Friday, March 30, 2007

Time & Newsweek Think You're Stupid

How else to explain these covers:

Time has an extremely readable article on the Talibanization of western Pakistan. Given that nation's critical importance to the "war on terror," this is an important and fascinating article. Time put the article on the cover for every edition except the U.S. version. Why?

Newsweek did something similar in September:


In other words, while it might be nice to learn about how American policy is failing in the country that actually attacked us on September 11, the mainstream glossies seem to think we’re more interested in lesbians who photograph celebrities and the Kansas Board of Education.

And it's not just news magazines. FOX "News" remains fixated on Anna Nicole Smith. Host John Gibson went so far as to accuse reporters who focused instead on the Iraq War of “news-guy snobbery”.

Rush Limbaugh just called 72% of Americans "blithering idiots" for thinking something’s wrong about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Maybe this is why House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) does not know how to pronounce Tuskegee Airmen properly.
During his short speech to those in attendance, Boehner six times mispronounced the group’s name as the “Tusk-E-gee,” eliciting audible groans from the front to the back of the Capitol Rotunda. One woman standing in front of me leaned to her companion and whispered, “This is so embarrassing, and he’s from my state.”

Perhaps making matters worse, almost all of Boehner’s speech focused on the general accomplishments of American forces in World War II, paying little direct respect to those in the room.

As if to remove any doubt about the verbal kerfuffle, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the stage and began his speech by pronouncing the group’s name correctly, while making a clear, if passing, glance in Boehner’s direction. Immediately afterward, the entire crowd broke into applause at the correction.

Dumbing down of America, indeed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

TV News Hyperbole

Mrs. DocLarry came home about 5:30 and informed me KOLR/KSFX microwave truck was set up in the new subdivision just south of us, its mast extended. So we flipped on over to KOLR10 for the 6 p.m. newscast to see what was up. Reporter Yvette Mitchell was preparing to do a story on new home sales, and the incentives being added by some realtors to try to boost sales.

During the LIVE portion of her report, Mitchell said, "There are four homes for sale on this block alone," gesturing to the "for sale" signs visible behind her. One might think this particular neighborhood had a lot of homes for sale. And I guess that's true. But this particular neighborhood is all new builds. It's a new subdivision, Catalpa Station. The four houses Mitchell referred to are one side of one block, all constructed in the last six months.

I don't know if it is unusual for these houses to still be on the market, given the time of year in which they came on the market. I do know that the developer has started construction on at least seven more houses in the subdivision just this month, and there are likely about 20 lots remaining to be developed. So it seems a bit exaggerated to suggest that four homes for sale on a single block in a new subdivision is indicative of the housing market in southwest Missouri.

My guess is the reporter/videographer/producer chose that particular block for the LIVE shot specifically because it had those "four homes for sale on this block alone." In otherwords, for the visual which fit the hype of the story: new home sales fell nationwide in February.

Wonder if Catalpa Station's developer liked the report? Especially with the soundbite from the Century 21 agent (Carol Jones is the realtor for Catalpa Station) noting homes aren't moving as fast because they're overpriced.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Photo Blogging

Baxter returns to the blog to demonstrate the first pile of limbs from the ice storm. A group from the Southern Baptist Convention, all from Tennessee, cleaned up for us and several of our neighbors. For free. Wouldn't even take bottled water.

One of our resident squirrels practices a gymnastics routine. The dismount needs work.

And the boy notes there's nothing like Momma's lap after a hard day. It's what chaise recliners are made for.

Irag Reality Check

CNN reports Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie was wounded in a suicide bombing inside his Baghdad compound, making this the second assassination attempt on a senior member of the U.S.-backed government in a month.

This follows the rocket attack inside the Green Zone Thursday which caused UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to duck behind a podium while holding a news conference with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Meanwhile, “The U.S. military’s faulty war plans and insufficient troops in Iraq left thousands and possibly millions of tons of conventional munitions unsecured or in the hands of insurgent groups after the 2003 invasion — allowing widespread looting of weapons and explosives used to make roadside bombs that cause the bulk of U.S. casualties,” according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday.

But The Decider continues to stay the course on Iraq anniversary talking points.

March 19, 2007: “There’s been good progress.”

March 19, 2006: “I’m encouraged by the progress.”

March 19, 2005: “Iraq’s progress toward political freedom has opened a new phase of our work there.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Severe Poverty

I missed this tidbit last month regarding the increase in severe poverty in America. Here's an aspect of the class warfare being waged against the working class:

If you want to find the people behind the country's big jump in food stamps, you have to go to work.

That's where they are.

The number of American households bringing in a paycheck and collecting food stamps has risen from 19 percent to 29 percent in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


"We're seeing a kind of hollowing out of middle-class jobs," says Margy Waller, director of The Mobility Agenda in Washington, D.C., which conducts research on low-wage work. "We're just about to release a report that will show that about one in three jobs pays under $10 an hour."

To qualify for the government's nutrition program, you generally cannot earn more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

In 2007, a family of four earning $26,845 or less would be eligible.


And, at least in Ohio, the increase in minimum wage isn't helping much.

January's hike - from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour - doesn't necessarily lift a family off food stamps.

As Gauntner explains, a single parent with two children earning the new minimum wage still, in most cases, qualifies.

"Do I think it's good for people to get more income? Yeah," Gauntner says. "Is it going to take them off the food-stamp program? No."


"We need to invest in education, and we need to find some ways to bring some better jobs to Ohio," says Amy Hanauer, executive director of the nonprofit research group Policy Matters Ohio.

"And we should hold employers to higher standards when we can. We have a tendency in this country to throw up our hands and act as if there's nothing we can do about that."

Productivity and corporate earnings are up, Hanauer says, and businesses can afford to pay people enough to keep them out of poverty.

"I think this is a matter of insisting on standards," she says, "and having the will to do something about it."

According to the University of Missouri Extension, Missouri ranked 19th, in comparison with poverty rates in other states, with a poverty rate of 10.1% on a three year average (2001 to 2003). The USDA says the state's overall poverty rate (2004 data) is 13.0%, a 1.3% increase from 1999. That coincides with a 1.6% increase in per capita income. Rural Missouri has a higher rate of 15.8%.

The poverty rate for children in Missouri is 18.5%. For Greene County the overall poverty rate is 13.8%, for children it is 18.8%.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' --Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)

Iraq Report Card

Lost in the coverage of the 4th anniversary of Dubya's grand war is the fact that the Iraqi government missed the Bushco's stated benchmarks indicating progress in Iraq. The Bushies had called for the major objectives to be met by this month.

Four of the significant objectives are final approval of an oil law regulating distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the oil industry; reversal of the de-Baathification laws that are widely blamed for alienating Sunnis by driving them out of government ministries; the holding of local elections; and reform of Iraq’s Constitution.

A Pentagon assessment of progress in Iraq through the end of last year, submitted to Congress on Wednesday, notes that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki “has promised to reform his government, beginning with his cabinet and the ministries,” but that none of those steps had yet happened. It cited the “passage of a framework” last month for sharing oil revenues among Iraq’s ethnic groups as a modest sign of progress, but notes that the last two months of 2006, before Mr. Bush announced his new strategy, “saw little progress on the reconciliation front.”

The report also described some of what is happening in Iraq as a “civil war” and described this past October through December as the most violent three-month period since 2003.

And that means those "surge" troops will likely need to remain on the ground in Baghdad and its suburbs for a longer period of time.

Here's another key graf:
Administration officials have never rescinded the “notional timeline,” though the Iraqi government had already missed most of the deadlines by the time Ms. Rice gave it to Congress in January. That document listed political achievements that Washington expected would be fulfilled between September 2006 and March 2007; with the exception of the oil law, which awaits final passage, most have not been achieved. American and Iraqi officials had agreed on the notional timeline back in October.

And here's my favorite:
Philip D. Zelikow, until December the counselor at the State Department, said part of the delay stemmed from “a recognition that things were worse than people realized.”

“Significant parts of the new strategy need to be developed from scratch,” he said.

In other words (as Bush is so found of saying), Bush's plan for victory was based on fiction, and there currently is no plan.

Paper Stuffing

I opened my copy of today's News & Leader to find it stuffed with seven (7) copies of Sears' "2 Day Sale" flyer. Two humans and one beagle reside in DocLarry Manor. While we have an assortment of birds visiting the back yard regularly, we do not feel obliged to put newspaper down for them, the squirrels, or any other non-human subjects.

I have no explanation for why Gannet thought we needed seven (7) copies of the Sears ad. Do you think the paper might have run out of flyers before than ran out of newspapers?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dubya's Nixon Moment?

That was then:

The 18 1/2-Minute Gap -- Three days after the Watergate break-in, Nixon and Haldeman discussed the arrests. A tape made then contained a supicious 18 1/2-minute gap.

This is now:
Shades of Rose Mary Woods? An 18 day gap?

I think a commenter in our document dump research thread may have been the first to notice that the emails released by the Justice Department seem to have a gap between November 15th and December 4th of last year.

(Our commenter saw it late on the evening of the dump itself -- see the comment date-stamped March 20, 2007 02:19 AM in the research thread)

The firing calls went out on December 7th. But the original plan was to start placing the calls on November 15th. So those eighteen days are pretty key ones.

Fortunately for the American people, a House of Representatives Judiciary subcommittee has authorized subpoenas for Harriet Miers and Karl Rove if they refuse to testify under oath voluntarily.

The only reason to refuse to be under oath or even have a transcript is because you plan to lie and you want to do it with impunity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

18 USC 1001, 18 USC 1503

18 USC 1001

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
  1. falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
  2. makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
  3. makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

(b) Subsection (a) does not apply to a party to a judicial proceeding, or that party’s counsel, for statements, representations, writings or documents submitted by such party or counsel to a judge or magistrate in that proceeding.

(c) With respect to any matter within the jurisdiction of the legislative branch, subsection (a) shall apply only to—
  1. administrative matters, including a claim for payment, a matter related to the procurement of property or services, personnel or employment practices, or support services, or a document required by law, rule, or regulation to be submitted to the Congress or any office or officer within the legislative branch; or
  2. any investigation or review, conducted pursuant to the authority of any committee, subcommittee, commission or office of the Congress, consistent with applicable rules of the House or Senate.

18 USC 1503
(a) Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty, or injures any such grand or petit juror in his person or property on account of any verdict or indictment assented to by him, or on account of his being or having been such juror, or injures any such officer, magistrate judge, or other committing magistrate in his person or property on account of the performance of his official duties, or corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b). If the offense under this section occurs in connection with a trial of a criminal case, and the act in violation of this section involves the threat of physical force or physical force, the maximum term of imprisonment which may be imposed for the offense shall be the higher of that otherwise provided by law or the maximum term that could have been imposed for any offense charged in such case.
(b) The punishment for an offense under this section is—
  1. in the case of a killing, the punishment provided in sections 1111 and 1112;
  2. in the case of an attempted killing, or a case in which the offense was committed against a petit juror and in which a class A or B felony was charged, imprisonment for not more than 20 years, a fine under this title, or both; and
  3. in any other case, imprisonment for not more than 10 years, a fine under this title, or both.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has a pretty complete rundown of the false statements made by Justice Department officials to Congress and the press.
Schumer: Here are some of the falsehoods we've been told that are now unraveling.

First, we were told that the seven of the eight U.S. attorneys were fired for performance reasons.

It now turns out this was a falsehood, as the glowing performance evaluations attest.

Second, we were told by the attorney general that he would, quote, "never, ever make a change for political reasons."

It now turns out that this was a falsehood, as all the evidence makes clear that this purge was based purely on politics, to punish prosecutors who were perceived to be too light on Democrats or too tough on Republicans.

Third, we were told by the attorney general that this was just an overblown personnel matter.

It now turns out that far from being a low-level personnel matter, this was a longstanding plan to exact political vendettas or to make political pay-offs.

Fourth, we were told that the White House was not really involved in the plan to fire U.S. attorneys. This, too, turns out to be false.

Harriet Miers was one of the masterminds of this plan, as demonstrated by numerous e-mails made public today. She communicated extensively with Kyle Sampson about the firings of the U.S. attorneys. In fact, she originally wanted to fire and replace the top prosecutors in all 93 districts across the country.

Fifth, we were told that Karl Rove had no involvement in getting his protege appointed U.S. attorney in Arkansas.

In fact, here is a letter from the Department of Justice. Quote: "The department is not aware of Karl Rove playing any role in the decision to appoint Mr. Griffin."

It now turns out that this was a falsehood, as demonstrated by Mr. Sampson's own e-mail. Quote: "Getting him, Griffin, appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, et cetera.

Sixth, we were told to change the Patriot Act was an innocent attempt to fix a legal loophole, not a cynical strategy to bypass the Senate's role in serving as a check and balance.

It was Senator Feinstein who discovered that issue. She'll talk more about it.

So there has been misleading statement after misleading statement -- deliberate misleading statements. And we haven't gotten to the bottom of this yet, but believe me, we will pursue it.

Is Attorney General Gonzales going to jail? Rove? Isn't it about time for the BushCo insiders to be held accountable for their actions?

(big mortar board tip to Josh Marshall and Paul Kiel for their excellent work on this scandal.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

They're How Good?

Click on the image to check Krispy Kreme's new advertising slogan. No Photoshopping involved. Some "journalist" at Agusta, Georgia NBC-affiliate WGAT thought the introduction of a whole wheat, low-cal doughnut newsworthy. The graphics person evidently thought otherwise.

[mortar board tip to suspect-device]

Thursday, March 01, 2007

And Speaking of Weather....

What a crazy day across the midwest. A "tornadic" storm moves through southwest Missouri this morning, while a blizzard moves through western Iowa dumping up to a foot of snow, much of it falling on top of a weekend ice storm.

Storm Blogging

Regular readers recall that Baxter O'Beagle is terrified of storms. As usual, the boy woke Mrs. DocLarry and I as the thunder and lightning began. When the storm sirens sounded I turned on the TV to learn why. The Weather Channel crawl identified the tornado warning, so I flipped to KY3 for more information. Brandon Beck was doing a good job providing information in the wee hours of the morning with what was likely a skeleton crew. And, even with the fast-moving storms, was able to stay ahead of the game so as to provide several minutes to get to safety. My one criticism is that Beck announed the "likely" location of the storm "at street level," and then almost immediately stated he wasn't going to get into predicting the storm location "at street level."

But the real fun began several minutes later. I commented to Mrs. DocLarry my surprise that Ron Hearst hadn't shown up at the station yet. Within five minutes Hearst's voice could be heard, but just barely. And true to form, Hearst took over, attempting to demonstrate his vast knowledge of the region and all-things weather in his typical annoying manner. One big difference: his mic wasn't working. So you could hear Hearst talking in the background, but not really understand what he was saying.

Having worked in live television many years, I know that technology will fail at the worst possible time, but the show must go on. Former colleagues liked the phrase, "Live means never having to say you're sorry." Ten minutes into Hearst's speech it should have been evident to SOMEONE at KY3 that his mic wasn't working. Still, Hearst kept butting in to Beck's commentary. Instead of turning things over to Beck while his mic was fixed, Hearst just kept talking, though he couldn't be heard.

Finally, the mic problem was fixed. And for some odd reason, Hearst decided we all needed to know exactly WHY his mic hadn't been working. The explanation? He wasn't wearing a "normal, button down shirt" so that the "mic didn't fit properly" and pointed at his chest. What this had to do with the severe weather is beyond me, as is why anyone might possible care about WHY the mic wasn't working. Of course, it's beyond me why Hearst just kept yammering while his mic WASN'T working.

As I said to Mrs. DocLarry, The Ego Has Landed.

Before turning off the TV we were treated to two more delicious comments. Beck announced that he was going to repeat the safety tips, which they put on the screen frequently "because people sometimes forget what they're supposed to do," and that "we do this for a couple reasons; one, because we have to do this, and two, because we need to."

The final comment came from Hearst, who said, "We're keeping you safe here. But we need to remind you that you're responsible for your own safety."


No, I couldn't do what Beck and Hearst had to do. And I'll forgive Beck because he'd been talking almost non-stop, unscripted, for at least an hour. But Hearst? Sometimes I think he just likes to hear his own voice, without really listening to himself.