Taking a Different Direction

I too agree with President Obama and Bob for that matter regarding the president’s decision not to release the photos of Osama bin Laden. The president made a number of very good speeches early in his presidency that have led me to continue to be supportive of him and his efforts.

This speech was given by the president at the National Archives back on May 21, 2009 a few months after his oath of office. I am not as articulate in my writing skills as Bob is, so I thought it best to let the president speak for himself.

If you scroll to 32:18 in the president’s speech below he discusses his campaign pledge of government transparency and his decision making approach when that transparency conflicts with our national security.

“Nothing would be gained by the release of these photos that matters more than the lives of our men and women serving in harms way”. I could not agree more !

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Don’t Disclose The Photos

Normally I am a proponent of full disclosure of government documents, government meetings, and government decisions. In the case of the bin Laden death photos, however, I agree with the President that the prudent course is to not release them to the press and public.

I don’t agree with the President that releasing the photos would be like “spiking the football.”  It is a close question, and I don’t think the people who favor of disclosure (or most of them, anyway) are doing so because they want to rub bin Laden’s death in the noses of terrorists and al Qaeda sympathizers.  Instead, the three main pro-disclosure arguments seem to be that (1) doing so will avoid conspiracy theories about the fact of bin Laden’s death, (2) disclosure favors legitimate interests in transparency (and the photos are sure to be leaked eventually), and (3) there is no reason to treat bin Laden differently from mobsters who were gunned down and whose gruesome death photos have long been part of the public record.

I understand these reasons, but I don’t agree with them.  There is no need to release the photos to avoid conspiracy theories.  Members of bin Laden’s family have confirmed that he was shot and killed.  We’re kidding ourselves if we think releasing the photos is going to prevent nuts from developing nutty scenarios; they will just claim the photos were Photoshopped or use the photos to spin some other web of conspiracy.  Nor should the call for transparency trump everything else; the government has a legitimate interest in keeping some things secret. And bin Laden’s situation is different from that of a gangster — the St. Valentine’s Day massacre didn’t pose a risk of inflaming the sensibilities of millions of people in faraway parts of the world where American soldiers are currently engaged in hostile operations.

The short of it is, we don’t need to release the photos, and there are reasons of military advantage and good taste not to do so.  It is not as if the government hasn’t disclosed the facts of bin Laden’s death — it is just withholding one particularly gruesome piece of the record in the interests of decency.  Years from now, perhaps, when the furor has died down and soldiers are out of harm’s way, the photos can make their way into the public record.

The Cheap Wine Competition

When we took our trip to Italy years ago, Kish and I concluded that it was impossible to get a bottle of bad Italian wine.  Go to any restaurant, get their table wine, and you would inevitably get a very good wine that would sell for a pretty penny in the States.

The cheap wine contestants

My experience this trip suggests that France is the same way.  There is an excellent wine shop right across the street from our apartment.  I’ve purchased several bottles of wine there for between 6 and 9 Euros each (roughly $9.00 to $13.50) and they have been uniformly excellent.  All were French wines from wineries I’d never heard of — and they made me decide to test my theory, with the help of Richard and two of his friends.

First I bought a 2008 Cotes du Rhone for 3.85 Euros — about $5.75. We agreed it also was quite good. Then we put my theory to the acid test last night, by buying a Vieux Papes for 2.95 Euros (about $4.50) and a Cuvee du Pere Bernard for 1.90 Euros (about $2.95).  The Vieux Papes was pretty good, and the Cuvee du Pere Bernard was still decent, although we were probably reaching the outer limits of drinkability and common sense with that purchase.  (I’ve seen the street people of Paris drinking other kinds of wine that undoubtedly were cheaper, and I didn’t really want to go there.)

France therefore finished strong in the cheap wine competition.  There’s probably a bad bottle of French wine somewhere out there, but you’d have to look pretty hard to find it.