Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



Rumsfeld sandbagged...let's be proud

It is front page news that some reservists at a Q&A with defense secretary Rumsfeld told him that they were about to move into Iraq without proper armor both for their vehicles and themselves. It has also made headlines that the questions were set up by an imbedded reporter, who did not reveal his part in his own story of the Q&A. [Ed. But, but ... I thought it was going to be a GREAT day when the Army had to hold bake sales to buy equipment.]

NRO's Kerry spot allowed that
I think it was a little shady for Pitts [the reporter] to go to the officer running the question and answer session "and made sure he knew to get my guys out of the crowd," as the reporter put it. That strikes me as too close to stage managing.
Uh, unh! Pitts' activities weren't close to stage-managing; they were stage managing. Not that there is anything much wrong with that, as long as you are up front about it.

But there are two things questionable, not to say wrong, about what Pitts did that being candid doesn’t absolve him of.

First, a soldier about to deploy can make a statement or ask a question about readiness with an authority that a reporter cannot. By the same token, a reporter should be held to a higher standard than the GI. He should have confirmed the accuracy of the statements he makes or implies.

Instead, Pitts got to make accusations and ask loaded questions and put them in the mouths of other people, or even feed them the questions, without having to take responsibility for them. As a situational justification, he says the questions came out of conversations with the troops he was embedded with, and the crowd reaction might have indicated that many in the unit were glad to them see raised with Rumsfeld. But that doesn’t change Pitt's responsibility. One of the assumptions in the questions was that Guard and Reserve units were being deployed with hand-me down equipment. This was a widespread and even predictable rumor among the troops, but it is denied by the command. A reporter is or should be expected to have investigated.

Second, the dramatic impact of a question--which is to say the "newsworthiness"--doesn’t just depend on the facts implied or assumed ("have you stopped beating your wife?"). It also depends on the relationship of questioner and answerer, because that relationship affects both the tone and content of the answer. Rumsfeld can answer a reporter's accusation much more objectively than he can answer the same accusation from a soldier. When a reporter says "I've been told that the Reserves get substandard equipment and the Regular army gets first-rate stuff", the answer can address the substance; Rumsfeld can just say "you were misinformed" or “we are dealing with that”. When a soldier says it, there is a personal, emotional aspect. Rumsfeld's answer to be effective must address the emotional aspect as well as the factual aspect. If nothing else, it makes it harder to communicate the facts.

In effect, Rumsfeld was sandbagged. He's a grown-up and has little to complain about, but that doesn't change the sleaziness of the manipulative sandbagger's behavior.

I'm glad to see the question raised, though I think Rumsfeld nailed it when he said you go to war with the Army you have. I also think it reveals a bit of a hangdog, miss-ish, whiney character to be complaining that they had to scrounge reinforcements to their vehicles. In my day (Vietnam), we scrounged and improvised, and we laughed and were proud of it!

The initiative shown by the troops and the fact that US soldiers can ask these kinds of questions to the top man in the chain of command are both things to be proud of. I notice that so far the politicians haven't jumped on this story. Probably because they know that a good part of the problem is that they have larded military procurement in pork fat and tied it up tight in red tape.

UPDATE: M0nday--I wish I had put it in writing last Friday, but I'm not surprised this has been pretty much a single news cycle story. Anyway, by friday evening the Kerry Spot had come around to what I wrote here in the morning.


Have you had a stroke now?. . . how about now? . . . Have you had . . .

…doctors say a bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:
  • Ask the individual to smile.
  • Ask him or her to raise both arms.
  • Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.
If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.
There are some e-mails going about the Internet offering this advice. My first thought when I received the e-mail was to ask when one should administer the test. One can’t, after all, go around like the “Can you hear me now” guy, walking up to people and asking them to raise their arms. Sure you can’t.

So, to whom should you administer the test? That guy standing on the corner, slapping a lottery ticket on his palm and staring into space?
Someone who falls down and holds his head while moaning and losing sphincter control?
Someone who voted for Kerry?

Another thing the e-mail could be clearer about: Once you have him standing there with a grimace on his face and his arms in the air, what sort of simple sentence do you ask him to repeat?
How about "My dog has fleas"?
Maybe "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers"?
Is "I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy" asking too much? [Ed. If he doesn’t smile at that, has he had a stroke or is he just thick as a two-inch pine plank?]

It turns out that the e-mails are based on a press release from the American Stroke Association (part of the American Heart Association). The tests are intended to be used by 9-1-1 operators to have someone on the scene evaluate a possible stroke. Obviously, something serious enough to get 9-1-1 involved has already happened before you start playing Simon says with the victim.

So don’t try this at home, kids, except under the supervision of a certified emergency telephone-call operator.

P.S.The ASA lists warning sign of a possible stroke. Early detection is important, because clot-dissolving drugs can greatly reduce long-term disability from a stroke if they are administered within three hours.


Offending Homosexuals

With Hegelian irony, the PC exclusion of religious references from a Christmas Holiday Parade of Lights may help the Boy Scouts defend themselves against the homosexual aggression.

Michelle Malkin reports that her Operation Lump of Coal has had some success.

However, sponsors of Denver's "Parade of Lights", i.e., Christmas parade, are still refusing to allow participation by church groups and others that primarily promote religion.

The reason, said the sponsors, is that Christmas carols might be offensive to others. In the 30 years that the parade has been staged by downtown commercial interests, the policy has been to "not include religious or political messages in the parade--in the interest of not excluding any group".

As irrational as that statement is, it does open up an interesting line of reasoning for the Boy Scouts, namely, arguing that homosexual scout masters might be offensive to somebody. Even more people might be offended if Scout were sending pre-pubescent boys into the woods in the care of perverts.

They could add a thirteenth item to the Scout Law that a Scout is "Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent" . . . and Sensitive!.


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