Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rumsfeld Speech Gets Usual Non-Comprehending Comment From LAT Editorial

Liberal as the New York Times editorial page is, at least it tries to be fair, which unfortunately the pro-appeasement L.A. Times editorial page is not.

The latest instance of this is the much different NYT editorial this morning, as compared to the LAT editorial, on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's comments this week.

I'm not a particular admirer of Rumsfeld. Certainly, it would be wise to try new approaches to fighting the war in Iraq than he has been willing to initiate, and I concur in Sen. John McCain's recent criticism of him.

But at least Rumsfeld speaks plainly, and certainly the American people need to hear the frankest views from either side in the ongoing debate over American foreign policy.

The New York Times editorial this morning is willing to see Rumsfeld's comment glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

In commenting on Rumsfeld's words about America's current capability with anti-missiles, the NYT is complimentary.

"In a rare moment of candor this week," the NYT editorial says, "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged this week that he's not sure if the United States missile defense system is ready to work. When asked if the shield could protect the United States from a North Korean missile attack, Mr. Rumsfeld said he'd need to see a full test of the system 'end to end' before he could answer."

The NYT editorial concludes, "We're hoping that Mr. Rumsfeld's sudden candor about the program starts to catch on."

While this constructive editorial was appearing, the L.A. Times editorial elects, for what must be the 69th time, to castigate Rumsfeld for being allegedly too "cranky" in his talk to an American Legion convention.

The L.A. Times doesn't like Rumsfeld's comparison of Iraq war cut-and-runners in the Democratic party to those Britishers who sought to appease Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and it doesn't like his suggestion that some of these critics like to "blame America first" for the events leading up to the 9-11 terror attack on the U.S.

My view is, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Unfortunately, the John Kerrys, the Ted Kennedys, the Carl Levins and the John Murthas in Congress are all too prone to level their negative comments at the Bush Administration than at the terrorists who continue to outdo themselves, week by week, with barbaric conduct.

Rumsfeld deserves to be complimented, not castigated, for pointing this out.

The L.A. Times editorial page continues to be extremely soft in its approach. I sometimes wonder whether there has to be a terror attack on Los Angeles before these yellow-bellies like editorial page editor Andres Martinez who want to see an American exit from Iraq without paying any attention to the consequences that would flow from it assume a more realistic position.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stirrings Of A Left Wing Revolution In Mexico

In his excellent book, "Fire And Blood: A History Of Mexico," author T.R. Fehrenbach likens the country to a volcano, quiet for periods but subject every few decades to political eruptions.

Certainly Mexican revolutions, first against Spanish rule, later against despotic indigenous regimes, have marked both the 19th and 20th centuries, and, often, these revolutions have drawn in the United States, always sensitive to what is happening just south of the border.

Mexico, after the latest period of relative stability, may now be drifting toward another revolution. The left wing presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has not accepted his narrow defeat in the recent election, nor the refusal of the Mexican electoral commission to order a full recount. After weeks of demonstrations in Mexico City, Obrador is planning to proclaim himself president and form a "People's Government" on the Mexican independence day, Sept. 16.

A Los Angeles Times editorial this morning views this with alarm, which is appropriate. Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, has long been suspected of totalitarian instincts. He could well be a dangerous man in the developing circumstances.

By the best indications, conservative candidate Felipe Calderon is the legitimately elected president. He and his predecessor, the present president, Vicente Fox, while restrained up to now, could be expected to fight for their positions if Obrador goes ahead with his plan. As recently as the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, there was a crackdown on leftwing demonstrators in the national capital that killed hundreds of people.

In Mexico, in the past, the political situation has rather quickly spun out of control in tense circumstances. Passions are often high in the poverty-stricken country, and the business elite now represented by Calderon and Fox and formerly by the PRI, has been in power for a comparatively long time. Pressure against it has been building, as witnessed by the close election and violently rebellious incidents in Oaxaca and the Chiapas state in the southern part of the country.

That a relatively liberal editorial page like that of the Los Angeles Times is already viewing the situation with alarm is not a surprise. In virtually all American quarters, there would be a violent reaction to the coming to power of a left wing government in Mexico.

Already, elsewhere in Latin America, we see the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, adopting a more and more anti-American posture, lining himself up with Fidel Castro on the one hand and the Fascist governments of Iran and Syria on the other.

Suppose the same kind of government were to come to power in Mexico. It would not be long before, I would think, there were hostilities with the United States.

"Poor Mexico, so far from God and so near to the United States," Porfirio Diaz, the Mexican dictator before the 1910 revolution, is reported to have said. That could ring true for Mexico again if Obrador succeeds in grabbing power.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Iranian Admiral And Generals Voice Threats Against U.S. Navy

One of my son-in-law's best arguments against the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been that, in fact, it operated not so much to our benefit as to Iran's. Iran, it is known, has major influence over the Shiite militias that are now almost as much of a danger to U.S. forces as the Sunni insurgents. And, it has become well established, the Iranians have been supplying many of the improvised explosive devices that have killed so many American soldiers.

Yes, Iran is a menace, and that was made even clearer on Monday when the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) published the transcripts of interviews on Iranian television with Iranian military leaders who directly threatened the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the northern Indian ocean.

In the interviews with an admiral and two generals, the Iranian military suggested it was building submarines and installing air missile systems on Persian Gulf islands that would, in case of open conflict with the U.S., be able to chase our Navy from the Persian Gulf. That, or sink many U.S. ships. Missile boats, they said, could fire on the U.S. Navy from 100 miles away.

Already, it was claimed, an Iranian submarine has passed under ships of the U.S. fleet, and photographed them from under the water.

In another part of the interviews, the Iranian military leaders said their attacks would, in case of war, be so massive that all the defensive measures of the U.S. Navy would not be able to destroy every incoming torpedo or missile. Some would get through, they claimed.

The interviews with Admiral Sajjad Kouchaki and Generals Ja'fari and Klomars Heidari also said Iran is developing a new air defense system that would prove effective in shooting down airplanes attempting to bomb Iran.

Although the interviews were quite specific, it is certainly the case that Islamic fundamentalists often are wild in their exaggerations and outright lies. Braggadocio is as common to Muslim extremists as their discrimination against women and extolling of barbaric decapitations and other techniques of the jihad.

In the Shah's regime, it might be remembered, the U.S. provided Phoenix missiles to the Iranians. But by the time the Iranian-Iraqi war began, we were no longer providing special parts and, so far as is known, none of the Phoenix missiles were usable by the Khomeini regime which had replaced the Shah.

Still, the recent Israel-Hezbollah war showed that Iranian and Syrian missiles were quite effective when employed against Israel, and we have to assume they would also be used in a war with us. The Israelis managed to shoot down the only Zilgal long-range Iranian missile known to have been fired in the war, but presumably the Iranians have many more inside Iran and might be able to fire them effectively against us or our Persian Gulf allies in Oman, Bahrain or Kuwait, not to mention Saudi Arabia.

All this is proof of aggressive Iranian potentialities. We have to assume that, in addition to Iranian terrorism which has been threatened against American forces throughout the world, the Iranian military would be capable of much more severe blows than any ever delivered by Saddam Hussein's Iraq in case open war to erupt between the U.S. and Iran.

That is why it is so important to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and to prevent North Korea from supplying any, a distinct possibility. At the present, the U.S. has a nuclear capability that would trump, in a war emergency, anything Iran could put up. But even that advantage could well no longer apply to such a great extent in the years ahead.

One other note: Time magazine has an article this week by its excellent correspondent in Iran, Azadeh Moaveni, reporting an internal crackdown by religious fanatics in the Iranian government. Women are being segregated from men in a host of educational classes, bans have been implemented of smoking by women but not by men in cafes, and satellite television dishes are being seized all over Tehran. So, the fundamentalists discredit themselves, and Islam is made to seem a more and more tyrannical religion.

Monday, August 28, 2006

NYT Article on Crumbling And Sale of Knight-Ridder Applies To Tribune Co.

A lengthy article in the New York Times Sunday business section about the sale of the Knight-Ridder newspapers would seem to apply, at least in two important respects, to what could pertain to the prospects for a sale and breakup of the Tribune Co.

First, the Times reports, profit margins at the Knight-Ridder papers had slipped from 20% to 16.4%, and the stock price had gone way down, thus putting pressure on P. Anthony Ridder to make a sale. This is consistent with what has been happening to Tribune, where revenue is flat, profit margins are down and the stock price hovers at around the $31 level, far below the $52 it was just a little more than two years ago.

Second, at Knight Ridder, there was a dissident stockholder, Bruce S. Sherman of Private Capital Management, who held about 19% of Knight-Ridder stock, was dissatisfied with what he was getting out of it, and began pressing for a sale, along with Wall St. analysts who are always ready to shred a company, if they see the least advantage to themselves and their clients.

At Tribune, the Chandler family interests hold about 16% of the stock, and along with investor Nelson Peltz, with 1.2%, have also been pressing for a sale. Chandler family advisor Tom Unterman declared months ago that September might be a key time for such a sale, since certain Chandler family trusts dissolve at that time, and the tax hit on the Chandlers of a sale would then be less.

Another factor in the situation at Knight-Ridder, dealt with extensively in the New York Times article, is that P. Anthony Ridder, head of the company, decided it would be fruitless to fight the dissidents, and he bowed to the idea of a sale.

No one can yet tell whether this applies to Tribune Co. or not, because we don't know definitively the temper of Dennis FitzSimons, the Tribune CEO, and the Chicago businessmen who constitute the majority of his board.

FitzSimons so far has said he is stubbornly resisting the idea of a breakup of Tribune, but this position could change, if the stock buyback he undertook against the wished of the Chandler family representatives, is not successful in raising the stock price. We just, at this point, don't know how tough and determined FitzSimons is.

At Knight-Ridder, there had been considerable cost-cutting and layoffs. The conclusion of the article in the Times by Katherine Seelye is that this was unsuccessful in easing the difficulties of Knight Ridder.

This also may find a parallel in the Tribune Co.'s situation. Since becoming CEO, FitzSimons has wildly pursued cost-cutting, but the result thus far has not been a cure for the stock price problems, and, like at Knight-Ridder, it has certainly not enhanced the quality of Tribune Co. papers, most of which have seen a sharp circulation decline and outspoken reader dissatisfaction.

The NYT article quotes James M. Naughtonl, former executive editor of Knight-Ridder's Philadelphia Inquirer, as saying, "The real story of the decline and fall of Knight Ridder is not Bruce Sherman. It's the notion that you can continue whittling and paring and reducing and degrading the quality of your product and not pay any price. Tony (Ridder's) legacy is that he destroyed a great company."

That could well be FitzSimon's legacy at the Tribune as well. But, under local owners, the L.A. Times could easily prosper. They might care far more for California and its readers.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Jill Carroll's Articles In Christian Science Monitor Are Superb

One of the burning questions in the world today has to do with what Muslims believe, and why, the cross-currents of Muslim thought and its effect on what is going on in the present worldwide conflict.

From that standpoint, a series of articles by former Iraqi hostage Jill Carroll running for the past two weeks in the Christian Science Monitor, and an article by Teresa Watanabe in today's Los Angeles Times on the threats to an Islamic reformer who has been a UCLA professor since 1998, are highly pertinent. They should be must reading for everyone.

The Carroll articles are posted widely on the Internet. One need not be a reader of the Christian Science Monitor to see this 11-part account, in great detail of Carroll's survival of 82 days in insurgent captivity in and around Baghdad.

How did a small group of insurgents keep the young free-lancer for the Monitor secreted all that time? Carroll tells how when she was moved around, it was with lots of veiled women and children, so as to not attract attention. Carroll was never found by all those looking for her; she was finally released voluntarily by her captives, who may have come to love and respect her. Her story, in short, is one of a great personal triumph, although she scarcely presents it that way in her clear, spare writing.

Her relations with her guards, their conversations, the videos they forced her to make and the quiet strategies she adopted to stay alive and keep her sanity make for the most fascinating reading. The insurgents (four suspects have now been arrested) come across with more revealing inside detail than any other accounts I have yet to read about a rebellion which has kept U.S. troops at bay for three and a half years.

The Christian Science Monitor has outdone itself in presenting this gripping story. The articles appear on the Internet both in concise form and, with a click, their complete length, which altogether run thousands of words. It must be emphasized that they are not told in any lurid or provocative way. Carroll's writing is factual without being exploitative, and she is remarkably frank about her feelings during this horrible time, that she was barely keeping control of herself. Actually, with little alteration, these articles could become a book.

The best thing is that Carroll is fair to her captors, without excusing their actions, which at the outset resulted in the death of her Iraqi interpreter and later became an international cause celeb re. Carroll, by surviving, has become a hero of our time.

I presume the 11th and last part of this series will tell us what she is doing now, although it would be a surprise if she has not been taken onto the full time Monitor staff. since she has clearly become a talented journalist.

The other article that is worthy of the highest attention is the one in the California section this morning by Watanabe, the L.A. Times' leading expert on Muslim thought.

It is about Islamic Law Professor Khalid Abou el Fadl, and the lead of the article asks a poignant question: Just who wants him dead?

The UCLA scholar has emerged as a leading critic of the dangerous Wahhabi brand of Muslim fundamentalism. He has long been an ardent champion of democracy in the Middle East and a critic of abuses in Middle Eastern cultures. Imprisoned in the Middle East for his iconoclastic views, he fled to the U.S. in 1982, where he was educated at Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.

But, he says, he did not advise President Bush to support Israel in its recent war with Hezbollah, and reports in the Anaheim-based Al Watan newspaper that he did amount to a "solicitation of murder" against him, perhaps circulated by Iranian elements.

It is shocking by the reported fact that somebody unknown fired a bullet that whizzed by el Fadl's ear as he stood in front of his home last April.

This is not sensationalizing. Would-be reformers of Islam have been murdered in Western Europe and elsewhere. The Watanabe article is a warning this could happen here.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

LAT: Going After Sumner Redstone Because He Ousted Tom Cruise

Unless they're Henry Fonda or Humphrey Bogart, movie stars often have a short professional life, not the 15 minutes of fame mentioned by Andy Warhol, but let's say 45 minutes.

That's why I am puzzled by those, such as L.A. Times Calendar columnist Patrick Goldstein, who read all kinds of bad machinations into Paramount picture's decision to get rid of Tom Cruise, the actor.

After all, Cruise has faltered in his box office attraction of late, after some bizarre public appearances, a preoccupation with his nutty and perhaps even dangerous religion of Scientology, and a romance with a woman half his age. So why pay him millions of dollars, when there are always new faces coming along and many of them are quite beautiful?

Yet Goldstein in Friday's Calendar section goes after Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone for terminating Cruise, going so far as to compare him with New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. Horrors! No one in American business, unless it is the late Ken Lay, deserves to be compared with the obnoxious blowhard, George Steinbrenner.

Yet according to Goldstein, who is normally an incisive, accurate observer of the Hollywood scene, Redstone, by going public with his objections to Cruise, undercut subordinates who were going to get rid of Cruise, but gently and quietly.

Here is a newsman castigating a businessman for actually giving the real reasons for undertaking a particular action. Yet I thought newsmen favored full disclosure.

And the fact that Redstone is 84 does not preclude him from running his company the way he sees fit, so long as he has the confidence of the Viacom board.

Mow, just for the record, I've enjoyed some of Cruise's movies. But let's face it. he is over the hill. He's no Humphrey Bogart, who married Lauren Bacall when she was less than half his age, but pulled it off in style. After all, Bogart had talent.

Hollywood can be a tough place. It relies heavily on the attractiveness of its stars, and when they are no longer so attractive, it's time to unload them. The Cruise caper is nothing more than that.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A Dream About The Future of the L.A. Times, If Tribune Stays In Control

Unlike most dreams, I remember the one I had last night. It was about the future of the L.A. Times in the next two years, if the Tribune Co. stays in control.

Oct. 1, 2006 -- Ads go on Page 1.

Oct. 15, 2006 -- In anger at Bush Administration, Editorial pages editor Andres Martinez announces all references to Republicans will be excised from those pages.

Nov. 7, 2006 -- Sports box scores are dropped. Readers advised to find them on-line.

Nov. 15, 2006 -- Movie listings dropped in TV Times

Dec. 25, 2006 -- Movie listings dropped in Calendar.

March 1, 2007 -- Circulation dips to 600,000, half what it was when Tribune took over.

March 13, 2007 -- Half the editorial staff is laid off.

March 18, 2007 -- Food section dropped.

May 1, 2007 -- Health section dropped.

May 7, 2007 -- Business section dropped. Notice in the Times says those subscribers still interested in business can find it on-line in the Chicago Tribune.

May 15, 2007 -- Sports section folded into California section.

May 23, 2007 -- Editorials dropped. Those two pages devoted to ads.

May 25, 2007 -- Obituaries dropped, since, notice says, "Deaths in California are no longer viewed by the editors as consequential."

May 27, 2007 -- Pension system for employees dropped as unaffordable. Two employees say they would commit suicide, but without obituaries, it would not be noticed.

June 1, 2007 -- Ads take over entire California section. Local news and sports moved to Section 1.

June 8, 2007 -- Steve Lopez and Tim Rutten fired for insubordination. They go to work for Wendy McCaw in Santa Barbara, proclaiming she is better than Tribune management.

June 10, 2007 -- Nick Goldberg quits as Op-Ed Page editor, takes job with Los Angeles Muslim Public Affairs Center.

June 15, 2007 -- Subscribers class-Action lawsuit seeks injunction against further cut-backs at the Times. Tribune lawyers get suit transferred to Chicago on grounds the Times no longer has a substantial interest in Los Angeles, where the suit is quickly dismissed.

July 15, 2007 -- Calendar section is dropped. Without the movie listings, Tribune says there is no longer any advertising support for it. John Nontorio quits, joins Lopez and Rutten at the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Aug. 1, 2007 -- Section A drops back to six pages, but summary pages are kept. Headlines transferred to bottom of Page 1, and ads lead the paper.

Sept. 15, 2007 -- Circulation drops to 100,000 in new report. Tribune stock price declines to $1.75. Some Chandler family members, their stock dividends having vanished, are revealed to be living homeless in skid row in a Lopez column in the Santa Barbara paper.

Dec. 25, 2007 -- FitzSimons closes the paper, announces Times building will be converted to condominiums. Rest of staff dismissed without severance. Only editor Dean Baquet to stay on in a sales office at one-quarter his previous salary.

Jan. 15, 2008 -- Tribune announces decision to blow up Times-Mirror building, since condo sales lag.

Feb. 1, 2008 -- Vacant Times property sold to Wendy McCaw. Presses from Olympic printing plant are moved to Chicago, and that plant becomes a SUV assembly line. Initial sales are low, since gas prices in L.A. have hit $10 a gallon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kidnapping Turns More Deadly In The Middle East

The New York Times this Thursday morning puts on page one the demand of an hitherto unheard of Muslim group in Gaza for the release of all Muslim prisoners of Americans within 72 hours in exchange for the release of two Fox Network journalists it kidnapped last week, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig.

Since it's obvious that America's Muslim prisoners will stay in prison, the lives of Centanni, an American, and Wiig, a New Zealander, would seem to be in jeopardy.

There's been a terrible change since the days, such as in Lebanon in the 1970s, when terrorists would kidnap Westerners and hold them for years without, however, taking their lives. Now, often their lives are forfeit, just as in Iraq, where kidnappings by Muslims largely of other Muslims but sometimes also of American soldiers and contractors, have proliferated. The bodies of victims are often found with multiple signs of torture. sometimes decapitated.

There remain cases, like that of journalist Jill Carroll in Iraq, where victims are released, sometimes for ransom and sometimes for other reasons. Judging from Carroll's series of articles in the Christian Science Monitor, she may have been let go because the chief of her captives fell in love with her.

But by and large, Muslim Fascist brutality is growing month by month.

Some countries, such as Israel, long ago had enough. Israel has appropriately fought back, and in the recent war in Lebanon the Israelis also went after those sheltering terrorists in their homes, hiding their rockets, giving them sanctuaries from which to prey on the innocent.

For this, the organization Amnesty International, in a perversion of right thinking, accused the Israelis yesterday of war crimes. But it is not a war crime to defend oneself against brutal enemies out to kill you, and that's what the Israelis have been doing. Like the Muslim charities which support the killers, Amnesty International ought to be closed down and its own leaders charged with crimes against humanity. They fail to understand, and show no willingness, to cope with the existing situation.

Today, the Middle East Media Research Institute has an article on the Arabian cleric who has posted instructions of exactly how to kill Americans and other Westerners.

It's clear it's only going to get worse, unless the war against these awful people is pursued with all vigor. In many cases, the right course is to try to kill them before they kill us.

In an L.A. Times editorial today, we have another of those appeasement arguments -- in this case about Iran and its nuclear plans -- that contends there is little we can do other than employ weak sanctions.

This is baloney. When nuclear weapons are acquired by such evil people as the Iranian mullahs, the presumption has to be that they are planning possible mass murder. Violence against these people is the only correct course of action really open to us, if we are to prevent that happening.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A New Poll, And Primary Election Returns, Indicate This Is A Big Democratic Year

The latest primary election returns, plus a new New York Times-CBS poll out today, indicate this is going to be a big Democratic year, with the Democrats probably recapturing Congress in the mid-term elections and putting heavy pressure on President Bush's Iraq policy.

To the extent that the election is viewed as a referendum on the Iraq war, a Democratic sweep would deal a devastating blow to the President's determination to continue waging the war.

But look at the poll today. Asked if they approve of Mr. Bush's Iraq war handling, only 30% say yes. A majority of the 1,206 persons polled think going into Iraq was a mistake, they separate the War on Terror with the war in Iraq, and 62% think the war is going badly. On approval of the President's overall conduct in office, only 36% say they approve, while 57% disapprove. Only in handling terrorism in general does the President obtain a majority.

These figures are for the most part devastating enough as they are, but in my mind the most devastating question in the poll is which party those surveyed intend to vote for for Congress, Right now, the Democrats lead by 47% to 32%, and that certainly indicates a Democratic sweep.

The impression is fortified by recent primary results, which show a strong streak of anti-incumbency running.

Just yesterday, the incumbent Republican governor of Alaska, Frank Murkowski, ran third in a Republican primary, getting only 18% of the vote, and a Republican running for renomination for Congress from Wyoming could muster only 61% in the Republican primary. Putting this together with the recent defeat of pro-war Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman in the primary in that state, and the defeat of three legislative Republicans in the Pennsylvania primary, and you have quite a picture forming.

Although Lieberman has now qualified to run as an independent, and, polls show, is picking up most of the Republican support, the Democratic primary victor, the anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, is, in the latest polls, solidifying his Democratic support and has closed Lieberman's over all gap. That Lieberman is concerned can be seen in his call this week for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumfeld's resignation.

The war in Iraq is going so badly at the moment that it's hard to see how much can change there by November, and the situation in the Middle East, specifically in Lebanon, remains very tenuous, with a resumption of war between Israel and Hezbollah by no means a negligible possibility. The U.S. military, meanwhile, is stretched so thin, that the Administration had to call 2,500 Marines from the inactive reserve back to duty this week.

Nearly anywhere we look, it seems, there is bad news for President Bush and Republican foreign policies. Iran seems to be successfully defying the United Nations, as everyone does, on its nuclear plans. The war in Afghanistan is heating up. Relations with Russia and China are none too good. In Britain, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, one of the few friends the President has, is under great pressure.

Under these circumstances, even Sen. John McCain is beginning to differentiate his position on the war from Mr. Bush's. That's no surprise. He knows what's happening politically.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Prospect For Hillary Clinton Other Than Running For President

Sen. Hillary Clinton obviously brings a lot to any presidential candidacy. She is talented, determined and she has vast experience. She is not a cut-and-runner on the war. But like Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, she is a divisive figure, and in a year in which the Democrats would seem to stand an excellent chance of regaining the White House, she probably does not afford the party as good a chance as it might otherwise have.

Now, according to an Op Ed Page piece appearing in today's Los Angeles Times, by Ezra Klein, a writing fellow at the American Prospect, there may be another career avenue opening up for Mrs. Clinton.

Klein reports rumors that Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Minority Leader, has offered to step aside in Mrs. Clinton's favor in 2009. This would allow her to use her talents in a substantial post, and clear the way, as Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York's decision not to seek the Presidency in 1992, did for an eventual winning candidacy. (Cuomo's bowing out led, of course, to Bill Clinton's emergence as a winning Democratic candidate).

This would hardly be the first time in American history that an early front runner did not end up being a major party presidential nominee. William Seward, after he failed to win the 1860 Republican nomination (he was defeated by an upstart at the GOP Convention, Abraham Lincoln), accepted an important consolation prize, that of Secretary of State in the Lincoln administration. Sen. Robert Taft, who also faced an uphill run, did not win the 1952 Republican nomination, allowing Dwight D. Eisenhower to win as the Republican candidate. And there have been other cases.

Klein's article this morning sums up Mrs. Clinton's difficulties well. Although she is the best known of the prospective Democratic candidates (even more famous than the party's failed nominee in 2004, Sen. John Kerry, or its narrowly failed 2000 nominee, Al Gore), she still has a negative poll rating, and she trails two perspective Republican nominees, Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

I believe a woman could be elected president, and, when she ran for the Senate from New York state in 2000 Mrs. Clinton proved a formidable campaigner. She is an impressive fundraiser. But it is undoubtedly true that her path to the presidency would be an uphill one.

After eight years of President George W. Bush, the country deserves a wide open race for the Presidency, a thorough debate on the issues, and it would be a shame if that race were overshadowed by a divisive candidacy.

So, if there is a chance Mrs. Clinton could assume an important but subsidiary position, I hope she goes for it.

Who would emerge as the Democratic candidate? I would hope it would be a moderate, someone who would not advocate that the country retreat into isolationism. The front loaded nature of the Democratic race, too many party primaries crowded toward the beginning, may impede a wide open, considered race. But, in any case, let's begin and see how it comes out. Mrs. Clinton would be doing a public service if she stepped aside.

Note: This was written before I knew that Time magazine had a cover story on Mrs. Clinton this week. At the time of writing this, I had not read it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why Did L.A. Times Reach Back To Vietnam War To Besmirch Our Military?

Going outside its regular staff, and reaching back to a controversial figure of the Vietnam war, the Los Angeles Times went out of its way on Sunday to rake over old coals and besmirch the American military forces at a time they are involved in a difficult, new war.

The articles, "Special to the Times," by Deborah Nelson and Nick Turse, raised the old case of Lt. Col. Anthony Herbert, who had alleged war crimes were committed in a unit in which he was an officer in the Vietnam war.

Herbert's credibility was severely questioned at the time, not only by military authorities but in the press. Many reporters who knew him, including myself as L.A. Times Southern correspondent, doubted his reliability, and his allegations were critically examined in a Feb. 4, 1973 program of CBS's Sixty Minutes program. Around the time I was dubious of the Herbert allegations, I was covering the My Lai cases of the U.S. military, and was generally critical of military rationalizations about those offenses.

The present articles, based in part on the personal investigations of the two reporters and in part on records of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group, which has compiled summaries of what it calls "300 substantiated atrocities by U.S. forces and 500 unconfirmed allegations."

Nelson is described in a short addendum titled, "About this report," as a former staff writer and Washington investigative editor for The Times and Turse as "a freelance journalist living in New Jersey."

I confess my feeling when I read these articles yesterday was that there was no good reason to dredge up all this material again. This seems to me to be another example of the press displaying insensitivity toward American interests at a time when the nation is involved in war against shadowy terrorists, and in conflict with countries like Iran and Syria which support them. Iran, according to recent reports, is providing many of the improvised explosive devices that are killing our soldiers in Iraq.

There have been, of course, allegations of atrocities by American troops in Iraq, and it is certainly proper for the press to explore those as part of the war story. It is also true that at a time of rampant sectarian strife between Muslim religious groups in Iraq, some Iraqis are quoted as feeling that they'd much rather be under the wing of the Americans than of their own countrymen. By far, the great majority of American troops in Iraq have behaved honorably.

Besides, despite what Bush Administration critics say, Iraq is not really comparable to Vietnam, in that the strategic interests of the United States are more deeply involved, and the consequences of retreat would be much greater.

Bringing up Vietnam again serves to adversely affect American military morale in the present conflict at a time when the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Peter Pace, has testified that morale is suffering.

"We are not out to get President Bush," the editor of the L.A. Times, Dean Baquet, has said, implausibly. The spirit of jumping on the Administration is, in my view, indirectly present in running these articles yesterday.

Are we next to expect in the L.A. Times articles about the atrocities committed by Gen. George Armstrong Custer against the Indians? I hope not.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Rutten And Wolinsky Sound Rebellious Against Tribune Co. In Articles

The glory of the L.A. Times staff is that it continues to be rebellious against those, such as Mark Willes in the past or the Tribune Co. in the present, that would diminish the paper's ethical values and its journalistic quality in their greed for more profits.

The latest exhibit of this was in Saturday morning's Times when Tim Rutten's column in Calendar both took on Tribune priorities and reported that Leo Wolinsky, one of two Times managing editors, had, in effect, done the same in an article in the Financial Times of Great Britain.

Rutten commendably has now followed columnist Steve Lopez in implicitly favoring a sale of the L.A. Times to interests that would rescue it from the downward spiral which has marked six terrible years of Tribune ownership.

The Rutten column and the Wolinsky article come at a possibly critical time in the process. Just last week, it was revealed that iconoclastic investor Nelson Peltz had invested in Tribune stock and conferred with dissident Chandler family representatives on the Tribune board in an apparent move to encourage a breakup of Tribune. Any such breakup would likely lead to a sale of the Times.

Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons is now in as lousy a position in the Tribune saga as the Bush Administration appears to be in Iraq. In Iraq, however, President Bush is stubborn, while it is at this point by no means clear that FitzSimons has the stubbornness to keep a failing company, such as Tribune, together. He may bail out, if he can arrange, as Willes did when he was Times-Mirror CEO, a golden parachute.

In his column, Rutten decries the corporate cost-cutting which is leading journalism into greater and greater difficulty.

"It doesn't overstate things by much," he declares, "to declare that if their (corporate) backroom influence over the news media isn't checked, the result will be a sort of slow-motion catastrophe in which we simply await that last apocalyptic thud to announce our arrival at the bottom of the abyss."

Discussing a recent scandal in which the Reuters news agency was found to have accepted and disseminated fraudulent pictures of the war in Lebanon to benefit the terrorist side, Rutten shows in the column how cost-cutting at Reuters led directly to the malfeasance.

"The truth is that 'consolidation' and cutbacks are creating similar hazards throughout the English-speaking world's journalistic network," he remarks.

Rutten also observes that "Coverage of foreign news, always an expensive proposition, has suffered worse than almost any other category of coverage. Recently, for example, the Baltimore Sun -- which like The (L.A.) Times is owned by the Tribune Co. -- was forced to close the last of the foreign bureaus it had maintained since 1887. Baltimore readers still will get coverage provided by this paper (the Times) and the Chicago Tribune, but with each such reduction American journalism loses more of the redundancy that helps keep it honest and multiplicity of perspectives that helps keep it fair. Worse, all this occurs at a historical moment in which responsible citizenship requires a wider and more sophisticated grasp of foreign news than ever before."

In other words, the world is sinking further into a crisis, while the corporate scoundrels, the Dennis FitzSimons of journalism, in their greed and myopia, retreat from covering it.

Wolinsky, in the Financial Times article reported by Rutten, said, "There is only a relative handful of papers that still have big ambitions for themselves."

Yet, Wolinsky points out, "despite the widespread perception of a financial crisis, profitability in the industry is close to its all-time high."

Cost-cutting has led, Wolinsky remarks, to rising "alarms in the newsrooms of papers that believe they still hold a unique place in fulfilling a public responsibility."

Thanks to Rutten and Wolinsky, the L.A. Times staff shows again it cannot be cowed. Now, Times editor Dean Baquet should join them in making his views known.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kofi Annan And the U.N. Fall On Their Faces Yet Again

How dare the secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, suggest that Israel is breaking the cease fire in Lebanon, when he has failed to stand so long as a week up to the mission to disarm Hezbollah, and remove the terrorists from the northern border of Israel.

It is already evident that if it is up to the U.N., and its pitiful international peacekeeping force, Hezbollah will recover every position it held prior to the war and be ready again to serve its Iranian and Syrian masters to try to eliminate the Jewish state. So much for the 15-0 vote in the U.N. Security Council to establish the cease fire.

Now, Annan says the international force to be implanted in Lebanon will take no military action to disarm Hezbollah and that the provisions of Resolution 1701 adopted just eight days ago must be accomplished through negotiation. That means they will never be implemented, because negotiation with a bunch of terrorists is no way to accomplish anything.

Israel did not go to war lightly, and it desires that the war end. But if Hezbollah is allowed to rearm, the war must resume and the Lebanese government, so insincere and such a weak pawn of Iran and Hezbollah, must be made to suffer again until it knuckles under. Fouad Siniora, the Lebanese "prime minister," is committing treason against the Lebanese people when he fails to even try to implement the terms of the U.N. resolution, which ordered, among other provisions, an embargo against outside rearmament of Hezbollah. Siniora is bidding to become an architect of his own country's ruination. When he accuses Israel of "crimes against humanity," he should look to himself for the ultimate responsibility for the carnage that has taken place, and realize that his fatal weakness invites more.

This is the meaning of the Israeli commando raid on Hezbollah positions near Baalbek Friday night. The raid was aimed at disrupting the continued flow of arms from the aggressor nations, Syria and Iran, to their terrorist associates.

Meanwhile, it was revealed yesterday that the United State took its own steps during the earlier fighting to block Iranian arms deliveries to Hezbollah. When an American satellite took pictures of sophisticated Iranian missiles being loaded on two aircraft destined for Syria, the main transhipment point, the U.S. refused permission for the Iranians to use Iraqi air space in their projected flights, and the Turks told the Iranians that if their flights were going to use Turkish air space, they would have to be inspected. The Iranians promptly turned the flights around, unloaded them, and when they did arrive in Turkey for inspection, they were only carrying innocent items.

When we see once again how the U.N. cannot live up to its own resolutions, how it has already been a facilitator, not an inhibitor, of genocide in Darfur and Rwanda, how its "peacekeeping" force along the Lebanon-Israel border did nothing before the war to inhibit Hezbollah attacks, it becomes more and more evident that this is a worthless organization and like the League of Nations before it, should be relegated to oblivion.

Certainly, there is no reason to believe that it will have the mettle to do anything substantive about the nuclear armament of Iran and North Korea, which are the most serious threats to world peace to emerge since the Nazis and Imperial Japan.

Meanwhile, after allowing his son to steal money from the sale of Iraqi oil, after failing to keep faith with his own prior statements on the conflict in the Middle East, after making himself an accessory to terrorism time and again, after numerous other failures, Annan should be forced out of the United States and told never to return. He is in his own way as big a scoundrel as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Time Magazine, Flailing About, To Move Publication From Monday To Friday

Maybe, it's the Internet, maybe it's its price and maybe it's the fact that Time magazine has become quite politically correct, but its circulation has been slipping, and now its editors have decided to publish the magazine on Fridays rather than Mondays. By the end of the year, they say, subscribers should receive it in their homes on Saturdays rather than Tuesdays.

Actually, because of slowness of the post office in delivering the mail, my magazine sometimes already arrives on Saturday, four days later than it should.

The change is reported in today's New York Times. The same article reports advertising in Time is up 6.5% over last year, but circulation has dipped to about 4 million, from 4.6 million. This still gives Time a solid lead over Newsweek, which has a circulation of 3.1 million.

Whether changing the day of publication is a good idea remains to be seen. But it seems to me that having a Monday publishing date makes more sense for a weekly magazine because it allows a whole week's news to be published rather than just part of one week and part of another.

Maybe, Joe Hutchinson has moved from the L.A. Times to Time, and his lamebrained ideas are now affecting that publication.

Time's troubles I think have quite a bit to do with its move to the moderate left from the moderate right. In recent years, the magazine has tended to become more populist, more sympathetic with the Democrats and in the recent war in the Middle East, it took a more critical view of Israel than it has in the recent past. Time also has been in the forefront of reporting alleged American war crimes in Iraq, and has taken an ever dimmer view of the whole war effort there.

Given Time's traditional base of circulation, which probably was in the center to the moderately conservative, this may have soured some of the magazine's readers.

Just this week, Time, which used to confine much of its hiring to Ivy League graduates, ran a story on other colleges, advising good students to look beyond the Ivy League. Even implying, however, that the Ivy League is losing its desirability vis-a-vis other schools is the height of foolishness.

Lisa Beyer's recent story indicating that the Israel-Hezbollah war was not primarily related to terrorism also represented a misstatement of serious proportions.

Time has allowed its Man of the Year feature to become Person of the Year and slip into definite political correctness.

But the press in general, and Time in particular, has to be careful not to alarm the American majority, and it may be doing that as the midterm elections approach. And its unseemly praise of Steven Spielberg's film, "Munich," gave Israel advice it didn't need to start turning the other cheek when terrorists run wild.

The magazine has a new managing editor, Richard Stengel, who is obviously trying to create an impression. But he has to watch out, lest he create the wrong impression. The traditional Time was a better magazine.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A New Stock Purchase Stirs Speculation About Breakup Of Tribune Co.

There is constant speculation and interest about the possible breakup of the inept Tribune Co., possibly including the sale of the L.A. Times back to local owners, or to someone else, and it will not go away.

The latest such speculation stems from a Wall Street Journal article this week reporting that Nelson Peltz, the billionaire investor, who has a taste for controlling companies in which he invests, has bought a 1.2% share of Tribune stock, and has been in touch with dissident Chandler family representatives on the Tribune board.

The Journal said Peltz had directly discussed with the Chandlers the value in the company that could be derived from a breakup.

The WSJ also reported that talks between the Chandler representatives and the Tribune Co. executives looking toward a resolution of their dispute, which is partly over problems with Chandler Trusts growing out of the sale of Times-Mirror to Tribune in 2000 and partly over whether a stock buyback is good company policy, have so far gone nowhere.

The Journal said that one reason for the lack of progress was the absence, expected until the end of this month, of Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, who is recovering from prostate surgery.

Since FitzSimons foisted his stock buyback plan on the objecting Chandlers, the Tribune stock price first rose slightly but then fell below the $30 level at which some stock analysts believe a company breakup or a hostile takeover becomes more likely.

The Peltz purchase sent the stock price back over the $30 level, however.

In FitzSimons' health absence, Tribune cost cutting has continued, with new diminutions in the quality of the L.A. Times and other former Times-Mirror papers.

We are now approaching the month of September, during which a Chandler family consultant, Tom Unterman, once said something might develop with relation to a Tribune Co. sale of the Times. Since making this remark, however, Unterman and the Chandlers have clammed up.

Under Tribune Co. management, Times circulation has dropped by 250,000 and revenue has been flat. Meanwhile, at least four Los Angeles area entrepreneurs, Eli Broad, David Geffen, Ron Burkle and Peter Ueberroth have issued statements saying they would like to buy the newspaper.

It can't happen too soon, in my view.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

French, Lebanese And Kofi Annan Waffle On Disarming Hezbollah

No surprise, the cowardly French, the complicit Lebanese and the corrupt U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan are already waffling on both the disarmament of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and removal of its personnel from the "buffer zone" between the Litani River and the Israeli border.

The Israeli army, now in possession of most of the so-called buffer zone, should be very leery of withdrawing back into Israel until not only the Lebanese army, but a sizable U.N. force, is present in South Lebanon.

(Later in the day, the Israeli commander, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, said in a radio broadcast that Israeli units will remain in South Lebanon until the U.N. force is fully there. This is a necessary step, but it jeopardizes the fragile cease fire).

Annan has said it will take "weeks or months" before a full U.N. force of 15,000 is in place, and French Major General Alain Pelligrini, commander of the pitiful U.N. force now in the South, which did nothing to even try to prevent Hezbollah from attacking and kidnapping Israelis before the fighting began, tells the French newspaper Le Monde that it will be as long as a year before the U.N. force is fully formed.

Meanwhile, in Lebanese cabinet meetings, Hezbollah representatives have given solid indication the Iranian and Syrian-directed group is not willing to disarm at all. It puts as two conditions that Israel must first not only withdraw all its troops from South Lebanon, but also give up the Shebaa farms, which in 2000 the U.N. held was not Lebanese at all, but a part of the Israel-occupied Golan Heights of Syria. With the Syrian thug, dictator Bashar Assad, fulminating to no point about his great alliance with Iran, any Israeli-Syrian negotiations will continue, as they have been for years, on hold.

At the U.N., talks continue as to the rules of engagement for the U.N. force. Will it be instructed to disarm Hezbollah or at least to prevent it from attacking Israel, or will it be the ineffective type of "monitoring" force that has marked the U.N.'s hapless work in Darfur and Rwanda as well as Lebanon? The U.N. frequently has been a genocide facilitator, not an inhibitor.

Pardon me, but I would tend to think any French-commanded force is going to be very weak indeed. And as for the Lebanese Army, it is liable to be worse than useless. If it is not totally under the thumb of Hezbollah, which is by far the most powerful armed force in Lebanon as a country, it will be a very great surprise.

It used to be that the presence of Turkish forces in such a situation would mean something. But the Erdogan government in Turkey has slid into sympathy with Islamic fundamentalism, and can no longer be counted upon to be an honest broker.

When one considers two other countries that have been mentioned as possible contributors to a U.N. force, Italy and Indonesia, God help us! These countries have seldom been of use to anyone in the sense of arms.

Israel went to war for good reason with a goal of terminating Hezbollah as an aggressive force on its northern border. If this does not take place, the chances of further warfare are considerable.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports this morning in its lead story that Hezbollah, aided by a "torrent" of Iranian money, is emerging as dominating efforts at Lebanese rebuilding.

Watch out! If Lebanon slides ever more under Iranian tutelage, further war in the Middle East is inevitable.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Murder By Tribune Co. Cost-Cutters of L.A. Times TV Times

One of the sleaziest tricks of corporate jackasses, like the Tribune Co., is to kill off something, a feature which has been helpful to the public, by putting out a notice that in order to keep getting it, users must call in, or write in, their desire for it. Otherwise, it will stop.

Most users never read the notice, and of those who do, few take the trouble to call in, or write in. Then, after the always paltry response, the corporation announces there is so little demand for the feature they are cancelling it altogether. It doesn't mean users haven't liked the feature, just that in the busy world in which we live, most people don't take the time to stand up for the things they like, even if it takes just a few minutes.

That is what is now happening to the L.A. Times weekend TV Times. When Maury Mazur was with the newspaper, TV Times was a tremendous product, listing all important TV programs and explaining what all the movies were about, enough of a summary to enable readers to decide whether to watch them.

Then, as another product of the desire of Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons to continually reduce the quality of the L.A. Times, in his jealous rage at California and the former owners, the Chandler family, TV Times began to be diminished, and soon it will be no more.

The downsizing of the Times in general, the cutting of sports and regular news pages, the addition of useless summary pages further reducing the actual news hole, the layoffs of staff, have not been adequately resisted by Times editor Dean Baquet, who likes to have himself named as one of the 100 most influential Los Angelenos, but doesn't quite have the moxie to stand up against all these moves by ignorance, prejudiced outsiders.

It is worth recalling that when Baquet replaced the more resistant John Carroll as editor a year ago, it was put out that he had flown back to Chicago and insisted upon a promise by the Tribune stupes to suspend their downsizing before he would agree to become editor.

That must have been an intentionally false report, because since then Baquet has done nothing that has been successful to stop the Tribune in its tracks. He has laid down as a suicide in front of the speedy cost-cutting train.

Meanwhile, circulation has continued to fall. Most recent reports put it 250,000 below the level it was when Tribune took over in 2000. And month by month, there are further hits taken on Times quality.

If Baquet can't do the job, he ought to resign. His leaving would be the most honorable course.

Meanwhile, all we can do is lament the continue deterioration of the Times product.


On Friday, it was revealed the Times is making at least some telephone calls to subscribers asking whether they want TV Times. This was probably a test of sentiment of the public. It was not suggested how many Times subscribers were being called.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Big Newspapers Need To Cover More Muslim Reformers

The New York Times on Sunday reported that in a recent poll conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project of Muslims in 13 countries, 81% of those living in Britain said they considered themselves Muslim first and British second. The corresponding figures were 69% in Spain and 66% in Germany.

When we see figures like these, we began to realize why Muslims are such dangerous minorities in Western Europe. Is it too much to suggest that Muslims who owe their primary loyalty to Islam move back to their countries of origin?

In Monday's New York Times, there's a report that British investigators are examining the records of an Islamic "charity" to determine if money that was given ostensibly for the purpose of Pakistani earthquake relief ended up instead in the hands of terrorists planning to blow up 10 American and British airliners flying over the Atlantic.

This would not be the first time that money given to "Islamic charities" was turned instead to financing terrorist activities.

The L.A. and N.Y. Times in recent days have featured quotes from various Arab-American organizations criticizing President Bush for saying last week that the U.S. is at war with "Islamic fascists." One Arab-American leader was quoted as saying this was impossible, because fascism was not compatible with Islam.
It is by such sophistries that many Muslim leaders ignore the fact that most terrorist actions committed in the world are by Muslims and have been for some time.

However, it's reported today that the director-general of the Arab television network, al-Arabiya, chastised those who had criticized the President for the Muslim fascist remark. "The protesting group which held a press conference would have done better to hold a news conference to discuss the deeds of those affiliated to Islam who harmed all Muslims by their acts," he said. He added,"Bush did not say that the Muslims were fascists. He said that Muslim fascists were the problem."

It is quite common, meanwhile, that when a Muslim commits a horrific crime, such as the murder of a woman at a Jewish Federation center in Seattle recently, that family members and friends insist they never saw any sign of extremism in the perpetrator. The family members of those arrested last week in the British terror plot said their loved ones could not possibly have been guilty.

Since a tenet of Islam is that adherents are free to lie to infidels, these assurances must be treated with great skepticism.

The papers have been full again in recent days with discussions of Muslim extremism in Britain, where many of the suspects in terrorist acts are either native-born or, in some case, like would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid, converts.

L.A. Times stories about the local Muslim community very often feature whining by members about all the alleged prejudices against them, with very little or no self-criticism of religious beliefs that often include the enslavement of women, brutal punishment for crimes and dictatorial government.

Yet there are many Muslims who do not share these beliefs, and do support reforms. The MEMRI organization that reports on Middle Eastern statements, writings, etc. frequently includes reports of such reformers, struggling to begin the process of modernization in the Muslim communities.

L.A. Times coverage of the Muslim community in particular lays improper emphasis on the most conventional and unreconstructed Muslims and only relatively infrequently dwells on those members of the faith who have the temerity to challenge 14th century-style beliefs.

The paper would be doing a public service if it focused more on the enlightened Muslims rather than those who blindly defend the worst tendencies in that religion or ignore its shortcomings. But maybe it is too much to expect that the news media would be more constructive.

Islam is in crisis, and there are Muslims willing to try to do something about it, but not often enough do we read about that in the American press.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

NYT And LAT Both Need Professional Military Correspondents -- Like Hanson Baldwin

At a time when the big newspapers can't seem to decide whether Israel has won or lost the war, been well or ill led, and many other critical details, or what to do to prevail in Iraq, I'm reminded when the NYT had Hanson W. Baldwin or Drew Middleton as its military correspondent. In short, when they had a real professional to balance off all the starry-minded correspondents who didn't know whether the bottle was half full or half empty.

Both the New York Times and L.A. Times badly need another such professional again at a time when war holds sway and understanding it is more important, for the time being, than understanding peace.

When my father was in the Navy during World War II, long before he made admiral, Baldwin was the NYT military correspondent, and a more hard-boiled realist you never saw. He had come out of the Naval Academy like my dad, and he couldn't easily be fooled.

Later, nearing the end of his career, Baldwin wasn't fooled by the Vietnam war either. Baldwin felt the U.S. could win the war, but only if it carried it to North Vietnam, landed troops well behind the enemy lines and took over the North Vietnamese homeland. Otherwise, he felt the U.S. was fighting too defensive a war and could well lose.

President Lyndon Johnson feared, however, that if he went north with other than bombers, the Chinese might intervene like they did in Korea. So Johnson continued to have U.S. forces fight with one arm tied behind their back. If we might assume his concerns about the Chinese were justified, Johnson never should have fought in Vietnam at all.

Later, Middleton became the New York Times military correspondent for quite awhile. He too had vast experience, as the longtime NYT correspondent in London, and he too was hard to fool.

When Britain got into the Falklands war, and its ship, the Sheffield, was struck by Argentine planes and lost, the New York Times' R.W. Apple, who's a good food correspondent but has always been a lousy dove when it came to war said he felt England would decide it had enough of the battle and quit. Middleton wrote that such a setback would only make the British more determined to win. Guess who was right!.

By these standards, we can see what the papers lack today. They have no one who could have told us, at the time, what was going wrong in Iraq from a military point of view. Now, it's easy. We have all these books like "Fiasco" about what a mish mosh our generals and the Bush Administration have made out of things, but these brilliant armchair analysts were mighty quiet at the time the mistakes were being made. Only a few seasoned generals, like Eric Shinseki, were right all along that we needed more troops in the country to crush the insurgency st the outset.

With people covering the Pentagon like Ted Sell in the 1960s, the L.A. Times never really had much military judgment on its staff, and Pentagon coverage has since gone downhill from there. The paper had an inexperienced woman, I'll be kind and not name her, at the Pentagon when the war with Iraq began. She couldn't even tell when the troops were going to move, much less where they should move and how many there should be.

Now, however, we are in a more serious war, with a much more diabolical enemy than in Vietnam, or even Saddam Hussein, and it's high time when these shortcomings be rectified. The LAT needs a good military correspondent, and the New York Times probably could stand having Thomas Friedman as a full time military correspondent rather than a columnist. Then the newspapers wouldn't be quite so clueless as they are now. They might still have lousy editorial pages, but at least they'd have someone on the staff, when it came to the war, who knew what he was talking about.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Backs Cease Fire And MultiNational Force In Lebanon

The American-French resolution unanimously adopted in the U.N. Security Council to stop the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah is commendable, and, if implemented, will probably mean the Israeli decision to go to war July 12 was the correct one.

If Lebanon and Israel ratify the cease-fire call in the next couple of days, as widely expected, and an international peacekeeping force and the Lebanese Army are successful in ridding South Lebanon of Hezbollah and creating a buffer zone, the most essential war aims of the Israelis will have been satisfied.

Those were to get Hezbollah and its thousands of rockets away from the Israeli border and curb to the largest extent possible the Iranian and Syrian influence through Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israeli Army could have gone further into Lebanon than it did, but it was perhaps wise of the Olmert government to rein in the Army, hold Israeli casualties down, and wait for diplomacy to work.

(Late dispatches today say the Israelis are in fact charging forward, trying to seize as much territory as they can get before the cease fire takes effect. This is not really surprising, since the more the Israelis can rub Hezbollah noses in the dirt, the less likely they are to want to fight some more in the future. This is just like American forces in the War of 1812. They won their greatest victory over Britain in the Battle of New Orleans, which took place after peace had been declared).

The total casualties of the Israelis, considering the goals attained, were not terribly high. Casualties in Lebanon were higher. Perhaps the Lebanese will now have gotten the point that allowing their country to be taken over by Hezbollah, Iran and Syria to pursue their goal of exterminating the state of Israel was a very foolish thing to do, because the Israelis are not willing to go down without fighting, as they have just proved once again.

I'm disappointed that the Syrian regime of the thugish dictator, Bashir Assad, was not also dealt a direct and fatal blow in the war, but you can't have everything. Assad is smart enough and cowardly enough to steer clear of direct involvement in fighting Israel. He just wants to assist the Hezbollah aggressors without running too many risks himself. The Israeli government was probably wise in deciding to let him go for now. The Israeli-Syrian border has been quiet since the 1973 war, and that much is to the good.

The Bush and Blair administrations in the United States and Britain were instrumental in opposing an immediate cease fire until the Israelis had a chance to take Hezbollah down a peg. It is very fashionable in some quarters to make fun of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but they are tough, they are steadfast, and, though they have made some mistakes in Iraq particularly, they are not easily defeated. The Olmert government was quick to offer its thanks to Mr. Bush, and this gratitude was proper and well-expressed.

The United Nations now has the task of putting together a peacekeeping force that is tougher and more effective than others in the past. But with the French, who know Lebanon well, and other countries' forces on the ground, backed by logistic support from the U.S. and Britain, the chance of a success may not be negligible. If Hezbollah tries terror tactics to take down the force, as it did American and French forces that sought to intervene in Lebanon in 1983, the world reaction this time might be more forceful. Publicly-spirited New Zealand early today was one of the first countries to commit its forces to the peacekeeping force.

It may be wise, if they are willing, to include some Russian forces in the peacekeeping force. After all, both Russia and China supported the Security Council resolution, and neither country has any love for Middle Eastern terrorists.

We can hope, as New York Times foreign columnist Tom Friedman suggested this week, that the Lebanese people will not be anxious to incur Israeli wrath again by submitting to terrorist opportunism.

These have been a difficult past few weeks. However, due primarily to the fighting character of Israel, and the good faith of President Bush, it looks like it will come out all right. Let's hope we can do as well in the next few months in Iraq.


An apology: I wish to apologize for earlier criticisms of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Just the day after I wrote that he was avoiding the battlefield, Cooper went to Israel and for weeks broadcast nightly from parts of Northern Israel subject to Hezbollah rocket fire. He proved his mettle in covering the war, and I was wrong about him.


An anonymous comment on a recent blog, says, at the end: "And please join the Republican party. That's really what you are."
Just so it's clear, I have been a Republican most of my life and am today.

Friday, August 11, 2006

In The War With Terrorists, Politics Can't Be Kept Out

After shamefully slanting not only its editorials but its news coverage on the anti-war campaign of Ned Lamont against incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, the New York Times has the chutzpah this morning to condemn both Lieberman and the Bush Administration for making political points following the British disruption of a terrorist plot to blow up commercial airliners over the Atlantic.

Guess what! Big boys know that there is no such thing as taking politics out of the war. I'm always amused when someone as biased as the New York Times raises the old cry of politics, when every poll shows the conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, are the major concern of the American people as the midterm elections approach. Under these circumstances, it is utterly proper that people on both sides make their political arguments when major events occur.

I will freely acknowledge that I consider Lieberman a principled man for crossing party lines to support the Bush Administration on war policy. Ned Lamont, on the other hand, reminds me of the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, whose main appeal was to the dilettante liberals of the Democratic left. McCarthy showed his true principles when he refused to condemn the Soviet Union for its crackdown on Czechoslovak reformers in the summer of 1968, and Lamont showed his true colors when he waffled all over the place about Israel's war against Hezbollah.

As Alexander Hamilton said, when he charged Congress to choose for president Thomas Jefferson over Aaron Burr, that he had nothing against Burr other than that he was an unscrupulous demagogue, and nothing in favor of Jefferson other than that he was an honest man, so it should be recognized that Lieberman has given fully of himself in Congress, stating his true views regardless of party, while Lamont would be another of these always politically-correct nebbishs in the U.S. Senate who follow party, whether they think it's right or wrong.

Lamont may yet prevail over Lieberman, who has declared an independent candidacy, over Iraq, because events there have greatly discouraged the American public. But the drastic consequences for the U.S. if it does finally withdraw from Iraq without accomplishing its goals there, cannot and should not be ignored in this election, and it is proper for Lieberman and the Bush Administration to make the strongest arguments they can in favor of current U.S. policy.

The New York Times, on the other hand, is taking the same cravenly weak position on the war as some influential New York papers did in the Civil War, when they urged President Lincoln to abandon the war effort and compromise with the South.

The President yesterday gave an appropriate and powerful little speech on the tarmac at Green Bay, Wis., when he said that it would be a "mistake" not to realize that the U.S. is "at war with Islamic fascists." Arab-American organizations didn't like that term, but they should recognize that those who caused coldblooded murder of innocents at the New York World Trade Center and now were trying to blow ten airliners out of the sky, causing thousands of other deaths, were certainly fascists.
And that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sponsor of Hezbollah, is as close to a Nazi as they come.

To its credit, the Los Angeles Times editorial this morning was much closer to reality than the New York Times. It indicated the President was correct in recognizing that the U.S. is in a protracted war with Islamic fascists. And it declared, "What the thwarted plot shows most of all, however, is that there may be no better weapon against terrorists than sound intelligence work."

This did not quite say the obvious, that all the surveillance techniques the civil libertarians have been condemning now for years, had succeeded in preventing another 9-11 catastrophe. But it came close, and, at last, here was a nice word about the long-suffering intelligence agencies.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

As British Foil Airline Terror Plot, It's Clear Danger From Islamic Fascists Growing

To start with comparatively small things first, the New York Times Website has it all over the L.A. Times Website this morning in covering the dramatic news that the British have foiled a monstrous terrorist plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, and that airline security measures have been sharply tightened in both the U.S. and Britain.

This shows once again the deterioration of the L.A. Times as a national newspaper. The War on Terror day in and day out is the biggest story of our time. If the L.A. Times is going to stay competitive, it is going to have to do a much better job on its Website.

Two days after Connecticut Democrats showed, by defeating three-term incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the party primary, that they are ready to cut and run in the war, the news today is strong evidence that Lieberman and other candidates like him who are determined above all else to defend America should be returned to office this November. Lieberman is now running as an independent.

We have no other sound choice than to put our and the nation's safety first. So I think financial contributions to the Lieberman campaign are surely in order. He needs help, and we need to help ourselves.

That a major terrorist plot is uncovered at this moment can come as no surprise. The Islamic Fascist enemies of the United States in Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world most notably have made no secret of their plans to undertake the most diabolical plots they can conceive, and we must not only be ready to defend ourselves, but be ready to take preemptive action as appropriate to smash these evil forces.

Specifically, I hope we have an elaborate plan, ready to be carried out at any moment, to seize control of Pakistan's nuclear weaponry in case this is required by a furthur development of al-Qaeda within that nation's boundaries. Pakistan has already emerged as a potent foe of America and Europe in Afghanistan, providing a privileged sanctuary to the Taliban forces seeking to undermine our position there, but it probably shelters Osama Bin Laden himself and certainly serves as a training ground for terrorists seeking to strike at Europe and the U.S. In the first announcements of the terror plot disrupted by the British this morning, it was stated that most of those arrested were Pakistanis living in Britain, some of whom would have been trained back in Pakistan.

A recent survey found that one-fourth of all Muslims living in Britain sympathize with the terrorists. This is a threat neither the British nor us should any longer ignore. Those people should be rendered powerless and probably deported in masse.

In the United States, most Muslims, according to all indications, are loyal to American values. But we must be careful to take action against the minority who are not.

We were lucky this morning. Thanks to alert British security, a vile plot for what was accurately called by a British official "mass murder," was averted,

But we may not be so lucky the next time. As President Bush stated directly this morning, this nation ia at war with the Islamic Fascist successors of Nazism, and we must not make the mistake of thinking, or acting, otherwise.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lieberman Defeated By Lamont In Connecticut Democratic Primary

The result in the Connecticut Democratic primary was close, but the anti-war candidate, Ned Lamont, still prevailed over the three-term incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic vice presidential nominee, by 52% to 48%.

Lieberman immediately said he would continue to run as an independent candidate, setting up a three-man race, including a weak Republican, Alan Schlesinger.

But the shock waves from Tuesday's primary, if past experience is any guide, may go far. Even should Lamont falter in the general election, as Republican and independent voters come into the fray, he has still proved that as the Iraq war seems endless, a sizable proportion of Americans are so fed up with it that they are prepared to vote on that issue alone. Lamont, in a most important way, was essentially a single-issue candidate.

With most new candidates, such as Lamont, they prosper after proving their viability in a primary. In the South, where there are many runoff campaigns, this is seen time and again, that new support flocks to the fresh face in the second round.

So I do not downplay Lamont's chances to be the next senator from Connecticut. Lieberman has a rough road ahead. He is going to be under constant pressure as to just why he is running, after losing the primary, and he is going to be hard put to hold the Democrats he had in the primary, if he is seen as going after Republican and independent votes in the general election. It is bound to be embarrassing to Lieberman as outside Democrats, perhaps with their eye on the next presidential campaign, come into the state to campaign for Lamont, who can now move toward the center himself to possibly widen his appeal. Already, on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid, and senators Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Frank Lautenberg and Chuck Schumer, have come out for Lamont, and Sen. Hilary Clinton, seemed to be urging Lieberman to reconsider his independent candidacy. She too said she will back the nominee, Lamont.

It is possible there may be a turn in the war, although this seems for the moment unlikely, and it's possible some national Democrats may fear a Lamont victory as moving the presidential situation toward the party's McGovernite left, still perceived as a weak position nationally. But Lieberman is going to have to make this argument, and I'm not sure of its effectiveness.

The vote in Connecticut, which is by no means usually a very progressive state, only hints at what election results may develop in the Northeast and the West, the blue states that voted for Al Gore and John Kerry in the last two elections. Here, the Connecticut result may portend a weakening of Sen. Hilary Clinton and a strengthening of such possible candidacies as Gore and Kerry in key primary states.

New Hampshire Democrats and Republicans both have shown their independence in the past. It is going to be an interesting first primary there in 2008.

The main thing is, the country has grown exceedingly pessimistic about the war. Hawks such as myself believe the loss of the war, a retreat from Iraq, would be calamitous for U.S. interests, but that may not be the conclusion of the electorate.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday trying to make the point that Lamont was a dangerous leftist. That may not have the resonance with the voters this fall that it had in the past.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Frequent Q and A Features An Asset In The L.A. Times

The Los Angeles Times has begun using many more Q and A, question and answer, features, and this is a welcome change in the paper.

The Q and As allow the paper to give concise factual information without attributing it, except in a source attribution at the end of each of the features. It gets past an obligation to attribute nearly everything in controversial articles beyond what the reporters are allowed to say themselves.

These are far more worthwhile than the excessive summaries the paper has been using on Pages 2 and 3 of the A section, which are a waste of space and proof once again that once a bad idea gets adopted, it has a long shelf life. It is a bureaucratic truism that creators of such dead-end innovations are too embarrassed for what they say about the inadequacies of their minds to remove them.


Rupert Murdoch is organizing a free newspaper in London, and it will be interesting to see whether it cuts into the traditional British publications. Newspapers in general have often been relying more and more on advertising for support and less and less on paid subscriptions. In order to keep circulation up, newspapers, even the L.A. Times, have been willing to enter into year-long subscription sales which make the paper very inexpensive for the readers. A year-long subscription to the L.A. Times costs only $104, a tremendous deal.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Barlett And Steele, Formerly At Time, Go To Vanity Fair

Two of the nation's most outstanding journalists, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters, Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, are entering into a multi-year contract with Vanity Fair to write two articles a year.

The reporters, both at retirement age, lost their positions with a retrenching Time magazine a few months ago, despite being probably the most distinguished reporters there. Their articles, sometimes running 10,000 words, go heavily on corruption in government ranks, and, like the reporting of the late I.F. Stone, rely in part on a close reading of documents that most reporters pay little attention to.

Time, with an excess concentration on gadgets, starry-eyed business stories and an over-preoccupation with celebrities, is not the magazine it was in past years. It is down in circulation from a peak of 4.6 million to about 4 million a week.

Vanity Fair is known for provocative, sophisticated articles, so Barlett and Steele will be right at home. Its circulation has inched up to 1.2 million copies a month.

With mid-term elections just around the corner, and a new, important presidential campaign looming in two years, the domestic focus of the two reporters will be welcome. Foreign news in a time of war is of course very important, but there is certainly room for someting outside Iraq, Iran and the Middle East.

There are two important elections this week, with Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia possibly behind in Democratic primaries.

Time, incidentally, has not been impressive in its coverage of the war in Lebanon. In a ridiculous article last week, Lisa Beyer, its former Jerusalem bureau chief, actually contended that the U.S. should not view Hezbollah as terrorists that we need to oppose. This reminded me of Lord Halifax's desire to negotiate with the Nazis at the end of May, 1940. And surely there must have been Romans who argued all would be well if Rome didn't oppose the Huns. Reporters like Beyer have their heads buried in the sand.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Two Articles In Sunday New York Times Emphasize Endless War On Terror

Written from San Carlos, California --

A book review in that section and an article in the New York Times magazine this Sunday emphasize that increasingly the War on Terror seems endless, with no present prospect of a settlement. It is becoming as much a part of our times as the world wars of the last century.

First, there is a brilliant review of the book, "The Looming Tower," by Lawrence Wright, by New York Times war correspondent Dexter Filkins.

Filkins begins dramatically, "When Mohammed Atta and his four Saudi confederates commandeered a Boeing 747 and steered it into the north tower of the World Trade Center, they began a story that still consumes us nearly five years on, and one that seems on bad days, to promise war without end."

The book is probably the most outstanding yet to appear about the origins of al-Qaeda and the early struggle to contain it. It is not as polemical as many books appearing these days on the war, now bidding to spread throughout the Middle East and possibly around the world.

The New York Times certainly gives the book huge attention. It commands the front page of today's Book Review, with the headline, "The Plot Against America," which the author traces back to the late 1940s.

Second, the New York Times magazine, always an impressive product, contains an excellent article on the Israeli-Hezbollah war by Bernard Henri-Levy, whose book, "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?" remains one of the most provocative of the post 9-11 period.

Bernard-Levy recognizes the conflict as probably inevitable, given the long armament of south Lebanon by Hezbollah. an aggressive, Iranian-sponsored organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel.

Indeed, Bernard-Levy says that Iranian indirect participation in the war promises to give it a dimension not seen in prior Arab-Israeli conflicts.

"I sensed that something new, something unprecedented in the history of Israeli wars, was being enacted," the author writes. "It was as if Israelis were no longer in the framework of Israel and the Arabs alone. It was as if the international context, the game of hide-and-seek between visible and invisible players, the role of Iran and its Hezbollah ally, gave the whole crisis a flavor, a look, a perspective that were entirely new."

Bernard-Levy, as others, recognizes that the situation facing Israel is so dire that traditional doves, as well as hawks, in Israel are supporting the war effort.

Both of these articles, indeed the New York Times news report today, in Section 1 and Week in Review, make it clearer than ever that we are in for a very protracted conflict not only in the Holy Land, Lebanon and Iraq, but much wider in the entire Middle East and beyond, and there is no easy way out.

These are historic times, and neither the New York Times, the L.A. Times or any other newspaper is glossing over that fact. It is no longer possible to do so.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Americans And French Agree On Ceasefire Resolution

Written in San Carlos. California --

If initial reports are correct, the U.S. and French have agreed on a Mideast cease fire resolution in the U.N. Security Council that would direct both Israel and Hezbollah to cease all offensive action, but allow the Israelis to act in self-defense if Hezbollah continued rocket fire.

If the resolution took effect, it would be followed in a week with a resolution implanting an international armed force in South Lebanon between the two sides. when that was in place, the Israelis would withdraw their present force in Lebanon.

First response from both Hezbollah and the Lebanese government which it increasingly seems to control was negative. They said fighting would not stop until all Israelis withdrew from Lebanon first, which is not in the cards.

There may be a lot more maneuvering, bur in any event, the resolution may not be adopted for 72 hours or longer, giving the Israeli army a chance to consolidate its position in a proposed buffer zone intended for South Lebanon.

Altogether, this is probably the best Israel could achieve by the war, since it did not crush Hezbollah in the fighting, as it had apparently hoped.

But the destruction wrought on Lebanon by Israeli forces may inspire the Lebanese to take more of a hand in controlling Hezbollah, and if this proves to be the case, and the international force is successful, then peace may be restored for the indefinite furure.

Nothing has yet been heard from the Hezbollah sponsors, Iran and Syria, although threats have come from Iran of continuing to supply Hezbollah. Iran had backed a ceasefire earlier in the week.

As in so many Mideast wars, the question after a cease fire is whether there would be meaningful negotiations between the various parties. There is little reason to be hopeful about this, but there could always be a surprise.

Israel has shown it is willing to defend itself, and that lesson cannot be lost on whose, like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who have spoken so freely of destroying it.

Israel owes thanks to President George W. Bush for sticking with it in a trying time. The President was steadfast as always.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Iraq Situation Grows More Confused; Just Who Are We Fighting?

As testimony Thursday to Congress by U.S. military commanders made clear, the situation in Iraq is now so complicated, it is uncertain just who the U.S. is fighting there today, and who it may be fighting tomorrow.

It used to be that the main trouble and insurrection were taking place in the Sunni triangle west of Baghdad, although the forces of Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr were periodically troublesome. Now, sectarian fighting has moved primarily into Baghdad, where Sunnis are killing Shiites and vice versa by the thousands each month. Efforts by the new Iraqi "government" to quell the fighting have been so unsuccessful, and the government forces so unreliable, that a senior British diplomat in Iraq has reported to Prime Minister Blair that a civil war and partition are more likely in Iraq than democracy.

There can be little doubt, meanwhile, that Iran is capitalizing on the situation, sending bombs and other military supplies to the Shiites in the country and encouraging them to attack American forces.

The Shiites, of course, are also the main supporters of the Hezbollah terrorists in their ongoing war with Israel, while Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt tacitly side with the Sunnis against the Shiites.

Under these cloudy circumstances, is it too much to say we could find ourselves ultimately siding more with the Sunnis than the Shiites?

More than that, if relations between the U.S. and Iran continue to deteriorate, and a general Middle East war between Sunnis and Shiites breaks out, is it not likely that the 130,000 American troops in Iraq could find themselves in a poor strategic position, beset upon by both sides? Would, under extreme circumstances, they have to retreat to the more friendly Kurd redoubt in the north?

In Thursday's testimony to Congress, both the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. John P. Abizaid and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, warned that sectarian violence is increasing, a civil war is growing more likely (some say a low-grade civil war is already taking place), and U.S. options are not entirely clear. Also testifying, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld focused more on saying it would be a catastrophe if the U.S. left Iraq than on giving any plan for successful prosecution of the war.

With polls now indicating that Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a supporter of the war effort, is trailing his anti-war challenger in next Tuesday's Connecticut Democratic primary by double digits, there can be little doubt that a Lieberman primary defeat would intensify anti-war sentiment in the U.S. and send the Democratic party into new queasiness about the entire War on Terror.

Speaking of queasiness, the column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times today moves this normally changable columnist to new pessimism. Friedman comes closer than he ever has to advocating a pullout of American forces from Iraq. He writes, notably, "Yes, the best way to contain Iran would have been to produce a real Shiite-led democracy in Iraq, exposing the phone one in Tehran. But second best is leaving Iraq. Because the worst option -- the one Iran loves -- is for us to stay in Iraq, bleeding, and in easy range to be hit by Iran if we strike its nukes."

I continue to be a supporter of the war effort, in part because the alternatives for us seem to me less palatable than continuing to fight, but it would be nice to think that the Bush Administration has more of a plan for success in Iraq than it seems to at present. Wars are customarily filled with mistakes and disappointments, but it is foolish for us not to realize that this one is not going well.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

LAX Quite Dangerous, From Latest Report In L.A. Times

One of the best things the former L.A. Times Metro Editor Miriam Pawel ever did was to appoint Jennifer Oldham to the airport beat. Oldham's reporting has been excellent throughout the years she has had this beat, and her latest article, on a near-collision of planes on the runways of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) last week was certainly in accord with this tradition.

LAX is three times further from my own house than the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, so I usually use Burbank. Collisions are not so common at LAX as to really worry me, but perhaps the situation will grow worse at LAX during the runway reconstruction just getting started.

Oldham's article discussed in great detail what happened at LAX on July 26, when an America West Express plane piloted by a Mesa Airlines pilot that had just landed strayed onto a runway where a United Express turboprop was just taking off.

The turboprop managed to get into the air early and just missed hitting the America West plane. The separation between the two was "less than 50 feet."

Fortunately, an air traffic controller saw what was about to happen and warned the United pilot, but not before he could not have stopped, and had to take off to avoid a collision which probably would have killed many.

Although air traffic control had told the America West plane to stop before crossing the runway, the pilot of that plane apparently became confused, leading to a serious error, for which we might presume he will be disciplined.

As usual, Oldham's careful reporting was done without sensational or provocative language, although the serious nature of what occurred was not covered up. United Airlines has just gotten into the black again after a long bankruptcy. A crash at LAX might have been fatal for the whole airline.

This is again where newspapers are superb. Television covered this incident, but could not have done so in the same detail.

It's obvious that LAX must be careful during the construction period, delaying flights when necessary to preserve safety. We can have confidence this will be done.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Israeli Conquest of Hezbollah First, Peace Later

A friend of mine disagreed last week with Newt Gingrich's assessment that World War III had begun. No world war would occur, he said, until the French surrendered.

The French are certainly signaling they are prepared to surrender again this week, taking the position in the United Nations that a cessation of hostilities and a negotiated cease fire in Lebanon should precede any deployment of a peacekeeping force to form a buffer zone in South Lebanon.

The buffer zone will exist, in fact, as soon as the Israelis establish it through military action. Even as this is written, thousands of Israeli troops are pushing forward in South Lebanon, and the Israelis can legitimately accept a cease fire when their troops occupy the area foreseen as the buffer zone. Then, they can wait to see whether, surprise, the U.N. will be able to actually field an effective peacekeeping force in that territory.

When the Israelis fight wars, they are serious. They have the old-fashioned view that wars can accomplish something, and this will be true here if Hezbollah's capacity to attack Israel, or kidnap its soldiers, is nullified.

But the war will not be a success unless those conditions are met. The courageous Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has declared, "Israel will stop fighting when the international force will be present in the south of Lebanon. We can't stop before, because if there will not be a presence of a very effective and robust military international force, Hezbollah will be there, and we will have achieved nothing."

Once an international force is established, it must have both more authorized power and simple fortitude than many in the past. Just these past few weeks, a peacekeeping monitoring force in Sri Lanka has largely disintegrated upon the renewal of hostilities between the Sri Lanka government and rebellious Tamil Tigers in the north of the country. The Swedish, Danish and Finnish contingents of the force quit, and only Norway and Iceland remain part of a force reduced to one-third its previous size of only 57. Both Norway and Iceland are not members of the weak kneed European Union, whose reliability when it comes to resisting evil has proved to be very slight.

There have been regrettable civilian casualties in the last three weeks, but it is even more regrettable that Lebanese civilians allowed their homes and villages to be used by an aggressive force to stow and fire rockets, house military forces and hide tunnels and other redoubts. If a true peace can be restored in South Lebanon, the casualties can be justified. If not, and further tests of will and force occur between Israel and Hezbollah, then nothing will have been accomplished.

For once, the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page this morning has a very good Middle East set of articles. I particularly liked the ones by Max Boot, "Messed up are the peacemakers," and Frida Ghitis, "War, the small screen, and the big picture."

Boot, who is usually not so incisive, writes, notably, "Few peace treaties have achieved much unless preceded by decisive military action. The greatest peacemakers in modern history were generals like the Duke of Wellington, William Tecumseh Sherman, Curtis LeMay, George S. Patton and Ariel Sharon, who ruthlessly waged war on behalf of Western democracies."

Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, points out, "The power of the picture to dominate public debate creates enormous incentives to manipulate the media. It can hand victories to the side that positions and fires its weapons from civilian areas and then invites the media to witness the carnage caused by attacks on those weapons. And it punishes the side that invests in civil defense."

One other thing should be said about the Israeli war effort. It seems at this point far more effective, and dramatically shorter, than the open-ended, never-succeeding U.S. effort in Iraq.

Why is this? It is because the Israelis do not fight gently. They go after their adversaries with great intensity, they continually try to surprise them with daring attacks such as the assault on an Hezbollah installation deep behind the lines in Baalbek yesterday. And they are not afraid to go after civilian facilities being used to hide or even enhance the military forces of the enemy.

U.S. marines did this in Fallujah, where the worst of the Iraqi insurrection took place for a time. But American forces have held back in many other areas, such as Ramadi and the streets of Baghdad, where "civilians" were in the way. The result has been that the war has lasted longer, and casualties, especially from ensuing sectarian strife, have grown exponentially.

Had we been more "brutal" like the Israelis, the war in Iraq would have ended long ago, and civilian casualties in total would have been sharply reduced. An American success in Iraq may even have discouraged the Iranians from taking such an aggressive attitude as at present.

The Israelis learned from the Holocaust that they cannot afford to be gentle with sworn enemies. We need to learn the same thing, or I should say relearn. Sherman and Patton learned this already.