Light Out: The Punk Years

Classic Angry Samoans from the remarkably durable (and still funny) Back From Samoa.

Lights Out: Heavy Metal Edition

Shenker-tastic shredding in the Seventies.

East Coast vs West Coast

Uh Oh. Looks like The White House has denied the SF Chronicle's claim that its political reporter, Carla Marinucci had been banned from pool reporting because she had posted a video she made at one of The One's fund raisers last week. Now, Phil Bronstein, the former Mr. Sharon Stone and the Chron's publisher, is saying the WH is (shudder) lying. This has officially become a beef.

In a pants-on-fire moment, the White House press office today denied anyone there had issued threats to remove Carla Marinucci and possibly other Hearst reporters from the press pool covering the President in the Bay Area.

Chronicle editor Ward Bushee called the press office on its fib:

Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday. It is not a truthful response. It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges with key people in the White House communications office who told us they would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.

The Chronicle's report is accurate.

If the White House has indeed decided not to ban our reporter, we would like an on-the-record notice that she will remain the San Francisco print pool reporter.

I was on some of those calls and can confirm Ward's statement.

Messy ball now firmly in White House court.

Marinucci, it seems, was seen by the WH press office as a "print" reporter, so her act of using her phone to videotape the President - phones can make videos????!!!! - breached some kind of Eisenhower-era rule creating a church/state-style wall of separation between the ink-stained wretches and the network glamor boys. As Bronstein notes, this is a distinction without a difference nowadays, and an embarrassingly retrograde position for the supposedly hip "Facebook/Twitter" president to be taking.

Of course, the real problem wasn't Marinucci's stepping outside the lines. It was her posting the video in the first place. Naomi Pitcairn isn't quite at the Cindy Sheehan level of daffy presidential protest, but she certainly made Obama look uncomfortable for at least a couple of minutes. Marinucci wasn't the only person to post video from the fund raiser. Indeed, she did not post hers until after several other "regular" people had done so. But, a MSM outlet like the Chron, even in our Brave New Media World where everyone with an i-Phone and Blogspot account could conceivably report the news, can still spread a story faster and wider than 20 anonymous bloggers posting the exact same thing.

The White House isn't angry at Marinucci for violating some goofy Guild rule. They're angry because she reported an unflattering story about the president in his supposed liberal stronghold. Either way, they clearly think she is someone who has forgotten her place.

Petty: White House "Bans" The Chronicle for Publishing News Story

Why in the world would the White House go through the trouble of getting angry at the SF Chronicle for broadcasting a video of those goofy, middle aged lefty women who sang a song about Bradley Manning at one of Obama's fundraisers? Guess mainstream media people always have to be on their best behavior around The One.

The White House threatened Thursday to exclude the San Francisco Chronicle from pooled coverage of its events in the Bay Area after the paper posted a video of a protest at a San Francisco fundraiser for President Obama last week, Chronicle Editor Ward Bushee said.White House guidelines governing press coverage of such events are too restrictive, Bushee said, and the newspaper was within its rights to film the protest and post the video.

The White House press office would not speak on the record about the issue.

Chronicle senior political reporter Carla Marinucci was invited by the White House to cover the Obama fundraiser on April 21 on the condition that she send her written report to the White House to distribute to other reporters who did not attend. Such "pool reports" are routinely used for press coverage at White House events that are not open to the entire press corps.

About 200 donors paying $5,000 to $38,500 each attended the event at the St. Regis Hotel in the city, a day after Obama visited Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley touting the proliferation of "new media" breaking the confines of traditional journalism.

At the St. Regis event, a group of protesters who paid collectively $76,000 to attend interrupted Obama with a song complaining about the administration's treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly leaked U.S. classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.

As part of a "print-only pool," Marinucci was limited by White House guidelines to provide a print-only report, but Marinucci also took a video of the protest, which she posted in her written story on the online edition of The Chronicle at and on its politics blog after she sent her written pool report.

The "problem," if you can call it that, was that Chron reporter Carla Marinucci was the pool reporter for the fund raiser. Marinucci is a print reporter, and yet she pulled out a small video recorder and started taping the proceedings. Incredible, I know. According to the White House, this violated the Guild's rules. If you read the linked article you can read a lot of tedious rationalizing about how the lines between print and video journalists has been blurred in the era of New Media, as if a million amateur bloggers haven't been writing stories and posting videos for years. If George Bush had done this... well, you know.

Certifiable: Obama Releases His Birth Certificate

Don't have much to say about Obama releasing his birth certificate. Not only was I never a "birther," I am on record as saying the times were too grave to be sitting around worrying over birth certificates. Still, it's an odd enough story that you can't help reacting:

1. at least now, we won't be hearing (much) from the sort of creepy people who kept the birther rumor going: the right-wing WND types who'll be writing about UFO's and crop circles next week, the left-wing "Clinton War Room" types who first propounded this "theory," and the media jerks who hectored John Boehner over this matter more than they've hectored the president for the manifest failures of his administration.

2. Donald Trump gets results, I guess. But I don't see how Trump is different from all of those celebrities and semi-celebrities who earned cheap applause during the 2000's by ranting about George Bush.

3. Birth certificate or not, if your grandparents lived in the state you say you were born in, and there were birth announcements in the newspapers, and your mother was a US citizen (and born in Kansas, no less), then you are a US citizen as far as I'm concerned.

4. What were birthers trying to accomplish? Did they honestly think Obama would have to step down as president if it turned out he had not been born in the US? If your answer to that question is "yes," you are officially a member of the vast lunatic fringe.

5. Gotta love the theory that Obama was coolly stringing his antagonists along. Actually, he ended up looking like an oddball with something to hide, resulting in poll numbers showing a plurality of Americans weren't sure whether he was born overseas. Smoove.

6. The "natural birth" requirement just might be the most anachronistic provision in the Constitution. American ideals are so widespread that immigrants arriving in the US today have a better grasp of what makes this country great than an alleged American like Van Jones ranting about "the System."

7. Like Obama, I'd like to get back to discussing the serious issues of the day like the out of control debt, rising energy prices, reducing the size of government, reining in the EPA, etc. Looking at that list, I'm guessing Obama would prefer to discuss other "serious" issues like when he's going to be on Oprah! next.

Snippety Crickets! Circumcision Ban on the SF Ballot

Haven't had a story that makes the Free Will brother ask, "why the hell do you stay in San Francisco?" lately, but this one'll do: a proposition to ban circumcisions within the city limits just qualified for the November ballot.

Proponents of the ban took 12,265 signatures to the Department of Elections today and should learn within a month whether 7,168 of them indeed came from registered city voters. If so, the city will have another one of its classic only-in-San Francisco measures to debate.

Wearing pins reading "May the foreskin be with you," the backers of the ban gathered at City Hall to turn in their signatures. Then they told reporters more than anybody ever wanted to know about the increasingly controversial procedure.

Jonathon Conte, a 29-year-old resident of the Alamo Square neighborhood, said he personally gathered 300 signatures and wasn't embarrassed to talk to strangers about his foreskin or the lack thereof.

"We have a lot of people in the city who believe boys deserve the same protection as girls," said Conte, who said he's angry that his parents had him circumcised as an infant.

"I discovered my sexuality and body had been impacted by this -- for no reason and without my consent or my input," he said. "To cut any body part off somebody who can't consent to me is just madness. You wouldn't cut off an ear or a finger or a nose."

The ban would outlaw circumcision in the city on any male under 18 years old - even for religious reasons. Breaking the law would count as a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and jail time for up to a year. Opponents say the ballot measure would never stand up in court because it violates the freedom of religion clause of the U.S. Constitution.

There's obviously a lot of hopeless cases out there trying to imprint their neuroses with the holy writ of law. Funnily, the most ardent anti-circ people I've met tend to be European who see circumcision as yet another American barbarity right up there with guns and Israel. Hey, if some jerk from Europe says it, it must be true. The "intolerance among the tolerant" meme has gained another bullet point.

Flame On: Burning Korans In CA

As a follow up to my recent post on Pastor Jones being jailed for planning a protest at a mosque, I heard from Free Will blog friend Stogie, who said that he had burned a Koran last September 11th and posted the video on YouTube.

Free Will has some of the more bad-ass readers on the internet.

Pitcairn's Island: Inside The Mind Of An Obama Donor

You may have heard of the table full of lefty women who serenaded Pres. Obama during a San Francisco fund raiser last week. The Chronicle tracked down the leader of this little group to find out what she is all about. Not surprisingly, she is almost a parody of the airheaded Bay Area liberal with too much money and time on her hands, and not enough brains

Naomi Pitcairn, the ringleader of the East Bay serenaders who disrupted President Obama's breakfast fundraiser to protest the treatment of accused WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning, says she's actually a big supporter of the president.

In fact, records show she gave $28,500 to Obama's Victory Fund in 2008.

"He's the best shot we have," said Pitcairn, a fourth-generation heir to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass fortune.

Pitcairn and fellow anti-war activists disrupted Obama's big-ticket gathering at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel on Thursday with an a cappella song: "We paid our dues ... where's our change?"

The cost of the group's tickets was over $76,000, which Pitcairn said she fully intends to pay.

And here's a picture of America's newest truth-to-power speaker. This is the sort of person from whom the Democratic Party seeks donations?

Naomi Pitcairn is escorted by San Francisco police after ... Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle

American liberals are almost neurotically obsessed with money and with the question of whether someone can be said to have "earned" their money by doing good or doing bad. Looking at Pitcairn's life, it's easy to see why this is. Without her inherited wealth, Naomi Pitcairn would be pathetic: a fiftysomething woman making a "cause" out of a worm like Bradley Manning. With her money, she can pretty much do whatever she wants. As it is, whatever discomfort Pitcairn may have experienced in her life is entirely due to whatever demons that are lurking in her mind.

Relearning The Obvious: California Politicians Visit Texas

This week's "decline & fall of California" story comes courtesy of John Fund, who writes about a trip to Texas by several California politicians trying to figure out why/how Texas is "taking" California's jobs. I wish this were a joke

It wasn't your usual legislative hearing. A group of largely Republican California lawmakers and Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom traveled here last week to hear from businesses that have left their state to set up shop in Texas.

"We came to learn why they would pick up their roots and move in order to grow their businesses," says GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue, who organized the trip. "Why does Chief Executive magazine rate California the worst state for job and business growth and Texas the best state?"

The contrast is undeniable. Texas has added 165,000 jobs during the last three years while California has lost 1.2 million. California's jobless rate is 12% compared to 8% in Texas.

"I don't see this as a partisan issue," Mr. Newsom told reporters before the group met with Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry. The former San Francisco mayor has many philosophical disagreements with Mr. Perry, but he admitted he was "sick and tired" of hearing about the governor's success luring businesses to Texas.

These guys are all adults, so presumably they know the answer without having to travel 1500 miles to the east. But, state politics being what they are, you will get nowhere announcing that a smaller, less intrusive state government is key to reclaiming the sort of economic growth that used to be California's birthright. Unfortunately, the people on this trip - Lieutenant Governor Newsom and a group of Republican legislators - may be the least politically influential politicians in the state. Even more unfortunately, the people who could actually learn something - those being the sort of liberals who think Texas is all belt buckles and homophobes - were pressured to stay away by union bosses. Again, I wish this was a joke.

California, by contrast, seems to constantly lose focus. Several Democrats who agreed to go on the Texas trip were pressured by public-employee unions to drop out—and many did. And just as Texas business leaders were testifying about how the state's tort reforms had improved job creation, word came of California's latest priority: On April 14, the state senate passed a bill mandating that all public school children learn the history of disabled and gay Americans.

One speaker from California shook his head in wonder: "You can have the most liberated lifestyle on the planet, but if you can't afford to put gas in your car or a roof over your head it's somewhat limited."

California is being run by a race of pygmies who think they are smarter than the rest of us.

Free Speech For The Dumb: Pastor Jones In The Crosshairs

Pastor Terry Jones - he's the Koran burning guy in Florida - is back in the news. He was in Detroit the other day, planning to lead a protest at a Dearborn mosque. Instead, he found himself being put on trial. Apparently, there is some local rule in Wayne County requiring persons suspected of planning a breach of the peace to post a sort of security bond for the inevitable police presence. Don't know how long they've had this rule, but I can't believe it's constitutional.

Jones refused to pay the bond (good for him) so he was put on trial (!) with the jury (!!) tasked with determining whether or not Jones' proposed protest would lead to violence (!!!), violence not from Jones, of course, but from folks in the heavily Muslim Dearborn area. Well, if that's the question, then of course the answer is "yes. Pastor Jones' protest will lead to violence." I could have sworn I learned something about the "heckler's veto" back in law school, and that it was presented to us as a Bad Thing.

Controversial Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones was ordered taken to the Wayne County Jail after refusing to post a $1 peace bond. However, someone posted the bond on his behalf not long after he was taken into custody.

The development came after a jury found a proposed protest by Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp outside the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the United States, was likely to breach the peace and incite violence.

The jury began debating the case at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The main issue of the one day trial was whether or not Jones's main purpose was to say or do something that would incite violence. They came back with their verdict shortly after 6:30 p.m.

Based on the decision Jones was required to submit a peace bond. The judge set the bond at $1. He also ordered that neither Jones nor his associate could enter the property of the Islamic Center of America or the area surrounding it for 3 years..

After being found "guilty," the judge ordered Jones and his buddy Sapp to pay a nominal $1 bond (at least someone recognized the absurdity of this), but Jones stood on principle and refused. Jones and Sapp were then hauled off to jail (!!!!) although someone has since paid the bond. You ever get the feeling that places like Dearborn and Detroit might not be American any more?

Jones is not my idea of a worthy free speech martyr, but this is truly bizarre and oppressive. Fred Phelps can travel the country yelling "God Hates F*gs" at Marine funerals and everybody stands around acting like nothing can be done. Meanwhile, Pastor Jones merely plans a protest at a mosque and it's treated as a crime. (you'll also recall how his earlier plans to burn a Koran on 9/11/10 caused everybody from President Obama on down to demand that he not do so). What about when some whiny gay rights activists do another kiss-in during a Mass?

Whether we know it, or not, our free speech rights are already being curtailed, and it's not being done by the government.

UPDATE: Blog Prof, who lives in Michigan, says that the "peace bond" rule is specific only to Dearborn, and not Wayne County. If true, that doesn't say much about how local Muslims are assimilating and learning American values.

UPDATE 2: via Patterico, here's the ACLU's amicus brief in support of Jones. The planned protest involved two people, presumably Jones and Sapp. As the Acies note, the peace bond rule, whether Dearborn's or Wayne County's, is unconstitutional - almost ridiculously so. Not only is it prior restraint of speech, not only does it force someone to pay to exercise his free speech rights, but it gives prosecutors discretion to decide who should be forced to defend their intended speech ahead of time. And, the violence here was not going to be incited by Jones, but by unknown members of the Religion of Peace. Where do they go to pay their peace bond?

The Big Money: Obama Comes To Free Will Territory To Raise Funds

Not to brag, but Free Will HQ is located near some of San Francisco's ritziest neighborhoods. Last night, I had to make a detour on my drive home because the police were blocking a couple blocks off from traffic (Jackson @ Presidio, if you must know). There were plenty of gawkers and TV crews, plus the cops were all in a jolly mood, so you knew nobody was dead or anything. And looking down the hill of the closed off street, I could see a large white tent outside one of the bigger mansions*. Live in San Francisco long enough, and you'll know what that means: Presidential fund raiser!

Obama's two-day trip to California this week has another important purpose - fundraising.

The Democratic presidential candidate will headline six fundraisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles that could raise millions for the Democratic National Committee and his campaign.

The president's trip, his ninth visit to California since he was elected in 2008, will include four events to pick up campaign cash in the Bay Area - including two at Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco expected to draw 2,500 attendees each, with tickets ranging from $25 for general admission to $10,000 for a VIP reception.

A more exclusive gathering will be a private dinner for 60 supporters at the Pacific Heights home of CEO Marc Benioff that is sold out at $35,800 a seat.

Obama addressed rising gasoline prices at the San Francisco event Benioff hosted, even while acknowledging that donors at the $35,800-per-plate event weren’t personally struggling with costs at the pump.

“Right now we’ve got $4-a-gallon gas, and most of the people under this tent don’t have to worry about that. But for the average person who has to drive 50 miles to work and can’t afford to buy the Tesla, it’s hammering them. It’s hurting them,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript that notes the Tesla comment drew laughter.

Tesla Motors is a California-based company that makes an electric sports car that sells for more than $100,000, while the sedan Tesla plans to make available next year is about half that price.

Obama added:

“So there’s a huge economic imperative. There’s a national security imperative, as well, because we see what’s happening in the Middle East and we understand that a finite resource that is primarily located in a very unstable part of the world is not good for our long-term future.”

Honestly, you can practically hear the exasperation. Why, oh why, do Americans complain about high gas prices? And too bad they can't afford to buy Teslas, har har. And yeah, there might be a lot of Middle Eastern oil that is perpetually subject to "instability" - brought about your administration's wrong footed approaches to the various uprisings in the region, I might add - but there's a lot of oil here in the US, even in California, which we're not really allowed to exploit. And so on. Not that I would expect anyone at a $35,000 a head fund raiser to make those points. Obama's critics are more exercised about trivia like the imprisonment of Bradley Manning

As it happens, I was listening to Mark Levin's show when I had to make my detour. Right at that moment Levin started ranting about how Obama was going to fund raising events in San Francisco, rather than visit tornado victims in North Carolina. Talk about niche programming.

UPDATE: Zombie, of course, has the guest list.

*some local knowledge for you. The mansions on this part of Jackson Street are some of the most desirable addresses in the City because they border on the Presidio and have sweeping views of the Golden Gate.

Short Sale: Gov't Prepares To Sell GM Stake

I don't get the calculation behind this. The government is planning to sell most of its remaining GM stock holdings this summer. As the stock price has declined since the IPO, and is well below the $53 level that would allow taxpayers to realize a profit, this doesn't seem to be a wise business decision. But that's the problem with a mixed economy, isn't it?

The U.S. government plans to sell a significant share of its remaining stake in General Motors Co. this summer despite the disappointing performance of the auto maker's stock, people familiar with the matter said.

A sale within the next several months would almost certainly mean U.S. taxpayers will take a loss on their $50 billion rescue of the Detroit auto maker in 2009.

To break even, the U.S. Treasury would need to sell its remaining stake—about 500 million shares—at $53 apiece. GM closed off 27 cents a share at $29.97 in 4 p.m. trading Monday on the New York Stock Exchange, hitting a new low since its $33-a-share November initial public offering.


Government officials are willing to take the loss because the Obama administration would like to sever its last ties to the auto maker, the people familiar with the matter said. A summer sale makes it more likely Treasury could sell all of its stake in GM by year's end, avoiding a potentially controversial sale in the 2012 presidential election year.

Forget the taxpayers! We must re-elect Obama! Um, I don't remember signing up for that. The only thing worse than the auto bailouts has been having to hear about how they "succeeded," but that just doesn't seem to be reflected in reality. Fact is, if you lose money on the deal, that is not success. I guess success is measured in how much power the government, especially the executive branch, was able to arrogate to itself and then disburse to its allies in the UAW.

(btw, if you are interested in a comprehensive look at all of the troubling precedents created during the bailouts, don't miss this essay by Todd Zwicki)

Don't Touch The Red Button: Why Reform Is Almost Impossible

If you think reforming or shrinking government is going to be easy, check out this story about Florida's efforts to deregulate its interior designer (don't call them decorators!) cartel, er, industry. Right now, you need to spend more time in school than attorneys in order to claim the exalted status of "licensed interior designer." Florida would simply let people hang out their shingles and let the market figure things out. The incumbent designers are naturally upset about the impending end of their sinecures and are predicting doom. Some of this is classic:

(Designers have) stormed legislative hearings to warn of the mayhem that would ensue if the measure passes.

Among the scenarios they've conjured: flammable carpets sparking infernos; porous countertops spreading bacteria; jail furnishings being turned into weapons.

The thought of "someone in my position that thinks they know what they're doing because they watched HGTV for two weeks scares me," licensed interior designer Terra Sherlock said at a hearing in March.

Another licensed designer, Michelle Earley, argued that use of the wrong fabrics in hospitals could spread infection. By deregulating, she told lawmakers, "what you're basically doing is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year," citing a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on deaths from hospital-acquired infections.

Though the CDC study doesn't mention interior design as a cause of infections, Ms. Earley says that bacteria can spread if moisture-resistant fabrics aren't used on things like chairs and mattresses. That, in turn, can lead to urinary tract infections, staph and other life-threatening conditions, she says.

Interior design "sounds like this simple hanging curtains on a wall," said Ms. Earley in an interview. But "it only takes a couple things to go wrong for people to lose their lives."

No matter what the issue, it's always the same. Republicans want to kill people. As part of our Final Solution for America, it is very important that we deregulate Florida interior designers so that 88,000 may die. Ah Ha Ha!

This is, of course, absurd, but also par for the course any time a conservative politician dares to hint that not every law and regulation on the books is absolutely necessary and maybe we could have more economic growth and opportunity with some reforms or, gasp, deregulation. We heard all last week the usual litany from Democrats describing in lurid tones the "America Republicans want to create," that being an America where Big Bird, babies and old people are hand maidens to the "rich."

It's so laughably predictable because we've been through this before. Back in the welfare reform days in the Clinton administration, liberals argued in all seriousness that a million children would starve if welfare recipients were required to get jobs after five years on the dole. Reality begged to differ, as welfare reform ended a profoundly dysfunctional system that blighted literally millions of lives. But, it (unnecessarily) took years and I have yet to hear of any of those doom mongers announcing that they were wrong.

It's apparently going to be hard enough to deregulate the interior designer cartel in a single state. Good luck trying to do something real, like close the EPA.

General Zero: Ricardo Sanchez To Run For Senate...As A Democrat?

It's hard to believe there can be any more fresh examples of the Left's "Oceana Has Never Been At War With East Asia" dynamic in dealing with the Iraq War, but this actually made me laugh: General Ricardo Sanchez is planning to run for Senate in a Democrat. As the last time Sanchez was on the mind of your typical progressive was during the Abu Ghraib scandal, this is quite a turn-around:

Democrats appear to have recruited retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, setting the stage for the party to field a well-known candidate in the 2012 race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a Democrat, confirmed that Democratic Senate campaign chief Patty Murray, D-Wash., was referring to Sanchez on Thursday when she said Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.

Sanchez, reached by phone at his San Antonio home, asked where the reports of a Senate run came from and then said, "I can neither confirm nor deny."

Sanchez, the former top military commander in Iraq who was left under a cloud from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, would not discuss the Senate race. But he did respond to questions about his career and political philosophy.

"I would describe myself as during my military career as supporting the president and the Constitution," Sanchez said. "After the military, I decided that socially, I'm a progressive, a fiscal conservative and a strong supporter, obviously, of national defense."

Sanchez, a Rio Grande City native, said he was shaped by his upbringing. "It's my views and my history, having grown up in South Texas, depending on social programs and assistance, that America has a responsibility to its people," he said.

The idea, of course, is that the only way you could hope to elect a Democrat in Texas is if you can distract voters with Sanchez's shiny medals. Guess that can work for nitwit Dems, but I don't see your typical pro-military voter being impressed with Sanchez. Granted the Abu Ghraib scandal was overblown, but that wasn't the only thing that went wrong during Sanchez's years in Iraq. The fact is that Sanchez, along with his successor George Casey, presided over a near-defeat in Iraq. There were a lot of factors at work in Iraq, not least was the political back-stabbing back on the home front, but Sanchez's weak willed leadership, and inability to get a handle on the insurgency, was a major factor in turning the tide against the US after our victorious three-week ground war.

And, Sanchez remains clueless, saying he's "socially progressive and fiscally conservative." Sorry, but those two pronouncements are mutually exclusive. Politically inspired social progress is the most expensive thing in the world and a certain budget buster, something every adult should know by now. There's no such thing as a penny pinching progressive. Sanchez would be little more than a mindless sixtieth vote for cloture for the next bit of "comprehensive" reform. I wouldn't vote for the man as a Republican, never mind as a Democrat.

We're Here! We're Clear! Get Used To It!

The most dispiriting part of the last week's worth of fake budget cutting, and backing-away-from-the-brinksmanship was not the wispiness of the "cuts," but the quailing of the GOP leadership, such as they were, in the face of predictable demagoguery about Republicans wanting to kill grandma. With the exception of Paul Ryan, no one on the right side of the Beltway elites seemed at all bothered by the fact that they were being borked en masse. Meanwhile, Donald Trump was the only guy criticizing the President in anything close to the tone that Democrats at all levels use to attack Republicans. You could honestly wonder if anyone out there knows how to play this game.

Well, Sarah Palin was in Madison, WS this afternoon, and she at least knows what she's doing. Watch as she calls out The One and chastises her own party for already betraying the millions of voters who brought them back from the political grave last year.

I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who will watch the above and think "what a moron." Well I must be a moron, too because that's the most rousing thing I've seen in years. And brave. If you listen to the above, you'll hear a sort of groaning ambient noise in the background. It's the sound of thousands of union rowdies bussed in to Madison specifically to surround the Tea Partiers and yell at Sarah Palin. Honestly, can you imagine Mitt Romney wading into something like that? I can't, but even if you could, no one can imagine him (or any other member of the group of whitebread GOP "front-runners") giving such a rousing speech. Game on, indeed.

Random Questions

Obama's now issuing signing statements? And using them to renege on a budget deal he just struck two days ago? And now we're supposed to negotiate a debt ceiling renewal with him?

Why are Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke running around predicting armaggeddon if the debt ceiling isn't raised? Didn't they learn anything the last time they ran around predicting disaster if Congress didn't vote their way immediately? (i.e. during the TARP vote?)

If Obama can make fun of Paul Ryan for "voting for two wars that weren't paid for" (one of which was the post-9/11 Afghan War, but don't call him an unpatriotic leftist!), when do we start making fun of Obama for supporting abortions that aren't paid for?

Is anyone ever going to get bug the Obama administration about their proposal to create automatic tax increases that are triggered if the federal government's debt-to-GDP ratio goes up? (in other words, if politicians spend too much taxes automatically go up). I get that Donald Trump is a "joke" candidate, but right now he looks like the only guy who would go on a tear over this sort of thing.

Sorry for the Light Blogging

I've been helping another attorney get ready for an exhibit intensive trial. Will be back soon.

Cut Rate: What's Going On With the 2011 Budget Deal?

Yesterday, I was making fun of Paul Krugman for his overwrought objections to the FY2011 budget deal, which he thinks is setting the stage for the GOP's final solution for the problem of old people and children. Well, now I guess it's time for me to make fun of myself because some serious analysts have concluded that the deal is filled with so many gimmicks and money shufflings that the "real" cuts are little more than $14 million.

A close look at the government shutdown-dodging agreement to cut federal spending by $38 billion reveals that lawmakers significantly eased the fiscal pain by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

Such moves permitted Obama to save favorite programs — Pell grants for poor college students, health research and "Race to the Top" aid for public schools, among others — from Republican knives.

And big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were patched in large part. Republicans also gave up politically treacherous cuts to the Agriculture Department's food inspection program.

The full details of Friday's agreement weren't being released until overnight as it was officially submitted to the House. But the picture already emerging is of legislation financed with a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially "score" as savings to pay for spending elsewhere, but that often have little to no actual impact on the deficit.

I have a little sympathy for Boehner and other Old Guard types here. They have been around long enough to have seen other periods when the public proclaimed itself to be very concerned with the skyrocketing federal budget. But those periods of fiscal reform quickly gave way underneath an avalanche of howls over cuts to Big Bird, babies, and old people. We saw a replay of it just last week when Democrats were ranting about how the GOP was using the budget process to expand breast cancer rates. Stupid? Yes. But don't tell me that there aren't millions of people out there for whom such arguments are oddly compelling. And in the past, those are the people whose views have prevailed.

Still, the end result of all the negotiating is dispiriting. $14 billion? Out of a budget whose deficits alone amount to over a trillion dollars a year? That doesn't even rise to the level of a pittance.

Yes, it's true that the GOP has "changed the conversation" in DC, meaning everyone is at least talking about budget cutting. But outside of Paul Ryan, no one is talking about what they would cut. That is because Democrats don't want to cut anything - except defense spending, of course, but don't call them unpatriotic! - they just want to raise taxes on "the rich" and "corporations." They don't say that, of course, because they know they would be thrown bodily out of office. So instead, they offer all sorts of hedges and rhetorical feints and claims like "I was wrong about what I said about the debt limit back when George Bush was president." It's those sorts of fine toned pronouncements that gain Democrats their reputation for "nuance" and "precision" - and would be labeled "flip flopping" or "lying" if a Republican dared to try the same.

Oh, and last week, the only major national Republican politician who was out there criticizing the deal was Sarah Palin who declared the deal to be wholly inadequate. I keep reading about how Palin is in decline because, like, her daughter was on Dancing With The Stars. But her philosophy certainly remains robust. Too bad we can't say the same for other elements of the GOP leadership.

Not sure if there's any point in blowing up the deal at this point. There are bigger battles coming up. But, so far we haven't seen much to suggest that those battles will come to a satisfying end.

UPDATE: I thought made a mistake and wrote "$14 million" instead of "billion" in the opening paragraph, but actually I was ahead of the curve. The (all bow) CBO says the actual cuts amount to a little over $352 million. That's "million" with an "M."

Following Krugman Over The Top

Not surprisingly, Paul Krugman does not like the Obama-Boehner deal for the FY2011 budget. He is also appalled by the Paul Ryan budget plan. Naturally, Krugman's upset that Medicare is about to be "savaged," the deficit is about to be "blown up" by the extension of the Bush-era tax rates and "the rich" and the "corporations" are going to make out like gang busters. But rather than rage at the usual Republicans and their plutocratic puppet masters, Krugman turns his ire and disappointment against the President.

Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing. 

Krugman could have written that in his sleep (and I've certainly had nightmares about being trapped in a Hell where the only reading material is provided by NY Times columnists). But let's concentrate here on the bolded part. Does Krugman really believe that Americans are crying out for presidential leadership to save progressive governance?? That there is some kind of silent left-wing majority out there that is being betrayed by Obama's failure to stand firm against the Tea Party? Excuse me while I laugh hysterically.

American leftists are the noisiest (not to mention noisome) interest group in the United States. We know who they are, where they work, and what they think of Tea Parties, tax cuts and spending restraint - they are against all of these. Not only that, virtually the entire American academic, media, and intellectual elite - not to mention politicians - do everything in their power to present left-wing persons and their ideas in the most sympathetic light possible. Americans don't need Obama to "fight" for them. There are plenty of folks out there who will "fight" for endless tax increases and unrestrained spending, whether Americans want them to or not.

Killing Joke: A Call For A No-Fly Zone in Gaza

It may be hard to remember, but the original green light for the US to get involved in the Libyan civil war was the Arab League's surprising call for a no-fly zone to protect the "rebels." (Of course, the League lived up to every possible stereotype about Middle Eastern reliability by promptly denouncing America once the bombs started to fall). Now, they're back seeking larger game: a no-fly zone over the Gaza Strip which is presently enduring Israeli air strikes. Gee, why would Israeli planes bomb Gaza?

Arab League chief Amr Mussa said on Sunday the organisation will ask the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza, which Israel has pounded with air strikes in response to rocket fire.

Mussa told an emergency meeting of Arab League ambassadors that "the Arab bloc in the United Nations has been directed to ask for the convention of the Security Council to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza and impose a no-fly zone."

Israeli and Palestinian officials were on Sunday floating a ceasefire to end fighting in the coastal strip where Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 people since Thursday.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of an even stronger response if more rockets are fired from the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

A minor little detail that can be hard to find: the reason Israel is attacking Gaza is because Hamas has been firing rockets into Israel again. In fact, the first strike was aimed at a school bus, which luckily wasn't filled with children.

Israel is literally surrounded by barbarians who think nothing of killing children simply because they are Jews living in the Middle East. And the clowns in the Arab League with whom our diplomats have to deal with (often sympathetically) think nothing of calling for disingenuous "no-fly zones" to make the targeting of Israeli civilians that much easier. That's bad enough, but the fact that the United States has been working hand in glove with these moral midgets is appalling.

Free Will Juke Box

What I've been listening to the last couple weeks:

12XU - high energy French punk band from Lyons. Don't know if they have any recordings beyond a couple 7"s, but you can find a ton of live stuff on YouTube. (you might also want to check out Daitro, which shares some members with 12XU, but plays in a style that's slower and yellier).

Beck - Sea Change. can't say this has held up as well as I would have liked. The production is brilliant, but the lyrics - Beck had just broken up with his girlfriend, aw - are self indulgent.

Jeff Beck - "A Day In The Life." It's a measure of Beck's guitar virtuosity that he can do a powerful instrumental cover of a Beatles song that most full sized bands would consider uncoverable.

Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With The Arab Strap. speaking of not holding up well...

The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette. One of the great punk albums - filled with humor, and energy, with a dark Gothic touch. Influenced the sound and style of the DC and LA hardcore scenes, which means most of American punk owes a massive debt to these guys.

The Divorced - Separation Anxiety. revved up garage-psyche from Down Under. The Australians have long been masters of this genre.

Garbage - Garbage. gettin' my Nineties nostalgia on.

Little Feat - Sailin' Shoes. The Seventies were a golden age for slide guitar, and Lowell George was one of the craftiest practitioners of that odd art. His early death is one of the sadder "what could have been" stories.

UV Race - Homo. loose charming post-punk with a pop edge. Some of this flirts with atonality even as the songs remain hummable. "Nazicistic" is a great title for a song. Hard to know if they are kidding or not.

Veuve SS - some kind of French noise band with a lot of punk energy and a touch of metal in the guitars. Dark and abrasive dirges that that spring to life with occasional bursts of aggression. Best song title: "Ironique Movstache." (h/t Terminal Escape)

Voivod - Outer Limits. I slept on this album when it came out because (1) its predecessor Angel Rat was awful and (2) it featured one of the worst album covers of all time. But, it's actually pretty good as Piggy's guitars are pushed back to the fore front, and the songs are full of surprises. Still, this is an album by a band that had passed its peak.

M. Ward - Transistor Radio. a subtle masterpiece. Very simple roots-rock tunes (from a distant past that never existed) that stick with you.

M. Ward - Post War. More folk-rocky than folky with a ton of great guitar playing. "Chinese Translation" has a wonderful circular structure and benefited from a brilliant video. (note to neo-cons: the title was apparently meant to be some sort of profound anti-Iraq War statement, but there's nothing on the album that puts you into an anti-Bush frame of mind).

Frank Zappa - Sheik Yerbouti. It's too long, and features too much of Zappa's "famed" scatalogical humor, but there's still a lot here to like. Unlike a lot of his Sixties peers, Z stayed current and this record finds him bringing a lot of punk and new wave into his sound, which energizes and simplifies his compositions, even as they still go through his patented time signature changes. Zappa also trades solos with a then-unknown Adrian Belew on a couple tunes.

ZZ Top - Eliminator. The greatest ever Eighties-era "sell out" by a classic rock band. What's funny is, for all the complaining you hear about the synthesizers, this is probably the album where Billy Gibbons got to really stretch out. Some of his solos seem to go on forever.

Slaughter's House Rules: The New Civility At Work

The last 24 hours before the purported government shutdown brought out all of the full-mooners on the left-hand side of the aisle in Congress. Best in show was the inimitable Louise Slaughter who had this to say about "extreme" Republicans
"This is probably one of the worst times we've seen because the numbers of people elected to Congress. I went through this as co-chair of the arts caucus," Slaughter said, according to a CNS News report. "In '94 people were elected simply to come here to kill the National Endowment for the Arts. Now they're here to kill women."
"You are allowed to have an abortion if you have been raped or it's a matter of incest," said Slaughter. "However, you have to keep a receipt. Did you know that? It's sort of like an old German Nazi movie. Show me your papers!"
Crazy stuff, and there's video, if you can handle it:

What's really annoying is knowing that this screechy old bat will get the kid-glove "what a bold pioneer" type treatment from the media so long as she voted the progressive line, but a beautiful Republican woman with a passel of kids will be dismissed as a dumb extremist. Not only that, notice her vainglorious self regard. This legend in her own mind seems to think she "saved the arts" back in 1995. Now, in 2011, she thinks she's "saving women."

Slaughter, like many prominent congressional Democrats, represents an economically moribund district, in her case New York's 28th District, which encompasses Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagra. Indeed, things have gotten worse since she first entered Congress. Slaughter used to represent the 30th District, but redistricting as a result of New York's shrinking population has seen her drop to 28th. Don't know what her constituents have gotten out of Slaughter's cheap moralizing and tax grabbing, but it's certainly not any sort of prosperity.

Self-Immolating: Obama's Solution for Rising Gas Prices? Buy A New Car!

For all of Obama's skills as an orator, it's amazing how often is mouth gets him into trouble when he is away from the teleprompter. That is because Obama is, to be blunt, a jerk. There was his suggestion at a health care forum that a 99 year old woman "take a pain pill" rather than receive a new pacemaker. There was his detached response to the woman at a town hall who described her economic troubles and how they made it difficult to defend him ("we've passed some programs"). And there was "the Cambridge police acted stupidly."

Well, Obama was in Pennsylvania yesterday, and someone in the audience rose to complain about rising gas prices and how hard it's been to fill up the tank of his SUV. Obama's suggestion: "you might want to think about a trade in." Here is the amazing video:

It's so simple! Gas prices go up, then buy a new car! (Obama even suggests that GM, Ford, and Chrysler can "get you a deal"). That's so economical! Never mind if you might need a large vehicle because you're a contractor, or have more than three kids. Obama's questioner, it so happens, has 10 kids, something Obama reacts to with the same incredulity as he does to the idea of anyone buying an SUV.

We all know that Obama and his Green supporters are perfectly fine with high gas prices, regardless of how burdensome they might be. For them, the only problem is whether $4 gas will lead to a mass "trade-in" of the Obama Administration come 2012. But, Obama can't say that. So instead, he insults this guy, his choice of vehicle, and by extension every American who owns a large truck, van or SUV, whether by necessity or choice.

Urban liberals may find it hard to believe, but people don't buy Chevy Suburbans because they want to destroy the environment or compensate for their shortcomings. They buy them because they need them, either due to work demands, family size, or lifestyle choice (heading out into the Great Outdoors is much more fun in an SUV than in a Prius). People clearly need these vehicles, yet the President of the United States just as clearly doesn't want Americans to have them in their driveways. And he certainly doesn't want SUV owners cluttering up his town halls asking impertinent questions.

Youth Is Wasted On The Young

I haven't watched much college basketball this year, but I did manage to see parts of the UCONN-Butler game, which has already entered the pantheon of "worst title game ever." While Butler clearly endured a Shark-like choke job, the level of play was poor on both sides of the ball. People love Cinderellas, but it sure seems like there are more Cinderellas now because the top teams are not as good as they used to be. One stat over at the Painted Area sums up the problem: there are play-off level NBA teams that are college-aged
Ages of Butler's starters in Monday night's game:
    - Matt Howard: 22
    - Shawn Vanzant: 22
    - Chase Stigall: 21
    - Shelvin Mack: 20
    - Andrew Smith: 20
Ages of Oklahoma City's starters, if James Harden were subbed in for Thabo Sefolosha:
    - Kendrick Perkins: 26
    - Kevin Durant: 22
    - Russell Westbrook: 22
    - Serge Ibaka: 21
    - James Harden: 21
Additionally, in OKC's game in L.A. on Saturday night, the Clippers started three 22-year-olds in Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan, with Eric Bledsoe (21) and Al-Farouq Aminu (20) getting rotation minutes, as well.
That's pretty amazing. It seems like Kevin Durant and Eric Gordon were in college years ago, which of course they were. At this point, they are three-year veterans! But they're nearly half my age! Gah!

I'm not against the idea of kids making the leap to the NBA after one year in college, or even straight out of high school. That's certainly better than three or four years of indentured servitude under the auspices of the NCAA and its hypocritical rules that punish a kid for accepting a freakin' cell phone from a third party while his college makes millions off of his labors. But, the college game certainly suffers in quality as the guys with real talent leave after their "one & done" year.

It seems incredible to think about it, but Michael Jordan spent three years at UNC, which was not unusual for the time, and which is likely never going to happen again.

MS-13 Mystery Theater: Gang Trial Begins In SF

San Francisco is not a particularly violent city, but we do have gangs. Seven members of the infamous El Salvadoran gang MS-13 have just gone on trial in the City for various acts of violence and mayhem. Is street crime one of those jobs Americans won't do any more?

San Francisco's biggest gang trial in years opened Monday with a federal prosecutor accusing seven men of terrorizing city neighborhoods with assaults, shakedowns and four 2008 murders.

They are "a group that lives, breathes and celebrates violence," said Justice Department attorney Theryn Gibbons.

From the mid-1990s onward, Gibbons said, local leaders of El Salvador-based Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have used fear and intimidation to control their Mission District turf, extort money from drug dealers and phony-document peddlers, and eliminate rivals.

Gang members are initiated by undergoing a brutal beating - which lasts 13 seconds - and then "rise in the ranks through acts of violence," Gibbons said in her opening statement in a U.S. District Court trial that could last six months.

She said their attitude was illustrated by the July 2008 shooting death of Armando Estrada, 30, of Rodeo, a seller of fake documents who had refused to pay "taxes" to MS-13 in its territory.

Gang member Guillermo Herrera, 20, fired a shotgun into the back of Estrada's head in broad daylight at 20th and Mission streets, then got into a car, "pulled down his blue bandana and laughed," the prosecutor said.

The defendants all face life sentences if convicted.

Naturally, this is a case brought by federal prosecutors, and not the local district attorneys office. Former DA Kamala Harris was well known for turning a blind eye to crimes committed by young men of a certain, shall we say, undocumented status. Luckily for us, she left office last fall, but, ha ha, she only left to become California's latest soft-on-crime Attorney General. You'd think her Republican opponent would have made a big deal about her tendency to coddle illegal alien perps (not to mention her low conviction rate and staunch opposition to the death penalty), but loser Steve Cooley is one of those "moderate" types who doesn't like negative campaigning.

Look, we all know that most illegal immigrants are hard working, salt of the earth types who wouldn't hurt a fly. Still, the City has gone out of its way to shelter these MS-13 guys. There was a long running program whereby the DA was flying juveniles out of the country rather than turn them over to the feds. Worse, one of the beneficiaries later killed a local butcher and two of his sons. A local principal once tried to prevent the police from arresting a student for murder. And so on. What's saddest is that all of this mollycoddling has hurt the Hispanic community (like the murdered "seller of fake documents") hardest, even though they are the ones for whom white progressives claim to be working so hard to protect.

Free Will Library

Here are some of the books I've read in the last couple months:

Decision Points by George W. Bush: the surprise best-seller from Chimpy McHitlerburton. This is sort of a memoir, but rather than tell his tale chronologically, Bush organizes his book around 14 "decision points" - crucial moments that left him with a choice with profound consequences. Obviously, a lot of this material covers 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq, but Bush delves into areas both well known (Katrina) and not so well known (his AIDS initiatives in Africa). His prose is forceful and unadorned with occasional touches of emotion. He seems to take a certain delight in quoting prominent Democrats who initially supported the Iraq War, which only underscores what a bunch of a**holes Bush had to deal with in his 8 years in office. Unlike the other chapters, his one on Katrina is full of harsh criticism, both of himself and of the others involved in the mess in New Orleans. You don't have to agree with Bush to know that he was a fundamentally decent man who took his job seriously, and who dealt with a seemingly endless series of disasters with cool competence. Worthwhile.

Known and Unknown by Donald Rumsfeld. a magisterial look back on a life in public service that began in the early Sixties. Say what you will about Rumsfeld (and you never want to be the sort of person about whom people say "say what you will about..."), but the guy exercised power at a high level for most of his adult life with an agility and integrity that few could match. And he's still innovating at age 78. His use of a companion website to publish the memos he refers to in the book is something any DC insider should employ in publishing their memoirs.

The Human Factor by Ishmael Jones. one of the better "I was a CIA agent and this is what's wrong with American intelligence" books out there. Jones tells a familiar tale of bureaucratic waste and inefficiency at the CIA, one of many American institutions that have simply stopped functioning. Jones writes, not just of wasted money or intelligence opportunities, but also wasted lives. It is not uncommon for CIA employees to spend years preparing for a foreign posting, and then spend a few months abroad before being brought back to work in a cubicle at HQ. Lots of dry wit at work, but ultimately the story is too infuriating to be funny. As Jones points out, the CIA's most successful "mission" in the decade after 9/11 was its relentless effort to undermine the Bush Administration through strategic leaking.

Deconstructing Obama by Jack Cashill. this is the book arguing that Bill Ayers actually wrote Dreams of My Father. The available evidence is that Ayers, at least, acted as a sort of hands-on editor, but I'm not sure if the case is made that he actually wrote the whole book. Of course, editing the book is bad enough as it shows just how intertwined Obama and Ayers were, despite all of the careful denials during the 2008 campaign. A fun detail: Ayers' books - and Dreams - are filled with nautical imagery because Ayers worked as a merchant seaman for a couple years.

Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder. a great idea: write a book about the areas in Central and Eastern Europe that suffered first under the fist of Stalinist Russia, then Hitler's Germany, and then Stalin again. Snyder starts with the Ukraine Famine and then moves on to one grim atrocity after another. The book does provide a definitive answer to the question, who was worse, Stalin or Hitler? The answer has to be Hitler. While Stalin might have killed millions, Hitler's death machine was much more cruel and sadistic. By the end of WW2, places like Ukraine, Belarus, and parts of Poland had lost a third of their populations, a tragedy that the world has never really grasped ,or even readily acknowledged.

Lynch Mob: Who Started The Jessica Lynch Myth?

This not a pressing matter, but W. Joseph Campbell points out that today is the eight-year anniversary of the first news reports about Jessica Lynch's "fight to the death" in Iraq. The Lynch myth did not survive serious scrutiny (even Lynch herself was smart enough to deny that she was anything but lucky to be alive). What has persisted is the idea that the Pentagon was somehow "behind" the story out of some nefarious need to cynically spread propaganda. (During a war??? How dare they!). Oddly, that was not the case either. According to Campbell's research, the "Pentagon was behind the Jessica Lynch story" story came from a single Washington Post story that was later discredited.

The military concocted the hero-warrior tale and fed it to the Post in a crude attempt to bolster U.S. support for the Iraq War. So the false narrative goes.

The Post itself has been complicit in suggesting that machinations by the Pentagon were behind the bogus story. But it’s clear that the Post alone placed the “fighting to the death” story into the public domain.

And as I discuss in Getting It Wrong, the Pentagon wasn’t the source for the hero-warrior tale.

Vernon Loeb, who shared a byline on the “fighting to the death” story, said in December 2003 on NPR’s Fresh Air show program that he “could never get anybody from the Pentagon to talk about” the Lynch case.

“They wouldn’t say anything about Jessica Lynch,” Loeb said.

“I just didn’t see the Pentagon trying to create a hero where there was none,” he added. “I mean …they never showed any interest in doing that, to me.”

Loeb declared:

“Our sources for that story were not Pentagon sources.”

Loeb described them as “some really good intelligence sources” in Washington, D.C. , and added:

“We wrote a story that turned out to be wrong because intelligence information we were given was wrong. That happens quite often.”

Loeb on another occasion was quoted by the New York Times as saying: “Far from promoting stories about Lynch, the military didn’t like the story.”

Those darned "intelligence sources." Have they gotten anything right in the last decade?

I'm willing to be charitable and say that the Lynch story was a typical fog-of-war tale that grew exponentially with the re-telling. Hard as it might be to believe now, but large segments of the American media got caught up in the excitement of war during the initial invasion, but their enthusiasm did nothing to help themselves or their readers understand what was going on. The embedded reporters were too close to the ground to get a sense of what was going on outside their immediate view, while the ones back in DC having lunch with "intelligence sources" were too far away. Plus, everybody - especially liberals in the media - wanted to believe that the first hero of the Iraq War was a 19 year-old slip of a girl instead of some 200 lb. redneck guy. Unfortunately, reality is almost never that cooperative.

Moreover, the American people are, at this point, so media saturated that they need something more than some warmed-over Audie Murphy tale to keep them interested in a war. What they really want is a victory and a quick resolution, both of which were a long time coming in Iraq. The Pentagon, at least, realizes that war is complicated and ambiguous with little room for true battlefield heroics. But the sophisticates in the media and politics still cling to the notion that "selling" a war is a matter of concocting two-fisted tales for the rubes. How much better if they would just stop insulting our intelligence.

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