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Friday, February 03, 2006


Insurgents Regret ABC News Friendly-Fire Incident -- by Scott Ott

(2006-01-30) -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, today expressed his regrets to ABC News for the injuries sustained by anchor Bob Woodruff and a videographer in what Mr. Zarqawi called, "this tragic incident of friendly fire."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

OpinionJournal - Extra

There is an excellent article by James Taranto at on the media's struggles to fit the Iraq news to the story:
Here's an example that illustrates both the media's antiwar attitude and their powerlessness: In October the Baltimore Sun ran a story under the headline, "Little Outcry Raised on Iraq." The subhead read: "Md. deaths push toll near 2,000, but public is distracted, experts say."

Consider what this headline tells you about the assumptions that prevail in the newsroom. "Little Outcry Raised on Iraq." Why is the absence of an outcry a story? News consists of the unexpected--man bites dog, not dog bites man. "Little Outcry Raised on Iraq" means that, in the view of the Baltimore Sun, an outcry is to be expected when the country is at war. If there isn't much of one, it means something is wrong: "Public is distracted, experts say." The so-called mainstream media are following the Vietnam script, according to which a war is supposed to become a quagmire, which provokes opposition and leads to American withdrawal.
You really need to read the rest.

John Kerry and Stupidest Things

We've been enjoying the Page-a-Day calendar, The 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said, for over 10 years now. Each day there's a quote from someone famous or anonymous saying or writing something dumb. Today's was one for the ages:
Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition . . . to the early use of military by the US against Iraq. . . . On January 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war.
January 22, 1991, letter from Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) to a constituent.
Thank you for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crises and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf.
January 31, 1991, letter from Senator John Kerry to the same constituent.
Note that this is the first Gulf War and President George H. W. Bush. So Kerry was for that war before he was against it, too. Or perhaps he was against it before he was for it; it's hard to tell. But, clearly, he was strongly and unequivocally both for and against it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Congressional Vandalism on Wikipedia

Considering the great concern politicians have with their "Place in History," it should probaby not surprise us that they are doing their level best to rewrite the history that they can to show themselves in a more favorable light. Wikipedia, the useful, albeit left-leaning, online, anonymous-user-editted encyclopedia has turned out to be a magnet for this kind of behavior.

First, the Lowell (Mass.) Sun broke the story of how staffers of Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) had removed some unflattering, but accurate, information about Meehan from the Wikipedia biography, replacing it with positive information written by his staff. But, wait, there's more:
This alone makes for a pretty interesting story, but it's only the tip of the iceberg. Further investigation by the newspaper and by Wikipedia staff found that more than 1,000 edits had been made to Wikipedia entries by House staffers over the last six months alone. Because all changes emanating from the House come from a single IP address (a proxy), it's hard to trace specific edits back to individuals, who can plausibly deny making them. Not all of these were malicious (though someone from the House did write that Rep. Eric Cantor "smells of cow dung"), nor were they all white-washes. But enough of them were problematic that Wikipedia launched a full investigation and found that Senate staffers were tempted in equal measure.

The following is a partial list of U.S. Senator biographies on the english-language Wikipedia edited by Senate employees.
  • Senator Conrad Burns' page was edited to remove negative comments as positive comments were added
  • Senator Norm Coleman's page was also edited to remove negative comments while positive comments were added
  • Senator Robert Byrd's page was vandalized
  • Senator Tom Harkin's criticism section was deleted, a major section on Israel & military removed and later vandalized by a different IP
  • Senator Joe Biden's page had a major edit removing significant criticism
  • Sen Tom Coburn's page was vandalized more than once
And Sen. John Kerry's military records were completely erased. No, wait, he never released them, but it has now been a year since he promised to do so.

In true Wikipedia fashion, there's now a Wikipedia article about the Congressional edits to other Wikipedia articles. Clearly this has been a bipartisan practice. Some of the examples described in this article actually illustrate the left-bias of Wikipedia itself, e.g. objection to calling "left-wing" rather than "liberal," and to "saying there was a connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq." Those changes can hardly be called inaccurate.

Similarly, if you doubt Wikipedia's lean to the left, check out the "controversial" edit by a now-(or soon-to-be-)banned Congressional IP address to this glowing tribute to "radical activist" Angela Davis. The "controversial" edit merely states that Davis came out as a lesbian, which is true, without adding any value judgments. That has been removed in the current version.

Here's a good article about the accuracy of Wikipedia articles in general and the pros and cons of this approach to information.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Politics of Domestic "Spying"

There's a moving article in Monday's Wall Street Journal Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of the hijacked American Airlines plane that was crashed into the Pentagon. She decries the current politicization of national security, arguing that it puts us at great risk of another attack.
Meanwhile, the media, mouthing phrases like "Article II authority," "separation of powers" and "right to privacy," are presenting the issues as if politics have nothing to do with what is driving the subject matter and its coverage. They want us to forget four years of relentless "connect-the-dots" reporting about the missed chances that "could have prevented 9/11." They have discounted the relevance of references to the two 9/11 hijackers who lived in San Diego. But not too long ago, the media itself reported that phone records revealed that five or six of the hijackers made extensive calls overseas.

NBC News aired an "exclusive" story in 2004 that dramatically recounted how al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the San Diego terrorists who would later hijack American Airlines flight 77 and fly it into the Pentagon, received more than a dozen calls from an al Qaeda "switchboard" inside Yemen where al-Mihdhar's brother-in-law lived. The house received calls from Osama Bin Laden and relayed them to operatives around the world. Senior correspondent Lisa Myers told the shocking story of how, "The NSA had the actual phone number in the United States that the switchboard was calling, but didn't deploy that equipment, fearing it would be accused of domestic spying." Back then, the NBC script didn't describe it as "spying on Americans." Instead, it was called one of the "missed opportunities that could have saved 3,000 lives."
"The Wall," that was instituted by the Clinton Administration expressly to prohibit intelligence agencies from sharing intelligence, was a big part of the failure to stop the 9/11 murders. The FISA court, currently much beloved by those eager to bash the Bush Administration, was also a big part of the problem.

What about the "secret," "illegal" wiretaps ordered without FISA court approval? Paul Gigot and James Taranto had this exchange on The Journal Editorial Report this weekend:
Gigot: James, you and I interviewed the vice president, Vice President Cheney, this week on executive power. And he made an interesting argument when we asked him why they didn't go to Congress to get Congress to expand that authority. What did he say?

Taranto: Well, he said they were briefing eight or nine top leaders of the Intelligence Committee and the leaders of the House and the Senate, and they all agreed, including the Democrats, that secrecy was essential here, that is we had a public debate about this, it would have bad effects on national security.
Now, the Democrats are saying a different tune now, publicly. But that suggests that their base, the base of their party, is so unhinged that Democratic leaders can't afford to be responsible about national security, except behind closed doors.
Sad, but true. The lunatics are running the Democrat asylum these days.

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