By Daniel Tencer | October 29, 2008 - 2:27 am - Posted in Antics and Pedantics

Obama: Dangerous subversive

Obama: Dangerous subversive

Barack Obama is — gasp! — friends with an Arab

Fox News has gone to war against the LA Times, implicitly suggesting that the paper is in the tank for Barack Obama by refusing to release video of “Obama praising a Chicago professor who was an alleged mouthpiece for the Palestine Liberation Organization while it was a designated terrorist group in the 1970s and ’80s.”

I guess Fox is hoping that no one will read past the first paragraph, because this blatant attempt at guilt by association, painting Obama as an anti-Israeli friend of Palestinian terrorists, falls apart even in Fox’s own version.

The “alleged mouthpiece” is Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, and a former colleague of Obama at the University of Chicago. Beyond the fact that just about anyone who works in academia will come across people with radical views (and believing Palestinians should have their own country barely even qualifies as a radical view), there’s the simple fact of what Obama’s “praise” for Khalidi consisted of.

Obama’s conversations with Khalidi served as “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases,” Obama told the audience at a farewell party for Khalidi in 2003, as quoted in the Fox article. Now think this through. What is Obama saying here? Is he saying that he is pro-Palestine and anti-Israel? No, he is actually saying the opposite, that he is pro-Israel, and that talking to Khalidi reminded him that there are other viewpoints.

And what of the LA Times refusing to release the video? Here’s the background on the issue: The Times published an article in April, entitled “Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama,” in which they referred to Obama’s friendship with Khalidi. Their unnamed source on the article provided the video of the farewell party as evidence to back up the article’s claims, on the condition that the video not be released.

So, to recap: 1) The LA Times scooped this story six months ago, when Fox was still busy screaming slurs at Hillary Clinton, 2) They were careful enough to find corroboration for their claims, and 3) They are now living up to their promise to protect their sources on the story. Buncha horrible, evil, in-the-tank-for-Obama liberal media quasi-journalists!

And it’s worth reiterating that it’s the McCain campaign slapping the “liberal media bias” accusation against the LA Times, despite the fact it was the Times itself that broke this story six months ago. And frankly, it’s kind of pathetic that Fox News has to resort to relying on the investigative journalism of the “liberal media” it reviles just to spin a political storm around Obama ahead of the election. Don’t they have any real journalists over there?

McCain: Terror of the highways

McCain: Terror of the highways

John McCain is — gasp! — a bad driver

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post has reached a lot farther into the past than an LA Times story from April to locate its latest bombing run on the McCain campaign. God bless the Huff Post, they are making a brave and impressive attempt at countering the perceived biases of a corporate-controlled media; but this latest salvo makes them sound a lot like the Fox News of the left.

Yesterday, Huff Post reported that Vanity Fair and the National Security News Service are investigating allegations “from first-hand sources” of “a car crash that involved then-Lt. McCain at the main gate of a Virginia naval base in 1964.”

McCain was apparently rushed to a naval hospital, and now accusations of cover-up are flying, as that hospital won’t release McCain’s medical records.

Let’s stop for a minute and take a close look at the words in this article, specifically this lead sentence (emphasis mine):

“For the past two months, a major American magazine and an allied news service have been engaged in a legal battle with the United States Navy over records that they believe show that John McCain once was involved in an automobile accident that injured or, perhaps, killed another individual.”

Yes, and “perhaps” John McCain is really a zombie Richard Nixon in a Halloween mask. And “perhaps” John McCain is a blood-sucking vampire whose run for the White House is part of an evil plot in which Lestat and his friends take control of the world, as set out in “The Protocols of the Elders of Transylvania.”

“Perhaps” ain’t nothin’ to build a story on. Huff Post’s piece is a report on an investigation, i.e., Vanity Fair isn’t running the story, because all they know for a fact is that they’re being stonewalled by a hospital bureaucracy.

And let’s also take a look at what wasn’t said in this article: It wasn’t said that John McCain was at fault in this accident; it wasn’t said that he was driving, or even in a car for that matter. All we know is there was an accident and McCain ended up in the hospital. Details are everything in this story, and without them, this is all meaningless. But the implication is clear: John McCain is a dangerous, homicidal driver.

Obviously, Huff Post wants this story out there before the election, as it seems likely VF and NSNS won’t get it together in time — if there even is a story to get together.

Overall, I’m glad that Huff Post is out there doing what it does. And, yes, I’m even glad that Fox News is out there, because the more voices in the news media, the better. But I sincerely hope that the rise of New Media doesn’t mean that we can look forward to an era when attacking a competing news service is somehow news itself, an era when “perhaps” is the qualifying word in every sensational story to make it to the home page, and where careful evasion of factual details forms the backbone of investigative news pieces.

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By Daniel Tencer | October 27, 2008 - 2:25 am - Posted in Antics and Pedantics

Herewith is a quote from Beckoning Frontiers, a memoir of the Great Depression by Marriner S. Eccles, who served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fed Chairman from 1934 to 1948. See if this scenario explaining the causes of the Great Depression rings a bell (emphasis mine):

Marriner S. Eccles

Marriner S. Eccles

“As mass production has to be accompanied by mass consumption, mass consumption, in turn, implies a distribution of wealth — not of existing wealth, but of wealth as it is currently produced — to provide men with buying power equal to the amount of goods and services offered by the nation’s economic machinery.

“Instead of achieving that kind of distribution, a giant suction pump had by 1929-30 drawn into a few hands an increasing portion of currently produced wealth. This served them as capital accumulations. But by taking purchasing power out of the hands of mass consumers, the savers denied to themselves the kind of effective demand for their products that would justify a reinvestment of their capital accumulations in new plants.

“In consequence, as in a poker game where the chips were concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, the other fellows could stay in the game only by borrowing. When their credit ran out, the game stopped.”

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By Daniel Tencer | - 2:25 am - Posted in Newsburger

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Greg Palast have come together to form Steal Back Your Vote, a campaign that includes this major article in Rolling Stone magazine, which lays out a case against Republican party operatives, who, Kennedy and Palast say, have been waging a war against voters since the Reagan era…

McCain supporters are trumpeting a story about college kids in Ohio who uncovered voter fraud and found themselves the targets of intimidation tactics by Obama’s lawyers…

Washington Times columnist Tara Wall says ACORN may have a noble goal, “but just as the road to hell is paved with good intentions — the good intentions of some is leading [sic] to an all-out path to destruction of the soul of our electoral process….”

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile challenges that view. “Experts who have examined the allegations against ACORN have concluded that there is no significant threat of voter fraud…”

AfterDowningStreet.org reports that fliers are being handed out in Philly trying to intimidate black voters by claiming that undercover officers will be present at the polls to arrest people on outstanding warrants…

An article in Slate says basically what I said on this blog a few days ago: That accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression undermine the democratic process. “The object here is not criminal indictments. It’s to undermine voter confidence in the elections system as a whole…”

NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice has released a report that undermines the entire idea of widespread voter fraud. “Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare…”

Mother Jones lists ten ways to steal this election…

…and the LA Times offers a solution to the undermining of democracy through voter fraud and suppression tactics: It’s finally time for states to take voting seriously…

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By Daniel Tencer | October 26, 2008 - 2:24 am - Posted in Newsburger

Vikings: buncha girly-men

Vikings: buncha girly-men

Redefining Viking men
They weren’t so much rapists and pillagers as they were metrosexuals, interested in grooming, fashion and poetry. If they could be faulted for anything, it’s that they were perhaps too hygienic…

Eternal sunshine
Neurobiologists believe they will soon be able to target and then chemically remove painful memories…

Why bad ideas win
We don’t adopt ideas because they are morally right, or because they improve our lives. We adopt those ideas that are good at getting adopted…

The exiling of the Chagos islanders
In the late 1960s, the British government evacuated the residents of Diego Garcia in order to hand over the island to the US for a military base in the Indian Ocean. Forty-seven years later, that injustice has been set in stone… More…

Recipe for sanity
Connect with people, be active, be curious, learn, and give — the five things you can do every day to stay sane…

Petrostates on the rise, and in trouble
As Cuba declares it has 20 billion barrels of oil in its reserves, making it a major player in the oil world, Russia, Iran and Qatar announce they are forming a new energy cartel, an OPEC for natural gas. But plummeting oil prices means that petrostates have to re-evaluate their priorities… Russia’s stock market has fallen 60 percent, its banks are collapsing, and foreign investors are fleeing the country. Yet you wouldn’t know it, watching Russian TV…

Press freedom in trouble
“Destabilized and on the defensive, the leading democracies are gradually eroding the space for freedoms. The economically most powerful dictatorships arrogantly proclaim their authoritarianism, exploiting the international community’s divisions and the ravages of the wars carried out in the name of the fight against terrorism. Religious and political taboos are taking greater hold by the year in countries that used to be advancing down the road of freedom.” Reporters Without Borders releases its latest Press Freedom Index…

The other war on terrorism
Pakistan is in the midst of a civil war. Three hundred thousand people have been displaced to refugee camps, and now the government is rejecting “America’s war” with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and calling for a dialogue with extremist groups…

Unwinnable war?
The British have had a long and bloody history in Afghanistan, going back two hundred years. Against the persistent Afghans, they have never achieved anything resembling victory, and neither has anyone else…

Is Sydney the new Johannesburg?
In Australia, says John Pilger, the government is using allegations of child abuse to force Aborigines off their land and make room for uranium mines. “An epic scandal of racism, injustice and brutality is being covered up in the manner of apartheid South Africa…”

Do we need a new Noah’s Ark? Our planet is in the midst of its sixth great extinction, and half the world’s fauna and flora are set to disappear…

Theyre back!

They're back!

Aliens in the news
UFOs are back in vogue — a sure sign that things on Earth have gotten so bad that we want to leave. It all started with the release of British government documents detailing UFO encounters,
including one incident in which US fighter pilots were ordered to shoot down an unidentified flying object. That was quickly followed by the release, in British and Australian media, of some rather interesting footage of multiple UFO sightings off the coast of Turkey earlier this year…

Martian settlers
Buzz Aldrin says the first astronauts to reach Mars should be prepared to spend their lives there. Like the European explorers who first settled the Americas, there’s no going back…

Truth in the age of Wikipedia
“Unlike the laws of mathematics or science, wikitruth isn’t based on principles such as consistency or observa­bility. It’s not even based on common sense or firsthand experience. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth…”

Holden Caulfield could have told you that
People who have been rejected socially are better at spotting phony behavior…

A very visible development
Thanks to “meta-materials” that bend light around objects, we are closer to creating an invisibility cloak than we have ever been…

That ‘magical fruit’ rhyme may have been right
The stink in farts controls blood pressure. Nuff said.

Next on Hitler TV…
Adolf Hitler planned a cable television network to span Germany, and pipe Nazi propaganda into public places. Aside from the mandatory broadcasts of executions of traitors, Hitler TV would also have featured “Family Chronicles: An Evening With Hans And Gelli, an early reality TV show depicting the wholesome Aryan life of a young German couple for the rest of the population to model themselves on…”

Globalization: the biggest economic bubble of all
The Baltic Dry Index measures freight costs on international shipping lines, and has been the single best quantifier of globalization. It has plummeted 90 percent… So here’s to globalization, the cause of, and solution to, all our problems…

The next prime minister?
Somehow, it’s hard to accept that a guy named Pinball is “Canada’s Obama”…

A Mormon invasion of California
The Mormon church has all but ordered its congregants to support California’s Proposition 8, which would define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Mormons have raised $10 million for the cause…

John McCain’s new support base
Al Qaeda is watching the American financial crisis, and hailing it “as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America’s economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents. And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend…”

Palin in 2012?
Palin’s “wild popularity” among the Republican base means she will be the GOP’s candidate in 2012, says Jonathan Chait. No way, says, Noam Scheiber. Her “chief asset is novelty, which fades by definition.”

Undecided voters — who are these people?
To put undecided voters in perspective “think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. ‘Can I interest you in the chicken?’ she asks. ‘Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?’”

And finally: Are you fit to be president? Take the personality test!

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By Daniel Tencer | - 2:21 am - Posted in Antics and Pedantics

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Ashley Todd, idiot

Ashley Todd, idiot


Let’s not make too much of the story of Ashley Todd, the twenty-year-old McCain campaign volunteer who claimed she had been assaulted by a large black man because she had a McCain bumper sticker on her car, before admitting that she had made the whole thing up. In other words, let’s not make the same mistake that Fox News made, when its executive news director, John Moody, wrote on his blog that, if Todd’s allegations proved to be true it would cause voters to “revisit their support for Senator  Obama … because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.” And, if proven false, “Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.”

John Moody was wrong on both counts (and he could have avoided this embarrassment if he had just waited twelve hours to blog, until after Todd’s quick admission to Pittsburgh police). Maybe I have too much faith in American voters, but I honestly don’t think that one crazy black person in Pittsburgh could have redefined Barack Obama. And I certainly don’t believe that one college girl from Texas, obviously emotionally disturbed and desperate that her preferred candidate is on the brink of electoral defeat, can redefine John McCain.

And the fact is, this all could have just disappeared into the woodwork, had the McCain campaign not seized on an opportunity to race-bait the moment this story broke. As Talking Points Memo reported, McCain’s people jumped all over the story with lightning-quick fury, and the campaign’s communications director for PA gave an incendiary version of the story to the press, even claiming that the B carved into Todd’s cheek stood for “Barack,” something the “victim” never claimed herself. Again, had they waited twelve hours, the McCain camp could have avoided some major embarrassment. Conservative writer Michelle Malkin was able to hold back her emotions for a minute, and sniff out something suspicious in that backwards B on Todd’s cheek (it’s what a B would look like in a mirror, she correctly surmised); if only McCain’s campaign had had the same good sense.

Alas, alack, they didn’t. But at the end of the day, it is no more fair to say that Todd’s actions reflect the McCain campaign or McCain voters any more than Obama or his supporters would have been reflected in the actions of that “angry black man” had the story proved to be true. But what can be said about the McCain camp, and its supporters, in light of all this, is that they reacted hysterically to the entire situation, and because of that, they ended up doing the wrong thing. If this is at all a parable for what a McCain administration would look like, I want no part of it. And, contrasted with Obama’s “preternatural calm” throughout the campaign, and the Obama campaign’s judicial response to Todd’s intial claim, the argument for an Obama administration has been made all the stronger.

ADD: An interesting article on why people fake crimes…

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By Daniel Tencer | October 23, 2008 - 2:18 am - Posted in Newsburger

See you later, suckers
Andrew Lahde’s $80-million hedge fund posted an 860% return last year by betting against sub-prime loans. Now, the financial whiz kid is cashing in and pulling out of the markets, and, in a widely circulated letter, he thanks the “idiots” who made him rich… Full text (pdf)…

Hold on to your wallets, Marx is back

Hold on to your wallets, Marx is back

Guess who’s back
Oh, how short our collective memory is. Barely two decades have passed since the Berlin Wall fell, but in the wake of the global financial crisis, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital is flying off bookstore shelves in Berlin; in Japan the Communist party is enjoying a massive resurgence;
and in Britain, people are turning for inspiration to their own version of a socialist visionary — Charles Dickens…

Not the end of America, just yet
“When the tide laps at Gulliver’s waistline, it usually means the Lilliputians are already ten feet under…”

Creativity by the clock
Researchers have pinpointed the exact moment we are at our most creative: 10:04 pm… More…

Curb your election
Larry David can’t take anymore of the 2008 election. To prevent outbursts of GOP-targeted profanity, he’s censoring his own news intake, and if Obama loses, he hopes it will be because of racism and not voter fraud. “Call me crazy, but I’d rather live in a democratic racist country than a non-democratic non-racist one…”

Good luck with that
Republicans are bracing for the possibility of defeat on November 4, but some are already looking forward to the next race: Will it be Sarah Palin in 2012?

Civil liberties on ICE
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have long had the power to stop and inspect people well inside the United States, without cause. But in recent years the Department of Homeland Security has been using those powers with unprecedented ferocity, prompting the ACLU to declare that the US has a one-hundred-mile-wide “Constitution-Free Zone” ringing the country. Two-thirds of Americans live in it…

Flower power in Kabul
“People are growing tired of the fighting. We need to pressure the Afghan government and the international community to find a solution without using guns.” It’s Afghanistan’s growing peace movement…

Please, not another Balkan war
The Serbian region of Bosnia could soon attempt to secede from the ethnically and geographically messy country created under the Dayton Accords a decade ago. While the world pays attention to a thousand other calamities, Bosnia is in real danger of collapse…

Kirk and Sulu at each other’s throats
William Shatner gives his analysis of former co-worker George Takei: “It’s so patently obvious that there is a psychosis there…”

Time for a Facebookers Anonymous?
The need to acquire hundreds of Facebook friends to feed your ego is a sign of “friendship addiction,” and social networking sites “are becoming a substitute for families.” The case against Facebook…

Who’s palling around with whom?
In all the talk about Barack Obama “palling around with terrorists,” what’s been lost is John McCain’s own pals from the 1980s — ultra-conservative Latin American death squads…

Is China hacking us, or are we hacking them?
Microsoft’s new anti-piracy tool is turning computer screens black in China, prompting a Beijing lawyer to declare the company “the biggest hacker in China.” But now tech and security bloggers are talking about reports that Chinese manufacturers have installed microchips into computers sold in the US that can “call home” when activated, compromising all the computers’ data, and potentially putting US national secrets in China’s hands. It’s the Manchurian Microchip conspiracy…

Because blacks riot, right?
In anticipation of rioting in “cities with large black populations” if Obama loses on November 4, police forces across the US are beefing up election-day security…

The scribe who came in from the cold
“The superbug of espionage madness is not confined to individual cases. It flourishes in its collective form… Faith in spies is mystical, fuelled by fantasy and halfway to religion … Our banks and financial services may collapse, our economy may be going through the floor, our road and rail system may be a catastrophe, but our spies are immune to all of it. Never mind how many times they trip over their cloaks and leave their daggers on the train to Tonbridge, the spies can do no wrong.” What John LeCarre learned from being a British spy…

Who you are, by where you live
North-central Midwesterners and Floridians are extroverted, West-Coasters are open to new ideas, and neuroticism runs deep in the Ohio River Valley. Check out the American map of personality…

American childhood in the age of pr0n
“It’s too early to know exactly how kids who grow up in this hypersexualized environment will be affected in the long term … Pr0n themes have gone from adult entertainment to prime time, seeping into nearly every aspect of popular culture … Advertising and society in general have borrowed from the ideas and characteristics central to most American pr0nography: sex as commodity, sexuality as overt, narrow views of women and male-female relationships, bad girls and dirty boys, domination and submission….”

Spoke too soon
Turns out Iran isn’t banning the death penalty for children, just reducing it to apply only to murder convictions…

Garrison Keillor in Abilene
“These Republicans are hardy people not given to endless self-examination of the sort that we liberal elitists practice … and they stick with a position once taken and don’t admire people who waver and hedge their bets and cover their butts. Abilene, Texas, would appear rather bleak to most people … but people here are fiercely loyal to the place, and their loyalty is a great civic asset…”

“Love-sickness” might just have been horniness
In 16th-century England, “love-sickness” was a diagnosed medical condition. The preferred cure was “an energetic session of lovemaking…”

Reverse exodus
We all know about the 11 million or so illegal Mexican immigrants in America. But what about the one million Americans who have moved to Mexico?

Homeless? Join the club of the rich and famous…
Among the famous who have been homeless, some are no surprise — Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur — but some you’d never guess. Cary Grant? Daniel Craig?

A much longer pedigree
The Aurignacian people of Europe’s Upper Paleolithic era had domesticated dogs nearly 32,000 years ago, suggesting that man’s best friend has been around a lot longer than anyone thought…

A little home-town boosterism
And because I live in the Dot, I just couldn’t resist this one: Toronto has been ranked fourth in the world for culture, behind only London, Paris and New York…

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By Daniel Tencer | October 22, 2008 - 2:18 am - Posted in Antics and Pedantics

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