And we thought the press was bad in America

And to think that we Americans complain about our press.

Sure, we have impotent anchors like Brian Williams, and tarted up “CNN babes”. And, of course, there is the ever-outrageous FOX News, but whether we yell and scream about corporate—or “establishment”—media, the liberal press conspiracy, or even Bush-era propaganda programs, I confess I’m stuck for finding something to compare with what I’m hearing from across The Pond. The inimitable Mark Steel explains the situation:

The Sun newspaper has come over a bit modest. Following a Channel 4 documentary about media reporting of Muslims, the paper accepts some of its stories were “distorted”. But they’re not doing themselves justice. They weren’t distorted – they were entirely made up. For example, a story about a Muslim bus driver who ordered his passengers off the bus so he could pray was pure fabrication.

But if reporters are allowed to make up what they like, that one should be disciplined for displaying a shocking lack of imagination. He could have continued, “The driver has now won a case at the Court of Human Rights that his bus route should be altered so it only goes east. This means the 37A from Sutton Coldfield will no longer stop at Selly Oak library, but go the wrong way up a one-way street and carry on to Mecca. Local depot manager Stan Tubworth said, ‘I suggested he only take it as far as Athens but he threatened a Jihad, and a holy war is just the sort of thing that could put a service like the Selly Oak Clipper out of business’.”

Then there was a story about “Muslim thugs” in Windsor who attacked a house used by soldiers, except it was another invention. But with this tale the reporter still claims it’s true, despite a complete absence of evidence, because, “The police are too politically correct to admit it.” This must be the solution to all unsolved crimes. With Jack the Ripper it’s obvious – he was facing the East End of London, his victims were infidels and he’d have access to a burqua which would give him vital camouflage in the smog. But do the pro-Muslim police even bother to investigate? Of course not, because it’s just “Allah Allah Allah” down at the stations these days.

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Flashback: Random notes – July 1, 2006

(An old e-mail I had sent to myself, which is strange since I don’t often do this sort of diary or journal writing.)

Random notes:

Rap outfit Cancer Rising doesn’t have much of a web presence.

Turns out one of my favorite songs by the Rheostatics (“One More Colour”) is actually a Jane Siberry song; imagine how surprised I was when I heard that one coming out of my computer.

Apologies for not being around or contacting you since I got back from Sunriver; I managed to lose my phone the same night I got back, and just now, about a half-hour ago, got it back. Interestingly enough, I lost it while getting loaded and listening to some random country CD this guy I know is … well, I suppose “producing” is the word. The musician, whose name escapes me, is talented. The production sounds okay, but the CDR it was burned to was a hideous wreck.

Best excuse given to cops of late: When the police hit us with the lights and asked who vomited, Rachel volunteered, “I had chowder today”. In reality, she apparently remembered only after she took three Vicodin that she’s allergic to the drug. Or maybe it could have been the mix of Vics, beers, and rum & cokes.

Strangest day of the week: Thursday into Friday. I spent a few hours carousing with a neighbor of mine. My only excuse is that I was roped into it and didn’t know enough about who I was dealing with. Turns out he’s a borderline schizophrenic, or something. Ain’t ne’er seen a mind quite like this. At least not at close range. Creepy. After turning down drinks all night (I didn’t feel like it after consuming Bud Light the night before), I turned down lines of cocaine as well. Strangely, the coke actually slowed this guy down. Kind of an L-Dopa effect, or something; speed up the tremors until they disappear. Absolutely messed up.

Coolest quote of the week: My cousin’s middle child, Danny, tells me at Sunriver, “You’re the coolest parent here.” Well, yes, thank you, but I’m also the one who’s nuts. That was a delicate conversation. But you should really see Missoui Synod Lutherans in their sixties get hit by Nickelback. Rarely will I agree with my aunt that something needs to be turned off immediately, but hey, it was Nickelback.

Why does Dora only get a backpack, while Diego gets a PDA? Or perhaps the question should be, Why does Diego only get a PDA, while Dora gets a magic, talking backpack that has whatever you need inside it and eats everything else, including ferris wheels?

Now that’s a backpack.

National disaster

Just a little sad humor for those still looking with hopeful eyes to November and January:

Hold on, America. We’re almost there. And I hope we’ve learned our lesson this time.

What? One can dream, right?

(Thanks of course to the good folks at The Onion, and a tip of the hat to Kelly O. at Slog.)

The perils of technology meet the perils of humanity

If technology seems soulless and dispassionate, well, it is. It doesn’t laugh or cry, and it certainly doesn’t get embarrassed. On the other hand, it can very well make us laugh and cry, and there is no question that it can embarrass us. Like this example, from the Seattle Times website:

Image captured from Seattle Times website, July 2, 2008.It’s a simple enough pitch, and hardly uncommon. Many news websites offer prints of dramatic photos, and often use galleries with names like “Photos of the Day” to promote the service. And in many cases, you can get reprints of articles or your favorite political cartoons. But there is something amiss about the pitch, which I snapped in the wee hours of the morning. Something seems incongruent about the sunny invitation to “Capture a memory and own a moment” compared to the image detail. Indeed, the photo it refers to—

Relatives mourn Abdul Ghani Shiekh, an 85-year-old man killed during clashes, in Budgam, a town 19 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar, India, Tuesday, July, 2008. Authorities in Indian-held Kashmir made concessions to Muslim activists Tuesday in hopes of quelling heated protests that have left five dead and hundreds injured.  (Dar Yasin/AP)

—is from Dar Yasin, via the Associated Press, and is captioned as follows:

Relatives mourn Abdul Ghani Shiekh, an 85-year-old man killed during clashes, in Budgam, a town 19 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar, India, Tuesday, July, 2008. Authorities in Indian-held Kashmir made concessions to Muslim activists Tuesday in hopes of quelling heated protests that have left five dead and hundreds injured.

Yes, here’s a picture of you that went around the world as you wept for poor Abdul. I saw that I could get a print of it from the website and thought, “My goodness, she would probably be delighted if I put that one on a coffee mug for her!”

Capture a moment, indeed. So I did. I couldn’t help myself. It’s just one of those unfortunate moments that technology occasionally brings. (Or did someone have to choose that detail specifically?)

As to the violence in Budgam, or anywhere else? Well, shit. Very unfortunate, but that should go without saying.

Or maybe not. But I can’t imagine that saying it over and over and over and over again is actually going to stop the killings. And that’s perhaps the most unfortunate thing of all.

Wait Wait … in Seattle

It’s just a personal thing. And a local thing, I guess. Click the link, and it should be easy enough to figure out what to do next.

Live from the Paramount, and featuring Jonathan Poneman as the live guest … answering questions about Celine Dion.


(And the celebrity panel consists of Adam Felber, Paula Poundstone, and Paul Provenza, and while I have nothing bad to say about them, it’s not exactly news, or particularly special in terms of the show.)

The Bush success

There is something to be said for the obvious, although we can be sure there is somewhere an economist, politician, or pundit willing to explain why the prescription suggested by Michael T. Klare, writing for the Toronto Star would not be a particularly effective palliative for the spiraling costs of oil:

… the Bush administration’s greatest contribution to rising oil prices is its steady stream of threats to attack Iran, if it does not back down on the nuclear issue. The Iranians have made it plain that they would retaliate by attempting to block the flow of Gulf oil and otherwise cause turmoil in the energy market. Most analysts assume, therefore, that an encounter will produce a global oil shortage and prices well over $200 per barrel. It is not surprising, then, that every threat by Bush/Cheney (or their counterparts in Israel) has triggered a sharp rise in prices. This is where speculators enter the picture. Believing that a U.S.-Iranian clash is at least 50 per cent likely, some investors are buying futures in oil at $140, $150 or more per barrel, thinking they’ll make a killing if there’s an attack and prices zoom past $200.

It follows, then, that while the hike in prices is due largely to ever-increasing demand chasing insufficiently expanding supply, the Bush administration’s energy policies have greatly intensified the problem. By seeking to preserve an oil-based energy system at any cost, and by adding to the “fear factor” in international speculation through its bungled invasion of Iraq and bellicose statements on Iran, it has made a bad problem much worse ….

…. And if this administration truly wanted to spare Americans further pain at the pump, there is one thing it could do that would have an immediate effect: declare that military force is not an acceptable option in the struggle with Iran. Such a declaration would take the wind out of the sails of speculators and set the course for a drop in prices.

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Obama and expectation

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman brings us, with his latest column, an assessment of Senator Barack Obama, considering the Democratic presidential candidate in the context of two other elections, those of 1980 and 1992:

It’s feeling a lot like 1992 right now. It’s also feeling a lot like 1980. But which parallel is closer? Is Barack Obama going to be a Ronald Reagan of the left, a president who fundamentally changes the country’s direction? Or will he be just another Bill Clinton? ….

…. Reagan, for better or worse — I’d say for worse, but that’s another discussion — brought a lot of change. He ran as an unabashed conservative, with a clear ideological agenda. And he had enormous success in getting that agenda implemented. He had his failures, most notably on Social Security, which he tried to dismantle but ended up strengthening. But America at the end of the Reagan years was not the same country it was when he took office.

Bill Clinton also ran as a candidate of change, but it was much less clear what kind of change he was offering. He portrayed himself as someone who transcended the traditional liberal-conservative divide, proposing “a government that offers more empowerment and less entitlement.” The economic plan he announced during the campaign was something of a hodgepodge: higher taxes on the rich, lower taxes for the middle class, public investment in things like high-speed rail, health care reform without specifics.

We all know what happened next. The Clinton administration achieved a number of significant successes, from the revitalization of veterans’ health care and federal emergency management to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and health insurance for children. But the big picture is summed up by the title of a new book by the historian Sean Wilentz: “The Age of Reagan: A history, 1974-2008.”

While there are also fundamental differences in the context of the circumstances under which the Reagan and Clinton presidencies occurred, Krugman—who during the primary often criticized Obama—is not without a valid point. Having achieved the nomination, Obama has followed a trend disturbing to American liberals, one that suggests a transformation of the candidate into a different kind of political creature. His withdrawal from public financing, while understandable in a political context, is disappointing, to say the least, for liberals hopeful of a president of principles. And his support of the recent FISA “compromise” ranges into the realm of the frustrating.
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A new kind of vigilante

In the small town of Gerald, Missouri, Bill Jakob seemed a godsend. With support from the local police department, the federal agent took on the local methamphetamine problem. Over nearly five months, the man colloquially referred to as “Sergeant Bill” led the charge, searching homes, seizing evidence, and arresting suspects in the town of less than twelve hundred, a place so wracked by the drug trade that its mayor calls the area “a meth capital of the United States”.

And then a reporter—always a pesky reporter—decided to look into the story, and what Linda Trest of The Gasconade County Republican discovered brought the whole operation to a scandalous collapse. As Monica Davey explains for the New York Times:

Sergeant Bill, it turned out, was no federal agent, but Bill A. Jakob, an unemployed former trucking company owner, a former security guard, a former wedding minister and a former small-town cop from 23 miles down the road.

The fantastic vigilante is now the target of a federal criminal investigation, and Gerald has lost three of its five police officers. The drug allegations themselves are in doubt. Seventeen plaintiffs have filed a civil rights lawsuit, and Mayor Otis Schulte is the target of of an impeachment petition.

This is your War on Drugs.
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