Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Index by Title

Personal names are alphabetical by family name, except Condoleezza Rice, who is filed under Condi. The articles containing my recommendations for the 2006-11-07 California ballot propositions are listed in numerical sequence by proposition number, filed under California.

131 countries and counting
2006-Q1 Index
500,000 Little Pieces
The Academy Awards®
Alito and McClellan
Alito and strip-searching 10yo girls for drugs
Alito and the Concerned Alumni, again
Alpha Phi Alpha's second century of service
The Amazingly Tacky Race
America dodged a bullet with Charles Pickering
American Dreamz
American Dreamz with a Z
Angelides campaign rally
Another spam-related quickie
The anti-Fatah Intifada
Apple system update woes
Dick Armey on Hardball tomorrow
Reza Aslan nails Stephen Colbert
Bad (former) free blog counter!
General Batiste on the Iraq War
Bedtime for Botha
Joe Biden for President
Big news in the South Dakota abortion debate
Tony Blankley Blows Goats for Spare Change
Tony Blankley foretells the end of his own career
Bloodlust is Unpatriotic
Blown away by the beauty of "Unpretty"
Senator Boxer on the Colbert Report
Brownie plays the Blame Game
Bush Repeats Himself
George W. Bush, Michael Brown, and the Mainstream Media
Bye-bye, First Amendment
Bye, bye, Scottie!
California Bond Measures
No, no, no, NO on Prop 83
Yes on 84
No, no, no, NO on Prop 85
Yes on 86
Yes on 87
No on 88
Yes on 89
No, no, no, NO on Prop 90
Cartman brings us Hitler the Punster
Cat dials 9-1-1
CBN on the effectiveness of prayer
CBN says Cheney will step down
CBN, your #1 source for Christian jingoist fake news
Centennial of the Earthquake
Changing Cable Companies
Hugo Chávez, Dictator in Training
Clean-Money Elections
Bill Clinton on Larry King
Bill Clinton on The Daily Show transcript
CNN changes another Republican scandal to Democrat
Colbert Report NAACP interview
Colbert's Shout Out to Antarctica
Colbert's Superficial Ingratiation
Stephen Colbert and Bruce Bartlett
Stephen Colbert fixed Canada!
Stephen Colbert is destroying America
Stephen Colbert is Lincolnish
Stephen Colbert is NO LONGER Lincolnish
Stephen Colbert = Rod Serling on acid
Stephen Colbert's alternate dimension of trilingualism
Come join our zombie robot army to destroy the Internet!
The Comma Comment
Condi on 60 Minutes
Condi on Meet the Press
Condi on MtP
Congressman Pedophile
A conservative look at Habeas
Credit card scam
Credit union scam
Criticizing versus "Going Negative"
Daily Show reviews Al Jazeera English
Damn you, Jon Stewart — LET MY CORDDRYS GO!
John Dean on the Daily Show
Decision 2044: Lincoln v. Maylyn
Democrats have to do better
The depths of Dubya's soul
Did the generals want more troops?
Disturbing search engine hits
Don't execute Moussaoui
Dubai Ports changes course
Jeff Dunham on Comedy Central this weekend
Earmark reform
Eavesdropping versus Wiretapping
Eighteen and counting
Ellis Act Eviction Protest
Daniel Ellsberg on Torture
An end to filibustering judges
Enzyte's Swelling of Shame
fdgqdgfqsf [Equatorial Guinea's Internet registrar]
An Especially Cynical Scam E-mail
Evening of Conscience
An excellent and timely cartoon
Farrakhan tells the truth for once
Film Festival
Financial genius
Five Years Later
Flag Desecration
James Frey back on Oprah
From Selma to Monrovia, Happy MLK Day
Fundamentally flawed
Funny, I don't REMEMBER driving drunk....
Bill Gates on tomorrow's Oprah
Give your mail carrier an armful
Giving 9/11 families some closure
God commands you to kill your baby
Alberto Gonzales on Gitmo
Good bye, Andy Card
Good riddance, Tom DeLay
Al Gore in Berkeley for Prop 87
The Great Debate
Great name for a Televangelist
Greetings from Black Rock City!
Guy Fawkes Day
The Gwot and the Elgiis
Handy Halloween Hint
Karen Hanretty tried to swiftboat Gerald Ford
Happy 9/11!
Happy Columbine Day!
Happy Presidents' Day!
Hit Count Envy
How about fully funding the Border Patrol?
How Molecular Is Your Sidewalk?
Hunters Point Protest
I feel myself with sleep
Independence for Montenegro
Inside Iraq on Al Jazeera
Inside the SFPD: the Bayview
Intelligent Design and the Lotto
Interface Enhancements
Interrogation techniques
Iraq Study Group
It's Nightline All Day
Jesus Camp
Jonesing for fake news
The joys of HDTV
Katrina Kids sing for Bill Maher
Kerry owes NO ONE an apology
Kill those who advocate killing those who insult Islam
Killing actual babies
Coretta Scott King
Jack Kingston on the balanced budget
Bill Kristol on the Daily Show
Ned Lamont on the Colbert Report
The Lesson of Vietnam
Leviticus 18:22, anyone?
Russ Lieber kicks Colbert's 屁股
A little morning Kofi with your Hamas?
MacWorld Blogger Lunch
MacWorld, Intel, Hitler, and Colbert
Bill Maher and Michael Ware
Bill Maher New Rules
Bill Maher was AWESOME
Bill Maher, live and in person
Bill Maher's panelists on press bias
Bill Maher's season-closing editorial
Making New Orleans safe for Jesus
Malaria or DDT: is that really the choice?
Manx-Americans on Postage Stamps
McCaffrey on Iraq and Iran
John McCain on The Daily Show
McCain on the Daily Show again
Merry Orthodox Christmas
The message sent by the Milquetoast Democrats
A Message to our Arabic Readers
Money = Shit
Money for the Blind
Montenegro's Country Code
More on Hugo Chávez
More on Moussaoui
Moussaoui the Coward
Moussaoui Trained to Lie
Zacarias Moussaoui's delusions of grandeur
Movie Review: An Inconvenient Truth
Murtha and Carville
John Murtha on Nightline, AGAIN
Pervez Musharraf on the Daily Show
Muslims speak out against anti-cartoon violence
My comment on the Volokh Conspiracy
My new reality show
My own trilingual adventure
Net Neutrality
The newest Internet country code
The Newest Nuclear Nation
Newt on MtP: 2006 election
Newt on MtP: espionage
Nitpicking Brokeback Mountain
Niyazov is dead!
No tears for Slobo
Michael Nudow on CBN News
O Canada, Terre de Mes Haïe-jeux
Obnoxious virus spam
Off to see Al Gore
Olbermann's last pre-election "Special Comment"
One more clueless voter
One week till Satan's Primary
Open Thread 2006-04-06
Open Thread for Fur'ners Only
Oprah on Schools in Crisis
Oprah really IS an angel
Peaceful cartoon protests
A Personal Tale about Immigration
Pinochet is Dead
Plagiarizing Colbert's Plagiarism
Danielle Pletka's world of delusion
Ramesh Ponnuru on the Colbert Report
Pope Benedict celebrates Lent
Ports controversy
Prattlestar Galaxative comes of age
President Cheney attempted murder?
Questioning Lethal Injection
Radio Talk Show Hosts on Larry King
Jorge Ramos on Bill Maher
A random stroll through the blogosphere
Rat-Pack Rat Pack-Rat
Dan Rather on the Daily Show
Reader Rant: The America Sad Denial Case
Religious provocation
Remembering Veterans Day
Rewriting the Vietnam War
Rhetoric versus Action, Bush style
Rob the Racist Hates...
Dana Rohrabacher on Bill Maher
Dana Rohrabacher Whines about Oppressed Christians
Rot in Jail, Crazy Scumbag!
Rummy stonewalling on mental health task force
Rumsfeld's Bunker
Rush transcript in progress
San Francisco's Rainbow City Hall
Se jábala español
A Sensible Marriage Law
Eric Shawn on the Daily Show
Cindy Sheehan's t-shirt
Short-term and long-term views of Alito
Signs of Dissent among the Republicans
Signs of Hope in Iraq and America
Silly Jon Stewart "tactical error"
A Sincere Compliment to President Bush
Sir, No Sir!
Six and a half billion little pieces
Smackdown: Corddry v. Corddry!
Snake-oil Infomercial on PBS
Tony Snow on George W. Bush
Socks for President
South Dakota, leading the way into the 19th century
South Park, Scientology, and Chef
John Spencer (Leo McGarry)
Stare Decisis, Roe v Wade, and Alito
State of the Union
Jon Stewart is back!
Jon Stewart on Ted Haggard
Jon Stewart on the Colbert Report
Sticks and Stones
Stupor Bowl
Sundance Kabuki!
The Taiwan Problem
Telecom Non Grata
Tis the season for gay sons on TV
To filibuster Alito or not
Christine Todd Whitman
General Tony Zinni on the Daily Show
Trackback spam
The True Culture War
Undoing a half century of civil rights
Union membership is patriotic
Unwarranted Eavesdropping
Voting machine fraud in Florida and Texas
Washington, D.C.
Waterboarding isTorture, Period
We did the right thing, executing Clarence Allen
We Must ALL Stop ManBearPig
"We're losing ground here, three years on"
Welcome, Crooks & Liars, Wash. Monthly...
What a difference italics can make!
What happened to the Corddry death match?
What we need to tell children about sex
Why do they hiatus?
Why does Cornell University keep spamming me?
Why We Fight
Will Pelosi turn into Willie Brown?
Witness Al Jazeera in English
Words of Truth from Donald Rumsfeld
World Can't Wait in San Francisco
World Can't Wait LIVE
World Can't Wait News Conference
World Can't Wait TODAY
Ya just gotta love it
Yes on Oversight, No on Impeachment
You can't even tell your own lawyer
You might say...

Click below to see the 2006 index...

Read More......

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Karen Hanretty tried to swiftboat Gerald Ford

The transcript should be up soon on MSNBC's web site, but I'll pull a few quotes off the TiVo. Chris Matthews, on tonight's MSNBC Hardball with Chris Matthews, had guests Ron Reagan, Jr., and "Republican strategist" Karen Hanretty, discussing the funeral arrangements for President Ford and also the release of Ford's 2004 statement against the Iraq War. Hanretty essentially tried to swiftboat President Gerald R. Ford two days after his death, and Chris Matthews would have none of it.

In the first segment of the broadcast, Chris Matthews talked to David Gergen, the two of them agreeing that Ford's comments about Iraq underscore the broad consensus among old-school conservatives against Bush's policies. Ford saw clearly that the President should not go looking for a messianic mission to spread democracy, but that we should address foremost our own national interests. Matthews also talked to his guests about other Ford statements from the Woodward interview and from other recent occasions. The second segment focused on news from Iraq, the third on John Edwards' candidacy for President, the fourth on the Presidential race more broadly, and the fifth was about President Ford, with guests Ron Reagan, Jr., and Karen Hanretty.

Ron Reagan, Jr., talked about the Ford funeral in comparison to his father's funeral. The Ford funeral will be less splashy than Reagan's, but, as Ron Reagan says, "I suspect [the Ford funeral] will be a little more subdued, but that fits the man. President Ford was, of course, a man of great integrity, but also a man of great humility and modesty." Ron Reagan also pointed out that Ford will be given special honor, lying in state in both the House and the Senate.

Chris Matthews then turned to his other guest, Karen Hanretty, to discuss Bob Woodward's release of a 2004-07-28 interview in which President Ford said, "I don't think if I had been President, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly, I don't think I would have ordered the Iraqi war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.... I think Rumsfeld, Cheney, and the President made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq." Hanretty tried to give the Karl Rove genius polish on this steaming turd of news for the Bush faction: nobody cares what that old buzzard thought; what does he know, anyway?

Chris Matthews: Bob Woodward had a blockbuster this morning in the Washington Post. He has a tape-recorded testimonial from President Ford when he was speaking to Bob back in 2004, a year into the Iraq War, saying he would not've taken us to war in Iraq, that he thought it was a decision that was wrong. What do you make of that now, the political impact of that?

Karen Hanretty: Well, first of all, I think that it says a great deal about President Ford that he asked that that interview not be released until after his death, that he didn't join the fray of former Presidents like Jimmy Carter that was so critical of a sitting President and his foreign policy, but I'm not sure this is going to have any great political impact on current events. No one was seeking — with all due respect to President Ford and his family, no one was seeking President Ford's opinion, these past six years, and now thathe's chimed in "posthumously" [air quotes by eyebrow in the original], I don't know that it's really going to have much of an effect, other than to, I think, continue this growing outcry, certainly from Democrats, and even increasingly some Republicans in the middle who are wondering, What have we done, and where are we going?? and that is the question that President Bush has to answer in the coming weeks when he makes his announcement about what he is going to do with regard to troop levels, and I think there needs to be a coming-full-circle of Why are we engaged in this conflict right now? What is the "bigger picture," and is there a bigger picture than Iraq, something greater than this, you know, um, left/right debate we're having over this war in Iraq?

Matthews: I don't think it's left/right any more. I think when you hear people like President Ford, as you've pointed, chime in posthumously, and people like William F. Buckley and George Will, I don't hear a lot of traditional conservative support for this war.

Hanretty: Chris, I fully agree that Republicans are starting, and I —

Matthews: (overlapping) No, traditional Republicans would never have brought us into this war.

Hanretty: (overlapping) But it has been — but it largely has been a left/right —

Matthews: (overlapping) This is a neoconservative war — Karen, this is a neoconservative war, fought by strange ideologues, with their own strange objectives. This is not a Republican Party that would have supported this war traditionally. Ronald Reagan would not've taken us over there, Jerry Ford would not've taken us over there. I don't know which Republican President would've led us into the desert, put the American army stuck in Iraq — only one President did that, with the help of Dick Cheney and the neocons.
They came back after the break for more, but that's as far as I'm going for now. The striking thing is the extent to which Chris Matthews marked Karen Hanretty as one of those "strange ideologues" he mentioned. She simultaneously saluted and mocked Gerald Ford for waiting until his death to release his criticism of President Bush, and dismissed the unanimity with which his predecessors — including his own father, if he were honest enough to admit it — believe with good reason that George W. Bush made a complete clusterfuck of the situation in Iraq. If I were the President of the United States and all of the other people who have been in that position were telling me I should rethink my objectives and my strategies, it would give me at least a moment's pause to question my perspective. A friend of mine is fond of repeating advice from his mother: "If one person says you're a horse, you can ignore 'em, but if everybody says you're a horse, you'd better get a saddle." Either President Bush is wrong, or else Presidents Ford, Reagan, Carter, Bush, and Clinton are all wrong. Which way does the balance tip, putting Dubya on one side by himself and the others starting to leap up and down on their side?

Then there's the matter of the snide remark about how, honestly, nobody was really asking Gerald Ford's opinion in the last six years. This is something that the Bush cabal feel is a badge of honor, something to be proud of: not seeking the counsel of a highly respected former President of your own party, the mentor to your Vice President and your Secretary of Defense, who oversaw the conclusion of the most ill-fated military adventure in our nation's history. Yeah, really — what would Jerry Ford know about being a "War President," anyway? It's the same mentality that dismisses Senator Kerry's wartime service and holds Bush's up as the model, or that does the same to Max Cleland in favor of Saxby Chandliss, or that holds out Newt Gingrich as a paragon of family values.

Lastly, though, Chris Matthews drives home the point that the debate about the Iraq War is not along left/right lines, but rather neoconservatives versus everybody else, even including some of the original neocons. The Iraq War — Mr. Bush's War — is, to use Chris Matthews' phrase, being "fought by strange ideologues, with their own strange objectives." Neither Dubya nor his principal advisors have the slightest clue about Iraq. If it were just me, or even just me and a lot of blogs, far bigger blogs, then I would second-guess my assessment, but it's beginning to look like nobody wants to stay on Bush's side of the debate. We have had our national debate on the Iraq War, and President Bush has lost decisively. In the grand scheme of things, one person's endorsement is a small thing, even if he or she is a great person, but President Ford's clear criticism of the war, arriving as it does in the midst of the debate of what course correction 2007 should usher in, is a fitting seal on the case. The neocons are down to the hardcore devotees, no longer fashionable or popular, having never been intellectually respectable. The Iraq War was a mistake, and we need to figure out a way to get out as quickly as possible, with as little further damage to ourselves and to our involuntary host country and its citizens.

The Iraq War has not made the United States safer, it has made us less safe. The Iraq War has not made the world safer, it has made it less safe. The Iraq War has not made Iraq safer, it has made it less safe. The Iraq War has not made its neighbors safer, it has made them less safe. Our continued presence in Iraq does not put out the fire of terrorism, it fuels it. The winning strategy is the one with the quick exit.

(By the way: in the Hardball promo at the end of Tucker [Carlson], guest host Pat Buchanan said to stay tuned for "Hardball with Chrith Mashews.")

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The joys of HDTV

It's Christmas Eve, so I thought I'd throw in a little something relating to television, since it is on this night that Santa Claus brings computers and videogames and high-tech toys to good children of all ages. Here's a quickie guide to help you understand the brave new world of High-Definition Television.

The image above is a mock-up of the three different levels of definition available today.* The left side represents 1080, or "Full HD"; the middle is 720, or "HD"; and the right is standard-definition television. Looking at the image of the screen as a whole, you can't tell much difference, even if you click to see the graphic at full size. However, if you look at the closeup images below, you get some idea of how much more detail you see in High Definition.

The numbers indicate the lines of resolution in the picture; Standard Definition is about 480 lines. When you see advertisements for "1080i," "720p," etc., the suffix is I for Interlaced or P for Progressive. All other things being equal, P is better than I, but 1080i is better than 720p.

The simulated screen image, by the way, is a photo I took of Daniel Ellsberg at an anti-torture rally in Berkeley about three months ago. I'll get more political again after Christmas, I promise.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

* There's also EDTV, Enhanced Definition, but EDTV will be deader than Betamax before you can blink twice. With prices on 720p sets popping below $500, there's no reason to even consider EDTV.

Click below for more...

Read More......

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Niyazov is dead!

Asia's "other" freakish personality-cult dictator, Turkmenistan's President-for-Life Sapurmurat Niyazov, died today, reportedly of a heart attack. Most Americans have never heard of Niyazov — for that matter, most Americans have never heard of Turkmenistan — but his death is significant on several levels. Just for starters, the former Soviet "republic" of Turkmenistan is a major producer of natural gas. Aside from that, Turkmenistan borders two countries of strategic importance, Iran and Afghanistan. The unemployment rate is 60%, making it a powder keg for violent unrest, just waiting for the right match. Roughly 70% of the people are Sunni Muslims, with about 20% Shia Muslims, although the reverence publicly expressed for Niyazov verged on worship: you could hardly turn a corner in the capital city without running into a portrait or statue of "Turkmenbashi," the Father of all Turkmen. Freedom of religion and of the press have been effectively eliminated under President Niyazov, which is officially a one-party dictatorship. No immediate successor has been named.

The events of the next few days in Turkmenistan will reverberate throughout central Asia and the former Soviet Union. In the mean time, rejoice that this evil scumbag no longer walks the face of the earth.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

P.S. Turkmenistan is also one of only 15 nations on earth that have not visited my area code web site.

Read More......

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bill Kristol on the Daily Show

William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, was Jon Stewart's guest on The Daily Show on Tuesday. They didn't do "The Seat of Heat" schtick, but the whole interview was in that vein. Jon Stewart was refreshingly direct in questioning how anyone could possibly draw the conclusion that Bush is doing a good job. Although Kristol never conceded the core issue, he gave some ground on the periphery, and he was as successful at accomplishing his mission as George W. Bush has been at bringing a stable democracy to Iraq. In other words, he got his ass kicked from here to next Thursday. I'll give you the transcript below, interspersed with my commentary.

[click here for Bill Kristol's 2007-08-13 appearance]

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Tuesday, December 19, 2006, ©Comedy Partners (on Comedy Central); guest: William Kristol

Jon Stewart: Welcome back to the show. My guest tonight is the editor of The Weekly Standard magazine and a regular on our program, please welcome back Bill Kristol. Bill, come on [out to the guest chair], sir, how are you? Please, sit! How are you?

William Kristol: Fine, how are you?

Jon: I'm doin' very well, my friend. I wanted to ask you (and we're not here, obviously, to debate who was right and who was wrong about Iraq — although, if you want to, in any way, just blink your eyes twice if I was right — ) ...

Bill: Same offer to you.

Jon: All right, fair enough. History is with me right now, my friend!

Bill: Such a short-term perspective, Jon.

Jon: It is. You know, why don't I think millennially (Cosmically.) — exactly — why can't I view the planet from Jupiter? Let me ask you this: OK, so the President, you believe, is going to advocate more troops in Iraq — a "surge" they're calling it, a surge thing — do you agree with him that that is a positive strategy?

Bill: Yes. I do think we have a chance to win, and we need to take our shot at winning, and that requires more troops to pacify Baghdad.

Jon: You're backing Bush on this one?

Bill: Yes, I'm backing Bush on this one. Today he announced an increase in the size of the Army and the Marine Corps, overall, which was a long-delayed but necessary thing to do.
We certainly need to increase the size of the armed forces dramatically if we are to continue in Bush's blundering footsteps, but it doesn't get more basic than this: the American general in Iraq says we should not send more troops, the Joint Chiefs of Staff say we should not send more troops, and the man who has been both Chairman of the JCS and Secretary of State says we should not send more troops, but Bush and Kristol say we will win that random e-mail lotto jackpot if we just send in a little bit more money for processing fees.
Jon: A few years ago, he believed Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction; it turned out not to be the case. He believed that we could pacify the country with a small, light force; it turned out not to be the case. He believed that there was no insurgency; he was, in fact, somewhat — not the case. He then believed that the insurgency was in its last throes; ehhh, not the case. Are you backing him now because you believe he's "due"? In a way, like — I've been to Vegas. I've seen a guy rollin' craps, and I go, "You know what? This guy, nobody can be on a streak that bad! Yes, he's lost the house; yes, the college fund is gone; there go his pants; but I'm stayin' with him because God wouldn't do this to one person, would he??" What's your rationale here?

Bill: [facetiously] What's your view on the war, Jon? I'm a little confused about where you are. My rationale is, we have to win. Bush has been right about taking the war to them, not letting them come to us. He was right about the fact that with aggressive tactics —

Jon: Wait, wait, I heard a phrase there I haven't heard before. He was right about ...?

Bill: The fact that with aggressive tactics on our part, we wouldn't be attacked, for the last five years — which is something I think he deserves some credit for, I think.

Jon: I disagree. (Really?) I mean, 1993, (We all thought we would be attacked again.) they bombed the World Trade Center, and they didn't bomb again until, what, 2001? That's what — eight years? So Clinton needs more credit than Bush, it would seem.

Bill: Well, they attacked us, unfortunately, they attacked in Africa in 1998 —

Jon: If we're going to add in attacks in Africa, we've gotta go Spain, we gotta go England, and then we gotta say, well, they actually have attacked us, quite frequently, since ...
Jon really hit a slam-dunk home run from the 47-yard line with that one. (Sports metaphors, not my forté.) It's not like al Qaeda was launching major attacks every other day and suddenly they stopped when Bush went on the warpath. If you look only at attacks on U.S. soil, we haven't been nearly as long since 9/11 as we went before 9/11. If you include attacks on our allies, then things are far from rosy today, and all those summations like "[Iraq] is now a base of operations for internationalterrorism, including al Qaeda" and “Al Qaeda is now a franchise in Iraq, like McDonald’s,” not to mention the openly acknowledged fact that the war in Iraq has been a boon to terrorist recruiting, don't paint a picture of a safer world.
Bill: Yeah, and you know, we're in a global war. They want to kill us, and they want to kill a lot of other people.
So ... maybe we should work on making it so there are more of "us" and fewer of "them"? Just an idea.
Jon: That's why I think we should've gone after al Qaeda!

Bill: And we did go after al Qaeda, and we went after Afghanistan — and Afghanistan is tough now, incidentally.

Jon: Because we pulled so many of our troops out of there!

Bill: No, we didn't. We've actually increased the number of troops there; we probably should have more still, but that's a separate issue.
The central point is that the U.S. drew its focus away from Afghanistan towards Iraq. We took our eyes off the prize, leaving us with P.R.
Jon: But at the time when we were on the offensive, when we had a chance to really build that country — look, I understand that there are theories that are developed about the transformational power of liberty, and this idea that a democracy will flower, but to, even to this day, continue to argue that the Iraq strategy was the right move in the overall war on terror — I think is — I may have to revoke your magazine. (OK, and no more...) I didn't want to do this — I didn't want to do this today — you are now The Monthly Standard. You can only come out once a month! That's it! You are The Quadrennial Standard! Four of them a year! That's all you're gettin', Kristol!

Bill: I thought you were going to revoke my...

Jon: No, no, and you know what? Standard — that word's gone!
Jon Stewart makes a very serious point: it is impossible to support President Bush's Iraq policy. Bush did not make the right call. [By the way, "quadrennial" is every four years. Jon meant to say "quarterly."]
Bill: I feel I'm here to be cathartic for you, you know. (You really are!) Once every three or four months. You know what, (You know what it is?) you have all these lovefests, Barack Obama, (No!) Tom Vilsack — "Oh, so good to see you, (Did you see Vilsack?) so good to see you, (No, no.) sir, oh, what an honor it is to have you" (I took him out! Did you see Vilsack?) — I show up as the punching bag once every few months. (No! I respect your point-of-view!) You don't have enough time with the two little kids, with the 10-month old kid and the 2½-year-old, so it strains you a little bit, you come in here, "Hey let's get Kristol!" you tell your crack staff and ...

Jon: No! That's not true! Honestly, I would do this every night if you'd let me.

Bill: I'm sure you would!

Jon: All right, we're going to take a commercial break. We haven't even had a chance to have a good conversation. We're going to take a commercial break; we'll come right back with more from Bill Kristol right after this.

[commercial break]

Jon: Welcome back, we're celebrating with Bill Kristol, the — (Hanukkah, Hannukah.) Festivus, it's Festivus.

Bill: For you; it's Hanukkah for me, but that's why I'm a Bush voter, and you're a —

Jon: ... whatever I am.

Bill: Upper West Side liberal. Festivus — is that what it is?

Jon: Downtown libertarian. I think you're the Upper West Side — wait a minute! (Yeah, that's true.) Neo-conservatism (I covered that up.) is just liberalism with old guys; it's "the transformational power of liberty," it's "I've got magic beans! Iraq will grow and flower!" ...

Bill: It's liberalism grown up. It's grown up.

Jon: "Once they realize they're free, they'll love us!" All right, so listen to this, what's the whole "blaming the Iraqis"? What is this?

Bill: It's wrong, actually. (Thank you.) If I can say the truth about it, (Please, say the truth.) it is wrong for America — we have screwed up this war pretty badly, (Thank you.) but the truth is, the Iraqis — but, but, I think we have an obligation to ourselves and actually to the Iraqis to take a shot at winning it as long as it's winnable, which I think it is. (What do you think is "winning"?) The Iraqis came out to vote three times in 2005, under bad circumstances — a large majority of them voted. Most of them would like to live in a decent country.

Jon: I would think most human beings would like to live in a decent country. But I think the transformational power of order is underrated.
And how about the transformational power of knowing what the fυck you're doing? Setting aside for just a moment the fact that the decision to invade Iraq was wrong from the beginning, the fact remains that the Bush administration's incompetent prosecution of it has made the situation even worse. I'll freely admit that I'm an intellectual and also a serious traveler, but I have to say it bothers me deeply both that Bush has so little intellectual curiosity and that he had only barely stepped outside the United States before taking the office of Leader of the Free World. Even if Bush is nowhere near as stupid as he looks, that still leaves plenty of room for him to be well on the dim side. Sure, he has political cunning, but he lacks intellect and he lacks the fundamental understanding of and empathy with people who are different. He doesn't understand the world, in large part because he's never really traveled without a Secret Service escort. He doesn't empathize with the people of the Ninth Ward, because he has seldom associated with people who can't afford to buy a 4-wheel-drive SUV.
Bill: Well, order has to go with democracy and liberty, and we failed to establish order. Now, I think if we surge in troops, and we take one more shot at stabilizing Baghdad, I think we really do have a shot at winning this war.

Jon: But isn't that what the — you know, isn't that the sort of Russian Chechnya strategy, like, [ganster voice] "I'm tellin' you, if we just flatten it another half-inch..."

Bill: No! Because most of the Iraqis want us to help them suppress the insurgency.
OK, supposing for a moment that most Iraqis would like us to stay long enough to help stabilize the situation, we have to make sure that our efforts are aimed with smart-bomb precision at very specific and limited objectives. Would it genuinely calm the situation if we could, say for example, expand the "Green Zone" to include all of Baghdad, just for a very few weeks so that the Iraqis could figure out their "way forward, a new approach"? If there isn't some clearly delimited mission, then we should get the troops out. It's insane to leave troops on the battlefield with no real plan.
Jon: I think the problem is —

Bill: I mean, it's not like Chechnya.
It's not like Chechnya, yet. The more we become a long-term occupying power, the more like Chechnya Iraq will become. To many Iraqis, it feels like the United States has come in to establish a puppet state, which is not much different from the Chechen separatists feelings towards Moscow.
Jon: No, we don't know who to — Talking to these guys over there —

Bill: You talk to the soldiers over there, they know who's...

Jon: No, they say they drive down the street and a guy waves to 'em, and then they drive back the other way and he's hitting an IED. They say that's the biggest problem: they're insulated, and they feel like they're house-sitting. Basically, what I've heard is, "Unleash us or let's get the hell out of here — we're not babysitters!"

Bill: Most of the soldiers I've talked to would like to win, they would like a change in strategy (Is that the Weekly Standard parties?) No, seriously, we get a lot of e-mails, as you do, too, I'm sure, from soldiers, and I'm struck. They admire a lot of the Iraqis, they're frustrated by a lot of what's happening, they would like a new strategy, they would like more troops, they would like to take a shot at winning, and they deserve that.

Jon: You know what else they want? Can I tell you this? I mean, Chappelle Show DVD's. I mean, that's what I get. I get a lot of "Hey, man, this war, we can win this thing. Can you get me some South Parks?" I get a lot of that.

Bill: They ask me for free subscriptions to The Weekly Standard, but you know, hey, we deal with different soldiers.
"The soldiers would like to win." Well, the soldiers would like to win $23,000,000 in the Lotto, too. Nobody — not even a liberal! — goes into battle hoping for defeat, but sometimes you have to recognize that you're not going to win. What the Vietnam War proved, and what draws so many comparisons to Iraq, despite the obvious differences, is that Vietnam dispelled the illusion that American military power was invincible. A smaller, more poorly armed fighting force kept American victory forever out of reach. We could have stayed in Vietnam for another twenty years — well, actually, we couldn't have, since the troops were beginning to rebel in large numbers — but it would not have brought us victory. The United States cannot defeat an insurgency with broad popular support in its own country, no matter how shock-and-awesome our weapons may be and no matter how numerous and how well trained our troops are.
Jon: When Rumsfeld says things like, "When you fly over this country and you look down, it's not all smoldering" — that's a direct quote, by the way — do you think that's so dismissive of the pain and suffering that ordinary Iraqis are going through, that that is part of the insularity and arrogance of the administration — is that part of the problem?
Insularity and arrogance are excellent words to describe the faults of the Bush Administration. They know what they think is right for the rest of the world, and by golly, they're going to do it, even if no one else agrees. That insularity and arrogance shows profoundly in Iraq, but it was illuminated most disturbingly, perhaps, in the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina.
Bill: I think Rumsfeld was not a good Defense Secretary; I'm glad he's gone.

Jon: Cheney said he was the best ever!

Bill: Well, this is a rare thing that Dick Cheney is wrong about. I know that will shock you, that the Vice President is occasionally in error. This is a mistake, he's fond of Rumsfeld, they've known each other a long time, but he was wrong about this. I know you're shocked. Look at this — speechless.

Jon: You just said the craziest thing I've ever heard. Cheney — I haven't heard one thing Cheney's right about! I mean, he shot a dude in the face, for god's sake. Ah, thank you very much for coming by. Six months? You come back when I need a little somethin'? Bill Kristol from The Weekly Standard!
I just can't fathom the mental contortions required to believe that Bush knows what he's doing and is doing a good job. Lately, he hasn't even been politically cunning!

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Daily Show reviews Al Jazeera English

On Wednesday's Comedy Central Daily Show with Jon Stewart, correspondent Samantha Bee gave a report on the recent launch of the English-language Al Jazeera news channel. Having watched quite a bit of the new Al Jazeera English channel, I was pleased to see several faces that should rapidly become familiar to every news junkie.

First, the transcript of the Daily Show segment:
Jon Stewart: The Holocaust conference [in Tehran, Iran] probably won't do wonders for American perceptions of the Middle East, but one institution is working to make a difference. Samantha Bee reports.

["Newsweak," produced by Miles Kahn, edited by Mark Paone]

Samantha Bee (voiceover): Al Jazeera: the Arab-language news network has swept the Middle East, and they've got plenty of fans over here.

Donald Rumsfeld (archival footage): What Al Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable....

Bee (v.o.): So it's no surprise they've launched an English-language network.

Ghida Fakhry: Good evening. The top story on Al Jazeera tonight ...

Bee: But how many people are watching in the U.S.? Al Ja-zero! Who's with me? Folks? Everyone's so fucking serious around here.

Bee (v.o.): U.S. cable companies have refused to carry the new network. It's as if they've confused Al Jazeera English with Al Jazeera.

Will Stebbins (Bureau Chief, Al Jazeera English): We're looking to produce a journalistically quality product.

Bee: Aren't you trying to appeal to an American audience?

Stebbins: The principle behind the structure of Al Jazeera English is the recognition that geography and culture clearly affects one's view of the world.

Bee: Congratulations. Your mom and dad are watching; I get it.

Bee (v.o.): It was clear that Johnnie Prep-school didn't know the first thing about the news game so I studied their programming.

Sir David Frost (Frost over the World): You're such an expert on the worlds of terror and spies and ...

Bee: Oh my god, he is so old!

Riz Khan (Riz Khan): I started out mentioning you were a high-school dropout, picked up the guitar —

Riz Khan's guest: Yeah, thanks for that.

Shahnaz Pakravan (Everywoman): I'm Shahnaz Pakravan; thanks for joining me.

Bee: Does this thing have picture-in-picture? Anyone?

Richard Gizbert (Listening Post): If you don't like the angle on a story, you can report it your way.

Bee: [inhaling from what appears to be a joint] Oh no, this just makes it go slower.

Ethan Zuckerman (guest webcam commentary on Listening Post): American and Chinese companies, in providing a search engine...

Bee (v.o.): If they were going to succeed in American television, I'd have to become their Al Ja-hero, so I took a look under the hood.

Bee: Where are all your graphics?

Al Jazeera staffer: We usually put graphics at the end of the news hour.

Bee: Whoa, whoa, whoa — news hour?

Bee (v.o.): [over the Al Jazeera News theme] and that music ain't helpin', either.

Bee: [starts synthesized beat loop] Okay, what's that the sound of? [rhythmically, to the beat] People, working, in an office. [pause] Fingers, clacking on a keyboard. What's gonna happen in the world today? Oh no! Something terrible. Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera.

Bee (v.o.): Next, I had to reshape the network's star anchors.

Marash: Welcome to Al Jazeera television, I'm Dave Marash.

Bee: What's going on with all this?

Marash: You mean the beard?

Bee: It strikes me as a little ... Muslim-y.

Bee: What's gonna happen next? I need some banter. [to Ghida Fakhry:] Maybe talk about your mama. [to Dave Marash:] Maybe talk about your ma. Let's talk about segués. I need you to hold my hand and take me with you. You want me to show you how that's done.

Marash: Yeah, give me — yes.

Bee: [clears throat] The President's advisers will continue to reach out to the Iraqi leader. Anyhoooo — kittens: how cute are they?

Marash: I'm Dave Marash ...

Fakhry: ... and I'm Ghida Fakhry. We begin tonight in Iraq....

Bee: I'm just gonna have to stop you there. What was that?

Fakhry: Ghida Fakhry.

Bee: Okay, that sounds really weird to me.

Bee (v.o.): Rebuilding this network from the ground up wasn't easy. But after ¾ of an hour of hard work, we were ready, 3, 2, 1...

[new opening splash screen, with Al Jazeera English logo glistening in front of a U.S. flag, followed in rapid succession by Mohammed Ali, a burger with hot dog and french fries, the "HOLLYWOOD" sign, Bart Simpson, the Statue of Liberty, Babe Ruth, another U.S. flag, Mickey Mouse, Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, John F. Kennedy, Larry Bird, the Seattle Space Needle, the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Richard Nixon shaking hands with Elvis Presley, a "Las Vegas" sign, and the Alamo, closing with the Al Jazeera logo again in front of a U.S. flag background]

Marash: Welcome to Al Jazeera televsion, I'm Dave Marash.

Fakhry: And I'm — Peppermint Gomez. Tonight's top story: Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki ...

Bee (v.o.): Don't blow this, Marash!

Marash: No wonder so many people want to off this Maliki guy!

Fakhry: Well, maybe he should come to the American heartland for a lesson or two on etiquette — and democracy. Oh, my mama could teach him a thing or two.

Marash: I know — I've met your mama, and he wouldn't be able to sit down for a week. Anyhoooo, up next: Immigrants — are they stealing your blonde teenagers?

Fakhry: And later we take a hard look at why some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities aren't wearing panties.

Bee: Yes, nailed it! Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera.

Stewart: Samantha Bee; we'll be right back.

Marash: Welcome to Al Jazeera television; I'm Dave Marash.

Bee: You're as dry as a biscuit! Give me some feeling. Get your pinky up America's bum and massage the prostate. Let's go, one more time.
The shows that were excerpted are all quite well done, with a depth and variety of reportage that make a refreshing change from U.S. corporate media. Of course, Al Jazeera has its own perspective, which filters through somewhat to the broadcasts. However, that perspective is biased in a very different direction from what most Americans think. The bias is towards the newsworthiness of events happening outside North America, western Europe, Russia, China, and Japan. Al Jazeera English has four broadcast centers, located in Doha, Qatar; Washington, D.C.; London, England; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; with bureaus in cities on every continent. Of course, the coverage concentrates on the Middle East, but Africa is also well represented, and the coverage of South America puts U.S. newscasts to shame.

Sir David Frost has been on television for more than 40 years, earning honors around the world. He is the only person who has interviewed the last seven U.S. Presidents (since Nixon) and the last six U.K. Prime Ministers (going back to the early 1960's). He clearly has been given free rein on his new program. Riz Khan hosts Riz Khan, a live call-in program with a U.S. telephone number, and One on One, an interview program. He has worked for the BBC and for CNN. This week's guest on One on One is CBS News Sixty Minutes icon Mike Wallace.

Shahnaz Pakravan hosts Everywoman, a program devoted to issues of interest to women, recently including issues of Sharia law and hajib, mixing hard news with "human interest" feature stories. Richard Gizbert was a correspondent for Canadian television and later for ABC News; he hosts Listening Post, a program featuring commentaries from somewhat more obscure media outlets, including bloggers and viewers. Dave Marash and Ghida Fakhry are the news hosts in the Washington broadcast center, providing 4 hours per day of news. Twelve hours a day originate from Doha, and 4 hours each from London and Kuala Lumpur.

Several other Al Jazeera programs are worth watching, though: Inside Iraq features Jasim Al Azzawi, a former translator for the U.S. State Department, analyzing the week's news from Iraq, with guests including Rend Al Rahim (former Iraqi ambassador to the United States — a woman), Ayad Al Samarei (deputy secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party), Dr. Buthaina Shaaban (Syria's minister of expatriates), and Martin Indyke (a former U.S. ambassador, now with the Brookings Institution). Jasim doesn't hesitate to call his guests — American, Iraqi, or otherwise — onto the carpet if they begin spouting sound-bite talking points instead of giving substantive answers to his questions. In particular, he called Dr. Buthaina Shaaban on a Syrian position that ignores the effects of their policies on the Iraqi people with whom they are supposedly in solidarity. Jasim is skeptical of the U.S. occupation, but he is equally skeptical of its opponents. If you want to know the truth about the situation in Iraq, there are a lot worse ways to spend half an hour a week than watching Inside Iraq, broadcasting live at 17:30 UTC on Fridays, repeating at 23:30 and on Saturday at 04:30, 10:30, and 20:30. Subtract 5 hours for U.S. Eastern Time; 8 for Pacific.

Witness presents documentaries from around the world. In counterpoint to the common U.S. perception of Al Jazeera's bias, they devoted an entire episode a couple of weeks ago to the story of a team of Israeli doctors who give life-saving surgeries to Palestinian children whose families cannot afford to pay. It's a far cry from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, much less Osama bin Laden. Inside Story is a news analysis program, dealing with issues such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the assassination of Pierre Gemayel (Lebanese cabinet member), and the gathering strength of the Taliban. People and Power investigates the use and abuse of political power around the world. This week under the microscope will be North Korea, Italy, and Chile. There are several other programs, including some I haven't yet seen (101 East, in particular).

Even the sports coverage provides an interesting angle on the world. For example, the Iraqi people had a moment of unity, transcending sectarian divisions, when their football (soccer) team made it through to the finals against the host team at the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. I don't follow American football, much less soccer, but it's important to understand the level to which national pride is pinned on a soccer team in much of the world.

Another observation regarding the supposed status of Al Jazeera as a propaganda arm of Al Qaeda: this advertisement for QTel, the national telephone company of Qatar, illustrates the philosophical background behind Al Jazeera.
Can we tear down the walls that divide us?
Can we turn soldiers into peacemakers?
Can we learn from each other, no matter who we are?
Can man and woman be born equal?
Can we hear the earth dying?
Can we stop destroying life?
Can we promise our children, not just a brighter tomorrow, but a brighter today?
Can love be the most powerful weapon in the world?
Wherever we stand, whatever our point of view, can we forget what divides us and discover what unites us?
Hardly sounds like the ravings of a radical Islamic jihadist movement.

I was also impressed that the real journalists at Al Jazeera held their own with the fake journalists from The Daily Show much better than most members of Congress.

If you live in the U.S. and get your television via cable, DishTV, or DirecTV, you can't yet get Al Jazeera English: as Samantha Bee noted, no U.S. operator yet carries it. That leaves only two options: the serious hardcore large satellite dish tuning directly to their transponder, or the Internet feed. For free, you can watch 15 minutes at a time of webcam-quality images; the price for the near-broadcast quality feed starts at $5.95/month.

CORRECTION: In the original of this article, Kuala Lumpur was incorrectly identified as being in Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur is in fact the capital and largest city of Malaysia.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pinochet is Dead

The world has one less former dictator today, but it's not Saddam Hussein. Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1990, died today at the age of 91. Pinochet took power in a coup d'état, deposing democratically elected President Salvador Allende. During the 17 years of Pinochet's dictatorship, thousands of political enemies "disappeared," presumably tortured and killed. The new President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, elected earlier this year, was detained and tortured by the Pinochet government.

Despite his obvious brutality and disregard for his own people, Pinochet still had many defenders. The 1973 coup was prompted by the widely held view that Allende was systematically violating the constitution and moving Chile towards communism. Still, I believe that history will record that Pinochet saved Chile from communism, only to subject it to a far more malignant despotism. The election of President Bachelet is a ray of hope that Chile can heal the divisions of the past 33 years and move into a more democratic and prosperous 21st century.

Technorati tags: , , ,

Read More......

Friday, December 08, 2006

Inside Iraq on Al Jazeera

I'm still digesting the Iraq Study Group report, but what I'm really looking forward to is Friday's Inside Iraq program on Al Jazeera English. Inside Iraq is hosted by Jasim Al-Azzawi, a former interpreter for the U.S. State Department who went on to a career in television journalism in the UK and the UAE before joining Al Jazeera English in Qatar.

This week's episode premieres at 17:30 UTC, running again at 23:30 and at 10:30 on Saturday.
US Eastern: 12:30pm, 6:30pm, 5:30am
US Central: 11:30am, 5:30pm, 4:30am
US Mountain: 10:30am, 4:30pm, 3:30am
US Pacific: 9:30am, 3:30pm, 2:30am
in Iraq: 20:30, 03:30, 13:30

If your cable or satellite provider doesn't carry Al Jazeera English — and in the United States, that's true unless you have Globecast satellite service — nag them until they carry it. (The strangest twist is that DishTV carries the Arabic-language Al Jazeera channel in its international offerings, but does not carry the English-language channel. DirecTV carries neither.)

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Read More......

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraq Study Group

The Iraq Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, released its report yesterday. President Bush wasted no time indicating that he will ignore key elements of their recommendations, saying in regard to the report's call for direct negotiations with Iran and Syria, "I don't think Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton expect us to accept every recommendation."

However, Bush's statement stands in direct contradiction to the tail end of the executive summary of the report itself: "It is the unanimous view of the Iraq Study Group that these recommendations offer a new way forward for the United States in Iraq and the region. They are comprehensive and need to be implemented in a coordinated fashion. They should not be separated or carried out in isolation. The dynamics of the region are as important to Iraq as events within Iraq." [emphasis added]

Secretary Baker put it very succinctly when he pointed out that for a half-century the United States engaged in diplomacy with the Soviet Union, despite its oft-stated intent to wipe the U.S. off the map. I cannot fathom this attitude by the Bush faction, shared by right-wing talk-radio pundits, that diplomacy is a reward for good behavior, to be doled out only as a favor to friends and well-behaved countries. The security of the United States and of the world depends centrally on diplomacy with our adversaries. Diplomacy is cheaper and more effective than military power in building our long-term security.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Read More......

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Money for the Blind

The American Council of the Blind filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Treasury Department, claiming that the lack of non-visual identifying features on U.S. paper money violates the guarantee of "meaningful access" to all government programs in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998 (29 USC 701), which says, "[D]isability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to ... enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of American society." A federal judge agreed, and has ordered the U.S. Treasury to develop techniques to permit blind and visually impaired people to determine the value of a bank note without relying on the honesty of a sighted person. The Treasury opposed the lawsuit, claiming that it would be expensive and also that it would undermine anti-counterfeiting efforts.

When 12 countries in Europe introduced the Euro a few years ago, for the first time, advocacy groups for vision-impaired people were actively involved in the initial design phases, ensuring that the Euro bank notes are easily distinguishable by touch alone. The United States has a moral obligation to follow that lead, to make our paper money accessible to the blind, and not to appeal this ruling.

Lastly, one random bit of money trivia for you: only one U.S. coin has ever been minted with Braille markings. The Alabama state quarter, issued in 2003, features a portrait of Helen Keller, with her name in Braille just above her name in regular print. The Braille is much too small to read by touch, but it was a nice gesture all the same. I hope that same spirit of outreach will govern the Treasury's future dealings with the vision-impaired community.

Technorati tags: , ,

Read More......

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Witness Al Jazeera in English

Earlier this month, Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language satellite television news channel, launched an English-language channel, broadcasting news and public affairs programming 24 hours a day from facilities in Doha, Qatar; Washington, D.C.; London, England; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So far, no U.S. cable provider carries the new channel, although it is available in parts of Europe. Viewers around the world can receive the channel if they have satellite dishes, but not the small "pizza-dish" receivers tied to specific U.S. providers. One reason is that many people in the United States consider Al Jazeera to be little more than a propaganda arm of militant Islamist terrorists such as Al Qaeda. ...

I've already written to my cable company, asking them to carry Al Jazeera International, and I encourage readers to do the same. Fortunately, would-be Al Jazeera viewers without television access to the channel can receive it on the Internet. Just go to and click on "Watch Now." You have the option of the low-bandwidth free feed, which requires that you click to renew the connection every 15 minutes, or the high-bandwidth feed for a subsciption fee of USD $5.95/month. Both feeds stream to the free RealPlayer application. It's definitely worth the effort, because Al Jazeera offers a perspective on world events that is difficult to find on American television. Our media is not as blinkered as in much of the world, but it does have a definite bias, particularly on the question of what is "newsworthy." Al Jazeera has its own bias, of course, but far less than Americans believe.

Yesterday, the top headline in the hourly news summary was the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel would recognize a Palestinian state if the Palestinians met certain conditions. While Al Jazeera (correctly) noted that the conditions were non-trivial, the overall tone of the reporting portrayed the gesture as an olive branch. If anything, the coverage was sympathetic to Israel. The news coverage also showed Palestinians violating the recent cease-fire by launching rockets into Israeli territory, noting that there were no injuries from those attacks.

In addition to straight newscasts, Al Jazeera has several magazine programs. One is a call-in show hosted in Washington, D.C., with an unfiltered breadth of political viewpoints. Callers can pose questions directly to high-level officials appearing on the program. That show airs live at 18:00 UTC (1:00 P.M. Eastern, 10:00 A.M. Pacific). Another show focuses on women's issues, from a perspective that is unabashedly contrary to the misogyny of many radical fundamentalist Muslims. On Monday, the program Witness profiled a team of Israeli doctors who offer free heart surgery to children from poor areas around the world; about 1/3 of their patients are from the Palestinian Territories. This is an Arab-owned channel highlighting Israeli efforts at bridging the animosity between Israel and Palestine — not at all the jihadist propaganda that many U.S. commentators and politicians would lead you to expect.

I spoke of Al Jazeera's bias, which is certainly present, but not in the direction you might think. The bias is primarily in the prioritizing of news stories: the Middle East generally gets top billing, followed by "the South" — the world below the Tropic of Cancer. There is certainly coverage of significant events in Europe and North America, but greater weight is given to places like Africa and South America. In the actual reporting, I have not yet seen any evidence of bias against the United States and its allies, even in coverage of Iraq and Iran. You should check out Al Jazeera in English; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. It reminds me of the early days of CNN, or more recently CNN International. It is certainly not a chest-thumping mirror-image of Fox News.

Technorati tags: , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snake-oil Infomercial on PBS

My local PBS affiliate is running a pledge drive, running rather different programming from its usual fare. Right now, they're running what amounts to an infomercial for snake oil, in the person of Dr. Mark Hyman and his "Ultra-Metabolism" plan for "automatic weight loss." He makes a number of valid points: skipping breakfast will make you gain weight, Americans don't eat enough fiber, we should eat leaner protein, there are good fats and bad fats, and we should exercise more. However, mixed in with those bits of truth are some half-truths, misdirections, and outright falsehoods that set off my bullshit detector repeatedly. Most especially, he talks about the "new science of nutrigenomics" that will "reprogram your genes" to help you lose weight. I'll puncture some of his marketing hype, and also tell you the true secret to healthy and sustainable weight loss.

"Hi, I'm Dr. Mark Hyman, and I'm here to tell you how to use revolutionary new science, the science of nutrigenomics, to reprogram your genes to automatically lose weight and regain your health. ... You literally can reprogram your genes by changing the way you eat ... During this program, I'm going to teach you about the myths that make you gain weight ... 'Now, what is he talking about?,' you might be saying. 'I thought genes were something you got from your parents. ...' But no, genes are every moment, every second, interacting with your body, interacting with your environment, with the food you eat, with the stress you're under, with the thoughts you have. Everything is turning messages on or off in your DNA that literally controls your metabolism." Well, first of all, it's not a "myth": your genes are something you got from your parents. Saying that your genes are "interacting" with your environment, however, is a myth. "Interacting" means that your genes act upon the environment, and the environment acts upon your genes, but neither of those is actually happening. Indeed, you absolutely and categorically cannot "reprogram" your genes by eating differently. The genes you were born with are the genes you will die with, except for any that might get garbled by mutation or viruses or cancer. What Dr. Hyman actually means is that you can affect the genetically programmed responses of your body by changing your circumstances and your environment. If you are hot, your genes have programmed your body to perspire, but moving from the arctic to the tropics is not "reprogramming" those genes. It is simply giving different input to your body, which has genetically determined responses.

"If we understand this new concept, that we can use food, that we can change our environment, that we can change the way we live in our lifestyles, to literally communicate messages to our DNA, to turn on health and weight loss, then we have the problem of obesity solved." Well, no, actually you can't "literally communicate messages to your DNA." It's a nonsensical assertion. To be specific, your DNA has no receptors with which to receive "messages" from your food or your body or your environment.

I promised you the true secrets of weight loss, though, so here they are:
  • Eat when you're hungry, but don't eat when you're not hungry.
  • Stop eating when you're satisfied, not when you're absolutely stuffed.
  • Eat healthy, nutritious food, in reasonable portions, with modest amounts of "treats" like candy and desserts.
  • addendum: Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. If you rush through eating a meal, your stomach doesn't have time to send a signal to your brain that it's full, making it easy to eat too much before you realize it. Eating slowly also gives you the opportunity to savor your food — your taste buds get the same joy with less food. Finally, eating slowly and chewing thoroughly improves your digestion.
  • Exercise regularly.
All of the above is just common sense, not some magic bullet or secret elixir of health. Some of Dr. Hyman's specific advice is right on the mark: eat more fiber, less processed food (especially processed sugar and the dreaded duo of transfat and high-fructose corn syrup), more fresh vegetables, and sensible, regular meals. Skipping breakfast is very bad, and for exactly the reason Dr. Hyman gives: your body's natural reaction to food deprivation is a starvation response — lower metabolism and the impulse to binge at the next opportunity. Filling up on candy, freedom fries, soft drinks, Twinkies, and all the other forms of junk food obviously leads to weight gain, but if you deny yourself all junk food, you're unlikely to stick with the plan. When you feel the desire for a treat, make it a small one, and make some of your treats non-junk food. A piece of fruit is sweet and juicy and flavorful, but much better for you than a Ding-Dong. You can still have the occasional outright indulgence, but not with every single meal. Make your treats, especially the less nutritious ones, less frequent so that they are more special.

The secret is that it's all vastly "easier said than done." You won't have sustainable weight loss by going on a crash diet. You have to make real and lasting changes in your eating and exercise habits, and there is no way around that reality.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Click below for more...

Read More......