Around the News


I haven't been reading the newspapers or watching the news much lately. Now, the mainstream presentation of the news is usually trite, glib, banal… sure, but that's only a small part of the reason. All of those things were true when I did watch the news.

No, the bigger reason is that I'm working on a PhD thesis right now, and every time I do look at the news, I have to stop working on that and write a LRC column to get out my frustrations… like this one, prompted by reading the NY Daily News on Thursday.

The Internet? Is Anyone Using That Thing?

The first story that caught my eye was about the TV show American Idol. Apparently some 17-year-old, Sanjaya Malakar, has been winning over the votes of the audience because of how bad his performances are. There is, in fact, a web site,, devoted to inspiring viewers into his camp. The show's producer, Nigel Lythgoe, dismisses the effect of the web campaign, saying, "When you're getting 30 million votes, whatever the Internet can do is just not enough."

Nigel, a little heads up is in order. The Web passed 30 million users in 1996. Today the number of users is over 1 billion. So your show has about 3% of the reach of the Internet. Oops.

Paper Publishers in West Let Fanatical Wingnuts Roar

The next inspiration to bang my head on my keyboard came from an article entitled, "Paper Tigers in West Let Fanatical Regime Roar." Note: This was not on the op-ed page! No, to the News, this is news. The story leads off claiming: "Iran keeps getting away with outrageous bullying behavior because the West has no stomach for confronting the fanatical Islamic Republic."

Then it throws in the qualifier, "That’s how experts on Iran see the standoff." See, it's not the reporter's bias; it's what the experts are saying. Every last one of the two "experts" quoted in the article says this, in fact.

The first Iran "expert" is "Thomas McInerney, a retired Air Force general and staunch conservative." Well, if retiring from the Air Force and being a staunch conservative doesn't make you an expert on Iran, what would?

McInerney, according to the News, "said letting the mullahs get away with pro-terrorism foreign policy amounts to appeasement of a regime potentially worse than the Nazis, should they succeed in making nuclear weapons…." No, they're not actually worse than the Nazis right now, but they could be, ya know, so… better bomb 'em just in case.

The article continues: "Critics point to Iran’s drive to build nuclear weapons." So they do, but let's not mention the lack of any real evidence that that's what they're doing, OK? "The UN imposed sanctions last weekend, but Iran turned around and seized 15 British sailors this week. u2018We’re going to appease these guys and lose 200 million people,' McInerney predicted ominously." Well, General McInerney, that's a lot of people to lose. You ought to keep better track of them.

The qualifications of the next "expert"? He is "a more liberal observer." I don't know why the News didn't also seek out "a more dull-witted observer," and, perhaps, "a more statuesque observer," in order to achieve a complete survey of expert opinion. In any case, Lawrence "more liberal" Haas says, "Iran is preparing for a much bigger war with us. We have a naive belief that we’ll negotiate our way out of this." Iran is preparing for a much bigger war than what? Than the covert war the US has been waging against Iran for some time?

The clincher on the case is: "Haas said he fears that many experts have concluded Tehran can’t be stopped from getting nuclear arms and u2018it doesn’t matter because we can contain Iran like we contained the Soviets.'" And obviously, that will never work, because, while the USSR had hundreds of nuclear warheads that they could deliver to US cities, in a decade or so Iran might have one or two it could shoot a few hundred miles. So take that, clown ship of naïve appeasers!

Kissing Bush's A** Is What Good Performance Means, Says Federal Lawman

Last but not least, I learned what it means to do you're job as a US Attorney: It means working to advance Bush's political goals:

"Eight federal prosecutors were fired last year because they did not sufficiently support President Bush’s priorities, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former chief of staff will tell Congress today.

"In remarks prepared for his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kyle Sampson speaks dismissively of Democrats’ condemnation of what they call political pressure in the firings.

"u2018The distinction between ‘political’ and ‘performance-related’ reasons for removing a United States attorney is, in my view, largely artificial,' says Sampson, who resigned this month because of the furor over the firings. u2018A U.S. attorney who is unsuccessful from a political perspective … is unsuccessful.'"

This is an interesting tactic that seems to be becoming a specialty of the Hitler Bush administration. When foes claim that it is ignoring the executive's constitutional limits, some spokesperson doesn't even try to deny it, but says, "That's the president's prerogative." When a critic says some policy is unconstitutional, the administration declares, "The distinction between u2018constitutional' and u2018unconstitutional' is largely artificial."

So, it turns out, we've ignorantly thought, for all these years, that the job, and the measure of success, of US attorneys was whether or not they were bringing lawbreakers to justice. What dopes we were! They're real job has always been to boost the poll ratings of the president.

Well, all that was from just fifteen minutes of reading the paper. So you can see why I don't do it too often.

April 2, 2007