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Happy Birthday, Mr. Rallying Point!

2/9/2002 04:46:40 PM

‘Fascist’ Overuse, Libertarian Jackboots, and the Language of Equivalence: Great little post by Charles Kuffner on language and politics. Via Matthew Yglesias.

2/8/2002 03:03:06 PM

Rancid Reactions to Patriotic Fluff: Not that you care, or should, but I’m not going to watch the Olympics this year, because I don’t fancy winter sports, I abhor the way NBC has covered previous Games, and I’ve had my fill of mawkish displays of patriotism at sporting events. My grand solution to these non-problems? Turn off the television, and limit my sports-page intake to basketball coverage. Fortunately, I’m not forced to watch teevee for a living, nor have I been so forced for the past 30 years. The L.A. Times’ Howard Rosenberg, who has, writes yet another rancid column today, combining his hatreds of Kenneth Lay, NBC, and those terrible "multitudes."
God, whose favorite colors we all know are red, white and blue, has been deluged with post-Sept. 11 pleas to bless America. This message is being sent via mass-produced "God Bless America" signs and banners that have surfaced among the multitudes.

As if God had to be asked. As if we weren't always God's favorites. As if God, at this very moment, weren't chanting, "USA, USA, USA."

Among the beneficiaries of this God-inclusive patriotism are America's Olympic athletes, who would naturally be covered by any blanket blessing from above, because God is surely as much a sports fanatic as the Old Glories from NBC who will be covering these Winter Games with their famous jingoistic zeal.
My dear friend Ben Sullivan, who writes Comdex’ IT Insider column, in addition to his own Calscientist.com and Techblog, reminded me again last night, over pitcher number 7 or so, that too much blogergy is spent criticizing critics, especially those perceived to be on “the left.” Whoops! OK, for equal time, let us now give a raspberry to the Opinion Journal kids, for suggesting yesterday that former mayor David Dinkins was “trying to destroy New York,” because he donated a paltry $250 to the campaign of Berkeley Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who cast the lone vote against military action back in the fall. A joke’s a joke, but outrageously inaccurate equivalence gags still aren’t funny to me.

2/8/2002 02:47:43 PM

Race, Politics and Cops in L.A.: It’ll be interesting to see how this story plays out. James Hahn, our bland and ineffectual white mayor who owes his office in large part to the black vote, has come out against renewing the term of our black Police Chief, Bernard Parks. High-profile black politicians like Maxine Waters are outraged; some are even contemplating a recall-Hahn campaign. Parks, who is an impressive, charismatic and reputedly honest man, has next to zero support from the ever-shrinking LAPD rank and file, who complain that he buries officers in a blizzard of nitpicky ethical regulations. Meanwhile, like most cops who’ve spent their careers in the militaristic LAPD, he resists most attempts at outside reform, and behaves with unforgivable arrogance when one of his own is accused of criminal wrongdoing. It seems clear to me that Hahn made the right call, but is getting a little payback for his own racially divisive mayoral campaign against Antonio Villaraigosa. What will be interesting is to see whether the naked racial politics of Waters can gather much of an audience any more. Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times’ one good local-news columnist, has a fine column about all of this today. Meaning, I agree with him. UPDATAE: Jill Stewart, the L.A. New Times star columnist, argues that Parks should stay.

2/8/2002 12:50:07 PM

So, This is What Happened 10 Years Ago: Here’s a funny story that ran in Details magazine about our weird little newspaper in Prague. The article changed not a few people’s lives, including its author.

2/8/2002 02:16:37 AM

Arabia’s Teenage Wasteland, and a New Conspiracy Theory: Sad story in today’s L.A. Times about the pathetic mating rituals of Saudi teens. And I thought North Long Beach was bad.
For many, there is not much else to do but cruise. Along Olaya Street, Riyadh's main drag, traffic police are out in force. The road is clogged with cars packed with young men cruising. New Suburbans and Mercedes and Chevrolets jam the intersections. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, but they're easy to spot -- sitting alone in the back seat.

At a red light, four young men in a Chevy Lumina pull alongside a car carrying a woman. They turn on their overhead lamp, take off their traditional scarf headdresses, put baseball caps on backward and turn up the music. The seated young men begin to dance wildly, rocking the car as they try to get the woman's attention with herky-jerky hand motions reminiscent of Michael Jackson.

The woman peers at them through her veil. Then the light changes, the men lower the music and speed off.

If the religious police … had spotted them, the young men probably would have been taken in.

On a related note, has anyone else noticed that five short months of Saudi-bashing in the press has created a condition by which the U.S. could happily cave in to one of Osama bin Laden’s core demands – withdrawl of U.S. troops from the cradle of Islam – without really being criticized for it? Could it be that all this huffing and puffing has played perfectly into the hands of what Bush & the House of Saud have been trying to accomplish all along? The media knows less about the nuts-and-bolts of U.S.-Saudi diplomacy than most other bilateral relations, mostly because the Saudis are secretive and intrinsically two-faced, but also because the Americans (and Bush’s Saudi-experienced Cabinet) don’t necessarily like a lot of light to be shined on a chummy relationship with an oppressive regime. There is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. would like to confront and reform some of the more obvious policy irritants that help make the fabled Arab “street” prime recruiting real estate for terrorist organizations. Removing the troops from Saudi Arabia is infinitely easier than, say, coming up with an Israel/Palestine solution, so the only things to really worry about are the oil considerations & military flexibility (of which I have no idea), and making sure it doesn’t look like we’re taking orders from Osama. Is Charles Johnson being played like a fiddle by Condi Rice and Sheikh Abdullah? Is the war bluster about Iraq and the screw-Europe campaign part of a plan to let the French mediate a trade of irritating economic sanctions for the resumption of real weapons inspections? Conspiring minds want to know….

2/7/2002 05:09:36 PM

More Black History Month From Tony Pierce: Now it’s the astronauts’ turn.

2/7/2002 02:04:45 AM

The Sullivan Effect: New traffic records across the board yesterday -- 3,825 “sites,” 4,814 “visits,” and a surreal 20,643 hits. Thanks for stopping by, everybody! I’ll get back around to actually posting stuff this afternoon.

2/7/2002 01:45:33 AM

More Herold Watch: The latest addition to the list below of people championing the New Hampshire professor’s disputed study on Afghan civilian deaths: Bill Berkowitz, WorkingForChange, Jan. 23. Berkowitz, who is a nice guy, praises Herold for “methodically monitoring a number of Internet websites” every day, “systematically track[ing] civilian deaths,” and producing a “meticulous compilation of reports from dozens of sources.”
Unveiled in early December, and updated regularly since then, Herold's study has been well-received by alternative media organizations, groups concerned about Bush's war on terrorism, a number of mainstream international media outlets in Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and by thousands of Internet users around the world. The media of denial -- the U.S. media -- largely ignored the study at first.

Now that the report is garnering some attention, it has been criticized or labeled "controversial" in mainstream media reports. (Instead of completely trashing someone's work, you can cast a shadow over its veracity by calling it "controversial.") A mid-January San Francisco Chronicle editorial went one step beyond "controversial" -- calling Herold's report severely flawed because it "relied heavily on hearsay and second-hand reports from unreliable sources such as the Afghan Islamic Press, which is essentially a propaganda outlet for the Taliban, as well as pro-Taliban Pakistani newspapers." […]

Two questions are worth asking: Is the study an accurate accounting of civilian casualties? Does anyone in the U.S. care?

Unfortunately, Berkowitz does not really attempt to answer the first question, beyond listing Herold’s sources, and quoting from Gay Alcorn’s Sydney Morning Herald column of Jan. 12. Then again, I haven’t exactly done much else, though I think people in the U.S. do care, including some of those who have persuasively questioned Herold’s study.

2/6/2002 08:25:52 PM

Very quick hits: Here’s a great column by Nick Denton about the collapse of Silicon Valley and San Francisco; and here’s a remarkably foolish one from former Cleveland Plain Dealer editor and current journalism professor David Hall, arguing that the John Walker story is “trivial” and2002 04:23:24 PM

Blair Fact-Checks Pilger’s Anti-Australianism: Ouch! I wonder if, at some point, the columnists who are shown to lie and lie and lie will find it harder to publish nonsense in reputable newspapers.

2/5/2002 10:25:44 PM

It Was Bound To Happen…: My webstats counter is up again, after a six-day vacation. For the month of February, which just amounts to a few hours of Feb. 4, the single most popular search string that led people to my site … was “Heather Havrilesky blog pictures.” Perverts! It’s true, I could walk outside right now, hop on a skateboard and coast for two minutes, and I’d be at the rabbit’s swank new house. OK, I don’t have a skateboard. But what’s also true is that those “pictures” were a well-executed hoax, generating more excitable discussion than a Dave Eggers poetry reading. Suckers!

2/5/2002 10:10:28 PM

Kinsley’s Status & Conflict ‘Tells’: Another interesting piece in the January Atlantic is an essay by a top poker player about “tells” – unconscious tics that tip an opponent’s hand. Just over a year ago, Slate Editor Michael Kinsley wrote a goofy column about the little-noticed Microsoft-bashing movie AntiTrust, which he sarcastically described as an “eerily accurate portrayal of life at Microsoft Corp. (where I've worked for five years) — right down to the hidden cameras that track employees' every movement and the chairman's eccentric habit of having anyone who gets in his way brutally beaten to death.” It struck me at the time as a bizarre expenditure of the talented editor’s energy, so I read some of his older columns and editor’s notes that referenced Bill Gates, and was alarmed to discover a serious “tell” – joke after joke about Gates killing people, followed by passages ridiculing conflict-of-interest, and awkward jokes about Kinsley’s own social climbing. Now I can’t read anything by the guy without noticing the nervous tic, instead of (I suppose) just chuckling along with everyone else.

On Sunday, Kinsley wrote a funny bit about attending the World Economic Forum. This follows his funny bit from the year before, entitled “Why I Don’t Go to Davos: It’s not because I haven’t been invited.” Here’s an excerpt from that weird column a year ago; I find it psychologically curious, but I’m probably obsessing:

The best reason for going to Davos is so that everyone knows you’ve been invited to Davos. […]

One reason people go to Davos is to indulge the fantasy that they have a better class of friends. Yet though this begins as a salve to status anxiety, surely it becomes an irritant. Social climbing is an endless series of false summits. After a long journey in every sense, you’ve arrived at the planet’s most prestigious conference. But I imagine Davos as a nightmare of doors within doors. Which hotel are you at? (Oh yes? But on what floor? Oh dear, I wish you’d told me. I could have had a word with Henri….) What parties and meetings have you been invited to? (So sorry I’m going to miss your talk at the plenary session, but some of us have put together a small working group….) Does everybody here but me know how to make deep contact with one eye and sweep the room like a lighthouse beacon with the other? (Would you excuse me, please? I must go have a word with Alan Greenspan….)

Italics his. What’s the point of this column, aside from a few light giggles? Could it be, really, to tell people that he’s been invited to Davos, but isn’t going? Hard to say. Anyways, here are some portions from this year’s model, in which he reveals that he has a special white badge indicating his invited status as one of the “Media Fellows.”
Still, it could be worse. At least they're not Reporting Press. The guide is witheringly dismissive. "Familiarly called 'Orange Badges' because of the colour of their badges" -- thanks for that explanation, buddy -- "are reporters who have limited access to the Meeting." Limited access, the guide explains, means "they will not have access to … the Meeting venue." In other words they can't enter the building, but they're welcome to hang out with their own caste in a "Media Centre" across the street.

As a fellow journalist, I wish to express solidarity with these downtrodden members of my profession. Under our badges, are we not all the same? Has not an Orange Badge eyes? Ears, business cards, sources, a laptop computer? If you cut his article, does he not whine?

Of course I have a white badge. The canons of journalistic ethics compel me to make this information available to you, the reader. Otherwise I wouldn't mention it since I don't care about such distinctions myself.

Obviously not. Can’t wait to read about them next year.

2/5/2002 09:20:46 PM

Beautiful Numbers, Good Journalism: It’s easy to sit back and throw darts at The Media; I’m guiltier of the practice than most. But there’s an awful lot of good journalism in this country, and now that I’m finally catching up on my vacation reading, I can tell you that the, uh, January issue of The Atlantic is just a corking good magazine all around. You’ll have heard of Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong? piece about the Islamic world’s failure, and I previously mentioned the cover story that argued for a reduced U.S. role in the world. Editor Michael Kelly and star correspondent James Fallows come up with typically thought-provoking essays, and David Carr warms my heart with this bonfire of statistics, put forth to argue that Homeland Defense is an exercise in “futility”:
If America is riddled with holes and targets, it's because a big society designed to be open is hard to change—impossible, probably. In 2000 more than 350 million non-U.S. citizens entered the country. In 1999 Americans made 5.2 billion phone calls to locations outside the United States. Federal Express handles nearly five million packages every business day, UPS accounts for 13.6 million, and until it became a portal for terror, the Postal Service processed 680 million pieces of mail a day. More than two billion tons of cargo ran in and out of U.S. ports in 1999, and about 7.5 million North Americans got on and off cruise ships last year.

Group targets are plentiful. There are eighty-six college and professional stadiums that seat more than 60,000 people, and ten motor speedways with capacities greater than 100,000; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway seats more than 250,000. Few other countries offer the opportunity to take aim at a quarter million people at once. Also plentiful are tall buildings—until just yesterday the dominant symbol of civic pride. Fifty of the hundred tallest buildings in the world are on U.S. soil. Minneapolis, a mid-size city that doesn't leap to mind as a target, has three of them. And one of its suburbs has the largest shopping mall in the country, the Mall of America, with at least 600,000 visitors a week.

As for trained personnel to defend our borders and targets, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which oversees the inspection of half a billion people a year, has only 2,000 agents to investigate violations of immigration law. The Postal Service has only 1,900 inspectors to investigate the misuse of mail. According to one estimate, it would take 14,000 air marshals to cover every domestic flight—more than the total number of special agents in the FBI. The former drug czar General Barry McCaffrey has pointed out that at least four different agencies oversee 303 official points of entry into the United States. After staffing increases over the past three years there are 334 U.S. Border Patrol agents guarding the 4,000 miles of Canadian border. The nation has 95,000 miles of shoreline to protect. "No one is in charge," McCaffrey says.

2/5/2002 08:05:08 PM

Napoleon Bonaparte: Liberator, Management Strategist: Oracle founder Larry Ellison, when asked to name the book that most influenced his life, chose Vincent Cronin’s biography of Napoleon:
Napoleon codified the laws for the first time in Europe. He was constantly limiting kings and other tyrants. He opened the ghettos and stopped religious discrimination. He was an extraordinary man who wrote a lot of laws himself. He was incredibly polite, generous almost to a fault, a remarkable person who was vilified. By whom? The kings that he deposed. The kings of England, and the old king of France, and the kings of Prussia, and the Czar of Russia were all threatened by this man who was bringing democracy. […]

He was a liberator, a law-giver, and a man of incredible gifts. He never considered himself a soldier, he considered himself a politician, though he was probably the greatest soldier -- the greatest general --perhaps in all history.

I think it's interesting to read about him for a couple reasons: to see what one man of modest birth can do with his life, and to see how history can distort the truth entirely.

Sound weird? Well, that’s Cronin’s take on it, and ever since I read the book six years ago I’ve been a big Nappy fan (I have no idea whatsoever about Cronin’s scholarship, or about Napoleonic history in general). In fact, I was supposed to write a book review for the Budapest Business Journal, translating the lessons from the biography into something the international executive could find useful … but I never finished it. UPDATE: Libertarian Samizdata’s Perry de Havilland rips Ellison a new one, and calls Napoleon a “fascist.”

2/5/2002 06:08:39 PM

Speaking of Sentence Diagramming…: The hot rumor on the Hunter Thompson underground is that the manic stylist is responsible, anonymously, for this column, and that one. As I explained to my tipster, Thompson would probably never use the word “unkempt,” and even his worst and/or weirdest sentences are punchy, rhythmic … anything but flat and overly long. Great to diagram. Take these, from his most recent column, just before the Super Bowl:
Indeed. There are many cruel Rooms in the mansion, and many deep holes in the Road. Keep alert or be stabbed. Of all the shocks and pains that every football season brings, the worst of all is the ending of it. And that is what we face now -- this coming Sunday night, in fact, before the midnight bell. There will be no appeal, no extension, no replay. That will be the end of the football season, no matter who complains.

A few geeks will, of course. A few swine always do. No barrel is utterly clean. That would be atmospherically impossible, eh? And rest assured that nothing on this Earth is 100 percent clean. Nothing…. Are you one of these people who honestly believes that Cats are clean? I hope not, because you are riding for a serious fall. Cats are filthy, and they don't mind passing it around. The smell of a large cat (as in Lion or Tiger) at room temperature in a sea-level house is so powerful and so disorienting as to derail the human brain. The odor of a mountain lion in the wild is far more terrifying than the sight of the beast, even on a frozen night in the snow. It will literally "take your breath away" at 10 or even 20 yards. Your whole nervous system will seize up and be paralyzed, even your lungs. So stay away from all animals that are bigger than you are, especially at night when they are nervous. A brown bear will eat your whole body in 24 hours. Beware.

2/5/2002 04:43:29 PM

Boldly Tackling the Issues at Hand: While I waste time shooting fishies in barrelsies, Thomas Nephew has been busy confronting the real important questions that face us (What to do about Israel/Palestine? Who if anybody should the U.S. attack next?), and taking positions that challenge some of the blogosphere’s more unanimous notions. And as always, he’s keeping a watchful eye on what the Germans are saying. If you haven’t Newsracked in a while, it’s time to catch up.

2/5/2002 03:25:52 PM

The Value of Sentence Diagramming: Joanne Jacobs points to this Washington Post story about how sentence diagramming is making a comeback in English classes, over the objection of the National Council of Teachers of English. I had no idea that it ever went away, but the Post’s excellent Jay Mathews writes:
An entire generation of teachers has been told that sentence diagramming is not only difficult and boring, but also likely to sour students on writing and public speaking and make them reluctant to do their English class homework. Most writing teachers say that it is much better to introduce rules of grammar gradually and naturally as they edit students' work.
Not to be a fogey about it, but good God! The only bit of useful English instruction I ever received, in 12 years of L.A. County’s best public schools, was sentence diagramming in ninth grade (1982-83). It reinforces your respect for how and why a lean subject-verb-predicate sentence without commas works so well in this language. I have since forgotten way too many of the less-obvious rules (as must be clear), but diagramming was really crucial for my understanding of why certain writers felt so good to read, while my prose sounded so mangled. As one teacher in Mathews’ piece says:
"I use diagramming, and I encourage my colleagues to use it because I believe that it gives a graphic representation of how our language is pieced together. … In this age of multiple learning skills, I see diagramming as another tool, a more tangible, graphic tool to teach the relationship of ideas."
Exactly! It’s like the way some people (OK, me) see graphs and charts when they hear music … it’s another dimension for understanding. Reading this article almost makes me want to take sides in the Culture War…
In another 1996 NCTE journal article, Tchudi and University of Nevada colleague Lee Thomas said that what some teachers and parents consider "proper" grammar is just the current "prestige dialect." They concluded: "What goes on in schools is often like club membership: 'If you can't talk like me, the teacher, then you can't be in the club.'"
Ye gads!

2/5/2002 12:19:10 PM

Speaking of Limousine Liberals: The Southern California Americans for Democratic Action are holding a conference at USC Feb. 17 entitled: "Our Democracy after 9-11; Can We Save It?" Coming to our apparent rescue, for a modest admission fee of $10 ($25 for preferred seating) are Robert Reich, Arianna Huffington, Maxine Waters, Tom Hayden, Jim Hightower and Ed Begley, Jr., among others (the L.A. Times reports that “Barbra Streisand, Annette Bening, Warren Beatty and Rob Reiner are expected to attend a private cocktail party after the conference”). Here’s the press release, by local ADA President Lila Garrett. Italics mine:
This conference will examine how many of our constitutional rights the Bush administration has abolished using the tragedy of 9-11 as an excuse. The Patriot Bill, the anti civil liberties doctrine forced through Congress by John Ashcroft, has ravaged our 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. Now the question is can we still save what is left of our economy, our environment, our social programs, our arms control agreements, our health care system, our immigration policy, our justice system, in short, our democracy. The Bush administration has used the war on terrorism to ram through its pro-corporate agenda, guaranteeing that the permanent war economy, which has been with us for 50 years, will now be accompanied by permanent war. Speaking for the administration, Cheney said we will be at war for the rest of our lives. Nobody blinked. Suddenly our troops are in the Philippines and Somalia. What's next; Iraq, Iran, the Sudan? If it's a third world country it's apparently up for grabs. Why, with a sinking economy and a determination to maintain a state of war, is Bushs' [sic] rating so high? The Bush administration has cleverly kept the threat of terrorism at such a fever pitch, the public has lost all sense of reality. Hopefully the Enron debacle will crack open the door to truth, and people will at last see how deep that corruption runs in this administration. This conference is intended to hasten that process.
Lost all sense of reality, indeed. I saw many of these people at Warren Beatty’s presidential campaign speech in 1999 (I sent a crude e-mail about it to Layne, which he immediately published), an event which featured several funny political posters, including a caricature of George Bush Sr. and the terrible former police chief Daryl Gates in basketball uniforms, with the caption "White people can't run the system." Anyways, I'd certainly love to help try and salvage what's left of our democracy, but I'm going to be busy trying new rides out at Magic Mountain.

2/5/2002 10:54:02 AM

Defense Spending, Hostility to the Word ‘Evil’: I’m worried that Bush’s defense proposals are too expensive, and inevitably fraught with waste (my father’s a defense contractor, so I’ve heard a few stories over the years). It seems to indicate a preference for what The Atlantic’s Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne recently called the “preponderance,” or “adult supervision” strategy – that the U.S. continues to over-guarantee security in places like Europe and Japan in order to prevent the emergence of friendly rivals – a policy I consider to be dangerously untenable. It will put a huge burden on the budget, making some of my policy pipe-dreams (expanding access to health insurance, mostly) much harder to pull off.

My friend Bob Scheer agrees with me in a column today, and then he immediately goes too far.

The red ink that Bush wants us to bleed to line the pockets of the defense industry, along with the tax cuts for the rich, will do more damage to our country than any terrorist.
Have you become blasé at such attempts at rhetorical equivalence? If so, please consult this picture.
Bush is now resorting to the tried and true "evil empire" rhetorical strategy, grouping the disparate regimes of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil."

This alleged axis then becomes the rationale for a grossly expanded military budget.

Without commenting on the propriety of Bush’s usage of “axis,” I find it interesting how many on the Left have a knee-jerk hostility to the word “evil,” and are still hung up about Ronald Reagan's usage of it. If there were two things the Left could never stop taunting Reagan for, it was his Evil Empire quote, and his exhortation to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” It seems to me rather obvious that, in these two cases, Reagan was right, and his hecklers (which included me at the time) were wrong. Facing this honestly should have been the first priority of every “progressive” since November 1989.
His astonishing budget makes sense only if we are planning to use our mighty military in a pseudo-religious quest to create a super-dominant Pax Americana.

Bizarre as that sounds, it may be the real framework for Bush's proposed spending orgy.

Italics mine. This is really akin to saying “The Liberal Media’s astonishing post-Sept. 11 output makes sense only if they are planning to establish a Socialist super-state north of the Rio Grande.” We can treat our political opponents with a bit more sophistication than that, can’t we?

2/5/2002 10:07:33 AM

The Marc Herold Litmus Test: Brian Silverman has pointed out that observing the way people quote from New Hampshire University Professor Marc Herold’s much-maligned study on Afghan civilian deaths is a useful way to determine their own biases and fidelity to facts. So I conducted an unscientific survey on the Dow Jones Interactive database of most major English-language print publications, and found 68 stories that included the name “Marc Herold.” (You would certainly get hundreds of more examples by conducting a simple Google search.) Using Dow Jones, more than a dozen media outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, treated Herold’s study judiciously on their news pages and in editorials. Others – mostly columnists, letter-writers and left-leaning publications – treated Herold’s figures as understatement, and proof of the wickedness of the war. I’ll quote from some of the less critical citations, italics mine. What’s interesting is how Herold supporters automatically assume that his numbers are “conservative,” that he used “meticulous cross-checking,” and that the media is guilty of ignoring Afghan civilian deaths. (For the anti-Herold arguments, consult any number of bloggers and columnists, including Mark Steyn, the Irish Times’ Kevin Myers, Bruce Ralston, and others.) Here we go:

Robert Jailall, the N.C. State University Technician, Jan. 31:

Civilian casualty counts are virtually nonexistent in administration and media war reports. Thus far, the only attempt at a comprehensive count of civilians killed by American forces has been done by Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire at Durham. Herold, who reports that over 3,000 Afghan civilians have been killed as a direct result of U.S. bombing, observes that unprecedented restrictions on media coverage in Afghanistan create a catch-22 in reporting any war news: reports need to be "independently" verified by western sources; western sources who do not have access to information required to provide such verification.
Edward Herman, The Nation, Jan. 28:
[Christopher] Hitchens tells us now that Bush's war is doing wonderful things, not only for civilization but for Afghanistan as well -- bombing it "out of the Stone Age" -- with "no serious loss of civilian life" and "an almost pedantic policy of avoiding 'collateral damage.'" Marc Herold has calculated, on the basis of news reports alone, that more than 3,500 Afghan civilians have been killed by US bombs, more than in the Trade Center bombings, which Hitchens considered an extremely serious loss of human life.
T.S. Cox, letters page of the Wichita Eagle, Jan. 27:
University of New Hampshire economics professor Marc Herold has estimated the Afghan civilian body count through the end of 2001 at around 4,000. His figures are exhaustively documented, have not been seriously disputed, and are probably conservative. Most important, they do not include people who will die of starvation or exposure because the war interrupted relief deliveries before winter set in.
Raymond Schroth, New Jersey Star-Ledger, Jan. 27:
The disturbing truth may be that … some 4,000 civilians died during the American bombing raids on Afghanistan, according to the best available estimates. […]

Still, data isn't impossible to come by. A recent article in the Irish Times summarizes and supplements a study of civilian casualties by Marc Herold, professor of international economics and women's studies at the University of New Hampshire, who counted 3,767 dead by mid-December (his 50-page report is available at www.cursor.org). He estimates that more than 4,000 have died by now.

Herold based his study on reports from official news agencies, major papers in Australia, Pakistan, India, Great Britain and the United States, the BBC, non-governmental organizations, and the most reliable eyewitnesses, like doctors.
Harry Browne, Irish Times, Jan. 26:
There are two indisputable facts that lead me to believe that Herold's figure of 3,700 civilian deaths caused directly by US weapons up to the first week in December is probably conservative.

First, while it has perhaps not "indiscriminately" attacked civilians a la Hiroshima or Vietnam, the US has been happy to hit civilian targets where it says there are Taliban or Al-Qaeda people, and has also, of course, let some bombs fall astray and left unexploded bomblets littering the landscape. Second, when Western journalists have managed to get to some sites of alleged civilian carnage, they've found that it's US military statements about events there that have been the bald-faced lies, not those accounts by any "worthless scoundrel" from the Taliban.

You don't need too many of these deliberate targets, operational errors and official lies for the numbers to approach and exceed those of the Twin Towers massacre.
Columnist Amy Pagnozzi, Hartford Courant, Jan. 22, in a column entitled “Today’s America Would Horrify [Martin Luther] King.”
By Dec. 6, at least 3,767 Afghan civilians had been killed by U.S. bombs, according to a conservative study by Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire. […] We the Sheeple watch the erosion of civil rights and the destruction of our democracy without a peep.
Lema Mousilli, Houston University’s Daily Cougar, Jan. 18:
Herold's figure is certainly rough and a very conservative estimate, considering that he excluded civilians who died from the extreme cold climate when they fled to the mountains as well as those who starved to death because of the interruption of aid supplies or because they were forced to become refugees by the offensives.
Columnist Stephanie Schorow, Boston Herald, Jan. 15:
He bases his estimates on U.S. and international news reports, which he meticulously cites in footnotes to his graphs, charts and summaries. […] He may be the only person or agency actively trying to add the figures up.
Gay Alcorn, Sydney Morning Herald, Jan. 12:
He took conservative estimates where possible and came up with a admittedly rough tally of 3767 civilian deaths between October 7 and December 6 […] Dr Herold's report received extensive coverage in the European media but almost no mention in the American press, which has struggled with defining a role in this conflict that is patriotic but still objective.
Columnist Jennifer Mossop, The Hamilton Spectator, Jan. 12:
A couple of credible sources offer figures around the 1,000 mark, but their research hasn't been as rigorous as that of Marc Herold.
Columnist Vincent Browne, Irish Times, Jan. 9:
The number of civil deaths in Afghanistan is by now well over 3,000 and certainly significantly more than the number of people killed on September 11th.
Judi Nitsch, Indiana Daily Student, Jan. 7:
More shocking than [Herold’s] estimate itself is its assumed conservativeness. Meticulous research and cross-checking of data from major newspapers, official news agencies, eyewitness accounts and non-governmental organizations offers a figure that refers only to individuals killed instantly by the bombing raids.
Roberto Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 2:
While respected news agencies abroad have reviewed Herold's report, the American media have largely ignored it. Only a few journals, Internet sites and the radio program "Democracy Now!" have analyzed it.

Why have the U.S. media missed the story?

Part of the explanation may be related to the industry itself. Recent mergers between media corporations have homogenized news, especially television news. AOL/Time Warner, Viacom, News Corporation, Disney and GE own CNN, CBS News, Fox News, ABC News and NBC, respectively.

Many Americans rely exclusively upon this cartel for information on the "war on terrorism," which is presented more as entertainment than news.

Columnist Seumas Milne, Guardian, Dec. 20:
The price in blood that has already been paid for America's war against terror is only now starting to become clear. … Now, for the first time, a systematic independent study has been carried out into civilian casualties in Afghanistan by Marc Herold, a US economics professor at the University of New Hampshire. Based on corroborated reports from aid agencies, the UN, eyewitnesses, TV stations, newspapers and news agencies around the world, Herold estimates that at least 3,767 civilians were killed by US bombs between October 7 and December 10. That is an average of 62 innocent deaths a day - and an even higher figure than the 3,234 now thought to have been killed in New York and Washington on September 11.

Of course, Herold's total is only an estimate. But what is impressive about his work is not only the meticulous cross-checking, but the conservative assumptions he applies to each reported incident.
It is entirely possible that Herold's numbers, regardless of where they came from, are indeed conservative. It is also quite plausible that ideology has colored his fact-gathering, not to mention made instant research-experts out of people who have no earthly idea whether his data is worth a hoot.

2/4/2002 09:13:31 PM

Ben Stein Gives Arianna the Finger on CNN: Amusing story, told from a Stein-is-a-“patriotic partisan of conservative correctness” point of view. Via Media Minded.

2/4/2002 05:06:30 PM

Brand New Way To Give Me Money! After months of wrestling with my own technological ineptitude, I have, thanks to one very patient reader, successfully created and withdrawn from a PayPal account. Soon (meaning months from now), when I update the navbar-buddy on the left to include 127 new links, I will hopefully install a little PayPal bucket so that all you privacy freaks can avoid Big Brother Amazon (and its pesky commissions & limits) if you want to throw a coin or two in the guitar case. Still contemplating (for my amusement) some variation of Andrew Sullivan’s clever Gold, Silver and Bronze Sponsors program… Maybe I’ll just create the Genius Grant level, whereby, for the low low price of $500,000, you can … uh, give me $500,000! And then I’ll have a lot of money!

Sorry for the whoring; it had been several months since I last casually mentioned the tip-jar, so I had some catching-up to do.

2/4/2002 01:11:40 PM

This Modern Blog: Nader-supporting cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has a blog! Thanks, Benjamin Kepple!

2/3/2002 10:58:02 PM

A Useful Blog About Oil Reserves: Multilingual weblogger Matthew Trump has an educational one called Viva Capitalism that is engaged in “undertaking a exploration of the topic of petroleum geology.” It’s more interesting than it sounds.

2/3/2002 09:32:07 PM

Black History Month: I'll take Tony Pierce’s version over Jonah Goldberg’s any day.

2/3/2002 12:09:21 AM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

n New York and Washington on September 11.

Of course, Herold's total is only an estimate. But what is impressive about his work is not only the meticulous cross-checking, but the conservative assumptions he applies to each reported incident. It is entirely possible that Herold's numbers, regardless of where they came from, are indeed conservative. It is also quite plausible that ideology has colored his fact-gathering, not to mention made instant research-experts out of people who have no earthly idea whether his data is worth a hoot.

2/4/2002 09:13:31 PM

Ben Stein Gives Arianna the Finger on CNN: Amusing story, told from a Stein-is-a-“patriotic partisan of conservative correctness” point of view. Via Media Minded.

2/4/2002 05:06:30 PM

Brand New Way To Give Me Money! After months of wrestling with my own technological ineptitude, I have, thanks to one very patient reader, successfully created and withdrawn from a PayPal account. Soon (meaning months from now), when I update the navbar-buddy on the left to include 127 new links, I will hopefully install a little PayPal bucket so that all you privacy freaks can avoid Big Brother Amazon (and its pesky commissions & limits) if you want to throw a coin or two in the guitar case. Still contemplating (for my amusement) some variation of Andrew Sullivan’s clever Gold, Silver and Bronze Sponsors program… Maybe I’ll just create the Genius Grant level, whereby, for the low low price of $500,000, you can … uh, give me $500,000! And then I’ll have a lot of money!

Sorry for the whoring; it had been several months since I last casually mentioned the tip-jar, so I had some catching-up to do.

2/4/2002 01:11:40 PM

This Modern Blog: Nader-supporting cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has a blog! Thanks, Benjamin Kepple!

2/3/2002 10:58:02 PM

A Useful Blog About Oil Reserves: Multilingual weblogger Matthew Trump has an educational one called Viva Capitalism that is engaged in “undertaking a exploration of the topic of petroleum geology.” It’s more interesting than it sounds.

2/3/2002 09:32:07 PM

Black History Month: I'll take Tony Pierce’s version over Jonah Goldberg’s any day.

2/3/2002 12:09:21 AM

Comments, questions, bad links? Send e-mail to Matt Welch

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

© 1997-2000; All rights reserved.

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