Saturday, August 07, 2004

Temperature Rising...

You've really gotta hand it to Cuba - they, like Hezbolla before them, really know quality when they see it.

-TRC

Friday, August 06, 2004

Precious Memories

I was absolutely appalled when I heard about John F. Kerry's grab, glow, throw, and go performance at Wendy's last week. For those of you who didn't get the news, here's the gist of the story from NewsMax:
When John Kerry, John Edwards and their wives descended on a Newburgh, N.Y., Wendy's restaurant on Friday for a "light" lunch with the common people, it was all just a photo op.

Team Kerry-Edwards had already ordered their real lunches - consisting of five-star gourmet food from a tony local restaurant - with instructions to have the haute cuisine ready for pickup after the top Democrats ditched Wendy's.
It goes on:

After tossing out their cheeseburgers and chili, Kerry and Edwards feasted on shrimp vindallo, grilled diver sea scallops, prosciutto, wrapped stuffed chicken and steak salad.

The meals came to about $200, MidHudson News said.
Now, contrast Kerry's snobbery with President Bush's Thanksgiving feast last November. He slid out of Washington without a single photo-op, put his life at risk by entering an extremely hostile war zone, personally served our troops their dinner, and was back in the U.S. before the New York Times could tip off Al Qaeda.

Remember this picture?



Or how about this one?



And yet another:



Interesting comparison, No?

-TRC

Keeping The Tradition Alive

Curtis seems to have abandoned his weekly quiz, so in the meantime I'll be taking over for him. This one, the mage quiz, also comes from Muted Faith. I used to play Role Playing Games back in the day, so this holds some nostalgic appeal for me:





find your element
at mutedfaith.com.


Accurate? You be the judge.

-TRC

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Debunking The Body Count Myth

Here's one that I've been waiting to address for a long time:

Back when Fahrenheit Fact still had a comments section, one of our more colorful visitors claimed that the Coalition was just as bad as Saddam because we've murdered over 10,000 Iraqi civilians. His source? Iraq Body Count, a website dedicated to (in its own words) "[establishing] an independent and comprehensive public database of media-reported civilian deaths in Iraq resulting directly from military action by the USA and its allies." Their online tally is up to 11,429 (as of Aug 5), and shows no sign of slowing down.

Now of all the distorting websites maintained by anti-war activists, I've always found those like Iraq Body Count to be the most distasteful and ill-conceived. By using pretty graphics, bold-type fonts, and professional-looking charts, IBC (like Time before it) hopes to divert attention from its specious reasoning and conjure a case from Ethos and Pathos. Don't believe me? Lets deconstruct:

The first false premise advanced by IBC relates to the nature of our military intervention in Iraq. By saying that their death tally "[resulted] directly from military action by the USA and its allies," the webmasters of Iraq Body Count are implying that every Coalition soldier, whether passive or active, is responsible for every Iraqi death listed on their site. It doesn't matter whether one of our soldiers actually pulled the trigger or fired the rocket - our military destabilized the region, and therefore every death that results is directly their fault.

Examples of this twisted reasoning are peppered throughout IBC's database. Take incidents # k022 and k023 for example, where 188 civilians en route to Shiite shrines were killed by "suicide bombers carrying explosives." Now, I'm a bit confused - is IBC saying that our soldiers strapped C4 onto their Kevlar vests and detonated themselves in the midst of these sojourners, or are they blaming us for failing to precognitively evacuate every pilgrim prior to the bombing? Neither - by virtue of our presence in Iraq, our troops were directly responsible for the violent actions of Moore's "minutemen".

Let's hypothetically suppose that Iraqi sovereignty never succeeds and violence in Iraq continues to escalate. Would IBC continue to blame the coalition for civilian deaths 10, 20, or even 50 years down the line? We've already determined that Coalition troops, not insurgents, are resonsible for every suicide bombing and civil disturbance - when will Western responsibility cease?

Interestingly, we can generalize IBC's implicit reasoning to conclude that the United Nations is directly responsible for the bombing-related deaths of 11 recent attendees at an Israeli Bar Mitzvah. After all, by supporting the Jewish relocation to Israel back in the 40's, the UN helped created a climate of "instability." The suicide bomber who blew the Israelis to pieces wasn't directly responsible for his actions - the world community was, for antagonizing him to act the way he did.

Furthermore, I'm disinclined to trust IBC's definition of a "civilian". In this new era of faceless terrorism, our enemies do not wear clearly marked uniforms or carry bright, colorful banners into battle. They are often plainclothes citizens who snipe from rooftops, knife soldiers in alleyways, or detonate bombs while operating moving vehicles. When a so-called "civilian" is found dead from what IBC innocuously terms "gunfire," how do they determine that he wasn't a threat to our troops? Perhaps U.S. soldiers were firing in self defense, or maybe a coalition-loyal Iraqi put a bullet in his neighbor Ahmir because he knew his fellow had a concealed gun. Aside from the now-defunct Republican Guard, there have been very few militant Iraqis who bother to clearly identify themselves as such.

But perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh. After all, some entries like x231 clearly show that Coalition forces killed 9 civilians by utilizing "'500lb laser-guided bombs' and Cobra attack helicopters". Surely the majority of Iraqi casualties were unambiguously identified in the following way. Right?

Wrong.

Even though there are several instances of "airstrike" and "bombings" on the website, the vast majority of the deaths on Iraq Body Count are almost impossible to trace (let alone identify as the Coalition's direct responsibility). I culled the following chart of the largest death toll entries on IBC in order to show how it "strains the gnat and swallows the camel." Observe:

Code

Date

Location

Weapons

Reptd.

Min.

Deaths

Reptd.

Max.

Deaths

Sources

x079

20 Mar 2003 - 24 Apr 2003

Municipality of Baghdad

-

778

1213

LAT 18 May
CO 18 May

x096

20 Mar 2003 - 20 Apr 2003

Hospitals in Najaf, Karbala, Mosul, Samawa, Madain, Diwaniyah, Kut, Tikrit

various

484

445

AP 10 June
BG 11 June

x038b

20 Mar 2003 - 06 Apr 2003

Nassiriya

various

633

633

CSM 22 May
GDN 18 May
Times 14 Apr
CNN 06 Apr

x044

20 Mar 2003 - 09 Apr 2003

Basra Teaching Hospital

-

142

200

GUA 09 Apr
AP 09 Apr
AFP 09 Apr

x078

20 Apr 2003 - 15 May 2003

Baghdad

shootings

194

216

Ind 16 May
CP 16 May

x132

14 Apr 2003 - 31 Aug 2003

Violent deaths recorded at Baghdad city morgue

60 per cent from gunshot wounds

1214

1297

KR 21 May
IND 16 May
CSM 16 May
IWPR 06 Jun
BG 03 Sep
NYT 16 Sep
LAT 16 Sep

x172

01 Sep 2003 - 30 Sep 2003

Violent deaths recorded at Baghdad city morgue

Over 55% by gunfire

362

367

IT 10 Oct
Newsday 12 Oct

x334

01 Oct 2003 -
31 Mar 2004

Violent deaths recorded at Baghdad city morgue

Deaths from gunfire, explosions, etc. - 'excludes trauma deaths from accidents'

1605

1666

AP 23 May
CBS 24 May

Minimum Ambiguously Reported Casualties: 5412
Maximum Ambiguously Reported Casualties: 6037

Conclusion: Of the casualties reported by iraqbodycount.net, almost one half (both minimum and maximum) of the reports are grouped en-masse and cannot be reliably traced back to coalition forces.


...and that's without including the suicide bombings and instances of infighting that pepper the entries on IBC's chart! I don't know about you, but I think citing 11,429 civilian deaths using the above methods is sloppy at best and deceitful at worst. With all the twisted logic and sketchy numbers employed by IBC, I almost feel sorry for its creators. They spent countless hours shoring up numbers from Reuters, AP, and other worldwide networks and combining them into neatly symmetrical charts, only to have their conclusions seriously shaken by a cursory examination of their hard-sought "facts."

Now don't get me wrong here - I'm not denying that Coalition bombs can go astray or that careless fire costs innocent lives. Every civilian killed in this conflict is a grievous loss that can never be replaced. I'm merely trying to point out how the presumptions and numbers employed by Iraq Body Count are serving to propogate lies and reenforce false assumptions about the character of our troops and the reality of this conflict.

If you have any comments to make on this post, feel free to post below. I'd love to hear some other perspectives on this issue as well.

-TRC

Sharing The Wealth...

As much as I want to get my deconstructionist post up about Iraq Body Count, I might be stuck here at my radio station for awhile watching my history class videos on our T1 connection. Fortunately this is my final week of homework, so my critical paper on the James Ossuary notwithstanding I'll be able to push towards the big 5-0 on Fahrenheit Fact.

Incidentally, if you're ever in the mood for an excellent history series on America, go to PBS' website for The Biography of America. These are the films that I've been watching all semester for my U.S. History Since 1877 course and they're extremely well done. A few even include cameos from Stephen Ambrose, the author of Band of Brothers and arguably the most prolific historical writer to emerge in the last two generations.

So, if you're ignorant of the basic history of the American nation (or want to pass your citizenship test with flying colors), check it out. Registration is free, and highly recommended.

Well, I'm off to watch the video about Reconstruction. I'll hopefully get my other post up when I'm done.

-TRC

Sunday, August 01, 2004

I Don't Know How I Missed This...

...but I'm making up for it right now. Dr. Kelton Rhoads, a psychological pundit, studious fact-checker, and intelligent member of the human race, has had his own take on Fahrenheit 9/11 up for a little while. In it, he deconstructs the propogandistic tools Moore uses and does a bit of independant research to battle back the Round Mound of Nothing Profound (as Knight of the Mind is wont to refer to him). Methinks Curtis and I have a new source to play with - expect some new Facts very soon.

-TRC

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Out Of Left Field...

If I'd known about Curtis' ill-timed (but much appreciated) endorsement, I wouldn't have focused on schoolwork this weekend. I sometimes wish opportunity would beat down the door instead of waiting for me to log onto my website (yeah yeah, Carpe diem and all that).

In lieu of any new analysis or witty commentary at this 11th (more like 12th) hour, I'll just link to a Cox and Forkum cartoon that I've always loved:



In our short-sighted-9-5-order-online-"feed-me-now"-consumer-culture, its growing increasingly difficult to remind the majority of Americans that simply replacing the man behind the curtain isn't going to quash the hatred of those who revel in our grief. We need to constantly remind our soldiers and citizens about the lessons of the past, because although our leaders may bear the brunt of the world's intellectual and political assault, its going to take the sacrifice and dedication of our men and women in uniform to stem the tide of terrorist aggression on the front lines and make the world safe for representative democracy.

So for the sake of our soldiers, please spread the word about Fahrenheit Fact. General Montgomery once said: "The morale of the soldier is the greatest single factor in war." The resolution of our troops should never be shaken flippantly and without need, and we should never passively grant that power to a man who calls radical Islamic insurgents "minutemen." Regardless of what you think about Bush, Moore's lies and misrepresentations are helping to destroy our brothers and sisters on the front lines, and it is up to you to ensure that they understand the truth about the cause for which they fight.

On a lighter note, I'm going to be heading back to college in just a few weeks, and I'm positively stoked to see my friends and sometime-colleagues once more. I'm slated to become news director for my college station ("what news?" is one of the many comments I will grudgingly accept), which means that I'd better start blogging more vociferously. Radio journalism, even moreso than print sometimes, is a hungry beast, and as a future zookeeper I need to get in the habit of filling its dish.

Also, I had failed to mention that one of my future roommates, Rick Toboz, has a nifty (and sometimes quite insightful) live journal. Visit him if you're in the mood for mental voyeurism, or if you're one of those consistent post-moderns who tries to understand the viewpoint of EVERY cultural group ("tolerance for all" shouldn't exclude the majority).

Incidentally, only two more weeks until I can put this up on my door:



We'll see how the anti-war activists on campus respond (compliments to Protest Warrior).

Well, my bed awaits, and I'm one sleepy little pundit-in-training. Goodnight, and I'll be putting up more posts as work and summer school allow.

-TRC

Thursday, July 29, 2004

My Interview With Lt. Chastain

Welcome to all of you who are visiting from Fahrenheit Fact! Here is the full transcipt of my conversation with Lt. Glenn Chastain. Remember, requests for audio should be submitted to fahrenheitfact@yahoo.com. Due to the size of the interview .mp3 and my abysmally-slow 56k, segments will be provided only to those with valid (reasearch-oriented) requests. Once again, thanks for visiting, and remember to return to The Recovering Cynic and a-sdf for election coverage and commentary as we edge closer to the national November showdown.

-TRC

Transcript of Telephone Interview

Time of Call: Approx. 3:30 p.m. Mountain Time on July 26

Party 1: Grant Libby (a.k.a. “The Recovering Cynic”)

Party 2: Lieutenant Glenn Chastain of the Oregon State Police (commission number: 750).

[Note: This conversation has been edited for clarity. Pauses, interpolated vocal sounds, and colloquialisms have been removed. To obtain an .mp3 copy of all or part of this conversation, please email Fahrenheitfact@yahoo.com with your request.]

Grant: Grant Libby.

Lieutenant Chastain: Grant, this is Lieutenant Glenn Chastain from the state police of Oregon returning your call.

Grant: Hey, how are you doing today Glenn?

Chastain: I’m doing ok. How are you?

Grant: Doing quite well. Thanks for returning [my call], by the way.

Chastain: Not a problem.

Grant: I had a couple of questions for you, regarding [trooper] deployment in Oregon.

Chastain: Yes…

Grant: Currently, how many [troopers] do you have guarding the west coast against terrorist attack or any other kind of incursion?

Chastain: Well, in Oregon…I can’t speak for the entire west coast, because I have no idea what Washington and California has…

Grant: Uh huh…

Chastain: But Oregon, we have got currently…24 patrol troopers whose primary responsibility is highway and transportation safety, and we have 20 fish and wildlife troopers whose primary responsibility is fish and wildlife and natural resource preservation…

Grant: Hmm. Now, have you had the opportunity to see Michael Moore’s new movie?

Chastain: I have not.

Grant: Ok. Well, in it he makes the assertion that there are only two troops who are guarding a probably 40 or 50 mile stretch of coastline in Oregon[I was at work at the time, and didn't have access to the movie transcript]

Chastain: Um, there are times when there’s none. (laughs)

Grant: There are times when there’s none? Ahh…

Chastain: We don’t have 24 hour coverage, we’ve [had] budget cuts for the last 30 years, and we used to have 665 patrol troopers, today we’ve got 329.

Grant: Hmm…

Chastain: Like I said, the entire Oregon coast is 300 + miles [and] only has 24 people, and we split that between couple of shifts, throw in some training, some other mandatory things, time off for vacation or sick leave, [and that leaves] 24 people for that much highway. There could have only been two people on the coast at that time.

Grant: Hmm. Now that’s interesting. Now, is it the responsibility of the federal government or the state of Oregon to make sure that the funds are allocated correctly?

Chastain: Our budget is funded through the state…

Grant: The state…

Chastain: We do get some federal grant funds, but federal grant funds usually have some strings attached to them. Usually we can use that for equipment and training and not for funding of people. So our money comes directly from the state government, it is recommended by the governor, and then it is passed out of the legislature by the Oregon legislature. We’re funded predominately through general funds, so we’re in direct competition with schools and with nursing homes and other human services and all the other services that the state provides through general fund dollars…

Grant: Why do you think the PD’s [have] been taking quite a hit?

Chastain: The “PD’s”?

Grant: The PD. Police department.

Chastain: I have no idea about [other] police departments. Our agency used to be funded through the Oregon highway fund, which is gasoline taxes predominately, and about 25 years ago we were removed out of that and we were placed in the general fund, so we became [direct competitors] for the same dollars for education and other human services, so, our funding has just, over the last 25 years, been stripped and stripped and stripped, and predominately our funding funds positions. We don’t have a lot of pass-through dollars and those things that other agencies can cut. We have to cut people.

Grant: Hmm. Interesting. Now, how much control would you say that the Homeland Security Department has over the police department? I mean, do they have the ability to make any significant decisions about what you guys do or do they recommend things?

Chastain: They make recommendations. And we do have some people who are in place who work in our office of homeland security in Oregon, which are in direct contact with the federal government’s homeland security office.

Grant: Is security in the west coast a significant issue to address in the future?

Chastain: Here again, I can’t speak for the entire west coast, I can talk about Oregon’s coast…

Grant: Oh, yes. Oregon’s coast. Excuse me.

Chastain: Well, we have some ports here in Oregon, and obviously if there’s going to be some kind of a problem that would be one area, there’s multiple areas that could be problems, so I wouldn’t call it any more problematic than anything else.

Grant: Um hum. Now what is the role of the Oregon state coast guard in protecting the coast?

Chastain: You’d have to check with the coast guard, they’re a federal agency and I do not know what their primary responsibility is.

Grant: Ok, excellent. Well, thank you very much for talking with me today.

Chastain: You’re very welcome, Grant. Anytime.

Grant: I just wanted to let you know first of all that this conversation was recorded…

Chastain: I knew that. I got that information from the cadet that took the number from you.

Grant: Ok. I will be putting this up online, or excerpts of this up online, if that’s alright with you.

Chastain: That’s perfectly fine.

Grant: Alright. And I also wanted to let you know that I greatly appreciate this, and that if you’d like to visit our website, I’ll probably be putting this up within the next few days. Basically, I’m, along with another friend of mine, the webmaster of a site called Fahrenheit Fact. We’re trying to deconstruct Michael Moore’s new movie and show people where there are factual misrepresentations and give them ammunition to fight the people on the left who are going to uphold it without thinking…

Chastain: And, like I said before, when Michael Moore, I don’t know if it was his quote, (I can’t believe he had some of our troopers in the movie also), I think what they were talking about was how many troopers were on the coast [at that time] or how many [are based out of] our Florence patrol office. [There are] only two patrol troopers out of that Florence patrol office. So, I’m not sure what context it was actually in, [whether Moore ] was talking about […] the entire Oregon coast, or specifically about the Florence office [… but] in fact, there were only two troopers assigned out of that office. [edited for clarity]

Grant: Hmm. You know, I have to check on [how many miles of coast Moore alleged] – basically he was using that one sole example of inadequate policing along the coast to say that homeland security is a sham because we’re not serious about guarding the coast of Oregon […] I thought it was a rather gross misrepresentation.

Chastain: Well yeah, because there are so many entities that provide security and in different roles. Like I said, our patrol division’s primary responsibility would be for transportation safety, and safety along highway 101, which runs all the way up the Oregon coast. So, their primary responsibility is transportation safety on that highway, and we also have our fish and wildlife troopers, which are also state troopers, and they’re the ones who primarily do natural resource protection, but they are on the beaches, they are checking people who are angling, fishing, clamming, crabbing, so they’re out there on boats […], they usually have four-wheel drive vehicles, so there are a lot of people who are out there doing other things, but there are also police officers…

Grant: Hmm…

Chastain: So, a little bit of misrepresentation, but that was the story he was trying to portray. Well, you can spin numbers out however you want. You know that. (laughs)

Grant: (also laughing) Yes, that’s what politics is all about.

[At this point, the conversation moved off topic. I asked Lt. Chastain to try and look up some Coast Guard numbers for me, but after about a minute of searching I decided to draw the conversation to a close and finalize my thanks]

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Perhaps We Will Have That Party...

I logged on to Fahrenheit Fact today, and discovered (to my great approbation) that we've surpassed 200,000 hits on our counter! If you're reading this Curtis, you know a party is inevitable. You just need to name the time and the place.

-TRC

P.S. I recently did a little bit of investagative journalism, and I came up with material sufficient to support another Fact. I'll have it posted within the next day. Keep checking our site!