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Taking Stands

In re: Tyson, Davis's recall, WMD, security leaks, writing, art, and more.

6.4.03

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IN TYSON'S CORNER:
Re: jimi izrael's Saving Mike Tyson:

Finally, someone in the media has compassion. I've often hoped for the same thing jimi relates in his last two sentences.
-- Stephanie Dreher
Tampa, FL

GRAY SKIES
Re: George Neumayr's Total Recall:

Good article but once again the Republicans will find a way to blow this opportunity. Bill Simon lost by 340,000 votes; 2.6 million registered Republicans didn't even bother to show up! I'm no dummy, but the California GOP gets what it deserves. Thanks.
-- C.W.

I thought David Horowitz hit the problem on the head. Why bail out the Democratic Party and hurt the Republicans by recalling Gray Davis? If Davis is recalled, then the Dems would probably end up with the governorship, giving them a leg up on the next full term. And the Republicans can't get too involved in the mess without getting an awful lot of mud on themselves. Why not let the Dems wallow in their own problems?
-- Chip Conway

George Neumayr replies:
I see Chip Conway's point. This could backfire for the Republicans. But should political calculations determine whether or not a corrupt governor is removed from office? Should Republicans say, "It is good politics for us to let a corrupt governor continue to ruin the state. That way we will win next time around"?

SECURITY AGAINST LEAKS
Re: Jed Babbin's Press Freedom Requires Press Responsibility:

Agreed. Jed's suggestions make sense. But my real question is: Are we going to find any WMD? Was our intelligence flawed? Or was it merely outdated? Or, are we gonna dig up what the left says never existed? Hope so. What does Mr. Babbin have to say? I'm curious, 'cause I've based some of my opinions on what he's written in his columns.
-- Al Markel
San Francisco, CA

Mr. Babbin, Jed, Sir: What were you smoking when you wrote the column? It had to be among the best, most potent available.

First, government at all levels has been singularly unsuccessful in positively identifying leakers. Have you ever heard of "Deep Throat"? And Jed, can we get real here? The press will never, ever cooperate by helping to reveal its own sources. Forget the practical effect of such cooperation. This is an absolute article of faith within the media and the only absolute sin that they recognize. Since you recommend against jail time for reporters, they have zero incentive to identify the leakers.

You talk of reporters determining if airing a story will benefit "our enemies." Whose enemies, the government or the press? In many, if not most, incidences they are their own most dedicated enemies, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. A very large bloc of the press of today do not even consider themselves American citizens unless it involves one of their own benefits or rights. They consider themselves world or global citizens, whatever that means.

Just exactly what authority is going to force the various media entities to cooperate and enter into these contracts? None of them will give up the "Right of the Scoop" voluntarily. And a written contract, please. I want some of what you are smoking. Oh yeah, I sure can see the N.Y. Times or L.A. Times or Washington Post willingly entering into a contract with the Washington Times or National Review or (shudder) Drudge.

Now lets see, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to allow the DoD to set up a censorship board and give it legally binding authority over public media information dissemination. And let us see who would be on this "Board." From the retired section we could have Walter Cronkite and Ted Turner. They would be great at voting to withhold Bush Administration secrets from the public. They could be joined in the active journalists category by Howell Raines and Dan Rather and Peter Jennings and "Pinch" Sulzberger. Sure we can get a two-thirds vote from that bunch to withhold CIA data on the prospects of covertly assisting regime change in Iran by George Bush and Don Rumsfeld.

Mr. Babbin, Sir, is this an excerpt from Chapter 1 of your next novel? Do I need a pipe or cigarette papers to share some of your "weed" and does it have to be inhaled? Gee, Toto, lets see where this funny looking yellow road goes. This is a humor column, right? Please Jed, for your family's sake, get counseling. You seem to be a good guy, take two aspirins, drink plenty of liquids, and get bed rest. The doctor will call you in the morning.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

Jed Babbin replies:
Ken Shreve's response is, in a very strange way, encouraging. My drug of choice is scotch whiskey, and I assure him I had very little of it while writing the column. Perhaps too little. The issue is not drug-induced unreality, but how can we solve an intractable problem that has grown far too serious to ignore.

No, I don't trust the likes of Punch Sulzberger, Walter Cronkite or Ted Turner to censor secrets. But I do trust the likes of Lt. Gen. Tom McInerny, MGen. Paul Vallely, Col. Ken Allard, and Capt. Chuck Nash -- some of the talking warheads I have worked with on TV -- to do that. That's why the committee I propose would have to have a 2/3 favorable vote to release anything. The military people -- and maybe we add a couple of former spooks to the mix -- are all familiar enough with classified information, and the damage that can come from releasing it, to leaven the judgment of the others.

DoD can -- without legislation -- find a need to grant security clearances in the best interests of the nation. Once the press comes to the conclusion that this is the way to go, it can be done.

The biggest obstacle, as Mr. Shreve so correctly point out, is the willingness of the media to cooperate and bind itself to the process. There are few, if any, of the major media who will even admit there is a problem. That's why we need to be extraordinarily vigorous in pursuing and punishing the leakers. One writer told me this morning that the leak of the OBL phone intercepts came from a well-known Democratic senator. If so, he should be facing criminal charges. Those leakers -- in Congress or the Executive -- should be jailed for the crime of publishing our nation's secrets. If the leakers are punished, and the press can be brought to see the problem, maybe we can solve this.

There are many obstacles to solving this problem. But until a better idea comes along, I'm sticking with mine.

To reply to Mr. Martin, I believe the WMD are in large part still hidden in Iraq. Eventually, we will find parts of it. The rest has probably been smuggled out to Syria and even Lebanon. I have received reports of specific locations in Lebanon, but those reports are totally unsubstantiated. Saddam is probably still alive. While he and his sons are in the mix, many Iraqis will not cooperate in finding the WMD. It may be a long time before the WMD are really found and destroyed.

EPSON SALT
Re: Lawrence Henry's Tomorrow's Volkswagen :

You may be right, but who'd buy a used "car" from someone who bought a Kaypro? Me, I was even more full of hubris -- in 1983 I went for the $2500 whiz-bang Epson Q-10! Still got it. Maybe in another 30 years it'll be an antique and I'll get a good return on my "investment"!

If most people are like me, they close all pop-up ads as soon as they try to creep into my realm. But then, I've been a TV ad zapper ever since remote controls came out, what, twenty years ago. So, I know I'm not normal. I bet you are correct, though, and through data base mining and targeted advertising, a successful ad business model will arise.
-- James Crystal

WORD PLAY
Re: John R. Dunlap's Writer's Cramp and the "Mailering It In" letters in Reader Mail's Things Are Looking Up:

Despite the painful limits of my own literacy, I at least have the humility to recognize when I am beyond my depth. I knew that Prof. Dunlap erred when he did not explain why his samples were exemplary, for I knew that (like myself) his readership would have a difficult time recognizing bad writing -- even when it is being named.

Part of the problem probably stems from our lower expectations. We desire merely to communicate -- there is no concern for meaningfulness. If Lewis Carroll can write "slithy," surely piñatas can erupt without danger.

But there is an even deeper problem demonstrated by the letters. The student is quoted as using "erupt", while the letter writer misquotes as "explode." Another student writes "my grandmother", while the letter writer merely writes "grandmother."

While observers have long noticed that speech limits thought (it is difficult to conceptualize that which we cannot name), these letters demonstrate how critical observation is to the process. Even in the midst of an article whose purpose was to draw attention to the inadequacies of these phrases and sentences, we cannot bring ourselves to observe the actual words! Sloppiness in observation will always yield poor communication.

The good professor did convince me that should I ever attempt to put up my own web page, that I will prominently feature a link requesting a conservative English professor to contact me.

I need an editor.
-- Nathan Zook
Austin, TX

P.S. It might amuse the professor to criticize this piece in detail for the instruction of those of us who managed to avoid learning in our English classes.

John R. Dunlap replies:
Consider what I say eminently ignorable, but I would take exception to "exemplary" (wouldn't "egregious" be better in the context?); to "meaningfulness" (the term "meaningful" by now being hopelessly meaningless); and to "while" (in the sense of "although," which is surely one of its meanings, but why not use "although" to avoid the ambiguous uncertainty during the first half of the sentence?).

THE ART OF ART
Re: Herbert London Picasso-Matisse vs. Manet-Velazquez:

My congratulations and heartfelt thanks for the subject piece. I share your views entirely, having many years ago come to the conclusions so expertly aired by you. Rest assured that I will pass on your essay to the two of my five daughters who specialized in art in their college years.

Allow me, however, to give a little credit where credit is due. The following is a quotation I copied from some publication -- I know not which, but will keep looking -- many years ago. It is attributed to Picasso himself.

"In art the mass of people no longer seeks consolation and exaltation, but those who are refined, rich, unoccupied, who are distillers of quintessences, seek what is new, strange, original, extravagant, scandalous. I myself, since Cubism and before, have satisfied these masters and critics with all the changing oddities which passed through my head, and the less they understood me, the more they admired me. By amusing myself with all these games, with all these absurdities, puzzles, rebuses, arabesques, I became famous and that very quickly. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, fortune, riches. And today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt were great painters. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear, but it has the merit of being sincere."

An astoundingly honest self-effacement, it would seem, and at the same time a rock-solid substantiation of your views.
-- James Martin
Adamstown, MD

QUIETLY PRO-LIFE
Re: The Washington Prowler's Marin Counting (scroll down):

"Marin is the classic Bush/Rove candidate: a moderate on social issues, such as abortion, while remaining loyal and true to the Bush economic and international agenda. That strategy worked wonders in states like Minnesota and Missouri last year in helping the GOP retake majority control of the Senate."

This is true in some states, but definitely not Minnesota and Missouri. Norm Coleman left the DLF because he is a pro-life social conservative, while being moderate on other issues like the environment. Jim Talent is a conservative all the way. Perhaps the Prowler was thinking of Iowa, with Rep. Greg Ganske, a social moderate? Iowa is located between Minnesota and Missouri. I know, American geography can be so confusing!
-- John Zomberg

The Prowler replies:
No, I was thinking about Missouri and Minnesota, where the Republican Senate candidates played down abortion as an issue during their winning campaigns.

HALF OFF
This weekend I saw a TV advertisement for the New York Times at a 50% savings over their customary charge. I wondered if the New York Times was now charging only by the truth. With the paper at only about 50% in telling the truth, the price is about right. But I'm not buying -- any of it.
-- Steve Shaver

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