That's not right! Sum Ting Wong
Are you harbouring a fugitive? Hu Yu Hai Ding
See me ASAP Kum Hia Nao
Stupid Man Dum Fuk
Small Horse Tai Ni Po Ni
Did you go to the beach? Wai Yu So Tan
I bumped into a coffee table! Ai Bang Mai Fu Kin Ni
I think you need a face lift! Chin Tu Fat
It's very dark in here! Wai So Dim
I thought you were on a diet! Wai Yu Mun Ching
This is a tow away zone! No Pah King
Our meeting is scheduled for next week! Wai Yu Kum Nao
Staying out of sight Lei Ying Lo
He's cleaning his automobile Wa Shing Ka
Your body odour is offensive Yu Stin Ki Pu
Great Fa Kin Su Pa
Saturday, March 01, 2008
This is not original. I would never stoop to something so low. But it is fu kin su pa.
Why was President Bush's decision a year ago to send another 30,000 troops to Iraq called the "surge"? I don't know who invented this label, but the word surge evokes images of the sea: a wave that sweeps in, and then sweeps back out again. The second part was crucial. What made the surge different from your ordinary troop deployment was that it was temporary. In fact, the surge was presented as part of a larger plan for troop withdrawal. It was also, implicitly, part of a deal between Bush and the majority of Americans who want out. The deal was: Just let me have a few more soldiers to get Baghdad under control, and then everybody, or almost everybody, can pack up and come home.Link.
In other words: You have to increase the troops in order to reduce them. This is so perverse on its face that it begins to sound zenlike and brilliant, like something out of Sun Tzu's The Art of War. And in Gen. David Petraeus, the administration conjured up its own Sun Tzu, a brilliant military strategist.
It is now widely considered beyond dispute that Bush has won his gamble. The surge is a terrific success. Choose your metric: attacks on American soldiers, car bombs, civilian deaths, potholes. They're all down, down, down. Lattes sold by street vendors are up. Performances of Shakespeare by local repertory companies have tripled. Skepticism seems like sour grapes. If you opposed the surge, you have two choices. One is to admit that you were wrong, wrong, wrong. The other is to sound as if you resent all the good news and remain eager for disaster. Too many opponents of the war have chosen option No. 2.
But we needn't quarrel about all this, or deny the reality of the good news, to say that the surge has not worked yet. The test is simple, and built into the concept of a surge: Has it allowed us to reduce troop levels to below where they were when it started? The answer is no.
In fact, President Bush laid down the standard of success when he announced the surge more than a year ago: "If we increase our support at this crucial moment, and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home." At the time, there were about 130,000 American soldiers in Iraq. Bush proposed to add up to 20,000 more troops. Although Bush never made any official promises about a timetable, the surge was generally described as lasting six to eight months.
By last summer, the surge had actually added closer to 30,000 troops, making the total American troop count about 160,000. Today, there are still more than 150,000 American troops in Iraq. The official plan has been to get that number back down to 130,000 by July and then to keep going so that there would be about 100,000 American troops in Iraq by the time Bush leaves office. Lately, though, Gen. Petraeus has come up with another zenlike idea: He calls it a "pause." And the administration has signed on, meaning that the total number of American troops in Iraq will remain at 130,000 for an undetermined period.
So, the best that we can hope for, in terms of American troops risking their lives in Iraq, is that there will be just as many next July—and probably next January, when time runs out—as there were a year ago. The surge will have surged in and surged out, leaving us back where we started. Maybe the situation in Baghdad, or the whole country, will have improved. But apparently it won't have improved enough to risk an actual reduction in the American troop commitment.
And consider how modest the administration's standard of success has become. Can there be any doubt that they would go for a reduction to 100,000 troops—and claim victory—if they had any confidence at all that the gains they brag about would hold at that level of support? The proper comparison isn't to the situation a year ago. It's to the situation before we got there. Imagine that you had been told in 2003 that when George W. Bush finished his second term, dozens of American soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis would be dying violently every month; that a major American goal would be getting the Iraqi government to temper its "de-Baathification" campaign so that Saddam Hussein's former henchmen could start running things again (because they know how); and "only" 100,000 American troops would be needed to sustain this equilibrium. You might have several words to describe this situation, but success would not be one of them.
Maybe the Saint knows something, maybe there's a reason to stay in Iraq for 100 years besides permanent bases to extend and deepen our hegemony over the Middle East: it'll take at least that long to fix the mess (to say the least) Our Leaders created there. Beloved Leader was right to dis nation building; all "his" administration is capable of is nation-destroying, but morality requires making good....
The next president, it now seems likely, will inherit a situation in Iraq that's as dreadful as any time since late 2006, before the troop surge and Gen. David Petraeus' new set of strategies.Link.
Three stories in today's papers forebode grimness.
First, as is widely reported, Iraq's three-man presidential council vetoed a law that called for provincial elections in October. Mike McConnell, President Bush's director of national intelligence, called the veto "somewhat of a setback"—an understatement of staggering proportion.
When the parliament passed that law two months ago, Bush and his supporters—including Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain—heralded the vote as a major sign of reconciliation among Iraq's sectarian factions and thus a vindication of the surge. The point of the surge, as Gen. Petraeus and others have said, was to create enough security in Baghdad that Iraq's political leaders could get their act together. The vote suggested some accommodation might be in the offing. The veto dashes those hopes.
As Richard Oppel and Khalid al-Ansary report in the New York Times, the veto isn't a whim that might be reversed with some suasion. Rather, it reflects a serious power struggle not only between Sunnis and Shiites, but also among the various Shiite parties.
Unless the veto is somehow reversed, its effects may unravel the tenuous alignments that have helped to reduce the mayhem and casualties these last few months. On one level, the veto might spur Muqtada Sadr, the powerful Shiite militia leader, to suspend his six-month moratorium on violence. It is widely believed that Sadr called this moratorium in order to pursue power through political means. Now that this route has been blocked, he may resort to his earlier methods. (The Times reports that the Sadrists "were furious at the veto.") On another level, it is bound to infuriate Sunni groups, who had hoped that provincial elections would boost their political power in Ninevah and Diyala, which are fairly calm today but have been scenes of riotous violence in the recent past.
This development feeds into the day's second unsettling news story, in the Washington Post, which reports that many volunteer forces of the "Sunni Awakening"—the tribal militias in Anbar, Diyala, and other provinces that have formed alliances of convenience with U.S. forces to defeat al-Qaida jihadists—are backing away from the arrangements.
As the Post's Sudarsan Raghavan and Amit Paley report, the Sunnis are increasingly frustrated by the Iraqi government's refusal to recognize their political clout—especially reneging on its promise to let more than a handful of their militias into the national army and police—and by what they see as the U.S. commanders' insufficient advocacy on the Sunnis' behalf. The story notes:Since Feb. 8, thousands of fighters in restive Diyala province have left their posts in order to pressure the government and its American backers to replace the province's Shiite police chief. On Wednesday, their leaders warned that they would disband completely if their demands were not met. In Babil province, south of Baghdad, fighters have refused to man their checkpoints after U.S. soldiers killed several comrades in mid-February in circumstances that remain in dispute.Before the U.S.-Sunni alliances were formed in late 2006 (before the American surge, by the way), many of these tribesmen fought alongside al-Qaida. The Post story notes that while a lot of the alliances with America are intact, they are increasingly fraying. One Sunni commander in Diyala is quoted as saying, "Now there is no cooperation with the Americans. … We have stopped fighting [against] al-Qaida."
And so the biggest success of the U.S. operation in Iraq—which was always a gamble, one very much worth taking but not very likely to endure beyond its tactical aims—may be teetering on the verge of collapse before even those tactical aims (the defeat of al-Qaida in Iraq) are achieved.
To sum up, then, two points can be inferred. First, Iraq's sectarian factions are nowhere near reconciliation. The point of the surge was to create enough "breathing space" to allow for such a political goal. If the goal isn't reached by July—that is, within the 15-month span that was always, inexorably, the duration of the surge—then, in strategic terms, the surge will not have succeeded.
Second, there are many reasons for the reduction in violence and casualties these last few months. The surge and, still more, Gen. Petraeus' counterinsurgency tactics are among them. So are Sadr's cease-fire and the Sunni Awakening—neither of which has much to do with the surge, one of which (the Awakening) was initiated by the Sunnis before the surge was even announced. And now, both Sadr's cease-fire and the Awakening are imperiled.
What to do about these trends?
This conundrum takes us to the third news story of (dissonant) note, in the New York Times, which reports that the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, Adm. William J. Fallon, thinks there should be a "pause" in troop withdrawals from Iraq after the last of the surge troops depart this July—but that this pause should be brief and that the withdrawals should resume soon after.
The first part of Fallon's idea—the pause—is nothing new. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called for such a pause in December after returning from a trip to Baghdad. Before the trip, Gates had been talking about continuing the drawdown of troops from today's 20 combat brigades to the 15 that would remain after the surge brigades go back home in July and to 10 by the end of the year. He changed his tune after Gen. Petraeus told him that he might not be able to keep securing the Iraqi people with such a small force. Hence the "pause."
But the second part of Fallon's remark—the idea that the pause should be brief, just long enough to allow "all the dust to settle," after which the drawdown will resume—is a new wrinkle. Perhaps reflecting Petraeus' caution that 10 brigades won't be enough to sustain the U.S. mission in Iraq, Fallon says that the U.S. mission will be scaled back along with the forces. In an interview with the Times' Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, Fallon says that he is advocating a strategy that would "transfer more and more responsibility for security in Iraq to Iraqi security forces and, at the same time, withdrawing a substantial amount of our combat forces." The U.S. troops remaining in Iraq, he added, would mostly play the roles of "supporting, sustaining, advising, training, and mentoring"—not so much fighting or providing security.
This is a major distinction. Do Fallon's remarks reflect the views of the Bush administration or of Secretary Gates? Certainly there is, and has long been, a tension between the institutional Army and some of the commanders in the field over this very question. The former has always been skeptical about extending the war in Iraq. Senior officers are concerned that the lengthy and repeated tours of duty, especially the toll it has taken on the retention of junior officers and the recruitment of new enlistees, might break the Army. The latter brush aside those concerns and focus on what they need to accomplish their combat missions. Gates has found himself straddling this tension—very concerned about the health of the Army but also worried about the chances of failure in Iraq.
Fallon occupies an in-between position on the bureaucratic chart. He's a sort of warrior-executive—the commander of U.S. Central Command, with headquarters in Tampa, Fla.—but, as such, he's also the senior-most combatant commander, ranking just above Petraeus. (It's unusual that the head of CentCom is a Navy admiral, but that may have reflected a desire to put an officer of broader standing in charge.)
Do Fallon's statements herald a victory for the institutional Army—and a confirmation of Gates' initial instincts? Or do they mark a ratcheting-up of the tension?
In any case, if Fallon's strategy does prevail, the next president—whoever he or she is—may be relieved. A decision will have been made, under George W. Bush's tenure, to scale back America's military mission and to keep drawing down its military forces after the surge.
But two bits of caution should be noted. First, this does not necessarily mean a winding-down of the war—or of America's involvement in it. Gates and others, in fact, have favored significant troop reductions from Iraq precisely in order to build popular support for a long-term U.S. military presence there.
Second, the question remains: What happens if, after the withdrawals, all hell breaks loose—an especially likely prospect if the Sunni Awakening collapses and Sadr calls off his cease-fire? Do we send more troops back in? Do we accelerate the withdrawal? Do we engage in diplomacy to lure neighboring countries to help tamp down the violence? And what do we offer them in exchange for finally helping us out?
John McCain has said he wouldn't mind staying in Iraq for 100 years. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to pull out a brigade or two a month though ultimately keep some of them in Iraq—and still others in the region—to keep fighting al-Qaida, training the Iraqi security forces, and so forth.
The way things are going, the next president, whatever his or her preferences, may be stuck with more severe problems than Bush ever was—and will almost certainly have to make decisions that are harder.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Teaching the world tolerance; no wonder we're succeeding in Iraq.
A Delaware school district has agreed to revise its policies on religion as part of a settlement with two Jewish families who had sued over the pervasiveness of Christian prayer and other religious activities in the schools.Link.
One family said it was forced to leave its home in Georgetown because of an anti-Semitic backlash.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants said their clients were satisfied with the settlement. On local blogs, the anger many people felt toward the families for protesting Christian prayer at school events has flared anew.
Mona Dobrich, 41, whose family was a plaintiff in the suit, said such a furious reaction had exacted a profound toll on her family and might indicate that the settlement would alter little on the ground.
“I feel that it is a good settlement because the rules are out there,” Mrs. Dobrich said in a telephone interview, referring to new policies the board has agreed to adopt. “Do I think life is going to change in Sussex County or all the other Sussex Counties in the country? No.”
Mrs. Dobrich, an Orthodox Jew, grew up in Sussex County. Though often the lone Jewish student in school, she said, she did not have problems with Christians or others. For years, while her daughter, Samantha, now 21, attended local schools, Mrs. Dobrich said, she listened to Christian prayers at school potluck dinners, award dinners and meetings of parent-teacher groups.
At Samantha’s high school graduation in 2004, a minister’s prayer proclaiming Jesus as the only way to the truth nudged Mrs. Dobrich to ask the school board to consider more generic and less exclusionary prayers, she said.
As news of the request spread, many local Christians saw it as an effort to limit the free exercise of religion, residents said. Anger spilled onto talk radio, in letters to the editor and at school board meetings attended by hundreds of people carrying signs praising Jesus.
Her son, Alex, then 11, had written a short statement that said in part: “I feel bad when kids in my class call me ‘Jew boy.’ I do not want to move away from the house I have lived in forever.”
After the family received threats, Mrs. Dobrich said, she and Alex moved to Wilmington. Her husband, Marco, stayed in his local job to make sure that the family had health insurance.
They sold their house. But rent and expenses in Wilmington consumed their money.
Samantha dropped out of Columbia University because of the financial problems. Alex, who had attended public school, did not fit into to the Orthodox day schools he was attending and left, his mother said.
The financial settlement, which will be paid by the district’s insurer, will pay off the debt that the Dobriches accrued as they moved. The family has settled in Dover, Mrs. Dobrich said.
The Dobriches tried once to take Alex back to live in Georgetown and understood that they could not return.
“We tried to have Alex live with my sister in Georgetown,” Mrs. Dobrich said. “Alex was in the yard, and some kids came up and said, ‘There’s that boy who’s suing Jesus.’ ”
Damn, it's tough forcing something on these Iraqis they don't want. And it's not we really care either -- this is just for domestic consumption -- as long as they let us keep a bunch of bases in their country, nothing else matters.
Political momentum in Iraq hit a sudden roadblock on Wednesday when a feud between the largest Shiite factions led to the veto of a law that had been passed with great fanfare two weeks ago. The law had been heralded by the Bush administration as a breakthrough for national reconciliation.Link (emphasis added).
The law called for provincial elections by October, and it was hoped that it would eliminate severe electoral distortions that have left Kurds and Shiites with vastly disproportionate power over Sunni Arabs in some areas, a factor in fueling the Sunni insurgency. It would also have given Iraqis who have long complained of corrupt and feckless local leaders a chance to clean house and elect officials they believe are more accountable.
But the law was vetoed at the last minute by the three-member Iraqi presidency council, which includes President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents. The veto came after officials in a powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, objected to provisions that they contend unlawfully strip power from Iraq’s provinces.
Politicians involved in the debate said the main objections came from Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, a Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council member. The bill now goes back to Parliament, where its prospects are unclear, given the acrimonious debate over the issue that led to the veto.
Even if the law is approved, Parliament must fill vacant election commission seats and approve an elections law before provincial contests can occur.
The veto is “somewhat of a setback,” Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, acknowledged Wednesday during a hearing in Congress.
A common refrain among American combat commanders is that new local elections could help sweep out ineffective leaders while remedying deeply uneven provincial councils, a legacy partly of the Sunni Arab boycott of previous provincial elections.
In Sunni-dominated Nineveh and Salahuddin Provinces, for example, Kurds enjoy far more power on provincial councils than their numbers would otherwise dictate. And in Diyala, Shiites dominate the government even though Sunnis account for a majority in the region, a situation that has exacerbated the fierce sectarian violence there.
The veto exposed the deep rift between the ambitions of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, or S.I.I.C., which controls provincial governments throughout most of Shiite-dominated southern Iraq, and the more nationalist Shiite factions that include lawmakers loyal to the firebrand cleric Moktada al-Sadr.
S.I.I.C. officials want provincial leaders to be allowed to operate with little interference from Baghdad. They also fear that they will lose power in some southern provinces to more popular slates put up by Mr. Sadr’s movement if new provincial elections are held. And they contend that the bill wrongly allowed the prime minister to fire provincial governors and diminished the provinces’ budgetary and administrative powers.
The Sadrists, who were furious at the veto, want to retain a strong central government that has the legal muscle to deal vigorously any province that Baghdad leaders believe is acting against the country’s best interests. They said the veto breached the historic agreement among political blocs two weeks ago that allowed the simultaneous passage of the provincial powers bill, the 2008 budget and another law granting amnesty to thousands of Sunnis and others in Iraqi jails.
“It’s a struggle of two wills,” said Nassar al-Rubaie, a legislator from the Sadr movement. “One side wants to strengthen the central government and federal authority, and the other wants to undermine it and grant the provinces greater powers.”
In an interview yesterday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson branded many of the aid proposals circulating in Washington as "bailouts" for reckless lenders, investors and speculators, rather than measures that would provide meaningful relief to deserving, but cash-strapped, mortgage borrowers.[more]
Next month marks 19 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped its load of crude oil across the Prince William Sound, Alaska. A big gooey load of this crude spilled over the lands of the Chenega Natives. Paul Kompkoff was a seal-hunter for the village. That is, until Exxon’s ship killed the seal and poisoned the rest of Chenega’s food supply.Link.
While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.
They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.
That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”
Nice guys. But, hell, they were right, weren’t they?
But Exxon didn’t do it alone. They had enablers. One was a failed oil driller named “Dubya.” Exxon was the second largest contributor to George W. Bush’s political career. Enron was firstr. They were a team, Exxon and Enron.
To protect their corporate backsides, Enron’s Chairman Ken Lay, prior to his felony convictions, funded a group called Texans for Law Suit Reform. The idea was to prevent consumers, defrauded stockholders and devastated Natives from suing felonious corporations and their chiefs.
When Dubya went to Washington, Enron and Exxon got their golden pass in the appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts. On Wednesday, as the court heard Exxon’s latest stall, Roberts said, in defense of Exxon’s behavior in Alaska, “What more can a corporation do?”
The answer, Your Honor, is plenty.
For starters, Mr. Roberts, Exxon could have turned on the radar. What? On the night the Exxon Valdez smacked into Bligh Reef, the Raycas radar system was turned off. Exxon shipping honchos decided it was too expensive to maintain it and train their navigators to use it. So, the inexperienced third mate at the wheel was driving the supertanker by eyeball, Christopher Columbus style. I kid you not.
Here’s what else this poor ‘widdle corporation could do: stop lying.
On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez was not even supposed to leave harbor. Here’s why. Tankers are not allowed to sail unless unless a spill containment barge is operating nearby. That night, the barge was in dry-dock, locked under ice. Exxon kept that fact hidden, concealing the truth even after the tanker grounded. An Exxon official radioed the emergency crew, “Barge is on its way.” It wasn’t.
Had the barge been in operation, it would have surrounded the leaking ship with rubber skirts - and Paul’s home, and Alaska’s coast, would have been saved. But Exxon couldn’t wait for its oil.
Paul’s gone – buried with Exxon’s promises. But the oil’s still there. Go out to Chenega lands today. At Sleepy Bay, kick over some gravel and it will smell like a gas station.
What the heck does this have to do with John McCain?
The Senator is what I’d call a ‘Tort Tart.’ Ken Lay’s “Law Suit Reform” posse was one of the fronts used by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists waging war on your day in court. Their rallying cry is ‘Tort Reform,’ by which they mean they want to take away the God-given right of any American, rich or poor, to sue the bastards who crush your child’s skull through product negligence, make your heart explode with a faulty medical device, siphon off your pension funds, or poison your food supply with spilled oil.
All of the Democratic candidates have seen through this ‘tort reform’ con – and so did a Senator named McCain who, in 2001, for example, voted for the Patients Bill of Rights allowing claims against butchers with scalpels. Then something happened to Senator McCain: the guy who stuck his neck out for litigants got his head chopped off when he ran for President in the Republican Party. One lobbyists’ website blasted McCain’s “go-it-alone moralism.”
So the Senator did what I call, The McCain Hunch. Again and again he grabbed his ankles and apologized to the K Street lobbyists, reversing his positions on, well, you name it. In 2001, he said of Bush’s tax cuts, “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans.” Now, in bad conscience, the Senator vows to make these tax cuts permanent.
On “Tort Reform,” the about-face was dizzying. McCain voted to undermine his own 2001 Patients Bill of Rights with votes in 2005 to limit suits to enforce it. He then added his name to a bill that would have thrown sealhunter Kompkoff’s suit out of federal court.
In 2003, McCain voted against Bush’s Energy Plan, an industry oil-gasm. This week, following Exxon’s report that it sucked in $40.6 billion in earnings, the largest profit haul in planetary history, Senators Clinton, Obama and several others in both parties sponsored a bill to require a teeny sliver of oil industry super-profits go to alternative energy sources. Technically, it involved ending a $14 billion tax giveaway granted oil companies by the Bush Administration in 2004. Senator McCain wouldn’t support George and his oil patch buddies then. But now, Candidate McCain won’t back the repeal of this gawdawful tax break.
In this showdown with Big Oil, McCain is AWOL, missing in action.
Well, Paul, at least you were spared this.
I remember when I was on the investigation in Alaska, bankrupted fishermen, utterly ruined – Kompkoff’s co-plaintiffs in the suit before the Supreme Court – floated their soon-to-be repossessed boats into the tanker lanes with banners reading, “EXXON SUXX.”
To which they could now add, about a one-time stand-up Senator: “McCain duxx.”
A Microsoft Corp. executive last year said the software company made a mistake by lowering the minimum technical requirements needed to run Windows Vista, a decision he said was made to help Intel Corp. meet its quarterly earnings, according to internal emails disclosed this week.Link.
The emails provide a glimpse into how Microsoft executives and hardware partners grappled with technical glitches and other problems as they prepared the long-awaited Windows Vista software for market. The emails were released as part of a federal class-action suit alleging that Microsoft's marketing program for Windows Vista misled consumers.
In several of the emails, Microsoft executives appear to be planning how they will explain to Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner how a branding program implied that certain PCs were technically capable of running Windows Vista operating system when, in fact, they weren't. The emails also show how Microsoft executives struggled to respond to complaints from a Microsoft board member about technical problems he had encountered.
In the messages, Microsoft executives acknowledged they knew PCs with one set of Intel chips for handling PC graphics weren't able to handle some features Windows Vista. Microsoft included the product, Intel's 915 chip set, under a branding program called "Windows Vista Capable" that was designed to assure consumers that PCs they bought in 2006 would be able to run the operating system, which went on sale in early 2007.
In a note dated Feb. 26. 2007, Microsoft General Manager John Kalkman wrote that that "It was a mistake on our part to change the original graphics requirements." In the email, he added that "In the end, we lowered the requirement to help Intel make their quarterly earnings so they could continue to sell motherboards with 915 graphics embedded," according to a copy of the email.
Problems Microsoft was having with Intel appeared in emails over the past few years, including one dated Feb. 1, 2006, in which Microsoft senior director Mike Ybarra wrote "We are caving to Intel" and later complained that PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co. supported Microsoft, yet Microsoft was "allowing Intel to drive our consumer experience."
Intel disputed the statements about its finances, while declining to comment on its private communications with Microsoft. Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for the chip maker, asserted that Mr. Kalkman "is not qualified in any shape or form to have knowledge about Intel's internal financial forecasts related to chipsets, motherboards or any other product."
A Microsoft spokesman said Mr. Kalkman and Mr. Ybarra would not be made available because the case is in active litigation. He added that the company included the Intel 915 chip set as part of the Windows Vista Capable program "based on successful testing of beta versions of Windows Vista on the chip set and the broad availability of the chip set in the market." Computers that use the Intel technology "were and are capable of being upgraded" to a version of the operating system called Windows Vista Home Basic, he said.
More broadly, Microsoft said in a statement that the emails addressed how company executives were trying to make the marketing program better for Microsoft partners and consumers. "That's the sort of exchange we want to encourage. And in the end, we believe we succeeded in achieving both objectives," the company said in the statement.
The contents of the emails were reported by publications that include the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Microsoft used the branding program to help spur PC sales in late 2006 prior to the roll-out of Windows Vista in January 2007. Microsoft and PC makers at the time feared that the coming release of Windows Vista would cause consumers to delay purchases of PCs during the 2006 year-end holiday selling season. The Vista-capable program was used to label PCs that had the technical specifications needed to run Windows Vista, which demands more memory, a faster processor and other features than earlier versions of Windows needed.
In an email addressed to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Board member John Shirley said that he didn't upgrade one of his PCs because Windows Vista didn't have the necessary software, known as a driver, to run his top-of-the-line Epson printer and two scanners. "I cannot understand with a product this long in creation why there is such a shortage of drivers," Mr. Shirley wrote.
In the class-action complaint, filed in March 2007, two consumers claimed that PCs they bought didn't have the appropriate technology to power Windows Vista, despite the Vista-capable logo that claimed they were.
Microsoft has disputed the allegations. "We believe the facts will show that Microsoft offered different versions of Windows Vista…to meet the varied needs of our customers purchasing computers at different price points," the company said in a statement.
By illegally downloading music, you screw the creators out of money. When the RIAA sues the crap out of you, they take your money and keep it for themselves and not the artists:
Despite collecting an estimated several hundred million dollars in P2P related settlements from the likes of Napster, KaZaA and Bolt, prominent artists’ managers are complaining that so far, they haven’t received any compensation from the labels. According to a lawyer, some are considering legal action.hat after legal bills were subtracted from the hundreds of millions in settlements, there wasn’t much left over to hand out.
When EMI, Universal Music and Warner music reached settlement agreements with the likes of Napster, KaZaA and Bolt, they collected hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation - money that was supposed to go to artists whose rights had been allegedly infringed upon when the networks were operating with unlicensed music.
Now, according to an article, the managers of some major artists are getting very impatient, as it appears the very people who were supposed to be compensated - the artists - haven’t received anything from the massive settlements. They say the cash - estimated to be as much as $400m - hasn’t filtered through to their clients and understandably they’re getting very impatient.
Lawyer John Branca, who has represented the likes of The Rolling Stones and Korn, said: “Artist managers and lawyers have been wondering for months when their artists will see money from the copyright settlements and how it will be accounted for.”
Indicating the levels of impatience with the big labels holding the money he added: “Some of them are even talking about filing lawsuits if they don’t get paid soon.”
Of course, EMI, Universal and Warner have a different take on the delay, with sources suggesting that it’s down to the difficulties in deciding who gets what money, based on the levels of copyright infringement for each individual group or artist.
A recording industry on the back foot having spent most of its time fighting the digital revolution rather than becoming part of it, is clearly trying to hang on to every penny, even when it comes to compensating the artists who they claim they were defending by taking legal action in the first place.
Irving Azoff, who manages Christina Aguilera, The Eagles, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon and Seal (amongst others) says it’s hard for artists to get what they deserve from the labels: “They will play hide and seek, but eventually will be forced to pay something,” he said. “The record companies have even tried to credit unrecouped accounts. It’s never easy for an artist to get paid their fair share.”
Typically, the labels see it a different way. An EMI spokeperson said that it was “sharing proceeds from the Napster and Kazaa settlements with artists and writers whose work was infringed upon” while Warner’s said the label is “sharing the Napster settlement with its recording artists and songwriters, and at this stage nearly all settlement monies have been disbursed.”
The Universal spokesman spoke only of the label’s ‘policy’ of sharing “its portion of various settlements with its artists, regardless of whether their contracts require it” with no mention of whether it had actually done this or not.
But typically, when money is involved, things start to get murky. The same sources who suggested the reasons for the delay in making payments are also suggesting that there might not be much money to even give to the artists.
It’s being claimed t
Neither Dem nor Beloved Leader know very much about the world they effectively want to lead:
Hilary and O:
The questions, though, are: What does The Saint know about the next Russian president? Or how little does he know, if anything?
Hilary and O:
Near the end of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, one of the moderators, Tim Russert of NBC News, tossed up a jump ball. “What can you tell me about the man who’s going to be Mr. Putin’s successor?”Beloved Leader:
Mr. Obama looked expectantly at Mrs. Clinton, who grabbed for the ball. “Well,” she said with a chuckle, “I can tell you that he’s a hand-picked successor, that he is someone who is obviously being installed by Putin, who Putin can control, who has very little independence, the best we know.”
Mr. Russert pressed on. “Who will it be? Do you know his name?”
“Um, Medved ——,” Mrs. Clinton began. “Medvedova, whatever.”
That would be Dmitri A. Medvedev, a 42-year-old former lawyer and high-ranking bureaucrat who is expected to be ratified by voters on Sunday as the next president of Russia.
A look of relief spread over Mr. Obama’s face. Mr. Russert asked him what he knew about the Russian president-to-be.
“Well, the — I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about him,” Mr. Obama said. “He is somebody who was handpicked by Putin. Putin has been very clear that he will continue to have the strongest hand in Russia in terms of running the government.”
Bush was asked at a news conference about the future of one of the nation's most important foreign relationships, one that has been increasingly troubled. He said he, too, was eager for insights into "how Russia intends to conduct foreign policy after Vladimir Putin's presidency. And I can't answer the question yet."Of course, Beloved Leader still has to learn about the absence of WMDs in Iraq.
The questions, though, are: What does The Saint know about the next Russian president? Or how little does he know, if anything?
Thursday, February 28, 2008
As Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain twisted briefly in the wind kicked up by that New York Times story suggesting he had swapped political favors for the personal favors of an attractive lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, I kept waiting for the public policy punch line. Surely the Times would spell out just what it was that McCain had delivered to big media beyond what the paper originally reported: an all-too-typical congressional request that the FCC speed up its review of a broadcast licensing dispute.Link.
Vicki Iseman, the lobbyist in question, is praised on her company’s Web site for her “extensive experience in telecommunications, representing corporations before the House and Senate Commerce Committees,” and for “her work on the landmark 1992 and 1996 communications bills.” Now that’s a biggie, because the 1996 legislation, although you would never have learned this from the mainstream media at the time, opened the floodgates for massive media consolidation, thus rewarding media moguls for their many millions in campaign contributions. McCain was a big player on that Commerce Committee at the time, and I expected a Times revelation as to just how Iseman got McCain to help gift the media barons with their dream legislation.
The revelation never came, because the annoying reality is that McCain was one of the rare Senate opponents of the telecom bill that Iseman was pushing—as opposed to The New York Times, which like every other major media outlet pushed for the legislation (in the case of the Times, without ever conceding its own corporation’s financial bias in the matter). McCain was one of five senators (and the sole Republican) who, along with Democrats Russ Feingold, Patrick Leahy, Paul Simon and the great Paul Wellstone, voted against the atrocious legislation, which President Bill Clinton signed into law.
The Times, which now has the temerity to question McCain’s integrity on telecommunications policy, ran a shameful editorial back then, under the headline “A Victory for Viewers,” insisting after the passage of the legislation that “there was one clear winner—the consumer.” Seven years later, the paper’s “Editorial Observer,” Brent Staples, bemoaned one direct consequence of the passage of the Telecom Act, under the title “The Trouble with Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died.” Noting that “corporate ownership has changed what gets played—and who plays it,” Staples observed that the top two radio owners went from having a total of 115 stations before the act was passed to 1,400 between them afterward.
This concentration of ownership in all media was the inevitable result of the legislation that the media moguls sought. That far-reaching impact was obvious only one year after the act’s passage, as Neil Hickey noted at the time in the Columbia Journalism Review: “ ... Far and away the splashiest effect of the new law during the last year has been the historic, unprecedented torrent of mergers, consolidations, buyouts, partnerships and joint ventures that has changed the face of Big Media in America.” He then offers a staggering list of massive multibillion-dollar mergers consummated during that first year.
One of the early winners was Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which quickly became the biggest owner of television stations, bolstering its lineup of media properties such as TV Guide, HarperCollins and Twentieth Century Fox; quite a gift from legislation signed by President Clinton, which perhaps explains the warm relationship that subsequently developed between Murdoch and Hillary Clinton. Murdoch sponsored a fundraiser for Clinton’s senatorial re-election campaign in 2006, but when asked during the Iowa primary about Murdoch’s vast media holdings, including Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, Clinton ducked the question. Avoiding any reference to Murdoch, she conceded that “… There have been a lot of media consolidations in the last several years, and it is quite troubling.”
It’s not easy to maintain an evenhanded appraisal of McCain as he appropriates the Bush mantle. Of course, I wouldn’t vote for him; he is willing to let the Iraq war go on for a hundred years and, at the rate of at least $200 billion a year, that makes a mockery of his efforts to defeat earmarks and other wasteful government spending—beginning with the massive waste in the Pentagon budget that he has done so much to expose. His capitulation on President Bush’s use of torture is even more appalling. But it is absurd to attempt to pigeonhole McCain as a patsy for corporate lobbyists when he has been in the forefront of key efforts to challenge their power.
Folks often joke about the blood-sucking parasites that infect politics, but the gibes about politicians and lobbyists are usually just that — jokes. Yet the charge gets uncomfortably close to being literal when discussing former South Dakota lieutenant governor and potential Senate candidate Steve Kirby.[more (emphasis added)]
Following the sale of his prominent Sioux Falls family’s surety bond company, Kirby branched out into more exotic business terrain when he founded Bluestern Venture Capital in 1992. Among Bluestern’s portfolio companies was a Massachusetts-based biotech firm called Collagenesis — a company whose business model couldn’t have been more foreign to the stolid world of South Dakota surety bonding.
Collagenesis specialized in processing donated skin off cadavers into cosmetic surgery products, and was subject to a blistering five-part investigative series by the Orange County Register beginning on April 17, 2000. “Burn victims lie waiting in hospitals as nurses scour the country for skin to cover their wounds, even though skin is in plentiful supply for plastic surgeons,” read the lede of the Register report. “The skin they need to save their lives is being used instead for procedures that could wait: supporting bladders, erasing laugh lines and enlarging penises.”
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
On the stump, Sen. John McCain often cites his work tackling the excesses of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff as evidence of his sturdy ethical compass.Link.
A little-known document, however, shows that McCain may have taken steps to protect his Republican colleagues from the scope of his investigation.
In the 2006 Senate report concerning Abramoff's activities, which McCain spearheaded, the Arizona Republican conspicuously left out information detailing how Alabama Gov. Bob Riley was targeted by Abramoff's influence peddling scheme. Riley, a Republican, won election in November 2002, and was reelected in 2006.
In a December 2002 email obtained by the Huffington Post -- which McCain and his staff had access to prior to the issuance of his report -- Abramoff explains to an aide what he would like to see Riley do in return for the "help" he received from Abramoff's tribal clients.
An official with the Mississippi Choctaws "definitely wants Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation," Abramoff wrote, "including his announcing that anyone caught gambling there can't qualify for a state contract or something like that."
The note showed not only the reach of Abramoff, but raised questions about Riley's victory in what was the closest gubernatorial election in Alabama history.
And yet, despite the implications of the information, McCain and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee sat on the controversial portion of the email. According to an official familiar with the investigation, McCain also subsequently refused to make the email public after the report was released.
There was a brief footnote in the report that quoted William Worfel, former vice chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, saying that Abramoff told the chief of a Mississippi tribe to spend $13 million "to get the governor of Alabama elected to keep gaming out of Alabama so it wouldn't hurt ... his market in Mississippi."
But Riley's name and the details of what was being asked of him were not mentioned once in the 373-page document.
Indeed, as the Associated Press noted in 2006, McCain stayed deliberately agnostic as to Riley's involvement. "The committee headed by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, used the ellipses and did not give the full quotation," the AP said of Worfel's quote. "It also did not say in its report whether it thought the comment was fact or fiction."
Officials with Riley's office pointed to a statement from the Choctaw tribe alleging that reports of their contributions to Riley were "outlandish and patently false." As for the governor's opposition to gambling, Riley's press secretary said he has "consistently [opposed gambling] before he decided to run for governor and since. Anyone who would suggest his long-standing opposition to gambling is tied to anything other than personal conviction would be mistaken."
McCain's campaign did not return request for comment. For critics, however, the senator's decision not to include the email in his report underscores not only a glaring shortcoming of his investigation, but also a chink in his political veneer. Indeed, they claim, the Arizona Republican often takes overt steps to protect Republican colleagues from his anti-corruption dragnets.
"Although Sen. McCain has long bragged of his role in the Abramoff investigation, he let Tom DeLay and the other members of Congress who were doing Abramoff's bidding completely off the hook. The sole exception was Rep. Bob Ney, who served time in prison," Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington told the Huffington Post recently. "Sen. McCain knew what his colleagues were up to, he chose to take the easier path and give them a free pass."
Faced with this criticism in the past, McCain has claimed that it was not his responsibility to "involve ourselves in the ethics process [of senators]." Others have defended McCain by pointing out that the committee approved the report by a bipartisan 13-0 vote.
But it is hard to ignore the political consequences of not exposing the Abramoff-Riley connection.
Just prior to the 2002 election, word leaked that federal prosecutors in Alabama -- appointed by President Bush -- were investigating allegations that then Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman had offered a state-appointed position in exchange for money to help an education program. Siegelman ultimately lost to Riley by less than 3,000 votes.
"It obviously didn't help," said Dr. Sam Fisher, a political science professor at the University of South Alabama, of the leaks. "And there were certain ethical issues about how that was done. It was definitely a close race and giving a close race any negative thing can make a difference."
That Riley had taken a position favored by Abramoff, whether coincidentally or not, wasn't known at the time. While Abramoff's aide, Michael Scanlon (a former aide to Riley), gave $100,000 to Riley's campaign, Riley had previously opposed gambling in the state. In the late 1990s, he signed a fundraising letter lobbying against the building of a casino within Alabama. "We need your help today," the letter, which reflected another Abramoff objective, read, "to prevent the Poarch Creek Indians from building casinos in Alabama."
Siegelman soldiered on after the 2002 loss, running again for governor against Riley in 2006. By then, the extent of Riley's connection to Abramoff was still unknown. Moreover, Siegelman was still under investigation for allegations of bribery. The inquiry, detailed in an extensive 60 Minutes report last Sunday, raised many ethical red flags, mainly over political interference from the Bush administration, specifically Karl Rove. On June 22, McCain issued his Senate report without mentioning Riley's name. And one week later, Siegelman was convicted without the Abramoff email ever being made public.
"If you had a document that showed something that had not been reported about the financial reports and the direct expectations for that money," said a source familiar with the case, "that certainly would have called into attention the government's case against Siegelman."
Yes, seeing is believing, no? See it here.
And more gratuitous stupidity is here. Maybe the cold will sterilize the fucker but probably not....
And more gratuitous stupidity is here. Maybe the cold will sterilize the fucker but probably not....
Short version: The lenders, fuck 'em.
The long version:
God bless dynamic capitalism. Until Big Wealth gets their gummint lackies to close this legal loophole. Can't tolerate a level playing field or rule of law.
The long version:
Joe Lents hasn't made a payment on his $1.5 million mortgage since 2002.Link.
That's when Washington Mutual Inc. first tried to foreclose on his home in Boca Raton. The Seattle-based lender failed to prove that it owned Lents' mortgage note and dropped attempts to take his house. Subsequent efforts to foreclose have stalled because no one has produced the paperwork.
"If you're going to take my house away from me, you better own the note," said Lents, 63, the former chief executive officer of a now-defunct voice recognition software company.
Judges in at least five states have stopped foreclosure proceedings because the banks that pool mortgages into securities and the companies that collect monthly payments haven't been able to prove they own the mortgages. The confusion is another headache for U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as he revises rules for packaging mortgages into securities.
"I think it's going to become pretty hairy," said Josh Rosner, managing director at the New York-based investment research firm Graham Fisher & Co. "Regulators appear to have ignored this, given the size and scope of the problem."
More than $2.1 trillion, or 19 percent, of outstanding mortgages have been bundled into securities by private banks, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, a Bethesda, Md.-based industry newsletter. Those loans may be sold several times before they land in a security.
Shortcuts Taken With Paperwork
Each time the mortgages change hands, the sellers are required to sign over the mortgage notes to the buyers. In the rush to originate more loans during the U.S. mortgage boom from 2003 to 2006, that assignment of ownership wasn't always properly completed, said Alan White, assistant professor at Valparaiso University School of Law in Valparaiso, Ind.
"Loans were mass produced and short cuts were taken," White said. "A lot of the paperwork is done in the name of the original lender and a lot of the original lenders aren't around anymore."
More than 100 mortgage companies stopped making loans, closed or were sold last year, according to Bloomberg data.
The foreclosure rate, at 1.69 percent of all U.S. homeowners, is the highest since the Mortgage Bankers Association began tracking it in 1993. The foreclosure rate for subprime is at a four-year high, according to the mortgage bankers.
More than 1.5 million homeowners will enter the foreclosure process this year, said Rick Sharga, executive vice president for marketing at RealtyTrac Inc., the Irvine, Calif.-based seller of foreclosure information. About half of them, 750,000, will have their homes repossessed, Sharga said.
Borrower advocates, including Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, have seized upon the issue of missing mortgage notes as a way to stem foreclosures.
"The best thing to do is to keep people in their homes and for everybody to take steps necessary to make that happen," said Chris Geidner, a lawyer in Dann's office. "These trusts are purchasing these notes, and before they even get the paperwork, they foreclose on people."
When the mortgage servicers and securitizing banks that act as trustees of the securities fail to present proof that they own a mortgage, they sometimes file what's called a lost-note affidavit, said April Charney, a lawyer at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.
She's had foreclosure proceedings for 300 clients dismissed or postponed in the past year, with about 80 percent of them involving lost-note affidavits, she said.
"They raise the issue of whether the trusts own the loans at all," Charney said. "Lost-note affidavits are pattern and practice in the industry. They are not exceptions. They are the rule."
State laws make it difficult to foreclose because they favor the homeowner, said Stuart Saft, a real estate lawyer and partner at the New York firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP.
"All these loan documents are being sent to the inside of a mountain in the middle of America and not being checked very carefully," Saft said. "The lenders can't find the paper."
Requiring banks to produce the paperwork at a foreclosure hearing is a nuisance, said Jeffrey Naimon, a partner in the Washington office of Buckley Kolar LLP.
"It's a gigantic waste of time," Naimon said. "The mortgage may have transferred five, six, eight times. It's possible that you don't have all the pieces of paper, but it was enough to convince the next guy in the chain. There's no true controversy over whether the owner owns the loan."
Judges Helping 'The Little Guy'
Judges are becoming increasingly impatient with plaintiffs who produce no more proof of ownership than a lost-note affidavit, said Michael Doan, an attorney at Doan Law Firm LLP in Carlsbad, Calif.
Federal District Judge Christopher Boyko dismissed 14 foreclosure cases in Cleveland in November because of the inability of the trustee and the servicer to prove ownership of the mortgages.
Similar cases were dismissed during the past year by judges in California, Massachusetts, Kansas and New York.
"Judges are human beings," said Kenneth M. Lapine, a partner at the Cleveland law firm Roetzel & Andress LPA. "They no doubt feel the little guy needs all the help he can get against the impersonal, out of town, mega-investment banking company."
Lents is former CEO of Investco Inc., a Boca Raton-based developer of voice recognition software. In 2002, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sanctioned Lents and others for stock manipulation, according to the SEC Web site. He lost his job, was fined and his assets were frozen.
"If the homeowner doesn't object to the lost-note affidavit, the judge rubber-stamps it," Lents said. "Is it oversight, or are they trying to get around the law?"
Washington Mutual spokeswoman Geri Ann Baptista said the bank had no comment.
"I can't believe the handling of notes is worse than it was five years ago," said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. "What we didn't have back then were armies of attorneys out there looking for loopholes. People are challenging foreclosures and courts are paying a lot more attention to foreclosures than they ever did before."
American Home Mortgage Investment Corp., the Melville, N.Y.-based lender that filed for bankruptcy last August, said it was paying $45,000 a month to store loan paperwork.
The home-loan industry has had a central electronic database since 1997 to track mortgages as they are bought and sold. It's run by Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, a subsidiary of Vienna, Va.-based MERSCORP Inc., which is owned by mortgage companies.
MERS has 3,246 member companies and about half of outstanding mortgages are registered with the company.
For about half of U.S. mortgages, there is no tracking mechanism.
MERS rules don't allow members to submit lost-note affidavits in place of mortgage notes, said R.K. Arnold, the company's CEO.
"A lot of companies say the note is lost when it's highly unlikely the note is lost," Arnold said. "Saying a note is lost when it's not really lost is wrong."
Lents' attorney, Jane Raskin of Raskin & Raskin in Miami, said she has no idea who owns Lents' mortgage note.
"Something is wrong if you start from what I think is the reasonable assumption that these banks are not losing all of these notes," Raskin said. "As an officer of the court, I find it troubling that they've been going in and saying we lost the note, and because nobody is challenging it, the foreclosures are pushed through the system."
God bless dynamic capitalism. Until Big Wealth gets their gummint lackies to close this legal loophole. Can't tolerate a level playing field or rule of law.
I was going to d something on Greenwald's latest example of Big Journo mendacity (or "idiocy" or S.O.P.) but I have neither the time, energy or interest at the moment....
These are not rational people.
See how the wingnuts freak out. I mean, these people are clearly certifiably insane.
And what passes for insight (no pun intended) amongst the loonies:
When the Washington Times, the conservative newspaper founded and run by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, changed its top leadership recently, observers expected that more change would be coming. They weren't wrong -- with the replacement of Executive Editor Wes Pruden by John Solomon, who has extensive experience at more mainstream media outlets, we've already seen one small but meaningful change to the paper's coverage. The Times has altered several elements of its style guide, telling staffers to use more neutral terminology instead of the doctrinaire wording and scare quotes favored by the previous editorial regime. In an e-mail memo that's been widely circulated now, one editor wrote:Link.
Here are some recent updates to TWT style.1) Clinton will be the headline word for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.Some conservatives have already been upset by the changes at former President Ronald Reagan's favorite newspaper.
2) Gay is approved for copy and preferred over homosexual, except in clinical references or references to sexual activity.
3) The quotation marks will come off gay marriage (preferred over homosexual marriage).
4) Moderate is approved, but centrist is still allowed.
5) We will use illegal immigrants, not illegal aliens.
See how the wingnuts freak out. I mean, these people are clearly certifiably insane.
Soon, they’ll drop “illegal” from “illegal immigrants.”And another wit is here.
Then, it’ll be “undocumented immigrants.”
Then, they’ll just go the Harry Reid route and call them “undocumented Americans.”
And what passes for insight (no pun intended) amongst the loonies:
A commenter at City Paper sums up what the media establishment will say: "Isn’t it kind of scary that someone simply advocating neutral journalism (Solomon) actually sounds kinda heroic?"Link.
That underlines the "mainstream" mistake – that whatever the reigning liberal sensibilities are in our news template, often defined by minority journalist groups, are defined as "neutral."
Liberals joke that the Times would put "gay marriage" in quotes, but the media mainstream is so sensitive in the other direction that they don't even want to use "partial-birth abortion" in quotes, so they tie themselves into vague and confusing pretzels about "certain late-term procedures which we don't want to describe out of our fear of being rapped on the knuckles with a ruler by Kate Michelman and Gloria Feldt."
The same goes for their sensitivities about illegal immigrants. Wemple highlights his memo report with "amnesty" in quotes. That's a word that the media are almost allergic to using (including the cross-town Washington Post). See my immigration study for more on that.
This memo in no way means that Solomon is turning the Times into a liberal newspaper. You'd need more than a lingo change to arrive there. But it does suggest that Solomon has his eyes on impressing the national media elite, and not just impressing the inside-the-Beltway readership of the Times.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Aww, most of the electorate is quite tolernat when it comes to this kind of stuff....
Top Republican strategists are working on plans to protect the GOP from charges of racism or sexism in the general election, as they prepare for a presidential campaign against the first ever African-American or female Democratic nominee.Link.
The Republican National Committee has commissioned polling and focus groups to determine the boundaries of attacking a minority or female candidate, according to people involved. The secretive effort underscores the enormous risk senior GOP operatives see for a party often criticized for its insensitivity to minorities in campaigns dating back to the 1960s.
The RNC project is viewed as so sensitive that those involved in the work were reluctant to discuss the findings in detail. But one Republican strategist, who asked that his name be withheld to speak candidly, said the research shows the daunting and delicate task ahead.
Republicans will be told to “be sensitive to tone and stick to the substance of the discussion” and that “the key is that you have to be sensitive to the fact that you are running against historic firsts,” the strategist explained.
In other words, Republicans should expect a severe backlash if they say or do anything that smacks of politicizing race or gender. They didn’t need an expensive poll to learn that lesson, however.
They could simply have asked Joe Biden, John Edwards, Bill Clinton or any number of Democratic politicians who stung over their choice of words in this campaign already.
GOP officials are certain their words will be scrutinized ever more aggressively. They anticipate a regular media barrage of accusations of intolerance – or much worse.
They seem most concerned about Obama right now.
“You can’t run against Barack Obama the way you could run against Bill Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry,” said Jack Kemp, the 1996 GOP vice presidential nominee, who expressed concern that the party could be reduced to an “all white country club party” if it does not tread cautiously.
“Being an African American at the top of the ticket, if he makes it, is such a great statement about the country,” he added, “Obviously you have to be sensitive to issues that affect urban America. …You have to be careful.”
GOP operatives have already coined a term for clumsy rhetoric: “undisciplined messaging.” It appears as a bullet point in a Power Point presentation making the rounds among major donors, party leaders and surrogates. The presentation outlines five main strategic attacks against an Obama candidacy, with one of them stating how “undisciplined messaging carries great risk.”
“Republicans will need to exercise less deafness and more deftness in dealing with a different looking candidate, whether it is a woman or a black man,” Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway said. “But at the same time, really charge back at any insinuation or accusation of sexism or racism.
“You can’t allow the party to be Macaca-ed,” she continued, referring to a much-publicized remark made by former GOP Sen. George Allen that played a significant role in his 2006 defeat. “I think the standards are higher and the bar is lower for the Republican Party.”
Republicans interviewed for this story uniformly believe they will have to be especially careful. Many expect to be held to a higher rhetorical standard than is customary in campaigns, in part because of perceptions of intolerance that still dog the party.
“Fair or unfair, but that’s going to be a reality,” said GOP strategist John Weaver, a longtime confidant of John McCain. “The P.C. [politically correct] police will be out and the standards will be very narrow.”
The McCain camp is only beginning to explore this dilemma, aides said.
McCain’s strategic team still lacks survey research on either of their likely opponents in the general election, inhibiting their capacity “to discuss it intelligently,” a top adviser said. The campaign is currently occupied with “getting our act together structurally.”
“But my basic thought on it is that McCain is not much of a negative campaigner anyhow,” the advisor said. “When he does get into debates with people it’s on issues, substance. So I don’t think we are going to have to train our candidate not to insult people.”
The potential for mischief reaches well beyond any “undisciplined messaging” that the Republican nominee might engage in. In the case of the Clinton campaign, it has been the surrogates – like former President Clinton – who have been the source of much of the blowback for imprudent language.
“What I would not do is do what Bill Clinton has done,” said Ed Rollins, Mike Huckabee’s campaign chairman. “I would not in any way, shape, or form trivialize the strength of an Obama or compare him to another candidate.”
But some on the right are equally wary of unnecessary timidity. According to their thinking, the Democratic candidate begins as the frontrunner in the general election – and that will compel the Republican Party and its nominee to run a fiercely aggressive campaign.
“If we approach this campaign from the standpoint that we need to take political sensitivity training because one candidate is a woman or one candidate is black, I think we are approaching it from the wrong standpoint because that already handcuffs us,” said Republican strategist Tony Fabrizio. “If McCain is afraid, or shies away from taking on Obama because that’s what they worry about, then they’ve lost the battle to begin with.”
Monday, February 25, 2008
Thirty years ago, I was in Nashville for a Bob Dylan concert. It was during Dylan's "Vegas" tour: full entourage of back-up singers, horn players, "big band" arrangements, glitzy Elvis-style suits for the star, all of it slickly packaged by Hollywood impresario Jerry Weintraub, who handled Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond, among others. It was, to put it mildly, a real hoot. Especially intriguing was the persona that Dylan had adopted for the tour: a chatty Vegas lounge singer, full of patter and stories for the crowd between numbers. (The very next year I saw him in much more ascetic guise, in a black leather jacket with a stripped-down band doing nothing but Christian songs to a half-empty house during a snowstorm in Knoxville. Now there's a man who really knows something about "change.")Link.
But on that Nashville night, Dylan – loquacious, and probably libated – was doing a lot of his old tunes, including the surreal send-up of conventional wisdom, "Ballad of a Thin Man." In that song, the hapless, clueless "hero" – the now iconic Mister Jones – is shown at one point handing in his ticket "to go see the geek." Even back in 1978, I was old enough to know what a geek really was, but Dylan obviously thought that most of the audience wouldn't get the reference; the word was fast losing its specificity, and was by then mostly used as a vague synonym for "nerd" or some other socially awkward person. So before playing the song, Dylan launched into a long, rambling story about "the carnivals we used to have in the Fifties," and how they all had a "geek" – someone who would bite the head off a live chicken, then proceed to eat the rest of the dead, bleeding, flapping carcass in front of the paying customers. It used to cost just a quarter to see the geek in the old days, Dylan said, "although it probably costs five dollars now."
Today of course, in our glittering 21st century of ubiquitous, 24-hour, multi-platform media access, we can watch geeks for free: all we have to do is turn to the latest reports on the presidential campaign. There we can see the revolting but fascinating spectacle of freakish characters willing to do just about anything – gnaw off a chicken head, lie like a dog, pander like a door pimp, crawl on their bellies to tongue a corporate boot, turn themselves inside out and shake their innards at the camera – to grab our attention and please the carnival's owners. We are also subjected to endless exegesis of every aspect of the geeks' performance: "Wasn't it wonderful how Obama nipped that chicken neck so expertly? Did Hillary do enough to win back the crowd when she slurped down the heart and the liver the same time? Should she have tried to get the gizzard in too? And what about McCain's trouble getting that right wing down his throat? Let's see what our expert analysts have to say. Over to you, Bill Kristol and James Carville…."
But while the feathers fly and the fan dancers trot across the electoral stage, the deadly, democracy-killing business of empire-building grinds on behind the gaudy scenes. And not a single one of the top troika are taking a stand against it; indeed, all of them have made their commitment to American military dominance of the planet – and their proud refusal to take any option "off the table" in world affairs – crystal clear. What we are seeing now – and what we will see when the race narrows down to just a pair of geeks chomping at the chicken – is simply a debate over the best way to keep the empire in fighting trim while gussying up some of the ham-handed excesses of the past few years.
A few days ago came the news – ignored or buried by almost every venue of that non-stop multi-platform media echo chamber – that the United States has made a very significant, and very permanent, addition its empire of bases: one that American officials freely admit will allow them to project "full spectrum" military dominance over 27 sovereign nations. And of course, what is most noteworthy about the development, reported in full in the Pentagon's own Stars and Stripes newspaper, is that this astonishing declaration of imperial aggression and hubris is regarded as something completely normal – indeed laudatory.
Stars and Stripes – an often excellent paper, reporting genuine news that the geek-gawking non-entities in the corporate media ignore – lays it all out, plain and simple:
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait — U.S. Army Central is establishing a permanent platform for “full spectrum operations” in 27 countries around southwest Asia and the Middle East, its commander says.
Lt. Gen. James J. Lovelace said the Army has diverse capabilities here now but plans to reach a complete level of operational effectiveness by July. The restructuring, which offers more flexibility for offensive, defensive and stability operations, is a major piece of transformation worldwide, said Lovelace.
“It’s the first Army command to do this,” said Lovelace, who also heads the Coalition Forces Land Component. “Now, we’re not only operational but the Army has committed other assets…They regionally focus on this area. That was not always the case,” said Lovelace, who took command in mid-December. “These commands now have a permanent responsibility to this theater. They’ll have a permanent presence here. The personnel will change; the commands will remain."
Yes, the personnel will change – even in the White House. But the commands will remain. And this permanent, force-projecting base is of course just the icing on the imperial cake in the region; the U.S. military already has its boots in the ground all over the area, as the newspaper notes:
Col. Michael A. Carroll, USARCENT’s chief of staff, said the command has a footprint in 22 of the area’s 27 countries, where it conducts theater security engagements, peacekeeping and exercises with other militaries. [Not to mention a couple of good ole shootin' wars.]
…Lovelace said the war on terror and a need to be more operationally focused compelled the Army to alter its approach. “You don’t have the element of time on your side anymore, like we did in the Cold War. We’ve got to be ready tonight," he said. "That’s why now you have that broader commitment."
Strange how the "element of time" has narrowed so drastically; I remember being told back in those Cold War days that we were always, forever just six minutes away from nuclear annihilation: that's how long it would take a Soviet first strike to reach the heartland of the Homeland. But of course, as we all know, the few thousand actual Islamic terrorists out there – most of them in the pay of our allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, when they're not actually drawing checks from the CIA and the Pentagon – pose a far greater threat to the existence of the nation than the vast, globe-spanning nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union ever did. Thus the need for planting new gargantuan, permanent military bases in the world's most volatile regions is more urgent and important than ever.
And that's why the new "full spectrum" Army base in Kuwait is just one of the force-projecting fortresses going up all over the world. As William Arkin reports in the Washington Post (not in the actual paper, mind you, but on the Post's blog):
The Air Force and Navy, meanwhile, have set up additional permanent bases in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. By permanent I mean large and continuing American headquarters and presences, most of which are maintained through a combination of coalition activities, long-standing bilateral agreements and official secrecy. Tens of billions have been plowed into the American infrastructure. Admiral William J. Fallon, the overall commander of the region, was just in Oman this week after a trip to Iraq to secure continuing American military bases in that country.
This new base-building, Arkin says, astutely, has a two-fold purpose. First, it is part of the necessary infrastructure for continuing the war in Iraq on a permanent basis. Second, it is creating "facts on the ground" – like Ariel Sharon's illegal settlements all over Palestinian land – that any future president will find hard to undo…assuming that anyone who was not already committed heart-and-soul to imperial expansion would ever be allowed to get near the White House in the first place. As Arkin puts it:
When a war with Iran loomed and World War III seemed to be gaining traction in the Bush administration, this entire base structure was seen as the "build-up" for the next war. The build-up of course began decades ago, but since 9/11, the focus has been almost exclusively "supporting" U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran is there, but to interpret the planting of the American flags and the moving of chess pieces as being focused on Tehran is to miss what is really going on.
Regardless of who is elected, in the coming year U.S. combat forces in Iraq will undoubtedly continue to contract to a fewer number of combat brigades and special operations forces focused on counter-terrorism and the mission of continuing to train and mentor the Iraqi Army and police forces. Much of the "war" that is already being fought is being supported from Kuwait and other locations, and the ongoing shifts seem to point to an intent to increasingly pull additional functions and people out of harm's way.
Of course they will not be out of harm's way at all, because a permanent American military presence in the region brings with it its own dangers and provocations. But most important what it brings for the next president is a fait accompli: a pause that facilitates a drawdown that begins to look a lot like a continuation of the same military and strategic policy, even at a time when there is broad questioning as to whether this is the most effective way to fight "terrorism."
Arkin is of course being over-polite in his conclusion: it has long been clear that the Bush Administration's policies – repeatedly ratified by the bipartisan foreign policy establishment – have nothing to do with fighting "terrorism," effectively or otherwise. It is a demonstrable fact – attested to by the Administration's own intelligence services – that these policies are actually exacerbating, empowering and emboldening terrorism all over the world. It is also obvious – albeit far less openly acknowledged – that these policies are themselves a form of terrorism: state terrorism, on a massive scale, which has already killed at least a million people in Iraq alone.
But Arkin is right on the money in noting that these developments – which have drawn not a peep of protest or the slightest questioning from the great "progressives" seeking the Democratic nomination (much less the bilious bagman cruising to the GOP nod) – are indeed "a continuation of the same military and strategic policy" that is driving the imperial war-state on to more "full spectrum operations" all over the world, for decades to come. And much as I might wish it to be otherwise, I have seen nothing to make me believe that any of the chicken-chompers bound for the White House will make any actual, substantial changes in this policy, much less begin the task of rolling back the empire.
But hey, did you see how Hillary waggled those feathers in her mouth when Obama spit that beak out at her? Then Hillary's campaign manager said… and then the polls showed… and then McCain told a reporter that… and then the Oscars… March Madness, baby!
In the flurry of pieces running about the pending 60 Minutes exposé on Karl Rove’s involvement in the political prosecution of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, one passage in the AP story by Ben Evans really stuck out. It was Karl Rove’s response. And it was a flat-out lie. It showed up last night, and I assumed by now, it would be corrected, but it seems that Rove decided to stick with his lie. Rove does not speak directly, but through his attorney, Robert Luskin, who most recently steered Rove through the shoals of Patrick Fitzgerald’s criminal investigation. As you will recall, Karl Rove’s varying versions of the facts in different grand jury proceedings put him in considerable jeopardy.Link.Simpson testified to congressional investigators last year that she overheard conversations among Republicans in 2002 indicating that Rove was involved in the Justice Department’s prosecution of Siegelman. She has never before said that Rove pressed her for evidence of marital infidelity in spite of testifying to congressional lawyers last year, submitting a sworn affidavit and speaking extensively with reporters.There is a big inaccuracy in this reporting. First Ben Evans writes: “She has never before said that Rove pressed her for evidence of marital infidelity in spite of testifying to congressional lawyers last year, submitting a sworn affidavit and speaking extensively with reporters.” Evans is dead wrong on this. If he had written “It has not previously been reported that she said that Rove…” he would be fine. I interviewed Simpson in July and she recounted this to me; and I believe she recounted it to two other reporters as well, one with another major national publication, but I’ll let them speak for themselves. She requested that I not write it up or report it without her prior okay, and I abided by her request. My understanding is that she also gave this information to congressional investigators when they initially interviewed her. So Evans is incorrect. Or, more to the point, he assumes in his writing more than he could possibly know.
Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, denied the allegation.
“Mr. Rove never made such a request to her or anyone else,” Luskin said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “Had ‘60 Minutes’ taken the trouble to contact Mr. Rove before circulating this falsehood, he would have told them the same thing.”
But second, Robert Luskin states that CBS never spoke to Rove directly about this.
Now let’s look at the CBS’s teaser on the piece. It addresses this question:Rove would not speak to 60 Minutes, but elsewhere has denied being involved in efforts to discredit Siegelman.So it suggests that Rove was contacted and refused to speak.
Well, Luskin’s statement is wrong. And the CBS statement is true only in the way that a butler announces to an unwanted caller that “Madam is not at home” is true: it’s a formulation that covers a different set of facts which those in the news business understand. In fact, Rove was contacted by CBS and did speak with CBS about the allegations. Rove insisted that his comments could not be used in any way without his prior permission.
I have no idea what Rove said in that discussion, but I do know that the discussion occurred.
So I’m wondering: did Rove mislead his lawyer about what happened? As we enter the coverage of the Siegelman story with the CBS exposé, much will turn on Rove’s truthfulness. And he has started the process with a predictable pattern: he lies when he thinks he can get away with it, or even better, he has others lie in his stead.