Friday, July 08, 2005

A rare kudos for the NYT editorial page

It is a rare event indeed when I recommend the New York Times to anyone, so you should pay attention when I do. Today is such a day. Tom Friedman has an excellent column on something to which I have alluded a couple of times since yesterday...the role which Muslims themselves must take on if Islamic terrorism is to be stopped without Muslims in general becoming totally ostracized from open western culture. Says Friedman:

Because there is no obvious target to retaliate against, and because there are not enough police to police every opening in an open society, either the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists - if it turns out that they are behind the London bombings - or the West is going to do it for them. And the West will do it in a rough, crude way - by simply shutting them out, denying them visas and making every Muslim in its midst guilty until proven innocent.

And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult.

Friedman is absolutely right. He also makes this very salient point, which hardly makes one optomistic that Friedman's call might be heeded.
When Salman Rushdie wrote a controversial novel involving the prophet Muhammad, he was sentenced to death by the leader of Iran. To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden.
Ponder on the implications of that for a while.

(Thanks to Ray S for the tip)

Sacranie not so sensible?

Reader Marc writes in a comment:
Before giving Sir Iabal Sacranie a pass, it's worth remembering what he said in regards to the religious hate law Britain is trying to pass.'There is no such thing as an Islamic terrorist. This is deeply offensive. Saying Muslims are terrorists would be covered by this provision'.
Melanie Phillips had the original story.

When I first praised Sacranie's reported words, I was worried about that coming back to bite me. It didn't take long. Many of these guys are very media saavy, and say the right things when a reporter's recorder is running. What we really need to know is what they are saying behind the doors of their mosques. Or , apparently, when Melanie Phillips is asking the questions.

Thanks for the tip, Marc.

And then (sigh) there is The Guardian

In stark contrast to The Times, of course, is The Guardian, which has pasted mindless and incoherent analysis on its pages.

The lead editorial starts in productive fashion, recognizing the terror attacks for the evil that they are and properly congratulating the population for handling it well:
Just like their predecessors in the face of those earlier horrors, today's generation of Londoners responded to this latest unprovoked act of evil - which in terms of lost lives seems to have been the deadliest act of terrorism in our modern history - with a combination of calm and courage.
(I can’t help but wonder if Chris Patten will now come down on The Guardian for its “absolutist and simplistic” view of the terror attacks as “evil”.) It even makes the sensible distinction between the new terrorism and what London has experienced in the past:
The terror of the past was ultimately political. It was a means to an end. We could either defeat it, submit to it or negotiate with it. Terror like yesterday's is more elusive and less formal. It is not a movement or an army in any traditional sense. Its sense of itself is apocalyptic rather than political. Its demands are therefore difficult to meet, even if negotiation was either practicable or acceptable.
But ultimately it dissolves into the sappy and unedifying rhetoric of the left…that the attacks were an attack on our “hope” and “inclusiveness”, and that we must try to “understand” the “anger” of those who would kill us. The Guardian goes on to urge us to “drain...the reservoir of grievances from which the terrorists draw strength.” Given The Guardian’s own acknowledgement of the absence of political motivation and the futility of negotiation, this suggestion is particularly incoherent.

But the editorial is entirely reasonable compared to other commentary that adorns its pages. We get Robin Cook, whose capacity for blaming the west for the acts of others seems boundless.
In the absence of anyone else owning up to yesterday's crimes, we will be subjected to a spate of articles analysing the threat of militant Islam. Ironically they will fall in the same week that we recall the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, when the powerful nations of Europe failed to protect 8,000 Muslims from being annihilated in the worst terrorist act in Europe of the past generation.
Of course, Cook goes on to inform us that terrorism cannot be defeated by military power. Given that view, along with his known disapproval of the US military action to unseat a man who annihilated hundreds of thousands of Muslims, one must wonder what exactly Cook would have had the European powers do to protect the Muslims of Srebrenica. And speaking of irony, what is one to make of someone who, for the purposes of establishing the biting irony of his own observations, conflates militant Islam with your average Srebrenican Muslim and then lectures us that we should “isolate” the militant terrorists from the moderate elements of Islam?

Cook gives us the same old drivel…the CIA created Bin Laden, the real danger is the west’s response to terrorism, we are alienating those moderate Muslims into silence with our actions. It apparently never occurs to Cook to wonder whether these allegedly moderate Muslims are alienating us from them with their silence and inaction on terrorism. And of course, a left-wing harangue on terrorism wouldn’t be complete without the well-worn myth that poverty “breeds” terrorism.

Cook, also demonstrates his keen sense of logic:
President Bush is given to justifying the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that by fighting terrorism abroad, it protects the west from having to fight terrorists at home. Whatever else can be said in defence of the war in Iraq today, it cannot be claimed that it has protected us from terrorism on our soil.

I wonder if he would also argue that a leak in the roof demonstrates that a house has not provided protection from the elements. (It is worth mentioning that this piece of Cook wisdom was considered so notable that The Guardian quoted it in its own editorial.)

But for true moonbat loopiness, few can beat Polly Toynbee. Yesterday I (perhaps uncharitably) chastised Blair for suggesting that the attacks were made all the worse because they disrupted the G8 meetings. Today Toynbee congratulates him for saying precisely that. It is an odd moral calculus which leads one to think that the barbarity of blowing up innocents on a train somehow weighs less as long as it doesn’t interrupt the preening of a bunch of politicians. But then what can you expect from someone who draws a moral equivalence between terrorists and American cotton farmers:
Barbaric might also be 30,000 children a day dying in Africa while a mere 25,000 US cotton farmers keep their trade-denying subsidies.
Don’t blame the cotton farmers, Polly. They just need to be “understood”.

And then there is this lunacy:
George Bush is the one person who could and should have felt beholden to give a good response to this disaster, in support of his ally. But with typical inadequacy it was beyond his imaginative grasp to be extra magnanimous either to Blair or to the world in his offers on climate change, aid and trade.
Sure. And in the days after 9/11, Blair should have expressed his support for Bush by backing Social Security reform. What is wrong with this woman?

Finally, showing a complete lack of self-awareness, Toynbee sagely predicts that:
No doubt, as usual, many will use these attacks as an excuse to justify their own stance.
This, of course, coming literally one sentence after having suggested that the way to “deny terrorism the oxygen of justification” is for Bush to jump on board the global-warming bandwagon.

Embarrassment, it seems, is a concept alien to editors at The Guardian.

Read the London Times

Excellent and meaningful commentary today in The Times, from the main editorial right down to its columnists.

Amir Taheri, an Iranian who often speaks on Middle Eastern affairs, poses the question so many reporters were asking him yesterday: What do the terrorists want?

That reminded me of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker, who was shot by an Islamist assassin on his way to work in Amsterdam last November. According to witnesses, Van Gogh begged for mercy and tried to reason with his assailant. “Surely we can discuss this,” he kept saying as the shots kept coming. “Let us talk it over.”

Van Gogh, who had angered Islamists with his documentary about the mistreatment of women in Islam, was reacting like BBC reporters did yesterday, assuming that the man who was killing him may have some reasonable demands which could be discussed in a calm, democratic atmosphere.

But sorry, old chaps, you are dealing with an enemy that does not want anything
specific, and cannot be talked back into reason through anger management or round-table discussions. Or, rather, this enemy does want something specific: to take full control of your lives, dictate every single move you make round the clock and, if you dare resist, he will feel it his divine duty to kill you.

It is astounding that, 4 years into our offensive against Islamic terrorists, this point still needs to be made. But since it does need to be made, Taheri makes it well.

So too does Gerard Baker. Anticipating the idiocy of the likes of George Galloway and Tony Benn, Baker says:
The fight in Iraq is not, as the opponents claim, a self-inflicted wound, suddenly giving rise to new threats on our homeland from people we should have left well alone. We are, steadily, beating the terrorists in Iraq. Not only in the military operations, but also by demonstrating who and what the enemy really is and thereby creating the only real long-term conditions for safety from Islamo-fascism free states that do not deny the most basic human rights to their peoples. The people who murdered innocent Londoners yesterday are the same people who are murdering innocent Iraqis.
The lead editorial echoes this point.
There may be a few people inclined to make a link between the deaths in London and the intervention in Iraq. This is utterly flawed thinking. Al-Qaeda and its subsidiary branches began their sadistic campaign more than a decade ago and they did not require the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Baghdad as an extra incentive. London was not targeted because British troops are in Iraq or because of Tony Blair’s alliance with the Bush White House. Rather, London was attacked because these extremists want to ignite a “holy war” between themselves and democratic societies.
The Times editorial did, irritatingly, include what seems to be the obligatory hand wringing about possible hostility towards the “Muslim community”.
It is equally important, on the plausible but unconfirmed assumption that Islamist fanatics were at the heart of this plot, that the Muslim community in Britain is not victimised by others in the population. Whether these terrorists were British citizens or outsiders who have infiltrated our borders, what they have done is also an attack on the principles of the religion whose name they have commandeered and corrupted. It would be wholly wrong to engage in guilt by association. The leaders of various bodies that represent Muslims in Britain have condemned yesterday’s barbaric cruelty. There must be no ambiguity in that message and it cannot be repeated by these organisations too often or loudly.
For just once, rather than exhorting the rest of us to understand that the terrorists do not represent wider Islam, I’d like to see Muslims told to seize back their religion by taking dramatic steps to uncover and destroy the terrorists among them, which is something they more than anyone else are best situated to do.

But that is a quibble. The Times is excellent today.

London jittery

Not surprisingly, there are lots of reports of "suspicious" packages out there today. One, very close to me, is apparently being taken very seriously. The police have courdoned off a large section of Queen Victoria Streeet, seem to be evacuating buildings, and are apparently going to have a controlled explosion of one of these suspect packages.

Most people are taking it in stride, and it will probably turn out to be little more than a forgotten briefcase. But clearly the security atmosphere has tightened significantly.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

7/7...Some personal observations

Thanks first to all of those in the US who have called or sent e-mails checking in on us. We are fine, and luckily I do not know anyone who has suffered directly from the attacks today. Thanks also to those US readers who have sent their condolences to and expressions of solidarity with the British people today. I whinge an awful lot about how much America and Americans are misunderstood over here, and about the undercurrent of anti-Americanism that exists, especially in the bien-pensant circles of elite British life (like at the BBC). But I was living here back on 9/11 and must confess that I was touched by the sincere outpouring of concern and emotion, not just for me and my family but for America as a nation, from ordinary British people in the days following 9/11. I still remember, on the Saturday after 9/11, driving around Surrey and being struck by the number of American flags I saw. (Even British flags are generally few and far between.) I hope and expect to see the same embrace from Americans towards Britain in the wake of today's events. They deserve it.

On the attacks themselves, my first reaction is that if the death toll (37 at the time of writing) remains this low, it is a remarkable result. Four bombs on public transport during rush hour...I would have expected a much higher toll. Looking at the picture of what remains of the double-decker bus, I find it amazing that only 2 people were killed, as the BBC is now saying. Having said that, there are over 700 non-fatal injuries, many of which seem likely to be pretty traumatic (eg loss of limbs). That is no small number.

Tony Blair gave a good strong speech tonight at about 5:30, after leaving the G8 meeting in Scotland. On second thought, I think my earlier criticism of his reaction in Scotland was a bit harsh. His was an unscripted, impromptu reaction to a horrible event, and probably deserved to be taken without having his words so scrutinized.

I listened to David Davis (Conservative MP) on the radio on my way home, and he was very good. When the BBC presenter tried to suggest perhaps these attacks were the predictable result of Britain's stance on Iraq, Davis shut him down immediately, insisting that blame for the attacks lie directly on the shoulders of the people who target innocent people, not on British policy. David was also good in parlaiment, properly offering the full and unqualified support of his party to the government.

Saddam apologist George Galloway, on the other hand, was his usual disgusting self, blaming - who else? - America. Minister Adam Ingram got it about right in suggesting that Galloway was "dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood".

I am equally unimpressed with the reaction of so-called Muslim leaders. The BBC headlines its story "Muslim leaders join condemnation", but in fact they seem primarily motivated by concern for the "Muslim community" rather than for Britain itself.

Muslim leaders have condemned the attacks on London and said they fear their communities could now fall prey to vigilante attacks.

Muslim Association of Britain president Ahmed Sheikh said the attacks would make the Muslim community less safe...He said the police should consider extra protection for mosques and Islamic schools

I suspect the "Muslim community" will find itself a lot safer when "leaders" like Sheikh start focusing their concern on how the attacks make the British community less safe. Sir Iabal Sacranie struck a more sensible note:

"We are simply appalled and want to express our deepest condolences to the families.

"These terrorists, these evil people want to demoralise us as a nation and divide us.

"All of must unite in helping the police to hunt these murderers down."

I can only hope the "Muslim community" takes these words to heart. Their help in hunting down the terrorists would most certainly be welcome.

An interesting note...New York's 9/11 mayor Rudy Giuliani happened to be in London, and indeed right near Liverpool Street when the first attack occurred today. I am watching him at this very moment being his usual, eloquent self on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman.

It's been a long day. Thanks again for all the concern from everyone. And break out your British flags.

Note: Ten minutes on after Giuliani, Tony Benn just said on the BBC that "of course" Bush had planned on invading Iraq prior to 9/11. Jeremy Paxman let the claim stand without comment. This is one reason why I find the BBC such an voice to loons like Benn without objection.

Terrorists blow up London trains, buses; Africa suffers

I actually think that Blair has been pretty good on terrorism, and most of what he said up in Gleneagles today was the right thing, but this mindlessness can’t pass without comment:
It is particularly barbaric this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long term problems of climate change and the environment.
Spare us the G8 self-importance, Tony. The fact that you’ve been pulled away from your plans to save the world from itself has no bearing whatsoever on the degree of barbarity of what’s happened.

Surprise surprise

Sky says Al Qaeda claiming responsibility.

Al Qaeda

Sky is reporting that one of the bus explosions was a suicide bomber. If that is true, I think we know who did this.

Who is it?

Reports now of 3 buses exploding, including one in Marlyebone. Many sirens in The City, where I am at the moment. This does not look good.

Anti-capitalist G8 protestors or Islamic fascists?

London attacked?

Lots of reports of explosions in London this morning in several tube stations, and a bus. Initial reports were that the tube stations were either a collision or the result of some kind of power surge. After the bus explosions, those explanations seem less likely. National power grid is reporting no abnormalities at this point.

Seems like coordinated attacks at the moment. More later.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

It's official: G8 leaders "run the world"

BBC reporter Paul Mason reporting from the protests in Gleneagles, confirms tonight on Newsnight that the views of the protestors are correct. Amidst a group of protestors tearing down a fence and attacking police, Mason informs us:
People outside this fence want to change the world. Those inside of it, or what remains of it, run the world.
The BBC uncovers the illuminati. Thanks, Paul.

Make Poverty History (but first....)

Does anyone else see the massive disconnect exhibited by a British media which lionizes Bob Geldof for engaging in mindless emotional blackmail like this:
He said if Mr Blair met objections from other world leaders, who have been arriving in Scotland through the day, he should remind them of the 50,000 people dying daily because they were too poor to live.
...while at the same time wildly celebrating having won the obligation to spend up to £5 billion on a sporting event?

I'd like to know why the BBC doesn't ask the sainted Geldof if he "backed the bid".

The oh-so-subtle Guardian

From The Guardian today, in an article otherwise about the lovefest between Bob Geldof and Tony Blair:
[George Bush] repeated the White House line that many developing countries were not involved in the Kyoto negotiations, and said that he would find it hard to endorse an agreement that would lead to significant job losses in the US.
Now, I wonder how many instances one might find of The Guardian referring to Geldof repeating "the Live8 line" on African poverty. Or of environmentalists repeating the "global-warming line". Or of Kofi Annan repeating the "UN line". I'm guessing, oh, never perhaps?

But today we get a two-fer on Bush:
The Bush administration has been attacked for its line that there is no scientific consensus on the causes of global warming, a position similar to that of US oil firms.
Hmmm. Bush...oil firms...same "line". Now why do you suppose The Guardian made that connection?

BBC finally corrects itself

The BBC finally did a story today on the Valerie Plame investigation without asserting as undisputed fact that the leak of her employment with the CIA was a federal crime. As I have already noted, every other time it has written on this story it has casually claimed that the leak was a criminal act, a "fact" which is in much doubt.

Three cheers for the BBC for finally getting it right on this story. (Although it still has not mentioned the hysterical role the New York Times itself played in calling for the very investigation that it now thinks is unjustified.)

Is it just me?

Does anyone else find it at least marginally distasteful that the base of the dome on St. Paul's Cathedral has been festooned with an advertisement for the Make Poverty History campaign?

It's not the fact that it is promoting what is essentially a political lobby. Involving itself in politics is hardly unknown to the Church of England. But it strikes me as at least a little bit undignified to take one of the most important historical landmarks in all of Britain, which famously survived even the blitz with its structural integrity intact, and turn it into billboard.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

It's the people, stupid

Last week the BBC did a story on gay marriage in Canada, and how apparently many gay couples from the US are trekking up to the Great White North in order to get hitched. Near the end of the story, the BBC helpfully reminds us that:
President George Bush's administration has repeatedly said it is firmly opposed to any recognition of marriage for gays and lesbians.

Which is true enough. But what the BBC does not tell us is that:

  • since marriages are legally regulated at the state level, whether or not George Bush is opposed to them is pretty much irrelevant to whether they are deemed to be legal (see Massachusetts)
  • poll after poll after poll after poll after poll in the US has shown the American people themselves to be “firmly opposed” to any recognition of marriage for gays and lesbians
  • in the last election cycle, 11 states took up the issue of same-sex marriage bans as ballot initiatives, and in every single state, the ban passed.

The BBC needs to start understanding that George Bush, or any President for that matter, is an elected official with certain, limited duties, not the singular fount from whom springs forth all law and political policy throughout the land.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Make the BBC history

In all of this euphoria over the Live 8 concerts around the world, I feel compelled to point out something that may seem obvious. Live 8 was a political event. It was not, like its predecessor Live Aid, a charity event. It was conceived, planned, and executed precisely with a political dimension in mind, and to achieve certain political ends. Again, this probably seems obvious, as even the media got the idea.

The BBC: The world's biggest music stars have united in concerts around the globe to put pressure on political leaders to tackle poverty in Africa.

The Guardian: Unlike the original LiveAid concerts held 20 years ago, today's performances are not about raising money. Instead they create a visible symbol and a message to politicians that poverty is a meaningful issue right across the world.

And, lest there be any doubt, read Bob Geldof’s own words on the reason for the occasion.

So, having established beyond doubt that this was an event in political advocacy, aimed at pressuring politicians to adopt certain policies towards Africa, I have a sacrilegious question to pose:

Why was Live 8 broadcast live by the BBC as if it were entertainment instead of simply covered on the 10 pm news like any other political protest?

The BBC’s values say that it is “independent, impartial, and honest”. Is it now a mark of “impartiality” and “honesty” to broadcast live, for over 10 straight hours, both on TV and on radio, political advocacy on a narrow issue with few, if any, dissenting voices to be heard?

It is not as though the political point of the event was not controversial. If it weren’t there would have been no need and no point to the event in the first place. And it is not as though there were no sensible critics to be found.

The BBC did, at least, admit that broadcasting the event raised questions about its impartiality, although not until after the fact. And of course it claims to have issued special guidelines to the producers and presenters of the broadcast, to help them stay impartial. But the notion that the BBC “cannot be seen to endorse the Make Poverty History campaign” when, as it openly acknowledges, it is the major broadcast “partner” of the event for which the “rallying cry” is precisely that, is simply laughable. The very effectiveness of the political intent of the event was dependent upon the BBC being that “partner”. Refraining from using the term "we" when speaking about the event hardly absolves the BBC of the central role it played in selling the politics of it.

We have long known of the agenda driven journalism and advocacy practiced at the BBC. TAE was born partly out of an attempt to highlight that very fact. But rarely has the BBC engaged so blatantly and shamelessly in political advocacy to so little comment or objection. Is it somehow acceptable now for the BBC to take the license fee that TV owners are forced by law to pay into its coffers and use it to give almost a whole day’s worth of free advertising to a political lobby? Sadly, as long as it is packaged up along with the dulcet tones of Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox, the answer appears to be yes.

Geldof worship

In the front page story yesterday on the Live8 concert in Hyde Park, we find the calm, studied, sober observations that we've come to expect from The Sunday Times:

Then the music and the mood gradually found their rhythm and, in a break between acts, a shaggy-haired prophet emerged from the jungle of giant amplifiers.

Dressed all in white with a black cap, Mahatma Geldof shuffled forward. “Hello,” he said. “Thanks for coming. It would have been a bit crap if nobody had showed up.”

So glad to see The Times maintaining its restraint and composure amidst a sea of emotion.

Rubbish cleared from Hyde Park; remains thick at The Guardian

With Live 8 finally (and mercifully) history, The Guardian gives us this intro into its profiles of the G8 politicians and what to expect at Gleneagles this week.
With the rubbish cleared from Hyde Park and other venues around the world and the music fast becoming a mellow memory, the focus shifts to the eight men with the power to decide Africa's fate when they meet at the Gleneagles hotel in Perthshire this week. Musicians and politicians called at the concert for justice for Africa. The leaders of eight of the world's wealthiest countries are capable of delivering. But do they all want to?
The power to decide Africa’s fate? The ability to deliver “justice” to Africa? Sorry, but I’m sensing the faint whiff of a 21st century White Man’s Burden. The west may be in a position to provide a few bucks in emergency aid and save some people from immediate starvation, but it is little more than neo-colonial arrogance and condescension to think that the fate of Africa lies with the west rather than with its own people and leaders. Which would be fine, I suppose, if they really meant it. But they don’t. The Guardian, no doubt, has little interest in the monumental undertaking (removal and replacing of governments, widespread cultural change, ie real imperialism) it would require of the west to truly sort out Africa’s problems. Better to demand the spending of a few billion (of other people’s money, of course) on some incoherent notion of “justice”, and revisit the issue again in 20 years while lamenting the poor job the west is doing when another aging rocker discovers that Africa still remains as poor and corrupt as it ever did.

UPDATE: The Guardian’s own Madeleine Bunting agrees with me…sort of.
Could Britain open a new page in its long engagement with Africa, finally drawing a line under the colonial themes of "saving" and "civilising" the continent?...

It would correct the media myth that the fate of millions of Africans is passively lying in the hands of eight men arriving in Gleneagles on Wednesday, and make clear that, given half a chance, Africans can shape the circumstances of their daily lives - and their often-precarious survival - far more powerfully and effectively than the G8…

What we are seeing now in this unprecedented media focus on Africa is a very old theme. In 1787 the slogan of the Quaker abolitionists was "Am I not a man and a brother?" But the radicalism of this rallying cry was belied by the image on the Anti-Slavery Society's seal of the African slave - he was on his knees. His liberty and dignity was ours for the giving, not his for the taking. The relationship at this G8, more than 200 years later, is similarly framed: African as supplicant to the (mostly) white men.
Of course, sensible thinking only goes so far at The Guardian, so a return to the same, tired, hysterical left-wing idiocy could only be expected.
The west, in its rapacious and impatient greed, destroys with contempt or indifference all that it can't appropriate for its own aggrandisement. Africa exposes - like no other continent - the hubristic arrogance of the western industrialised countries that dominate the globe and are forcing an entire species into one model of human development - a model with catastrophic shortcomings.

Now is precisely the point at which we need to learn about the genius of Africa's own history of development, which, Lonsdale suggests, lies in the extraordinary resilience and self-sufficiency to survive and adapt in habitats not always conducive to human life.

… We - Africans and westerners - might begin to reframe the debate and ask ourselves if it isn't the grossly polluting G8 which is a scar on the conscience of the world.
Hmmm. Yes. Perhaps Africa should be sending us some aid.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

BBC spins like a top

Today the BBC has a dumbed down version of a New York Times story on conservative opposition to potential Supreme Court nominee Alberto Gonzales. The NYT details at length the many groups of conservatives who are luke warm at best towards the prospect of a Gonzales nomination and explains the source of their angst. Trying to distil all this into a simple explanation, the BBC offers up this:
The conservatives who oppose Mr Gonzales' nomination say he is too moderate and that his views on issues such as abortion and affirmative action are not far enough to the right.
It is just about impossible to believe that any conservative ever said such a thing. Conservatives might say that he lacks principle, but they wouldn't say he is “too moderate”. And they wouldn’t talk about his views on abortion and affirmative action not being “far enough to the right”. Indeed, they wouldn’t mention those views at all. They would talk about his commitment (or lack thereof) to a strict constructionist view of the Constitution.

This is not what conservatives say. This is what liberals say about what conservatives say. And it wasn’t even lifted from the NYT source article. It was strictly a BBC addition. Which tells us much about what to expect of the BBC’s coverage as the nomination process carries on.

Unanimity standard?

The BBC reports on Senator Chris Dodd (Democrat from Connecticut) giving Bush advice on selecting his Supreme Court nominee.

Ms O'Connor - a former Arizona politician - was nominated by President Ronald Reagan and took up her seat in 1981.

Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd urged Mr Bush to follow Reagan's example in making his choice.

"Ronald Reagan was arguably the most conservative president of our time and he chose someone who was confirmed with a vote of 99-nothing," Mr Dodd said. "That's the standard."

What the BBC does not tell its readers is that Ms O'Connor's vote came at a time prior to Democratic attempts to politicize the confirmation process. Had her nomination come up today rather than in 1981, there is virtually no chance she could be comfirmed by a 99-0 vote. To see this, all one needs to do is look at how the left is now gearing up to oppose the possibility that Antonin Scalia, who himself was confirmed to the Court by a vote of 98-0 five years after O'Connor, might replace Rhenquist as Chief Justice.

Thanks for providing such informative context, Beeb.

Let the confusion begin

The BBC has begun its coverage of the Supreme Court vacancy, with articles here and here, along with a list of possible successors to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat. Within that list there is a hint that the BBC does not understand one of the most fundamental issues which makes the vacancy such a source of political controversy…abortion. In its profile of potential nominee Emilio Garza, the BBC says:

But his candidacy will not be welcomed by liberals who fear he is likely to support a change in laws protecting abortion rights.

He has in the past suggested he would vote to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalised abortion.

And he has also suggested that abortion regulation should be decided by state legislatures.

First of all, there are no “laws” protecting abortion rights in the US. There is only a Supreme Court decision (which itself is founded upon other Supreme Court decisions) and the Supreme Court does not make laws, or at least, according to the Constitution, they are not supposed to make laws, nor are they allowed to “change” laws. That power lies with legislatures, not courts.

Second, the word “also” suggests that advocating abortion regulation at the state level is distinct from advocating the overturning of Roe v Wade. But there is no “also” about it. Whether or not state legislatures can Constitutionally regulate abortion was precisely the issue decided by Roe v Wade. In arguing that Roe v Wade should be overturned, one is necessarily arguing that responsibility for regulating abortion lies with state legislatures.

A fundamental lack of understanding of the very heart of the abortion issue does not bode well for the BBC’s coverage of either the Supreme Court vacancy or, in particular, the special interest uproar that will inevitably grow once Bush nominates someone. Expect to see the BBC make of mess of it.