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Michael Ubaldi, March 21, 2007.

War fronts — across the world, in Afghanistan but primarily Iraq — are more events in process that receive, from the broader left and the established press, a fictive treatment. Conditions of the campaign in Iraq, reasonable as relative to other American wars but arduous in the contemplation of the United States today, still run apart from the place as portrayed by the newsman.

Without a luculent narrative, consequent to the postmodern press and the form of war itself, those who are curious search for ways to quantify the action in the Near East. Statistics are one of the more scientific attempts; and two of the latest surveys, which have been emerging from Iraq since almost immediately after the fall of Saddam Hussein, reduce the statewide impression of Iraqi insouciance or malice to an illusion. Two-thirds of one respondent sample prefer to be as they are now — period.

See, if you read the paper or watched the broadcast networks every day you might instead remark, if the topic came up, that people over there miss the placidity of totalitarianism. Error can lead to certain numbers, but the polls match others, and so the conclusion might be that we do not quite have an idea of how awful life was in Ba'athist Iraq; or how distilled the essence of freedom remains amid shifting scenes of violence. Who knew about this? Or do Iraqis simply not watch the news?

This same week columnist Christopher Hitchens resubmitted his vote as a minister of intellect: Yes, depose Hussein and equip the Iraqis for civil governance. As part of his apologia Hitchens ran through several trick questions. Was President Bush headstrong; had Hussein obviously divested himself of physical WMD; might Hussein have still disarmed and reformed; was Hussein opposed to Near Eastern and Islamist terrorism? Answers: No, no, no, and no. Easy work, if only the foregoing premises, the trick questions, weren't conceivable to between thirty to sixty percent of the American population.

Earlier this month freelance military embed Michael Yon asserted that what independent writers and political participants invest in remonstration against the press "might be better spent ignoring the irritant and offering alternative sources, in view of how critical any and all media coverage is to shaping public opinion which in turn determines the outcome of this war." He then mixed metaphors, holding this dispute responsible for "friendly fire casualties."

Returning to the first picture in words, Yon is well-meaning but mistaken. Mass media whose operators are supposed to be impartial to what they record and report — used instead for the dissemination of falsehoods, often deliberately — is a vector, what it injects into the body public not an irritant but a pathogen. Knowledge itself becomes variolate with untruths that are first acceptable and then contributive to wider perceptions, be they philosophical, epistemological or empirical.

Why does Michael Yon refer to mainstream war correspondence in the third person? Many people believe what they incorrectly think to be right not because they want to persist under challenge, but because they haven't enough reason to reject their primary sources.

Michael Ubaldi, March 20, 2007.

A headline from over the weekend read "Gonzales' Hold on Job Grows Uncertain." Attorney General Alberto Gonzales let go a number of Justice Department prosecutors, resulting in anathema from congressional Democrats and solemn coverage from the press. What Gonzales is impelled to do is probably a) beg forgiveness, b) reinstate the fired lawyers, c) resign, or d) all three. Only probably, because I have not read any articles on the subject edited in the major newsrooms.

There is no need to do so. I know that the prosecutors are political appointees, chosen and installed by attorneys general who were themselves appointed by an elected representative; and so would not have been employed according to the competitive standards, or under the elaborate protections, of classified public employment. Serve at one's pleasure, and cause for hire is just as subjective as that for dismissal. Gonzales could have handed each and every prosecutor in the building a pair of bongos, asked the ones unable to play the percussion solo from "Wipe Out" to leave — and would have violated only etiquette, maybe taste.

But the press has interpolated into the business of an attorney general a practically legal obligation to keep lawyers who are competent and assigned to politically sensitive investigations, and there isn't any. By avoiding this, I have missed out on bad information about the civil service and an example of disingenuous journalism. Inquiring newsreaders would be best informed if they read the story of the story: found in opinion magazines and columns, authored by writers who know that they are, as affirmed editorialists, being read with scrutiny.

Michael Ubaldi, March 13, 2007.

What to call, if we were to define them, Rudy Giuliani's manner and bearing? Yesterday, National Review's John Derbyshire tendered a neologism, "SOBness." Amusement aside, the lexicon can in fact supply a word, one that I found some time ago but kept from speech and writing because it is used by no one and, appearing slightly antique, defensibly so. The word is "hardihood." It denotes, says Merriam-Webster, "a resolute and self-assured audacity [or disregard for prudence or convention] carried to the point of insolent impudence [or boldness that, intentionally or not, offends]."

Giuliani, a man of hardihood? He was a prosecutor among whose noted quarry were mobsters; as a mayor of the city with deeper foundations than the site of two seminal American documents and the current seat of the federal government, promulgator of change where thought to be intractable. Crime and poverty in New York City fell under his municipal tenure, and if Giuliani was responsible, his managerial idiom — confrontation, repudiation, etioliation of standing political interests — must be credited.

The question can be answered by inference, too. Leftists regard Republicans who are affable as half-witted, and Republicans who are assertive as autocrats — so if the habitual response to George Bush or Ronald Reagan is "dumb," Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani have drawn out, respectively, Time magazine's 1994 cover beholding "the politics of anger," and this one documentary portraying the former New York mayor as a tyrant.

A greater demand for scrutiny of what was said by the yet-exploratory presidential candidate in public or private has produced stories from rightists, now. However aspersive, unless all of them are false it is unlikely that, personally, Mr. Giuliani is a very nice man. For probity, he has marital infidelity and acrimony in a past that might well be attributed to callousness.

Rudy Giuliani, if he runs, will not try for the papacy; and though primary caucuses may not admit an adulterer, the Oval Office has never been the professional residence of naifs. Pertinent, then, is if Republicans want a candidate who is, among other qualifications, more fluent and consistent with the foreign missions of the sitting president than the sitting president, who can seem pretty dispirited these days — and if the balance of an electoral majority will vote for hardihood.

Michael Ubaldi, March 7, 2007.

A day or two before NASA announced its firing of Navy captain and astronaut Lisa Nowak, Florida police made public a series of e-mails traded between astronauts Bill Oefelein and Colleen Shipman. Bill and Colleen were having a romance shortly after Bill and Lisa had one that was an affair, and if it were possible to osculate through alphanumeric code, these electronic letters were a wholehearted effort.

Officials also released interrogation transcripts. In one of them, Miss Shipman told of the assurance Oefelein gave her on the woman with whom Oefelein used to tryst. Shipman was worried that Nowak might try something desperate and foul — like what Nowak, in fact, seems to have tried — and she told police that Oefelein "said, 'No, no, no, she's not like that. She's fine with it, she's happy for me.'"

Two conclusions to draw. First, that Bill Oefelein, in all testimony of the English language, is a breezy adulterer. Second, that it has been a very long time since Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee took a photograph of themselves seated behind a table with a model Command Module as centerpiece, each man's head bowed and hands pressed together in supplication, and sent a print to manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, Joe Shea, inscribing "It isn't that we don't trust you, Joe, but this time we've decided to go over your head."

That the three astronauts would be killed soon after, in a cockpit fire during an innocuous communications test, consigns the photograph to augury. But it was a joke and, everybody says, Gus' idea — played by men, on men, who were involved in a common effort for most of the time, going home when they could to their wives.

Against the tarnishing adage that some work should only be undertaken by men, as brothers, lies the fact of women undertaking, qualifying and in many cases thriving. But then the workplace is now where a lot of fooling around goes on, and the more critical the job the less margin for error in people who love and, where applicable, attempt kidnapping or murder. Disregard the absurd: Lisa Nowak could not have tampered with a shuttle to send her rival and six collaterals hurtling toward a Himalayan peak, or sought reassignment to the right crew to push the interloper out an airlock. One still has three astronauts not as fixedly dedicated to their mission as another three, Gus and Ed and Roger, who weren't exchanging love notes during Gemini or the onset of Apollo.

There are properties of human physiology that the epochal leap into spaceflight hasn't expunged. Apostles of millenarianism, weighing this failure of the latest age, will decide whether man's transfiguration is as ever maintained yet to come, or not to be.

Michael Ubaldi, March 5, 2007.

Men of science, prepare your laboratories. Two Democrats who want to be President of the United States transform when they travel to the American south, enter churches and sermonize on electoral politics.

Speech of the afflicted takes on a distinct character. Rhoticisms are dropped, so the last syllable of words ending in "ar," "er" and "ore" become respectively "ah," "uh" and "oh." Senator Barack Obama exhibited this symptom and a second one, locution as if impersonating Jesse Jackson, when he named himself heir apparent to the civil rights movement. His first visit to Selma, Alabama was a homecoming, Obama said, "When people ask me whether I've been to Selma before" — last word rhyming with "Dafoe."

The senator did not talk like this before his return and accession to, presumably, King's throne. However, Obama's affectation convinced. Hillary Clinton's own adenoidal bray, suggesting Edward G. Robinson, did not. The title Clinton chose at Selma's First Baptist Church was "beneficiary," maybe the equivalent of a foreigner made duchess by marriage.

Another sign of an alteration is the suffusion of Biblical themes in one's language. Obama, in Selma on Sunday, invoked Moses fourteen times. In front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on the Friday preceding, to distant sons of the prophet, zero times.

Also strange is the reconstruction of time. The 1960s, and inequitable conditions before then, occupy both the past and the present. Obama retold the stories as if his life antedated them, even though he was, in as many words, consummation "of the movement." Progress, yes? Or progress, no? Will providential men forever be in need?

More, the style of remonstrance contradicts. Obama chided, "I don't know who taught them that reading and writing and conjugating your verbs was something white," and he omitted the "g" from "conjugating," at the very least. Why use adventitiously poor diction when rebuking the use of poor diction? Is it — because the uncouth or uneducated need to be understood, or respected, even while they remain in error? Should we sit down with the unresponsive student, settle on two plus two equals five, and then slowly work to four?

Preliminary diagnosis: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have visited a population suspended in caricature, and have contracted an acute, complacent vanity. No Americans to meet and court in Alabama, as such. Democratic executive aspirants are busy "gathering Negroes," evidently finding it quaint, practicing the near obscene.

Michael Ubaldi, March 2, 2007.

Glenn Reynolds picked up a report from National Geographic on astronomers and atmospheric scientists speculating that the earth's recent apparent increase in average temperature is heliogenic, not anthropogenic. A Mister Habibullo Abdussamatov asserted that whatever man combusts, he "cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance." Heat, you say, produced by the sun?

That convinced me to renew my subscription to the magazine. I had let it lapse this February after cover story upon cover story heralded what I thought couldn't be denied as quack physical and social science. Believe me, I would look hard for sound journalism; or the other way. If National Geographic indeed still values factually responsible, and perhaps less sensational, reporting, that is worth thirty-four dollars annually. And if there are poorly supported articles, well, I know where to take a good disputation.

Michael Ubaldi, February 28, 2007.

What would you do with Darfur if you won the heart of it, we might ask of those who blow kisses at the Sudan. A lot of them might answer with a non sequitur, and demand that a particular American man in elected office leave his position, though he has no liability for the northeast-African Islamist eradication of black farmers. After that, we will find two organizations settled prominently on the internet. One is called Save Darfur, the other Darfur: A Genocide We Can Stop. The former appears blessed with sponsorship but the latter managed to procure a photograph of Bette Midler with one hand to her face, tightened in a delicate grimace.

So, what would they do? Funds, of course, require support, e.g., your dollars. But with those funds, both groups avow, right shall be accomplished. Yes, and what? All propositions are such that each could be introduced with the phrase "If only" — for many, "if only" that particular man in elected office would act before anyone succeeds in pushing him out.

Here it gets tenebrous. A Genocide We Can Stop rests on the notion that just three men — Sudan's prevailing strongman and two allies — are responsible for the bloodletting. Its solution is less direct, requiring that Washington and Europe "fully support" the International Criminal Court before the court can go to work at indicting the Sudanese masterminds. At that point someone or something will extradite the three for trial, and in their absence peace overwhelms. A Genocide We Can Stop has studiously ascertained that "It is time for justice, because only justice can bring peace."

Save Darfur is a little more substantive, if its first step towards ending the massacres is to take steps. The president of the United States, and the secretary-general of the United Nations, even the president of the European Union by way of the German chancellor, are to be petitioned. That is meant to impel countries like Russia and China, who do good business in the Sudan, to promulgate in the United Nations Security Council the mandate for an armed melange called "peacekeepers," which will garrison Darfur.

How an army without a military objective ends Khartoum's delegated butchery is left to inference, perhaps that deriving peace from justice from time. These groups have declarations of unity but none of efficacy.

So we ratiocinate. Is there a deliberate effort to murder and drive off an indigenous people within the confines of a very closed dictatorship? There is. Is the list of crimes familiar, including "systematic bombardment of villages, widespread arbitrary arrests, torture, 'disappearances,' summary executions, and forced displacement"? Yes. Should we stop this? We should. How, right from where we are, this moment? We'll switch on the diplomatic channels and enjoin the despot's actions.

And what if he says Go to hell, schedules a martial parade for later that week, and then keeps on killing at the frontier?

We're all serious, here; now we hold this man accountable to natural law. Some special judiciary? Yes, or a jury of reasonable men, whatever can align the world's best intentions. Suppose he flouts that, and any other condemnation, and continues the slaughter for years? All right, then some of us concede that violence must be made against some people, so we make a little of it. Aerial, even ground protection forces? Definitely. And if that won't work, will some of us concede that sovereignty, especially of those ruling by mere coercion, has limits? Yes, those of us know who they are and No, they couldn't prevent deposition, but would grieve at the deaths that might have been avoided, and fear for the consequences.

So identified are the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, whose homes were razed by Saddam Hussein; they who survived, and have returned to live in swamps restored by the American armed forces. Their story isn't known widely in the public, and the latest chapter comes when a commanding General David Petraeus is addressing his soldiers with the same granite solemnity of General Douglas MacArthur to the contested Philippines.

"The war here will soon enter its fifth year," says Petraeus. Five years? "The way ahead will not be easy." Impossible? "But hard is not hopeless." No quick gratification in that. War leads to rigorous evaluations of oneself. The lonely hearts can't wait five years for justice and peace. Especially not if they are hard. Darfur, please.

Michael Ubaldi, February 23, 2007.

Editors of Newsweek oversaw the making a clever cover layout for their magazine's February 19th issue. A single head — ugly? rearing? — is implied by the respective right and left sides of the faces of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and George Bush. It dehisces to reveal a title ("The Hidden War with Iran") and subtitles ("Skirmishes," "Threats," "Missed Signals," "Why the Standoff Could Turn Deadly"). The compound morally equates an American president and a foreign, fascist posturer, and on very sharp terms: these two men will blunder their way towards world's end, and the gentlemen at Newsweek seem to want the newsstand customer to remember that they warned everybody beforehand.

This isn't all fabricated. Armageddon has in both protocol and modest imagination followed a possible train of executive decisions. The original premise, however, was Soviet armor advancing on free Berlin and then Western Europe and then everywhere else, leaving Washington recourse in nuclear retaliation and redoubt in underground shelters. But presidents of the United States were photographed with their Russian counterparts for magazine covers because the Cold War superpowers were a) of comparable strength, and b) talking to one another, even if Moscow's man almost always lied.

Washington corresponds with Tehran via the Swiss, because Iran's nascent Khomeinists showed right away a lack of respect for diplomatic indemnity. It is not about two leaders who are simply rivals, submitting their quarrel to a duel and then summoning obliterative powers beyond comprehension. That version has been insinuated over the last forty years, and Newsweek's portrayal of two madmen is its clearest narration.

Today, halfway through President Bush's second term and in the opening months of a Democratic congressional majority, there are two lefts seen differentiated. The first body of the left includes the heads of Newsweek, entertaining useful and politic extracts of the nihilism of the second, fringe left. Lost on group one, especially in the fusion of George and Mahmoud, is the meaning of the eschatology of the twentieth century's latter radicals.

Capitol Hill reports that Jack Murtha's legislative move against Bush's foreign policy has been marginalized, in part by Democrats. Before any of this happened, though, Murtha was quoted while discussing his plan of subversion before an audience whose organizers are pretty up-front about their interest in etiolating American power while investing other place, like the carnival of the United Nations General Assembly, with transnational authority. The Pennsylvania congressman's excuse is that he is, at least professionally, non compos mentis, but the fundaments of those with whom Murtha was speaking are very real.

The calendar for the postmodern relativist begins around 1945 and solidifies around 1968. The time before that is by necessity prehistory, extraneous, irrelevant; how else can one abrogate tradition if the record through which one traces it isn't effaced? Next: what is said of the Sixties generation by those who live within its displaced chronology. There is a lot of vague attribution of "trying" things and attempting "change," most perceptibly the many acts of open disgust for a culture that tolerates open disgust of it. But the "movement" is one that is described as incomplete. So if the initiation, in the minds of the radicals, half-destroyed The Establishment, then the realization will — ?

A political assessment of the Democratic attempt on presidential control is, in a literal sense, correct: the far left wing of the party's moves to compel American retreat from a military front may deprive the Democrats of the White House and even the retention of Congress. But that falls short of explication, since its corollary invites a question: Why wouldn't they see this? And the answer is perilously close to They can see it, but they aren't concerned about elections. If the Sixties miscreant thinks history and his life to be coterminous, achievement is going to embrace immolation, and it is his face that belongs next to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's, inviting the apocalypse.

Michael Ubaldi, February 17, 2007.

Publicly spoken words of a senator — my senator, George Voinovich — are a portrait of the equivocation reigning on Capitol Hill. Senator Voinovich, you see, heard all about the animadversion against President Bush's efforts to win a war, and decided that he might have some of his own, depending.

Three weeks ago, before the president's seventh address on the state of the union, the Repository — a newspaper out of Canton, Ohio — ran a story on Voinovich's misgivings about several things in regards to Iraq. The author of the article introduced the senator as "maverick," which was the wrong word because "maverick" denotes autonomy, imputes solitude. Voinovich is in a legislative majority, seeking to oppose George Bush on whatever. This is OK, because journalism is not a place where the English language prospers, but the distinction must be understood. Voinovich probably wished to set himself apart. He instead spoke, as quoted, in a run of contradictions.

The senator would not condone an arrest of congressional monies intended for the front. He would follow this principle until the elected Iraqi government failed to meet certain standards of Washington. What, precisely? Well, the senator needed some, any, or else no more funding for Baghdad. On principle.

He wanted "sincerity" from the Iraqis before he thought about disavowing a foreign ally. Specifically, he desired Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to assert, in front of television cameras, independence. Helpfully, Voinovich even suggested a line for the speech: "This is not the United States telling me what to do." Also, Senator Voinovich showed concern over al-Maliki not doing what the United States was telling him to do, and demanded evidence that he was "willing to crack down on powerful Shia militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr." In that reluctance could be, well, a dangerous independence. Reasonable requests. Now, why couldn't the president simply listen to Voinovich?

Careful decisions were important to Voinovich. "It's really important" — this was one of them — "that the word goes out in the Muslim community that this is not just more of the infidels occupying the place." Which community? The one of Arab dictatorships? Or perhaps communities in Iraq, where a majority of the population has voted and the largest armed group is the stable and capable national army? The Shiites, who, in millions, reject Moqtada al-Sadr? The Sunnis, who do not act as one, most of whom have turned on al Qaeda? The Kurds, modernity's invisible ethnic group? Accepting the premise, wouldn't repudiating that kind of calumny be the correct response, rather than acting in deference to it?

Twenty-five days later, today, the Senate is keeping Saturday hours. General David Petraeus is effecting a strategy that, based on the witness of tactics thereof, is a judicious departure from the last four years. Mr. al-Maliki is coming along. Nobody knows where al-Sadr ran off to. Senator Voinovich, news says, decided to resolve on the matter to only himself, and it is eminently likely that he has amended his remarks in the weeks since.

But that's the problem: revision, revision. Good war, bad war; bad war; good war. Legislators behave as if they think of armed conflict not so much to be sedately joined and won, as to be what makes for dynamic politics; to your advantage if you are behind it and then against it, and then generally of the martial spirit though maybe not to this end, all at the opportune times. None in Congress is the man who leads the military ex officio. With timely press, however, one can try out commander-in-chief pro tempore.

Michael Ubaldi, February 15, 2007.

Defeatists in Congress, says Mark Steyn, are openly drafting a strategy against the president that "denies him victory and absolves them of any responsibility for defeat." As if to help, the Washington Post article Steyn excerpts states that "The idea is to slowly choke off the war by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat."

Under judgment intended to derogate it, the United States military is either unprepared for a kind of combat, in this case counterterrorism; or, in the words of the article, "badly degraded" once it has engaged in earnest. Whatever metric is applied to degradation, or at which degree it is concluded bad, is not explained. And when the factions of the enemy are alternately rumored and ascertained to have joined, incorporated, disbanded and reorganized many times since the fall of Saddam Hussein, does the absence of affiliative integrity — let alone the absence of the majority of a cell or gang, due to the incarceration or death of its members — designate them as "terribly degraded" or "irretrievably degraded"? Or is no one on Capitol Hill, or the press, scrutinizing the other side for weaknesses?

Americans once suffered losses in war totaling nearly half a million but five years before they committed soldiers for three more years, and lost fifty thousand more. About one-seventh of a percentage point of 1.5 million deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, three thousand plus, have been killed in four years. Morale is evidently robust and soldiers are returning to each theater so their country and its allies can achieve victory. Whose sensitivity has intervened? The congressman's.