Friday, October 31, 2008

Barack Obama Campaign Plane Boots Selected Reporters

In a way, I can't blame the Obama campaign for telling three newspapers that their reporters wouldn't be flying on the Obama campaign plane any more. The papers all have something in common. Their editorial pages support John McCain.

The offending newspapers:
  • The Washington Times
    • Unification Church (via News World Communications), owner
  • New York Post
    • Rupert Murdoch, owner
  • The Dallas Morning News
    • A. H. Belo Corporation, owner
As you can see, they're a suspicious-looking bunch. From some points of view.

Obama Campaign Boots Reporters: This is News Not Fit to Print

If you haven't heard about this, I'm not surprised. The New York Times hasn't, as far as I can tell, covered the story, and says that it's the "conservative-leaning Drudge Report" that "fuelled the story today by suggesting that the newspapers were frozen out because their editorial pages have endorsed McCain."

One paper seems to be particularly divisive. revealed that "The Washington Times added to the controversy by publishing a story criticising its exclusion." The audacity!!

From what I've seen, The Washington Times has calmed down. Their story's headline now reads "Washington Times to fly commercial for Obama finale." No negative-sounding "Washington Times kicked off Obama plane for finale," as it ran earlier today. (The divisive headline is back, as of 11:27 a.m. Central / 4:27 p.m. UTC.)

The Three McCain-Supporting Newspapers Just Happened to be Dropped

It could be pure coincidence that the three papers supporting McCain were dropped.

The Dallas Morning News takes what may be a conciliatory tone in one of its blogs:

"...we don't have evidence that the newspaper's endorsement of Sen. McCain had any bearing on the campaign's decision to boot us from the plane....

"...We think the Obama campaign's decision is to some degree more a function of limited seats, and while we're a large regional newspaper, we're not national and we're not in a swing state...."

I'd say that The Dallas Morning News is taking a reasonable, diplomatic, and somewhat prudent, approach.

Meanwhile, at The New York Times

The Gray Lady, meanwhile, is printing the news with the sort of professionalism we've come to expect. From "Records of Obama and McCain as Lawmakers Reflect Differences on Crime:"

"Mr. Obama has emphasized civil liberties, sensitivity to racial inequality and tough penalties for the most violent felons. ... Recent disclosures have revealed that Chicago police officers had tortured suspects into giving false confessions...."

The New York Times says some things to say about McCain, too:

"In a speech ... this year, Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, called for tougher punishment for violent offenders and appeared to disagree with Mr. Obama's contention that the prison population is too high. ... Mr. McCain has also opposed assault rifle bans and restrictions ..., positions contrary to those of Mr. Obama...."

McCain Campaign Booted Reporters, Too

The Dallas Morning News' blog points out that the McCain campaign removed reporters from their campaign airplane, too.

On the other hand, the McCain campaign, which apparently couldn't afford a 30-minute World Series infomercial, added a second airplane to accommodate reporters.

The Nice News Candidate?

This blog isn't political, but it is concerned with many aspects of the War on Terror: including the presence, or absence, of freedom in nations.

Barack Obama's campaign presumably reflects some of Mr. Obama's attitudes and values. Including his assumptions about freedom of the press.

Recently, the Obama campaign blacklisted a Florida television station, WFTV, for giving Joe Biden an opportunity to address Obama's association with Marxists, and interest in Marxism.

Now, the Obama campaign has removed reporters from the "Change We Can Believe In" airliner. It's possible that the reporters were excluded because the Obama campaign can't afford a second airliner.

Possible, but unlikely. Barack Obama has raised a huge amount of money from small donations, and the occasional $500,000 token of esteem. As of October 27, 2008, the score in terms of campaign money was:
  • Barack Obama
    • $639,000,000 raised
    • $573,000,000 spent
  • John McCain
    • $360,000,000 raised
    • $293,000,000 spent

The amount spent leaves the McCain campaign with a bit more money:
  • Barack Obama
    • $66,000,000 left
  • John McCain
    • $67,000,000 left
That's pretty close though, so I think it's reasonable to assume that the Obama campaign's decision to limit close journalistic access to Obama supporters isn't a matter of poverty.

I think it's more likely that Barack Obama doesn't like embarrassing questions. That's natural enough. What's disturbing is that he's establishing a track record, before becoming president, of being willing to blacklist television stations and remove reporters who are do not approve of his policies, and do not maintain a polite reticence about his colorful past.

American news under an Obama administration might be much nicer and less divisive than it is now. Better, no. But nicer.

Related post, in another blog: In the news:

"Dear Mr. Obama" Iraq Vet Delivers Video Messages to Barack Obama

The "Dear Mr. Obama" video on YouTube is less than two minutes long.

BBC called it "short, simple and powerful." I agree.

It's also, at 11,000,000,000 hits and growing, the most-viewed election video on YouTube. I think you'll see why:

"Dear Mr. Obama"
YouTube (August 27, 2008)
video (1:55)

By some standards, it's pretty schmaltzy. These excerpts show what I mean:

"Dear Mr Obama having spent 12 months in Iraq theater I can promise you it's not a mistake..."

"...Iraqi people are just like us. They want a chance to live in a secure world, free from tyranny, free from terrorism, free to prosper, free to raise their children: pass on a future. Are they better off today, than they were in 2002? You bet..."

"...Do rescue a fireman just as he's about to save a child? When you call the Iraqi war a mistake you disrespect the service and the sacrifice of everyone who has died promoting freedom..."

"...Because you do not understand or appreciate these principles Sir, I am supporting Senator John McCain for president..."

"...Freedom is always worth the price."

All that stuff about freedom, and people being better off today than they were living under Saddam Hussein: As I said, in some circles it would be considered laughable.

Freedom: People Want it. Bad

About thirty years ago, I worked with people who had escaped some of the less pleasant corners of southeast Asia. One of them described how he had escaped, tucked into the bow of a boat, where the ropes usually go.

I learned from his, and others in his position, how much unpleasantness people will put up with to be free.

One more thing: the Iraq vet who made this video walks away from the camera after he's said his say. After a few paces, we see that he's missing something like half his left leg.

When he says, "Freedom is always worth the price" - I'm inclined to believe him.

In the news:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bad Day in Guwahati (or Gauhati): Bombs, Fires, and Dead People

The terrorism business just isn't what it used to be.

A series of bombs go off, with the usual results:
  • 60+ dead
  • 300 or so wounded
  • Many rickshaws and cars destroyed
Back in the day, at least in the Middle East, terrorist groups and wannabes would be lining up to say 'we did it!'

These bombs went off today, and they killed people in India. The Assam state: Kamrup, Kokrajhar, Barpeta and Bongaigaon districts, to be more exact.

(From Associated Press, via CNN, used without permission)
That man, we're told, is trying to put out the fire. With a spritz can, apparently. Well, you use what you've got.

The state authorities seem to think that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) did it. They're a bunch who want to have their own little territory in India. I gather that it's as if a bunch of guys in Thorpe Township here in Minnesota decided that Hubbard County should be an independent country, named Thorpia, with Park Rapids as its capital.

ULFA says they didn't do it. Neither does anyone else.

From one (warped, sick) point of view, it's a sad day for terrorists, when they can't claim credit for their own work.

(Detail of a photo from Associated Press, via CNN, used without permission)
What a Mess. That weird-looking motorcycle was probably a rickshaw,1 before terrorists made one of their usual statements.

ULFA doesn't want much: just "an independent socialist sovereign Assam." This bunch of visionary revolutionaries apparently represents "not only the Assamese nation but also the entire independent minded struggling peoples, irrespective of different race-tribe-caste-religion and nationality of Assam." (")

Or, it may have been some hotheaded Bodos. Some people in the Bodo tribe haven't appreciated 'those foreigners' moving in. It this case, its Bangladeshi, who are mostly Muslim.

Remember: Not All Terrorists are Muslims

Come to think of it, today's bombing might be "Islamic terrorism," after all.

Or, it might be something else. Even if Muslims are involved, the motives may not be religious. Using that hypothetical "Thorpia" situation as an example, a struggle over fishing rights in Minnesota's 1st through 11th Crow Wing Lakes might not be religious, even if one side was mostly Lutheran.

I've said that before, but I think it bears repeating.

The part about 'not all terrorists are Muslims:' not the Thorpia and Lutherans bit.

In the news:
1 Rickshaw. Don't laugh. Looks like the motorized kind are still in use. About two years ago, Richshaws were banned in at least parts of India. Human-pulled ones, anyway.

This high-minded move was intended to end an inhumane and demeaning job. It also put a lot of rickshaw pullers out of business. Not to worry, though, they were going to be "rehabilitated." ("Rickshaws, ban highlight India's contradictions" (Chicago Tribune (October 18, 2008))

My opinion about this widely-acclaimed bit of hoity toity humanity is in "Rickshaw Ban: It Seemed Like Such a Nice Idea" (Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind (October 30, 2008)).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Barack Obama's Redistributive Change

I think that national leaders should be in the same book, if not on the same page, as a nation's citizens.

Barack Obama said the lack of "redistributive change" was a tragedy of the civil rights movement, he preferred Marxist professors in college, and the Obama campaign blacklisted a Florida television station for asking an embarrassing question.

I hope that this reflects 'mainstream' attitudes in only a few spots in America.

This blog isn't political, but having a president who has some clue as to what happened between 1927 and 1991 is, in my opinion, extremely important.

More, at "Marxism: It Looks So Good on Paper" (Starting a Small Business Without Losing My Mind (October 28, 2008)).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Petraeus Says 'Talk to the Taliban'

The idea of talking with the Taliban isn't as crazy as it sounds.

General Petraeus' idea is to start dealing with "less extreme" elements of the Taliban. Something like this was done in Iraq, when America talked with Sunni tribes who eventually helped kick Al Qaeda out of Iraq.1

If the plan goes through, the Afghan government will be handling the talks: with "active participation" by America.

I think it makes sense. Individuals, and groups, may have many reasons for teaming up with the Taliban - if they're not like the Iraqi kooks who killed a man for wearing trousers, and not praying.

In the news: 1 I know: there's still trouble in Iraq. But nowhere near as much as earlier. Following the annoying success of common-sense diplomacy and the troop surge, Marines have pulled out of Fallujah, and a football pitch (soccer pitch to Americans) has replaced terrorist rocket launchers in a Baghdad park.

Don't tell the Code Pink crowd, though. They might get (more) upset.

Syria Accuses America, North Korea Threatens South Korea: Nothing New Here

It's important to establish dialog, I've read. It's probably true: sometimes.

North and South Korea Engage in Dialog

Leaders of North and South Korea dialoged recently:
  • North Korea:
    Don't allow your citizens to
    • Write leaflets that aren't complimentary of Dear Leader and our government
    • Send them into our territory
  • South Korea:
South Korea's government stopped making anti-North Korea propaganda, but South Korea also has something called freedom of speech, which allows citizens to be annoying.

I don't think that North Korean leaders were soothed by a South Korean general talking about a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's nuclear facilities, or by the escape of a North Korean soldier into South Korea.

The soldier says that he started thinking about what to do with his life, looked at North Korea, looked at South Korea, and defected.

North Korea reacted to the general's idea with the sort of calm, thoughtful, statement we've come to expect. The North Korean military released this statement, through the official Korean Central News Agency: "the puppet authorities had better remember that the advanced pre-emptive strike of our own style will reduce everything opposed to the nation and reunification to debris, not just setting them on fire."

The CNN article that gave that quote didn't say, but my guess is that the puppet master of the "puppet authorities" is imperialistic, militaristic, America.

Syria: Americans Attack Farm, Kill Completely Innocent People

Syria's version of reality is that Americans illegally attached a totally innocent farm, killing:
  • Four members of one family
  • One guard at the farm
  • The guard's wife
  • Some guy who was fishing nearby
Last year, Syria claimed, at various times, that Israeli jets made an unprovoked attack on
  • An unused military building
  • An agricultural research station.
  • Nothing but sand
  • Nothing at all: There was no attack
This time around, Syria showed reporters a grainy video and a few bits and pieces of people to prove their point.

The American version of the event isn't all that different. Quite unofficially, the account is that an Iraqi called "Abu Ghadiya" was the target. His family apparently has been smuggling money, weapons and foreign fighters from Syria into Iraq.

The Syrian foreign minister said: "This is lies from the United States," (CNN) which shouldn't surprise anybody.

Killing Innocent People? Hiding Behind Innocent People?

I don't doubt that innocent people could have been killed in the attack. On the other hand, I do doubt, very much, that American officers sent helicopters and soldiers to shoot up an innocent, harmless, farm on a whim.

The American raid has already caused a diplomatic ruckus, since it seems to have been staged in Iraq, on a Syrian target.

An Iraqi spokesman said that he didn't want the incident to affect Syrian-Iraqi relations. He also said that 13 Iraqi policemen had been killed recently: in Iraq, by terrorists based in Syria.

That "farm" could really have been a farm, with a family living on it. It could also have been a base for smugglers.

Hiding behind innocents seems to be a regional tradition. Palestinian 'national liberation movements' have an established habit of hiding military equipment in people's houses, and using the residences as launching platforms. Then, when the Israeli military deals with the threat, the Jews are called terrorists. And, as a sort of bonus, the 'national liberation movements' have holy martyrs.

I think its disgusting, but I've been told that other cultures have alternative ways of dealing with the world.

I also think that, if Syria wants fewer 'innocent farms' to be attacked, Syria should stop providing land for terrorist bases.

Posts about last year's Israeli attack and its aftermath:
In the News:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Domestic Terrorism? Obama Assassination Plot Thwarted

An assassination attempt involving a suicide attack on a prominent official was thwarted.

Baghdad? Islamabad? Fallujah?

Nope. Jackson, Tennessee.

Two men were going to go out in what I suppose they thought was a blaze of glory, killing a whole lot of blacks, beheading 14 of them, and winding up by gunning down Barack Obama. Wearing white tuxedos, yet.

Apparently, they didn't expect to complete their 'mission,' but were determined to try.

Domestic Terrorism? Sounds Like It

I don't know if what these two white supremacists had in mind was what the courts will call 'terrorism,' but what this pair of wannabe assassins had in mind sounds like terrorism to me.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating:
  • Not all terrorists are Muslims
  • Not all Muslims are terrorists
Maybe they'll see it as a sort of consolation prize: these two wunderkinds did shoot out the window of a church.

In the news:
Update (October 28, 2008)

It looks like the third time that law enforcement has stopped a plan (however spaced out) to kill Obama:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama Campaign Blacklists Florida Television Station After 'Unprofessional' Interview

The Obama campaign let WFTV in Florida know that the television station wouldn't be getting any more interviews with them: at least until after the election.

I can see the Obama campaign's point.

WFTV's Barbara West asked Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden the wrong questions. Quite a few of them. I wrote about it in another blog: There's an embedded video of the interview there, too. For now, at least.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Joe the Plumber, Unauthorized Investigation, and Freedom

Joe the Plumber courteously asked Barack Obama how the candidate's position would affect him, and others in his position.

The next day, private information about Samuel J. Wurzelbacher was accessed by Ohio state offices. At least one of the unauthorized peeks used an account assigned to the Ohio Attorney General's office.

The Ohio Attorney General's office is investigating the leaks.

And, judging from the lack of sound and fury coming from traditional news services, it's no big deal.

Ask a Question, Get Unofficially Investigated: Joe the Plumber Could be You, or Me

I wouldn't be very concerned about Joe the Plumber's license records getting the once-over by the Toledo police, or the Ohio Attorney General's office, if it were part of an official, if somewhat overly-cautious, routine for people who have direct contact with political candidates.

I think there might even be a plausible reason for the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency nosing around his records.

Providing that there was some official reason and/or acknowledgment of the investigation.

But in this case:
  • There was no authorization for the snooping
  • In at least one case, an account assigned to the Ohio attorney general's office was used
  • Joe the Plumber's awkward question prompted a Democratic candidate to make an unscripted, very clear, and somewhat controversial, statement
  • Ohio's interim attorney general is a Democrat
    • Replacing another Democrat who resigned
    • Appointed by a Democratic Governor
    • Who says he didn't know she was a Democrat
    • Ohio's office of the attorney general is investigating the leak of private information
      • And had already announced that the leak hasn't come from inside the office of the attorney general
  • And none of this seems to be much more than state news
If that sounds perfectly reasonable, put a name like "John Doe" in place of "Joe the "Plumber," replace "Democrat" and "Democratic" with "Republican," and vice-versa, and see how it looks.

One of America's strengths is that Americans are allowed to ask questions of public officials. Even if the questions are embarrassing, even if the officials accidentally use plain, simple, English in their replies.

For the moment, I'm assuming that this very quiet little look at Joe the Plumber's personal files resulted from a combination of curiosity, lack of common sense, and sloppy security.

If that isn't the case, and more quiet little investigations of citizens who ask the wrong questions become common: America is in trouble.

And trouble like that we don't need.

Enough for this blog. I wrote more elsewhere:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama Supporter Carved Me: McCain Volunteer Comes Clean

(From College Republicans via FOXNews, used without permission)
That backwards "B" on her face is the one that was "carved" yesterday.

With Friends Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

Yesterday, conservative bloggers ran with the story of a knife-wielding Obama supporter and his young victim. Today, my guess is that liberal bloggers will do the same thing.

Probably with the same enthusiasm and passionate disregard for facts, verifiable or otherwise.

I wrote at some length about the story earlier today:

Obama Supporter Carves McCain Volunteer's Face? Reports, Blogs, and Video Tape

Update (October 24, 2008) 1:20 p.m. Central time (18:20 UTC)
The news broke recently:
  • "Report: McCain Campaign Volunteer Confesses to Lying About Political Attack"
    FOXNews (October 24, 2008)
    • "Police sources tell KDKA television in Pittsburgh that 20-year-old John McCain campaign volunteer Ashley Todd has admitted to lying to them about being mugged and attacked by a man who carved a "B" into her cheek after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car. Todd is expected to face charges for the false report, according to KDKA...."
  • "Police: Campaign Volunteer Made Up Attack Story"
    KDKA (October 24, 2008)
    • "A Pittsburgh police commander told KDKA Investigator Marty Griffin that Ashley Todd confessed to making up the story & is facing charges
    • "PITTSBURGH (KDKA) ― Police tell KDKA that a campaign volunteer has now confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter B in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker...."
That didn't take long. (My reaction to the news: "Obama Supporter Carved Me: McCain Volunteer Comes Clean" (October 24, 2008))
Unless something very strange happens, either Barack Obama or John McCain will be president of the United States next year. Whoever is president will have a great effect on what happens in the War on Terror.

With all that's at stake, emotions are running high. Wild claims have been made: the latest one involves an enraged Obama supporter, a knife, and a mutilated young woman. Or maybe it's several enraged Obama supporters. The story is getting better as it gets re-told

Knife-Wielding Obama Supporter: This Story Seemed Too Good To Be True

From one point of view, at least.

A blogger titled a post "Obama Supporter Maims McCain Volunteer, Will Media Care?"

It's not quite front-page news, but: As of today, the answer is "yes." The story of Ashley Todd, a McCain bumper sticker, and what she said was an enraged Obama supporter, is pretty easy to find in the news.

What's happening to this horrific tale of a young woman brutally attacked and mutilated - just because of a McCain sticker - isn't likely to sit well with conservative bloggers, though.

Ashley Todd and the Pittsburgh Carver

The story, as it grew, is that this young woman was savagely attacked by a robber and Obama supporter. It seems he was enraged when he saw a McCain bumper sticker on her car.

One blog's headline starts with "Obama supporter attacks...." After what appears to be a screenshot of the Drudge Report, the post's first paragraph begins with "Obama supporters attacked...." Supporters. Plural.

The McCain volunteer's story isn't consistent, either, but it's dramatic:

"...'You are going to be a Barack supporter,' she recalled the robber saying before he sat on her chest, pinning both her hands down with his knees and scratched the letter "B" on the right side of her face using what she believed to be a very dull knife. Then the robber fled, she said in the police report.

"But Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard told on Friday that Todd later added to her tale, saying she was groped by the robber and lost consciousness during the assault. Neither of those details was in the original report.

"Richard said after a second interview, Todd also was not as definitive about the assault or the motives behind it, nor could she say for certain whether the robber took $60 from her as she initially reported but maintains is missing...."
(FOXNews (October 23, 2008)) [emphasis mine]

Even though the story Ashley Todd is giving police got 'better' as she went along, she seems to be sticking to the part about there being just one attacker.

Obama Supporter(s), a McCain Bumper Sticker, a Photo, Security Camera Video, and Facts

Here's what's getting to be a famous photo:

(From College Republicans via FOXNews, used without permission)

That backwards "B" on her face is the one that was "carved" yesterday.

I'm with the Pittsburgh police on this: it's more of a scratch than a carving. Still, it looks like she had a rough time, one way or another.

A fact: "(CNN) -- A Pennsylvania woman told police she was attacked at an ATM in Pittsburgh by a robber who became angry when he saw a John McCain bumper sticker on her car, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Police Department said Thursday...." (CNN (October 24, 2008))

Her name is Ashley Todd, she seems to be from Texas.

The photo didn't come from the Pittsburgh police, but there's no reasonable doubt that she had a scratch on her face when she reported the robbery and, maybe, assault.

The different versions of her story, which were inconsistent enough to have the Pittsburgh police give Ashley Todd a polygraph test, might just come from her being upset.

A recording from a security camera shows the ATM where the alleged robbery and assault took place, but not the incident. It's possible that it happened off-camera. Fact is, though, the video does not show the events that the McCain volunteer says took place. There aren't any witnesses, either.

Ashley Todd may be a victim of robbery and assault - and the unluckiest woman in Pittsburgh. The police seem very interested in solving this case, and probably will ferret out what actually happened.

Maniac Obama Supporter Mutilates Young Woman! Or, Not

Quite a few bloggers particularly the more enthusiastic conservative ones, jumped into this story with both feet.

One post's title started with "Obama supporter attacks and mutilates...." The first paragraph starts with "Obama supporters attacked...." That blogger gets points for enthusiasm, if not internal consistency.

Although innocent victims have been known to change their stories and refuse medical attention, it's 'way too easy to see yesterday's story of the Obama supporter, the knife, and the helpless young woman as a sort of replay of the Duke lacrosse team fiasco. (Crystal Mangum, the woman who made the accusations, came out with a book that says 'did too!' - just in time for the election. (The New York Times (October 24, 2008))

Obama Supporter Knifes McCain Volunteer? Time to Calm Down

Whether or not one robber-turned-performance artist/political activist actually scratched that backwards "B" in Ashley Todd's face won't affect who I vote for in the presidential election. Both campaigns agree that the incident, whatever actually happened, was a bad thing.

And, I hope that Representative Alcee Hastings's wild warnings about Palin, hunters, Jews, and black people won't change anyone's mind.

It's not that I'm neutral. I'd just as soon that McCain be elected president.

I also like to get facts straight: and vote according to facts, not possibly-crazy stories.

There are plenty of reasons to vote for one candidate or the other, based on what they've said, and what their record is (or isn't). To be very briefly political, I see the 2008 American presidential election as a choice between
  1. Obama, a charming young orator and
    • Very junior Senator who
      • Wants to "spread the wealth around"
      • Apparently thinks that taking money from potential employers will help those who don't get hired
  2. McCain,
    • An experienced legislator who
      • Knows how to compromise
      • Has what I regard as a sensible understanding of human nature and the world situation
Both candidates say that they've got the best interests of America at heart, and I tend to believe them. I've been around long enough to realize that people of good will can disagree with each other.
Views: In the news:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good News From Iraq? There Must be Something Wrong Here

A half-dozen items from the last 24 hours of news about Iraq jumped out at me. Being a recovering high school teacher, I found myself writing a pop quiz about them.

Which item does not belong in this list?
  1. "Details of Iraq pact reveal US debacle"
    Asia Times Online (Hong Kong) (October 24, 2008)
  2. "Two-Year Anniversary of the Only Missing Iraq War Soldier "
    Newsweek (October 23, 2008)
  3. "Bill Hemmer Visits Baghdad Park Once Used to Launch Terror Attacks"
    FOXNews (October 23, 2008)
  4. "Widows testify in case of Iraq officer killings"
    Associated Press (October 23, 2008)
  5. "Eleven killed as bomber targets Iraq minister's convoy"
    AFP (October 23, 2008)
  6. "Washington warns Baghdad about rejecting security deal"
    Minneapolis Star-Tribune (October 22, 2008)
Answer: C.

Review: News about Iraq is grim. In this list, we see articles about
  1. A US debacle involving an Iraq pact
  2. A sad story of an American soldier missing for two years in Iraq
  3. An account focusing on one park, illustrating how life in Baghdad, Iraq, is returning to normal
  4. The trial of American soldiers forced to kill their own officers
  5. Almost a dozen people killed in the ongoing violence in Iraq
  6. The American government trying to force Iraq into an unwanted agreement
Articles A, B, D, E, and F are normal news coverage of events in Iraq. They contain the correct sort of information:
  • American blunders
  • American losses
  • Fragged officers
  • Death tolls
  • American bullying
Article C, which deals with Iraqis playing soccer and having picnics where terrorists launched missiles recently, is clearly out of place.

Am I being unfair in my assessment of the 'correct' five articles? A little, perhaps. But pay attention to the news: isn't that what we're told, day after day? Accounts of rebuilt roads, repaired hospitals, and business returning to normal are few and far between.

Part of this is due to the nature of news. Traffic running smoothly isn't news; a ten-car pileup downtown is.

Even assuming that there's no preference for publishing articles demonstrating appalling cost and futility of America's failed policies in Iraq (the ones that replaced rocket launchers with soccer and picnics), I think it's important for readers to remember that shock, death, disaster, and body counts are what make it into print. For the most part.

One More Thing: A Change of Prayer

Here's another article that doesn't belong in 'news from Iraq:'
  • "U.S. Troops See Little Combat in Anbar Province, Once Iraq's Most Dangerous Area"
    FOXNEWS (October 23, 2008)
    • "HADITHA, Iraq — In one of the world's most heavily armed congregations, the prayers of U.S. Marines are changing. When the Navy chaplain in Haditha trades his Kevlar vest for a priest's alb, he hears less about surviving today's battle and more about the future.
    • ""Many of them are concerned with trying to maintain that sort of relationship with their wives or girlfriends; that comes up. The second thing is their future — a lot of them are at that age where they are trying to decide what they want to do" said Chaplain Paul Shaughnessy.
    • "There is time to think about that future now because the daily fighting is over in Anbar province, home of Fallujah, Ramadi and Haditha — what was once the most dangerous part of Iraq.
I suppose that's more of a human interest story: not news.

As I've said a few times now, when you read the news, please: think!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News Media Tone and Obama, McCain, Biden, Palin: There's a Difference

First, the good news. The American news media isn't wildly for, or against, Barack Obama. Coverage of the Democratic candidate is, overall, rather even-handed.

Now, the not-so-good news. News media coverage of McCain is negative, about four to one.

That's bad news, not just for McCain supporters, but for people who would just as soon not have the American news media cheering for either side. I know: that's a little like hoping that I'll win the lottery. It could happen, but it's not likely.

I found an article about news media coverage of the American presidential election tonight: "Winning the Media Campaign" How the Press Reported the 2008 General Election (Project for Excellence in Journalism (October 22, 2008)).

The lead paragraph is a pretty good summary:

"The media coverage of the race for president has not so much cast Barack Obama in a favorable light as it has portrayed John McCain in a substantially negative one, according to a new study of the media since the two national political conventions ended...."

The article is a fairly detailed report of media coverage of the candidates, including how the data was gathered and evaluated.

It could be worse, but I'm not exactly happy about the tone that the news media has taken with the candidates:

Candidate Positive Neutral
or Mixed
McCain 14% 29% 57%
Palin 28% 33% 39%
Obama 36% 35% 29%
Biden 33% 53% 15%

The problem, as I see it, is that if people are told something often enough, they're likely to believe it. Let's say we have a candidate with the -
  • Reputation of the late President Kennedy
  • Eloquence of James Earl Jones
  • Charm of Barack Obama
If almost six out of ten news stories people heard and read about this wonder-candidate explained how poorly he or she was doing, and how unsuitable the candidate was for office: I wouldn't count on that candidate being elected.

When You Read the News, Think

It would be nice if the news media were as even-handed as they seem to think they are. That's not the way it is. So, responsible voters need to study the news, not just read it: think about what's being said, how it's said, and what's not being said.

And, if a seemingly trustworthy media figure makes a claim about, say, the National Review that just doesn't make sense: don't assume that the claim is true. Look it up.

Related posts: In the news: Background:

Sarah Palin is "incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above"

It must be true: we heard it on CNN.

Quotes Aren't Always Quotes

I don't know if a CNN interviewer's radical misquote of a National Review article was an honest mistake, or a calculated risk. I'd guess that not all that many CNN viewers read the National Review, and the article was available only in the print edition of NR. At first.

The National Review Said What?!

In an interview for Tuesday's Situation Room on CNN, Drew Griffin pointed out that conservatives were "being hard" on Sarah Palin:
  • Drew Griffin:
    "...'I can't tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above.'"
  • "Sarah Palin:
    "Who wrote that one?"
  • "Drew Griffin:
    "That was in the National Review."
Here's what the National Review actually published:
  • "Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it's sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above."
(Byron York, "How Palin Governed," National Review (October 22, 2008))

Same passage, as quoted by Griffin on CNN:
  • "Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it's sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above."
(Drew Griffin, The Situation Room interview with Sarah Palin, CNN (October 22, 2008))

It could have been an honest mistake.

CNN must have liked that exchange, though. They used it in a promo for the interview:


ABC made a (mistake?) like this in September, 2008, when they outed the Alaska governor as a radical right-wing dangerously religious warmonger. That 'revelation' took chainsaw editing of something Sarah Palin said in a church.

Reality Check, Please!

I'm going to make this short:

The American Presidential Election is Coming: Please Think!

Things aren't true, just because some guy in a nice suit says it's so.

It's always a good idea to verify quotes and claims. That goes double for claims that the National Review thinks Sarah Palin is stupid.

And, thanks to the Internet, ordinary people can do their own research. I like the Information Age.

Related posts: News and views:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The New York Times, Insularity, and Assumptions

"...I don't really care what The New York Times thinks...."
Cindy McCain, in an interview with Greta Van Susteren, from "On the Record," October 20, 2008.

This isn't a political post. It's about The New York Times, and why it's important to pay attention to the news: not just read it.

As my posts sometime do, this one got longer than I'd planned. This may help you find your way around: Back to Cindy McCain. I don't blame her for saying, "I don't really care what The New York Times thinks." Under the circumstances, that's a rather mild statement.

America's 'newspaper of record' has taken some care to educate the American public about Cindy McCain's history of drug addiction, theft, and miscarriages ("Behind McCain, Outsider in Capital Wanting Back In" (October 17, 2008)). Under the best of circumstances, most people don't like that sort of thing being published. Again.

Cindy McCain's lawyer has asked why The New York Times hasn't been as active in pursuing Barack Obama's drug dealer. I don't think there's much question that the lawyer is biased. A lawyer in that position is supposed to be biased.

There may be a perfectly good reason why I haven't been able to find anything in The New York Times about Barack Obama's drug connection, apart from "Clinton Apologizes to Obama for Drug Comment" (December 13, 2007). After all: Obama wrote about the dealer in his book, "Dreams of My Father;" it was a long time ago; and nobody seems to care about it. Nobody important, anyway.

I brought up the Cindy McCain, drug addict / Obama, insulted candidate, matter because it serves as a pretty good introduction to New York City's hometown paper.

The New York Times: A Fine Old Family Business

I have read, and believe, that many people view The New York Times as America's newspaper of record. The Times unquestionably has a fine-looking front page, a history of supporting Pulitzer Prize winning reporters, and is published in New York City.

These factors give weight to its motto, "All the news that's fit to print."

The New York Times has a long history, too. It was founded in 1851. Back then, the town I grew up in was a crossing on the Red River of the North.

One family has owned The New York Times Company since 1896. It's active ownership, too: The last I heard, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., is still chairman. That family business has done pretty well over the decades. They own 18 newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune and The Boston Globe.

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The New York Times and the News: You Can't Please Everybody

A FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting - neat, huh?) report shows, you can't please everybody. That FAIR report, and others, show that
  • Conservatives think the NYT is too liberal
  • Liberals think the paper is too conservative
  • Activists think it misses the important point
    • (theirs, of course)
It's just as well that someone documented that, but I think it's fairly obvious. In any but the smallest and most homogeneous communities, a newspaper can't please everybody.

A Rasmussen poll, reported in July, 2007, gave some interesting numbers. In that poll, this is how Americans see The New York Times:
  • 40%: Biased in favor of liberals
  • 11%: Biased in favor of conservatives
  • 20%: Reports news without bias
Public opinion polls are pretty good at showing what people believe, but not so hot for uncovering objective truth. In Egypt, for example, 43% of the people "know" that Israel blew up New York City's World Trade Center on 9/11. In Turkey, 36% think that the American government did it, and in Jordan, only 11% think it was Al Qaeda. They can't all be right.

The Rasmussen poll does show that Americans have a strong tendency to see The New York Times as liberal. I think there's a good reason for that.

The New York times is a newspaper that's been owned by one family for over a hundred years, and started out as New York City's hometown newspaper. To a great extent, it still is the Big Apple's hometown paper.

Now, a very short, and selective, look at The New York Times' blooper reel.

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Make a Few Little Mistakes... Embarrassments at The New York Times

Like any organization that is run by human beings, The New York Times has goofed now and then.
Famine? What Famine?
One of its Pulitzer Prize winning reporters, Walter Durante, wrote accounts of Stalin's forward-looking industrialization policies. They made the Soviet Union look so good, it's almost as if Mr. Durante was repeating what the Stalin administration wrote about itself. Which, it turns out, was pretty close to what he'd been doing.

That came out much later. In Durante's day, the fuss was mostly over how he missed a Ukrainian famine. Millions of people died, partly because of General Secretary Stalin's policies.

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Nazi, Schmazi, I'm Not Biased
Then there was the Nazi Holocaust in Germany. I know: Non-Jews, cripples, and Poles (many of whom were Jews) were killed, too. But let's get real: Adolph Hitler and company were none to happy about Jews breathing the same air as the Aryans. And, they took active measures to 'correct' the situation.

You wouldn't know about what was happening to Jews in Europe, reading The New York Times in the years leading up to that unilateral action1 that liberated Auschwitz.

I think I can understand The New York Times' publisher's decision to ignore the conversion of Jews into lampshades and gloves. He was Jewish, and may not have wanted to seem biased. There's a pretty good discussion of the NYT, Nazis, and lots of dead Jews, in "Buried by the Times - The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper (Laurel Leff, Cambridge University Press, Hardcover edition 2005, Paperback 2006).

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We Can't Criticize Him, He's, Well, You Know
Then there was the little matter of Jayson Blair, the reporter for The New York Times who got caught plagiarizing parts of his stories, and making up some of the rest. Reporters aren't supposed to do that, by the way. Even if they have titles like "In Military Wards, Questions and Fears From the Wounded."

If you check out that article, keep reading until you reach the last page. The New York Times added a correction, acknowledging "misrepresentations and plagiarism by Jayson Blair." I think The New York Times deserves credit for posting that correction, instead of removing the article from their website.

Mr. Blair was, eventually, fired. Some people claim that he wasn't fired sooner because he was black: and nobody wants to seem biased. Others claim that it simply takes that long to fire someone. I don't remember reading about anyone saying that he was fired because he's black, which is an interesting omission.

Mr. Blair's experience was, in a way, a lower-profile replay of Janet Cook's Pulitzer-Prize winning career at the Washington Post.

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She Wrote WHAT?!
Judith Miller left The New York Times because of what she reported. As nearly as I can figure it out, she made the New York Times support the Bush administration's involvement in Iraq. She did this by reporting on what the Bush administration (and quite a few other governments) thought was solid intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.

Then, the coalition didn't find WMDs. The conclusion was obvious: since we don't see WMDs, there are no WMDs.

(from U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School, used without permission)
'Okay, men: there are a dozen cargo containers buried out there. Go find them!'

Obvious to people whose frame of reference is Central Park, or maybe even Massachusetts, maybe. To me, not so much.

At any rate, Judith Miller had to quit because of what she'd written.

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'All the News We Feel Like Printing'

I think that would be a more accurate motto for The New York Times: But I believe that what they do print is, for the most part, news. Not wishful thinking or deliberate falsehoods.

I don't assume that about all 'news' services.

Iran's digitally-enhanced news about its missile test didn't come as a great surprise to me. The Iranian brass wanted a news report about a completely successful test-firing, and that's what they got. Never mind the missile sitting on its launcher.

The prize, though, goes to the Reuters free-lance photographer who submitted what may be the 21st century's worst example of journalistic photographic fakery to date. You probably remember it: The photo of Beirut burning, with that honeycomb effect in the smoke?

I'd be surprised to learn that The New York Times deliberately lied. For example, after irregularities in Jayson Blair's work were brought to their attention, the powers that be in The New York Times appear to have started a careful process of uncovering what actually happened: and eventually booted him off the staff.

On the other hand, I think that The New York Times and its publisher write about, and for, their own world: New York City, and all those places that aren't New York City.

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From the Pier-Bound Shores of Chelsea to the Austere Grandeur...

The New York Times, serving all the land: from the pier-bound shores of Chelsea to the austere grandeur of the United Nations Plaza; from the verdant wilds of Van Cortlandt Park to the cloud-capped towers of Broadway.

The Big Apple's a diverse and wonderful city, and is America's biggest city. But it isn't America.

I see The New York Times as a hometown paper with a long history and a dedication of bringing news of the world to its readers: people who live in the boroughs of New York City. I don't expect The New York Times to reflect my interests or views, any more than I read The Straits Times of Singapore to find out what's going on here in Minnesota, or to get a view of the world that takes Midwestern interests into account.

I think that there's reason to believe that The New York Times is run by what in the good old days would have been called 'the better sort' of New York's people. That means that a very select group of people decides what constitutes "All the news that's fit to print." [emphasis mine]

Reporting on the Haditha incident is a good case in point. The New York Times (and all other American papers what take the NYT's lead) decided to focus on facts that told the story of monstrous Marines murdering moppets.

Facts that didn't support the 'Haditha is Iraq's My Lai' story weren't emphasized. Which, I think, is quite understandable. If "everybody knew" that perceived American atrocities were what was important in this story, it would be very easy to ignore information that didn't support that angle.

Which is why it's important to study the news, not just read it. I read articles in The New York Times. I also read articles from Reuters, the San Francisco Chronicle, CNN, AlJazeerah, FOXNews, the Fargo Forum, and any other news service I can find that's providing information I'm looking for.

But I don't assume that any one of my sources is either omniscient, or utterly unbiased. I try to understand what they believe, or wish, is so about the world, what they think is most interesting: and how likely each is to make something up, if facts don't support their position.

Cynical? No, I don't think so. Everybody, including me, has a place from which they see the world. That's the way the world is, and it's a good thing: This would be a boring place if we were all identical.

Trouble comes when a person - or a news service - has a parochial point of view, and doesn't realize it.

Previous post on this topic: In the news: Background:
1If America was 'going it alone' and acting 'unilaterally' when a coalition of over two dozen other nations invaded Iraq, then America's involvement in World War II was 'unilateral,' too.
Additional information (October 22, 2008):
A CNN interviewer 'misquoted' the National Review, claiming that a NR article characterized Sarah Palin as "stupid."

More at: "Sarah Palin is 'incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, or all of the above' "

LittleBigPlanet PlayStation Game Recalled to Avoid Sunni Snit

Imagine the horror!

If Sony hadn't recalled LittleBigPlanet, some Sunni might have heard the sound track, and the verses from the Quran in one of the songs.

Turns out that, although Muslims in general and most Sunnis don't mind hearing quotes from the Quran, and can tolerate music, some really 'strict' Sunnis don't approve of instrumental music of any sort.

So, Sony pulled their new PlayStation game, and won't release it until it's been purged of those 'insulting' verses from the Quran. I've read, though, that some copies of the game, with the Quran quotes, are for sale on eBay.

Since Some Sunnis Don't Like Instrumental Music ...

While Sony is at it, they'd better pull every video game they've got that has music in the sound tracks. A Sunni, somewhere, might be insulted.

Why stop there? I'll stop short of suggesting that all orchestra conductors be beheaded for contributing to the anguish of Sunnis, but I think that, if Sony is going to be this sensitive, orchestras around the world should take note of Sony's multiculturalism, stop making music immediately, and disband.

After destroying their instruments, of course.

As for recordings of the Beach Boys, Beatles, and Beethoven: those obviously must be destroyed, too.

Or - and I realize this is a radical idea - maybe Sony could have let LittleBigPlanet go on the shelves, and let the ultra-super-extra-holy fringe of the Sunnis use this as an occasion to remind themselves of how much better they are than everyone else.

I remember the days when television studios took great care that words like G** never got on their programs and that pregnant women didn't appear on screen: to avoid offending some crackpot micro-denomination, somewhere in the Midwest.

I live in the Midwest, I'm a Christian, and I thought it was silly then. I still think it was silly. And I don't think that this sort of hypersensitivity to the psychological twitchiness of fringe groups is good sense, even if they're some flavor of Islam.

Maybe Sony Should Scrap LittleBigPlanet Completely - It May Get Worse

(from Sony, via FOXNews, used without permission)
"Time to play cowboys and Indians in a screen shot from 'LittleBigPlanet.' "

Playing cowboys and Indians??!! What was Sony thinking?! Back in the eighties, I had to take classes about Indian sensitivities before I was allowed to be a teacher. And that screenshot is just the sort of horrific stereotype I was taught to avoid.

Not that I took the classes too seriously. Particularly since the only Indian in one of them endured the nonsense for a several days before delivering a loud, obscene, and (in my opinion) entirely justified negative assessment of the course and the way it was approaching the subject.

Enough with the the personal reminiscences.

I think I understand why Sony took this step. In some circles, people and companies get status by pandering to the quirks of select ethnic and religious groups.

And, Sony may have been afraid that anti-instrumental Sunnis would send suicide bombers to Sony headquarters, if that sound track was released. Making assumptions like that is a sort of insult to Islam, too, but I've been ranting for long enough as it is.

Too bad about this: many people will have to wait for what looks like a charming game.

In the news:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Taliban Kills Christian Aid Worker, Striking Another Blow for Islam

The Taliban hit men had a perfectly good reason for gunning down Gayle Williams this morning as she walked to work in Kabul, Afghanistan.

" 'We killed her for spreading Christian propaganda,' Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, told Reuters by telephone." (Reuters)

"...Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said she was shot because she was teaching her religion.

" 'This woman came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan,' he said.

" '"Our (leaders) issued a decree to kill this woman. This morning our people killed her in Kabul.' " (Sky News)

(From Sky News, used without permission)
Anti-Islamist propagandist? It's a moot point, now: she's dead.

Pop Quiz

This prove that
  1. Islam is death cult1
  2. Motorcycles are dangerous, and should be banned
  3. Christians are dangerous, and should be banned
  4. Guns are dangerous, and should be banned
  5. All religion is dangerous, and should be banned
  6. None of the above
The correct answer is F, none of the above. There are alternative views of reality, of course.

With Friends Like This, Islam Doesn't Need Enemies

Al Qaeda in Iraq discovered, a little late in the game, that beheading Iraqis right and left wasn't the best way to win their minds and hearts.

The victim, Gayle Williams "...had dual British and South African nationality and worked for SERVE (Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprise), an inter-denominational Christian charity that helps the disabled, the organization's chairman said in a statement...." (CNN)

Quite a few of the news articles about Gayle Williams politely refrain from using the word "Islam" at all. I suppose it's not considered nice to point out that "Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic nation. Proselytizing is prohibited by law, and other Christian missionaries or charities have faced severe hostility."

Which makes SERVE a very suspicious group. Maybe even subversive. Here's some background on what SERVE is up to in Afghanistan:
  • "The group describes itself as a Christian charity registered in Britain. The Web site says it has been working with Afghan refugees since 1980 in Pakistan.
  • " 'SERVE Afghanistan's purpose is to express God's love and bring hope by serving the people of Afghanistan, especially the needy, as we seek to address personal, social and environmental needs,' the site says.
  • "Rina Vamberende, a spokeswoman for SERVE in Kabul, said the group is a Christian organization 'but they are definitely not expressing this on purpose. They are here to do NGO (aid) work.'..."
Sounds pretty suspicious, doesn't it?

Actually, the Taliban may have a point here. In a way. SERVE, as a Christian group, is doing what Christians are supposed to do: healing the sick and helping the needy. Christians acting the way they're supposed to could be considered a form of proselytizing. Which is illegal in Afghanistan: and carries a death penalty as far as the Taliban is concerned.

The United Nations says that, through the end of July this year, 30 aid workers have been killed and 92 kidnapped in Afghanistan.

Islam: a Religion of Beheadings and Drive-By Shootings?

I still don't think so. There's a mosque up the road, in Fargo, North Dakota, and the Muslims there deal with non-Muslims by inviting college students to come in and talk.2

Not that everything's peaches and cream around here. Some jerks spread feces on the Fargo mosque, back in 2004. Then, in 2005, "juveniles" threw a rock through a window of the mosque.

The point is, although the Taliban and some other Islamic enthusiasts kill people they don't approve of, that doesn't seem to be a universal Muslim practice.

I'm still pretty sure that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Islamic terrorists are to Islam what the KKK has been to Christianity: a severe embarrassment, not typical example of the religion or its followers.

Related post: In the news: 1 That post doesn't show that American conservatives hate Muslims. The conservative who wrote it said "...I work with Muslims in my present workplace, and have worked with them in my past workplaces. I also have previously worked for a Muslim and found that they all are so very nice people...."

2 The first mosque in the United States was built in Ross, North Dakota.

Sarah Palin's a Nazi: I Saw it on Television

I know: it's just a cartoon.

Sunday night's "Family Guy" episode included a scene where Brian (a talking dog, and arguably the only sane character on the show, apart from Lois) is in Poland while the the Nazis are invading.

He looks at a Nazi uniform and sees a McCain Palin campaign button.

(From FOXNews, used without permission)

You'll have to look for the video on FOX. YouTube postings of an excerpt from last night's show aren't there any more. "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by FOX" is what YouTube says.

Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Crazy

I sometimes feel that there should be signs like that around poling places this election. With a 'radical Muslim' and a 'Nazi' on the ticket, it's been raining nuts under the tree of liberty ("Monkey Pirates, Jews, and Zionists? Get a Grip!" (October 14, 2008)).

For the Americans who read this blog

However you vote this election, I hope you think about your choice. There's nothing wrong with feelings: I have them all the time. But they're lousy for making decisions. Decisions more important than, say, 'I'll read Garfield instead of Zits,' that is. (I read both, by the way.)

There's plenty of facts and stated positions to make an informed decision in the presidential election. One candidate threatens to continue the policies which are marginalizing Al Qaeda in Iraq, the other wants to "spread the wealth around," and both assure the electorate that they have the best interests of America at heart.

There's more to each candidate, and the party positions, of course.

But please, vote because of something that exists in the real world: not because somebody said Barack Obama is a radical Muslin, or that McCain is a Nazi.

In the news:
Updated (October 20, 2008)

In a way, I'm relieved to see that, so far, nobody seems to have realized that YouTube's acknowledgment of intellectual property rights could be packaged as part of the vast right wing conspiracy's attempt to cover up The Truth.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Hot Eagle:" the Space Marines Are Coming

I doubt that they'll be called "Space Marines," but there's a good chance that sometime around 2040, something like this will happen (all times are UTC):
  • 13:35. A truck bomb explodes at the American embassy's gate in [redacted]. There are unconfirmed reports of gunfire inside the embassy complex.
  • 14:05. An unidentified person, calling from the American embassy in [redacted] claims that it has been liberated by [redacted], that the embassy staff will continue to be safe, provided that specified demands are met.
  • 14:20. An aid to the American ambassador at the embassy is killed.
  • 16:25. Several spacecraft enter the airspace of [redacted] and land near the American embassy. Marines, armed with stun guns and gooey nets, pour out.
This isn't Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, or Star Wars stuff.

Gooey nets are available today. Products like Sticky Net are an effective way of restraining people without killing them, and anathema to the more hoplophobic bloggers.

Stun guns are a still in the research-and-development stage. The way I see it, though, the biggest obstacles to their use will be
  • A 'we've never done that before' attitude by some older officers in the military and police forces
  • Legal challenges by people and organizations horrified by the thought that big, rough, men in uniforms won't have options other than lethal force
Those space ships are a little further off, but they're being developed.

2002: Birth of the Space Marines

In 2002, the United States Marines' deputy commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations, now-retired Lieutenant General Emil R. Bedard signed a Universal Needs Statement calling for "Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) capability".

The prototype is called "Hot Eagle." It doesn't exist yet, but the Pentagon wants to see test flights in 11 years.

What's being discussed sounds a lot like the Dyna Soar project (1958-1963). Almost a quarter century would pass before some of the Dyna Soar technology was used in the Shuttle. Now, fifty years later, I think "Hot Eagle" has a very good chance of making it off the drawing board and into the inventory of the United States military.

Spaceplanes like the Dyna Soar aren't the only option for the Space Marines. The McDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper represents a type of vertical takeoff and landing spaceship that could land in a smaller area than a glider.

McDonnel Douglas' Delta Clipper lost out to the more excitingly innovative technologies of Lockheed Martin's X33, with its linear aerospike engine.

Unlike the X33, which had to be scrapped around the turn of the century, the Delta Clipper actually flew in the late nineties. It's not hard to imagine that engineers could take data from the Delta Clipper tests and begin work on a new vertical takeoff and landing single-stage-to-orbit spaceship.

Marines in Spaceships? Yes, it Makes Sense

Production models of "Hot Eagle" would 'fly' more than 50 miles up: above what most countries claim as their airspace. That would make it possible to 'send in the Marines' without getting the permission of every country along the route: and probably tipping off the enemy in the process.

The psychological impact of having Marines landing in spaceships, hours after an incident, might be almost as effective as the next-generation non-lethal weapons that some find so scary. Although a few shiploads of Marines might not be able to deal with all aspects of a mission, I think they would at the least be able to buy time until slower military units caught up.

I may not live to see Space Marines, but I'm glad to read that some of America's leaders are planning ahead.
Slightly-related post in another blog: News and resources:
  • "Spaceplane to reach spots faster"
    Times of India (October 20, 2008)
    • "The American military is planning a 'spaceplane' designed to fly a crack squad of heavily armed marines to trouble spots anywhere in the world within two hours.
    • "At a recent secret meeting at the Pentagon, engineers working on the craft, codenamed Hot Eagle, were told to draw up blueprints for a prototype which generals want to have in the air within 11 years.
  • "Pentagon plans 'spaceplane' to reach hotspots fast"
    TimesOnline (UK) (October 19, 2008)
    • "The American military is planning a 'spaceplane' designed to fly a crack squad of heavily armed marines to trouble spots anywhere in the world within four hours.
    • "At a recent secret meeting at the Pentagon, engineers working on the craft, codenamed Hot Eagle, were told to draw up blueprints for a prototype which generals want to have in the air within 11 years."
  • "Future Launch"
    A few visionary Marines would take expeditionary warfare to new heights
    Navy League of the United States (undated)
    • "Think back to the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s. For 444 days, the United States was rendered impotent after a mob of Iranians overran the Marine Guard and took the U.S. Embassy staff hostage.
    • "President Jimmy Carter, who had promised during his election campaign to reverse the country's 'crisis of confidence' and 'national malaise,' looked powerless during the long hostage crisis as Americans were reminded nightly that their countrymen were being held against their will, and there was nothing the United States could do about it."
  • "Scaled Composits"
    home page
  • "Jurassic Technology: The History of the Dyna-Soar"
    Aerospace Crosslink (Winter, 2004)
    • "During its brief existence, the nation's first space plane fostered research and technology that influenced space efforts for years to come.
    • "When NASA announced in the spring of 2003 that its next major project would be the design and launch of an orbital space plane, many in the space community sensed that the nation's space program had come full circle. An Air Force program to develop a similar orbiting space plane, the Dyna-Soar, was the first in the nation's history to result in the manufacture of hardware. The Dyna-Soar program was truly a pioneering effort, and although it was canceled in December 1963 without achieving flight, it fostered research that was later applied to the development of the space shuttle and other U.S. space systems."
  • "NASA Shuts Down X-33, X-34 Programs" (March 1, 2001)
  • "The Delta Clipper Experimental: Flight Testing Archive"
    NASA (January 6, 1998)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.