Media (378)

Two Documentaries


(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

This week I watched two magnificent documentaries, ‘Fighting ISIS,’ produced by VICE, and ‘The Diplomat,’ about the life of Richard Holbrook, directed by his son David.  In ‘Fighting ISIS’ Ben Anderson provides a look into the three fronts in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, the one in the east manned by the Kurds, the one in the south manned by the Iraqi army and Shiite militias, and the one in the west manned by Sunni tribes.   Anderson’s film is a highlight of both very dangerous and very illuminating journalism.  He shows how, apart from the air campaign against ISIS, US operations in Iraq only benefit the Iraqi army and the Shiite militias, both controlled by Iran, respectively indirectly and directly.  The images of Kurdish fighters trying to hold their border against ISIS without adequate weaponry and effective US support are already disturbing, but really heart-breaking are the images of Sunni fighters in the Anbar province, parading in desert fatigues and doing their target practice with only six antiquated guns for sixty men, which means that they would inevitably be slaughtered if they got into a military confrontation with ISIS.
      It is not really astounding that these Sunnis are still willing to defend their territory against ISIS, considering that they are defending their way of life, and it is even less astounding that they feel betrayed by both the Iraqi government and the US, which funnels all its military support through the Iraqi army and therefore is in a factual alliance with Iran, at least on the Iraqi side of the fight with ISIS.  In ‘The Diplomat’ David Holbrook covers his father’s whole career, from his first assignment in Vietnam before America got drawn into a war there, through the war between Croatia and Serbia and the Kosovo conflict, to his last assignment as the State Department’s special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The last part of the documentary tells the story of the failed US handling of the war in Afghanistan, from the George W. Bush administration’s fatal decisions in the beginning of that war that allowed the Taliban to re-establish control over large parts of the country, to the Obama administration’s decision to send in thirty thousand troops in an attempt to undo the earlier damage.
      Taken together, the two documentaries tell a tale that’s critical of Barack Obama’s current efforts to fight both ISIS and the Taliban.  At the time of the surge, Holbrook warned the White House that American troops would be stretched too thin and might often be exposed to overwhelming force, and that’s exactly what happened in Afghanistan.   Unfortunately Obama preferred to listen to General Petraeus’s predictions rather than Holbrook, who had seen a similar drama unfolding in Vietnam.
      Worrysome is that the White House apparently took complete control over foreign policy and effectively shut out Holbrook, and to a lesser extent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the point of even prohibiting that any reference to Vietnam be made.  It makes you wonder if Obama is now just trying to buy time and prevent things from getting worse before the end of his presidency.
      In the last debate of the Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton did not show clear signs of grasping these problems, and Bernie Sanders is still daydreaming about the Saudis fighting ISIS with US and Russian support.  They should both go see those documentaries as soon as possible.

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The Trump Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Forecasting anything related to Donald J. Trump is a hazardous enterprise, and most political analysts have burned
themselves badly trying to do so.  Initially it was assumed that the Trump candidacy was only a public relations stunt, and that the necessary papers would never be filed.  Then Trump’s rise in the polls was seen as a temporary fluke, similar to Herman Cain’s leading the GOP contest in 2012.  Every time Trump crossed a line, from discrediting John McCain to hurling racist insults at Mexican immigrants to misogynistic comments about Megyn Kelly to proposing to keep all foreign Muslims out of the US to skipping the last GOP debate, the beginning of his demise was predicted but he came out stronger, so that we now have to consider him the most likely Republican nominee.  A remaining question, however, is how he gets there.  Lawrence O’Donnell has launched the intriguing theory that from now on Trump will not participate in any more debates, neither during the primaries nor during the general election.   His arguments are that Trump can generate enough publicity on his own, and has nothing to gain but a lot to lose from future debates.
       O’Donnell has good points.  Trump’s policy agenda is flaky at best.  He would build a wall on the southern border, have Mexico pay for it, and then deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, make the military so strong that nobody would ever challenge US worldwide authority again, erase the trade deficit with China and bring manufacturing jobs back to America, rebuild roads and bridges all over the country, abolish Obamacare, without saying what it would be replaced with, and implement a tax plan that, although not as shameless as the plans of some of his competitors, is just another version of supply side economics.  His plans would cost a lot of money, and the only funding source he can identify is the enormous economic growth caused by the ‘great deals’ he would negotiate that would put the US on a ‘winning’ path.  None of Trump’s pie in the sky has seriously been challenged in the GOP debates so far, because of the personality cult imposed by Trump, the sheer number and the low quality of his opponents, and the unwillingness of right wing moderators to focus on policy issues instead of schoolyard taunts   
      Policy issues would inevitably come to the foreground as the number of GOP candidates dwindles, and definitely in the general election.  In one-on-one debates with the Democratic nominee Trump could not count on friendly moderators, and it would soon become clear that the Donald is wearing no clothes.  So why would he risk a public undressing if he can just refuse to participate in debates and try to bluff his way into the White House without exposing himself?
      Most pundits will be inclined to say “Trump cannot do that,” when the possibility of his no longer participating in debates comes up, but they would have said that frequently during the last six months if they had known what Trump was up to and eventually got away with.  If there is one lesson to be learned from the recent past, it is that Trump can do pretty much anything he wants to do.
      Of course Trump is not in the White House yet, and hopefully the Democratic candidate can stop him.  But if he gets there, it will be with a double GOP majority in Congress, and the main conflict will be between Trump and government departments, of which all senior staff will have to be replaced.

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Correspondents

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

An Amsterdam newspaper published an interview with one of the many correspondents of Dutch news media in the US, who was quoted as saying that he is always wary of a situation where a correspondent ‘idolizes’ the country where he (or she) is stationed.  Idolizing – which is synonymous with worshipping – a country is hard to imagine, but for practical purposes let’s translate it into a combination of ‘admiring’ and ‘being very fond of.’  The journalist who gave the interview makes clear that he neither admires nor is very fond of America, although he calls New York City ‘fabulous’ and US politics ‘fascinating.’  His problem with correspondents who idolize America is that they cannot be ‘critical’ anymore, because after a couple of years they start identifying with the people of the country where they are stationed.  The interview raises some interesting questions, which I assume are discussed in freshman classes in journalism schools every year, for instance if there is such a thing as ‘neutral’ or ‘value-free’ journalism, where the reporter is strictly an observer without a specific interest in his or her topic
      The argument reminds me of a settled debate in the social sciences, in which some people a long time ago argued that researchers should never study something they are really interested in, for fear of not being ‘objective.’  That was not a very productive opinion, but it helped clarify a host of methodological issues, and maybe this opinion can be made productive too.  I would argue that correspondents who have a love for the US practice better, and in fact more objective, journalism than those who don’t and try to be strictly neutral.  Let’s make the current election cycle a case in point:  Journalists with the latter attitude might consider Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ‘equal,’ in a sense that they are all candidates running for their party’s nomination, and therefore treat their ideas and proposed policies as equal too.  That would put protecting women’s reproductive rights and fighting excesses on Wall Street on the same level as keeping all foreign Muslims out of the US or giving citizens of all backgrounds unlimited access to guns, and it is hard to see how that is a critical approach.
      Correspondents who are fond of America are more likely to analyze the various policy proposals on their social consequences and form an opinion.  They would want the most qualified candidate to become president, and although they are still obliged to report on what every candidate proposes, the results of their analyses will shine through in the tone of their reporting, the questions they ask candidates when they have a chance to interview them, and opinion articles they may write.
      The result will be better informed, more complete, and yes, more critical and objective journalism.   In his book ‘Dialectics of the Concrete’ the philosopher Karel Kosik distinguishes between ‘pseudo-concrete’ concepts that hide the truth, and concrete concepts that have the opposite function.  The difference between neutral and ‘engaged’ journalism perfectly mirrors that distinction.
     
Of course one could argue that the journalists who work for Fox News love America as much as reporters who work for MSNBC.  It’s an excellent starting point for a discussion, so let’s analyze their mutual values and the interests they represent, and then draw our critical conclusions.

 

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DIGITAAL ERFGOED

Je gaat met pensioen. Je hebt een omvangrijk archief, dat is opgeslagen in gestapelde zakken & dozen. Je hebt met grote regelmaat dagboeken bijgehouden en je hebt zo’n 2.000 cassettebandjes aan ruw materiaal voor radioprogramma’s. Bestaande uit interviews, reisimpressies, monologen, muziek, straat- en omgevingsgeluid, uitzendingen en presentatiebeurten.
      Je hebt zeven opgroeiende kleinkinderen. Je hebt diverse passies en je volgt het één en ander nog op de voet. Je schrijft graag en probeert zo goed mogelijk te fotograferen.
      Je besluit op 10 februari 2007 geheel in het kader van de tijdgeest om al dat materiaal te gaan verwerken op een WEBLOG.

      Je bent bijna negen jaar bezig en krijgt dan –zonder daar om gevraagd te hebben- een bericht van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, dat je blog wordt aangemerkt als ‘’digitaal erfgoed’’ en voor volgende generaties door dat Instituut zal worden gearchiveerd.

Je bent vereerd.


Hieronder het bericht
:

 

Geachte heer Van den Boogaard

In het kader van het initiatief van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) om een selectie van Nederlandse websites te bewaren voor toekomstig onderzoek, willen wij ook uw website archiveren en voor de lange termijn bewaren. Het gaat om de website en eventuele bijbehorende subdomeinen die toegankelijk zijn via de volgende URL(s):
https://ronaldvandenboogaard.nl/


Websites bevatten vaak waardevolle informatie die niet analoog verschijnt en die ten gevolge van de grote 'omloopsnelheid' het risico loopt voorgoed verloren te gaan. Dat websites als 'digitaal erfgoed' het behouden waard zijn, is internationaal erkend in het Unesco Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage uit 2003. Het signaleert dat digitaal erfgoed verloren dreigt te gaan en dat het bewaren daarvan voor gebruik door de huidige en toekomstige generatie onderzoekers zeer urgent is.

Als nationale bibliotheek is de KB wettelijk verantwoordelijk voor het verzamelen, beschrijven en bewaren van in Nederland verschenen publicaties, al of niet elektronisch. De KB ziet het als haar taak om ook websites duurzaam te bewaren en raadpleegbaar te houden voor toekomstige generaties en ze te behoeden voor verlies door bijvoorbeeld technologische veroudering.
Om die reden archiveert de KB websites die als verzameling een representatief beeld geven van de Nederlandse cultuur, geschiedenis en samenleving op het internet.

Uw website zal daartoe gearchiveerd en duurzaam opgeslagen worden. Het archiveren zal voor het eerst gebeuren vanaf 14 februari 2016. Daarna zullen regelmatig opeenvolgende versies opgenomen worden. De archiefversies worden beschikbaar gesteld aan een algemeen publiek via de website van de KB. Aan gebruikers van het archief zal in een disclaimer duidelijk kenbaar worden gemaakt, dat de auteursrechten berusten bij de oorspronkelijke rechthebbenden en dat zij voor commercieel gebruik van de gearchiveerde websites toestemming van de rechthebbenden nodig hebben. Daarnaast zal duidelijk worden vermeld dat het een door de KB gearchiveerde versie betreft en zal er een verwijzing naar de originele website worden opgenomen.

De KB zal uw site archiveren met behulp van het programma Heritrix [1]. Deze software is zo ingesteld dat uw webserver er weinig tot geen last van zal ondervinden. We streven er naar om de webpagina's op het toegankelijke deel van de site zo volledig mogelijk te archiveren. Eventuele beperkende aanwijzingen in het zgn. robots.txt-bestand [2] zullen we daarbij negeren.
Wij hopen dat u mee wilt werken aan dit initiatief.


Met vriendelijke groet,

Lucinda Jones
Hoofd Collecties
Koninklijke Bibliotheek

  

 


Hardball

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

As the election season progresses and the Iowa caucus comes closer, the polls tighten and the campaigns get meaner.  On the Republican side it’s between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, at least for now.  After having acted as Best Friends Forever until recently Trump took the gloves off and brought up the issue of Cruz’s foreign birthplace, and the fact that the senator did not ditch his Canadian passport until he started running for US President. 
      Cruz tried to wave it off but soon landed in a legal quagmire.  A host of constitutional scholars has now argued that it has never been settled how ‘natural born citizen’ should be defined, but that the Framers clearly meant ‘born in the USA.’  Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, who taught constitutional law to Chief Justice Roberts as well as Barack Obama and Ted Cruz, pointedly argued that ‘redemptive constitutionalism,’ the liberal current in legal thought, would suggest that a broad, non-contemporary interpretation of the term is the proper one, which would make Cruz eligible to run for the White House, but he also made clear that Cruz’s own ‘originalism’ would prohibit that.
     
Trump’s argument against Cruz’s eligibility to become president is a logical extension of the ‘birtherism’ campaign he launched against Obama.  The fact that Obama’s mother was a US citizen was never in doubt, and the issue at the time was whether Obama was born in Kenya or in Hawaii, with the assumption that the former scenario would have disqualified him.  Similarly, Cruz’s mother’s US citizenship is not in question, but from a legal perspective Canada is no different from Kenya.  Trump is hammering home his point in both a tenacious and an amusing way.  He correctly observes that if Cruz were to become the GOP nominee, Democrats would file a lawsuit against his candidacy, and therefore advises Cruz, ‘as a friend,’ to seek clarity about his status in the courts.  Cruz cannot expect any support from  his colleagues in the Senate, who in a  slightly similar situation in the past certified John McCain’s natural born citizenship, and Trump knows that any attempt at clarification will sow doubt in the minds of potential Cruz voters and tie the candidate up in a court battle for at least months, reducing his effectiveness on the trail.
     
Although not surprising, it is still a sight to see how little support Cruz is getting in the political arena.  Mitch McConnell declared that the Senate should not involve itself with campaign issues, and John McCain called Trump’s questions ‘legitimate.’  Apart from Donald Trump, his wife and children, his parents, Steve King and Jeff Sessions nobody likes Ted Cruz, whom David Brooks in today’s New York Times calls a stranger to “humility, mercy, compassion and grace.”
     
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton is now forcefully attacking Bernie Sanders for a House vote he took in 2005, shielding gun manufacturers from liability.  Sanders’s inability to call that vote a mistake will cost him votes in the long run, and Hillary is trying to get into Bernie’s socio-economic lane with a proposal for an added 4% tax on the super-rich.
     
After having lost the nomination to a young black man in 2008 the possibility of losing to an old white man in 2016 must be a constant nightmare for Hillary, and as long as that possibility is real she’ll throw everything but the kitchen sink at Sanders, and if need be the sink too.

 

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