Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

  War profits, then and now

Dan Halutz, the notorious chief of the Israeli Defense Force who masterminded (if that is the right term) the bombing of Lebanon beginning on July 13, was otherwise preoccupied with personal business on July 12.

Israel's armed forces chief came under political fire on Tuesday after a newspaper reported he sold off a stock portfolio just hours after Hizbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers in a raid that triggered a month-long war.

Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, acknowledging the sale in comments to reporters, denied any impropriety.

The Maariv daily said Halutz went to his bank branch and sold shares worth 120,000 shekels ($27,460) three hours after the soldiers were seized by the Lebanese guerrilla group on July 12.

Key share indexes in Israel fell around 12 percent at the outset of fighting between Israeli forces and Hizbollah after the abduction....

Halutz said: "This is a malicious, biased report. I do not know who is behind it and I do not plan to be dragged into a subject that besmirches my integrity."

The good General has been the subject of a smear, you see. It turns out that there was nothing the matter with selling off his stocks before any opportunity should arise for a war to break out in the neighborhood.

But market analysts said it did not appear Halutz had broken any insider trading laws.

I would not have guessed it, however there it is. More from The Independent:

There is no suggestion General Halutz did anything illegal and the newspaper quoted him responding to what he called the "malicious and tendentious" report that the sale could not be linked to the war. He said he had made the decision because of previous losses and added: "At the time I did not expect or think that there would be a war."

And how could a man in General Halutz's position know that on the next day IDF jets would begin bombing the Beirut airport? He's no longer an air force pilot, and therefore practically out of the loop when it comes to questions of who's going to get bombed.

But the report added a new element to an already mounting post-war debate in the wake of the admission by Ehud Olmert, Israel's Prime Minister, that there had been "deficiencies" in the management of the war.

All these 'issues' swirling around, getting all the attention from reporters. Mismanagement of an air campaign; killing civilians in unseemly ways; insider trading; ghoulishness; fibbing about a little trip to the bank.

And yet the good news is overlooked, as always. Well, I take it as my personal duty privilege to shine light on the good news from the war zone that the MSM would rather suppress. And here it is:

The stock market dropped after the outbreak of the Lebanese war.

Key share indexes in Israel fell around 12 percent at the outset of fighting between Israeli forces and Hizbollah after the abduction. Share prices gradually recovered and now stand slightly below pre-war levels.

Sure, stocks are not down by much, but the key fact overlooked in virtually every report coming out of this war is that share prices did in fact dip somewhat when war broke out.

That is a moral victory, in every sense of the word 'victory'.

How far we have come since 1988! Children born in that year have just reached adulthood in 2006, and what a different world they will be able to enjoy than the one they were born into. You'll recall that 1988 marked the end of the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War. The U.N. brokered a cease-fire that summer between the two bitter enemies. And when the cease-fire was announced? Stock markets around the world plummeted.

So in just 18 years, we've made amazing progress as humans. Where once stock markets dropped when a war ended, now they drop when war begins. In another 100 or 150 years, perhaps we may hope that the stock markets will just outlaw war altogether.

Monday, August 07, 2006

  On being smeared

How low will the superpatriots stoop to justify the neocon agenda of war, war, and yet more war? Pretty darn low, apparently.

After my post the other day on the Qana bombing, the reaction to it among the Fighting 101st Keyboardists was hyperbolic and uncomprehending. By rejecting their conspiracy theory, it turns out I've handed a victory to the terrorists.

One superpatriot even insinuated that I'm dangerously psychotic, literally. He described what purport to be the clinical details of a mental breakdown dating to the 1970s. It is despicable, all the more because the author is allegedly a practicing psychoanalyst. And 'ShrinkWrapped' is no lonely ranter; his blog is a favorite among right wingers. Just the other day, Wolcott took aim at him for making "the narcissism of the Left his house specialty."

But attributing an actual mental breakdown? I suspect that it's slanderous-and anyhow, it's malicious in the extreme.

For background on the right wing conspiracy theories about Qana, and my own post on the topic, see the Appendix below. Those who haven't been following this curious story might want to begin there. For the rest of you, I thought I'd proceed straight to the responses from the internet's superpatriots.

Richard Landes at Augean Stables wrote a lengthy, obtuse rebuttal expressing his conviction that I suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome. That's about the level of analysis on display throughout. Accordingly, his post has been quoted with approval at various right wing sites. I'll postpone discussion of Landes, who (touchingly) is deeply concerned about "the tone at Daily Kos".

Psychoanalysis unleashed

Among those who linked to Landes' rebuttal was the blogger ShrinkWrapped (hereafter 'SW'). This commentary of his came up for discussion in one of the first posts at the new Online Blogintegrity, where Phila remarked that SW is a

posterchild for balls-out, in-your-face onlinified integritudity. This weird site is the magnum opus of a "practising Psychoanalyst, Psychiatrist" who uses his professional skills - though not, Lord knows, his professional ethics - to "make sense of" such fashionable ailments as Self-Hating Jewishness (i.e., being a Jew who fails to glorify the Israeli hard right in thought, word, and deed), and Conservative Fatigue Syndrome (i.e., a mild, easily reversible malaise that occasionally strikes loudmouthed assholes who've spent six years or more defending the indefensible).

ShrinkWrapped's discussion of self-hating Jews leads naturally to a discussion of Bush-hating lefties:

If we are at war with Islamic fascists, then those who oppose many or most of the Bush administration's efforts to use our full armamentarium against the Islamist enemy, including the ACLU, parts of the Democratic party, much of the MSM, almost the entire political and media establishment of Europe, and millions of people throughout the West, would be most charitably described as using the defense of denial to avoid knowing what the danger is and a small but influential sub-set would be employing "Identification with the Aggressor" in order to minimize their feelings of vulnerability and threat. Those people would be consciously aiding and abetting our enemies out of an unconscious process which includes "Identification with the Aggressor."

Even more than Charles Krauthammer, SW has a habit of attributing various psychoses to those whose politics he doesn't attend to, as Wolcott also notes. And true to form, before getting around to discussing my Qana post, SW presents a detailed psychological portrait of a deranged and dangerous "Michael C.", which he describes as "a true story". It's no secret that my name is Michael Clark, and I cannot imagine what point this portrait could have here unless it's intended as a profile of the author of the post under discussion (whom SW goes on to describe as having "twist[ed] his mind into knots to avoid even questioning his basic assumptions").

I won't quote his highly inflammatory profile because I have a professional (academic) reputation that could be damaged by such garbage. In brief, SW alleges that "Michael C." went bonkers from failing in his coursework while attending a Northeastern university; that he became increasingly delusional, paranoid, and messianic; that he became violent and threatened police with a knife; that he has come to believe he is Jesus Christ; and that he has had multiple Paranoid Schizophrenic psychotic episodes. All of this SW dates to the late 1970s.

It's a vile piece of work. The only truth in this portrait is that I attended Brown beginning in the late '70s, a fact that a few minutes of googling would turn up. The rest is pure fiction, though SW presents it as a case study. In fact, in a subsequent post, provoked by a highly critical email he received, SW states "I often use the behavior of my patients as a way to illustrate and illuminate points I am trying to make." (He goes on to assert "I have never diagnosed someone based on their political views". It is a highly defensive post; count the weasel words as you read.)

You will not be surprised to learn that the Code of Ethics of the American Psychoanalytic Association does not permit professional psychoanalysts to blab in public about the conditions of patients:

Except as required by law, a psychoanalyst may not reveal the confidences entrusted to him in the course of his professional work, or the particularities that he may observe in the characters of patients. Should he be required by a court of law to give testimony relating to the confidences of his patient, he should make use of all legal means to safeguard his patient's right to confidentiality.

The only obvious defense for ShrinkWrapped, I suppose, is that he never treated me and instead is making all this up. I could find nothing in the Code directly pertinent to 'making stuff up', but it does include this passage:

Each psychoanalyst should endeavor to safeguard the public and the profession of psychoanalysis against psychoanalysts deficient in moral character or professional competence. He should expose, without hesitation, in an ethical fashion and through appropriate channels, illegal or unethical conduct of fellow members of the profession.

Do we have any psychoanalysts in the House, who might care to discuss the ethics of Shrinkwrapped's fake case study? Or failing that, any lawyers who'd care to comment on the matter of on-line slander?

There's not much that needs to be said about SW's 'analysis' when he finally does get around to discussing my Qana post. He simply slathers a layer of psychobabble onto Landes' pronouncements:

What occurs in young people with Schizophrenia seems to have an analogue with nations and clans. The left has become increasingly unhinged in reaction their increasing marginalization.…

When your entire world view is at risk, when an admission of even the most minor fact that is in contradiction to your perceptual scaffold is taken as an existential danger, then you will forced into the most untenable positions in order to hold onto your sense of yourself.

Those who gleefully attack Israel for its disproportionate response, for committing genocide, or collective punishment against the victim Lebanese, must simultaneously believe the Israelis are evil monsters bent on genocide, super human military villains, and spectacularly inept at the murderous warfare they are accused of. It doesn't add up and it damages one's critical facilities to continue to believe such nonsense.

The press, meanwhile, caught up in their need for dramatic stories, lends themselves [sic] as tools to some of the most vicious, overtly genocidal, anti-Semitic forces on the planet.

Shorter babble: To reject the superpatriots' gross error (regarding the time-stamps of photographs from Qana) is a mark of a desperate and crumbling mental state. Facing up to error is not, as historians are prone to say, getting the facts straight.

Herds of a feather

The Augean Stables website features an illustration of a different Labor of Herakles than the one it takes its name from. I kid you not. But more than mere foolishness, Richard Landes shares SW's fondness for psychological analysis from afar. In fact, he shows up at Shrinkwrapped to gush about the repulsive post I just described:

this is a fantastic post. i guess this is the best of the blogosphere….in a way it's harder for me to believe that the left is so unhinged -- i was genuinely surprised by the tone at Daily Kos (which i don't read)

When Herakles is done with that Hydra at the top of the website, he'll have to clean up the irony that's dribbled all over the Stable floor from the cattle-herder's complaints about the tone of the anti-war left. What's more, Landes accuses me of ad hominem attacks upon those who refuse to let go of the discredited 'evidence'…thus demonstrating that he thinks the term refers to unwelcome deductions about the intellectual honesty of his fellow partisans. For smears, by contrast, the term 'fantastic' applies.

Anyway, Landes' evident pride in not reading Daily Kos squares perfectly with the grand-eloquent hash he made of my Qana post—which by his own admission appeared at Daily Kos. It's far from clear that he understood even the basic point that any conspiracy theory involving the collusion of photographers from multiple news agencies is, by its nature, 'improbable'. Strong evidence, rather than a mélange of confusions and ignorance, needs to be brought to bear to support an improbable theory.

For Landes as for so many other Fighting Keyboardists, rejecting their laughable errors, questioning their assumptions, ignoring their inconsequential observations, and excluding their unproven inferences is tantamount to-OK, you got there ahead of me-playing the dupe to Hizbollah (if not actively supporting Islamofascism). Only a fool, you see, does not understand that Hizbollah is capable of propagandizing.

Linked to their desire to deny any sympathy to the Lebanese civilians under attack, is a passionate defense of the Israeli offensive, the Bush administration's indifference to the suffering in Lebanon, and above all a full-throated assault upon the MSM. The latter is the flower-bed of their rage, I suspect, and the justification for so much bile directed against conspiracy-deniers. They fancied that they'd caught the media red-handed, and that their triumph would also help to discredit all the stories of carnage in Lebanon and Iraq. Here for example is Landes' introduction:

An extremely revealing piece at Daily Kos on the Qana Affair (hattip LGF) Smintheus, who has been known to rail against the MSM for getting their stories wrong, expresses his serene confidence in the MSM getting it right. One has to ask — as with the critics of Qana — how much what one wants to believe effects [sic] the evidence… in this case, apparently, a deep desire to believe Israel guilty, and the Hizbullah and the MSM innocent.

I believe you'd search in vain in my post for any expression of "serene confidence in the MSM getting it [what?] right," or a desire to believe anybody guilty or innocent of whatever these parties are supposed to be guilty or innocent of. That's simply the beginning of a catalogue of errors, unfounded assumptions, misreadings, and condescensions that pepper his paragraph-by-paragraph commentary on my post. It's worth poring over as an example of how the true-believers can read a fairly straight-forward essay and end up on another planet. Here is his conclusion:

And in the end, as they rub their hands in combined agony and glee, clucking over how Israel’s crimes have intensified global jihadi sentiments around the world, they protect one of the major sources of our woe: a deeply irresponsible media.

Tragedy amplified by smug partisanship.

But where does this smug hostility come from? What on earth possesses smenthius [sic] and his friends to think they know what’s going on in Lebanon? I guess, when it tells them what they want to hear, they believe the MSM. My question is, why is this what you want to hear?

Perversely, the one element which is most glaring by its absense from Landes' 'analysis' is the central point: that the Qana conspiracy theories reflect the intellectual dishonesty of the extreme right wingers. Oh well, I suppose there are only so many issues one can mangle in a diatribe.

Appendix: Background

My Qana post focused on one aspect of the conspiracy theories that the superpatriots have been floating, under the tutelage of Rush Limbaugh. Based upon a truly and spectacularly profound ignorance of how photos are time-stamped on line, a British blogger at EUReferendum advanced a nearly baseless theory that rescuers at Qana paraded around for several hours with bodies pulled from the rubble. Allegedly, the bodies were loaded, unloaded, and loaded again into ambulances for the benefit of photographers from several agencies, who all went along with this Hizbollah PR charade and knowingly submitted phony dossiers of photos of the fake event.

War boosters in the U.S. seized upon this conspiracy theory, eager to tear down the MSM. And even after the news agencies pointed out that the main 'evidence', irregularities in the time stamps, amounted to nothing more than a mirage, that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the conspiracy theorists. Conceding nothing, they accused the agencies of a coverup.

They've also piled up a molehill of circumstantial and, as far as I can see, inconsequential 'evidence' to bolster their original pillar of straw. I didn't describe this other 'evidence' in detail because nothing appears to follow from any of it. For example, they're utterly obsessed with 'The Man in the Green Helmet' (Mann mit Hut, Mann mit Hut!). This rescuer, visible in the recent photos, was also present in the rescue operations at Qana massacre in 1994. Well goodness gracious, that's exciting. Let's sit down for a moment to catch our breath.

Anyhow, my main point in that diary was this: The superpatriots' defense of war policies is intellectually dishonest to the point of absurdity. I took it as an example of the intellectual bankruptcy of so many of George Bush's most vehement supporters.

The wider range of their conspiracy theories is nearly beyond belief. Some of the true-believers are trying to convince the world, the Israelis in particular, that Hizbollah itself bombed the building in Qana, and that civilian corpses were shipped into Qana to be concealed in the building. This mess of a theory is predicated on dubious observations, all gleaned at third hand but tenaciously maintained, about the true condition of things in Qana. The confusion and alleged slowness of the rescue efforts is also said to be highly (!) suspicious, whereas the Israeli admission that it bombed the building is so trivial as to warrant no mention. This post is typical of much else that has been popping up on the right wing of the U.S. blogosphere (note the unsupported assertion that the farmer's concrete block basement looks like a bomb shelter). I won't stray any further into that ludicrous debate. A rebuttal of the conspiracy theories by Jefferson Morley at WaPo is worth consulting, if only because true-believers show up in the comment section.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

  The Paradox of Idiocy: Wingers 'expose' Qana photos as staged

Between my orchard and flower bed sits an overgrown thicket of scrub and poison ivy. Years ago, you could occasionally venture in to pick a few mediocre grapes growing in a tangle there. But it's become an outright nuisance in what ought to be a central part of our landscape. Only a colossal effort could make it productive again.

So too the territory occupied by right wingers in the U.S. If they've anything valuable to say, you couldn't discover it midst the chaotic and noxious weeds of their minds. And the bombs raining down in Lebanon have just watered the gardens of the superpatriots' hatred.

A perfect specimen is an absurd little weed that the true-believers rushed to cultivate when it first popped up the other day. After a British blogger managed to convince himself that wire service photos from Qana had been staged, wingers in the U.S. competed to embellish the baseless accusation. And though the AP published an article rebutting the charge, fevered minds on the right are having none of it.

Here is really all that you need to know about the Bush partisans. Mere facts stand little chance against their cherished fictions. Bile points the way toward 'truth'. Any inconvenient news can be chalked up to a corrupt media. The enemies of Oceania are expert propagandists. Nothing can be the matter with any of Bush & Co.'s wars. The right wingers' ability to uncover the various reasons why that is so, day after day, when leftists meekly accept biased news coverage, reveals their own deeper intellectual powers.

It's the paradox of idiocy. The idiot treats his own misinformed foolishness as a mark of distinction, the height of sophistication. The refusal to see sense is a natural corollary of the inability to see it.

The facts are easily explained. On July 31, a rather badly misinformed superpatriot in Britain, Richard North, wrote that the photos taken of the rescue efforts at Qana by Reuters, Associated Press, and AFP photographers had been staged. He claimed, improbably, that bodies extracted from the bombed building had been manipulated by rescuers in order to create propaganda for Hizbollah, and that the photographers had gone along with the fiction; that the bodies were paraded around again and again by various rescuers; that they were loaded in ambulances, unloaded and then loaded again; that the rescuers amplified and exaggerated the physical damage to the bodies for the cameras.

It's more than simply a charge of unethical behavior; the alleged perpetrators probably would have committed crimes in desecrating these bodies. North is unhappy that the Qana bombing turned into a PR disaster for Israel, and evidently he's willing to create a lot of collateral damage in order to carry his point.

But what is his evidence for the charge? Essentially this: that the time stamps on the photos published on line are all over the map. For example, a photo of a child's corpse lying inside an ambulance has a time stamp that predates by several hours the stamp on a photo of the same body being lifted into the ambulance. According to North, this is proof that the photographers staged these photos for purposes of propaganda.

If you were the sort of person who listens to Rush Limbaugh, you'd know that he trampled all over this 'story' on the day North posted it.

If we don't start really kicking butt in this war, including not just allowing, but in fact urging Israel to viciously attack this enemy, we're going to end up losing it, and then it's going to take something worse than this to wake everybody back up, and I'm afraid that's going to be a nuclear weapon in the hands of an Islamofascist group.

The truth of what happened at Qana has been as distorted as what has happened and did happen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It's almost identical. The Media is proving that they are incapable of accurately covering a war now, perhaps because they don't want to. You'll see what I mean when you take a look at this website. It's eureferendum.blogspot. When you see this photo display, this guy has gone through a lot of work to show how the Hezbos are milking this, parading their own dead in front of the cameras, posing them at different times, taking them in and out of ambulances, covering them with dust, holding them for hours on end, and these are still photographers taking the pictures, obviously, and these photographers are obviously willing to participate in propaganda. They know exactly what's being done, all these photos, bringing the bodies out of the rubble, posing them for the cameras, it's all staged.

Every bit of it is staged and the still photographers know it. Yet they send these pictures out without saying all of this is being staged for us. They send these pictures out as though they are in a timeline of an exact sequence, which they are not, which you will see when you read it. So the point is, Israel is probably not even killing all these civilians….

The photographs are grisly. They are quite disturbing. I should warn you about that before you go see them, but you have to see how the PR and the spin war is being managed and how our Drive-By Media and the rest of the world media is just falling for it hook, line, and sinker because it's their action line. Action line is, Bush is wrong, Israel sucks, Rice is bad, Bolton's bad, gotta get rid of Rumsfeld and all these people, Bush is horrible, Israel's horrible. In fact, Israel may have replaced Bush now in terms of being the primary target of the Drive-By Media. Bush will get it back. But they're covering Israel in this war the way they've covered Bush in practically everything since he was inaugurated back in 2001.

I can't understand any of Limbaugh's premises, beginning with the assumption that bombing Lebanon is 'our' war, or his conclusions, for example the business about nuclear weapons ending up in some ill-defined group's hands. But never mind, let this selection of his blatherings stand as a warning that the man is an idiot.

Meanwhile, most of the other fatheads on the right were huffing and puffing this story up. If you were that sort of person, you could check out the oeuvre of Michelle Malkin to get a sense of how much play the nuts were giving an allegation that, say what you will, involved neither Dan Rather nor kerning.

The larger problem was that it was untrue. The Associated Press went so far as to publish an article on Aug. 1 demolishing the allegations.

Three news agencies on Tuesday rejected challenges to the veracity of photographs of bodies taken in the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon, strongly denying that the images were staged.

Photographers from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse all covered rescue operations Sunday in Qana, where 56 Lebanese were killed. Many of their photos depicted rescue workers carrying dead children.

A British Web site, the EU Referendum blog, built an argument that chicanery may have been involved by citing time stamps that went with captions of the photographs.

Given how much trouble we had to go to last summer just to get the AP to report about a real and significant story, the Downing Street Memo, it's a sign of progress I suppose that they're now issuing immediate reports on hare-brained blog posts about, well, nothing at all.

In this case, the nothing was concocted by Richard North out of his confusion between published time stamps, which reflect the time when a photo is posted on line, and the camera's own time meter. Had he or any of his frenzied American readers taken the slightest trouble to inquire about the extremely basic question of how wire service time stamps function, the entire 'story' would have collapsed in upon itself.

But since they didn't bother, they weren't about to allow a trivial matter of fact get in the way of the conspiracy theory. North himself, who has been writing obsessively about inconsequential aspects of the dress and location of rescuers in these pictures, finally tried to bolster his mistake by denouncing the AP, earning a rebuke from the Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade

More to the point, the American superpatriots leapt upon the AP story and tore flesh. True to form, Malkin kept up her unsteady drumbeat in the face of facts. Little Green Goofballs expressed the opinion that the AP rebuttal was actually the first crack in the façade; then an update demanded that the wire services release info about the time when each photo was taken; then a second update announced that the time stamps don't really matter because North's (inconsequential) observations carry the day anyhow. That was followed by this surreal post showing, I suppose, that AP outlandishly refuses to admit its reporters have been exposed as frauds by the fighting keyboardists.

You'll look in vain for any admission at these sites that many innocents died a horrible death as a result of the bombings, the photographic evidence of which the wingers are pawing over, looking for any weakness. In this world view, death is an act of terrorism; it must be defeated, at any cost.

One of the great ironies is that, for all their confidence in their own mental acuity, the Republican superpatriots (but I'm repeating myself) put their minds in a blind trust when Bush was elected. All the evidence suggests that, for many of the Bush partisans, there won't be much value in retrieving them after 2008.

Crossposted at Unbossed.