There's an interesting article in Haaretz about the man charged by the BBC with reviewing the fairness of its Middle East coverage. He is Malcolm Balen. He rejects outright accusations against the Beeb of anti-Semitism. Towards the possibility that there might be a more general anti-Israel political slant - part of 'an anti-American orientation that reflects the views of the European intelligentsia' - he is more open, but professes his intention to address it:
[A]ccording to [Balen] this tendency is not the exclusive province of the BBC. "It is perfectly possible that journalism, not just broadcasting journalism, but journalism in general, attracts people of a liberal persuasion, maybe a left-leaning persuasion, but probably a liberal persuasion, and the BBC, quite possibly, is not unlike any other organization in this respect; it just happens to be larger. Therefore I will ask some questions: Are the BBC editorial processes such that people are capable, whatever their private views, of forming a totally separate, neutral professional judgment, or do their backgrounds affect their professional judgment?"
John Sutherland is writing here about plans to reintroduce the draft in the US, and he's complaining of complicity by the American press in keeping the issue quiet until after the November presidential election. I don't get this. Why would they do it? I mean why would the whole American press, including papers which have been willing to carry criticism of the Bush administration over the war, do it? When I say I don't get it, I mean I don't get it. I don't mean pull the other one. It's like a genuine question on my part, as opposed to a merely rhetorical one. Another thing I don't get is how the issue could be kept successfully under wraps if there was strong opposition to this move, since information about it seems to be easilyavailable.
Update at 3.30 PM: This puts a rather different complexion on the story. (Hat tip: Jon T)
You wake up on a Bank Holiday Monday, open your dnoc and what do you find? Gary Younge, that's what. He's on top form in 'Never mind the truth':
[O]ne of the most pernicious baseless assertions in recent times is the notion that there is any such thing as a "liberal hawk". There isn't. People are not liberal just because they say so. For the term to have any meaning at all they have to share some common ground on which the bombing of Iraq has no place. There was no progressive case for bypassing the will of the UN and international law and bombing a country that posed no immediate threat to any other.
Here, I'd like to be able to play with the grid which suggests itself out of Younge's elegant prose: pernicious baseless assertions; pernicious non-baseless assertions; non-pernicious baseless assertions; non-pernicious non-baseless assertions; pernicious baseless non-assertions; pernicious non-baseless non-assertions; and so on. But, hey, who's got time for mere fun, when there's the serious business of logic and argument to contend with? So I'm just going to have to stick with pernicious baseless assertions, and in particular with the pernicious baseless assertion 'that there is any such thing as a "liberal hawk"'.
Can't be so according to big Gary. Why not? Well, because 'People are not liberal just because they say so' - that's true - and...
For the term to have any meaning at all they have to share some common ground on which the bombing of Iraq has no place.
So there's no such thing as a 'liberal hawk' because... well, because Gary says so: the term 'liberal', he legislates, simply excludes all terrain on which the bombing of Iraq might have a place. 'Liberal hawk' takes a dive - or it bombs - because 'liberal' excludes 'hawk'. What a wonderful argument. I wish I'd thought of it.
Gary's not through yet:
There was no progressive case for bypassing the will of the UN and international law and bombing a country that posed no immediate threat to any other.
Inference: if you're a progressive, you can't ever justify bombing a country which poses no immediate threat to any other. If it poses a less than immediate, but not very distant and very terrible, threat? If its government is committing genocide, or about to commit genocide, within its own borders? And so forth.
I've seen intelligent writing but, as Groucho Marx rounded off the sentence beginning 'I've had a wonderful evening...', this wasn't it.
D-Day did not provide a First Day on the Somme, as Churchill had dreaded: instead of the 20,000 dead that he feared, British casualties - including wounded and missing - on the day totalled 3,000. But for each day thereafter, the fighting was every bit as intense and bloody as it had been in Picardy a generation before. Allied losses in Normandy in the summer of 1944 were of Great War proportions - 425,000 killed, wounded and missing, roughly double the German losses.
Nor were casualties in any way confined to military personnel. At least 20,000 Norman civilians were killed and over 100,000 injured by Allied bombing. Thousands died in the course of a single night raid by the RAF on Le Havre, and thousands more in a comparable attack by the USAAF on St Lo during market day. About 120,000 buildings in Normandy, including vast numbers of precious medieval structures, were totally destroyed during the invasion, and many towns and villages rendered uninhabitable for years. War caused a vast army of refugees to flee across France, and when they returned, their homes were gone.
Equally, wherever it is at work, fanaticism finds strangely similar forms of expression. Men of Kurt Meyer's abominable 12th (Hitlerjugend) Division would routinely tie Canadian and British prisoners of war to trees and cut their throats. And as the battle progressed, Meyer's SS men used to strap parcels of explosives to themselves and blow themselves up beside British tanks.
Yet all this horror does not detract from the heroic achievements of the soldiers, seamen and airmen of D-Day. The men who on June 6 forced their way past the German defences on those now famous beaches, or who landed by glider and parachute in the orchards and the pastures beyond, were to spend the summer fighting there. In that deadly bocage, rifle companies suffered casualties comparable to those on the Somme. Platoons that were built up over years were within a few days destroyed, and replacements would arrive from other units, would be rebadged, and sent into battle, often to die anonymously among strangers. It is a melancholy tale of dogged bravery as unrelenting as anything the Western Front could show.
Yet June 6 lives on, and properly, in the imagination of the world as a symbol of freedom, when thousands of men closed with the Normandy coast, vomiting with sea-sickness and terror. Opposite Omaha Beach, the special floating tanks designed to reduce the German concrete fortifications were swamped by cross-currents, and sank. What steel should have done would now have to be done with flesh, and was, but at a cost of 5,000 casualties. In some Pennsylvania towns, almost every family lost a relative or friend on the narrow sands of Omaha.
Chris Nicola searched in vain for traces of his family's roots in Russia and western Ukraine. But he found something better: the incredible story of 38 Jews who survived the Holocaust by hiding in caves, under the feet of their German and Ukrainian persecutors, for well over a year.
"The story of those who survived in the caves replaced my unsuccessful attempts to find my family," said Nicola, 53, an amateur caver...
Nicola remains in awe of the Jewish families' ability to adapt and survive in the cold, dark underground labyrinth.
"I go into caves with a helmet, three independent light sources, special boots, coveralls and underwear to protect me from hypothermia, batteries, food and water," he noted.
"I am proud of being a human being because of what they had done."
Although their new cave had a large pool of fresh water and better ventilation, the months and months of living underground, with little light, food or warmth tested the families' endurance. Hypothermia was a serious risk in the cold, damp maze.
To conserve energy and food, they slept for up to 22 hours a day, lying side by side on elevated beds for body warmth.
The women and youngest children never ventured aboveground, but the men would set out at night, under cover of darkness, to scavenge for food and fuel, and trade with a few sympathetic peasants for oil, matches, grain and other rations.
(Hat tip: Jake.) See also here for an interview with Chris Nichola, and here.
Been out of town today, which accounts for the absence of posts hitherto. Hitherto, amigos. I'm not going a whole day without posting, don't you know me by now? Having left it this late, however, I thought I'd better weigh in with a real heavy item. If you want to know what kind of cheese you are, mosey along to this site. I can't say I was entirely happy with my own result, but... gotta tell it like it is:
I am American cheese
I am a smooth, lightly colored, square-shaped cheese. I am a classic simple cheese. I am cautious and practical and very down to earth.
Here is WotN's result:
You are mozzarella!
You are a shiny, soft, round cheese. You are very imaginative and creative, but you don't like to stand out. You don't mind solitude at times and you love to do art.
I hadn't previously come across The Raw Story, but this morning it turned up in my Stats and Referrers. On its About page it says:
[it] was founded as an alternative news directory to provide interesting and relevant news stories... to the left-leaning market.
In this article James Clasper asks: 'Where are all the British blogs?' He argues that blogs in this country lag behind the American blogs in readership and general development; and he offers a number of reasons why he thinks this will probably continue to be the case. And?
A Chilean court has stripped General Augusto Pinochet of his immunity from prosecution, opening up once more the possibility of his being tried for his part in the human rights abuses that followed his military coup in 1973.
The appeals court in Santiago voted by 14 to 9 to remove immunity from the man who led the military dictatorship that replaced President Salvador Allende and remained in power until 1990.
Not before time. Pinochet's lawyers are pleading ill-health. His son says:
He has not lost his reason. He has problems with his memory. He can remember things that happened 50 years ago, but not what happened two years ago. It is like a jigsaw puzzle.