Tuesday, June 17, 2003

An indictment of the Bush administration?

The Washington Post dedicated a front page article to Rand Beers, a former counter-terrorism adviser to the president who has resigned his position and signed on with the Kerry campaign. The article explains that Beers felt that the administration is not doing enough to fight terror at home. I guess if the article simply described Beers' feelings of being overwhelmed by threat reports it wouldn't be bad. But the reporter does all she can to amplify Beers' view that the Bush administration asks for results that conform to its worldview. Mrs. Beers is quoted:
"It's a very closed, small, controlled group. This is an administration that determines what it thinks and then sets about to prove it. There's almost a religious kind of certainty. There's no curiosity about opposing points of view. It's very scary. There's kind of a ghost agenda."
In fact not a single quote is brought to suggest that maybe Beers' criticism of the Bush administration is misplaced. After all if there are more terror threats now maybe it's the result of more complete reporting. According to the State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism report it would appear that actual terror has been declining since the Bush administration came to power in 2001. Maybe the reason for that is that President Clinton took a "Holiday from History" that cost the United States much of its deterrent power.

Of course the Washington Post must simply add to the chorus of those who claim that this administration is ideological rather than practical; even if facts suggest that its ideology is on target!
NY Times Math
In an article about State Department employee Liz Cheney - the Vice President's daughter - the NY Times reports that:
Although the program provides only a small part of the $1 billion in annual economic aid that the United States gives to the Arab world, its goals are an unusual amalgam of ideas usually associated with liberals, such as improving the status of women in the developing world, and with neo-conservatives like Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, who argue that the United States has an unparalleled chance to spread democracy throughout the Middle East after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The United States give $2 billion in aid to Egypt annually. How does the Times get $1 billion to the Arab world? Does Egypt give some of it back?

Monday, June 02, 2003

Internet 1, NY Times 0

Unlike the New York Times the internet seems to have self-correcting mechanisms. According to "Counteracting the Internet Rumor" Starbucks was faced with a boycott on account of its closing its franchises in Israel. According to the report:
For Mrs. Miller, 39, a private investment manager who lives in Greenwich, Conn., the e-mail message meant the immediate end of almost daily runs to Starbucks for a tall decaf caramel macchiato or a Frappuccino.

"I was determined that I was not going back to Starbucks," said Mrs. Miller, who said she believed the e-mail message because it came from a person she considered to be a reputable source. That day she forwarded the message to about 30 of her cyberbuddies.

But Mrs. Miller's boycott lasted only one day because the implication of the e-mail message was not true. Starbucks had said it was pulling out of Israel because it was dissolving its ties with a partner in the country and because of an economic downturn in the area.
So it took Mrs. Miller one day to determine that something was wrong with the rumor. How long did Jayson Blair report for the Times? It's amazing that the Times didn't mention snopes.com. The day I received the message, I thought it sounded funny so I checked out the 'net's debunker of urban legends. Sure enough...
Starbucks didn't remove itself from Israel because it was pro-Arab or anti-Israeli; it did so because this was the business decision that appeared to make the best sense. Although the corporation has given muddled explanations for its pull-out from Israel — sometimes citing the danger of terrorist attacks, sometimes making passing mention of "operational challenges" — the most likely reasons for the retreat were Starbucks' difficulties in dealing with its Israeli partner and the underperformance of their six stores. (Starbucks was a latecomer to an already-saturated Israeli market, didn't adapt well to local market conditions, and offered little to distinguish themselves from their competition except higher prices). As Chief Financial Officer Michael Casey said about the cessation of Starbuck's operations in Israel, "It's a difficult place to do business, as you can imagine. And we've had some disagreements of philosophy with the partner. You put those two together and we just decided it was a good time to stop."
There you have it. I was able to debunk the rumor pretty quickly. I don't know that this even rated a news story. But at least be complete.