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Michael Ubaldi, March 15, 2005.
Though its expressed interest in Egyptian democracy is flattering, the Washington Post — far from coming away impressed by events in Cairo that, fortitude of domestic opposition notwithstanding, would not have occurred without pressure from Washington — has forgotten the terms to which it previously held the president, and is today showing a sorry measure of ingratitude:
While aggressively campaigning for freedom in Lebanon, the Bush administration continues to gently prod Mr. Mubarak. In a speech last week devoted mostly to Lebanon, President Bush included one sentence saying that credible elections must include "freedom of assembly, multiple candidates, free access by those candidates to the media and the right to form political parties."
Though the platform calls for Mr. Mubarak to forgo another term, most of the opposition is prepared to accept a new mandate provided the president commits himself to genuine change. So far, however, Mr. Mubarak's concessions are limited to his election plan, which resembles the sham balloting familiar from other dictatorships.
Which means "gentle prods" have indeed moved Cairo, will more likely continue to than not, and that the Post's editors should recognize good works when the one they asked for is before them now and in progress.
Michael Ubaldi, March 14, 2005.
"An Opinionated Network" is what Howard Kurtz makes of a recent study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism that, in declaring Fox News' claim to balanced reporting faulty, appears to have conflated on-air personality with news content. Omission and methodical control over the perception of news is gentry media's most destructive contribution of bias to American journalism, and Kurtz makes his own here straightaway by failing to inform readers that the Project for Excellence in Journalism — led by media critic Tom Rosenstiel — is the left's answer to rightist Brent Bozell's Media Research Center. Rosenstiel maintained in 2002 that among other mainstream anchors CBS's Bob Schieffer — who continues to deny any meaningful leftward tilt to major news outlets, even in Rathergate's wake — is "trying to cut it down the middle," whereas "Fox is not."
Driving ideology aside, the report as explained by Kurtz draws the left's favorite conclusion — that Fox News has achieved cable and broader television success by daily tossing red meat to Republicans — from information that doesn't support it. The first charge is a play in semantics:
In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says. By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists' own views.
Last March, Fox reporter Todd Connor said that "Iraq has a new interim constitution and is well on its way to democracy."
David Asman, then, was in these two instances speaking for most Americans. Were the reports themselves unfair? Apparently not.
The problem seems to be that Asman voiced support for an American endeavor at all. In 2001 National Public Radio senior foreign editor Loren Jenkins insisted that as a public employee he in fact didn't "represent the government" but "history, information, what happened." In 2003, ABC President David Westin forbade talent from wearing flag lapel pins on grounds that "our patriotic duty as journalists in the United States is to try to be independent and objective and present the facts to the American people and let them decide all the important things." The leftist media rejects nationality and moral authority in favor of a transnational, relativist baseline: American, but not; unconvinced that the free world is incomparably superior to its authoritarian enemies, working to robe in cause and worth those who by nature defy it. "Objectivity" is not so much a practice than a condition, including objectivity to value itself.
The PEJ report throws a few numbers at Fox news shows like Special Report with Brit Hume and The O'Reilly Factor that are summarily invalidated by the study's metric. Brit Hume's program usually includes two or three guests for topical commentary, and holds a panel debate through the last two segments. Bill O'Reilly is successful precisely because of his opinions, scoring high ratings on the guarantee that his subjective arguments are honest.
A focus on journalists' comments on the night's filing is a red herring — what about the report itself? Here, the American news audience speaks clearly: consistently polls show an overwhelming perception, sometimes by a ratio of 2-to-1, of leftist slant to coverage, despite elite agencies' continued — if disintegrating — controlling interest in the national conversation. For all the media establishment's protestations of innocence and accusations against Fox News like this PEJ report, there is something to the idea that Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather kept their opinions not so much under wraps as under the byline — and that, loudmouth or not, you can trust somebody if he gives you all the serious angles.
One collection of figures Kurtz provided was amusing, if painfully illustrative of the gentry's disconnection between headlines and reality. According to PEJ's study, Fox was about twice as likely to broadcast "positive" stories from Iraq than cable competitors CNN and MSNBC. Well, yes: on January 29th of this year, Fox News was warily hopeful of Iraq's Assembly elections while MSNBC prepared for disaster. What happened the next day?
Michael Ubaldi, March 13, 2005.
I swapped "107" for "109" but Capitol Hill being what it is, our two hand puppet friends are acting out any modern Congress. Or perhaps Congress just takes naturally to burlesque. Which is the parody?
Michael Ubaldi, March 13, 2005.
Shortly after President Bush's State of the Union address, the Washington Post placed a reasonable condition on the White House's vision of peace through liberty: challenge and help overturn the baseless incarceration of Egyptian democratic opposition leader Ayman Nour. Less than a week after sizeable liberal demonstrations in Cairo, and immediately following a diplomatic rebuke by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak relented to demands and unveiled a process leading to the first legitimate executive referendum since he assumed power in 1981.
An Egyptian opposition leader and presidential hopeful whose imprisonment angered Washington and called into question Egypt's pledges of democratic reform led a parade Saturday through downtown Cairo, trailed by thousands after being freed on bail. ...Speaking to his supporters later, Nour reiterated his innocence — and his jailhouse announcement that he would run for president this year against 24-year incumbent Hosni Mubarak.
Whatever the case, the Washington Post's standard has been met — and the editors ought to express their pleasant surprise.
Michael Ubaldi, March 11, 2005.
President Bush has on many occasions told audiences how the awe of standing close, as a friend and ally, with the leader of an old foreign enemy never escapes him. Last September Richard Benedetto wrote about what I've maintained for quite some time: once in the fold of liberal democracy, a nation returns the aid and guidance it received through its own difficult rebirth.
I began essay Antiphony with reflection on the news that Japan's military was deploying in its largest semblance since 1945 to Indonesia for a humanitarian mission. The Self-Defense Force is packing up, now, and at least in anecdote its work has been a success:
On Monday, the Japanese closed their field hospital in the Lamara area of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, which had been operating for more than a month.
Amends are made, if they had not been already. Japan is steadily accepting more obligations of liberty and prosperity. Afghanistan has taken its first step. With generous foreign aid and a promising native beginning, Iraq will be no different.
Michael Ubaldi, March 11, 2005.
An interesting confluence: yesterday, two readers of Glenn Reynolds' sent him their apparently heartfelt desire to destroy Islam, and today Jonah Goldberg and Andrew Stuttaford are volleying back and forth on what drives murderous cultures and movements.
Glenn's unwelcome correspondents are falling for the best-selling lie of dictatorship: that a totalitarian state or a malignant culture is a popular choice rather than a perversion forced or foisted upon the whole by a violent minority. If one knows a sliver about the Crusades, it's that they had as much to do with Christ's teachings as Flights 11, 175, 77, and 93 had to do with Mohammed's. The Near East is neither despotic because it is Muslim nor Muslim because it is despotic: if the region were doomed to barbarity, "1/30/05" would have no meaning and Hamed Karzai would be long dead.
Michael Ubaldi, March 10, 2005.
A group of unarmed Iranians staged a protest aboard a Lufthansa jet at the Brussels airport Thursday, refusing to leave the plane and calling for the return of the monarchy in Iran, officials said. Christina Zia, who said her father called her on his cell phone from the plane, said they were supporters of the late shah and wanted to draw attention to Iranís problems.
WORD TRAVELS FAST: Another report:
U.S. Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, who is in phone contact with [London activist Frood] Fouladvand, told World Net Daily the protesters want an internationally monitored referendum that would enable the Iranian people to choose their next form of government.
IT GOES ON: Over thirteen hours:
"We want the European countries, also the United States and Russia to stop helping the Iranian regime," the group's spokesman, who identified himself only as Ira, told The Associated Press in a call from the aircraft. ..."We want these leaders to stop supporting terrorist regimes any longer ... to get rid of this Islamic regime or any kind of radical brutal religious movement from Iran," said Ira, who said he was an American national and a psychiatrist from New York.
FINI: The protesters have been removed from the plane. Authorities are not certain whether Iranian nationals in the group will be "repatriated," although we undoubtedly know the wisdom — and mercy — in not doing so.
Michael Ubaldi, March 9, 2005.
The undertaking was a bit of a whim, and I soon moved on. But anybody who's ever solicited knows that no reply need be gracious, let alone complimentary.
As for the subject matter itself, this one remains my favorite. Though the implications are unsettling the statement is quite relevant nearly five years later — and besides, that dragon is so grotesquely adorable.
Michael Ubaldi, March 9, 2005.
Jim Hake's Spirit of America has a message from GIs who would like to give their Iraqi compatriots a little something extra:
Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) member Jeff Walsh who is OIC of Fort Tal Afar contacted us to help provide for the quality of life for the approximately 300 Iraqis stationed there. The fort, which Jeff writes is a "no-kidding fort built by the Brits in the 1940s...used as a prison during the Iran/Iraq War", leaves much to be desired in the way of amenities and recreational activities. Currently, the Iraqi troops have no outlet to relieve stress and wind-down, other than Arab tv. Walsh and the 16 other Americans stationed at Fort Tal Afar would like your help in changing that.
Michael Ubaldi, March 8, 2005.