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Monday, July 28

Pundita goes on strike but the party is still on

I've been neglecting this blog for several months. If I could take you behind the scenes in Punditaland, you would understand why this sometimes happens -- well, here is a peek backstage:

June 6:
"Why did you desert your post?"

"Because I had to get away from the computer for an hour; I was sitting in one position for so many hours my feet swelled.
Pundita"

"Stand up and type."

I swear that the above is a true record of an email exchange I had with a colleague.

For we who analyze portentous events around the world there is a great deal of research and writing, and a great deal of debate and sharing of analyses and opinion -- much of which never shows up on the blog.

That work, and often the breakneck speed at which it's done, can be exhausting. Yet it's something I learned to take in stride while keeping up the blog -- until I ran into a topic I found so odious that it became a matter of forcing my brain to focus where it kept refusing to focus.

That topic would be Barack Obama or to be more precise his campaign for President of the United States.

At first colleagues more-or-less ignored my pleas that I required a sabbatical. But last week, after I threatened to don bunny slippers and nothing else and wander up and down K Street until Washington, DC's Finest hauled me to a psych ward, a general agreement was reached that I needed some serious down time.

I meant to put up a few final posts before leaving, but to be frank I am in such revolt that it will interesting to see if I can coax my brain into publishing even this note.

I will see you in September. I will check back on the 1st of the month.

If I don't return; if something happens to me -- life is short and full of surprises, after all -- readers who have been with this blog since 2005 might remember the party I planned for us.*

The party is still on.

Thank you for gracing my blog with your attention.

* From December 26, 2005 Pundita post:

One evening almost 12 years ago I was in a terrible mood, so I wandered into an old theater in Georgetown that is no longer there, seeking to distract myself with a movie.

A documentary called The Kingdom of Zydeco was playing. The film was my first sight of Louisiana, the bayou country and its people.

It was love at first sight. I wanted to leave everything behind, get on a plane, then live out the rest of my days among the people of the bayou country.

I did not go. It was not just because of life's entanglements. I had glimpsed the Elysian Fields, but I knew it would not be like that if I visited. It would be a very human place, of course, with all the attendant troubles. I wanted to keep my idea of heaven removed from life's cares.

Over the next few years my thoughts would return to southwestern Louisiana and it would be a point of cheer.

Then one day this year I asked myself what I would do if I won a big lottery. I thought I'd put an announcement on the blog that I was inviting all the 'regular' Pundita readers to a party, all expenses paid no matter where they lived.

"Where should the party be?" I wondered. At first I thought of renting a cruise ship but that didn't sound right. Then I remembered the picnic in The Kingdom of Zydeco.

"That's it! I'll charter flights to the bayou country and throw a picnic. We'll eat crawfish stew and dance to Zydeco music, and we won't have a care in the world!"

The thought of the party gave me happiness.

Two months later Hurricane Katrina struck southwestern Louisiana, wrecking the fishing industry that had supported the region since anyone remembered. And as we all know all too well, much suffering then came to the people of the region.

I was deeply shaken by the news. I felt as if I'd lost a part of my heart. Finally I snapped at myself, "Your Elysian Fields are gone. Stop acting like a child."

On Christmas Eve I recalled the party. That's how I came across an Associated Press/Boston Globe report, A Light Endures on the Bayou:
This Christmas Eve the Mississippi River in Louisiana's bayou country lit up with miles of traditional bonfires built on the top of levees, just as had been done for over a century of Christmas Eves.

Residents of the region took weeks to build the massive 20 foot bonfires from woven sugar cane and wood materials -- the latter plentiful this year because Katrina felled so many trees.

Most bonfire piles are in the shape of a teepee, but this year one bonfire was in the shape of a helicopter, complete with propellers made of PVC pipe and silver duct tape. It was a tribute to the air rescue workers who retrieved people from roofs in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
When I read of the bonfires I realized that the spirit of the people I'd fallen in love with had not been extinguished by a storm.

I haven't won the lottery yet -- it might help if I remembered to buy a ticket -- but I have decided there's nothing to prevent me from throwing the party in my heart. We'll dance and eat crawfish stew and we'll laugh and not have a care in the world.

Friday, July 25

Barack Obama's plan to save the world: there will be folk dancing and ethnic food

Obama's July 24 Berlin speech, the original version.

The translated version:

Citizens of Germany, I stand before you not as an American politician or even as an American but as a dual citizen: a citizen of the United States of America and the world.

Citizens of Germany, this is our moment. This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it, renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, make Europeans safer and happier, redistribute the wealth that globalization has created, answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East, and save this planet.

As to how I envision America's part in meeting those awesome goals, Germans first need to understand how I get things done before they can grasp the simplicity of my plan.

It is a scurrilous lie started by my political enemies that my roadmap to the White House was inspired by the Ponzi scheme.

On the contrary, at every stage of my political career, I have persuaded the powerful that if they promote me to a greater level of power I can solve whatever problems they find vexing.

As to the poverty, corruption, and government waste I always leave in my wake, this is due to the small amount of power I was given at those earlier stages of my climb.

To boil it down, don't expect my tenure as an American President to solve the world's problems unless you figure a way to make me chief of the world.

In the meantime I expect you to learn to make great sacrifices. And to acknowledge that the best way to defend human rights is to respect the primary human right, which is to be treated with understanding no matter how stupid, backward, or anti-democratic your actions and ideas.

Unless all ideologies are treated with equal respect, we cannot hope to accomplish the dream of peace in our time.

Tuesday, July 22

Barack Obama's troop withdrawal plan -- and welcome to our world, Andrea Mitchell (UPDATED 2X - see 7:05 PM ET)

Dear BR:
Would you get a grip because if you don't Barack Obama and his media flunkies are going to drive you crazy. For the last time: Nothing has changed on the ground with regard to the issue of U.S. withdrawal troops from Iraq since my Ping Pong post on July 8.

In fact nothing had changed about the issue since even before the report I cited. Things have been the same since General Petraeus took over command in Iraq. Things will remain the same, at least until he makes his report in September, which will be based on not only the assessments of US commanders in Iraq but also those of Iraqi military commanders.

So all that has changed are choices of words. As reported in the July 8 post the word "treaty" was ditched in favor of “memorandum of understanding,” which “has the same spirit” as the treaty being drafted -- and re-drafted and re-drafted -- between Iraq and the U.S.

The word game was to throw red meat at Moqtada al-Sadr and his minions and masters in Iran, who want the U.S. out of Iraq yesterday. The somewhat silly hope was that shuffling words around might temporarily stop Mookie & Co. from chewing up Nouri al-Maliki.

Then, on July 18, Amer Moshen at Iraq Slogger reported on the latest word game:
Az-Zaman reported on the latest Iraqi-US negotiations regarding a “security agreement” between the two countries. According to Western reports, Az-Zaman said, Iraqi demands for a withdrawal timetable for US forces will likely be replaced with a timetable for “troop reduction” in Iraq. [emphasis mine]

Pro-government papers seemed to confirm these reports, with an al-Mada front-pager claiming that negotiations now center on “preludes for the reduction, and later on, the withdrawal, of American forces.”

Such an agreement would clearly fall below the expectations of government figures, who hoped for an arrangement that would end – even if in a matter of years -- with a full US withdrawal, and defended their strategy of negotiations based on that principle.

As al-Mada’s piece showed, however, even a face-saving “timetable for troops reduction” could be painted as a victory for the current government. But popular discontent with the negotiations, already at a high despite promises of US withdrawal commitments, is now likely to grow.

As an example, al-Hayat published an attack on the prospective treaty by the Islamic Army (a Sunni insurgent faction), which claimed that the US “wants to impose an agreement of humiliation and submission” upon Iraqis. The Islamic Army statement -– typically -- doubted the capacity of “those appointed by the US” to negotiate on behalf of the Iraqi state. Now, if Maliki is unable to promise Iraqis “full liberation,” the popular view vis-à-vis the treaty is likely to worsen.
(But remember it's not a treaty, it's a memorandum of understanding.)

So how does all that square with Maliki's statement to Germany's der Spiegel (published on July 19) that he agreed with Obama's timetable of 16 months for troop withdrawal? And the controversy that arose from the statement? And the somewhat different reports on what Maliki's spokesperson said after Obama's meeting with Maliki on July 21? Regarding the latter:
[...] According to Reuters [Ali al-Dabbagh] said, “We cannot give any timetables or dates but the Iraqi government believes the end of 2010 is the appropriate time for the withdrawal.”

The Associated Press quoted Mr. Dabbagh as saying, “We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq,” but noting that any plans would have to change should violence rise.[...]
The answer is first that Maliki's statement to der Spiegel was almost assuredly properly translated, despite his protests to the contrary after State went through the roof.

Second and more importantly: everything that's been said by Maliki and his spokespersons in recent days with regard to timetables has to be viewed against the backdrop of Iraq politics.

Recently a serious issue arose for Maliki and his government when it became clear that because of the Parliament's foot-dragging, the planned October provincial and local elections would have to be pushed to the end of the year -- and maybe even later, because of unresolved legalities.

The delay, coming on top of the controversy about the treaty -- er, memorandum of understanding -- means that Maliki is feeling the heat. Into that situation walked Barack Obama, who was seized on by Maliki as more red meat to hurl at Mookie.

In summary Obama fell into the role of useful idiot, which was okay with him because the statements from Maliki made him look good in the media.

He knew that the journalists reporting on his tour were poorly informed about the currents and eddies of Iraqi politics, and that any exceptions among the press corps following him around would not be inclined to rain on his parade. Not if they wanted to keep a seat on his plane.

With regard to the statement you heard on a news outlet that Petraeus "agreed" with Obama that al Qaeda in Iraq was retreating to Afghanistan, that is not exactly what Petraeus said, according to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff:
CHRIS WALLACE [FOX News]: [...] Petraeus, still the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq but headed on to become central commander, says that Al Qaida may no longer consider Iraq the front line in the war on terror and may, in fact, be shifting some of its foreign fighters from Iraq to Afghanistan. Do you see that shift?

MIKE MULLEN: I think he also said that there’s no firm evidence of that yet. In my trip there week before last, certainly the whole issue of the FATA and the safe havens for foreign fighters, for Al Qaida, for Taliban and the insurgents that are now freely — much more freely able to come across the borders — a big challenge for all of us.
I suggest you study the entire interview, which was aired July 20, and which goes into detail about the question of a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Refer to the interview whenever you're spooked by reports about the situation.

As to your question about the media and Barack Obama, I've received a couple questions in a similar vein so before I go on leave I'll finish a post I started more than a month ago, and get it up by Saturday. Then I'm gone from the blogosphere until September.

For the nonce: It could be that no matter what their political bias that professional pride may be causing journalists with a good reputation to chafe at playing the fool to Obama's media manipulation techniques -- or George Soros's techniques, as the case may be.

I make this observation based on strong remarks that Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News, made to Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball on July 21. She observed in part:
[...] MITCHELL: Let me just say something about the message management. [Obama] didn't have reporters with him, he didn't have a press pool, he didn't do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

What you're seeing is not reporters brought in. You're seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, and what some would call fake interviews, because they're not interviews from a journalist. So, there's a real press issue here.

Politically it's smart as can be. But we've not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about access to the troops, Andrea. A lot of African-American faces over there, very happy, delighted faces. Is that a representation of the percentage of service people who are African-American, or did they all choose to join someone they like, apparently? What's the story?

MITCHELL: I can't really say that. Being a reporter who was not present in any of those situations, I just cannot report on what was edited out, what was, you know, on the sidelines. That's my issue. We don't know what we are seeing.
Welcome to the club, Ms Mitchell.

For many months, many bloggers have been jumping up and down and yelling and screaming that the news media have been putting on a magic show instead of reporting on Obama and his campaign.

(See the full report at News Busters, which also has the video of Mitchell's conversation with Matthews.)
***************************************
6:50 PM ET UPDATE
This afternoon Merry at RBO (The Real Barack Obama) posted an entry titled What does Chalabi want from Obama? Merry explores Eli Lake's report for today's New York Sun about Ahmad Chalabi's role in prodding Malki to endorse Obama's 16 month timetable for a withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Merry's entry also returns to one her posts of yesterday, which points up:
[...] "the obvious irony that one of the three Iraqi officials with whom Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) met while “making the rounds in Baghdad” was Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who had served on the Iraqi Governing Council, appointed July 13, 2003, by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer, with Sen. Obama’s fellow Chicagoan, former Iraqi Minister of Electricity, Aiham Alsammarae, who was convicted in an Iraqi court in October 2006 in the theft of at least $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction dollars (i.e. U.S. tax dollars); who had contributed to Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign fund; and who put up three of his properties as surety for Obama political patron and convicted political fixer -- and Obama’s personal real estate fairy -- Antoin “Tony” Rezko’s bond this past spring.

The media, it appears, chooses either to be, or pretend to be, unaware of the irony.

Well, there is another member from Alsammarae’s days with the first Iraqi Governing Council in 2003 who has played a role in Sen. Obama’s “visit” to Iraq -- Ahmad Chalabi, who served as Deputy Prime Minister until his fall from grace in May 2004.
[...]
There are lots more depressing facts at both links. Barack Obama's old buddies are quite a cast of characters. If you're not reading RBO every day there's no way you can keep up with all the twists and turns of Barack Obama's colorful career in Chicago and how it all intersects with his run for the presidency.

And now we have the fun of contemplating Chalabi as an Obama booster.

Chalabi, by the way, is seriously ticked off at Washington -- again. May 14, 2008 NBC:
Sources in Baghdad tell NBC News that as of this week American military and civilian officials have cut off all contact with controversial Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi [...] The reason, the sources say, is "unauthorized" contacts with Iran's government, an allegation Chalabi denies. Iran has been accused of arming and training rebel Shiite forces in Iraq.

Chalabi had been making a remarkable comeback in Iraq, but that may now be in question, American officials tell NBC News on condition of anonymity.
If you ask why in the Sam Hill it took this long to cut off ties with Chalabi, who has been accused by various quarters of too-close involvement with Tehran since as early as 2003 -- it's been an on-again, off-again affair between Chalabi and US officials.
Since September 2007 [...] American military officials and civilian officials working out of the U.S. Embassy had contacts with Chalabi. At that time he was installed as the head of a "services" committee for Baghdad that was to coordinate the restoration of services to the city's residents.[...]
***************************************
This entry is cross-posted at RBO.
***************************************
7:05 PM UPDATE
Stop, Merry! I can't take any more Obama antics in one day! This just in from RBO:
[...]Obama “believes the survival of US combat forces in Kurdistan does not pose any real danger to the lives of US troops and therefore it would be appropriate to redeploy US troops there in the future.”

So, you ask, what’s the deal with Kurdistan? Well, it just so happens that Chamchamal in Northern Kurdistan is the location chosen in 2003 for a power plant by convicted political fixer—and Obama political patron and personal real estate fairy—Antoin “Tony” Rezko and his partner, former Minister of Electricity Aiham Alsammarae who was convicted October 2006 in an Iraqi court for the theft of $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction funds.
Let me out, let me out! Oh but that's right, there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Saturday, July 19

In need of a dose of common sense about news stories? (UPDATED 7/21 11:35 PM ET)

Go here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In lieu of clicking all those links you could just go the main page and start reading through Dave Schuler's pithy analyses on a range of topics in the news this past week.

Dave's site is not named The Glittering Eye for nothing. He has spent his years on the blogosphere deflating hype and hysteria, correcting misinformation, and sorting out conflicting and/or confusing news stories on domestic political/economic issues and US foreign policy.

Now if I could only remember where Dave filed his handy list that debunks cherished myths about economics issues .......
*************************
7/21 UPDATE
Ah yes; here is the list I was looking for. Thanks, Dave!

Tuesday, July 15

A tale of three journalists in Tibet: the lucky James Miles, the intrepid Chen Lin, and a lucky mystery man (UPDATED 8/04)

This entry was revised July 16. See end of post for 8/04 letter from James Miles.

Nitin at India's Acorn blog alerted me that in a July 10 report for The Economist James Miles did a little backtracking about his perception of how events went down in Lhasa when riots broke out there on March 14.
[...] Your correspondent, who happened to be the only foreign journalist in Lhasa at the time, reported in March that the rioting began to spread along the city’s main thoroughfare, Beijing Road, in the early afternoon, “a short while” after a clash between monks and security officials outside Ramoche temple some 200 metres up a side street.

But in fact the eruption of citywide rioting was slower than this suggested. Witnesses speak of the unrest outside Ramoche temple starting before 11.30am, well before your correspondent arrived at Beijing Road around 1.30pm and saw the rioting fan out through the narrow alleys of Lhasa’s old Tibetan quarter.

Until just before then the unrest, including some stone-throwing by Tibetans at police, was confined to a small area. Oddly, however, your correspondent was nearby in a government car at around 12.30pm and saw no sign of beefed-up security. [...]
Miles also proffers various possibilities about why the Chinese Communist Party authorities in Tibet allowed the riots of that day to proceed virtually unhampered by official intervention. He even brings himself to consider the possibility that "... some officials actually wanted the violence to escalate, as a pretext to impose blanket security on the city long before the Olympics."

Ah yes, I well remember the lucky Mr Miles of the lucky Economist magazine. As he told CNN on March 20, the day after he left Tibet:
I've been a journalist in China now for 15 years altogether. This is the first time that I've ever got official approval to go to Tibet.
Now that's luck.

And how lucky was it for the CCP that the lucky Mr Miles was granted the only official permission for a foreign journalist to be in Lhasa at just the time, as luck would have it, riots broke out there?

And so it came to pass that the lucky Mr Miles became "king of the journalists," as he filed report after report from Lhasa about the rioting and the aftermath -- reports that shaped the outside world's view of what was happening in the city; reports that China's official press touted as examples of the savagery of the Tibetans.

And how lucky was it for China's President Hu Jintao, remembered by Tibetans from his days as Tibet's boss as "the Butcher of Lhasa," that the lucky Mr Miles was there on scene, able to give the world accounts of the attacks by Tibetans on Han and Hui Chinese?

Granted, things backfired a bit when world opinion outside China tended to sympathize with the Tibetans but this is a story about luck, not politics.

Enter an unlucky but very determined reporter for Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV by the name of Chen Lin. Chen did not have official permission to be in Lhasa but despite that great handicap she exerted herself to investigate and document the chaotic situation in Lhasa in the wake of the riots.

Chen also blogged about her experiences in Lhasa. ESWN published English translations of her journal for the days March 16, 17, and 19.

In one of her March 19 entries Chen wrote about her encounter with a foreign journalist:
We could not stay hungry and we kept looking until we found a restaurant opened for business. It was a large restaurant with more than two dozen service workers and cooks. But we were the only two customers.

When we returned to the hotel, we saw a foreigner. I remembered that none of the foreigners that I saw today and yesterday agreed to be interviewed. I raced up to this one, but I found out that he was also a reporter.

The difference was that he received permission from the Lhasa Foreign Relations Department to enter Tibet to gather news on March 10. He was due to leave the next day. He was pleasantly surprised that the authorities permitted him to stay during this period to gather news.

On the afternoon of March 14, he was scheduled to interview the vice-chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Rule Region. After the news came that there was a disturbance, the Foreign Relations Department agreed with his request to cancel the scheduled meeting and he rushed over to the scene.

He said that the rioters perpetrated violence right in front of him, although it was not as bad as in other areas. The mobsters used rocks to throw at bicyclists and that was already scary enough.

He was glad that he was a foreigner whom the rioters took to be on their side. They even smiled at him and then continued to wrought violence. He firmly believed that this was a racial conflict.

When I told him that Tibetans had been injured and even burned to death, he looked lost and said, "WHY?"

Yes, I also wanted to know. WHY?
As you see, Chen did not name the lucky foreign journalist. However, the sharp-eyed blogger at ESWN snapped up Chen's entry and posted it in a compilation of all the reports filed by James Miles from Lhasa, along with other reports related to Miles's dispatches.

(Scroll to near the end of the ESWN compilation for Chen Lin's conversation with the mystery journalist.)

By placing Chen's interview with all those reports, ESWN seemed to have made a great find by pegging the mystery journalist as Miles.

At first glance it seems that ESWN was right. Miles was the only foreign journalist with official permission to be in Tibet at the time. And other aspects of the conversation point to Miles:

The comment about the riots being racially motivated reflected an opinion Miles expressed in one of his dispatches.

And the reference to violence against bicyclists points to an incident in which Miles stopped Tibetan rioters from stoning a Chinese bicyclist.

Indeed, when I asked another blogger, who had also been closely following Miles's dispatches, to check the Chinese-language version of the ESWN translation, he told me that the original text also did not name the journalist, but that the mystery man must have been Miles.

The problem is that the mystery journalist's account of his entry date and official permission differs from the one given by James Miles.

From the March 20 CNN interview with Miles:
CNN: When you were told to leave [Lhasa], what were you told?

Miles: Well I had an 8-day permit to be in Lhasa. That permit began two days before the rioting, on March 12, and was due to run out on March 19. [...]
Counting on our fingers and toes, we know that March 12 is two days after March 10. And Miles implies that he entered Tibet with an 8-day permit rather than receiving an extended permit after he arrived.

Is the solution to the mystery that the journalist was indeed Miles, but Chen simply got wrong what Miles told her?

She would have needed to get a lot wrong -- not just the entry date but the entire explanation. And she is reporter, and one who was surely very keenly interested in learning how a foreign reporter had the great luck to obtain official permission to be in Lhasa around that time.

Is it possible that the mystery journalist was indeed Miles but that he didn't wish to reveal the correct details of his situation to a stranger? Yes that's possible.

It's also possible that Miles simplified his explanation for CNN. If the situation was actually the one recounted to Chen, that could mean Miles entered Tibet with a two-day permission (March 10-11), and was notified on the 11th that the permit would be extended to eight days beginning on March 12.

That would be the way to make both explanations jibe, if the mystery journalist was indeed James Miles.

Here we come to a snag. To return to Miles's reply to the CNN interviewer:
Well I had an 8-day permit to be in Lhasa. That permit began two days before the rioting, on March 12, and was due to run out on March 19. My official schedule was basically abandoned after a couple days of this. Many of the places on my official itinerary turned out to be hotspots in the middle of this unrest. [...]
If we are speculating that there was an original permit issued for March 10 and 11, then Miles's original official itinerary would have only covered March 10 and 11.

Granted, an expanded itinerary could have been thrown together on March 11 to cover the days for March 12-19, although generally these things take several days to work out.

More to the point, by March 10 it was clear to the authorities that Lhasa was a tinderbox -- a point that Miles brings up in his July 10 piece for The Economist:
... the protests at Lhasa’s monasteries on March 10th and 11th were the biggest in the city since 1989 and provided ample warning of bigger trouble ahead. [...]
Why yes indeed; it was starkly obvious to the authorities even before March 10th, and to anyone with half a brain, that the demonstrations planned for the 10th would be large. That is exactly why the authorities used draconian means to deal with March 10 demonstrations -- a ploy they knew would lead to unrest.

Yet if we are to believe the mystery journalist's account to Chen Lin, then, in the midst of this gathering storm, on the 11th, someone in Lhasa officialdom rang him up and exclaimed, 'Lucky you! We've decided to extend your permit for eight days! As a bonus we'll throw together a very extensive new itinerary for you, just so you won't get bored hanging out.'

Of course there is another way to attempt to uncover the identity of the lucky mystery journalist, and that would be to write James Miles and ask whether he was indeed the person Chen described.

You're welcome to try. As to why I don't write him, let me put it this way: I am fully intent on being as fair to James Miles as he was to his readers while he reported on the unrest in Lhasa.

I'll go only this far toward meeting him: he's welcome to write me with an explanation, which I will publish along with my reply.

As for writing Chen Lin for clarification -- obviously she had her reasons for not naming the mystery journalist. However, if anyone wants to write and ask her to cough up a name, I would be glad to publish her reply.

Chen Lin made honest efforts to do her job as a reporter while in Lhasa and yet she was facing insurmountable obstacles. As she recounts in one of the March 19 entries that ESWN translated:
We are "illegal" because our presence did not fit the wishes of the local authorities. On the evening of March 18, we received a notice from our hotel that unless we get the proper papers, we will be reported and then likely asked to depart.

I cannot go to the authorities to request interviews, I cannot go to the hospitals where the wounded people are being treated and I cannot go to the aid stations where the homeless are being sheltered.
James Miles, on the other hand, was not "illegal." He was even able to ride around Lhasa in an official car. Yet there is nothing in his March reports from Lhasa or his subsequent accounts to suggest that he did even the basic groundwork that Chen covered or attempted, and which any professional reporter worth the title would have done.

Whenever he did leave his hotel he simply wandered around, in the manner of a confused tourist.

His reporting boiled down to describing whatever incidents he wandered into, and he embellished these with his impressions of what was going on.

There was no method at all to his reporting, which put it in the diary category of journalism.

This, despite his assertion that the authorities gave him the virtual run of Lhasa during and after the riots. Yet if he made an attempt to visit hospitals and aid stations and interview a list of officials in Lhasa about the riots and aftermath, there is no mention of this in his reports.

If he was rebuffed in his attempts, then, with the world hanging on his every published word from Tibet, he did not explain that.

If he feared he would be immediately ejected from Tibet if he tried to get answers, he did not mention that to his readers, either.

So we are left with questions, many questions, about what really happened in Tibet on March 14.

And we are left with questions for Mr Miles and The Economist. Did the magazine pick the date they wanted Miles, based in Beijing, to enter Tibet?

Or had they been trying unsuccessfully for months or even years to receive official permission to enter Tibet, and were suddenly and inexplicably rewarded with a permit at a seemingly inopportune time? (The most senior officials in Tibet were at a conference in Beijing at the time of Miles's visit.)

Finally, four months after Chen Lin's account of her conversation with another lucky foreign journalist who found himself with official permission to be in Lhasa during the riots, we are still waiting for that mystery journalist to appear and identify himself.

And to explain, if he can, why he thinks that Tibet's authorities decided on March 11 to offer him an unasked-for extended stay in Lhasa.
***********************************************
8/04 Update, 11:30 PM ET
James Miles responds:

"I read your blog entry on my reporting on Tibet. It might help your investigation to know that my permit for reporting in Tibet was valid from March 12th to 19th. Accordingly I arrived in Lhasa on the 12th by train from Qinghai and left by plane on March 19th. During my stay I asked for an extension of my permit. This was denied. If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to ask.

Regards,
James Miles
China Correspondent
The Economist"

Thursday, July 10

"YouTube et al threaten to bring openness to the House:" Update on Democrat Politicians Move to Control Congressional Internet Content

I don't have Trackback. (Let's face it, Pundita is a disaster when it comes to being a proper blog; most of the time my lazy assistant Tiffany even forgets to add keywords.*) And I rarely give an accounting of all blogs that link to one of my posts.

But on this occasion I want to give special thanks to all concerned for making room in their busy schedule to quickly respond to ZenPundit Mark Safranski's request, which I forwarded them, to help publicize moves in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to control how Congress interfaces with the public on the internet.

Thanks to Riehl World View, Gates of Vienna, and Free Mark Steyn! for linking to my post on the topic. And thanks to The Real Barack Obama for cross-posting my entry yesterday.

Thanks also to Hang Right reader Suek and OldCoastie reader at Firedoglake for linking to my post in those blogs' comment section.

Also, thanks to John Batchelor for snatching moments from his very hectic schedule to look into the issue.

If I've missed anyone, my thanks to you!

Also, ZenPundit and The Real Barack Obama have updated their own posts on the topic to include lists of other bloggers who have been writing on the topic.

An important post on the topic is found at a social networking site called Mashable. The comment thread is also illuminating. It's encouraging that Web tecchie sites are taking an interest in the issue.

Clay Shirky, a widely respected pundit/thinker for the Web 2.0 sector, has also weighed in on the topic; on Wednesday he made a comment (see second comment) for the Google Group discussion about The Open House Project. (The project is dedicated to using the internet to bring more transparency to government.)

Shirky answers skeptics who ask how the House Administration Committee could possibly enforce its proposed rules requiring outside websites, such as YouTube, to comply with House regulations before Members of Congress can post videos on them:
Don't make the mistake of assuming an unpoliceable rule is also unenforceable.

They can enforce it the way we enforce parking rules, which is to miss most violations, and then bring on draconian enforcement of enough violations to create a chilling effect. This would also allow the Rules committee to use enforcement as a selectively wielded stick.

[...]

YouTube et al threaten to bring openness to the House, and to normalize a channel in which franking privileges create no advantage for incumbents.

In a social environment as tight as the House, the threat of unlikely but serious punishment, for an activity that Members may not be in a hurry to embrace or defend anyway, will be enough to make discussion with constituents out in the open an edge case.
Of course the YouTube "threat" applies to both sides of the political aisle. So anyone who believes that Republicans are making a mountain out of a molehill about the issue is poorly informed.

This is one issue on which all Americans, no matter their political ideology, need to link arms. To reference the Hang Right blog's banner quote of Benjamin Franklin: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Assuredly.

* Someday I really must find a way to thank Mark Steyn for recommending Tiffany so highly.

Wednesday, July 9

Oh great! Just great! Just what we need right now: a bunch of lunatics showing off their firepower.

From John Batchelor's site:
Speaking Sunday 13 (I hope) with my best source re the surprising multiple rocket launches shown on Tehran TV and then worldwide on Wednesday 9, and we will explore the reason the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenai, and the Supreme Leader's representatives (Guardians of the Mahdi), directed the Sepah/Pasdaran (Army of the Guardians) High Command to show off so much coordinated rocket-red-glaring firepower and troop deployment on a steamy July day.

I am told to think of the Tehran leadership as a STAVKA -- the supreme command gathered around Stalin and his marshals in the Great Patriotic War.

Accordingly, with what we know and can deduce from watching the Tehran STAVKA in the media, there are many pieces of the Tehran puzzle to be put together, albeit incompletely, with fresh information received in this news cycle from my best signals sources: [...]
Read the rest of the fun developments.

I think I need another vacation.

Democrat Politicians Move to Control Congressional Internet Content

I don't want to hear Hillary Clinton supporters say to me, 'B-b-but Diane Feinstein would never do something like this.'

She wouldn't, huh?
Feinstein (D-CA) would have the [Senate] Rules Committee act as a censor board, forcing [congressional] members to get approval for the act of communicating on external websites. Further, it would appear that the Feinstein proposal would attempt to exercise editorial control over these sites, at least indirectly.(1)
Over on the House side, Nancy Pelosi wants to:
... impose rules barring any member of Congress from posting opinions on any internet site without first obtaining prior approval from the Democratic leadership of Congress. No blogs, twitter, online forums -- nothing.(2)
Also, the internet censorship rules being proposed for the Congress might extend to external web sites whose members communicate with Congress.(3)

If you tell me they can't do that, yes they can.

Now tell me again, my Democrat friend, that the First Amendment is perfectly safe

If you feel you must be in the middle of a bad dream -- wake up. There will be no more need for America's anti-democratic politicians to wear a liberal mask once Barack Obama is in the White House; emboldened by this fact, Pelosi, Feinstein and their fellow travelers in Congress are setting about to quash dissent from congressional Republicans and any Democrat stupid enough to oppose Obama's march.

As for the talk that Barack Obama is moving to the center -- the center of what? Somewhere midway between despotism and totalitarianism?

I went to all that trouble to put together a schema of associations for you, and which reveals the real Barack Obama. And you're talking to me about Left and Right?

Obama's "liberal" voting record was just playing to the fools who could put him in power quickest. There is no "center" political position in Obama's world; there is only a quest for power.

Note: sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting, "Lalalalalalalala I won't listen to you Pundita," is not going to change the reality that the Democrat party is deader than a doornail. It was destroyed from the inside, not from Republican onslaughts.

What to do? For starters I'd suggest you get on the horn with your congressonal representatives and yell yourself hoarse.

I think that Pelosi et al. are betting that the distraction of the presidential campaign will allow them to carry out their plan to muzzle democracy without the public noticing.

They should back off, once they realize that Netizens have caught them red-handed. And if they don't back off? Then we are farther down the road to losing the First Amendment than even I am willing to contemplate at this moment.

Thanks to ZenPundit Mark Safranski for alerting me to the attempt to control internet access for members of Congress.

1) Why do Congressional Democrats fear free speech? Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

2) Nancy Pelosi vs. Social Media, Free Speech and Democracy, Mark Safranski, ZenPundit

3) Open House Project (H/T Fantom Planet)
***********************************************************
THURSDAY UPDATE
I don't have Trackback. (Let's face it, Pundita is a disaster when it comes to being a proper blog; most of the time my lazy assistant Tiffany even forgets to add keywords.*) And I rarely give an accounting of all blogs that link to one of my posts.

But on this occasion I want to give special thanks to all concerned for making room in their busy schedule to quickly respond to ZenPundit Mark Safranski's request, which I forwarded them, to help publicize moves in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to control how Congress interfaces with the public on the internet.

Thanks to Riehl World View, Gates of Vienna, and Free Mark Steyn! for linking to my post on the topic. And thanks to The Real Barack Obama for cross-posting my entry yesterday.

Thanks also to Hang Right reader Suek and OldCoastie reader at Firedoglake for linking to my post in those blogs' comment section.

Also, thanks to John Batchelor for snatching moments from his very hectic schedule to look into the issue.

If I've missed anyone, my thanks to you!

Also, ZenPundit and The Real Barack Obama have updated their own posts on the topic to include lists of other bloggers who have been writing on the topic.

An important post on the topic is found at a social networking site called Mashable. The comment thread is also illuminating. It's encouraging that Web tecchie sites are taking an interest in the issue.

Clay Shirky, a widely respected pundit/thinker for the Web 2.0 sector, has also weighed in on the topic; on Wednesday he made a comment (see second comment) for the Google Group discussion about The Open House Project. (The project is dedicated to using the internet to bring more transparency to government.)

Shirky answers skeptics who ask how the House Administration Committee could possibly enforce its proposed rules requiring outside websites, such as YouTube, to comply with House regulations before Members of Congress can post videos on them:
Don't make the mistake of assuming an unpoliceable rule is also unenforceable.

They can enforce it the way we enforce parking rules, which is to miss most violations, and then bring on draconian enforcement of enough violations to create a chilling effect. This would also allow the Rules committee to use enforcement as a selectively wielded stick.

[...]

YouTube et al threaten to bring openness to the House, and to normalize a channel in which franking privileges create no advantage for incumbents.

In a social environment as tight as the House, the threat of unlikely but serious punishment, for an activity that Members may not be in a hurry to embrace or defend anyway, will be enough to make discussion with constituents out in the open an edge case.
Of course the YouTube "threat" applies to both sides of the political aisle. So anyone who believes that Republicans are making a mountain out of a molehill about the issue is poorly informed.

This is one issue on which all Americans, no matter their political ideology, need to link arms. To reference the Hang Right blog's banner quote of Benjamin Franklin: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Assuredly.

* Someday I really must find a way to thank Mark Steyn for recommending Tiffany so highly.

Tuesday, July 8

Ping pong, anyone?

Amer Moshen reports for Iraq Slogger that Az-Zaman mentions there has been a -- how to put it -- transmogrification of the US-Iraq security treaty:
According to the paper, the US and Iraqi governments have seemingly agreed to replace the treaty (which would require the approval of the Parliament) with a “memorandum of understanding” that “has the same spirit” as the treaty.

In fact, the paper referred to the security arrangement, for the first time, as “a strategic memorandum of understanding” throughout the article, in an indication that this could be the official name of the security treaty from now on.
Today's Washington Post shores Az-Zaman's observations by reporting that yesterday, while broaching the subject of establishing a timetable for US troop withdrawals from Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spoke in terms of a "memorandum of understanding."

Translation: Mookie and his followers are still bent out of shape about the US staying on Iraq, and it's hoped by Maliki and the pro-US camp in Iraq's government that -- er, transmogrifying a treaty into a memo will ease the pain of the bottom line.

What is the bottom line? According to the Post:
Sadiq al-Rikabi, a top political adviser to Maliki, said any timetable would be conditioned on the ability of Iraq's security forces to secure the country, something the government has long said.

"In that case, American forces should return home," Rikabi said, adding that there were no discussions so far of specific dates for a U.S. withdrawal. [...]

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said negotiations were being handled by the State Department but reiterated the need for a conditions-based approach. "Timelines tend to be artificial in nature," he said, "and in a situation where things are as dynamic as they are in Iraq, I would tell you that it's usually best to look at these things as they are on the ground."
Getting a crick in your neck from following the little ball bounce back and forth? Okay, let's boil it down:
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said he will decide by September -- when he is due to relinquish his command to Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno -- whether additional withdrawals will be possible before year's end.
And that decision will be based on the best assessments of hard-headed Iraqi and US commanders about the Iraq military's readiness and the general security situation in Iraq. Beep this is a recording.

Just how are things going on the security front in Iraq right now? For the answer we turn to the most reliable civilian source for frontline news, Long War Journal. While there, catch up with news on the security situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Monday, July 7

The lunatics at The People's Cube explain everything

For this outrage, they are going on my blogroll.

Thanks to Binks of a Thousand Eyes for introducing me to The People's Cube and for sending me the above gem.

And in breaking news, The Real Barack Obama (formerly Rezko Watch) has awarded The Second Ever Obama Jackass Award, which is pretty much the same as the First Ever Obama Jackass Award due to the fact that Mr Obama can't stop talking about his fetish for high heels. Photoshop wizards, please help that jackass realize his heart's desire!

Saturday, July 5

Steve Diamond: Whither the Teachers’ Unions? The Barack Obama-William Ayers Link

Professor Steve Diamond at Global Labor and the Global Economy writes about important upcoming events and to reply to yet more huffy leftists, so the least I could do was interrupt my vacation to cross-post his latest.

For detailed background on the discussion here, see Steve's posts starting June 18 at his blog; for more background on the Obama-Ayers relationship see Global Labor archives starting April 22, then read forward.


All of a sudden, the American Federation of Teachers seems to have decided it is in their best interest to rise to the defense of Obama and his education advisor Linda Darling-Hammond. In particular, they do not want anyone looking too closely at the long-standing relationship between Bill Ayers and their preferred presidential candidate, Senator Obama.

Well, not really all of a sudden, it's just a few days after the AFL-CIO decided to throw in the towel and endorse Obama over Clinton now that Clinton has put her campaign on ice. And just a few days before Obama is scheduled to appear before the national conventions of both of the major teachers' unions. The AFT has recommended its convention meeting next week in Chicago endorse Obama, as has the National Education Association, before which Obama speaks July 5.

When I pointed out at the Edwize Blog sponsored by the United Federation of Teachers, the big New York division of the AFL-CIO affiliated AFT, that Darling-Hammond backs the same key policy proposal (repayment of centuries of "education debt" to people of color) as Bill Ayers, long time education advocate and co-worker of Obama, and that Ayers and Obama are far from being "casual acquaintances" as Leo Casey of the AFT had contended, Casey replied with the following false claims on the Democratic Left Yahoo group:

1) that I had painted an "unrecognizable caricature" of Darling-Hammond;

2) that I had contended that the $110 million Chicago Annenberg Challenge that Ayers and Obama ran together for five years was a "political front" for Ayers and his politics;

3) that Obama had only a "quite superficial grasp of what [was] going on" at the Annenberg Challenge the board of which he chaired and was not "involve[d] in the nitty-gritty" of the five year long project and that he was only "lending..his name and his ability to make a couple of telephone calls to get things done."

4) that I contended there was "some sort of sinister hidden connection between Obama and Ayers"

None of this is true and Casey provides no documentation at all for any of his specious contentions. I wrote the following reply to both Democratic Left and Edwize, but so far neither site has "approved" my posts so I am putting up a copy here (pretty remarkable for a site that considers itself an opponent of authoritarianism in modern political life):

Well, at least Leo now seems to be admitting that Ayers and Obama were more than "casual acquaintances" as he asserted on Democratic Left and on Edwize.

So now on to the second line of defense.

Frankly, I am not sure what that is because I only assert two things: Obama and Ayers have a longstanding political relationship - which is clear from the public record; and two, Ayers and Darling-Hammond are now advocating a race-based solution to education - the repayment of centuries of "education debt" to people of color or, in other words, reparations. Nothing you have said contradicts this.

I did not paint a portrait of Darling Hammond or caricature her as you have speciously asserted. I only stated the facts as supported by her public record. She and I have exchanged emails on this issue and this is reported on my blog. She herself has never suggested that I have made any factually incorrect statements about her.

I never suggested the Annenberg Challenge which Obama and Ayers ran together, though not alone, was a political front as you, again without substantiation, contend I did. In fact, Ayers was quite open about his political goals and those goals run right through the lengthy grant proposal, the annual reports of the organization and its board minutes, which I have reviewed (though some board minutes were not provided me).

Some in Chicago shared those goals. Some understood the background of his views and others did not. I view the local schools councils as an attempt to create a new center of power that was aimed at the power of the teachers' union. They were set up in the wake of an unpopular teachers strike in 1987. Obama and Ayers were active in the lobbying effort for that "radical" reform, as Ayers called it in his proposal to the Annenberg Foundation.

I do not consider such local councils a democratic step forward for school progress, but rather as a potential base of power for those with a different kind of agenda, based on racial politics and "social justice" teaching. A genuine democratic alternative would be built, as Dorothy Shipps has written, in district wide assemblies elected by the public that are transparent and accountable.

I have not imputed any particular agenda to Ayers, Obama or Darling-Hammond, other than to note that Ayers and Darling-Hammond support repayment of the education debt as a top priority. Obama has not stated what his views are on this very clearly though he indicated sympathy for the idea while campaigning in South Carolina.

Given the long and close ties between Ayers and Obama and the professional ties among education debt repayment advocates Ayers, Darling-Hammond and Ladson-Billings, it is reasonable to ask if this kind of race-based approach to educational problems is going to be part of the Obama presidency.

Obama was not as you contend an elected official when he first worked on school reform with Ayers in the late 80s, nor was he even yet a candidate when he became Chairman of the board of the Annenberg Challenge in 1995. He was a relative unknown and quite a junior person at that point, just two years out of law school when Ayers submitted the grant proposal, with only a voter registration drive to his credit since leaving Harvard.

Thus, I think it is a fair question to ask why Obama would have been chosen to head up such a prestigious effort as the $110 million Annenberg Challenge. I think Ayers backed him because he knew he could rely on Obama to support Ayers' agenda of propping up the troubling and troubled local schools councils.

And, in fact, the record of the Challenge - its annual reports, mid term reports and board minutes - indicate that that is precisely what happened. Even when concerns were raised by a business sector representative on the board that the councils represented a potential "political threat" to school principals (and unions??) Obama backed Ayers in pushing money into the school council election process.

Finally, when you suggest that Obama played no significant role in directing the Challenge, are you suggesting that as chairman of the board of a major non profit corporation in the state of Illinois, that Obama had a hands-off attitude? That he was NOT aware that the Challenge was signing off on, for example, a $175,000 grant to Ayers buddy Mike Klonsky, as they did in 1995 for the Small Schools Workshop Klonsky was recruited to head up by Ayers? That suggests to me a problem of fiduciary duty. Quite unlikely for a Harvard Law School graduate - and frankly, more worrying for me about Obama if true.

No, I think Obama knew exactly what he was doing when he voted as a board member to approve the disbursement of millions of dollars in order to intervene in the Chicago school wars. And so did Ayers. They were using each other for advancement of their careers and their shared political perspective on education policy.

The Challenge ended in 2001. It is certainly reasonable for voters to ask seven years later for Obama to explain the relationship and Ayers' influence on his approach to education policy.

While no one could, or should, impute to Obama any support for the terroristic activity of Ayers, Dohrn and others, there is an important connection between Ayers' politics then and his approach to education policy today: Ayers and the Weather Underground promoted a politics built around the absurd idea of "white supremacy," which Ayers calls even today the "monster in the room" at the heart of American life.

This was linked to another idea that was widely held among the maoist elements that took hold in the early 70s in the US: that American workers and their unions were part of a giant labor aristocracy that exploited workers of the south, the so-called Third World. Inside the US, the Weather Underground argued that a global form of "unequal exchange" was reproduced in the relationship between white and black workers.

Thus, when an idea like repayment of centuries of accumulated "education debt" is proposed as the top priority of the next federal government as it has been by Darling-Hammond, Ladson-Billings and Bill Ayers, all of whom have links to Obama, it is reasonable to ask what Obama's view are on such a critical issue. The presumptive nominee has yet to explain how it is that his education advisor can promote such an idea and yet he remains silent on it.

I would think the members of America's teachers' unions would like to know the answers to such questions as well before they decide how to approach the upcoming elections.

Tuesday, July 1

Note

I will be on vacation until Monday.

A very happy Fourth of July to all my American readers!

Best regards to all,

Pundita

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