Sunday, March 30, 2008

Who'dathunkit! Chavez 'stifling Venezuelan media'

Hugo Chavez has been accused of stifling press freedom in Venezuela by an organisation which represents media companies from across the Americas. The BBC reports:

Delegates at a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association in Caracas said Mr Chavez was using intimidation to curb criticism of his government.

The report adds that several hundred supporters of Mr Chavez held a protest rally in Caracas against IAPA:

They described the association's delegates as "fascists" and "liars" and also accused the private media in Venezuela of trying to destabilise Mr Chavez's government.

I'll bet that was one spontaneous rally, and had absolutely nothing to do with Chavez, though he was doubtless grateful for the support.

Sean Penn was not immediately available for comment. He's probably being 'stifled' by the all-powerful Bush censorship machine.

Related… Just remember: no-one, but no-one, makes Hugo Chavez look stupid.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pulses racing at New York Times over Basra violence: we may just lose this thing yet

I have a new piece up at Pajamas Media on the New York Times' take on the violence in Basra:

“I watch the news with my family, and I see that Maliki is fighting the innocent people in Basra,” said Muhammad, 12. “I don’t understand it all, but it looks bad to me.”

So ends today's New York Times report on the violence currently raging in Basra and other parts of Iraq. And it's an appropriate quote for the Times to use, because Muhammad's sentiments neatly sum up its own attitude to this new outbreak of fighting: “We don’t understand it all, but it looks bad to us.”

You can read the rest of the article

Saturday, March 22, 2008

BBC erases all traces of lies over Bush speech report; so what have we learned?

Updated: Courtesy of commenters db, Jonathan and John, here are the grabs:

Now you see it…
Now you don't…
Exhibiting a thoroughness worthy of Orwell's Ministry of Truth, the BBC has been busy erasing all traces of the corporation's blatantly dishonest reporting of President Bush's speech on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion.

I'll provide a quick recap for anyone who's new to the story (you might also want to read, in the following order, my previous three posts) before bringing things up to date. On Wednesday the BBC reported the speech under the headline 'Bush speech hails Iraq "victory"'. The headline was supported by the following sentence in the story:

He said recent troop reinforcements had brought about "a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror".

However, this isn't what Bush said. What he said was:

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.

'Opened the door to' is obviously very different to 'brought about' – the BBC's own words. The deceitful editing of the story, and the equally deceitful headline, were clearly designed to expose the President to the ridicule of the BBC's viewers around the world, by creating the impression that he was once again prematurely declaring victory in Iraq, as he was ridiculed for doing back in 2003.

I wrote my first post about the story on Thursday, and emailed a few of the bloggers I read on a regular basis. Charles at Little Green Footballs linked, and by Friday morning – almost certainly as a result of word of the LGF post reaching the BBC – the headline on the story had been changed to 'Bush says Iraq invasion was right'. However, the misleading sentence mentioned above was still in the story, and the 'Bush hails victory' headline still appeared on a video of the speech.

By this time the dishonestly headlined, mendaciously edited BBC story had been displayed prominently on the website for two days. With the site attracting around 13 million unique viewers per week, we can safely assume that several million people around the world saw the report of President Bush 'claiming victory' in Iraq.

As I noted in my second post (linked by Pajamas Media) the BBC's 'Have Your Say' thread on the story was filled with comments hostile to President Bush and the US, with many commenters citing and ridiculing the 'victory claim' which Bush never made. At least two commenters called for Bush and Tony Blair to be hanged, and this in a 'fully moderated' thread. Here's one of those comments:

Late on Friday night/Saturday morning I emailed the BBC, using the comments form provided on the website (here – it's not too late to let them know what you think), to point out that the deliberately misleading sentence remained in the story, and the inaccurate headline remained on the video clip; I also sent links to mine and Charles's posts. I received no reply from the BBC, but by lunchtime on Saturday the story had been corrected, and the headline on the video clip had been changed.

I stupidly didn't think to screen-grab the headline on the original story – to be honest I didn't expect the BBC to correct it – but after it was changed I did screen-grab the video player. Here's the original version, with not one but two references to Bush 'hailing victory':

And here's the 'after' version, with the first reference corrected and the second deleted:

Update: Also via db and Jonathan, here's the sentence in which Bush's words are misreported:


Even as I write this post, the Middle East page of the BBC site still features a link to the Have Your Say thread (comments are now closed) which takes the form of a quote from one of the comments, accusing Bush of 'arrogance' for declaring victory:

It's inconceivable that the headline and sentence which created such a misleading impression of Bush's speech were simply 'editing errors'. I used to work as a sub-editor on a daily newspaper in the UK, and a story as important as this would one have been seen by perhaps six different journalists before the paper went to press.

I've no doubt that at least as many BBC journalists would have been involved in putting together the Bush story, and senior ones too. The BBC is fat with British taxpayers' money, and its news-gathering operation is probably the best-resourced and most over-manned in the world; they wouldn't have farmed this job out to the intern.

The journalists who edited the report knew exactly what they were doing. They had access to the full transcript of the speech, and the video. They cut-and-pasted, or typed out, Bush's 'incriminating' words. It's clear that the decision to manipulate his words, and to headline the story with a lie, was approved at a high level.

Even for a news organisation with an undisguised political bias, the manipulation of a key speech by such an important figure would be despicable behaviour. The BBC's actions are made worse by the fact that it maintains the pretence of impartiality, although anyone familiar with its reporting on issues from Israel-Palestine (see also this story) to global warming knows this isn't the case.

As I wrote in my second post, the BBC is trusted by, and influences the opinions of, millions of people around the world, and such influence demands a similar degree of responsibility. It's one thing to 'bash Bush', but the BBC's selective and biased reporting on the war on terror can only embolden the jihadists and their state sponsors (anyone who seriously doubts there's a link should read this), while simultaneously undermining the political and public support that US, British and allied troops so desperately need.

I've been calling the BBC for its biased reporting since I started blogging last year, but my beef with the corporation has now become personal – my brother is due to deploy to Afghanistan with the British Army in September. The situation there is dangerous enough without the BBC stirring the pot – I would hate to think of he, or any coalition soldier, being targeted by some previously friendly Afghan who's been enraged by the latest exaggerated, context-free BBC report about coalition forces causing civilian casualties.

But the safety of our troops appears to be a secondary consideration for the BBC after its desire to see the US defeated and humiliated, first and foremost in Iraq (although its position, like that of the US media, will no doubt change if Obama or Hillary is elected President). The majority of its journalists, like their fellow soft-left/progressive travellers, want a world in which the US has less influence, and bodies such as the UN and EU have more.

In pursuit of this goal they have no compunction about manipulating the news to suit their agenda, whether by omitting inconvenient facts, or by applying the corporation's legendary double standards (Castro, for example is always the Cuban 'leader', while Pinochet is the Chilean 'dictator') and moral equivocation (Palestinian terror attacks are no worse than Israeli actions aimed at preventing those attacks). And sometimes, if they think they can get away with it, they'll simply lie.

When they're caught, like Eliot Spitzer the fact that they have been caught is the only thing they're sorry about. They have no shame; they despise and disregard their critics (as I mentioned, I've had no reply to my email – what could they possibly say?); and they'll brazenly attempt similar chicanery again, as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

When Charles linked my post at LGF, one commentator was driven to despair by the fact that the mainstream media can apparently keep getting away with manipulating the news in this way, and suggested that bloggers who draw attention to biased reporting are only preaching to the choir.

I know how they feel, but the events of the last few days have shown that the BBC can at least be forced to remove misleading and dishonest material from its website, even if it doesn't acknowledge that it's had to do so. If the alarm is raised quickly enough the propaganda effect can be contained, and the damage to the reputations of individuals, groups or countries limited.

Conservatives, and anyone who believes people should be able to make up their own minds about an issue based on a fair presentation of the facts, are engaged in nothing less than a battle for the truth. We may never be able to win outright, but we can't afford to lose.

Update: Thanks to Charles for linking again, and for bringing what I think is hugely important story to an infinitely bigger audience than I could. I think a couple of other people have linked too, so thanks, but my sitemeter is wall-to-wall lizards so it's hard to tell.

Thanks also to Glenn, and fellow Beeb-baiter Marc at USS Neverdock, who maintains one of the most comprehensive catalogues of BBC bias on the web.

Atlas links, and also links to this story on the New York Times using US war dead for propaganda. Just like the BBC they've now backtracked. So much bias, so little time...

You might also enjoy:

Clooney sells watches while the Chinese shoot monks

Gazans driving Caterpillars; Rachel Corrie spinning in grave

Friday, March 21, 2008

Dear BBC: Please stop lying

Here's my email to the BBC on their reporting of President Bush's Iraq speech (see previous posts):

Your coverage of President Bush's Iraq speech has been spectacularly dishonest, even by the BBC's usual standards. Your original headline, which of course you've now changed (1-0 to the bloggers), was 'Bush speech hails Iraq "victory"'. As your journalists who worked on the story will have known, he said no such thing.

While you've changed the headline, the following, equally dishonest sentence remains in the story:

'He said recent troop reinforcements had brought about "a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror".'

What he actually said (and again your journalists will have known this, because it's in the transcript you linked, and in the video) was:

'The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.'

Saying the surge has 'opened the door' to a victory is of course a very different thing to saying it had 'brought about' a victory.

I've blogged on this blatant piece of news manipulation here and here.

My first post was picked up by the blog Little Green Footballs, which is what I suspect led to the headline being changed.

I'd be curious to hear your explanation for this blatant piece of mendacity. I'd like to know how many journalists were involved, and how high up the decision was taken to lie about Bush's speech in order to expose him to the ridicule of your readers.

I'd also like to know how your journalists sleep at night, although I don't expect I'll get an answer.

I hope you will promptly correct the text of the story, and the text on your video clips, and issue a correction as prominent as the original, dishonest report.

I look forward to hearing from you.

You can send your own observations using the form here.

BBC changes dishonest headline about Bush's Iraq speech, but too late: the lefties are going wild

Yesterday I posted about the BBC's blatant misreporting of President Bush's speech on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The post is here (or just scroll down). Long story short: the BBC accused Bush, both in the headline and in the story, of 'claiming victory', but he didn't.

Charles at Little Green Footballs linked, and, very likely due to the story appearing at LGF (although there's no way of knowing for sure), the BBC has now changed the headline on the story from Bush speech hails Iraq ‘victory’ to Bush says Iraq invasion was right.

But the offending sentence that was the basis for the headline is still in the story, and anyway the damage has already been done. The original, utterly dishonest headline will have been seen by millions of people around the world over the past couple of days.

Update: The Beeb may be burning evidence like Nazis at the fall of Berlin, but the 'Bush hails victory' headline still appears on the video clip of the speech. Twice. (Click to view.)

Not surprisingly, the BBC's 'Have your say' thread on the story is filled with commenters attacking Bush for a victory claim he didn't make. I've been trawling through the comments so that you don't have to – it's an unpleasant job, akin to wading through a chest-high river of bile.

I've edited some of the comments for length, and the names and addresses are as displayed, but I haven’t edited the spelling and grammar. Bear in mind that some of these people don’t have English as their first language, while others are moonbats; it can't be a coincidence that so many lefties appear to be learning-disabled.

This is the pick of the comments from the first 30 or so pages, and at the last count there were 101 pages. The further in you get, the more people are reacting to the original BBC story, and the more frequent the references to the 'victory’ claim. Newer commenters are following a link from the BBC's Middle East news page, and the link itself is typical of the comments:

'Bush's arrogance is astonishing in declaring victorious a war which he lost'
Ahmed, Tripoli

To start with, a special mention for two posters, who quiet openly, in a 'fully moderated' BBC forum, call for Tony Blair and George Bush to be hanged (I've screen-grabbed them in case the BBC's clean-up crews try to 'disappear' them).

Here's William Rogers, from Falmouth, Devon in the UK:

For G.W.Bush to claim victory in Iraq, simpy explains what an ideot and urealistic he is ! The only victory he acheived is controlling Iraq's oilfields. His war was illegal. He and Blair, and their cronies are war criminals and should be brought to justice for the destruction and killings hundred of thousands of innocent Iraqis and both should be hanged in one of Baghdad's main Squares. Iraq was far better place under Saddam than under occupation and current puppet and corrupt Iraqi government.

And David Gurarie, of Bolder, United States:

I hope the day will come when the perpetrators of "great victory" (Bush, his henchmen and his British poodle) will stand before the Hague tribunal to account for this abhorrent feat. Even better to see them on gallows which they deserve much more than Sadam Hussein, indeed of all "Sadams" of the world combined.

You might think that such remarks would contravene the BBC's house rules, which state:

Do not post messages that are unlawful, harassing, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harmful, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, homophobic or racially offensive.

Clearly the forum's moderators are as 'impartial' as the rest of the BBC's journalists.

Anyway, on with the show. If/when you get fed up, scroll to the bottom for some closing thoughts. Enjoy…

what Bush calls a "victory" in Iraq is not a victory for the is a victory for the Iraq citizens not for the US citizen...A "victory" in Iraq has cost the US trillions of dollars and the lives of more that 3 thosand of our soldiers and four times that of lost Iraqi lives...A "victory" in Iraq is one that we can not afford
Tom Wright, Tomball Tx

Bush's arrogance and stupidity are astonishing in declaring victorius a war which he lost , the american nazi-fascist policy has failed iraq and afghanistan are to add to the lost conflicts of vietnam ,korea,somalia.
ahmed, tripoli

Five years and still holed in the green zone is that victory. Every diplomat goes in a surprise visit is that security.
riki, leicester

Quantify exactly what % decrease there has been on terrorism Mr Bush! It seems to me all you have done is aggravate the situation, because everyday the violence and senseless killings seem to be increasing. So how exactly, do you define your so-called "victory"on terrorism.
trinirdm, san fernando

I find it unbearable to listen to Bush talking about Iraq. The entire situation in the Middle East is much much worse than it was before the invasion with Iran being the really BIG WINNER (stronger than ever). And yet, he talks about "victory". An insult to our intelligence!!
Stephan, Germany

Your soldiers are still coming home in boxes, your economy is in a shambles, your Country is in debt up to it's ears, 95% of the world dislike Americans, your dollars are been used for toilet paper, your hiding behind your fences at the boarder, you can't go no were in the World with your flag on your back, and Americans are claiming *Victory* it's more like Bin Laden has you were he said he would 7 years ago
Don Nuttall, Canada

Anarchy prevails, terrorist networks thrive and thousands of lives are lost in Iraq and Afghanistan today. No WMD's found, no cause of war even faintly satisfied, no objectives even remotely achieved. Terrorism has spread across the globe. Your Kellogs' and Haliburtons' bask in blood stained money. The war on terror was a 3 trillion dollar intelligence failure.

Hamaad Haider, Karach

This President Bush and his allies had deceived the entire world about Iraq. I just wish to know when this Mr. Bush and his allies are going to face justice because of all the American brutalities in Iraq.
I am really surprise that Mr. Bush still speak of victory in Iraq.

Mr. Bush's Iraq "victory" speech is another of his many utterly self-deceiving and misleading speeches that he has been making since his presidency begun in 2000. Mr. Bush must think that we are all idiots - is it not a common knowledge that it is his Iraq invasion that created Al-Qaeda in that country.
Adil Khan, New York

Bush is welcome to declare victory every month, it does not change the reality
Naveed Khan, San Jose

Thanks God I am not in Iraq, nor do I wish it on anybody.Close to 5000 American casualties, 60,000 injured, over 150,000 Iraquis dead is not a victory, it is a tragedy.
OneMojo Hand, United States

If George Bush genuinely regards what the United States has done to Iraq as a victory then he's even more crazy today than he was on September 12, 2002 when he announced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
Danny, Vancouver

If George W Bush thinks that Iraq is a `victory' then why isn't he withdrawing US troops?
This would be the most logical course of action, once a supposedly successfull military operation reaches the end of it's mandate.
Phil Brand., London, England.

Victory??You must be kidding...
bob ariff yusoff, zrich, Switzerland

This is why the US invaded Iraq - to get control of their oil, and this is the "victory" that Bush is claiming. No mention of this in the Western press, of course.
Anthony George Cheney, Ipswich

How dare Bush presume that there has been a "victory" - the only victory he believes in is one where he and America are at the centre of the world and safe from harm, utterly regardless of the suffering that millions must endure as a result of an illegal war. He's a despicable man, and the only glimmer of hope I now see for Iraq, let alone America's reputation, is in the possibility of a Democrat President next year.
Matt Black, Cambridge

Victory? Tell that to the Iraqis who are dying everyday..
The only Victory will be when on January 20, 2009 when a new president will be in office and this 8 year nightmare will finally be over.
Jeff Gallo, StateN Island NY

If he claims this a victory i would hate to see what defeat is then.
yossi, london

well, considering that Bush thinks that the US isn't in a recession, of course he thinks we have a "victory" in Iraq. He seems to subscribe to the Orwellian concept if you repeat a lie enough times it "becomes" the truth.
[janeravenswood], Harrisburg, United States

Yes it is a victory for him and oil company. Converting US Tax payers money by financial the war that bring profit to them. Using US sons and daughters that is not from their blood to convert to profit for them.
Wil Ng

How naive or dumb is this president to believe there's a victory in Iraq ?
John Perkins, Toronto

English is not my first language, but I've lived 14 years in English speaking countries!
Can Mr Bush give the (not his) definition of Victory, please? I think I have the wrong one.
Gerome M, São Paulo, Brazil

The war in Iraq may have got rid of what was an extremely dangerous man, but for George Bush to even use the word "victory" in this speech i think is despicable. I would hardly call the tremendous loss of the lives of innocent civillians and soldiers in what is still an on-going war a "victory".
Sam, Manchester

Bush declares it a victory..If he feels that way let him be the first to enter Bagdad without bullet proof vest....Better yet, this war is about two components..Bin ladin and Bush...We need a duel like in the wild west movies...Imagine a showdown at sunset with Bush and bin Ladin...Or are they a cowardly pair.. if .Mccain wants to continue this war he should run for office in Iraq.
d muschett, rincon

VICTORY! What does that mean? - is he so out of touch with reality. To use that word in this context is insulting to the lives of the hundred of thousands that have been lost and destroyed.

There is no victory, there is just needless, terrible, anguish, pain and suffering. and for what! so Bush can make a victory speech - lunacy!!! absolute lunacy!
Zam, New York

Few days ago he was asking Russians to help in Afghanistan, today he is anouncing victory in Iraq.
Ratko Maltar, Cleveland, United States

I don't know what delusion Bush is living in, but "Death" and "Destruction" were not categorized under "Victory" last time I checked.
Emily Smith, Columiba

Bush needs to keep quiet for the next 8 months until he is out of office. Americans are fed up. Stop with the fake victory speeches already!
John Wayne, USA

George Bush thinks its a victory?
[George2012], London, United Kingdom

Bush is as wrong about victory in Iraq as he was about the reasons for going to war in the first place.
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago

In true style Bush now claims victory when all that he has done is pay off some gangsters who will turn against him anytime soon.
peter, stoke on trent

when i the headline about mr. bush declaring 'victory' in iraq i really wondered whether april fools day had come a bit early.
meg rinaldi, seattle washington usa

Did somebody change the definition of victory when I wasn't looking?
Alec Braithwaite, Bellevue, United States

A victory? Funny sort of victory if you ask me. While I generally support the American side, I can't agree with what Bush just said.
[Martin1983], London, United Kingdom

Clearly my dictionary definitions of 'success' and 'victory' are somewhat at odds with Dubyas dictionary!
John Chapman, Bath, United Kingdom

How Orwellian! A Victory? It is a defeat, and an end to American Hegemony
Mark Bergseid, Carlsbad


One more time: President Bush did not claim victory. He said:

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.

And he's absolutely right.

I've written many times about the influence the BBC has over the opinions of millions of people around the world, and the responsibility that goes with that influence. It's one thing to 'bash Bush', but their selective and biased reporting on the war on terror can only embolden the jihadists, and undermine the political and public support that US, British and allied troops so desperately need.

Declaration of interest: my brother is due to deploy to Afghanistan with the British Army in September. He knows the risks, but I would hate to think that he might get RPG'd by some previously friendly Afghan who's been enraged by the latest exaggerated, context-free BBC report about coalition troops causing civilian casualties.

If the BBC can't police itself to maintain basic standards of honesty and fairness, then it will have to be brought to account some other way.

The contact details for the BBC's news website are here. Let them know what you think. Blogger power appears to have got one lying headline changed, so imagine what an avalanche of polite, well-argued but savagely critical emails might do.

(Update: My own email to the BBC is in a separate post.)

I'll finish on a upbeat note. Amid all the hate and lies of the comments, a few brave souls have come to the defence of George Bush, Tony Blair, and the US and its allies. Here's one from Ron Alcorn in 'chama' – don't know what that's short for or where it is, but it's presumably in the US. Note the perfect spelling and capitalisation.

History will prove Iraq to be a great success story but I am not sure the United States will be able to save Europe this time.

Amen to that. My US Green Card lottery application is paid up for the next five years.

Related: More BBC Iraq anniversary bias from – who else? – Biased BBC.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The BBC accuses Bush of 'claiming victory' in Iraq again. He didn't.

The BBC's headline on its report of President Bush's Iraq speech is 'Bush speech hails Iraq victory'. I was surprised that he would have said such a thing, given the way in which previous claims of success have been used to criticise and ridicule the Commander in Chief.

Most famously, in 2003, Bush landed on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared: "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." He was speaking in front of a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished', words that have been recalled with a sneer by many a news anchor and New York Times writer in the years since (apparently the banner was the Navy's idea).

So I was surprised that the President would hold out another hostage to fortune by claiming victory again, but this is what the relevant part of the BBC report said:

He said recent troop reinforcements had brought about "a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror".

Surely this is more ammunition for the President's many critics. There he goes again! They'll be shrieking. We knew he was stupid, but this is unbelievable!

If read the speech, however - I happened to see the excerpt in question on Hugh Hewitt's blog - you'll find that Bush didn't say that at all. (If you don't want to read the whole thing use your browser's 'Find' field to search for 'victory' – it's the first instance.)

What he said was the following:

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror.

Bush didn't say the surge had 'brought about' a strategic victory, he said they had 'opened the door' to it. He was saying that the surge has paved the way for a victory over Al Qaeda; he did not say the victory had been achieved.

I checked the video in case the President had deviated from the text, but he sticks to it faithfully. And he shows that he's fully aware that the 'strategic victory' has not yet been achieved in the next paragraph:

When Iraqi and American forces finish the job, the effects will reverberate far beyond Iraq's borders.

'When' they finish the job. So he's clearly admitting that it's not finished yet.

The BBC's headline, and its mischievously edited report, convey completely the wrong impression about the tone of the President's speech, leaving him open once again to accusations of arrogance about America's achievements, and ignorance of the situation in Iraq.

The journalist who edited the report knew exactly what they were doing. They had access to the full transcript, and the video. They cut-and-pasted, or typed out, Bush's 'incriminating' words. Whoever wrote 'brought about' was lying, and their intention was clear.

I don't know whether they've taken the picture of Bush as Hitler off the wall of the newsroom, but it's clear that some very senior people at the BBC despise the President as much as ever. They have no compunction about manipulating his words, and producing misleading news reports, in their campaign to ensure that he remains a figure of hate and ridicule around the world.

UPDATE: A belated thank-you to Charles for linking. Welcome, lizards, and feel free to scamper around on the rocks while you're here. A couple of recent posts you may enjoy: George Clooney's double standard over China, and Gazans driving Caterpillars; Rachel Corrie spinnining in grave.

UPDATE 2: LGF reports that the BBC has changed the headline. However, the misleading sentence that was the basis for the headline is still in there.

I'm working on a follow-up post now.

After the big Obama speech: the big Osama speech

Rusty is on it. Wretchard says 'We've got him now' and sparks intense theological and philosophical debate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nice speech. Too bad he didn't deliver it years ago, from Pastor Wright's pulpit

It's too early to know what impact Obama's speech will have on his campaign to win the Democratic nomination, or, if he's successful, his bid to win the White House.

But one thing's for sure. Obama has certainly squeezed every last ounce of usefulness out of Pastor Jeremiah Wright. For years he used Wright and Trinity Church to cement his position in the world of Chicago faith-politics, and now that the pastor's extensive canon of race-baiting and hate-preaching has come to light he's used him one last time – and to spectacular effect.

Glenn Greenwald found the speech 'riveting, provocative, insightful, thoughtful and courageous'; Chris Matthews doubtless had another of those thrills run up his leg. Andrew Sullivan was cool and objective as ever. Temporarily, at least, the speech seems to have had the desired effect, although if he wins the candidacy Obama may have to make another speech renouncing all the socialist rhetoric he employed in the latter part of yesterday's.

Cynical though I am about pretty much every aspect of Obama's campaign, I can't believe that, as Obama and his family sat and listened while Wright regaled his flock with a litany of America's sins (after insisting that he had never heard any 'controversial' remarks by Wright, he backtracked in the speech), Obama thought he would one day be able use the pastor's indiscretions to his own advantage.

But he clearly didn't worry that they would do him any harm either, otherwise he would have found another church, or perhaps had a quiet word in the ear of his mentor. Maybe he could even have stood in Wright's own pulpit, and told the worshippers of Trinity that it was time to move beyond such divisive language, and begin the process of reconciliation.

Perhaps he dismissed the pastor's revelling in the deaths of 3,00o Americans on 9/11, his blaming Israel for all the Middle East's ills and his accusing the US government of unleashing the AIDS virus to exterminate the world's coloured people as 'bawdy humour'.

And certainly, when Wright's words emerged to threaten his Presidential bid, Obama knew exactly what to do with them: he took the pastor's appeals to the basest of anti-American and racially divisive instincts, and leveraged them into an appeal for unity.

He delivered a speech in which he patronised Wright as a harmless old man driven mad by racial injustice (although apparently no more unreasonable than Obama's own grandmother), and presented himself as having risen above such foolishness, burnishing his image as a 'post-racial' figure.

Then, shortly after insisting that "race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now" he declared that it was time to stop talking about race, and move on. He even managed to get in a plug for his book.

Think about it: Obama earned himself wall-to-wall media coverage by making a speech about race which he might not have had the opportunity to make had he not at best acquiesced in, and at worst connived at, Wright's long history of racist demagoguery.

Talk about audacity.

Related: Stop the ACLU has a round-up of Obama's other unsavoury allies; Cliff Kincaid at CFP explores Obama's Marxist connections.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I have a nightmare: Obama to give 'major' speech on race

Barack Obama is to give a speech on 'the larger issue of race' in the primary campaign tomorrow. Among other things he'll apparently attempt to defend the inflammatory preaching of Pastor Wright. Jim at Gateway Pundit has the details.

Clearly Obama thinks it's time for some damage limitation, but he'll need to choose his words carefully, particularly with regard to Wright. JammieWearingFool reports that the pastor of disaster has an approval record of just 8% with voters nationally. The good news is that as Wright has never had a national approval rating before, this is a record high figure.

I wonder if he'll be taking questions afterwards?

Ace has a post on the MSM airbrushing Wright's comments, and lots more Wright stuff.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Clooney sells watches while the Chinese shoot monks

Update: An expanded version of this post is up at Pajamas Media

According to reports coming out of Tibet, as many as 100 people have been killed by Chinese forces in a crackdown on pro-independence protests by monks and their supporters. The unrest is said to be spreading, and more deaths are likely in the coming days.

The Beijing Olympics take place in August, and Tibetans are courageously taking the opportunity to draw attention to their plight, and bring international pressure to bear on China. And if his previous form is anything to go by, the Tibetans should soon be able to count on the high-profile support of Hollywood star George Clooney in their struggle for freedom.

After all, the man annointed by the media as the ‘heart-throb with a conscience’ has been pretty outspoken about China's indirect responsibility for the on-going genocide in Darfur. Here's his most recent protest:

Sorry! Wrong protest. Here’s Clooney’s latest attack on China, delivered in his capacity as ‘ambassador’ for Olympic partner and official timekeeper Omega (I couldn’t find video):

"I have talked with Omega (about China) for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega," Clooney told BBC Sport.

"I have and will go to the places I and China do business and ask for help."

Get the message, Wen Jiabao? Coming through loud and clear, People's Liberation Army? Gorgeous George is going to “continue to talk to Omega”. He’s going to “go to places” and “ask for help”.

We’ve yet to hear from Clooney on the specific issue of Tibet, but he’ll surely take an even stronger stance than he has over Darfur, given that this time Chinese are doing the shooting themselves, rather than merely supplying the ammunition.

We can perhaps hope for something along the lines of the blistering attack Clooney launched on Nestle last year, when it was politely pointed out that his commercial activities on behalf of a company that’s been criticised for its policies in the third world didn’t sit well with his self-appointed role as global crusader for the oppressed (more on the Nestle connection here).

Here's the full, unedited transcript:

"I'm not going to apologize to you for trying to make a living every once in a while. I find that an irritating question."

Okay, it wasn’t that blistering. However, Clooney has on other occasions been genuinely outspoken in his condemnation of perceived injustices – namely those he feels have been committed by the United States, and specifically by the Bush administration.

He’s been among the most high-profile critics of the Iraq war, which is of course his right, although as Austin Bay has pointed out the similarities between the case for invading Iraq and Clooney’s own justification for US intervention in Sudan somewhat undermine his position.

And as blogger Scolai has pointed out, Clooney has nothing to say about the US intervention in Afghanistan. He was asked recently whether, in the context of Afghanistan some wars were justified he replied “I’m not the guy to answer that.” An odd answer from someone who certainly appears to be the go-to guy if you want to know which wars aren’t justified.

Similarly, he’s silent on the Bush administration’s $15 billion initiative for AIDS relief in Africa (as, of course, are his friends in the media, an oversight recently criticised by Bob Geldof in Time magazine). Clearly, Clooney’s crusading is selective to say the least. I can’t put it any better than Niall Stanage in this 2006 profile:

Films aside, what many journalists refer to as his ‘‘activism’’ tends to comprise involvement with worthy but largely uncontroversial causes (like the Bono fronted Drop The Debt campaign) and nebulous statements about peace or holding the powerful to account.

In his 2006 National Review piece ‘Phoney Baloney’, Mark Steyn memorably ridiculed Clooney’s self-declared ‘bravery’, and his double standard of attacking easy political targets in the US while ignoring more complex and controversial issues. (Not sure how long the link to Steyn's website is good for; you can also find the article here).

Steyn’s piece is the greatest takedown of pompous celebrity activism ever committed to print or web: it should be carved in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. He writes:

By comparison [with earlier generations of Hollywood activists], Clooney’s [activism] is no more than a pose — he’s acting at activism, new Hollywood mimicking old Hollywood’s robust defense of even older Hollywood. He’s more taken by the idea of “speaking truth to power” than by the footling question of whether the truth he’s speaking to power is actually true.

When interviewers turn to the subject of his politics, Clooney invariably talks about the influence of his journalist father, and it’s easy to think that his activism is driven at least in part by a sense of guilt over his success in the often superficial and ephemeral movie business. He alludes to as much in this spectacularly smug and self-serving 2006 interview with clearly-smitten Guardian journalist Emma Brockes.

(You should read the whole thing before reading Steyn’s piece. You can’t help thinking that Clooney is more interested in attracting the opprobrium of 'right-wingers' than he is in actually doing good; he wears the 'traitor' label like a badge of honour.)

So why the apparent double standard? Why the relative silence from Clooney over China?

He could conceivably make the argument that 'engagement' with unpleasant regimes is more useful than punitive measures – which, after all, is the position taken by Western governments with regard to China and other countries.

But no amount of photo-shoots and drinks parties featuring Clooney modelling expensive watches are going to affect China's policies towards Tibet or Sudan. On the other hand, the public severing of his links with Omega would attract worldwide publicity on a scale similar to that generated by Steven Spielberg’s recent decision to snub the Games.

Maybe, like all those corrupt politicians and corporate scoundrels that inhabit his films, Clooney simply has his price.

But there's another possibility, which is slightly more charitable. Perhaps Clooney needs the money so that he can continue to fund worthy documentaries and 'political' feature films which, while well-received critically, aren’t necessarily successful in terms of box office receipts.

How ironic if would be if Clooney was reduced to compromising his principles so that he could make more films in which those principles are so blatantly flaunted.

*Note that the linked BBC report refers to protests in 'another part of China', which suggests it considers Tibet to be 'part' of China. Slip-up, or a reluctance to offend as the BBC prepares to send hundreds of its employees to cover the Olympics?

Update: Thanks to Jim for linking.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can the BBC work a Bush-bashing line into the Spitzer affair? Of course it can!

There's only one thing the BBC enjoys more than attacking George Bush, and that's reporting on Americans attacking George Bush. You might think that dragging both the President and the Iraq war into the Spitzer scandal would be a tough sell, but the BBC manages it in the person of the very first New Yorker quoted in a 'vox-pop' on the affair, one Ian Cunningham:

"I like him. He's a local, he's smart and he's willing to turn on his own class – Wall Street.

"I don't think he should step down. If we won't impeach the president for an illegal war I don’t think he should go for something more minor, the world's oldest profession."

So Cunningham 'likes' a man that cheated on his wife with hookers for several years, and has brought shame on her and their children.

He admires Spitzer for being willing to 'turn on' Wall Street (an unfortunate choice of phrase given the circumstances of the governor's demise), as if Spitzer was the first attorney general to make a name for himself by prosecuting, and persecuting, prominent business figures.

And note the way he quaintly dismisses prostitution as "the world's oldest profession" – although if you read his words carefully he may in fact be referring to philandering public officials, rather than prostitutes.

But what's really disturbing is the fact that the BBC has decided that Cunningham's remarks about President Bush and the war are somehow pertinent, and presents them as if they were established facts rather than leftist rhetoric. The invasion of Iraq wasn't illegal, and no-one outside the MoveOn/Code Pink crowd and the lunatic fringe of the Democratic party is talking seriously about impeachment.

But of course, Cunningham is exactly the kind of American whose viewpoint the BBC reflects in its daily reporting on the country. He appears to be utterly amoral, ignorant of basic facts, hostile towards big business and happy to repeat lies. If you look at the picture you can actually feel the arrogance and the self-righteousness.

In short he's every inch the modern Democrat.

Lines on the demise of Eliot Spitzer

With acknowledgement to E.J. Thribb. (More here and here.)

So. Farewell then,
Eliot Spitzer.

They called you
'The sheriff of
Wall Street'.

Keith's mum says
Your downfall
Was poetic justice.

Does this mean
You're going to be

Run out of town?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gazans driving Caterpillars; Rachel Corrie spinning in grave

For the past few years Palestinian sympathisers and Israel haters have been waging a campaign against US construction equipment maker Caterpillar, on the grounds that it builds the D9 earthmovers used by the Israeli Defence Forces.

Campaigners say the IDF uses the bulldozers to illegally demolish Palestinian homes. The IDF says it uses them to demolish buildings used by terrorists as firing positions, and to dismantle booby-traps and fill in weapons-smuggling tunnels.

A D9 famously ran over and killed the flag-burning US activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003, spawning an entire canon of sub-standard poetry and drama. The pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement claimed she was 'murdered' while trying to protect Palestinian homes, producing a series of contradictory and apparently faked photos to support their claims. (HT for that last link Israel Matzav.)

The IDF says its troops were clearing weapons-smuggling infrastructure, and that there was no way the driver of the D9 could have seen Corrie. Corrie's family and others have tried to sue Caterpillar but failed, and she has become a hero of the Palestinian 'resistance' movement, and its official PR arm.

Whatever the truth of that particular incident, it's fair to say that, in the eyes of the anti-Israel lobby, Caterpillar's name is Mudd – or maybe that should be Earth. In 2004 Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said:

Caterpillar betrays its stated values when it sells bulldozers to Israel knowing that they are being used to illegally destroy Palestinian homes. Until Israel stops these practices, Caterpillar’s continued sales will make the company complicit in human rights abuses.

So it comes as something of a surprise to see Palestinians clearing up the damage caused by last week's Israeli strikes on Gaza with… a Caterpillar:

Apologies for the picture quality – it's a screen grab of a video, which is itself pretty ropey (or maybe it's my monitor…) on the BBC's website. But if you click to enlarge it you can clearly see 'CAT' on the engine cowling, and 'CATERPILLAR' along the top of the windscreen.

The BBC video is here (if that doesn't work the page is here – click the 'Watch' button below the photo). The Caterpillar appears briefly at 50 seconds, but there's no commentary. There's another version, with commentary, here (the page is here). It's edited differently, and the Caterpillar appears at 46 seconds. The branding is clearly visible in both clips.

It's what's known as a 'backhoe loader', rather than the notorious, almost larger-than-life D9, but a Caterpillar it most certainly is. This must be what they call the 'circle of earthmoving': Caterpillars knock the buildings down, Caterpillars come along and clear up the mess, and so it continues…

You've got to hand it to Caterpillar’s Mid-East sales rep. Talk about playing both sides – the guy has to be in line for 'salesman of the year' and a weekend in Vegas.

There are several websites, including Stop Caterpillar, devoted to attacking Caterpillar, and calling for boycotts of its products (I for one will certainly have pause for thought next time I'm out shopping for a 150,000lb earthmover). You can see some endearingly pathetic photos of a demo in England here.

The United Methodist Church in the US is running a disinvestment campaign against Caterpillar. The General Synod of the Church of England, under the leadership of the hapless Rowan Williams, voted to do the same in 2006, but was snubbed by its investments advisory group.

Among leftist opponents of Israel, Caterpillar has become a by-word for the perceived injustices visited on the Palestinian people. Maybe someone ought to tell the Palestinians.

Related: Business as usual at the BBC

Thanks to all who linked. In Berlin for a few days so not much time for blogging. I was at the Holocaust memorial shortly after hearing of the attack on the seminary in Jerusalem. Maybe I'll have some thoughts when I get back.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rezko: This guy really IS bad news

Barack Obama endured his first truly hostile press conference yesterday, and he didn't care for it much.

MSNBC's First Read reports:

Questions centered on why his campaign had denied that a meeting occurred between his chief economic advisor and Canadian officials as well as questions on his relationship with Tony Rezko, a Chicago land developer and fast food magnate, now on trial for corruption charges.

This is interesting stuff. Not before time, Obama is beginning to face serious scrutiny about…

Whoaaa! Back up there!

Tony Rezko is a fast food magnate? That's a new one on me. And it's probably a new one on many of Obama's supporters.

The Democrats seem happy to overlook the fact that Obama has links to a property developer with a shady past, despite that fact that many of them are signed up to a system of political thought which holds that all property is theft (they don't have a problem with the shadiness).

It doesn't bother them that Obama may have been taking tainted money. Hell, they'd be happy for him to take money from Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and probably the Devil himself if it gets their man into the White House.

But now it looks like he's been taking fast food money - and for the left, fast food epitomises all that's wrong with America. It's where corporate greed meets physical greed. It's poisoning the children, polluting the air and it entails the deaths of animals. Animals with big eyes.

The evils of fast food are a favourite subject for everyone from elitist culture columnists to shock-doc film-makers - but that's not to say that all Democrats are anti-burger. If the beef in question has been humanely reared (ideally the restaurant should be able to tell you the name of the cow it came from, and the date it attained nirvana), doesn't have an unacceptably high carbon footprint and is served to you by a French waiter, then you're in the clear.

But what I've seen of Rezko suggests to me that the meat for his burgers is unlikely to be locally sourced from 100% organically reared cattle. More likely it arrives by tanker from wherever it can be cheaply acquired - possibly from the developing world - and is pumped into the kitchens of his restaurants through a hose.

Rezko has the blood of innocent livestock, and the elevated insulin levels of a generation of young Americans, on his hands. It's time for Obama to quit stalling, and tell the voters whether or not he's ever knowingly eaten a Rezkoburger.

HT Instapundit. Protein Wisdom has a good round-up of slightly more serious reaction, and Sister Toldjah has an even bigger round-up.

Thanks to Don Surber and JammieWearingFool for linking

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Get the message out!

The Jawa Report is holding a Photoshop challenge. You're invited to add a more appropriate slogan to a couple of banners, one of which is being carried by one of the lefties protesting against the Marines in Berkeley, California. Here are my contributions:

The BBC's Gaza reporting: history upside down, morality inside out

Or 'Business as usual'…

Consider this report on the BBC's website about the latest violence in Gaza:

The low-level war between Israel and the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip has flared into a new upsurge of violence, with almost daily rocket attacks on towns in southern Israel being met by Israeli strikes on Palestinian militants.


The Israeli strategy is also becoming clearer. They are well aware of the increasing threat posed by rocket attacks launched from Gaza. Their goal appears to be to establish a balance of deterrence, with each new barrage of rockets meeting a significant response; one that they hope will encourage Gaza's leaders to restrain the militants.

Not much wrong with that, you're probably thinking – it's a pretty fair summary of the current situation.

I am, however, playing a little trick on you. Here's the real BBC report, by Jonathan Marcus:

The low-level war between Israel and the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip has flared into a new upsurge of violence, with Israeli strikes on Palestinian militants being met by a barrage of rockets fired into southern Israel.

And a few paragraphs later:

The strategy of the Palestinian militants is also becoming clearer. They are well aware of the Israeli military's capabilities. Their goal appears to be to establish a balance of deterrence, with each significant Israeli incursion or targeted killing meeting a significant response; one that they hope will encourage the Israeli government to restrain its own forces.

The story appears under the headline 'Gaza rocketeers confound Israel'. 'Rocketeers' appears to be the latest addition to the lexicon of obfuscation the BBC employs in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – it's an almost heroic-sounding term, which conjours up visions of comic-book adventurers or mad scientists, rather than aspiring mass-murderers.

And is Israel really confounded? With well over 100 terrorists killed in the past couple of weeks it would seem that the Israelis know exactly what they have to do to curtail the rocket attacks. Today's pull-back suggests they think they've done enough for the time being, but there's little doubt they'll return to Gaza if necessary.

Even by the BBC's barrel-scraping standards, Marcus' piece is a fairly remarkable exercise in moral and factual inversion, but it's their take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict distilled to its purest form: wrong is right, evil is good, aggressors are victims.

The facts of the matter hardly need repeating. Since Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, terrorists have continued to fire rockets into Israel, and have launched numerous other attacks from the territory. Israel's policy of targeted killings and the occasional brief incursion into Gaza have failed to halt the attacks, and with the rockets increasing in range and effectiveness, the Israelis have decided that a firmer response is necessary.

But in the warped minds of Marcus and most of his BBC colleagues, and much of the rest of the international media, Israel started this, and Hamas and other terrorists are 'meeting' the aggression with a perfectly reasonable response that's aimed simply at deterring further Israeli attacks. (By 'this' I mean the latest round of violence, but I've no doubt they believe that Israel is to blame for pretty much all the bloodshed of the past sixty or so years.)

And, of course, the usual rabble of transnational non-entities has piled on Israel, trotting out their tedious and tendentious claims about 'disproportionate use of force'. Reuters reports that the EU has condemned the "recent disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) against the Palestinian population in Gaza." The report adds:

"The Presidency rejects collective punishment of the people of Gaza", it said, noting in particular the death of "innocent children."

And U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has done so little to advance the course of world peace during his short time in office, also tosses about the 'D'-word:

"While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children ... I call on Israel to cease such attacks."

I get the feeling these guys are copying each other's notes. And their concern for the children of Gaza is certainly touching, but of little relevance when the extremists of Gaza take as much delight in the deaths of their own children as they do in the murder of Israeli children, knowing how well those deaths play on the world stage.

What the BBC, the EU, the UN and Israel's countless other critics never tell us is what they would consider a proportionate response. Would they prefer Israel to set up a bunch of home-made rocket launchers in an olive grove, point them in the general direction of Gaza and set them off?

And they're also deliberately failing to make a distinction between the intentions of the two sides and the consequences of their actions. Israel is only trying to kill terrorists, and most of the Palestinians its military is killing are terrorists, but because those terrorists launch their rockets from among civilian populations, and make their stand among civilians when the Israelis come after them, civilians are inevitably getting killed.

Hamas and its allies, on the other hand, want to kill as many Israeli civilians as they can, but they don't have the weapons to do so effectively. However, if one or two of their rockets landed in a school classroom, or a shopping mall, instead of in empty fields, the disparity between Israeli and Palestinian death tolls would very quickly be evened out.

And it's hard to escape the feeling that if Israelis started dying in similar numbers to Palestinians, then many in the media, and the 'international community', would be a little happier.

Related: A couple of excellent pieces, from Bret Stephens and the New York Sun, both via this post by Andy McCarthy at The Corner.

Tigerhawk has a couple of good posts up, here and here.

Thanks to Don Surber for linking. Aslo Jim and Marc.

Japanese build world's first liberal robot

Hooked up to a database of words clustered by association, the robot — dubbed Kansei, or "sensibility" — responds to the word "war" by quivering in what looks like disgust and fear. It hears "love," and its pink lips smile.

Full report here.