Friday, April 26, 2002

I will be gone for the weekend, so there will be no posts until Sunday evening, or perhaps Monday. I will not have access to a computer.

Everyone have a great weekend. (smile)

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Robert Scheer has a new column up, and while it is not as odious as his past two columns, I still have a few issues with it.

The claim, hotly expressed in thousands of angry e-mails and subscription cancellations, that the U.S. media are anti-Israel is so absurd as to suggest hysteria. Are American Jews in such deep denial about the brutality of Israel's recent actions that they would damn those who report the truth?

No, I don't think so. The problem many people (Jews and non-Jews alike) have with the coverage is that, despite the fact that it is much more balanced than what Europe is producing, it is still biased against Israel.

Scheer's paper, the Los Angeles Times, is a case in point. There was a Pro-Israeli rally in Van Nuys on Sunday that attracted 60,000 people, and featured *BOTH* Gray Davis, the current governor (who is running for reelection) and Bill Simon, his GOP opponent, as well as several other notable speakers. The Times ignored this rally altogether. They also had rather slim support for the rally in Washington five days earlier, which had 100,000 people in attendance, along with prominent congressmen, and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, they have had coverage of the little pro-Palestinian rallies that have sprung up through the LA area. This is bias, which Scheer does not seem to notice.

Certainly the American media are far more sympathetic to Israel than publishers and journalists in the rest of the world. This is particularly true in Western Europe, perhaps reflecting the widespread public sympathy there for the Palestinians, as measured in recent polls. Not that sympathy for Israelis, bloodied repeatedly by a merciless bombing campaign targeting civilians, is not equally warranted. It is my view that the prime historical responsibility for the failure to make peace in the Mideast lies with the refusal of the Arab nations to accept the justifiable existence of the Jewish state. However, the traditional absence of acknowledgement in U.S. news reporting of the ongoing victimization of the Palestinians, powerless from the beginning of their displacement half a century ago, is callously immoral.

As I pointed out, the European press, especially the British "elite" papers such as the Guardian, are appallingly anti-Israel. I am not talking about support for the Palestinians, I am talking about attacks on Israel, on Sharon, on the IDF, and even on Jews living outside of the Middle East altogether. I wonder how much of the support for the Palestinians in Europe is due to the wildly lopsided coverage of the conflict in Israel, and how it would shift if Europeans were to read American or Israeli news reports.

The Palestinians were not displaced by Israel, they were displaced by the invading armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq when they attacked Israel in 1948. Israel did not occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip until after the 1967 war. In between, Jordan (which annexed the West Bank) and Egypt (which annexed the Gaza Strip) were not particularly interested in improving conditions for the residents of these two areas, nor for the refugees created by the arab-instigated wars. (It is true that Israel invaded first in both 1956 and 1967, but both of these wars were caused by Arabic blockades of Eilat and constant shelling of northern Israel by the Syrians and Lebanese; the Israelis had a valid casus belli in each case). It is also notable that despite the Arab claims of the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque (on the Temple Mount), not even one Arabic political or major religious leader visited the mosque between 1948 and 1967. In fact, none of the Arabic leaders visited "Arabic East Jerusalem" at all during that time.

Palestinian victimization is not being ignored here in the US; look at all of the coverage of the alleged Jenin Massacre, and the sympathetic (sycophantic might be a better word) tales of the "plight" of the terrorists holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, or the stories about how the "cruel" Israelis are stopping ambulances to check for explosives. All of these stories have received widespread coverage here in the US.

Moreover, no group is so safely denigrated in the mass media of this country, particularly in film, as "the Arabs," who became the enemy of choice in post-Cold War movie-making in such films as "True Lies." And no group is as underrepresented in the media work force; there are more than 3 million Arab Americans, yet it is exceedingly rare to find one working as a newspaper reporter or TV news personality.

It is rather pathetic for Scheer to reach back eight years to find a single major film with Arabic villians, while he simultaneously ignores the successful effort by CAIR to change the villians in "The Sum of All Fears" from Arabic terrorists to European Neo-Nazis. While it is true that there have been a number of movies with Anti-Arab themes ("Rules of Engagement" comes to mind) there is no more malignant stereotyping of Arabs coming from Hollywood then there is of, say, Republicans or big business executives.

While it is true that Arab-Americans do not have a big presence in the news world, that may be due to the career paths that Arabs choose in the US. There are a *lot* of Arabic doctors, probably far more than a proportionate share, but that is not a problem. Conversely, there are not a lot of Arabic NHL hockey players, but I doubt there will be a lot of coverage on THAT issue. Scheer has tried this line before, and while he does not state it explicitly this time, the implication is that there is a concerted effort to keep them out of the newsroom and off the screens of our televisions. This is not the case.

The American Society of Newspaper Editors doesn't even include Arabs or Muslims in its annual monitoring of groups underrepresented in the nation's newsrooms. Surely, if there were even a sprinkling of people in the news biz who were hearing from relatives in Ramallah or Jenin, it would influence the way events are interpreted.

Perhaps this is because there are no allegations of bias against Arabic/Muslim journalists, except from Robert Scheer and the folks over at CAIR. While I concede that having a relative in a war zone would probably result in increased coverage, there is no guarantee that it would be any more accurate than what we are seeing now, and given the Palestinian Authority's concerted media campaign, I would wonder if the relatives were reporting with a PA gun to their head, telling the reporter what the PA wanted disseminated.

Jews are not underrepresented in the U.S. media ranks, and it is a testament to their professionalism that their coverage is balanced. Odd, though, that other Jews deem their work prejudiced against Israel and at times even anti-Semitic; the convenient denigration is that a Jewish journalist who dares disagree with the more hawkish actions of Israel must be consumed with self-hate.

It is interesting how this canard has come home to roost. The left has used the "self-hatred" label for years when they are dealing with minorities who don't behave like good minorities should (in other words, support the left-wing agenda of most minority advocacy groups). It is particularly common against blacks such as Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and gays such as (Log Cabin Republican leader) Rich Tafel. It is still wrong. Most of the criticism against Jewish apologists for the Palestinians has nothing to do with alleged self-hate, just blind stupidity.

Full disclosure: I am Jewish and I daily converse with Jewish friends and acquaintances whose relatives, including their children, are living through the hell that suicide bombers have brought to the heart of Israel's civic life. Meanwhile, I have not a single acquaintance who is personally connected with anyone on the Palestinian side of events.

Scheer seems to think that this lends a greater aura of credibility to his pro-Palestinian biases. It does not. It just makes it all the more bewildering, since most reasonable people would feel a certain amount of anger towards a group that was killing and disrupting the lives of people for whom they care.

Scheer is remarkably like Robert Fisk, who still makes excuses for the Islamic extremists even after they beat him up. I cannot understand this mentality, and I am not sure I would ever want to understand. It is bizarre.

It would have been irresponsible for the media, Jewish or not, to fail to report the depressing accounts of United Nations and other observers that the Israeli onslaught was aimed at destroying all signs of civic life as well as the stated purpose of rooting out terror.

The media have failed to report on the true scope of the destruction in Jenin--it is nowhere near as bad as the pictures imply. All of the destruction is confined to a small area, one which the terrorists holed up in the camp had booby-trapped the buildings and mined the roads in an attempt to keep the Israelis away from their weapons caches. As for wanton destruction, the Israelis concentrated on police stations and other Palestinian Authority buildings because they had turned into incubation areas for terrorist cells,and because they too were being used as caches for Palestinian weaponry and explosive devices.

Or to treat Palestinian civilian deaths as a necessary evil made legitimate because they are caused by U.S.-supplied tanks and choppers rather than by suicide bombers.

I am so sick and tired of seeing this line. Did he get it from Noam Chomsky, or was it in Mother Jones? It does not matter where the weapons are from, but the anti-American left loves trying to tie American arms sales to any deaths they can find in an effort to discredit our foreign policy. The Palestinian deaths are not due to deliberate targetting of civilians, as are the suicide bombings. The vast majority of Palestinian deaths are of those who were actively attacking Israel. There were civilian deaths, to be sure, but not on the scale of the deaths of Israeli civilians. The Israeli reaction was justified because the Palestinians kept killing innocent Jews.

There was a time when the Zionist pioneers did not have tanks and helicopters and also placed bombs to get rid of the British occupiers.

Yes, and they were also condemned as terrorists. The difference is that they stopped killing indescriminately, whereas the Arabic terrorists have not.

Remember, Hezbollah was formed to get the Israelis out of Lebanon. Well, the Israelis *are* gone from Lebanon, and Hezbollah is still around, and has taken to attacking Israelis in Israel. I doubt that they will stop if Israel withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza; they will see it as a validation of their tactics, and continue the attacks in an attempt to gain further concessions from the Israelis.

There is no easy way to end this standoff, but the Palestinians need to realize that they need to stop the attacks and recognize Israel before any meaningful dialogue occurs. I cannot imagine Israel ever making an offer as generous as the one Ehad Barak made at Camp David less than two years ago, because all of the concessions have come from their side. All they got for their efforts was 500 more dead Jews. Arafat has not budged at all, and has demonstrated an unwillingness to control the bombers and work with the Israelis to find a lasting solution.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

While I work up the energy to rebut Robert Scheer, take a look at this little gem from sophismata, destroying one of the environmental movement's greatest arguments in favor of ratifying the fatally flawed Kyoto Treaty.

While you are there, check out this post (it's the next post above the one I've referenced above) for a look of how the New York Times played games with numbers to create a misleading chart.

(29 April 2002--CORRECTION: Sophismata erred on his numbers. Here is his post with the correct figures, and citations.)

This is for anyone out there who has not seen the message on InstaPundit.

The Newest Smarter Smarter Harper's Index is up. The author rebuts a few statistics from the most recent issue of Harper's magazine each month. It's worth a look.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

For some reason, my original post didn't show up...

Croooowblog has permalinked me, and I have reciprocated. Thanks, Henry!

Did you hear about this rally? Neither did I, because I rely on the Los Angeles Times for hard copy news.

60,000 show up for a rally in Van Nuys (right outside LA), and the LA Times doesn't have a single article. Not in the print edition, not on their website.

This was not an obscure event. Governor Gray Davis attended, Alan Keyes attended, the Israeli consul attended.

The Los Angeles Times did not attend.

(Thanks to Little Green Footballs for the link.)

Sunday, April 21, 2002

After seeing a few more articles about campaign finance reform, I've come to the conclusion that we need REAL reform. Since the CFR law signed into law shreds the constitution, why not use a cross-cut shredder and turn it into confetti? Here's my eight-point proposal.

1). Eliminate "soft money" entirely. Let the candidates raise their own money.

2). Eliminate all contributions by any organization or corporation, including "bundling" groups such as EMILY's List. Persons wishing to contribute to a candidate can send the money to the candidate directly.

3). Eliminate all out-of-state contributions to congressional and senatorial candidates. They are elected to serve their constituents, not out-of-state special interests.

4). Eliminate the franked mail (free mail) available to incumbent politicians. Any candidate that needs to blow his own horn (on the taxpayer's dime) is not serving his constituents very well.

5). Set a very low spending ceiling on campaigns-perhaps $100,000 for a congressional campaign, $250,000 for a senatorial campaign, and $3 Million for a presidential campaign. This will eliminate many of the obnoxious ads that flood the airwaves. It will reduce the number of campaign workers that are being financed by public funds (in the form of matching funds), and will also prevent deep-pocketed candidates (Jon Corzine and Steve Forbes come to mind) from inundating the airwaves with self-financed ads. The cap must be indexed to the costs of the local media markets, as it costs a lot more to advertise in New York City than it does in South Dakota.

6). Ban all political advertisements by special interest groups--the NRA, the pharmaceutical industry, the Christian Coalition, the Sierra Club, the ACLU, People for the American Way, etc. They can mail guides to their members (only their members) advising them how to vote, but they cannot contribute to the election or a candidate, or run attack ads against a candidate they oppose.

7). Eliminate funding of the political conventions. They serve no purpose any more; it is known months in advance who the party nominees will be, and there is no reason for the American taxpayer to pick up the tab for the two parties to preen before the media talking heads.

8). Institute term limits for congressmen and senators. Does anyone disagree with the statement "Strom Thurmond has served WAY too long"? Or Jesse Helms, or Ted Kennedy, or Robert Byrd? There are plenty of qualified candidates out there; we don't need a permanent ruling class of career politicians.

The last is not exactly a finance reform, but it directly influences spending. Incumbency is an advantage in and of itself, and if we have a regular shuffling of politicians, we can eliminate some of the "fiefdom" mentality that permeates congress--the unshakeable sense of entitlement that long-serving members often develop. They are elected to serve us, not for us to serve them. Sometimes they need to be reminded.

Jeff Goldstein unloads both barrels at the demonstrators in Washington DC. His analysis is well-organized, nicely written, and wonderfully vitirolic. Swing by and have a look.

I have discovered that Blogger does not like the <blockquote> and </blockquote> commands, so I have switched back to using italics for quoting. I'd rather not have to hand-format every single paragraph in my posts, and it appears that the command does weird things to my margin settings.

I plan on switching to Movable Type when I move off Blogspot. <blockquote> and </blockquote> work just fine using movable type.

Bear with me, please.

Weighing in on the Geoffrey Nunberg bias debate...

I am not responding to his original article, but rather to his response to criticism of the original piece.

But that's meretricious, in every sense of the term. Concerned Women of America is a self-identified conservative Christian group (it opposes, among other things, abortion, homosexual adoption, hate-crime legislation, the AmeriCorps volunteer program, and the teaching of "ill-conceived Darwinian theory" in the schools). Whereas NOW makes a point of rejecting explicitly partisan labels -- the appropriate description of the group is "feminist." To insist on labeling it as liberal would be to assume that to be pro-choice makes you by definition a liberal, by which criterion Goldberg ought to be equally indignant that the press doesn't use the "liberal" label for Christine Todd Whitman or Tom Ridge.

Let me get this straight--because NOW rejects partisan labels, they are non-partisan? That appears to be the argument Nunburg is making. NOW *is* liberal, in addition to being feminist. Nunberg is attempting to explain away NOW's liberal agenda by implying the only reason it has been tagged thusly is support of abortion. Their disdain for the GOP can be seen in this document from their website, entitled "GOP Pushes to Advance Conservative Agenda". Conservatives working to further a conservative agenda? Seems reasonable to me.

Bozell claims that I ignored studies by the Media Research Center that show discrepancies in the labeling of what he takes to be conservative and liberal groups. For example, he says, newspaper stories on the Competitive Enterprise Institute included a conservative label 28 percent of the time, compared to less than one percent for the Sierra Club, and that Concerned Women for America is labeled far more often than Planned Parenthood.

But those comparisons are as transparently loaded as Goldberg's are. After all, the Sierra Club membership came close to adopting a resolution favoring immigration restriction a few years ago, and Planned Parenthood proudly points out that Peggy Goldwater was the founder of its Arizona chapter. To insist that the press describe these groups as liberal amounts to demanding that it adopt the lexicon of the right on a wholesale basis, like a baseball manager demanding that the team's own fans should determine the strike zone. Everyone knows it's ludicrous, but the bleachers eat it up anyway.

Gee, the Sierra Club "almost" supported something not entirely liberal (in other words, they rejected it), therefore they cannot possibly be liberal. Nunburg is attempting to tie a liberal group to a position that is not liberal, thereby absolving the group of any bias. By his reasoning, Senator Russ Feingold is not liberal because he voted to confirm John Ashcroft as Attorney-General. (I think Feingold would be either irritated or amused by any attempt to identify him as anything other than solidly, proudly liberal.) Likewise, Barry Goldwater was not conservative because of his support for gay rights. Black is white? Up is down? This is not "the lexicon of the right:" it is common sense.

It's notable that Bozell doesn't mention any figures for well-known groups like the Americans for Democratic Action or the Center for Justice, who fairly deserve the liberal label. As it happens, I did counts for a number of political organizations like these, and if I wanted to play Bozell's game I could point out that ADA and the Center for Justice are labeled far more often than conservative groups like the Cato Institute, the National Association of Scholars, or the Center for the Study of Popular Culture. But that would be intellectually dishonest -- the fact is that there's a lot of unaccountable variation in the frequency of labeling of groups, with some groups on both sides, like the Heritage Foundation and ADA, being labeled far more than others.

Well, the Cato Institute isn't really conservative, it is libertarian. Its views on the drug war, on civil liberties, and on defense issues are decidedly UN-conservative. As to the rest, I cannot ever recall seeing a citation for the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in the media where they did not identify either the group or its founder, David Horowitz, with some type of label (sorry, Mr. Nunburg, labeling Horowitz as right-wing counts as a citation for the center, in this case, since they are so closely identified). I'd also like to know the number of citations received by the more obscure groups; smaller numbers tend to produce more unbalanced results, because of the greater weight assumed by each article.

One other point worth mentioning is that Boyd did another search that included not just the labels "conservative" and "liberal," but also the labels "right wing" and "left wing," which increased the disparity in the labeling of conservatives to around 30 percent. Conservative media critics have often claimed that the press uses "right wing" a good deal more often than "left wing," and in this they're absolutely right. In my own data, for example, I found that Jesse Helms was described as "right wing" about thirty times as often as Paul Wellstone was described as "left wing." But if you are going to look at "left wing," you're obliged to look at the other labels the press uses for liberal politicians, as well -- terms like "progressive," "on the left, " "leftist," and so on. In my own data, it turned out that these labels were applied to Wellstone slightly more frequently than the analogous labels with "right" were applied to Helms. And when I did some searches in the same database that Boyd used, I found that the inclusion of terms like "progressive," "leftist," and "on the left" would have increased Wellstone's rate of labeling by about fifty percent, and doubled Barney Frank's. In for a penny, in for a pound.

It is true that the press will often use "kindler, gentler" terms such as "progressive" and "on the left" to describe liberal individuals. It is also true that terms such as "arch-conservative", "reactionary", and "from the Taliban wing of the Republican Party" are applied to Helms, and those three terms are much more incendiary than the relatively innocuous (some might say complimentary) "progressive". In addition, Nunberg points out that Helms received 30 times the number of "right-wing" hits compared to Wellstone's "left-wing", and then tells us that "progressive" and the like increase Wellstone's labelling by about 50%. That still means that Helms was labelled a lot more than Wellstone, not even taking into account the number of analogous labels Helms received in the additional search.

Another point is that Nunburg (and consequently Boyd) looked at specific people. Much of the labeling to which conservatives object is directed at the party itself, not at specific members. While nobody would doubt that Helms and Delay are conservative, they share little in common with fellow Republicans Nancy Johnson, Sherwood Boehlert, and Connie Morella. Nonetheless, they are depicted as the definition of the GOP. Why aren't Maxine Waters and Ted Kennedy presented as exemplars of the Democrats?

That's fair enough, but in this connection I was struck by the fact that none of the critics took on the single most extraordinary result in the data I looked at -- this one involving, not labeling, but the way the press talks about the bias story itself. In the newspapers I looked at, the word "media" appears within seven words of "liberal bias" 469 times and within seven words of "conservative bias" just 17 times -- a twenty-seven-fold discrepancy. (As it happens, the disproportion is about the same in the database that Boyd looked at -- 72 to 3).

Now there's a difference that truly deserves to be called staggering. But how should we explain it? Certainly critics on the Left haven't been silent about what they take to be conservative bias in the media, whether in the pages of political reviews or in dozens of recent books. But the press has given their charges virtually no attention, while giving huge play to complaints from the right about liberal bias. That's hardly what you'd expect from a press that really did have a decided liberal bias, and in fact the discrepancy is far greater than anything you could explain by supposing that reporters were merely bending over backwards to be fair -- in that case, after all, you'd expect them to give at least a polite nod to the other side, as well.

Here is another interesting point that Nunburg did not fully pursue. How many times was "liberal bias" prefaced by "alleged" or "so-called" or the like? I'd like to see a breakdown on THAT statistic.

Actually, there are only a few groups that constantly complain about conservative bias--one of them is Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). FAIR is not, however, a liberal counterpart to the Media Research Center--they are more of a Chomsky/Naderite anti-corporate attack dog. According to them, the media cannot have a liberal bias because they are all owned by large corporations. This, of course, is ludicrous (look at the money Big Entertainment/Hollywood dumps on the Democratic Party every election cycle), but its obviousness has been why it doesn't receive more play in the media, not some big conspiracy.

For yet another look at media bias, here is an exhaustive study of labeling in the New York Times. The guy who put the piece together was very careful to include only news items, not commentary, so the results are all the more striking. His argument further buttresses the accusations of bias at the Times.

UPDATE-22April2002/9:50pm PDT--Richard Bennett and Megan McArdle both have a lot to say about this issue, and they handle it far better than I. See what they have to say about this. I also need to correct my oversight by posting Edward Boyd's original post on the subject. He has several more comments posted on this subject; scroll up to read them.

Yikes! Fasten your seat belts, boys. It's gonna be a bumpy ride. </Joan Crawford>

Le Pen is a fascist. He is proud of this fact, and his draconian anti-immigration and anti-semitic views are likely to have serious repercussions in France, where anti-Israeli incidents, driven by the large Arabic immigrant population, have been on the upswing. I think the simple fact that he advanced will cause demonstrations, but the immigrants are going to be confused, because he shares their anti-semitism. Might be interesting to watch, although I fear that violence could escalate to an unprecedented level.

It is interesting, though, that a country with a heavily socialistic tradition as France saw two (nominally) right-of-center candidates advance to the runoff. Granted, turnout was poor and there was a huge field of candidates from which to choose, but it's still a surprise. Imagine if Vermont were to have a congressional election in which the Democratic candidate were to place behind a Republican and a Constitution Party candidate. (for information on the Constitution party, click here. Caveat Lector--it's scary.)

Los Angeles Times Watch:

Okay, I was wrong. Today's print version of the Times doesn't have the front page covered with pictures and stories from the protests in Washington. In fact, there aren't *any* pictures or stories on the front page. There are three stories, on two pages (A14 and A15). I am surprised, but pleased.

Even the online version has tamped down coverage; the only links on the front page of the site are two text links at the very bottom of the page.

In other LA Times news, there was a pair of letters in yesterday's edition with mild criticisms of Rich Ganis' article on the BK Veggie (see my flame from last week). One of the writers was quoted by Mr. Ganis in the article, but disagrees with the potential impact of the sandwich.

(Incidentally, Mr. Ganis left an extremely polite message here with the URL to his organization's website, which was misidentified in the Times article. Considering the less-than-conciliatory tone of my post </understatement>, I appreciate his courtesy, even as I continue to disagree with his assessment of the BK Veggie and the fast food industry in general.)

Thanks to Live from the World Trade Center, I have a new link. He's irreverant, he's libertarian, he's Radley Balko, your host at The Agitator. His take on the protests in Washington yesterday is absolutely priceless.