There is a big to-do about a quote spoken by Rush Limbaugh about “phony soldiers” that was picked up by the leftist Media Matters site and glommed onto by leftist in media and Congress. Rush has done a great job is countering this unfair attack on his site, so I won’t dwell much on it. It is, however, a great example of the bias in the media. Rather than reporting the facts, they are reporting their spin on events.

I also spotted an interesting article on MSNBC yesterday. The title really caught my eye, “New type of bomb is unexpectedly lethal in Iraq.” Really? This is something I’ve not heard before. What could it be? Here’s how the article begins:

On Aug. 3, 2005, the deadliest roadside bomb ever encountered by U.S. troops in Iraq detonated beneath a 26-ton armored personnel carrier, killing 14 Marines and revealing yet another American vulnerability in the struggle against improvised explosive devices.

Why haven’t I heard on the news about this blast killing 14 Marines? Oh, wait. This attack was from 2005. Did I read that right? Yes, 2005. Uh, what exactly is new about this type of IED? It’s been used in Iraq for years now. The “news” report goes on for five pages about some of the activities taken by the military to combat this “new” type of bomb. According to the byline, it was last updated 12:04 a.m. PT Oct 2, 2007. Why was it on the front page? About 20 minutes later, it was off the front page, and today the link doesn’t work anymore. A quick search on Google shows that the article was spotted and several sites linked to it before the article vanished.

And it has vanished. Gone. Down the memory hole. George Orwell, call for you on line 2.

I find it interesting that the news report appeared and vanished again when the news from Iraq is different. “Iraqi deaths fall by 50 percent,” says this news article that is still around.

The number of American troops and Iraqi civilians killed in the war fell in September to levels not seen in more than a year. The U.S. military said the lower count was at least partly a result of new strategies and 30,000 additional U.S. forces deployed this year.

Although it is difficult to draw conclusions from a single month’s tally, the figures could suggest U.S.-led forces are making headway against extremist factions and disrupting their ability to strike back.

The U.S. military toll for September was 64, the lowest since July 2006, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press from death announcements by the American command and Pentagon.

More dramatic, however, was the decline in Iraqi civilian, police and military deaths. The figure was 988 in September 50 percent lower than the previous month and the lowest tally since June 2006, when 847 Iraqis died.

There is good news coming out of Iraq, but you won’t hear that from liberal news sites like Media Matters. They are too busy trying to trash Rush Limbaugh for something he didn’t say.

We recently moved to a new place, and therefore needed to find someone to take over the lease on our old place. The property management people suggested we place a classified advertisement in the local newspaper, so TPK tried to do just that.

First, she attempted to place the advertisement online, but she was frustrated when the website failed to process the payment and served up errors instead.

Second, she called the newspaper directly and gave them the ad over the phone. In the process, the size of the ad was increased from six lines to eight lines because they wouldn’t use the abbreviations that TPK had given them. The increased length made the ad much more expensive than she was willing to pay.

Third, she typed up a letter with the text of the ad exactly as she wanted it printed, then sent it to the newspaper along with payment for a six-line advertisement. They called her back and said they wouldn’t publish the ad since it used what they considered “non-standard” abbreviations–although they didn’t specify which abbreviations were “non-standard” in the ad. She told the newspaper to rip up the check.

Finally, she went back to the newspaper website and created a very short ad with no abbreviations and a link to a Craigslist entry where interested parties could read more about the house. The process actually worked, but she got an email from the newspaper shortly thereafter, informing her that they were unwilling to publish the ad because “We do not publish other publications [sic] web addresses.”

As TPK says, “It was at this point that I gained enlightenment, and told them to go to hell.” I find it interesting that at no time did the newspaper ever explain what the verboten abbreviations were, nor did they seem in any way interested in helping TPK put together a six-line advertisement that was agreeable to both parties.

Now compare the process TPK went through to place the advertisement on the local Craigslist website: she typed up the ad quickly since she’s a fast typist, listing as many features of the house as she could think of, then added a few pictures. In less than an hour, it was published and available for everyone to see. (We know people saw the listing because as we finished cleaning the house, we saw several drive-bys of the place; at the time, Craigslist was the only place where we had advertised.) The advertisement was free, and she could edit or delete it at any time. They didn’t squawk at her abbreviations, but she didn’t need to make any since she had as much space as she needed to describe the place. All this led TPK to say to the local newspaper, in her best Queen’s English: “J00 R T3H SUX0RZ!! LOLZ!!11! 33T MY L33T SK1LLZ B33zn@tCh!”

She is silly.

During the time I was watching and laughing from the sidelines, it struck me just how unfriendly the print media has become. We were actively trying to give them money to print a simple advertisement, and they were actively thwarting us at every turn. Why would I continue to help a business that is no longer useful or necessary, particularly when they insist on being user-unfriendly? Unless the print media figure this out and change their ways, I see them withering like a pulled weed in the sun.

In other news, we now have a brand new phone number. Since it wasn’t on the Do Not Call list from day one, we’ve been getting numerous telemarketing calls, especially from security services. I was tempted to say, “Tell me, does your security service help protect us from really annoying telemarketer calls like this one?”

Caller ID is a wonderful thing to help screen out telemarketers, but some of the buggers have been leaving voice mail messages. So TPK decided to fix that. Using her best professional voice, she created a voice mail message that says, “For telemarketing, soliciting, and political calls, please press * now.” Then she pauses a few seconds to prompt them to do so before continuing with the message. When goofy telemarketers follow her instructions and press the star key, the voice mail system says “Goodbye” and hangs up.

Since this voice mail message was added, we’ve received no voice mail messages from telemarketers. With any luck it won’t take too long for our number to percolate through the Do Not Call list, and they’ll leave us alone entirely.

Even though today is Talk like a Pirate Day, I’ve decided instead to be a shill for the U.S. military. Here are ten facts about Guantanamo that you may not be aware of if you get your news just from the mainstream media. This comes directly from the military and is dated Sept. 14th, 2006.

  1. The detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility include bin Laden’s bodyguards, bomb makers, terrorist trainers and facilitators, and other suspected terrorists.
  2. More money is spent on meals for detainees than on the U.S. troops stationed there. Detainees are offered up to 4,200 calories a day. The average weight gain per detainee is 20 pounds.
  3. The Muslim call to prayer sounds five times a day. Arrows point detainees toward the holy city of Mecca.
  4. Detainees receive medical, dental, psychiatric, and optometric care at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. In 2005, there were 35 teeth cleanings, 91 cavities filled, and 174 pairs of glasses issued.
  5. The International Committee of the Red Cross visits detainees at the facility every few months. More than 20,000 messages between detainees and their families have been exchanged.
  6. Recreation activities include basketball, volleyball, soccer, pingpong, and board games. High-top sneakers are provided.
  7. Departing detainees receive a Koran, a jean jacket, a white T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, high-top sneakers, a gym bag of toiletries, and a pillow and blanket for the flight home.
  8. Entertainment includes Arabic language TV shows, including World Cup soccer games. The library has 3,500 volumes available in 13 languages — the most requested book is “Harry Potter.”
  9. Guantanamo is the most transparent detention facility in the history of warfare. The Joint Task Force has hosted more than 1,000 journalists from more than 40 countries.
  10. In 2005, Amnesty International stated that “the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay has become the gulag of our times.”

Let’s focus for a bit on the comparison between Guantanamo and the Soviet gulag. Here’s a paragraph from Wikipedia about the conditions in the gulag:

Extreme production quotas, malnutrition, harsh elements, inadequate housing, hygiene, and medical care, as well as brutal treatment by camp officials, guards, and fellow prisoners were the major reasons for high fatality rates, which in extreme cases could be as high as 80%.

And Gitmo is “the gulag of our times”? Oh, please!

Here’s something else worth considering. The media would have you believe that the “torture” that went on at Abu Ghraib was pandemic and widespread, indicative of the entire military force in Iraq, when they represented only a vanishingly small percentage of problem soldiers. Abu Ghraib has hit the news again recently with reports of torture, but now under Iraqi hands:

An independent witness who went into Abu Ghraib this week told The Sunday Telegraph that screams were coming from the cell blocks housing the terrorist suspects. Prisoners released from the jail this week spoke of routine torture of terrorism suspects and on Wednesday, 27 prisoners were hanged in the first mass execution since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Conditions in the rest of the jail were grim, with an overwhelming stench of excrement, prisoners crammed into cells for all but 20 minutes a day, food rations cut to just rice and water and no air conditioning.

Some of the small number of prisoners who remained in the jail after the Americans left said they had pleaded to go with their departing captors, rather than be left in the hands of Iraqi guards.

“The Americans were better than the Iraqis. They treated us better,” said Khalid Alaani, who was held on suspicion of involvement in Sunni terrorism.

The current brouhaha over the two known altered images by Adnan Hajj, his firing and removal of his pictures by Reuters, and the blogosphere’s extra scrutiny of images posted by photographers in the Middle East conflicts are the big news stories of the day. The mainstream media are telling us that they have high standards for their journalism, but evidence mounts daily that just isn’t the case.

I noticed today and yesterday, while discussing this issue with co-workers, that those who followed the liberal media organizations exclusively didn’t know about the Hajj photo manipulations. They were not ignorant of current events, but their particular news sources didn’t feel this was a big enough story to bring it to their readers’ attention. This brought to mind a post The Pirate King, my lovely and talented wife, wrote over a year ago.

Thoughts on the media’s Style Divide

Much has been said and written lately about the media shakeup that seems to have occurred in the early 2000s–Dan Rather’s fall from grace, the rise of the blogosphere, the supposed obsolescent qualities of the mainstream media. And when I say much, I mean MUCH. Both the evening news and the bloggers seem obsessed with this Brave New Media World being created before their eyes, and they discuss it in virtual reams of blinding detail. One thing I haven’t seen very much of, however, is articles considering the damaging practical upshot of a new, fragmented media.

Back in the days where big media held supreme sway, Americans were given a baseline of network and AP news from which to draw their ideas. They didn’t necessarily believe all the same things about what they watched or read, but the point is, they all watched or read the same news. The Big Three networks pretty much covered the same stories in much the same ways, and nearly every local newspaper pulled its biggest stories from The New York Times wire. While you could (and I would) argue about plenty of disadvantages to that setup, it did have one big advantage–it put every American on the same page, informationally speaking, about news of the day.

Even then, there were alternative news sources. Anyone who listened to the World Service of the BBC noticed at least some differences between the focus of nightly news stories and the world radio stories. But such sources had to be actively sought out, and they offered such minuscule coverage compared to the MSM that they scarcely made a dent in most Americans’ ideas about the news.

Since the news sources have become more fragmented, I have noticed something interesting. With the growth in popularity of conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, the advent of 24-hour conservative news outlets like Fox News, and the explosion of blogs (which tend to lean strongly toward conservative/libertarian views), people now have a choice about the kind of news they get. And it’s more than just the way that news is reported–the slant given it by various news organizations. Different news sources choose to cover completely different kinds of stories. During the Clinton era, you could pretty much expect Fox to be right up on the latest White House eruption; The New York Times and CBS, embarrassed, would cover only the most egregious scandals. As the Iraq war took place, Fox News was covering the latest discovery that might turn out to be WMDs, while at the same time CNN was roundly complaining about President Bush’s lack of mandate. As time has passed, this schism between conservative and progressive media has grown wider. It’s now gotten to the point where, in print media, it’s almost possible to divine a story’s slant based on each media outlet’s style manual: during one key battle in Iraq, I noticed that news stories which spelled the Iraqi town as “Falluja” almost invariably originated at The New York Times and were inclined to be pessimistic; stories which used the spelling “Fallujah” often originated from Fox and were more upbeat about military successes in the region. I guess you could call it the Style Divide.

In theory, the new media landscape is likely to give readers access to a much broader spectrum of ideas and opinions. But that is only true of readers who pick from all available news sources with equal relish, and who enjoy being challenged by other points of view. More often, what actually occurs is that readers begin to cherry-pick their news sources, zeroing in on the media that most accurately reflect their own beliefs and biases, and excluding the others. I have certainly been as guilty of doing this as anyone else. It really hit home to me how bad things were when, a few years ago, I tried to have a conversation about the war with a close relative, who I believe gets most of her news from NPR and her local newspaper. After a few e-mails back and forth about various issues, during which I thought we might be making progress toward at least understanding if not actual consensus on some issues, she suddenly seemed to explode at me. Couldn’t I see that this war was wrong, that Bush was not only a blithering idiot, but actively evil and malevolent? I was honestly taken aback by this furious response, unsure what I had said to trigger such vitriol. She and I have agreed not to discuss politics any more, but it left me wondering. Was at least part of her response based on the fact that her chosen news sources bring her information that is in almost direct opposition to the news sources I choose to read? Are we getting to a point now where we as a nation can no longer have a reasoned political discussion between right and left, because there is no common ground from which the debate may proceed?

I am not suggesting that we return to the days of Cronkite telling us “that’s the way it is,” because even back then that wasn’t really the way it was. Having only one news source may bring Americans together, but only at significant cost to the truth. Yet I don’t know what the best response is to the current maelstrom of dueling news, fact pitted against fact, and people turning their faces from each other’s ideas in disgust, the same way different sects of Christianity mutually regarded each other as unbelievers bound for hell. Unless some other mitigating factor arrives to smooth over this divide, I see the gap between Red State and Blue State thought only continuing to grow wider as time goes on.

Liberals are probably more at risk than conservatives of getting a narrow read on the news. It’s possible for conservatives to be just as narrowly focused, but with the prevalence of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC news channels, a conservative is far more likely to be exposed to the Left’s take on issues than a liberal neighbor whose only sources are network news, NPR, and Air America Radio.

Unless I feel the need to list milestones or count successes, I think I’ll forget al-Zarqawi in a few days. But before he is tossed off onto the ash-heap of history, there are a few things worth looking at.

First, the media just can’t wait to report anything bad about the military. Here’s a bit from an NBC story:

An Iraqi man who was one of the first people on the scene after an air strike that led to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi told Associated Press Television News that he saw American troops beating a man who had a beard like the al-Qaida leader.

The witness said he saw the man lying on the ground, badly wounded but still alive. He said U.S. troops arriving on the scene wrapped the man’s head in an Arab robe and began beating him. His account cannot be independently verified.

There’s a bit more detail in this Yahoo report of the story.

U.S. officials have altered their account of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saying he was alive and partly conscious after bombs destroyed his hideout, and an Iraqi man raised fresh questions about the events surrounding the end of Iraq’s most-wanted militant….

The Iraqi, identified only as Mohammed, said residents put a bearded man in an ambulance before U.S. forces arrived. He said the man was found lying next to an irrigation canal.

“He was still alive. We put him in the ambulance, but when the Americans arrived they took him out of the ambulance, they beat him on his stomach and wrapped his head with his dishdasha, then they stomped on his stomach and his chest until he died and blood came out of his nose,” Mohammed said, without saying how he knew the man was dead.

Notice the “cannot be independently verified” caveat on the story, but they have no problem running with it. Feel free to call up the Associated Press and tell them that you saw some Democrat Senator buggering sheep. I’m sure they’ll have no problem running with that news story even though it “cannot be independently verified.” *eye-roll* But let me go on the record that even if this is true, I don’t care. I just think it would have been more fitting if the first people on the scene had pulled out a dull blade and spent a few minutes cutting off his head to the accompanying chants of “Aloha Snackbar.”

And finally, from the pen of Cox and Forkum comes this great cartoon.

Message for al-Zarqawi

So, did you hear the really good news from Iraq? No, the news you heard about some car bombing in Iraq is not the good news. The media announces each bombing with an almost breathless excitement, but that’s not the good news from Iraq.

While I type this, the media is announcing that the 2,000th U.S. serviceman has died in Iraq. You might think this “grim milestone” was good news, based on the almost visible glee on the part of the liberal fringe as they eagerly anticipated this death. Cox and Forkum do a very good job of showing the strange bedfellows of the “peace at all costs” Left and the murderous thugs in Iraq.

But not only is this not good news, it’s not even true. The serviceman who topped the list as the latest death “in Iraq” actually died in Texas. Granted, he died from wounds sustained while serving in Iraq, but there’s no way you can define Staff Sgt. Alexander’s death in Killeen, Texas as having happened “in Iraq.” Major Chaz does a good job of debunking this false meme. Here are some interesting chunks, but the whole article is worth reading:

The MSM is starting to gear up (and the anti-war left has been ready for a while) to present us with the story of “the milestone of 2,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq”.

First, being in the military is a high-risk enterprise, even when you are not in combat. Humvees roll over, helicopters crash, people commit suicide, people get hit by vehicles. People die. But in this instance, since they happened in a combat zone, they fit neatly into the meme of the leftists that “Bush Lied, People Died”. They would have you believe that all of these brave souls died as victims of imperialist government fighting in an illegal war. Bringthemhomenow.org says “So far, more than 1950 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq ….”

But only slightly more than 1500 have actually died from hostile fire. More than 400 military members have died due to non-combat causes. And not all of the almost 2000 deaths have actually happened in Iraq. If a military member dies in the AOR, on orders for OIF, his/her death is counted towards “the milestone of 2,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq”.

As radio talk show host Jim Quinn has put it, the rightness or wrongness of a military action is not determined by the number of deaths sustained. Thousands died in one month taking Okinawa from the Japanese. Thousands died on both sides of the Civil War during the days of battle at Gettysburg. And almost three thousand civilians died on a clear September morning when the buildings fell.

While it is understandable to mourn the loss of life, the tallying of losses should happen once the job is done. Otherwise, you may run the risk of losing your nerve and pulling out before the mission is finished. If you consider what happened the last time the U.S. pulled out of a major engagement, the result was three million deaths — specifically, the two million Vietnamese and one million Laotians who died when the Americans departed and the Communists took over their countries. Was it worth the price of three million lives to spare Americans from possible death or injury?

Though these news items have been making our enemies and Leftist peaceniks smile, this is not the good news from Iraq to which I refer. I have a screenshot from the front page of MSNBC.com cropped for size. At the top of the page was the “sad milestone” graphic to celebrate mark this day. There were also other articles linked from the front page that dealt with all the negative news coming from Iraq. But if you look at the very bottom of the graphic, you can see the announcement of the good news from Iraq half cut off at the bottom of my browser. I guess you can see the priority MSNBC places on the GOOD NEWS of the Iraqi people approving their constitution.

Did you catch that? The Iraqi people went to the voting booth and voted with purple fingers to determine the direction they wanted to take their country. Not all of them voted for their constitution, but they voted. While there were still some murderous thugs who resorted to violence, the vast majority — even greater than in the last Iraqi election — spoke with votes, not with bombs.

The Middle East as a whole, and liberal naysayers in particular, need to recognize the nascent democracy in an Arab and Muslim country. Those people who said that Iraqis could never accomplish this change should hang their heads in shame, but they won’t. They’ll continue to beat their single drum of gloom from Iraq.

I’ll close this with a few paragraphs from Major E. as quoted on the Power Line Blog:

During my last couple of months in theater, I interacted with various US units that have been working more and more closely with the Iraqis in order to bring about the transition of military responsibility from the coalition. Across the board, the US troops are impressed with the progress being made by their Iraqi counterparts. That progress was demonstrated under fire during successful operations in Tall Afar last month, where a majority of the troops that defeated the terrorists in that area and destroyed their operational safe havens were Iraqi.

But good news is so slow to get out, if it ever does. As I mentioned last week, I have been speaking and sharing slides with local civic and political groups here at home and, unfortunately, almost no one with whom I have spoken has even heard of Tall Afar or any of the positive developments coming from there.

On the other hand, seemingly every person knows of Fallujah and remains aware of the high casualties taken by the Marines who secured the city late last year. Yet no one seems to know that just last week, an estimated 70,000 Fallujans voted in the referendum. That is a dramatic increase over voter turnout last January, when essentially zero votes were cast because the lack of security made it too dangerous to establish polling stations.

There is good news coming from Iraq. Just don’t expect to see it on your nightly news.