Archive for the 'Media' Category

If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

What do tea parties, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and the US Chamber of Commerce have in common? All are demonized opponents of the Obama administration, and more popular then ever.

“If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

This seems to be the case, not only for Jedi Knights, but also opponents of the Obama administration (or at least those on their enemies list.)

Cases in point:

Tea party and the 9/12 DC Protest:

Does anyone think these would have had such widespread, and non-partisan support as they have if the Obama administration (and their MSM sycophants) hadn’t demonized and belittled the people attending them.

Glenn Beck

Beck’s indignant critiques of the Obama administration and gloomy outlook on the nation’s financial health have found near-instant resonance. His eponymous 2 p.m. PST program averaged nearly 2.2 million viewers last month — double the number the time slot attracted the previous February and a remarkable amount for the afternoon. That made “Glenn Beck” the third most-watched program in all of cable news for the month, after Bill O’Reilly’s and Sean Hannity’s evening shows.

“I look at the ratings every day shocked,” Beck said on a recent afternoon, sitting shoeless in his Midtown office as snow pelted the Manhattan skyline behind him.

But he believes he knows why viewers are tuning in: “People know in their gut that something’s not right. They’re not getting the truth.”

Fox News as a whole:

The August ratings are out, and once again, the ratings for the Fox News Channel are phenomenal.

Rather than throwing a million pieces of data that every channel is spinning into madness, I ask you to consider just this one: On Sunday night, the third episode of AMC’s highly-publicized and much-discussed series, “Mad Men,” drew an audience of 1.6 million viewers at 10 p.m. when it debuted. Throughout the month of August, Fox News Channel averaged an audience of 2.29 million viewers during every single hour of prime time. And some nights, Bill O’Reilly drew an audience twice as large as that of “Mad Men.”

US Chamber of Commerce:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on track to exceed last year’s fundraising by more than $10 million, thanks in part to the Obama administration’s decision to target the pro-business group, according to the organization’s president.

President Tom Donohue told that even though a few companies have left the chamber over its opposition to President Obama’s domestic policies, the organization is actually benefiting from its place in the White House crosshairs.

“There are some longstanding members that wanted to step up and help more,” he told The public friction with the White House comes in the midst of a $100 million fundraising campaign for the chamber.

The White House, while claiming that it hasn’t tried to encourage any business to part ways with the chamber, has been cutting the business group out of the loop by dealing directly with member executives. Obama and his aides have criticized the group publicly for its opposition to legislation dealing with climate change, health care and financial regulation.

Another interesting point revealed in the above quote. Unions and community organizing are great, unless they oppose you, in which case it’s fine to just bypass them.


Don Surber notes that CNN’s numbers dropped 68% in prime time during the same period. President Obama’s polling numbers are showing a similar drop. Couldn’t be related, could it. (H/T instapundit)

Thanks for the instalanche… and welcome Instapundit readers.

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Journalist Arrest for Journalism in Front of USC Journalist School?

That’s the glib way to put it, but John Ziegler explains what he says happened at event and responds to a Journalism school Dean Wilson’s email accusing the Dean of “blatantly lying”. Go check it out and watch the video for yourself.

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A Rose By Any Other Name

Sounds like they want the Fairness Doctrine to me. If they want this fight, then broadcast TV ought be included. More over at QandO.

“If markets cannot produce what society really cares about, like a media that reflects the true diversity and spirit of our country, then government has a legitimate role to play,” he said.

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Name That Party

Any guesses what party this state rep. belongs to? Answer after the break.

While local and national media swarmed Henrietta Hughes for interviews, Chene Thompson, wife of State Rep. Nick Thompson, grabbed Hughes’ hand and offered them a house.

The house is in LaBelle, the first home Chene Thompson bought after law school.
“Just give me the opportunity to help you,” Chene Thompson told her.

Politician doing a good deed. No mention of party.


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Sarah Palin in the Eye of the Beholder

With news that Governor Palin started her own political action committee at SarahPAC, she has entered the punditry discussion again, and yet again provokes strong responses, though as Josh Painter shows, little consensus. Many of the descriptions have to be read together to get the full effect of the dissonance.

So, is Sarah Palin the right wing extremist McCain staffers and leftists believe her to be? Is she the fundie theocrat secular leftists say she is?  Is she the “neocon” portrayed by careless conservatives? Is she a populist, as some liberals claim? If the governor is a populist, is that populism as disingenuous as the looser cannons on the left insist it is? Is she a leftist, as Big Oil’s useful idiots would have us believe? Is she the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan that his own elder son sees? Or is Gov. Palin a centrist, as the Alaskan pundit says she has governed? Did Pat Buchanan hit it closest to the mark of all the pundits quoted here, calling her a traditionalist?

It’s a question unfortunately, that will need to be answered to the public. James Pethokoukis of U.S. News & World Report’s Capital Commerce blog has some homework ideas on how to do this. I would also love to see more writing and commentary like this. I think it will be important to remember that when answering this question to the public, the response needs to come in many parts, only one of which should be in the traditional media. She could take a few pointers from Fred Thompson and Jon Henke with the other parts using the new media and youtube and other social sites.

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Mark Penn on the Press & Palin

Boy, this was an awfully interesting exchange. Democratic strategist Mark Penn, absurdly invited by Brian Goldsmith to argue the press has been soft on Sarah Palin, instead slams the media for counterproductively biased and vindictive coverage:


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A Republican Atavism

John Podhoretz thinks the Palin speech might be among the most dazzling debuts in American political history. I don’t know about that, but I do know it was the most powerful, important, and effective speech by a vice presidential candidate since Nixon’s “Checkers.” John later notes that McCain looked relieved by it all. Again, I thought of Checkers and and a smiling Eisenhower addressing the convention: “tonight I saw courage…”

The parallels are pretty striking actually. The week of acrimonious scandal, the uncertainty of the party leadership, the lack of truth to the charges, and ultimately the triumphant personal redemption through a national televised address, which transformed a very young party favorite into a powerful national voice. Interestingly, the most notable departure from this historical recreation is the conduct of McCain throughout. He cut a superior and more loyal figure than Ike did and that’s impressive.


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Thoughts on the Republican Convention

I tuned in for a little bit and here are some thoughts.

  • ABC, NBC and CBS showed it in SD, while CNN had it in HD. Dunno why.
  • ABC was behind. They had Thompson speaking while the other networks had Lieberman.
  • Thompson had a great speech. Had some great sarcastic rebuttles to Obama’s tax policy. Still wish he was the Republican candidate.
  • I think his loudest applause came from his remarks that protecting our unborn and newborn children isn’t above McCain’s payroll though.
  • Lieberman is kind of boring, I’m switching back to baseball.
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Black Signs at the Exhibition

The IMF has come through for Georgia in an enormous way, approving a $750 million credit line for the beleaguered republic. Beyond the much needed aid, it’s a powerful political reminder for Russia of the gargantuan economic advantage the West maintains.

But in that article notice the black banner in the feature photograph. It’s a promotional piece for the slick SOSGeorgia site, written in very literate English and produced by a Georgian IT firm. Have you noticed how much better the Georgians are at appealing to world opinion than the Russians? Granted, theirs is the far more sympathetic cause, but there is some native skill involved in the marketing that may have something to do with the country’s cultural, political and commercial orientation toward the West. I hate to speculate too deeply on it, but it’s possible that disconnection from the West simply leads to bad public relations strategy. At least when you need to persuade the West, as both the Russians and Georgians do.


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Welcoming the World to Wasilla

photo: Michael Levesque

It seems the international media is crawling all over the tiny town Sarah Palin began her political career in. Being fond of leaders for whom membership in the general public is a recent memory, I think it’s great to see.

Although, how strange it must be for the residents of Wasilla to suddenly have the Los Angeles Times looking for perspectives on leadership in the Mocha Moose Cafe, or The Guardian speculating on the size of their town, or Deutsche Welle trying to divine foreign policy perspectives from their suddenly famous neighbor’s vacation travel.

Has to be fun.

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A Gutter-al Scream

It’s almost as if the Dems can’t help but to resort to misogynistic antagonism in dealing with Gov. Sarah Palin. This comes courtesy of Alan Colmes, citing Rogers Cadenhead who questions Palin’s maternal abilities:Gutter

One bit of weirdness associated with Palin concerns the birth of her youngest child. As the Alaskan media reported, Palin was attending an energy conference in Texas on April 18 when her water broke four weeks before her due date. After this happened, Palin didn’t head to a hospital or even leave the conference, even though the premature rupture of fetal membrances is normally a cause for an immediate examination by an obstetrician, who will observe the fetus on a monitor to guard against infection and other life-threatening complications. Two other reasons for heightened concern were Palin’s age, 43, and the fact that prenatal testing indicated the child had Down syndrome.

Palin stayed at the conference and delivered a 30-minute speech, then boarded a 12-hour Alaska Airlines flight from Dallas to Anchorage, neglecting to tell the airline her water had broken — most airlines won’t fly a woman in labor. The motivation for all of this appears to be the Palins’ desire that the child be born in Alaska. Her husband Todd told the Anchorage Daily News, “You can’t have a fish picker from Texas.”

When she arrived home, Palin was hospitalized immediately and the baby was born prematurely after labor was induced in the middle of the night.

Aside from baby Trig suffering from Down Syndrome, the child was quite healthy at delivery and has been doing fine ever since. It is true that when amino leaks occur, the general advice of doctors is to get to the hospital immediately, but that is not always the case. In fact, when delivery proceeds within 24 hours of an amino leak (a.k.a. water breaking), the risks of any complications to the baby are quite low. Indeed, some women experience minor leakages, as Palin did, well before they are due without any complications whatsoever.

In Palin’s case, she delivered Trig well within the 24 hour window recognized as “safe,” and actually had to be induced because she wasn’t in labor. Moreover, she was in touch with her physician throughout the event, and he did not advise her to act otherwise.

As an aside, the accusation that Trig was born prematurely does not seem to hold water (no pun intended … well, maybe a little) since Palin was past her 36th week, and the definition of “premature birth” is a baby born prior to the 37th week of gestation.

In any case, these are just facts that undermine the credibility of anyone asserting such ridiculous accusations. That Obama supporters are seriously challenging Palin’s credibility and competence as a mother is just stunning on a political level. Not just in the brashness, but also in the sheer stupidity of leveling such charges. I mean, how do idiots like Colmes and Cadenhead think women are going to react to their second-guessing of Palin’s birthing decisions?

I can hear my wife’s retort now: “You try carrying a bowling ball in your belly for 40 weeks, and then shooting it out your pee-hole with the entire hospital staff staring at your nether region. And that’s not even mentioning having to pee every 20 minutes, feeling like a fat cow, persistent fatigue, and constantly worrying about how your caring for unborn child. Plus you have to do your job just as competently and efficiently as you always did before you were pregnant (including dealing with any previously born children), only to be confronted with some a$$wipe having the nerve to tell you ‘You’re doing it wrong’.”

I imagine that a lot of women would feel the same way.

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New Media and “Defending the Ridge”

Because the blogosphere and all its scions have much more prominence, and arguably more influence, with respect to this year’s election, I’ve been lazily paying more attention to how new media is tackling the subject at hand. I think the following presentation is a prime example of what new media can offer, and foreshadows the power of the medium to come:

Disregarding the substance of the video for now, I have to say that the exchange between these three women is extraordinary. Not only is their banter free-flowing and natural, it’s exactly the sort of conversation that I would expect of reasonably well informed patrons of a local bar. Again, it’s not the substance of the arguments presented, but the way in which they’re presented.

Personally, I tend to think of the interchange of ideas on any blog (particularly in the comments section) as a virtual reality version of barroom conversation. With my buddies, it’s referred to as “defending the ridge” where “the ridge” is that omnipresent elbow on the bar where three, four or even more people can hang on to this strategically important territory by maintaining an engaging, yet suitably sociable conversation. Being in the DC area, it’s inevitable that such discourse will turn to politics. So, the more natural and inviting the banter is, the easier it is to “defend the ridge.”

One can always just park themselves at the elbow, but sooner or later breaches in the defense appear only to be exploited, typically by buxom, yet willowy, young women brandishing credit cards of dubious provenance (i.e. suspect boyfriends) and flirtatious camaraderie with the bartenders. Such is life.

The point is, when the conversation is heady yet light-hearted enough, the ridge is better defended and the night progresses in a much more enjoyable fashion than otherwise.

The clip above reminds me exactly of those exchanges. The three women are obviously comfortable with one another, and the camera, which lends them a professional air. But they speak with a clarity that’s natural to “the ridge” in any bar, where opinions fly fast and loose, and a premium is placed on brevity and wit.

If more political coverage was of the same caliber, I think the electorate would be more engaged. As it stands now, the MSM and its affiliate cable progeny, basically offer the same PhD and old-hat, insider baseball as the be-all-end-all of political analysis. Don’t get me wrong. I love hearing from the likes of Larry Sabato, Michael Barone and Frank Luntz, and I think they have a lot to add to the conversation. But let’s be honest. The people who read QandO and other political blogs are already in the realm of “political junky.” You all know exactly who each of these people are. The vast majority of the electorate doesn’t, nor do they much care. But I’d bet they’d watch the video clip above.

The fact is anybody can be drawn into a political conversation when it’s conducted on terms that the average person can relate to. While I may find Larry Sabato’s election prognostications fascinating, sometimes I don’t want to ruminate on the exact scientific designation of the tree’s sap, nor upon what the American Indians used to do with it. Sometimes, all I want to talk about is the health and wealth of the forest. The clip above offers that kind of analysis. My personal opinion is that more of the same would be a boon to the voting populace. And down that road is a better informed electorate.

So hats off to you, Ana Marie Cox, Glynnis MacNicol, and Rachel Sklar. Well done and I look forward to more.

Crossposted at QandO

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How Blogs Failed the War in Georgia

Columbia Journalism Review asked me to write an essay criticizing blogger coverage of the War in Georgia. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was scathing.

While this wasn’t necessarily surprising—after all, these blogs all talk in a big circle, and tend to reference each other—it was disappointing. As Reason’s Michael C. Moynihan trenchantly observed, much of the commentary on the conflict resolved into very clear partisan lines: Russia on the Left, Georgia on the Right. Rather than providing the clarity, nuance, and honesty that they promise to provide, the big blogs instead retreated to their comfortable and predictable ideological corners. By keeping to their usual haunts, these blogs did their readers a tremendous disservice: they were just as incurious and ideological as they regularly accuse the MSM of being.

Go read the whole thing.

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Risk and Reward

Playground Many of us, when we hear the phrase “risk and reward” think of Wall Street.  Or business in general.

But in reality, “risk and reward” affect us throughout our lives.

Our parents take a risk when they conceive us.  They hope that we will provide them with more joy and satisfaction than heartache and pain.  They pray that we will be born relatively healthy rather than sickly.

As we get older, parents do their best to provide a fine environment for us to learn and grow.  What some adults seem to have forgotten, however (if they ever knew at all) – is that all gain requires some risk.  It is impossible to achieve rewards without taking on chances of failure.  Parents want to keep us safe.  Yet, too many protections and too much removal of risk can oddly enough produce difficulties.

Safety is meaningful only in the context of other benefits and risks. Safety always involves trade-offs — of opportunities, of scarce resources and, especially in the case of children’s play, of learning to manage risk. The question is whether the trade-off makes sense. Soft rubber matting will cushion any fall. This is probably a good thing, at least in situations where children may fall on their heads. But rubber matting also gets hot.

There’s only one solution. Someone on behalf of society must be authorized to make these choices. Courts must honor those decisions. Otherwise, the pious accusations of safety fanatics, empowered by the nearly universal fear of being sued, will guarantee a cultural spiral downwards toward the lowest common denominator.

For America’s children today, that means spending more than six hours per day staring at a screen. Is that the way we want our children to grow up?

Philip Howard of The Common Good lectured several years ago at The Center of the American Experiment, and it was my pleasure to be able to hear him then.  Mr. Howard and his organization are battling to return common sense to everyday society.

None of us want a dangerous place for our children – or for adults!  Still, we must never forget that a risk-free society is impossible to achieve.  The removal of some risks must be weighed against what we are sacrificing by removing that risk.  While sometimes we agree that the risk of harm is too great – other times we can see that the purported removal of risk actually heightens the odds of other, not immediately obvious, forms of harm.

If we never forget that reward entails some risk, then we all will be better served.

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Smarty Pants

Every day, Professor Keith Burgess-Jackson reprints a Letter to the Editor from the New York Times.  This offering left me gape-jawed.

The Professor’s first point is well-taken.

Where is the evidence that Barack Obama is more intelligent than John McCain? Have they taken intelligence tests?

One might argue that because Obama performed better in college than McCain, he is the more intelligent of the two.  Yet, we all know many people where one individual had a superior college record to another, but the first is not more intelligent than the second.  Perhaps Obama is smarter than McCain.  But, I do not know of any overwhelming evidence that this is so.

In any case – let us grant the writer this point.  So what?  While a certain level of intelligence is assuredly required for someone to be a good President – it is but a necessary condition, and not a sufficient one.  A wide variety of other factors matter:  character, experience, leadership, voting record, viewpoints on issues and more.  Essentially, this is Keith’s second point:

Americans want an intelligent president, but not at the cost of good character and good judgment.

If people believe that Obama is a superior candidate to McCain – that is their decision.  Yet, their choice should be based upon this entire set of qualities – not simply which man is smarter than the other.

Finally, the writer’s point about race is not framed properly.  Of course racism has not been eliminated; I am not aware of any reasonably sized society on the planet where all hate and racism has been excised.  Unfortunately, I believe that a certain amount of hate, racism, sexism, anti-semitism and the like is endemic to the human condition.  It will never disappear entirely within my lifetime – or that of future lifetimes.

The question we need to ask is this:  is racism diminished enough and have racists been re-educated and shamed enough that racism is low enough to allow a non-white to win a Presidential election?  I believe that it is.  Of course, if Obama does not win this fall, I am sure that many will pin the blame on racism.  In part – they may be correct.  Nevertheless, it just may be that enough people do think that McCain’s set of characteristics:  his intelligence, leadership, qualifications, moral fiber, experience and voting record is more of what they want than Obama has to offer.

We shall see.

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Humpty Dumpty Language

When you’re Speaker of the House, I guess that, in addition to all your other powers, you can make language mean whatever you wish it to mean.

PELOSI: I’m never certain of anything. Today, I would be certain. I just think that it is the opportunity for our country to move away from Washington.  You know, I’m the Speaker of the House. I’m an outsider in Washington, D.C. .  Business as usual in Washington is not in the people’s interests. It there’s for the special interests.

KING: You would be the ultimate insider, wouldn’t you?

PELOSI: Well, I — you would think. But I…

KING: The speaker of the House isn’t an insider?

PELOSI: Well, they didn’t want me to be Speaker of the House.

KING: But you are.

PELOSI: I had to fight these special interests. And now to make the change, we have to have a Democratic president. And Barack Obama has done more than anyone in terms of passing the toughest ethical bill — ethics bill in Congress, to shed the bright light on transparency on the link between special interests and legislation in Washington.

Even Larry King is incredulous at the notion that a chosen Speaker of the House would not be the ultimate insider!

The amazing thing is that these politicians can get on national TV and make ludicrous statements with a straight face.

Ah, well.  They have got lots of practice at it.

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The Dinosaur, The Dodo

And now?  The end of the mainstream media as we know it.

Edwards, 55, now admits that he had an affair with Hunter, now 44,in 2006, but denies that he is the father of the child she had in February. Andrew Young, another former Edwards aide, has said he is the baby’s father. In a statement released Friday, Edwards said he was willing to take a paternity test; doubtless we’ll hear more on that issue.

But what’s really significant here is the cone of silence the nation’s major newspapers — including The Times — and the cable and broadcast networks dropped over this story when it first appeared in the tabloid during the presidential primary campaign. Next, the Enquirer reported that the unmarried Hunter was pregnant. Still no mainstream media interest. Indeed, never in recent journalistic history have so many tough reporters so closely resembled sheep as those members of the campaign press corps who meekly accepted Edwards’ categorical dismissal of the Enquirer’s allegations. Late last month, Edwards came to Los Angeles, and Enquirer reporters trailed him to the Beverly Hilton hotel, where he met Hunter and her daughter in their room.

The Enquirer went with the story, and when no major newspaper or broadcast outlet even reported the existence of the tabloid story, bloggers and online commentators redoubled their demands that the mainstream media explain their silence. The tabloid followed with a story alleging payments of hush money to Hunter and, this week, with a photo of Edwards holding an infant in what appears to be a room at the Beverly Hilton. As pressure mounted on major newspapers to take some aspect of the unfolding scandal into account, editors and ombudsmen issued statements saying it would be unfair to publish anything until the Enquirer’s stories had been “confirmed.”

It’s interesting that what finally forced Edwards into telling the truth was a mainstream media organization. ABC News began investigating the Edwards affair in October, but really began to push after the Beverly Hilton allegations. When ABC confronted Edwards with its story (which confirmed “95% to 96%” of the tabloid’s reporting, according to the network), he admitted his deception.

With that admission, the illusion that traditional print and broadcast news organizations can establish the limits of acceptable political journalism joined the passenger pigeon on the roster of extinct Americana.

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War Crimes Live

Georgian television reporter Tamara Urushadze gets shot by a Russian sniper as she delivered a live report near Gori. Tough girl, she finishes the report without a tear.

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Through a Darker Glass

Cernig at Larisa Alexandrovna’s site had me persuaded for two whole paragraphs.

Now, having little taste for the fine art of distractions-from-distractions, I tend to roll my eyes at the transparently partisan diversionary tactics one sees all over the web from Democrats in defense of John Edwards (eg “who cares about a politician’s adultery when there’s potholes in the streets!”). However, Cernig’s complaint that the national media was focusing on that rather tawdry and meaningless scandal to the exclusion of the crisis in Georgia, had some legitimacy. Reading it I paused for a moment, reflected on the non-Olympic television news coverage I’d watched over the past 24 hours, and decided Cernig had a legitimate point.


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The McCarthyism of 2008

Joe McCarthy

Are you now, or have you ever been a conservative?

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A Paranoid on Paranoia-Last updated 1:06 CST

After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential.

You could?

The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters — with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 — that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax — sent directly into the heart of the country’s elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets — that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.

So that is what made everybody concerned? The twisted reasoning that could assert that after 9/11 we in any way could think something like that couldn’t happen again, sans those letters, is pretty breathtaking.  Once those letters were delivered however, it suddenly occurred to the American people that it might happen again? What kind of parallel universe is he living in? Oh, and if you couldn’t tell, this is the Sock Puppet talking. (more…)

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Select Rants

For those of you who love New York Times bashing, I am in rant mode at Risk and Return. What a bunch of balderdash.

Also, if you want a good idea of where housing prices may go, I also have this. Charts, I have lots of charts!

Finally, I really hate the housing bill.

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Finally! Car Blogging!

I am co-bloggers Keith and Josh will be thrilled to know that Vanity Fair now has a gay car blog.

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We see this kind of thing in the press :

U.S. and Afghan troops have abandoned a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan where militants killed nine American soldiers earlier this week, officials said Wednesday.

Compounding the military setback, insurgents quickly seized the village of Wanat in Nuristan province after driving out the handful of police left behind to defend government offices there, Afghan officials said.

Factually true, and oh so very misleading. For the real story of these nine men and the fantastic job they and their comrades did I suggest letting McQ enlighten you.

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Bosom Buddies

Robert Ariail / The State (Columbia, S.C.) (July 18, 2008)

Robert Ariail / The State (Columbia, S.C.) (July 18, 2008)

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Counterintuiting the FATA

Posted first at, the web’s best source of news and analysis of Central Asia and the Caucasus.

My friend Jeb Koogler and I co-wrote an op-ed in Thursday’s Christian Science Monitor, titled, “Myths in Al Qaeda’s ‘home’.” This matters tremendously as we ponder what to do (if anything) about the latest round of peace talks. A brief excerpt of our argument:

Given the growing reach of FATA-affiliated militants, it is becoming clear that developments in the tribal areas are central to NATO’s success in Afghanistan, as well as an important factor in the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan and the security of both Europe and the United States. Yet many Western policymakers and pundits misread current events, espousing views and prescribing policies that are based more on stereotypes than on a solid grasp of the region’s history and culture.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the Pakistani Taliban pose a unique and insurmountable threat, that the Pashtuns are the problem, that the tribal areas are lawless and chaotic, and that the targeted assassinations are an effective deterrent against Islamic militancy. But none of these assertions are accurate.

Although the conventional thinking holds that the Pakistani Taliban and their leader Baitullah Mehsud are a formidable and unprecedented threat to the region, the movement is neither historically unique nor overwhelmingly powerful.

And so on (read the whole thing, natch). I anticipate many will quibble with our argument over targeted assassinations; I welcome any such discussion, so long as it’s kept civil.

Update: Here is another example of how perception can matter tremendously, and how pitiful U.S. planning has been in the area. It takes nine paragraphs of Eric Schmitt quoting a press conference on the problem of foreign militants entering Pakistan until he finds anonymous officials urging caution that the problem isn’t quite as bad as it was sold to the media. He then quotes anonymous officials in Pakistan who complain that things are just harder to do without a friendly dictator to bark orders at. Finally, in the last paragraph of a two-page story, he quotes another anonymous official who complains that U.S. relations with Pakistan are “toxic.” So many anonymous people!

Why is that, do you think? Could it be because the current civilian government doesn’t like that we supported the country’s military dictator through several rounds of stolen elections, the imposition of martial law and the cancellation of the country’s civil liberties? That, after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, we supported him cancelling free press and arresting lawyers who were protesting for the reinstatement of the judicial system, instead of going after Baitullah Mehsud’s group? That, even after Pervez Musharraf’s tenure was clearly over, we insisted on bombing their territory as often as possible before they could have a chance to ask us to stop?

It should be no surprise relations with Pakistan are tense. We are dealing with a popularly elected government that is at least somewhat in tune with its generally poor and generally uneducated population, and is not a disconnected, whiskey-swilling, Oxford-educated dictator. Instead of bothering to learn how we can make U.S. policy congruous with Pakistan’s needs and problems over the past eight years, we just short-cut our way through using an autocracy… and now complain viciously when it is deposed and democracy is restored and we have to actually argue our case. Like it or not, much of the world does not view our cause as self-evidently good and just and righteous—we need to argue that it is so. That we haven’t bothered so speaks legions about how we view the people who live in the areas we invade.

In other words, we are our own worst enemies.

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The Economy Makes Me Nervous As Well

Yeah, this is kind of funny, if in a dancing on gravestones kind of way.

I hate to continue to beat an old drum, but the economic data is showing far less stress than is actually out there. Employment is far weaker than the commonly reported data is showing, inflation is running higher than the data shows, and thus the economy has likely been in contraction for some time, not barely above water as is usually reported

The worst is most likely still down the road.

I think the administration knows that, and I would be nervous as well.

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GVO Summit: The Power of Organized Utopianism

One of the subtextual themes coming out of the conference so far is what can almost be called a double-standard: the participants demand the right to unrestricted speech, but recoil in horror at the consequences such speech brings. It is difficult to discuss this without denying, or, at the very least, denigrating the very real atrocities many have suffered for their writing—whether it is being tortured and sodomized in Egypt, threatened with gang rape in Kenya, or sentenced to death in Afghanistan. However, many of the participants seem to have what can only be called a utopian view of how free speech in both free and unfree societies operate.

Indeed, missing in much of this discussion about what, exactly, free speech and censorship are is a realization of what they are not. Several have complained that blogging can put their jobs at risk, or that if they agitate too loudly they face harassment. So what? In years past, I have been fired for blogging; as a result, for many years now, over many jobs, I have categorically refused to blog about them or on topics that would create a conflict of interest. According to several of the speakers here, that means I exist in a repressive speech environment and “suffer” under a despotic, freedom-hating regime.

If that is the case, then no one is free. And maybe that is true. But to a large degree, there is a tendency to confuse “freedom to speak” with “freedom to speak without consequence.”

The idea of consequences for speech is a tricky one to unravel. Many despotic governments, like Egypt, simply say crippling court cases and unwinnable libel suits are a “consequence” of speaking about political and commercial events within the country. One speaker, from Kenya, detailed how she began to receive not just death threats but rape threats over her activism during that country’s election crisis several months ago. Is that just a “consequence?”

Obviously, yes, but is it a fair one? The point I am getting at is, while it sounds really pretty to talk about how we all have the right to speak freely without threat or intimidation, the reality is that such a thing is so unrealistic as to be nearly childish. I cannot walk up to an overweight person on the street and yell, “you are FAT!” and realistically expect to face zero consequences for it. Similarly, in a work environment, which is by nature hierarchical and requires no small amount of subservience to superiors, I cannot freely speak my opinion to certain people and expect to remain employed. And what’s more, it is not reasonable to demand such a thing.


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Global Voices Online Citizen’s Media Summit 08

Hey everybody. First off, Budapest is a great city! We’re about to start the GVO meting, which is focusing mostly on net censorship. Considering my other blog,, is definitely blocked in Uzbekistan, and quite possibly elsewhere, this matters tremendously, to say nothing of real people in really dangerous places doing their best get their voices heard. It’s quite a gathering of people: in the last 48 hours, I have had lively conversations with writers from Bahrain, Uganda, Malawi, Tajikistan, Hungary, and Netherlands. This is a truly global group of people trying to make the world a more open, transparent place—exactly the kind of work I’m sure ASHC readers appreciate.

The meetings will be liveblogged and webcast at the Summit website: I don’t know how busy I will be, but I’ll try to post whatever updates I can.

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Breaking: Tim Russert Dies Of Heart Attack

Tim Russert RIP

R.I.P. Tim Russert:

Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” died Friday after being stricken at the bureau, NBC News said Friday. He was 58.

Russert was recording voiceovers for Sunday’s “Meet the Press” broadcast when he collapsed, the network said.

He had recently returned from Italy, where his family was celebrating the graduation of Russert’s son, Luke, from Boston College.

No further details were immediately available.

Russert was best known as host of “Meet the Press,” which he took over in December 1991. Now in its 60th year, “Meet the Press” is the longest-running program in the history of television.

But he was also a vice president of NBC News and head of its overall Washington operations, a nearly round-the-clock presence on NBC and MSNBC on election nights.

This may be a bigger deal to the inside the Beltway crowd, but it is huge for any political junkie.

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Paglia on Rush

Meanwhile, conservative talk radio, which I have been following with interest for almost 20 years, has become a tornado alley of hallucinatory holograms of Obama. He’s a Marxist! A radical leftist! A hater of America! He’s “not that bright”; he can’t talk without a teleprompter. He knows nothing and has done less. His wife is a raging mass of anti-white racism. It’s gotten to the point that I can hardly listen to my favorite shows, which were once both informative and entertaining. The hackneyed repetition is numbing and tedious, and the overt character assassination is ethically indefensible. Talk radio will lose its broad audience if it continues on this nakedly partisan path.

—The inimitable Camille Paglia, apparently discovering for the first time that right-wing radio is shrill, tedious, and hateful.

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Is The Evidence In On Minimum Wage?

Unemployment line When the most recent unemployment numbers were released, the media bleated about the highest percentage increase in the jobless rate since 1986. For example, The New York Times lamented:

The unemployment rate surged to 5.5 percent in May from 5 percent, the largest monthly spike in more than two decades, as the economy shed 49,000 jobs for a fifth month of decline, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

Economists construed the weak monthly jobs report as an indication of the pain assailing tens of millions of Americans amid an economic downturn that most experts assume is a recession.

The labor market is continuing to deteriorate, eroding the size of paychecks, just as gasoline and food prices surge, and as the declining value of real estate erodes the wealth and credit of many households.

Ed Morrissey was quick to point out why the numbers don’t support what the media narrative claims:

Up to now, employment had held steady through a rocky economy barely staying out of recession. In May, that changed for the worse, as unemployment rose to its highest level since October 2004. However, only 49,000 workers lost their jobs, which doesn’t nearly account for the four-tenths rise … The real story here is unemployment among entry-level workers to the employment system. In summer, teenagers and college students enter the marketplace looking for seasonal and part-time work. This accounts for the significant rise in job-seekers and the 0.4% increase in unemployment. Otherwise, an overall job loss of 49,000 jobs would account for a 0.04% increase in a market of 138 million workers.

fast food worker

King Banaian also took a look at the May numbers (in comparison with April), and while he disagrees somewhat with Ed’s account for the number of new entrants to the job market, he finds validity with respect to the rise in the unemployment rate: (more…)

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The Unbearable Deification of Obama

Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of this (unbearably) long campaign season is the rare opportunity to witness deification in process. From Mark Morford, a San Francisco Gate columnist:

Is Obama an enlightened being?
Spiritual wise ones say: This sure ain’t no ordinary politician. You buying it?

I find I’m having this discussion, this weird little debate, more and more, with colleagues, with readers, with liberals and moderates and miserable, deeply depressed Republicans and spiritually amped persons of all shapes and stripes and I’m having it in particular with those who seem confused, angry, unsure, thoroughly nonplussed, as they all ask me the same thing: What the hell’s the big deal about Obama?

I, of course, have an answer. Sort of.


Barack Obama isn’t really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.

This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae – or no antennae at all – to all those who just don’t understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama’s aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe.

Morford apparently thinks that his explanation of Obama’s appeal is comforting to such people. I am one of those that recoil at the inane chatter, and yet somehow I still don’t feel comforted.

To them I say, all right, you want to know what it is? The appeal, the pull, the ethereal and magical thing that seems to enthrall millions of people from all over the world, that keeps opening up and firing into new channels of the culture normally completely unaffected by politics?

No, it’s not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric. It is not fresh ideas or cool charisma or the fact that a black president will be historic and revolutionary in about a thousand different ways. It is something more. Even Bill Clinton, with all his effortless, winking charm, didn’t have what Obama has, which is a sort of powerful luminosity, a unique high-vibration integrity.

Oh, I get it. He’s like a glow-in-the-dark alarm clock!

Dismiss it all you like [Ed. - Will do!], but I’ve heard from far too many enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people who’ve been intuitively blown away by Obama’s presence – not speeches, not policies, but sheer presence – to say it’s just a clever marketing ploy, a slick gambit carefully orchestrated by hotshot campaign organizers who, once Obama gets into office, will suddenly turn from perky optimists to vile soul-sucking lobbyist whores, with Obama as their suddenly evil, cackling overlord.

I can understand why “enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people” would not be blown away by Obama’s policies, but that’s setting the bar a little low for his presence isn’t it? As to why these people would be “intuitively” blown away by that presence, so much so that they simply cannot fathom Obama behaving like just another politician after obtaining office, is difficult to discern. Maybe he’s a Jedi knight? Obama-wan Kenobe?

Here’s where it gets gooey.

Got that? NOW it’s going to get “gooey.”

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) [Ed. - Right. 'Cus Obama knows those people don't know what their talking about] identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare. And this why he is so often compared to Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to those leaders in our culture whose stirring vibrations still resonate throughout our short history.

What Morford doesn’t tell you is that you too can be a Lightworker, and it’s free! In fact, hold that thought for a minute …

Ha! There! Now I’m a Lightworker too! My Lightworker name is “ObiMike Wadobe.” Me and Obama, saving the world.

Are you rolling your eyes and scoffing? Fine by me.

Cha, as if you had a choice, Darkloafer.

Now, Obama. The next step [after Kennedy]. Another try. And perhaps, as Bush laid waste to the land and embarrassed the country and pummeled our national spirit into disenchanted pulp and yet ironically, in so doing has helped set the stage for an even larger and more fascinating evolutionary burp, we are finally truly ready for another Lightworker to step up.

He means Obama, of course, not ObiMike.

Let me be completely clear: I’m not arguing some sort of utopian revolution, a big global group hug with Obama as some sort of happy hippie camp counselor. I’m not saying the man’s going to swoop in like a superhero messiah and stop all wars and make the flowers grow and birds sing and solve world hunger and bring puppies to schoolchildren. Because that’s silly; puppies don’t belong in school.

I may have added that last sentence. It’s Lightworker humor. You may not understand (unless you sign up. It’s free!!!!).

Please. I’m also certainly not saying he’s perfect, that his presidency will be free of compromise, or slimy insiders, or great heaps of politics-as-usual.

No, of course not. That was the “enormously smart, wise, spiritually attuned people” saying all that. Unless Morford was lying about that whole “intuitively blown away” thing, which Darkloafers tend to do.

While Obama’s certainly an entire universe away from George W. Bush in terms of quality, integrity, intelligence and overall inspirational energy, well, so is your dog. Hell, it isn’t hard to stand far above and beyond the worst president in American history.

But there simply is no denying that extra kick. As one reader put it to me, in a way, it’s not even about Obama, per se.

I think this is one of the “gooey” parts.

There’s a vast amount of positive energy swirling about that’s been held back by the armies of BushCo darkness, and this energy has now found a conduit, a lightning rod, is now effortlessly self-organizing around Obama’s candidacy. People and emotions and ideas of high and positive vibration are automatically draw to him. It’s exactly like how Bush was a magnet for the low vibrational energies of fear and war and oppression and aggression, but, you know, completely reversed. And different. And far, far better.



if [ -d /gooey ]; then
rm -rf /gooey


That’s Geekworker humor … different universe.

Don’t buy any of it?

Hell, I won’t take it for free.

Think that’s all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls– and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you’re talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself.

Not this time.

Because I know some of you unenlightened beings won’t pick up on my subtle Lightworker humor here (which indicates a problem with your right parahippocampal gyrus), nor on the actual point of this post, let me make it explicitly clear to you ground dwellers: THIS IS NOT ABOUT OBAMA. IT IS ABOUT THE MORONIC DEIFICATION OF OBAMA BY HIS GLASSY-EYED SUPPORTERS LIKE MARK MORFORD, A PAID JOURNALIST.

HT: Charles Johnson, who had the most concise summary: “Oh, good grief.”

Further HT: James Joyner, who tipped me off as to the Lightworker thing, and closed with the Quip Of The Day:

Interestingly, charges that Fred Thompson was a light worker were harmful to his campaign. Go figure.

Everything found via Memeorandum.

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Potent Quotables

Eastwood Wales

I’ve always loved that quote from Charles Austin Beard about earning a reputation as a “dangerous citizen” by quoting the founding fathers. This quote is from the man who made the “dangerous citizen” a cinematic icon, including in one of my all time favorite movies The Outlaw Josey Wales:

I don’t pay attention to either side,” he claims. “I mean, I’ve always been a libertarian. Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else’s hair. So I believe in that value of smaller government. Give politicians power and all of a sudden they’ll misuse it on ya.

When asked about his current political leaning, Eastwood declares that he’s undecided (”It’s kind of a zoo out there right now. So I think I’ll kinda let things percolate.”), but also claims that he and his wife have had some affinity for McCain in the past.

I’m cognizant of the seeming double standard in quoting a Hollywood A-Lister about a political point when I would likely deride such a person making a point I disagreed with (if it were George Clooney, for example). The difference is that I don’t offer the quote as some sort of proof as to the validity of its subject. Instead, I’m impressed that libertarianism was directly connected with smaller government and a check on political power (“Give politicians power and all of a sudden they’ll misuse it on ya.”). Usually the ideology (if you can call it that) is paired by quotable persons with either the war in Iraq or smoking pot. In this case, a silver screen star directly connected personal liberty and smaller government, AND got quoted in a left-wing newspaper.

And c’mon, it’s Clint Eastwood who said it. That’s worth something isn’t it? [/toungueincheek]

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Words Fail Me

Luckily there’s a picture.


Is this man really going to be our next President? The only people who will be more disappointed than non-Obama supporters after election day in November will be the idiots who believe in Obamessiah’s changey changitude. And “yes” that is a unicorn in Obama’s frothy wake. God help us.

[HT: Glenn Reynolds]

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Adventures In Stupidity

The leftosphere is up in arms over John McCain “lying” about Barack Obama’s stated intentions vis-a-vis Iran. The latest source of righteous outrage comes courtesy of a Joel Klein interview with McCain:

At a press conference here, I just asked John McCain about why he keeps talking about Obama’s alleged willingness to talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has no power over Iranian foreign policy, rather than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who does. He said that Ahmadinejad is the guy who represents Iran in international forums like the United Nations, which is a fair point. When I followed with the observation that the Supreme Leader is, uh, the Supreme Leader, McCain responded that the “average American” thinks Ahmadinejad is the boss. Didn’t get a chance to follow up to that, but I would have asked, “But isn’t it your job to correct those sorts of mistaken impressions on the part of the American public?” Oh well.

That prompted such scintillating analysis as this from Matthew Yglesias:

It’s increasingly clear that John McCain intends to use his special relationship with the press to run a campaign based on relentlessly lying about his opponent

And this from “BJ” at Newshoggers:

The Iranian power structure is a byzantine beast at best, but the tthe guy at the top is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, rather than the eminently (mis)quotable Ahmadinejad. Given how “serious” a threat McCain and his supporters all tell us Iran is, you would think such a fact might be an important one to learn.

The rest of the lefty commentary basically play off of these two themes of (a) Obama never said “Ahmadinejad” and (b) McCain’s so stupid he doesn’t know who really runs Iran.

Starting with theme (b) first, why does it matter which leader McCain names when the charge is that Obama wants to negotiate without precondition with Iran? Whether he talks to Ahmadinejad or Khamenei is pretty irrelevant to that charge, and focusing one’s attack on something so ridiculously semantic and capillary simply underscores how much the Obama campaign really does not want to deal with this issue. And that’s not even to mention that meeting with Khamenei without precondition does not make Obama out to be a foreign policy genius either (he’s “slightly less anti-semitic”? Seriously? That’s a defense?).

Secondly, those accusing McCain are piling up the crow to eat:

September 24, 2007, 2:05 PM

Obama: I Would Still Meet With Ahmadinejad
Posted by Brian Montopoli

Despite the controversy that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York City has triggered, Senator Barack Obama still vows to meet with rogue leaders if he is elected, reports CBS News’ Maria Gavrilovic.

“Nothing has changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries,” Obama told reporters at a press conference ….

Obama said he would not have invited Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia University, but he believes in academic freedom. “They have the right to invite people to speak. As I said, it’s not a choice that I would have made but we don’t need to be fearful of the rantings of somebody like Ahmadinejad.” Obama says the United Nations provides an adequate forum for Ahmadinejad to speak.

Obama was asked if his statements about Ahmadinejad were contradictory – why would he meet with the Iranian leader as U.S. president but not invite to speak if he were the Columbia University president? “There are two different functions, as president of the United States, my job is to look out for the national security interests of this country,” Obama said.

Michael Goldfarb dug up the video and adds:

I can’t say I’m surprised that Time magazine and the Obama campaign managed to miss this clip which completely undermines their shared narrative. But now we have a new narrative: Obama intends to meet with Ali Khamenei, the man with the real power in Tehran, because even though Obama pledged to meet with Ahmadinejad, and said it was a “disgrace” that Bush had not, he never had any intention of meeting with Ahmadinejad, and McCain is a liar for saying different.

See also here for more confirmation that Obama did in fact say he would meet with Ahmadinejad.

As for the new Obama meme, that he’ll meet with Khamenei (but not that nutjob Ahmadinejad!), Goldfarb provides the relevant transcript of advisor Susan Rice speaking to Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: “How does Senator Obama defend that decision to meet without preconditions with a leader like Ahmadinejad?”

RICE: “Well, first of all, he said he’d meet with the appropriate Iranian leaders. He hasn’t named who that leader will be. It may, in fact be that by the middle of next of year, Ahmadinejad is long gone.”

BLITZER: “Let’s be precise because when they criticize Barack Obama, not only John McCain but others, for suggesting that he would meet without preconditions with Ahmadinejad, who only last week on Israel’s 60th anniversary called Israel a ‘stinking corpse.’ The question that they ask is what is Barack Obama going to talk with him about?”

RICE: “Well, first of all as I said, it would be the appropriate Iranian leadership at the appropriate time – not necessarily Ahmadinejad.”

As his nomination becomes more likely, Obama’s supporters have twisted themselves into rhetorical knots attempted to explain away their candidate’s everchanging positions. In this case they have chose the stupidest of all tacts in declaring that it is McCain who is lying and doesn’t know what he’s talking about when, in fact, Obama has clearly stated what McCain said he did, and the attempted defense actually indelibly implants the fact that OBAMA WILL MEET WITH IRAN WITHOUT PRECONDITION! in the minds of the voters.

Quite possibly this could be one of the dumbest political moves ever made, and certainly some of the dumbest retorts I’ve ever seen. And yet, somehow Obama will still end up being president.

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Fact-Checking 101

It should be clear by now to anyone who frequently reads blogs that the MSM is not terribly accurate in its reporting, nor does it seem to have any intention of getting better at it. Whether you think the media leans left (as I think it demonstrably does) or right, there is no denying that the vaunted fact-checkers of the MSM are little more than an apparition, devoid of any duty or consequence.

The latest example is pretty innocuous in the grand scheme of things, and yet the mistake so blatantly obvious that it causes one to wonder how it could have been made in the first place. In what is essentially a puff piece about John McCain’s backing of stronger anti-human trafficking laws and enforcement, the NYT declares:

Human trafficking, the transport of victims under false pretenses from one nation to another for forced labor or prostitution, has become an important issue to the Christian right. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that as many as 800,000 people around the world, including 200,000 in the United States, are enslaved each year.

For the numerically deficient, the NYT asserts that CIA estimates place fully one-fourth (25%) of all humans trafficked in the world within the borders of the United States. Twenty-five percent? That’s a staggeringly large percentage, especially considering the often quite blatant amount of trafficking that occurs in the Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East. Why did that little factoid not set off all kinds of bells and whistles in some fact-checker’s brain?

To get an idea of just how far off (and drastically wrong) the NYT’s assertion is, let’s look at an article from September last year in the Washington Post:

Outrage was mounting at the 1999 hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building, where congressmen were learning about human trafficking.

A woman from Nepal testified that September that she had been drugged, abducted and forced to work at a brothel in Bombay. A Christian activist recounted tales of women overseas being beaten with electrical cords and raped. A State Department official said Congress must act — 50,000 slaves were pouring into the United States every year, she said. Furious about the “tidal wave” of victims, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) vowed to crack down on so-called modern-day slavery.

Those legislative hearings were the precursor to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, passed in the waning days of the Clinton Administration and given full effect in the early days of the Bush Administration. However, despite vigorous enforcement of the Act, few victims were found:

As part of the fight, President Bush has blanketed the nation with 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million — all to find and help the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of forced prostitution or labor in the United States.

But the government couldn’t find them. Not in this country.

The evidence and testimony presented to Congress pointed to a problem overseas. But in the seven years since the law was passed, human trafficking has not become a major domestic issue, according to the government’s figures.

The administration has identified 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 a year the government had estimated. In addition, 148 federal cases have been brought nationwide, some by the Justice task forces, which are composed of prosecutors, agents from the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local law enforcement officials in areas thought to be hubs of trafficking.

In the Washington region, there have been about 15 federal cases this decade.

Ronald Weitzer, a criminologist at George Washington University and an expert on sex trafficking, said that trafficking is a hidden crime whose victims often fear coming forward. He said that might account for some of the disparity in the numbers, but only a small amount.

“The discrepancy between the alleged number of victims per year and the number of cases they’ve been able to make is so huge that it’s got to raise major questions,” Weitzer said. “It suggests that this problem is being blown way out of proportion.”

Now I’m sure you’ll agree, as deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto said, “the issue is ‘not about the numbers. It’s really about the crime and how horrific it is.’” With respect to the issue of human trafficking, one is too many. However, that does not speak at all to the gross mischaracterization of the numbers presented by the NYT.

So where did that 200,000 number come from? It does not appear to be from the CIA, which does not provide a number of victims associated with the United States in its World Fact Book or anywhere else that I could find. Indeed, it’s difficult to even find the source of the 50,000 estimate which has been used for quite some time now. According to the Washington Post:

Although there have been several estimates over the years, the number that helped fuel the congressional response — 50,000 victims a year — was an unscientific estimate by a CIA analyst who relied mainly on clippings from foreign newspapers, according to government sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the agency’s methods. Former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales told Congress last year that a much lower estimate in 2004 — 14,500 to 17,500 a year — might also have been overstated.

Considering Gonzales’ statement, a charitable view of the NYT’s obvious mistake would be that the estimate includes an extra zero, and that the writer intended to assert the CIA estimate as (a still overinflated) 20,000 instead of 200,000. Yet, again, why didn’t someone catch this before it went to print? How did such an eyebrow-raising number elude those much maligned fact-checkers at the NYT? It’s clear that nobody checked with the CIA about the number, as it would have been corrected at least to the 50,000 estimate if that had been done. Perhaps the number was gleaned from a press release from McCain, and the reporter was simply too lazy to check it out. Or maybe it just sound about right to the news team, so nobody bothered to see if it was correct. Whatever the reason, the mistake is a perfect reminder of why the MSM is held in such disregard nowadays.

As I said from the outset, the blunder itself is rather mild, even though it paints America in a bad light. Until someone quotes the NYT as source for the number (and gets it past the fact-checkers again), it’s a one off of little consequence. But it’s so indicative of just how unreliable MSM reporting has become. If they could miss this blatant mistake, how many more subtle discrepancies are they passing off as fact? And what’s worse, how many people are buying those mistakes, accepting them uncritically as settled facts because they’re printed in the NYT or WaPo, or stated on the evening news? Before you know it we’ll be hearing about how 200,000 women are beaten and then sold into slavery each year during the Super Bowl.

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The Wright Stuff

I haven’t had much time to grace the pages of ASHC lately, but I was skimming through Memeorandum and just couldn’t resist saying something about this little screed:

Wright issue will haunt conservative media elite

By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor

Now that Sen. Barack Obama has denounced his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, many of his critics, especially those who call themselves conservative, are happy he has put the dashiki-wearing, American-criticizing former Marine in his place.

See, these same voices, many that are allegedly Christian, have reacted with glee by calling Wright a prophet of hate and a race baiter.

They hold themselves up to be so concerned about their fellow brother and sister, yet if you looked at their personal lives, I doubt you’d find many with African-American friends and associates (and I doubt their staffs are the most diverse in the world, but that’s another story).

But be careful what you ask for.

Martin goes on in this vein for the entire spleen-spewing piece, and basically warns conservatives that because they “gleefully” targeted Obama’s association with his (now former) pastor, they should expect the exact same treatment from liberals.

Because the article is so target-rich with fiskable material it’s difficult to say just which bit is more absurd than another, but Martin’s good-for-the-gander warning is no doubt top five. Particularly since it completely ignores the fact that Hillary Clinton pushed this issue as much as any “conservative,” that Obama’s mercurial explanations for his choice of pastor created much fodder for the press (and wasn’t well received by the voters), and that kept the problem front and center. It also ignores the fact that liberals have been caterwauling about people like Hagee since McCain accepted his endorsement. In fact, Martin’s attempt to head his critics off at the pass completely undermines his point by tacitly acknowledging that liberals have already tried to tie the Hagee albatross around McCain’s neck:

Now that Wright has set the so-called standard for what isn’t acceptable for religious leaders, let’s see these same critics take their own kind to task for making absolutely outlandish comments.

But don’t stop there. Demand that candidates don’t seek counsel from them. Demand that Republican candidates not go to their churches and sit in their pews and accept their contributions. And if elected, make sure those same candidates don’t allow them access to the White House or halls of Congress. Turnabout is fair play, and that means guys like the Revs. Pat Robertson and John Hagee should not be sought out for their endorsements, and should be removed from any committees associated with a candidate or a political party.

Oh, I can’t wait to get the e-mails from folks who will say, “Yeah, but Obama was a member of the church.”

True, very true.

But if the marker is now saying anything unacceptable to the masses, then that should be the standard for any pastor: white, black, male, female, conservative or liberal. And any candidate, member or not.

I’ve read many of the columns and listened to the shows of these so-called conservative patriots, and few, if any, have said a word about conservative white pastors who have called for the overthrow of the government for not following Christian values (the late Francis Schaeffer, a little “g” God on the Religious Right), or who have called for the destruction of the Islamic religion of a number of Americans (Pastor Rod Parsley) and folks worldwide.

Martin’s analogy makes no sense, of course, which is why he simply waves his hand at the fact that Wright was Obama’s pastor for twenty-some years. That’s an inconvenient fact for his rant, so it’s mentioned without being addressed, and instead he tries to turn it into a racial issue. Martin is trying to set up the meme that Rev. Wright became an issue not because of his racist and anti-American utterings, but because he’s black. The problem, however, is that picking up an endorsement from a crazy, anti-Catholic preacher is just not the same as sitting in the church of a crazy, anti-American, white-hating, marxist-loving, Farrakhan-embracing preacher for over twenty years, not to mention personally choosing him as your spiritual mentor. The former says something about the state of politics for sure in that a candidate is essentially required to pick up such an endorsement in order to get the job. The latter says something about the candidate’s judgment and choice of company and nothing about the state of politics in general (although, I believe it does say something about being in politics in Chicago).

What’s really laughable about Martin’s, however, is his closing warning:

But to every politician, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican: Beware. The die has been cast. The repeated denunciations of Wright will now lead each and every single one of you to have your pastors’ oral and written words examined. If even one thing is said that can be construed as criticizing America or deemed hateful, then expect to see it on YouTube and replayed for millions to see. I suggest you go to your pastor now and say, “Please, watch what you say. I don’t want to have to denounce you on national television.”

To my media pals who are part of the conservative media elite, we’ll be watching. And listening. Let’s just see if you’re as willing to tear apart one of your own.

That’s like warning the seals that the sharks are out to get them. But Martin is a journalist so I guess something that’s been happening all along seems like news to him.

UPDATE: QandO links (thanks, McQ!) and in addition to displaying the many spelling errors in my post (now fixed) adds this admonition:

Watch for variations on this [racial] theme to continue to emerge from the left as the right continues to hammer the Wright/Obama connection.

McQ’s right that Obama backers will push this meme when convenient simply because of the general fear that people hold of being called a racist. On the one hand, it’s good that it has become so socially unacceptable to be a bigot, but on the other it is a shame how some people broadly employ the epithet, without regard for the consequences, simply to score cheap political points. In any case, expect the cry of racism to emerge whenever Wright is mentioned in the context of Obama’s lack of judgment.

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Roads, More Roads, and Still More Roads Indeed!

This is the latest post in a running commentary on a new meme to emerge from the PR folks in Afghanistan: the security benefits of building roads. The argument, advanced by a few American reporters and one David Kilcullen, is that building paved roads reduces the IED threat and contributes to the security necessary for economic development. I find this highly inplausible, and the lack of evidence—across multiple reports from multiple reporters—deepens this suspicion. If I can arrange it with a magazine, I’m going to try to compile all of these into a single essay addressing the issue of journalist knowledge and gullibility, ethics, and what security really means.

Naturally, this was posted first at, which is where you should be going for updates on the Forgotten War in Afghanistan, as well as the latest machinations in the still-simmering Former Soviet Union.

Remember David Ignatius’ pathetic excuse for reporting on Afghanistan? After a whole week in a few provinces in RC-East, he was making pronouncements about how the country was faring. Barnett Rubin properly called him out on this crap, but it’s worth looking at his ludicrous column and seeing if it might tell us anything.

Aside from the many facile references to Rudyard Kipling and British colonial administrators, and a curious inability to look at a map (Naray, in Paktya, is about 100 miles southwest of Asadabad, in Kunar… over Pakistani territory), there is a quite fascinating section.

Alison Blosser, a young State Department officer, is using a similar approach to help guide the Provincial Reconstruction Team for Kunar province, based south of here in Asadabad. An Ohio State graduate, she speaks fluent Pashto, which she learned before taking up her previous assignment at the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan. Dressed in a head scarf and body armor, she might be a modern version of Gertrude Bell, the celebrated British adventurer and colonial administrator of the 1920s.

Blosser and her colleagues have employed what they call a “roads strategy” to bring stability to Kunar. The biggest project so far was building a paved two-lane road from Jalalabad in the lush flatlands up the Kunar River valley to Asadabad. The road is a magnet for economic development in what had been an insurgent stronghold, and the PRT is planning new roads into what Blosser calls the “capillary valleys” where the insurgents have fled.

At least we now know who’s been pushing the Roads thing.

The tribal elders see the prosperity the new roads have brought and want the same for their villages. “We say, ‘Fine, but you have to guarantee security,’ ” Blosser says. That’s the essence of the counterinsurgency strategy U.S. forces are using in Afghanistan. As the military clears new areas, the PRTs follow quickly behind with roads, bridges and schools.

And by this, he directly contradicts what David Kilcullen was able to say with nary a critical peep from the professional counterinsurgency crowd. Whom to believe? I have no idea. Kilcullen says security follows roads. Ignatius says roads follow security, and then reinforce it. Ignatius’ version of causation makes more intuitive sense. But Afghanistan has a habit of defying intuition.

In either case, since Kilcullen is the supposedly serious thinker here, and Ignatius obviously is not, that places the burden of proof on Kilcullen (or anyone else who agrees with his version of causation) to build the case that roads equal security. Right now, there is precious little data and a great deal of pleasing talk in anecdotal generalities. Until there is an actual argument—involving evidence, which is noticeably lacking in Kilcullen’s writing on this subject—then no one can really say for sure.

And is Carlotta Gall the only reporter employed by an American paper to work off something other than official government press handlers?

This topic continues:
Of PR Campaigns and the Utility of Area Knowledge
War Is Peace, and Other Orwells at the Journal
A Practical Look at the Value of Roads
Learning from PRTs
The Strange Benefits of Paving Afghanistan

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Man Regrows Finger, Amazing or Not?

Reading Instapundit I came across this story from BBC about a man who’s used a special powder of pig bladder cells to regrow the tip of his finger that he’d chopped off. I share the professor’s futurist view and optimism, but I’m not so sure that it’s warranted in this case.

You see, it’s not that unusal for finger tips to grow back, (Warning, graphic pictures at the jump) and from the pictures of the injury he doesn’t look to have lost that much. This seems to be the case of some hyping by the clueless media (and us bloggers too, mea culpa!).

However, this is not to say that this regenerative dust might not work, but we just don’t have a control group to compare this to. Would it have grown back slower? More deformed? More scarred? Not at all? We don’t know, but more science and testing will show us.

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Let’s Talk About Chicks, Man

A few weeks ago, my friend Megan Carpentier wondered on Glamocracy why there aren’t more prominent female political bloggers out there:

But does it have to be that way? Blogs are supposed to be populist and thus it would seem like women could more easily level the playing field here than in other media. Red State’s Mike Krempasky says, “You’d think the internet would be the great equalizer or the ultimate meritocracy. ‘far from it.” Looking at my blogroll, I’d have to agree.

Argh. How do we change that? How loud do women have to shout? Or is it sadly that we have to stop seeing politics from a woman’s point of view to get taken seriously?

The reaction from the blogosphere was striking: naked hostility from both sides. Markos Moulitsas sent his executive editor after her, claiming that because a woman edits that women are fairly represented in the blogosphere (though I would consider myself of above average awareness in the realm and I still don’t associate Dailykos with a woman’s viewpoint).

Then a female right wing blogger—whose name for all the world I read at first as Café Sano, a favorite lunch place of mine in Reston, VA—told her to stop being such a whiny girl because she’s never experienced sexism… and then proceeds to brag about how nice it is to give her male readers “something to ogle at.” Calling Ann Althouse.

Another interesting note: the left wing blogs spelled Megan’s name correctly, while the vast majority of the right wing ones did not. It is “Carpentier,” like a French word, not “Carpenter” like Jesus.

Anyway, in the midst of all the rancor, it isn’t an unfair question to ask. After all, politics—and power games in general—are still generally seen as a man’s game. That isn’t fair, and isn’t even reflective of reality, but that’s the way it is. What do you think? Does Megan have a point, or is she just being a silly girl about it?

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What Does the Evidence Say… About Us?

Question the timing! That old mantra from the halcyon days of 2002-4, when the Left would be mocked by the Right for wondering about the suspicious timing of terror alerts, is universally applicable to the Presidency. In the case of the Syrian nuclear facility—the underlying story of which isn’t significant—what the intelligence community is choosing to say, and even more importantly, not say, is highly significant:

Perhaps most notable in the briefing on Thursday was how coy the analysts were being about the possibility that Syria has a covert nuclear weapons program. They noted very specifically that “there is no reprocessing facility in the region of al Kibar,” but refused to elaborate when asked whether the Syrians might be building such a facility elsewhere. They also refused to comment on how Syria might have been planning to acquire the natural uranium required to fuel the reactor and they dodged a question about how North Korean diplomats have so far reacted to this disclosure.

Yet, in the briefing detailing their findings, the analysts were certain of the design and intent of the reactor. That isn’t to say that Syria was probably up to something bad—it almost certainly was. But the reasons this is being released right now is definitely puzzling. It makes me wonder what Bush has up his sleeve concerning Iran and reviving all that terrible Axis of Evil talk (Syria, recall, did not make the cut last time).

Even more interesting is the reactions of some on the Right.

I was mildly amused to see FP contributor and respected nuclear expert Joe Cirincione labeled “Obama’s radioactive potato” and “an apologist for Syria” this week on Commentary’s “Connecting the Dots” blog and the Powerline blog, respectively…

Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff seems to think Cirincione is biased against Israel — even though the latter has family in Israel and describes himself as “strongly pro-Israel.” Commentary’s Gabriel Schoenfeld, meanwhile, is certain that Cirincione, despite his rather explicit denial, really is secretly the top nuclear advisor to the Obama campaign. I guess conspiracy theories aren’t exclusive to the Middle East.

This is, recall, for the crime of being skeptical of a poorly sourced press leak with no evidence at the time, and wishing for greater detail to emerge before believing the administration’s reports about the incident.

All the while those carping heads keep missing the real point here, which is not that Syria has a high-level relationship with North Korea. It is that this event has highlighted the way the media is spoon fed stories by the government, and has apparently abrogated the lion’s share of its investigative power over to government agencies.

That so many don’t seem to realize this remains baffling.

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Hoist by His Own Petard

McCainJohn McCain was one politician I admired greatly. While I still believe that the man is a true hero, and while I still do applaud some of what he does, the veil has been lifted from my eyes for one major reason: McCain-Feingold.

Although I, like so many others, wish that we lived in some la-la land where candidates never had to solicit campaign funds from anyone, and that we could miraculously learn about the candidates’ beliefs, abilities, character, experience, etc. for free, such is not the case. We live in the real world, and in the real world, we need money to accomplish this.

McCain-Feingold restricts our speech and the ability of candidates to communicate with the public. I have always found it to be straight out unconstitutional; perhaps one day the Supreme Court will strike it down.

Until that happens, however, all of us will have to labor under its inequities and burdens. Right now, McCain is finding himself ensnared in a web of his own making.

The McCain camp is teaming up with the Republican National Committee to tap into big, big donations from big, big donors – hoping to close the big, big money gap with Democrats.

Their effort to do so will involve some creative abuse of the campaign finance restrictions Mr. McCain authored a few years back. Whatever. The Arizonan may not yet fully understand that money is speech. At least he has come around to the view that more of the stuff is better when it comes to winning the presidency.

Whether this will ease Mr. McCain’s financial woes is yet unclear, but it’s arguably his smartest move, given the hand he’s dealt himself. Just imagine what might have happened if Mr. McCain had fought instead for simple transparency – and trusted Americans to decide how much to give and to whom. Free speech, via money, can be a liberating thing.

Part of me feels like saying, “Serves you right!” to Senator McCain. But, as I believe he would be a better choice for president than Obama or Clinton, I’ll simply hope that he and others learn from this ironic lesson.

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Hear, Hear

One of my girlfriends is smart as a whip and a talented artist to boot.  Cathy is also hard of hearing.

While Cathy can read lips and she also has a device that allows her to converse in very small groups, she is unable to hear in most other settings.  Last year, the two of us attended a fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani.  As we watched Rudy live on TV, I quietly “translated” what he was saying for Cathy.  Many of the other people in attendance thus realized how unfortunate it was that there weren’t closed captions for Cathy and people like her.

Elise Knopf, of the Minnesota Commission Serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing People wants the state of Minnesota to pass a law making it mandatory to have closed captions in political ads.  As you all know, my philosophy is to urge small government, and I’m not quite certain that people should be forced to include closed captions.  Nevertheless, I am very sure that the captions should be included in these ads – not to mention most everything else on TV!  Cathy has explained to me that the cost to do so is minimal – and that the captions can be invisible to those who do not need them.

Including those among us who cannot hear well or at all has a simple solution.  Let’s apply it.

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Sunni Bloc To Rejoin Government

This is a positive development:

Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc has agreed to return to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s cabinet after a nine-month boycott, several Sunni leaders said on Thursday, citing a recently passed amnesty law and the Maliki government’s crackdown on Shiite militias as reasons for the move.

The Sunni leaders said they were still working out the details of their return, an indication that the deal could still fall through.


“Our conditions were very clear, and the government achieved some of them,” said Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Tawafiq, the largest Sunni bloc in the government. Mr. Duleimi said the achievements included “the general amnesty, chasing down the militias and disbanding them and curbing the outlaws.”

The recently passed amnesty law has already led to the release of many Sunni prisoners, encouraging Sunni parties that the government is serious about enforcing it. And the attacks on Shiite militias have apparently begun to assuage longstanding complaints that only Sunni groups blamed for the insurgency have been the targets of American and Iraqi security forces.

Exactly which ministries will be given to which Sunni politicians is still under negotiation, said Ayad Samarrai, the deputy general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest party within Tawafiq. Among those under consideration are the Ministries of Culture, Planning, Higher Education and Women’s Affairs and the State Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Samarrai said.

What the greater affects of the Sunnis rejoining will be remain to be seen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if future events precipitate another walkout. But I think it’s hard to deny that Maliki’s offensive in Basra is paying the political dividends he had hoped for.

On another note, the NYT piece is prefaced with an incongruous image of what is claimed to be the remnants of a car bomb blast:
Caption: The site of a car bombing where one civilian was killed while six others were wounded on Thursday in Baghdad. // Photo by:Mohammed Ameen/Reuters

Does that look like the results of a car bomb? None of the buildings near the wreckage look like they’ve sustained blast damage. There’s no cratering in the ground, and there’s no shrapnel from the blast strewn around. And, of course, there’s the obligatory wailing woman in the foreground. Is this another fauxtography case? Even if it’s not, and the photo is exactly what it claims to be, what does it have to do with a story about Sunnis ending their boycott of the Iraqi government?

UPDATE: Keith provides another view of the car bomb wreckage in the comments. It appears to be a legitimate bomb scene, just with the staged wailing woman for affect. I guess the bomb wasn’t terribly big so there isn’t any noticeable damage to the surrounding scene. Either way, it does not appear to be a case of fauxtography, although it is a strange photo to accompany a news story about political reconciliation.

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Gawker Media has decided to sell Wonkette to managing editor Ken Layne. Missing in the “internal emails” published on both Wonkette and Politico is the key fact that after Layne fired associate editor Megan Carpentier (full Disclosure: she’s a good friend), about 2/3 of the site’s regular visitors staged a months-long boycott, tanking the site’s pageviews and thus ad numbers. March is a record month for them, in other words, only because January and February were so bad.

And of course, as Megan notes… Politico scooped Ken Layne on his new purchase by about 30 minutes or so. Not that that is indicative of anything.

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Mugging for the Camera

h/t Instapundit

I’m not convinced that the two incidents contrasted in this video from Ed Driscoll are similar enough to be compared to each other but he does say something that I said about the Aguilar report at the time.   Someone edited, prepared, and made the decision to air the segment of her badgering the old man who’d defended himself.    It was a team effort.

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CENTCOM Commander Admiral Fallon Resigns (UPDATED)

Apparently rumors have been swirling around for awhile that Fallon was on his way out. Well, today he resigned and the speculation is that it was over a recent interview he did in Esquire, written by Thomas P.M. Barnett (regarding which Josh noted Fallon’s strange reaction last week). However, you can rest assured that a different meme will be floated as to why Fallon is gone:

Adm. William J. Fallon, the top American commander in the Middle East whose views on Iran and other issues have seemed to put him at odds with the Bush administration, is retiring early, the Pentagon said Tuesday afternoon.

The retirement of Admiral Fallon, 63, who only a year ago became the first Navy man to be named the commander of the United States Central Command, was announced by his civilian boss, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said that he accepted the admiral’s request to retire “with reluctance and regret.”

Despite the warm words, there was no question that the admiral’s premature departure stemmed from policy differences with the administration, and with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq.

The bone of contention between Fallon and the Bush Administration, according to this meme (and sometimes, Adm. Fallon himself), is that Fallon refuses to go to war with Iran. From the Barnett profile in Esquire (HT: Allahpundit):

Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon’s statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.

Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon’s caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don’t want a commander standing in their way.

And so Fallon, the good cop, may soon be unemployed because he’s doing what a generation of young officers in the U. S. military are now openly complaining that their leaders didn’t do on their behalf in the run-up to the war in Iraq: He’s standing up to the commander in chief, whom he thinks is contemplating a strategically unsound war.

The only problem with the meme is that Administration officials who want to go to war with Iran are somewhat hard to come by:

The current issue of Esquire Magazine portrays Fallon as the one person in the military or Pentagon standing between the White House and war with Iran. The article credits Fallon with “brazenly challenging his commander in chief” over a possible war with Iran, which Fallon called an “ill-advised action,” and implies Fallon would resign rather than go to war against Iran.


Still, the gruff, outspoken CENTCOM commander has his detractors. “How many times can [Fallon] get away with these kinds of remarks,” before he’s forced out the door, asked one senior Pentagon official. The reason may be that on Iran, Gates and many senior military officials happen to agree with Fallon.

Most military leaders against military strike on Iran
Gates has said publicly and privately that under current conditions he’s opposed to war with Iran. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen is also against it. In fact, almost every senior military officer we’ve talked to is against launching military strikes against Iran, because as one senior official told us, “then what do you do?”


In addition, military officials dispute the premise of the story that the White House is pressuring the military to go to war with Iran. “Not true,” said a senior military official, despite the anti-Iran drumbeat from Vice President Dick Cheney.

In fact, during a conference in Bahrain last December, Gates had to convince Gulf state Arab allies that the United States was not going soft on Iran, because from their vantage point it appeared the Bush administration was backing away from its tough stand against Iran.

In other words, Fallon seems to have erected a strawman against which to battle, and the Administration was not pleased with the argument being made, nor the way in which Fallon was portraying the CiC.

Admiral Fallon had rankled senior officials of the Bush administration with outspoken comments on such issues as dealing with Iran and on setting the pace of troop reductions from Iraq — even though his comments were well within the range of views expressed by Mr. Gates.

Officials said the last straw, however, came in an article in Esquire magazine by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a respected military analyst, that profiled Admiral Fallon under the headline, “The Man Between War and Peace.” The article highlighted comments Admiral Fallon made to the Arab television station Al Jazeera last fall, in which he said that a “constant drumbeat of conflict” from Washington that was directed at Iran and Iraq was “not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”

It seems that Fallon saw the writing on the wall, however, leading to his strange “poison pen” comments:

Sources in the Pentagon said Fallon was worried the White House would perceive the magazine piece as a challenge to the president’s authority, and insisted that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the same time the sources said Fallon “doesn’t sound like someone considering resignation.”

In his own defense, Fallon told the Washington Post that the Esquire article was “poison pen stuff…disrespectful and ugly.”

While any policy differences, real or perceived, between top U.S. military commanders and the civilian leadership are not necessarily unusual, it’s rare when those commanders take the debate so public.

Finally, also via AP, Blackfive claims that Fallon’s resignation has been in the works for awhile, and suggests that Petraeus may be headed for the CENTCOM position:

…Wolf’s sources, for months now, have said that this was coming, not for disagreements with the administration about a looming war with Iran, but for some other internal “issues” that have nothing to do with policy or the administration. His replacement has been considered for some time now.

The media is speculating that this is another case of Shinseki-izing – the Bush administration getting rid of another dissenter. They are wrong.

Well, they were wrong about Shinseki too, so that shouldn’t be any surprise.

UPDATE: According to Think Progress (@ UpdateIV), Harry Reid is ready to get the meme rolling:

I am concerned that the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and a military leader with more than three decades of command experience, is yet another example that independence and the frank, open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this Administration.

And Spencer Ackerman jumps on board:

Admiral William Fallon, the bulwark between Bush and a war with Iran, is resigning as head of U.S. Central Command. According to the tidbit I just saw on CNN, apparently Secretary Bob Gates said that Fallon quit for the most postmodern of reasons: Fallon thought a recent, highly-controversial Esquire article portrayed him as in opposition to Bush’s bellicosity over Iran … Gates said in a press conference just now that no one should think the move reflects any substantive change in policy. That sure won’t be how Teheran sees it. The Iranians will consider Fallon’s resignation to indicate that the bombing begins in the next five minutes.

Although, to be fair, Ackerman does offer another explanation:

This sounds like a resignation on principle. Either that or Fallon got caught with “Kristen.”


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Protesting Geert Wilders

Posted first at

A few thousand people in Afghanistan have begun protesting the reprinting in Denmark of cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), as well as a Dutch film that supposedly portrays the Koran as fascist. They are burning Danish and Dutch flags, shouting provocative slogans, and generally behaving as protesters.

Now before we all go pulling a Malkin and accusing them of being protest-happy, infidel-murdering, Jew-hatin’ animals, let us establish some context. First of all—umm, shouldn’t they be mad? There seems to be a coordinated effort in Europe (however well the creators may feel it justified) to discredit and insult the Muslim faith. I’m reminded of no less than the Harry Potter book burnings by Christian activists in the U.S. Similarly, there was the laughable attempt by Fox News flapping jaw Bill O’Reilly to collapse the French economy after France refused to support the invasion of Iraq. Everyone freaks out at perceived slights by foreigners (whether national or religious). They’re not wrong to be angry at the deliberate insults to their faith.

So let them protest. So what if they demand the withdrawal of Danish and Dutch forces in Jalalabad? There aren’t any in Jalalabad… and as best I can tell, the Afghans of Helmand and Uruzgan have grander concerns than what some artist or film maker is doing 6,000 miles away.

This is the sort of thing we should encourage. If you dislike something, protest it. So long as they don’t get violent, this is a good thing. Think of it: who would rather them go on a rampage like Kabul in 2006? No one. Protests, even if Westerners find them a bit overwrought, are a healthy sign of civic society.

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Lightweight Punditry


The inscrutable and vainglorious Boi from Brazil weighs in to explain why Republicans find Obama’s candidacy “scary”:

Conservatives love to claim that Obama supporters have excess reverence for their candidate and see him as some sort of transcendent messiah figure. There is a small minority of Obama supporters — as is true for most candidates and political movements — who probably expect more from Obama than it is healthy to expect from political leaders generally.

But listening to this objection from the right-wing movement is the ultimate irony. There has not been a political figure in a long, long time who was revered, worshiped and transformed into a grotesque Icon of Transcendent Greatness the way the Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush, has been. For years and years, the Right sustained itself as little more than a glorified Cult of Personality around the Great, Conquering War Hero.

Greenwald goes on to detail what he supposes is evidence of George Bush’s cult of personality, consisting entirely of hagiographies written about the President by conservatives, and remarks from politicians. That there are Bush’ophiles in the Republican Party is no big surprise, nor particularly indicative of anything other than party loyalty to a beleaguered President. That Greenwald thinks that is commensurate with a video supporting Obama’s candidacy by having celebrities chant the man’s name is more than silly. Indeed, the Puppet-master’s analysis has all the depth and weight of a ratty old sock, worn thin at the heel and sporting massive holes. Rick Moran makes this abundantly clear:

For one so hysterically inclined to exaggerate, to denigrate, to posit the most outrageously ignorant motivations for conservative actions, our man Mr. Ellison simply lacks the ability to evaluate anything in an adult manner. Instead, he reminds me of a teenage girl in the way he dramatizes the most insignificant events and statements from conservatives as sinister and evil. A true drama queen of the left, he is incapable of the kind of balanced, nuanced judgement ascribed to most grown ups who write about politics and politicians.

Lambchop cannot tell the difference between political hyperbole as given by politicians above and the raw, emotional, slavish, worshipful, and fervent idolatry that millions of Obama supporters demonstrate on a regular basis. They can’t tell you why they are for him. They can’t tell you why they faint and weep in his presence. They can’t tell you why they believe he can “change the world” when he can’t even change the politics of Chicago.

Rick cites a Political Punch entry quoting an Obama supporter:


Obama supporter Kathleen Geier writes that she’s “getting increasingly weirded out by some of Obama’s supporters. On listservs I’m on, some people who should know better – hard-bitten, not-so-young cynics, even – are gushing about Barack…

Describing various encounters with Obama supporters, she writes, “Excuse me, but this sounds more like a cult than a political campaign. The language used here is the language of evangelical Christianity – the Obama volunteers speak of ‘coming to Obama’ in the same way born-again Christians talk about ‘coming to Jesus.’…So I say, we should all get a grip, stop all this unseemly mooning over Barack, see him and the political landscape he is a part of in a cooler, clearer, and more realistic light, and get to work.”

Joe Klein, no Republican hack, is also quoted in the Political Punch piece:

Joe Klein, writing at Time, notes “something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism” he sees in Obama’s Super Tuesday speech.

“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Obama said. “This time can be different because this campaign for the presidency of the United States of America is different. It’s different not because of me. It’s different because of you.”

Says Klein: “That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is. “

I actually disagree with Klein that Obama has not put any substance on the table, but he is correct that the fervency of the Illinois Senator’s support is not derived from his policies, but from a visceral reaction to his candidacy.

Rick succinctly differentiates between Obama supporters and Bush-bots:

No one has ever accused George Bush of being a rock star. No one has ever said that Bush causes the hearts of women to palpitate uncontrollably thus causing them to pass out.

And yet Lambchop, in what can only be described as one of his more desperate leaps of illogic, tries to assign equal value to the Obama phenomena and the small number of Bush-bots who I’ll bet never thought any impure thoughts about George.

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