01 November 2006

Even the French know Kerry didn't apologize

AFP has the story:
After slip-up on US Iraq troops, Kerry retreats from campaign trail.

Notice that the French can manage to get it right that Kerry's "apology" on Imus was nothing of the sort (though "slip-up" sure gives him benefit of the doubt that he probably doesn't deserve), but the AP is reporting the "botched joke" spin as an apology in this story: Kerry apologizes for "botched" Iraq joke.

The problem? Not only is it not an apology, but take a look at what his staff claims the joke was supposed to be:

Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.

Are we really supposed to believe that a Harvard MBA is not smart, doesn't study and is intellectually lazy? Are we supposed to believe Kerry thought he could make that charge stick? Are we really supposed to believe it's a great idea to make these sorts of "jokes" in wartime, when the enemy is watching our resolve? More bovine effluents from the Magic Hat Man.

Here's another thing Kerry told Imus, which the AFP reported and the AP didn't:

If anyone thinks that a veteran, someone like me, who's been fighting my entire career to provide for veterans, to fight for their benefits, to help honor what their service is ... would somehow criticize more than 140,000 troops serving in Iraq and not the president and his people who put them there, they're crazy.

So, we're supposed to believe that a guy who...

...falsely accused his comrades of daily, systematic atrocities

...secretly met with the enemy while in uniform

...sent the troops into Iraq and then tried to deny them funding

...accused them of terrorizing the population

...couldn't possibly say something bad about them. Yeah, right. Go back to your hole, traitor.

23 October 2006

A question about Al-Jazeera and "stupidity"

Michelle Malkin has the latest on State Department functionary Alberto Fernandez, who went on Al-Jazeera to give an interview in fluent Arabic and describe our policy in Iraq as one of "stupidity" and "arrogance."

Now, most reasonable people would just call for this idiot to be fired. After all, this is equivalent to a guy from State appearing with Lord Haw Haw or Tokyo Rose in 1944 to discuss how many guys we'd lost at Omaha Beach. But I'm curious about something...

I wonder, when al-Fernandez used the Arabic term for “stupidity,” was the word closely related to the one that Muhammad used in Tabari I:280?

“Allah said, ‘It is My obligation to make Eve bleed once every month as she made this tree bleed. I must also make Eve stupid, although I created her intelligent.’ Because Allah afflicted Eve, all of the women of this world menstruate and are stupid.” (Bold emphasis mine, credit for this quote and the next go to the Prophet of Doom website.)

How does al-Fernandez’s term relate to the phrase used for “lack of common sense” when Muhammad says Hell is stuffed full of women?

“‘O womenfolk, you should ask for forgiveness for I saw you in bulk amongst the dwellers of Hell.’ A wise lady said: Why is it, Allah’s Apostle, that women comprise the bulk of the inhabitants of Hell? The Prophet observed: ‘You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. You lack common sense, fail in religion and rob the wisdom of the wise.’ Upon this the woman remarked: What is wrong with our common sense? The Prophet replied, ‘Your lack of common sense can be determined from the fact that the evidence of two women is equal to one man. That is a proof.’”

Inquiring minds want to know.

18 October 2006

655,000 reasons to laugh at the networks

(Originally published in the 19 October Freeport Ink)

If I put on my reporter hat and told you President Bush’s approval rating is 77%, but might be as high as 137%, how would you view the quality of my reporting and of this newspaper? You can view some recent conduct by the three major broadcast networks the same way.

All three prominently covered a study published in The Lancet, the famed British medical journal, by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I use the terms “study” and “researchers” very loosely. The researchers claim post-invasion violence in Iraq has killed 655,000 civilians there. Introducing the CBS segment, anchor Katie Couric said, “Now we're learning that the war has been a lot more deadly than we knew,” and reporter David Martin lead off his report with: “A new and stunning measure of the havoc the American invasion unleashed in Iraq.” He went on to note that these 655,000 people killed “as a consequence of the war” would be “2.5 percent of the entire population.” “To understand how large,” he continued, “consider this: The same percentage of the much larger American population would be 7.5 million dead.” ABC and NBC ran with the story like an Olympic sprinter, and it was discussed over graphics showing Iraqi bodies.

As you’ll see below, presenting this study on a major newscast was arguably an act of journalistic malpractice on the order of presenting a story about how JFK was really assassinated by Mother Theresa. But even worse, while there was mention of the study being rejected by President Bush and one top general, there was no discussion of why critics have dismissed it as a hunk of academically produced toilet paper.

Such discussion would have gutted the story. Just ask the New York Times. The Times has criticized the liberation of Iraq more than any other major American newspaper, but they stuck their story about the study on page A-16 and began debunking it in the second paragraph. The Washington Post gave it similar treatment, and put it on page A-12.

The study is based on interviews with randomly selected Iraqi families, who were asked if they had lost a close relative to violence since the invasion. To believe the results, one must only believe the following:

1. Fifteen thousand Iraqis are being killed by violence each month, even though that would mean (for example) that over 14,000 Iraqis died each month from 2003-2005 without the media noticing or the bodies seeing the inside of a morgue.

2. The terrorists found a way to kill civilians (or our forces have found a way to accidentally kill them) so super-efficient that 95% or more of the victims are killed before they can be treated at a hospital. Maybe it’s some sort of disintegrator ray, which would explain the missing bodies.

3. As Robert Blendon, director of the Harvard Program on Public Opinion and Health and Social Policy pointed out to the times, you have to believe that you can extrapolate over 650,000 deaths from the 547 death reports the families gave to the researchers. They based their extrapolation of the pre-invasion death rate on only 82 death reports This led them to a “finding” of 426,369 to 793,663 deaths. In other words, give or take 56%.

At Houston’s M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the chairman of biostatistics, Donald Berry, told the Times the study has “a tone of accuracy that’s just inappropriate.” Now that’s understatement, ladies and gentlemen.

4. You have to ignore the realities of Iraqi tribal life. As radio producer Franklin Raff, who did a stint in Iraq as an embedded reporter, points out, a study by Arab scientists in 1986 found that 58% of Iraqi marriages were consanguineous, or between blood relatives, usually first or second cousins. A similar study found that 30% of Iraqi marriages were between first cousins. How would this affect the study? “In a city of 100,000,” Raff wrote, “one hundred men can say ‘my cousin died - Mahmoud was his name.’ …Same dead Mahmoud, 100 reported deaths.”

Ignorance would be no excuse for the networks, but this was not ignorance. The anti-war Iraq Body Count Project uses media reports to keep track of civilian deaths in Iraq, and their count is about one thirteenth of the Johns Hopkins number. To believe the study, these networks would have to believe that reporters are missing a dozen civilian deaths for every one they report. No, this is that special blindness the media has when it comes to anything that might damage George W. Bush, which makes them do things like present “fake but accurate” forged memos about his National Guard service. But then, given the shaky relationship the national media has with truth these days, perhaps blindness is too kind a word.

The promotion of this study is reminiscent of the last years of Vietnam, when the media believed every word about “systematic” atrocities, but somehow the thousands of reporters swarming the country failed to notice them when they were happening.

Were the networks playing the Vietnam card less than four weeks before Election Day? Something tells me they are, and I’m not just guesstimating.

26 September 2006

Clinton runs into inconvenient truths

If Bill Clinton's meltdown on Fox News Sunday was staged, it may have been to help promote the blogosphere as an accurate news source. Bloggers have been fact-checking his rant and blowing him out of the water. Here's my entry, though credit has to got to the member of Free Republic who goes by "Milligan."

You see, Clinton said this...

I think it’s very interesting that all the conservative Republicans who now say that I didn’t do enough, claimed that I was obsessed with Bin Laden. All of President Bush’s neocons claimed that I was too obsessed with finding Bin Laden when they didn’t have a single meeting about Bin Laden for the nine months after I left office. All the right wingers who now say that I didn’t do enough said that I did too much. Same people.

They were all trying to get me to withdraw from Somalia in 1993 the next day after we were involved in black hawk down and I refused to do it and stayed 6 months and had an orderly transfer to the UN.

...but back in 1993 the Congress said this:

Vote Date: October 15, 1993, 12:29 AM

"Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 1043 to H.R. 3116 (Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 1994 )

Statement of Purpose: To terminate further military operations in Somalia.

Vote Counts: YEAs 61 NAYs 38 Not Voting 1

Yeas 46 (D) 15(R) = 61

Nays 10 (D) 28(R) = 38

Not Voting 1 (D)

If I were Clinton, I'd be very mad at Al Gore for inventing the Internet. And by the way, Mr. President, that's the Battle of Mogadishu you're discussing there. "Black Hawk Down" is a book.

12 September 2006

Vegetative state cured with a pill?

Check this Guardian piece about a sleep aid that has caused a number of PVS (Permanent Vegetative State) patients to recover significantly. Read the whole thing, it is very much worth your time.

11 September 2006

Angry at America?

Yahoo/AP has a story up called 5 years after 9/11, many angry at U.S.

America did not deserve these attacks, not remotely, and I believe that our actions in response have been quite justified. But just for the sake of argument, let's say that we had deserved it, or that we've gone overboard in the days since.

Ask yourself, will you ever see a story called "Over 60 years after Hiroshima, many still angry at Japan"? Would anyone publish such an article, featuring a bunch of backbiting from leaders of nations that are supposedly her allies? A quote from President Bush, perhaps, highlighting the horrors of Pearl Harbor?

Somehow, I really, really doubt it. Once again, the media can't help but make a political shot while standing on the bones of our dead.

10 September 2006

Remembering 9/11 one victim at a time

Well, I was too late to the party to get in on the 2,996 effort to honor the victims of 9/11, so here's my tribute...

Remembering 9/11 one victim at a time

In the next few days you’ll hear a lot about the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11. I’d like to tell you about just two of them, two people whose names I look for every time I see a list of the casualties. Let me tell you about Ted’s wife and Ryan and Dylan’s dad.

Barbara Olson started out as a ballerina and ended up as a famous lawyer. She danced with the San Francisco Ballet and the Harkness Ballet in New York City, then moved on to Hollywood because working as an assistant producer would allow her to save up for law school. She worked for Stacy Keach’s production company and HBO before going to Yeshiva University. She eventually served as an Assistant U.S. attorney and as chief investigative counsel for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, where she looked into Travelgate and Filegate. After the publication of her bestseller “Hell to Pay” she became a frequent guest on TV political shows to represent the conservative point of view.

Her husband Ted said she was a popular guest because she was “very direct” but at the same time “very pleasant.” She could disagree without a trace of rancor, a sunny smile on her beautiful face. But she wasn’t just a talking head. “She was always full of energy, sparkling all the time,” her husband told Newsday, adding that “his three small granddaughters would follow her around ‘like little ducks’” and “thought she was the best thing in the world.”

Barbara was on Flight 77 because she had shifted her schedule to spend more time with Ted for his birthday. He talked to her just before she died. Ted Olson was the Solicitor General at the time, and she called to tell him they’d been hijacked, asking him what she should tell the pilot. They had time to discuss personal matters and reassure each other, and then, he said, “the connection was broken.” Not long after that, Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

John Moran also had an ambition to be a lawyer and held a law degree from Fordham University. But firefighting was the family business and more suited to his personality, so he joined the FDNY. In an irony that must be especially painful for her, John met his wife Kim on September 11, 1990. His fire station was across the street from her apartment. “I just fell in love with him instantly,” she said a few days after his death, while she and their sons, 7 year old Ryan and 4 year old Dylan, were still hoping he’d come home.

John didn’t have to be in the World Trade Center that day. A Battalion Chief with 22 years of service, he was part of the department’s Special Operations Command, which oversees special rescue companies, fireboats, hazmat units and major incidents. He had just finished a shift, but when the call came in, he “jumped in the truck and away they went,” Kim said.

John’s funeral was conducted by his uncle, Father Paul Moran. John was lost he said, on “a mission of love.” Mayor Giuliani asked for the mourners to give John a standing ovation and said he wanted the Moran boys “to understand for their entire life that their father is a great man.” His brother Michael, a firefighter who survived serving at the Trade Center—and later became famous for defiantly telling Osama bin-Laden to come to Rockaway and kiss his “royal Irish ass”—said “I didn't see him there that day, but now I see him all the time.”

But the best eulogy a man could ask for was what his relatives told Newsday just a few days after his death. Kim Moran said, “He's the love of my life…a wonderful father, a great husband. There's nobody more generous than John.” His cousin, Democrat Congressman Joe Crowley described him as “a Viking Irishman who has calves thicker than my thighs, the heart of lion and touch of a teddy bear.”

I picked John and Barbara because they were both members of Free Republic, an internet forum I’ve posted to for years, but I didn’t know either of them. I didn’t even cross paths with them and “know” them even in the online sense, as far as I know. But that’s irrelevant. I could have picked any of those we lost that day and found something glorious or generous or beautiful about them that would have amazed you the way John’s bravery and Barbara’s joy amaze me.

We didn’t lose almost 3,000 people that day. We lost one wonderful person at a time, almost 3,000 times.

In a sense, Giuliani was right when he said, on that bright September afternoon, that we had lost “more than we can bear.”