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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The death of journalism

Everyone is bemoaning the death of all the newspapers. Frankly, I think it is a loss, but just as a counterargument, let's look at some of the journalism over the last decade. (Feel free to add to either list. These are just off the top of my head.)

Unquestioning into the Iraq war? Aluminum tubes? Embedded journalism? A role in swiftboating John Kerry? Not looking into the open rumors about John Edwards' affair? Happy talk/no investigative reporting on the economy/derivatives/Madoff? Guantanamo?

On the other side, a key role in forcing a response to Katrina? Walter Reed? Wiretapping?

I think it's a huge loss if the newspapers go away, but I don't think we should put on our rose colored eulogy glasses either. "Journalism" over the last decade has not been superlative.

Bush at peace with himself.

The after presidency Bush piece in the WaPo made me mad, especially because of the casual tone of the former office holder,
Bush has said that he expects to live at least 20 more years, and that he does not want to spend all his time dwelling on an eight-year presidency.

Almost like his presidency wasn't that important to him, like all those lives in Iraq, New Orleans, all those lives ruined in the economic collapse, just weren't that important to him. I wish we could all put it behind so easily.

(I think I'm wanting some expression of remorse I'm not ever going to get.)

Try the Peep show

Try the WaPo's annual Peep diorama contest.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Picture of the Day

"The weather was so nice in fact that.... the POTUS and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to hold their 4:15 meeting out behind the White House—next to the swing set installed for the Obama girls in March....."

Has Fox dropped "fair and balanced?"

When FoxNews is promoting this "tea bag" protest thing on all shows across the network, including the non-host driven "news segments," offering links and online coordination and promising live coverage for a nationwide protest effort specifically targeting Democratic proposals, can't we all just drop shred of a pretense that they're a "news" network at all?

The popular causes and how the environment affects news choice.

It's absolutely atrocious that a military doctor would be caught on tape saying, "I am under a lot of pressure to not diagnose PTSD," but I want to use this as a moment to talk about how news is "made."

If this story had come out under the Bush administration, this story would have legs. It would amplify off of the Walter Reed stories and be carried and highlighted by the lefty blogs. It would exist because it would echo a public perception of how the Bush administration wasted lives/didn't take care of US troops in relation to his bad decision to go into Iraq.

However, coming now, lacking that Bush "newshook," this story just disappears (and veterans get cheated out of their benefits.)

Stray thought

The Republicans, who have been shouting "socialist," "fascism," "reeducation camps," "take back our country," and "revolution," say that Obama is too partisan and divisive.

So, if I went to the WSJ and told them I was going to lose 20 pounds they'd print it?

What are the politics of this?

The WSJ prints a big story saying that Goldman Sachs might be planning a stock offering to repay TARP funds.

Is this out as a repudiation, a bank saying they want out of TARP? OR is this story meant as an affirmation of progress, that a financial company could contemplate a major new stock issue and get back on its own feet?

My bet is on affirmation of progress because: 1) This story comes right as the Obama folks re-dive into the economy. 2) Geithner and the Treasury has more ties to Goldman than any other firm.

But I do think it's important to recognize that this is one big honkin' trial balloon. There's no commitment to action in it.

Mexico City without water

Mexico City has cut off water for 36 hours to 5 million residents due to shortages, the third time this year.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Panetta terminates secret prisons

The CIA is decommissioning the secret overseas prisons where top al Qaida suspects were subjected to interrogation methods.... the agency said Thursday.

In an e-mail to the agency's work force outlining current interrogation and detention policies, CIA Director Leon Panetta also announced that agreements with the private security firms guarding the so-called black sites will be "promptly terminated," and contractors no longer will be used to conduct interrogations.

I hold in my hand a list.....

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Alabama, of course,) the top Republican on the Financial Services Committee, told an Alabama gathering that there were exactly 17 socialists in the House of Representatives.

Will someone ask him to name names?

(They are not handling this minority thing very well.)

Quote of the Day

Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla) who has been mercilessly mocked for his dead in the water bill targeting Obama's citizenship.
"I expected there would be some civil debate about it, but it wasn't civil," Posey said. "Just a bunch of name-calling and personal denigration ... There is no reason to say that I'm the illegitimate grandson of an alligator."

(You'd think the illegitimate grandson of an alligator would have thicker skin....)

Political bits

(AP) Ted Stevens has officially filed for candidacy for the 2014 Senate race. He'd be 90-something and doesn't expect to run. He filed for candidacy so he could keep raising public money after November which he can then transfer to his legal defense. (Who put that into law?)

(CNN/Politico) The Palin-Johnston jostling continues.

Also, (The Hill) As followup to the Obama/gun control talk last week, the White House is talking very softly on guns, and Pelosi's office said they have no plans to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

$100 per person per year

I had a problem with my internet this morning (my fault, not theirs) so just a little quick something for thought as we talk about the new defense budget.

The earth has a population of approximately 6.7 billion people. Take away the 300+ million Americans and you get a rough number of 6.4 billion people.

The proposed US Defense Budget (including Iraq and Afghanistan appropriations) is approximately $630 billion.

So, just a little quick, back of the envelope math means the US is spending approximately $100 in defense against every single non-American human on the planet.

Take two more facts on board. 1) 2.1 billion of those people (31%) live on $2 per day or less, and 2) Around 27% of the world's population is below 15 years of age.

I'm always amazed that the debate is always framed as cuts and gains, and not in the absolute.

(PS. If you reverse it, we spend about $2,100 per person in the US.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Was I duped?

I got to thinking a little more about the WSJ story below about Chinese and Russian spies infiltrating the US power grid, and I think I've failed you.

I so frequently invoke the question "who leaked this now and why?", but for some reason I simply took this WSJ story as literal rather than looking at it in the fuller context of politics.

No significant facts, no real revelations, and most of the discussion about things that happened many, many months ago. So full of scare and released at the perfect moment, right as the proposed Pentagon budget makes its way to Congress.

This is someone using the media to bump up their own budgetary line.

I'm sorry. I should have caught that.

Shifting Iran

Ahmadinejad says he "welcomes" talks with the US, with the requisite that the US position is "honest."

If you do one thing today....

Every once in awhile the Daily Show is brilliant, saying something that no one else does. Last night, in the second segment, they incise again.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Baracknophobia - Obey
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

(It's not tyranny. It's called being in the minority.)

Get ready for a whole new round of "secret Muslim."

According to Haaretz, The Obama administration is quietly briefing and preparing key Dem Congress members for blowback over Israel policy.
In recent weeks, American officials have briefed senior Democratic congressmen and prepared the ground for the possibility of disagreements with Israel over the peace process, according to information recently received.

There's all kinds of stuff here, but my main question would be, who in Congress is leaking this back to Israeli sources?

I always wonder if this goes both ways

We hear a whole lot about Chinese and Russian hackers working into US systems, but I always wonder to what degree the US is doing the same thing to them. (because I don't think the Chinese government is going to publish stories about being hacked.)

Today's US entry is in the WSJ: Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated By Spies. By their presentation, it's pretty pervasive.

The next major war is going to look so different.

Quote (What's "heck of a job, Brownie" in Italian?)

Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is reported to have said the 17,000 people made homeless by Monday's earthquake should think of themselves as being on a "camping weekend".


Another Shia targeting bomb in Baghdad. This one in a Kadhamiya market, near the shrine, kills at least 7.

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama greets troops at Camp Victory in Baghdad, April 7, 2009.(REUTERS/Jim Young)))

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Norm Coleman

After all the money, and all the legal wrangling, Norm Coleman actually falls 87 votes further behind in the last of the Minnesota recount.


I find it interesting that the Obama folks aren't making a larger, more public effort to attach more blame for the economy on the Bush administration to keep the blame off them. That would be the traditional play. (If you'll remember, the Bush administration tried to blame Clinton a full 7 1/2 years into the Bush presidency.)

Maybe it's because they have polling showing that "blame Bush, not Obama" mentality already exists? Maybe they figure that getting into such a blame war would create a talk show argument which would, to some degree, inject "Obama's at fault" into the dialogue?

I don't know. It just seems unusual that they're not more following the modern presidential tradition and more actively casting all blame backwards.

Frequently unsaid

The officials also noted that while Obama gets more threats than usual as the first African-American U.S. president....

A force of nature

The US says it intends to increase the drone attacks into Pakistan despite the concerns of the Pakistani government.

But, what caught me was the re-expression of this position.
On Sunday, a senior Taliban leader vowed to unleash two suicide attacks a week like one on Saturday in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, unless the Central Intelligence Agency stopped firing missiles at militants. Pakistani officials have expressed concerns that the missile strikes from remotely piloted aircraft fuel more violence in the country, and some American officials say they are also concerned about some aspects of the drone strikes.

I refer again to my Sunday post on this crazy logic. Mehsud is effectively saying that his attacks are like a force of nature, a response beyond control. The only way to stop HIS attacks is to change policy.

This is terrorism 101.... and it's working.


People on the right are hating Obama so much, and, mostly, he hasn't done anything yet,

Colonial remnants

I'm kinda fascinated with this focus of the media on the Italian quake relative to several other similar disasters since I've been blogging. A Peru quake a couple years ago that killed 300 comes to mind, or that hideous quake in Bam, Iran that killed 20,000+, not to mention flooding, mudslides, and storms that have killed hundreds at a time in India, Bangledesh, Central America, etc.

The standard cited explanation is the media's "missing white woman" syndrome which is usually attributed to racism.

However, I'd like to propose that it's more parallel to a colonial worldview. It's not so much that that the victims share "our race," but that their material lives are much more similar to ours. They were killed in structures that resembled ours, with cars, and modern media communications....

I mean, we expect the poor in their ramshackle huts to die.... They're like "natives."

Am I making sense?

Monday, April 06, 2009

I'm glad she's not from my state

Michelle Bachmann goes unbelievably further, talking about the likelihood of Obama creating mandatory child re-education camps as part of the public service program.

She may have just passed Katherine Harris in the crazy stakes.

Picture of the Day - 2

(The casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers, of Hopewell, Va., who was killed Afghanistan on April 4 is carried by an honor guard on Sunday, April 5, 2009 in Dover Air Force Base, Del. After receiving permission from the family, Myers is the first casualty to be observed arriving at Dover marks the end of the ban on media news coverage of returning war dead was put in place 18 years ago. (AP/Evan Vucci))

The EU sets up a "wiretapping" framework.

The EU forces ISPs to start the framework for "wiretapping," similar to one part of the Bush program. All European ISPs are now required to trap and store all website visits and email header information which will then be available to government search through a warrant.

In Iraq, it's coming

(Reuters) Six car bombs across Baghdad kill 34.

The Shia government has not taken in the US bribed Sunni militias, and has now begun to arrest Sunni militia figures. This increased violence in Baghdad is the Sunni response. How the Iraqi government responds may well determine whether Iraq goes back to open civil war.

We're approaching a critical point in this. Keep an eye on it.


A rather interesting bit near the end of this Reuters Pakistan catchall at how India is having some issues with the way Richard Holbrooke and the US is handling them in relation to Afghanistan/Pakistan.
India has welcomed the U.S. strategy but analysts said New Delhi may not be entirely happy with Holbrooke visiting India a second time in as many months.

"Why is he coming to India so often at a time when elections are just round the corner and not much government business is being exchanged?" said Brahma Chellaney of the Center of Policy R esearch, a New Delhi-based think-tank.

"That is because he is trying to define his turf and re-hyphenate India and Pakistan."

Analysts have said addressing Pakistan's fears about old rival India's involvement in Afghanistan and finding a solution to divided Kashmir, the main dispute between the nuclear-armed neighbors, would help Pakistan focus on its Afghan border.

But India rules out third-party involvement in Kashmir.

So, it would appear that Kashmir is still very high on the Obama/Holbrooke agenda?

(And a long NYTimes piece on Pakistan's precarious priority balances between military/civilian, Taleban/US, and Afghanistan/India.)

Palin vs. Johnston

Following up from yesterday, I'm finding it harder and harder to believe Sarah Palin is 2012 viable with the growing Palin/Johnston nastiness.

(Levi Johnston, the "baby daddy," is doing Tyra Banks today.)


Coleman and Franken have raised more than $12 million between them since the election.

Serial killing truckers (multiple plural)

A long and somewhat useless, but salaciously interesting LATimes piece on the FBI developing a special team to look at interstate truckers who serial kill.

Picture of the Day

Looks like Michelle Obama started to get tired at about Prague.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


"Most of the time."

-- Levi Johnston, when asked by Tyra Banks if he and Bristol Palin practiced safe sex

(Let's remember this is a governor's daughter.)

We're screwed

I'll say it again. Every report on the anecdotal effects of global warming is worse than the centrist IPCC predictions.

(AP) Study: Arctic sea ice melting faster than expected

(BBC) Ice bridge ruptures in Antarctic

(It's my hunch that history will blame the Boomers, not only for the consumptive lifestyle, but also for supporting the politicians who have put off any response.)

The crazy world of Afghan-Pak

I knew this was going on. I knew the intent was to create a pressure among the Pakistani people against the US drone attacks.

I just didn't know it had been expressed this explicitly.
Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud claimed credit for a deadly attack on a police academy in Punjab's capital, Lahore, last week that left 12 people dead, including seven police. He vowed to carry out more attacks unless the U.S. stopped drone missile strikes against militants near the Afghan border.

What a weird logic he's asking us to undertake, not to stop him from killing people, but to blame the US for his bombings.

It could very well work, driving a wedge between Pakistanis tired of the bombings and US/government policy, but still..... "It's not my fault. They're making me kill hundreds," is a rather weird logical position.

22 killed in today's attack.