the policy not to bomb civilian targets in Laos.”

I knew Kennedy knew he was being lied to. He had issued a report six months earlier saying that, “the United States has undertaken a large-scale air war over Laos to destroy the physical and social infrastructure in Pathet Lao-held areas. The bombing has taken and is taking a heavy toll among civilians.”

In the fictional democracy many pundits think we still live in, Kennedy would have sworn Sullivan in and indicted him for perjury for lying to Congress.

But even 40 years ago, one of the Senate’s most powerful legislators did not dare seriously challenge what he knew was unaccountable executive mass murder. The killing of civilians in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam continued for two more years until it was finally halted.

This craven congressional fear of the Executive is another key to its power. I first observed this in 1967, when I accompanied my congressman, Lester Woolf, along with Congressman Rex McCarthy, on a visit to Sam Thong. It was portrayed in the press as a center for refugees fleeing communism, but actually was a camp for dependents of Hmong soldiers fighting in the CIA’s secret army.

We flew up in a large C130 plane carrying rice. But as we approached Sam Thong we were told the runway was too muddy for the heavy plane, and that we would be landing at an “auxiliary landing strip” to Sam Thong. After we arrived, I followed an embassy official who had flown up with us over to a dour Pop Buell, the USAID official in charge of Sam Thong, who stood stockstill with his arms crossed. When we reached him he said to the embassy man out of the corner of his mouth, “Do they know anything?” The official replied, “Don’t worry, Pop. [Deputy Chief of Mission] Hurwich gave them a beautiful snow job, complete with maps. They were very impressed.”

I wondered about this exchange, but soon found myself in a meeting where the Hmong General Vang Pao delivered an impassioned speech about how his people were fighting for freedom against the communists and requested more military aid from Congress. My liberal Democratic congressman earnestly pledged he would do his best to see he got it.

That night I found myself sharing a trailer with Congressman Wolff in the nearby town of Vang Vieng. I was new to Laos at that point, but had already heard the stories about how Vang Pao was a savage warlord who carelessly shot prisoners in public or threw them into pits where they slowly starved to death; a dictator entirely opposed to the democracy he claimed to be fighting for. As I began to tell Wolff what I had heard, he nervously interrupted me and burst out, with genuine fear in his voice, that I needed to understand that he had been elected on Lyndon Johnson’s coattails in 1964 and that nobody crossed Lyndon Johnson! He was not interested in learning anything more about Laos.

It was only some months later I learned the true significance of our trip. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Mental Illness: It’s Not in Your Genes

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Interesting: the idea that mental illness is inherited seems to another version of “fan death”: a common belief unsupported by any testing of the idea. Kas Thomas writes at Big Think:

Even before the Human Genome Project wrapped up in April 2003, scientists have worked overtime to find the gene or genes responsible for autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, alcoholism, depression, and other ailments “known” to have major genetic components.

The problem is, many neuropsychiatric ailments that are assumed to have a major genetic component don’t seem to have one.

More than a decade after the sequencing of the human genome, there is still no reliable genetic test for autism, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, or any other major neuropsychiatric disorder (except for Huntingon’s disease, for which there was already a test, prior to the Human Genome Project). In late 2012, scientists claimed (in a paper in Molecular Psychiatry) that a genetic test for autism had been devised. In actuality, the “test,” a classifier developed using data from 237 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 146 genes, proved unreliable. The software had been trained on one set of human genes (from central Utah) and tested against another set (from northern Europe); it correctly predicted if you were of northern European descent, not whether you might be at risk for autism.

Over 1,000 genes are known to be differentially expressed in the autistic brain, but as of yet there is no way to predict in advance who will differentially express the genes in question.

Meanwhile, more than 80 candidate genes for alcoholism have been identified—in the fruit fly. Likewise, hundreds of genes have been “implicated” in schizophrenia (the database at currently contains 8,788 polymorphisms pertaining to 1,008 genes). But we are no closer to having reliable genetic markers for schizophrenia (much less depression) than we were in the 1930s, when the “feeble minded” werecompulsorily sterilized (not just in Nazi Germany but in the U.S. and most western countries) to keep their inferior genes from propagating.

The problem is, there’s no convincing evidence that schizophrenia (much less depression, or even alcoholism) is genetic in origin. To be sure, many neuropsychiatric problems (including schizophrenia) are familial, and most people blindly equate “runs in the family” with genetics. But the fact is, wealth, poverty, child abuse, eating/drinking habits, and many other things “run in families,” yet no one seriously suggests high net worth (for example) is genetic.

The ultimade proof, supposedly, of the genetic basis of schizophrenia comes in the form of twin studies that have been done showing a high rate of concordance for schizophrenia in monozygotic (identical) twins versus fraternal (non-identical or dizygotic) twins. But as psychologist Jay Joseph points out in The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope (2003, PCCS Books), the twin-study data are not particularly convincing when held up to scrutiny. Although early twin studies by Franz Kallman found concordance rates as high as 69% (which Kallman changed to 86% after applying unwarranted “age correction factors”), later studies have found much lower rates, and in fact the later the study, the lower the rate. By the late 1980s, some studies were reporting pairwise concordance rates of under 20% for schizophrenia in twins. The largest such study found:

Pairwise concordance rates for schizophrenia (11.0% for MZ and 1.8% for DZ) indicated environmental influence with apparent genetic liability.

Why shouldn’t we believe the earlier twin studies? Aside from small sample size (thus low statistical power) there are substantial issues around lack of blinding, uneven diagnostic capability (not just regarding schizophrenia, but monozygosity of twins), and researcher bias. (Kallman was an avowed eugenecist.) But a more serious issue, according to Jay Joseph and other critics of twin studies, is . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Mental Health, Science

The Pipe Dream of Easy War

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Very good opinion piece in the NY Times by H.R. McMaster, “an Army major general and the commanding officer at Fort Benning, Ga., who led the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq as a colonel in 2005 and 2006”:

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep,” the novelist Saul Bellow once wrote. We should keep that in mind when we consider the lessons from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — lessons of supreme importance as we plan the military of the future.

Our record of learning from previous experience is poor; one reason is that we apply history simplistically, or ignore it altogether, as a result of wishful thinking that makes the future appear easier and fundamentally different from the past.

We engaged in such thinking in the years before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; many accepted the conceit that lightning victories could be achieved by small numbers of technologically sophisticated American forces capable of launching precision strikes against enemy targets from safe distances.

These defense theories, associated with the belief that new technology had ushered in a whole new era of war, were then applied to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; in both, they clouded our understanding of the conflicts and delayed the development of effective strategies.

Today, budget pressures and the desire to avoid new conflicts have resurrected arguments that emerging technologies — or geopolitical shifts — have ushered in a new era of warfare. Some defense theorists dismiss the difficulties we ran into in Afghanistan and Iraq as aberrations. But they were not aberrations. The best way to guard against a new version of wishful thinking is to understand three age-old truths about war and how our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq validated their importance.

First, war is political. As the 19th-century Prussian philosopher of war Carl von Clausewitz said, “war should never be thought of as something autonomous, but always as an instrument of policy.”

In the years leading up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, thinking about defense was driven by ideas that regarded successful military operations as ends in themselves, rather than just one instrument of power that must be coordinated with others to achieve, and sustain, political goals. Believers in the theory known as the “Revolution in Military Affairs” misinterpreted the American-led coalition’s lopsided victory in the 1991 gulf war and predicted that further advances in military technology would deliver dominance over any opponent. Potential adversaries, they suggested, would not dare to threaten vital American interests.

The theory was hubristic. Yet it became orthodoxy and complicated our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, where underdeveloped war plans encountered unanticipated political problems. In Afghanistan, proxy forces helped topple the Taliban, but many of those militias and leaders then undermined efforts to rebuild an Afghan nation as they pursued narrow personal or political agendas. In Iraq, from 2003 to 2007, coalition strategy failed to address adequately the political grievances of minority populations, most notably Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.

In both wars, insurgent and terrorist groups capitalized on these grievances, recruiting new members and gaining support from a portion of the population. Over time, ethnic, tribal and sectarian polarization drove new violence, weakened both states, strengthened insurgents and magnified civilian suffering. The lesson: Be skeptical of concepts that divorce war from its political nature, particularly those that promise fast, cheap victory through technology.

Second, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Goldman Sachs aluminum scam (billions of dollars for nothing) is not an outlier

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The entire financial services industry is rotten. Les Leopold reports at AlterNet:

“A particularly troubling and consistent finding throughout the survey is that Wall Street’s future leaders–the young professionals who will one day assume control of the trillions of dollars that the industry manages—have lost their moral compass, accept corporate wrongdoing as a necessary evil and fear reporting this misconduct.”

In a shocking new survey [3] commissioned by the Labaton Sucharow law firm, Wall Street insiders say that breaking the law, screwing your clients and covering up crimes is a way of life on Wall Street. The shock is not that cheating is going on. We all know that. The shock is that these financiers would actually admit it on a survey. This should tell us that the Wall Street culture is so brazenly corrupt, so confident of not getting caught, so certain that a passive public won’t fight back that those surveyed didn’t even bother to lie about the fact that they were living, breathing sociopaths.

Here are some of the key findings of this sample of 250 traders, portfolio managers, investment bankers, hedge fund professionals, financial analysts, investment advisors, asset managers and stock brokers.

Catch me if you can!

“24% of financial services professionals likely would engage in insider trading to make $10 million… if they wouldn’t get arrested.  That figure surges to 38% for individuals with 10 years or less in the industry.”

Screw your clients.

“28% of financial services professionals feel that the financial services industry does not put clients’ interests first.”

They do it, so we have to do it too.

“More than half of respondents–52%–felt it was likely that their competitors have engaged in unethical or illegal activity to gain an edge in the market; 24% felt employees at their own company likely have engaged in misconduct to get ahead.”

Guess what? We still are cheating.

“Misconduct is still widespread in the financial services industry; 23% of respondents  indicated that they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace.”

To rise in a criminal organization, you have to be a criminal.

“Looking at seniority, 36% of respondents with 10 years or less experience in the industry believed financial services professionals may have to engage in misconduct to get ahead.”

The boss loves it when you cheat.

“17% of respondents felt that if leaders of their organization suspected that a top performer was earning large profits from insider trading, they likely would ignore the problem. More alarming, 15% of professionals in the industry believed that if leaders of their organization learned that a top performer had engaged in insider trading, they were unlikely to report that crime to law enforcement or regulatory authorities.”

(Bloomberg News columnist Jonathan Weil comes to Wall Street’s defense by calling the survey a “worthless smear” [4] because it’s not a scientific sample. But “scientific” or not, he has no explanation at all for why sizable percentages of these 250 respondents are so ethically challenged.)

Are the big banks and hedge funds criminal enterprises?

Given the attitudes of our financial elites, you would expect bad things to happen. The list of high crimes and misdemeanors is mind boggling, and growing every day.

  • Sell billions of dollars worth of bogus insurance policies that are supposed to provide payment protection for ill or unemployed mortgage holders, but actually provide no coverage at all [10].

  • Illegally trade on insider information. (71 hedge fund traders plead guilty or are convicted [13] in the last two years.)

  • Rating agencies turn tricks for cash by giving out thousands of bogus AAA ratings [18]. . .

Continue reading.

It seems quite clear that the government is protecting these businesses (probably because the businesses control the government). The Federal Reserve Board, for example, could immediately end the Goldman Sachs scam by revoking the exemption that allows it, but they are not about to do it. (I presume they are heavily invested in Goldman Sachs, and that’s the reason.) As Kevin Drum points out in this post:

Some genius at Goldman apparently had a brainstorm after reading the detailed rules that determine the spot price of aluminum. They figured that if storage times could be artificially lengthened, prices would go up and Goldman could make a killing. So they bought an aluminum storage business with the explicit goal of making customers wait a longer time for their aluminum. And they made a killing.

The Times hastens to add that Goldman has done nothing illegal. Of course not. Why bother when “special exemptions” granted by the Federal Reserve and “relaxed regulations” approved by Congress allow you to make billions legally? But perhaps considering the industry’s track record, the Fed is thinking of reversing its rule that allows investment banks to buy nonfinancial commodities businesses? Don’t be silly:

All of this could come to an end if the Federal Reserve Board declines to extend the exemptions that allowed Goldman and Morgan Stanley to make major investments in nonfinancial businesses — although there are indications in Washington that the Fed will let the arrangement stand. Wall Street banks, meanwhile, have focused their attention on another commodity. After a sustained lobbying effort, the Securities and Exchange Commission late last year approved a plan that will allow JPMorgan Chase, Goldman and BlackRock to buy up to 80 percent of the copper available on the market.

The Federal Reserve is no help: they’re in on the game. Congress is no help: they’re paralyzed by the influx of money from corporations. And thus the US goes down the tubes.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Predator Drone Strikes: 50 Civilians Are Killed For Every 1 Terrorist

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This from 9 month ago, but was news to me. Robert Taylor reported at PolicyMic:

While the 2012 presidential election racket focuses on gaffes, Romney’s binders, and Big Bird, the CIA and the Pentagon are currently busy finding ways to increase their military power and influence around the globe. According to the Washington Post, CIA Director David Petraeus wants an increased drone fleet to “bolster the agency’s ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging Al-Qaeda threats in North Africa or other trouble spots.”

And with the final presidential debate on Monday focusing on foreign policy, the issue of drone strikes could not be more prescient. President Obama and former Governor Romney both carefully tiptoed around discussing anything of real substance concerning domestic issues and the economy, and will both look to outhawk each other next week concerning the use of unmanned armed drones overseas — if it is even discussed at all.

It’s easy to see why they might want to avoid the subject. The use of drone strikes have increased exponentially under the Obama administration, becoming a signature aspect of his incredibly aggressive and reckless foreign policy. And while the president and his advisers defend both their supposed legality and precision while simultaneously bragging when convenient and denying when pressured that the drone program even exists, a closer look at the use of Predator drones tells a very different story.

Despite claims from the administration that drone strikes have killed very few civilians, multiple independent reports confirm that Obama is severely downplaying the wreckage that these drone strikes inflict. It is ultimately impossible to get exact numbers, but a new study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes are “significantly and consistently underestimated” by tracking organizations which are trying to take the place of government estimates on casualties.

There are estimates as high as 98% of drone strike casualties being civilians (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA is deliberately targeting those who show up after the sight of an attack, rescuers, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscient of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.

These numbers and reports alone should cast much doubt on the effectiveness at protecting the U.S. and combating terrorism that the Obama admnistration uses as justification for drone strikes. If a drone kills an actual terrorist but leaves multiple, sometimes dozens, of innocent civilians vaporized as well, this creates a brand new set of enemies and blowback. According to Jeremy Scahill’s reporting at The Nation, U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are the primary source for Al-Qaeda’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula. Obama’s “signature strikes” — where targets are hit for displaying “suspicious behavior” and which Petraeus also wants to expand — are backfiring and can only boomerang back to us.

While the CIA claims that the drone program operates “under a framework of legal and close government oversight,” multiple legal experts are challenging the legality of the drone program under both American and international law. But much like how the Obama administration is blocking any challenges to the provisions in the NDAA that essentially nullify habeus corpus and Posse Comitatus, any lawsuit or inquiry into the drone program has been met with staunch opposition — especially concerning the targeted assassinations by drones of Anwar Al-Awlaki and his 16-year old son, both U.S. citizens.

The Obama-CIA drone program is the perfect example of government secrecy, lawlessness, and the inevitable next step in the U.S. government’s long tradition of claiming the right to intervene military anywhere and everywhere it pleases. Government programs, whether they be welfare transfer payments or weapons contracts, like cancer, grow for growth’s sake.

Many Americans may display indifference to the use of drones and the CIA’s desire to expand the program. After all, these strikes are done thousands of miles away, and our noble public servants would never mislead us or fearmonger about a supposed foreign threat. Besides, it is far better to have CIA agents in Virginia or Nevada flying weaponized robots by remote control than to send in thousands of Marines, right?

The problem with this, of course, is twofold. First, . . .

Continue reading.

This sort of thing is, of course, the real reason for the crackdown on leaks: the government very much does not want the public to learn what it is doing.

I will say that killing 50 civilians to kill 1 terrorist seems very much like a war crime to me.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 11:20 am

Obama the Neocon

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Samuel Knight writes at Political Animal:

It’s not enough for the Obama administration to embrace some of the most aggressive national security policies of the Bush Administration – it has, apparently, decided it must embrace neoconservative rhetoric, too.

In her confirmation hearing this week, Samantha Power, the President’s nominee to lead the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, said she would confront “repressive regimes” and contest “the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.”

The comments, which were endorsed by the State Department, predictably outraged the democratically elected Venezuelan government and undermined ongoing negotiations aimed at restoring relations.

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is terminating the process that was started during the conversation in Guatemala, which was aimed at regularizing our diplomatic relations,” Venezuela’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued yesterday.

And they have every right to be upset at Power, and the State Department for backing her, here. Her comments about Venezuela are extraordinarily dishonest. She didn’t include theocratic U.S. ally Saudi Arabia when rattling off a list of “repressive regimes,” for example. Nor was her endorsement of a Security Council seat for the “repressive regime” occupying and ethnically cleansing Palestine anything but genuine.

Hypocrisy aside, Power’s assessment of Venezuela, too, is completely off base. On July 17th, twenty-eight scholars endorsed an “Open Letter to the Media” addressing this sort of sentiment, blasting broadbrush statements about Edward Snowden’s pursuit of asylum in Venezuela and Ecuador being ironic:

Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government, and that it gets away with more than the U.S. media does here in criticizing the government.

The letter is well worth reading in its entirety if for no other reason than the fact that it could have been republished as “An Open Letter to Samantha Power” just days later.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 9:46 am

Avoid Dubai: They’re crazy

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Report a rape, go to jail. BBC news reports:

A Norwegian woman has spoken out about the 16-month prison sentence she received in Dubai after reporting a rape incident to police.

Interior designer Marte Deborah Dalelv was on a business trip in Dubai when she says she was raped.

The 24-year-old reported the March attack to the police but found herself charged with having extramarital sex, drinking alcohol, and perjury.

Convicted earlier this week, she says she is appealing against the verdict.

The appeal hearing is scheduled for early September.

Describing the sentence as “very harsh”, she told the AFP news agency: “I am very nervous and tense. But I hope for the best and I take one day at a time. I just have to get through this.” . . .

Continue reading for the backstory.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 9:42 am

Posted in Government, Law

The Washington Post continues to ignore reality

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The Washington Post, along with the NY Times, was an enthusiastic cheerleader for going to war in Iraq (to find the weapons of mass destruction, you’ll recall). There were no such weapons, as authoritative sources at the time knew well.  Indeed, the US forced UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq because Bush & Co. definitely did not want the lack of weapons reported, because if it were, that might prevent the war. But, of course, if the purpose of war was to remove such weapons, finding out that Iraq didn’t have them would be what most people would call “good news.”

UPDATE: The Post‘s ombudsman won’t have much to say about this: the Post eliminated that position (which they had had for 40 years) on March 1. The ombudsman was an independent critic, and the Post decided that they would rather have one of their own employees do the job, so they now have a “reader representative,” whom they can threaten with firing if s/he doesn’t toe the company line. They don’t want anyone rocking the boat. As you’ll note in the article at the link, the story about ending the ombudsman’s role was posted at 9:13 p.m. on a Friday. The comments to the story are worth reading.

At any rate, take a look at this story in The Nation by Greg Mitchell, whom the Post hired to write about the Post‘s pre-war reporting (and see this Gawker report on how the Post killed the story because it told the truth—and the comments at the Gawker link are quite interesting):

UPDATE  The piece below was written, in only slightly different from, on assignment for The Washington Post but killed by the paper’s Outlook section on Thursday.   They later ran a piece by their own Paul Farhi claiming that the media “didn’t fail” on Iraq.  When I wrote about this today it drew wide attention across the Web.   Follow that all here.

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry, at least for the many war hawks. The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll. Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait. Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”? Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other—and blowing up our soldiers? And where were those WMD, biochem labs, and nuclear materials? Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas—it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”

By 2004 it was clear that Saddam’s WMD would never be found, but with another election season at hand, sorry was still the hardest word. But a few very limited glimmers of accountability began to appear. So let’s begin our catalog of the art of mea culpa and Iraq here. Much more in my new ebookSo Wrong for So Long.

PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY President Bush and many others—including scores of Democrats—who once claimed “slam dunk” evidence on Iraq’s WMD now admitted that this intelligence was more below-average than Mensa. But don’t blame them! They simply had been misled. Judith Miller of The New York Times, perhaps the prime fabulist in the run-up to war, explained that she was only as good as her sources—her sources having names like “Curveball” and “Red Cap Guy.”

But the news media, which for the most part had swallowed whole the WMD claims, was not facing re-election, so some self-criticism, at least of the “mistakes-were-made” variety came easier.

THE MINI-CULPA This phrase was coined by Jack Shafer of Slate after The New York Times published an “editors’ note” in May 2004, admitting it had publishing a few “problematic articles” (it didn’t mention any authors) on Iraqi WMD, but pointing out it was “taken in” like most in the Bush administration.

Unlike the TimesWashington Post editors three months later did not produce their own explanation but allowed chief media reporter Howard Kurtz to write a lengthy critique. Editors and reporters admitted they had often performed poorly but offered one excuse after another. With phrases such as “always easy in hindsight,” “editing difficulties,” “communication problems” and “there is limited space on Page 1.” One top reporter said, “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power. “ Topping them all, Kurtz reported that Bob Woodward “said it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly if weapons were ultimately found in Iraq.”

STONEWALLING As years passed, the carnage in Iraq intensified but accepting blame for this in America was still pretty much AWOL. President Bush and Vice President Cheney said that even if the WMD threat was bogus, they’d still do it again. Reason: They’d deposed a “dictator”—and would you rather have Saddam still in power?

A THOUSAND MEA CULPAS Bob Simon of CBS on doubts about the WMD: “No, in all honesty, with a thousand mea culpas, I don’t think we followed up on this….I think we all felt from the beginning that to deal with a subject as explosive as this, we should keep it, in a way, almost light—if that doesn’t seem ridiculous.”

Now let’s flash forward to this past two weeks, when Iraq (remember Iraq?) re-emerged in the news and opinion sections. But anyone who expected that hair shirts would come into fashion must have been sadly disappointed. The mea culpas would not be maxima. First, those who accepted some blame.


Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2013 at 9:03 am

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