Saturday, February 25, 2006

Has Webb made a New Year's resolution to be sensible?

Thanks goes to TAE reader Jeff, who brought to my attention the latest installment of Justin Webb's continuing effort to deprive TAE of anything to complain about.

In today's FOOC report, Webb focuses on the hollowness of the American left, claiming that Democrats "do not have a message" and "do not know where to go", and that "The American left has faded away." More notably, he points out that, even if they had a message, they've lost their traditional method of getting it out.
Most importantly, the worlds of entertainment and news (which used to pipe a vaguely left-wing message into the nation's homes) have been blown to bits by technological changes which render them powerless.
That is quite an acknowledgement, coming from an employee of the BBC, which continues to this day to pipe a vaguely left-wing message into its own nation's homes. (Regrettably, the BBC itself has not yet been rendered quite so powerless, its antiquated and coercive methods of financing working to immunize it from the irritation of having to actually compete for its survival.)

Unfortuantely, Webb still has not purged himself of the need to show his disdain for religion in America. Noting the ubiquity of bumper stickers in the US and the "treasure trove of American free speech" that they represent, Webb can't help himself from informing us of his "favorite": "Don't pray in my school and I won't think in your church." I could have guessed.

Still, that's a nitpick. Have a read of Webb's latest. It's worth it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Highs and lows at the Beeb

Today, in an article headlined Could this be the end of Roe v Wade, the BBC's Clare Murphy discusses South Dakota's passage of a law apparently designed to eventually challenge the Supreme Court's infamous abortion ruling from 1973. The article is in many respects a rehash of another Murphy article which TAE noted and praised back in November, but it is worth praising again. Murphy explicitly notes something that the pro-abortion lobby (and its proxies in the media) goes to great lengths to obfuscate, namely that an end to Roe v Wade does not mean the end of access to abortion in the US. She even notes:

But the battle would take place in state legislatures, and that, to an increasing number of pro-choicers, may be no bad thing.

It would force them to argue their case with voters at the state level, so the thinking goes, and stop them relying on unelected courts to impose their views. Abortion rights would finally have a firm, democratic foundation.

The fact that current abortion policy has been imposed by courts rather than elected representatives, thus removing it from the arena of political compromise, is the single most important cause making abortion the highly contentious and polarizing issue that it currently is. An end to Roe will be the first step in establishing an abortion policy which will help prevent the festering of political grievances that judicial-fiat rulings tend to engender.

Murphy should be commended for presenting a reasonable and balanced profile of the abortion issue as it currently stands in the US, and for avoiding the more typical BBC meme of using the issue as a hook on which to hang yet another story about the rise of the dreaded religious right.

Less commendable was the BBC's response to TAE today on another abortion article. Earlier this week the BBC ran an article on the Supreme Court's decision to hear an appeal of a lower court's ruling that the federal law banning partial-birth abortions is unconstitutional. The opening line of that article claimed that "The US Supreme Court says it will rule on whether to uphold the first federal ban on an abortion procedure since terminations were made legal in 1973." This implies that there was a federal ban on abortions prior to 1973, which is simply untrue. Prior to 1973, abortion policy was decided by state legislatures, and hence whether or not abortion was legal varied from state to state. In many states abortion was already legal even before Roe, a point which, if understood, tends to put the lie to the alarmist claims of the pro-abortion lobby regarding the possible end of Roe.

TAE pointed this out to the BBC via its on-line complaints procedure, and today the BBC responded with the following:

I understand you feel that the opening paragraph in a BBC News article about
abortion in the USA is factually incorrect.

I can assure you that factual accuracy is the essence of news reporting and the BBC aspires to the very highest standards of journalism but in many cases, particularly with breaking news stories, facts can be scarce or conflicting.

Nevertheless I do realise the frustration this supposed error must have caused. Therefore please be assured that your complaint has been registered and placed on an audience log which is made available to all members of the BBC and a copy of your e-mail forwarded for the attention of the BBC News team.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC with your complaint.

Louise O'Doherty
BBC Information

Have you got that? It is apparently the considered judgment of Ms O'Doherty that the status of abortion in the US prior to 1973, and the nature of the court ruling that has been the subject of intense analysis and debate for 23 years (update: ahh, I mean 33!) since then, is in fact a "breaking" story about which facts are "scarce" and/or "conflicting". Either that, or Louise is nothing more than a computer program pumping out automated responses to e-mails that no one ever reads or pays any attention to. Either way, it rather shows the BBC's claims to "research" the issue, "listen to your concerns", and "learn from all complaints" to be the farce that they apparently are.

Speaking of schadenfreude

With today's news that London Mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone has been officially suspended from his duties for 4 weeks for acting in an "unnecessarily insensitve" manner, the weekend could not have gotten off to a better start. Livingstone, recall, had responded to a Jewish newspaper reporter's questions by asking the reporter if he was a "German war criminal" and then likening him to a concentration camp guard. (You can hear the fateful exchange between the two here.) Livingstone refused to apologize, and was eventually charged by the Standards Board of England with having breached the Greater London Authority code of conduct. Today an Adjudication Panel ruled against him.

For those lucky few who may be unfamiliar with him, Livingstone, who at one time got himself ejected from the Labour party, has been known to blurt out such thoughtful and intelligent gems as "I look forward to [the Bush administration] being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown," and "Every year the international financial system kills more people than World War Two." He is, in other words, the Pat Robertson of the British loony left, although, unlike the imaginations of the BBC with regard to Robertson, Livingstone's political power is in fact substantial. So when the news of the (perhaps literal) bully's comeuppance was released, it was difficult to suppress a wide smile.

And yet...

As much as it pains me to take his side, this case against Livingstone is utterly ridiculous. So he was rude to a journalist...big deal. Are journalists, who BTW are not without their own particularly effective form of defense, really so fragile? Is Livingstone's idiotic, if all too predictable, allusions to Nazi's really out-of-bounds simply because the target of his bile happens to be Jewish? Frankly, if a majority of Londoner's really do want to be represented by such an inane and foolish buffoon as Livingstone - and apparently they do, as he has been re-elected despite his well publicized absurdity - they ought not be deprived of the privilege by an unelected, three-member panel on hurt feelings.

Still, if it is the case that someone must fall victim to modern-day sensitivity worship, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. It won't, in any case, spoil my weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Matt Frei's schadenfreude...or something

Okay, okay, call me a pedant, but I can’t resist.

From this week’s dose of Matt Frei’s pithy observations on America, dedicated largely to the Olympics:
Whether it is the [US's] relatively low medal count - I stress relative as the US has so far won 17 medals to the UK's 1 - or the dismal ratings of NBC's Olympics programmes, these winter games are laced with schadenfreude.
Uh, relative to what, exactly? Certainly not the rest of the field. As of yesterday morning when Frei’s column came out, the US was behind exactly 1 of the 84 competing nations in its medal count. How about historically? Nope. At 17 medals and counting with 3 days still to go, the US had already garnered more medals than any other Olympic games bar one (2002). So what exactly is Frei talking about? Is there a special word for getting pleasure from the imagined misfortunes of others?
The problem is that NBC had touted the US Olympic team as the best ever and stars like Bodie Miller, the Colorado answer to Franz Klammer have, to be frank, been a bit of a disappointment.
Perhaps one can excuse Frei’s phonetic misspelling of Bode Miller’s name, but for goodness sake, why snidely implicate innocent Coloradoans in his failures? Especially since the brash but medal-less Miller is actually from, er, New Hampshire. Good fact-checking, Beeb.
So now America's hopes are pinned on a gold medal in that most glamorous and sofa gripping sports: curling.
America’s hopes? Oh my. One wonders if Matt has ever heard of projection.

Frei also manages to get in a sly plug for his employer, or at least its financing methods, by pointing out that US Olympic coverage is "annoyingly interrupted by a commercial break every few minutes". Yeah, well, at least that annoying American coverage isn’t being paid for out of the pockets of those British ex-pats who find it so annoying. Which is more than can be said about TAE and Frei’s own very annoying coverage of the US.

BTW, I particularly enjoyed one of the comments posted to the BBC in response to Frei's latest entry. From one Leonard Johns:
I am a Brit currently here on a biannual stay and have never been able to
find this country as you tend to report it.
Welcome to the club, Leonard. Welcome to the club.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The making of a champion

Today, in an article about scientists in the US reaching out to religious leaders in an effort to get them to support the teaching of evolution, the BBC’s science reporter Paul Rincon declares that President Bush is “among the most high profile champions of intelligent design.”

This is not the first time someone at the BBC has characterized Bush as a “champion” to the ID cause. But on what is such a claim based? As far as I am aware, Bush’s public comments on the issue are limited to a response he gave to a reporter’s direct request for his “personal views” on the matter of teaching intelligent design in schools. His response, in the great tradition of politicians seeking to avoid taking a firm position on a controversial subject, was that 1) the decision of what to teach should ultimately be left to local school districts and 2) people ought to be exposed to different ideas so that they "can understand what the debate is about." He then cut the reporter off from pressing the issue by saying “Very interesting question, Hutch,” and moved on.

Is the BBC really suggesting that this politically calculated non-answer is indicative of an intelligent design “champion”? Or is the BBC aware of Bush publicly advocating on behalf of ID elsewhere? TAE put those questions to Mr. Rincon via an e-mail early today, but unfortunately, as of 9pm, he has yet to respond. If Mr. Rincon steps to the plate to defend his reporting, be assured I will certainly pass it on.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A simple plan

John Simpson, sage of the BBC, reveals his master plan for making Afghanistan a more peaceful place: Simply prove to the tribes of the country that there are better ways of securing honour and dignity than supporting Islamic extremists. Quoting one Vanni Cappelli with admiration, Simpson says:

[CIA missile attacks] will not, Cappelli argues, "sway this warrior people if it feels it can uphold its honour and dignity by supporting Islamic extremists. The trick is proving to them that there are better ways to secure these things."

Cappelli is entirely right. If the trick can be performed, Afghanistan will be a safer, better, more prosperous country.

What a stroke of genius! Just perform this "trick" of convincing the tribes not to support our enemies, and everything will be fine. Why didn't anyone else think of this?

And how to perform this trick? Well, simply "reason" with them, naturally.

The trouble is that, of course, the irksome American public "favors the use of force rather than reason," a fact which Simpson seemingly thinks is evidenced by the reluctance of US newspapers to publish Capelli's "eminently sensible" article, Capelli being "one of the most thoughtful American commentators on Afghanistan."

So there you have it. Disavow the use of force and just convince Afghani tribes, by reasoning with them, not to support terrorists. Easy as pie. What has Bush been thinking? Simpson for president, anyone?

BTW, I don't know the first thing about Vanni Capelli, but it is probably worth keeping in mind the types of people that Simpson has used his column to promote in the past.

BBC: Torture at Gitmo is a fact

It seems that, in the view of the BBC, there is no longer any doubt about whether the practices at Guantanamo Bay constitute torture. On Saturday's "Any Questions" on Radio Four, the first question put to the panel was:
"What action should the British government take to bring about an end to the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay?"
The question, of course, persumes as an established fact that torture is indeed occurring, and wonders only what should be done to stop it.

Now, the first thing to note is that, although the question came from an audience member, it was not an unscripted question. The BBC knew beforehand what the question was, and chose the questioner and his question with the specific purpose of introducing the topic. And once the question was posed, neither the host, David Dimbleby, nor any of the four panel members, expressed any objection to the premise upon which it was based or doubt that the premise was indeed true.

Unfortunately, although its producers, presenters, and selected guests all apparently accept as beyond question the fact that torture is being employed at Guantanamo, I have yet to see any articles on the BBC website detailing either a) the BBC's official definition of torture or b) the proof of that it has occurred at Camp X-ray.

(Hat tip: reader Jonathon)