Friday, April 29, 2011

Good stuff

Birtherism: Cui bono?

"Obama’s release of birth certificate does little to allay ‘birther’ fears" proclaims this morning’s Washington Post. Not if they can help it anyway! After all, as today’s Guardian announces "Republicans will rue their birther backing." Why wouldn’t The Guardian, as much as The Washington Post, want them to go on ruing it for as long as possible, even after the Democrats’ turkey-shoot of yesterday’s revelation? If the "birther" nonsense is, as The Independent puts it "the rumour that just wouldn’t go away," it is because media organs like these don’t want it to go away. Keeping the rumor alive among a fringe group of conspiracy theorists who could be represented as being one and the same as "Republicans" was always going to serve the media’s own political agenda.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mrs. Steve Sailer has Rand's number

I’ve never read Rand’s novel about a dystopian near-future in which the unappreciated capitalists who keep the world running go on strike. And from what my wife tells me of her attempt to grind through the book in college, it sounds pretty dire: “Rand lauds the competent, but she herself wasn’t a competent novelist.”

From Taki's Mag's review of Atlas Shrugged.

I miss Sam Kinison

The late great Sam Kinison many years ago totally destroyed Whoopi Goldberg, using only 5 or 6 words.

I believe it was Kinison theorizing on why she had a career despite not being even remotely funny. "Whoopi Goldberg: a nation collectively decides not to hurt someone's feelings."

From the comments over at Ace's joint.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!"

I like how they do it in Texas:

As significant battles go, the size of the armies involved in the decisive engagement that led to Texas becoming a nation 175 years ago this week was relatively modest.

Even more compelling was the duration of the fighting at San Jacinto -- just 18 minutes.

But in true Texas fashion, the monument that commemorates the battle is 536 feet tall -- the world's tallest war memorial.

Hey, in terms of numbers, the Battle of Britain "was relatively modest." Doesn't mean it wasn't important.

Not even the carping weenies (i guess every state has them) can deny that San Jacinto had consequences for Mexico, Texas, and the United States.

This seems important

Was FBI too quick to judge anthrax suspect the killer?

Scouring the anthrax-laced mail that took five lives and terrorized the East Coast in 2001, laboratory scientists discovered a unique contaminant - a microscopic fingerprint that they hoped would help unmask the killer.

One senior FBI official wrote in March 2007, in a recently declassified memo, that the potential clue "may be the most resolving signature found in the evidence to date."

Yet once FBI agents concluded that the likely culprit was Bruce Ivins - a mentally troubled but highly regarded Army microbiologist - they stopped looking for the contaminant, after testing only a few work spaces of the scores of researchers using the anthrax strain found in the letters. They quit searching, despite finding no traces of the substance in hundreds of environmental samples from Ivins' lab, office, car and home.

HT: Meryl Nass

Rethinking liberal anti-Communism

Just ran across this article

Rethinking Post-World War II Anticommunism

However fiercely historians disagree about the merits of American communism, they almost universally agree that the post-World War II red scare signified a rightward turn in American politics. The consensus is that an exaggerated, irrational fear of communism, bolstered by a few spectacular spy cases, created an atmosphere of persecution and hysteria that was exploited and fanned by conservative opportunists such as Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy. This hysteria suppressed rival ideologies and curtailed the New Deal, leading to a resurgence of conservative ideas and corporate influence in government. We may add detail and nuance to this story, but this, basically, is what we tell our students and ourselves about post-World War II anticommunism, also known as McCarthyism.2 It is fundamentally the same story that liberals have told since Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy in 1948.

And yet the most famous and effective anticommunist measures were carried out not by conservatives, but by liberals seeking to uphold the New Deal. It was the liberal Truman administration that chased Communists out of government agencies and prosecuted Communist Party leaders under the Smith Act. It was liberal Hollywood executives who adopted the blacklist, effectively forcing Communists out of the movie business. The labor leaders who purged Communists from their unions were, similarly, liberals. Most anticommunism—the anticommunism that mattered—was not hysterical and conservative, but, rather, a methodical and, in the end, successful attempt on the part of New Deal liberals to remove Communists from specific areas of American life, namely, the government, unions, universities and schools, and civil rights organizations. It is true that the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) helped carry out these measures, but it is a mistake to assume that J. Edgar Hoover or HUAC could have had much power without the cooperation of liberals who wanted Communists identified and driven out of their organizations.

Delton does a great job explaining why liberals were anti-Communist in the post-war era. Their opposition to Stalin's American minions was not a matter of cowardice or hysteria. Rather, it was a moral response to a serious national security threat and a pragmatic response to political realities.

I especially liked her expert skewering of the anti-anti-Communists like Victor Navasky (formerly of The Nation and now at the Columbia School of Journalism):

Navasky’s characterization of historians like Haynes, Klehr, and Weinstein as “crazed lepidopterists,” who “wildly try to capture every fugitive document that flutters into view” is a bit unfair considering that critics like Navasky himself keep dismissing the evidence these authors have found and then asking them for more evidence.

She is also critical of historians who have not dealt honestly with recent revelations such as the VENONA files:

Most historians now acknowledge the existence of Soviet agents in the government, and even the role of the Communist Party in recruiting such agents, but they have not accordingly revised their understanding of the Truman administration’s response to the situation. They still overemphasize the betrayal of democratic principles rather than helping students understand the need for and rationality of the government’s repression of the Communist Party. In the revised edition of The Age of McCarthyism, for instance, Ellen Schrecker manages to acknowledge that “documents released from the Russian and American archives reveal that as many as two to three hundred men and women in or near the Communist Party did transmit information to Moscow” without actually changing her narrative. She continues to refer to “the alleged threat of internal communism” as an impetus for the Loyalty-Security Program, as if the existence of 200 to 300 Soviet agents in the government were not a serious threat.51 Acknowledging the evidence against Hiss, she still insists that the significant point to be taken from the case is that it—the trial, the guilty verdict, Nixon, the trip to the pumpkin patch—“gave credibility to the issue of Communists-in-government.” What gave credibility to the idea that there were Communist spies in the government was the fact that there were Communist spies in the government.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The real Donald Trump

Donald Trump and Eminent Domain

Donald Trump’s covetous nature is not in dispute, but what many may forget is that he’s no great respecter of the admonition not to steal, either: The man has a track record of using the government as a hired thug to take other people’s property.

Well deserved honor

Joeseph Neff of the News and Observer is one of the winners of the Michael Kelly Award.

The news judgement of the professionals at work

The destruction of a photograph in France is big time news.

This, however, is not seen as a big story.

The arson at St. John Vianney Church is the latest in a string of crimes against Catholic institutions across California. In January, a vandal spray-painted the words “Kill the Cathlics” on the walls of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim and St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Irvine. Beginning in December 2010, Holy Family Catholic Church in Glendale was forced to tighten security measures after a thief repeatedly broke into collection boxes used by parishioners to donate money to the needy.

On the question of the attack on the photo, I like this reaction.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Hugh Hefner is one in a long line of preachy perverts"

That's Daniel J. Flynn's verdict.

Pay to Play

Flynn builds on Chesterton's observation that "A man must be something of a moralist if he is to preach, even if he is to preach immorality." (Proving once again that G.K., who died in 1936, remains the more relevant than almost any contempory writer.)

If you want to dominate, call yourself a liberator.

Hefner the control-freak comes through loud and clear in this Daily Mail article

Playboy mansion? More like a squalid prison: Former Playmates tell of 'grubby' world inside Hugh Hefner's empire

Be warned! Here is Munchkin Wrangler's reaction:
This article on life in the Playboy mansion makes me want to scrub myself down with lye.

Ace asked the right question after he read it:

The whole business is sleazy, of course (porn). I always thought it was odd that Hef would cast Playboy as this sort of upper-class-aspirational lifestyle sort of magazine, with a libertarian philosophy, and get treated as if he wasn't just a pornographer like Bob Guccione.

I mean, that's a thin veneer, isn't it? You review some high-end stereo equipment and have articles about nice clothes so you're not sleazy?

I think it will take a book-- a long yet potentially fascinating book-- to make sense of Hefner and his pop icon status.

We certainly are not going to get the story from the MSM. Unlike their scoop hungry English cousins, American journalists just keep toeing the line and regurgitating Playboy PR.

Here's Politico's Roger Simon:

Hef is more ordinary than you think

He is a down-home, likeable and, in a sense, very ordinary person. In a different era, “playboys” were international jet-setters. They dated screen stars, played polo, drove race cars, skied, sailed yachts and were a regular feature at the parties of the rich and famous.

Hef likes to stay home. He has always liked to stay home.

I dunno, maybe we have a lousy press because we have lousy press critics. Howard Kurtz did a respectful, almost fawning, interview with Hefner back in August. He showed no interest in puncturing the PR myths.

Gunwalking scandal keeps growing

New E-Mails Show ATF Gunrunner Denials Are False

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Revisiting the Hanssen case

For Vienna man, case of notorious spy Hanssen hit too close to home
Former CIA employee was thought to be guilty of passing information to Russians

After four long years, during which time he spent two years suspended from work and was repeatedly warned he was certainly discovered as the long-sought mole, he was released from a living hell. No longer were his days as a free man numbered. No longer did a possible death sentence for espionage loom over him.

There is a lot to chew on in this article.

The FBI's hunt for the mole inside CIA may be the most egregious counter-intelligence failure since the Soviets set up camp inside the Manhattan Project. It was bad enough that the Bureau let Hanssen rifle through our secrets for 22 years. It compounded the error by conducting a reckless witch hunt inside CIA.

Whole forests have died to produce a library of books denouncing James J. Angleton's “paranoid” molehunt in the 1960s. The press has no similar interest in examining the FBI's futile search for the spy inside CIA. Yet, as Mark Reibling notes in Wedge:

FBI agent Edward J. Curran, chief of the counterespionage group at the CIA Counterintelligence Center, became "The Executioner." ....Eventually he isolated three hundred suspects (an "A to Z list"). By all accounts, the inquiry soon devolved into inquisition. Curran later conceded that his agents treated CIA officers 'like criminals.' One highly decorated station chief was interrogated six hours a day for five days.... It was a vicious and induiscriminate surpassed by magnitudes of indecency the discreetly focused 'witch-hunt' Abgleton led.

I'm surprised that the MSM has shown so little interest in this destructive investigation.

The Hanssen case deserves further consideration for other reasons as well. Kelly believes that the FBI is still covering up its mistakes. It will not come clean about all the damage Hanssen did. Kelly calls him “a far more damaging spy than most people realize” and “the most devastating traitor in American history.”

The FBI refuses to address why it failed to catch him. They don't seem to think that the investigation went that badly.

Katherine Schweit, supervisory special agent for public affairs in the FBI's Washington Field Office, said none of the IG report's findings "suggest(ed) that the investigation into the CIA employee [Kelley] was unnecessary or improper," and that "given the information it had at the time, the FBI's initial selection of this CIA employee as the lead suspect was understandable."

Here's something else to haunt a patriot's nightmares:

And [Kelly] also suspects that another mole remained undetected

Some of the FBI's failures are classic examples of the Rosenhan trap (see here and here). The investigators got stuck on a single track and shut their mind to other possibilites.

Hanssen was hidden in plain sight, and only repeated failures within the FBI allowed him to escape detection for so long, Kelley said. It was the obsessive pursuit of "a single hypothesis, as opposed to competing or alternative hypotheses," and the FBI focused only on Kelley. He calls it "the case of the foregone conclusion."

"The FBI would take any facts and twist them to fit the conclusion," he says, "and if it wouldn't fit, then it was the 'evil genius' Brian Kelley."

A related-unrelated point: The FBI's hyper focus on Brian Kelly and its determined attempts to make the evidence fit their theory should make reasonable people skeptical of their conclusions about Bruce Ivins and the anthrax letters.

See also:
Robert Hanssen: 9/11's forgotten man

Howie sez Glenn Beck is a bad, bad man

But you have to take his word for it.

What, you don't expect a trained professional journalist to provide facts and details do you?

Glenn Beck's Toxic Legacy

I read his article and I still know very little about Beck's latest gargantuan crime against human decency. Kurtz is miserly with his information. Did Beck go on an extended rant against Planned Parenthood or was it just a quip as part of his goofing on Larry O'Donnell? Howie does not say; he provides no extended quotes or any context.

Gee, isn't that what Beck usually gets ripped for-- taking quotes out of context?

It was more of the same on Sunday's Reliable Sources. Beck, Kurtz insisted, was the worst person on TV and most of his panel agreed. (Beck's total depravity and unique iniquity seems to be the topic du jour for media writers).

Beck trafficked in conspiracy theories which makes him the second coming of Father Coughlin. Yet, trafficking in conspiracy theories does not seem to hurt Seymour Hersh; he is still considered a reliable and respected investigative reporter.

The Unraveling of Seymour Hersh

That’s the attitude,” Hersh continued. “We’re gonna change mosques into cathedrals. That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Joint Special Operations Command.”

Hersh also alleged that General Stanley McChrystal, who headed Joint Special Operations Command before becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Admiral William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, “are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta.”

“Many of them are members of Opus Dei,” Hersh continued. “They do see what they’re doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. They seem themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They’re protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function.”

Re: The unraveling of Seymour Hersh

Did Beck ever sound this crazy? If he did, why don't pundits give us the quotes instead the accusation?

Kurtz and his ilk make a point that MSNBC sometimes went over the line, but Glen Beck was far, far worse. I'm still waiting for them to show the facts that support that argument. Where are the Beck quotes as vicious as this?

total mindless, morally bankrupt, knee-jerk, fascistic hatred without which Michelle Malkin would just be a big mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it.

Or this?

In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.

Olbermann was more than willing to traffic in conspiracy theories. Every time Republicans did well in an election, he saw dark forces at work. (See here for one example).

He happily promoted the John Dean thesis that modern conservatives were budding psychopaths and proto-Nazis who had no conscience.

Apparently, left-wingers can do that to the right, but when Beck did it to progressives, it was a crime of historic proportions.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The end of the Couric era at CBS

The best analysis i've seen:

Buh-Bye Katie, Redux

The Associated Press has confirmed: Katie Couric will leave the anchor chair at CBS when her contract ends in June. As we noted previously, there was no real impetus for the network--or Ms. Couric--to extend the deal. Five years into her run, CBS was stuck with a third-place evening newscast, while paying Couric an annual salary of $15 million.

CBS has finally discovered the wisdom of Branch Rickey: "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you."

Slate's Jack Shafer thinks this is a non-news story about the news:

In the coming weeks, as the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal do backflips trying to figure out who will replace Couric as anchor, do yourself a favor and ignore the noise. The job and the programs no longer matter.

Bill Wyman in the Atlantic argues that the Couric experiment was a mistake from the start-- a desperate gamble by CBS management

Few people want to see a news digest show at 6:30 in the evening anymore, and those that do like Brian Williams and the NBC news team. Bob Shieffer, Couric's predecessor, was mired in third place as well and the network felt it had to do something. So it threw some money at the problem and bought a celebrity.

Wyman asks and answers the more interesting question: “How did Couric hang on for so long at the Evening News? Never underestimate the value of a smart PR campaign”

Couric was definitely the beneficiary of plenty of positive spin from media critics. This went well beyond the usual corralled rebellion school of noncritical criticism. At times, press critics were impassioned defenders of the Perky One. Here is the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik in 2009:

And I think in Couric and Sawyer we have two really outstanding journalists. And we have the best journalists at their network in those jobs.

KURTZ: You -- you wrote this week...


KURTZ: ... that Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer are now the two strongest journalistic forces on network TV.

ZURAWIK: Yes....

I mean -- again, as you said in the introduction, that -- what we went through with Katie Couric was just insane. You know? And -- and -- and we should all probably in some ways apologize to Katie Couric, because it took a while for us to all step back and say, "You know what? She's a great journalist. And she's doing a great job in this." A great job at that anchor desk.

Zurawik's take on Couric has shifted wildly over the last few years. On Sunday he was far more critical of the soon-to-be-former anchor:

I believe she failed. I believe, by any standard, you judge this as a failure. But I believe she failed -- and this is going to sound harsh, but she didn't work hard enough. About three months ago, I wrote a piece saying -- when they changed the morning show -- said, they have got to change the evening news. It's dead in the water, it's a step behind everybody.

Look at how Diane Sawyer energized ABC's evening news. She has her star. She brings --

KURTZ: What about the fact that the "CBS Evening News' won numerous awards? Katie Couric is in Iraq this week. Is that really a fear wrap?

ZURAWIK: Yes, it is fair, because when she took the job, she said, I don't want to be traveling just to stand in front of some foreign backdrop, blah, blah, blah. She was a reluctant traveler at first.

She just simply -- you know, I saw a quote about her and I heard this from somebody at CBS, said that Katie Couric works hardest around contract time. That's a harsh thing to say, but that's what they're saying there, Howie.

His recent views echo his opinion from 2008:

But I have to tell you something -- and this is true -- Katie Couric did not work very hard to do that newscast.

One has to ask -- why was Zurawik so protective of Couric in 2009 when he knew that she was flailing and failing in Uncle Walter's big chair?

I wonder if it has something to do with an interview with a certain VP candidate?

The Palin interview was he one “triumph” Couric has in her tenure at CBS. Like Tina Fey and Kathleen Parker, her Palin-bashing earned her tremendous praise from the critics and her MSM brethern.

It seems fair to remember the essential Couric before nostalgia and hype create the next new image. The real Couric comes through loud and clear in her treatment of Richard Jewell. This exchange took place after Jewell was exonerated by the FBI:

That evening a very testy Katie Couric tracked Bryant down at Nadya Light’s apartment, where we had gone to watch the news. "I want you to know that I canceled interviewing Barbra Streisand in L.A. for Richard Jewell. Don’t think he is always going to be a news story. No one will care about him in three days," she said, according to Bryant.

And this is how she reported his death:

Back in 1996, the FBI investigated Richard Jewell, an Atlanta security guard, in connection with the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. Richard Jewell died today of complications from diabetes. He was 44. Jewell was never charged with any crime. There is much more CBS… [FADE-OUT]

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The budget "debate" in a nutshell

Mickey Kaus

From another perspective, it looks like a tacit conspiracy of Washingtonians not to sacrifice the jobs of any of their friends, or the local economy, by any kind of actual slimming down (of the sort a private company in similar straits would have undertaken years ago). … In effect, the respectable ”pivot to entitlements” position says,”we’re going to cut Social Security checks and Medicare for mid-income old people to save the jobs of $180K equal opportunity officers at the DOT.” … Why not wring the fat out of government first? …

Friday, April 08, 2011

Note to Congress: "Leaders eat last"

A Soldier Speaks Out On The Shutdown - 'Leaders Eat Last.'

Leaders eat last. Its that simple. Our national politicians need to get the message. They aren't the purpose of government, they are there to help make it work.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Amanda Knox

Meredith Kercher was young and beautiful. That usually is enough to make a murder victim the centerpiece of a tabloid feeding frenzy. Kercher, however, was British while one of her accused killers was an American girl. That meant that on this side of the pond the British victim would be relegated to the sidelines and almost forgotten. Over here, Amanda Knox took the starring role.

In the usual tabloid narrative an accusation is taken as proof of guilt. Amanda Knox, in contrast, was deemed the innocent victim of a rogue prosecutor. New York Times blogger Timothy Egan described her trial as "a railroad job from hell". Donald Trump called on Americans to boycott Italy and its goods to protest the gross miscarriage of justice. HLN harpies Jane Velez-Mitchell and Nancy Grace gave the Italian justice system the Duke lacrosse treatment.

The only voice that broke away from the media pack was Barbie Latza Nadeau. Unlike most of those weighing in the case, she was a reporter who lived in Italy and actually attended the trial. Her book, Angel Face, gives Americans their first detailed and balanced look at the story.

Nadeau demolishes the the idea that the Italian authorities had no evidence against Knox and Sollecito. The case against the two young students was at least as strong as the one which put Scott Peterson on California's death row. Like the Peterson trial, the paucity of physical evidence was offset by a wealth of circumstantial evidence and the string of lies told by the accused.

The book is fair to Amanda Knox, deeply sympathetic to her parents, and honest about the mistakes made by investigators, prosecutors, and defense lawyers.

Nadeau is rightly critical of the American media, especially television. Their coverage of the Knox case was distorted and incomplete. In part, this was due to penny-pinching and laziness:

Times blogger Timothy Egan was one of those who fell into this trap.

TV news was further compromised by the need to get the Knox family on camera. The competition for "the big get" shaped and twisted the coverage:


Of the handful of American journalists in Perugia in late 2007 and early 2008, none got access to the Knox family without certain guarantees about positive coverage.... Most of the print press was shut out. And the TV producers learned to be very cautious about being seen with people like me, lest the Knox family should cut tem off.

Marriott tried desperately to control the message by meting out access according to which networks painted Amanda in the best light. To a large extent he was successful.

Most U.S. papers covered the trial from afar, and it was much simpler to quote the family and pipe information from Marriott [the Knox family PR adviser] than to wade through volumes of Italian court documents.

"The only thing that gets you shunned in New York society is poverty."

Jeffrey Epstein's Society Friends Close Ranks

On the evening of December 2nd, 2010, a handful of America's media and entertainment elite—including TV anchors Katie Couric and George Stephanopoulos, comedienne Chelsea Handler, and director Woody Allen—convened around the dinner table of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. It wasn't just any dining room, but part of a sprawling nine-story townhouse that once housed an entire preparatory school. And it wasn't just any sex offender, but an enigmatic billionaire who had once flown the likes of former President Bill Clinton and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak around the world on his own Boeing 727. Last spring, Epstein completed a 13-month sentence for soliciting prostitution from a minor in Palm Beach.