But let me just say once again:
Thanks, IOC! Yeah, those bastards will live up to their promises. Suuuuuuuure they will.
14 more arrested on suspicion of activity related to terrorism, and the Brits say these guys have nothing to do with the plot to blow up planes, that this is something entirely separate.
It contrasts the fact that another province is about to be handed over to Iraqi control with spectacular violence in Baghdad, centered on a new and horrifying terrorist tactic: rent apartments, load them with explosives, get out.
At the same time, more trouble with the Mahdis. But check this out:
Sheik Hassan al-Baghdadi, head of the Sadr office in Kamaliyah, said the mood in that neighborhood had been tense for two weeks, since U.S. forces began raiding Shiite mosques and harassing residents. He said the Americans had arrested 50 local leaders and members of the Mahdi Army.
Then, on Wednesday night, residents believed the U.S. military was about to seize a prominent local imam, Ahmed al-Aboudi of the Allawi Mosque in Obaydi. Aboudi said the Mahdi Army shot at U.S. troops to prevent his arrest and set an American vehicle on fire.
Where's the response from the American military?
Well the paragraph immediately prior to these two reads:
In Baghdad, officials from Sadr's organization said Thursday that the Mahdi Army had clashed with U.S. forces in eastern Baghdad on Wednesday night. A U.S. military spokeswoman said she had no information about fighting in the area.
So we get detail on the fighting, on what sparked the fighting, and on the result of the fighting, all presumably from the Mahdi perspective, and all the US military has to say is that the person the Post checks with has "no information" regarding that fighting.
What does that mean? That the Post spoke with the wrong Public Affairs Officer? That the Post called before the military was able to confirm what had happened and wasn't able to wait for the military to confirm what had happened before the reporter's deadline? That the reporter figured they called the Public Affairs people once, that meant they checked the box and their conscience was clear, they were on deadline, so they were free to go ahead and submit the article? (Notice this is an article submitted to the website, which means the reporter was under pressure to get it in as quickly as possible. So in this case "on deadline" probably meant "come on, come on, we need it before the Times gets theirs posted.")
When something happens (say, a firefight with the Mahdi Army) the soldiers involved have higher priorities than pushing information up their chain of command. They'll no doubt report that they're engaged in fighting, but that's about it while they're fighting and in the immediate aftermath. Reporters, on the other hand, have no priority beyond reporting information. The two institutions simply work with different time frames regarding information, which means the military will always be behind when it comes to the ability to confirm events or respond to them officially. So in a situation like this, when an article is written for the online version of the paper, the military is never going to have much to say.
And this is what you get as a result.
It's understandable, but it isn't helpful.
How does the military deal with this rhetorical challenge?
I honestly don't know, but it is important that people recognize and acknowledge that there are reasons for the challenge that are intrinsic to the situation.
Recruitment is followed quite closely by the media, but reenlistment is every bit as important -- more important for the success of a military organization down the road. If you can't recruit you can't support the ability to fight, which requires brand new recruits, the youngest troops at the very bottom of the hierarchy. If you can't retain people, you can't support the ability to fight well, which requires older troops, those with institutional knowledge, and even more importantly the capacity to lead. It takes fifteen years or more to grow a senior enlisted leader.
Our friend van Steenwyk has some information that isn't being widely reported regarding how well retention is going, which seems to be the pattern of late.
Just an observation, popular in the few remaining smoker's lounges in airports: somehow we've all been trained to treat alcoholism as a disease, and therefore not the individual's fault, yet even as everyone acknowledges that smoking is tougher to kick than heroin, somehow smoking is the moral failing of the smoker. Go take it out on an evil corportation somewhere.
I've written before about what I consider the tragedy of MSNBC: with the stable of reporters from NBC available, they all too often make themselves unwatchable during the day despite the best reporters and therefore the best reports, because they have these very pretty people in the role of news readers, who they coach to behave as if they're on local news shows somewhere. The banter, the forced laughter at bad jokes -- it's just embarrassing.
Watch a few minutes before and after Chris Jannsing or Norah O'Donnell take over, and you'll see what I mean. You actually feel a palpable sense of relief as someone takes over who actually brings some sense of seriousness to the enterprise (and when Norah O'Donnell is your gravitas, you're probably in trouble.) By the same token, the bulk of these people don't suggest a great deal of, uh, er . . . let's just say that when they're mispronouncing the names and words regularly involved with some of these stories you don't have much confidence. (During the fighting in Lebanon the network began leaving the mike open when producers gave instructions. An interesting commentary, I thought. If you think your audience needs to hear from the producers directly to have confidence in your news readers, perhaps instead of letting them hear those conversations, you might want to invest in news readers who inspire intellectual confidence.)
In any event, the 5 am hour, through which a regular rotation of pretty people rotate, is often the worst. MS seems to really, really believe in the idea of forced laughter and light banter for that time slot, even though there's only one news reader there. (Hence the immense challenge of the conversations with the poor weather person.)
But this morning I note that in the news reader chair is David Shuster, an honest-to-God, no kidding reporter, who really knows how to pronounce the words and everything (although they still make him try and banter with the weather person.)
I realize this probably isn't a new strategy. More likely poor Shuster got caught peeing in somebody's cornflakes, as we say, and this is his punishment.
Still, there's gotta be some kid out there somewhere who's just as smart and who'd be willing to get up at this hour to break into the biz, no?
This is just annoying. The Post has an article that announces a military contract that seems to involve monitoring the media to permit the military to put out a more positive message, a public relations strategy you wouldn't expect to see the military engaged in. Except I'll bet you just about anything that this isn't intended for domestic audiences but for those in Islamic and particularly Arabic countries, that this not only isn't inappropriate but is precisely the kind of work we not only want, but have been demanding, the government get going on. (The url for the contract provided is pretty much useless -- I don't have time to sort through all the contracts offered by the feds this morning, do you?)
Tuesday the Post's media reporter, Howard Kurtz, had a fairly scathing piece on the media's performance during the whole JonBenet affair. He quoted the way a number of outlets weasel-worded their way out of the collapse of the case against the guy -- which surely everyone saw coming -- in such a way as to take no blame for their own behavior whatsoever.
I noticed that yesterday Rita Cosby, who just drives me crazy in any event, was actually on MSNBC, the network which to my mind was without a doubt the worst offender, and far from doing any kind of a mea culpa for being the all JonBenet all the time network, they were actually keeping it up -- covering the extradition proceedings regarding this bizarre little man.
Why would anyone possibly care what happens to him now?
Then yesterday I find, via Memeorandum, a piece in the Boston Globe by Rep. Barney Frank. Now, I like ole Barney, always have. You may disagree with him, but it's hard not to find him sharp, sharp-tongued, and honest about what he thinks and feels.
A WAR is missing. Sadly, it is not missing from the physical location in which it is taking place, and people continue to die as it is waged. But it has largely disappeared from our national debate, and that debate has been sorely distorted as a consequence.
The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.
I'm sorry, but you just can't blame the administration for this. There's a war missing alright, and it's reprehensible, but how the administration spins things, and whatever you think of their arguments in this regard, shouldn't matter -- there are roughly 20,000 Americans in a combat zone, give or take, and the press doesn't seem to be all that interested in what they're up to.
Doesn't that strike anybody else as outrageous, when they they go nuts over a ten year old murder case based on the rantings of a man they all quickly figured out probably hadn't done it?
I wonder what would happen if every relative and every close friend of someone serving in Afghanistan wrote a (very polite) quick little email? Of course, they'd have to do it to the same outlet or the power of it would be diluted, but networks are even more responsive, is my sense, to those kinds of complaints as they are to ratings. So few people go to the trouble they figure people who do really, really care -- and squeaky wheels get a great deal of grease as a result.
Important and disturbing news in this Post article about the strength of Sadr's forces, but in the very, very last paragraph of the article, this:
The visiting British defense minister, Des Browne, told reporters in Baghdad that U.S.-led troops planned to turn over a second province, Dhi Qar, to Iraqi security forces next month.
And only in the very 13th paragraph do we find this nugget:
Over the past week, attacks in Baghdad province averaged about 23 a day, lower than the monthly average for July, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman, told reporters Monday. Baghdad's average daily homicide rate also dropped 46 percent from July to August, he added.
Gee, that strikes me as, I don't know, kind of important contextualizing information. How 'bout you?