Imponderables We Must Nevertheless Think About

Things are not going all that well. Would this be a good time for Al Qaeda to hit the USA again?

Some of the many considerations behind that question are particularly excruciating: Gaza; perceived US weakness and uncertainty; the current higher level of anti-Western anger in the Islamic world; and the idea that the new president realizes he cannot prosecute a long war with Islamofascism.

We can’t know how AQ views those and a hundred other factors.

The PenPo believes that we shall be hit as soon as our enemy can hit us, and that the timing of the next strike matters less to AQ than does the scale of its damage.

Yet any attack now would be unusually devastating.

In PenPo 59 the argument was made that Washington cannot be expected to be the first responder in disaster, and that each person must prepare for a breakdown of ordinary life. Consider that advice again.

What Does This Mean?

There are times when we should insist on knowing exactly what some words mean. We should pin the author down, demanding to know the definitions of the terms he uses. This is one such time.

Note carefully the language employed by Democratic federal Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, and pay particular attention to the emphasized words:

I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.

Accountability. Transparency. Responsible. Standards. What do these words mean, and how is the senator using them?

Perhaps the best definition this newsletter could find for “accountability” is, “the obligation to bear the consequences for failure to perform as expected.” So the senator is talking about being able to punish people for not keeping their word, or for not doing their jobs as they knew the work should be done.

Then “transparency.” Nothing in the dictionary seems to fit, but the thesaurus tells the enquirer that “straightforwardness, unadorned style, unambiguousness, unequivocalness, unmistakableness” might apply here.

“Responsible” means “accountable; answerable,” and “worthy of or requiring responsibility or trust.” This word seems to be a synonym for “accountable,” in the sense that the person responsible can be punished for dereliction of duty.

“Standard” is a huge word, with lots of meanings and shades of meaning. It is defined, among other ways, as something “established by authority as a rule for the measure of…value, or quality;” the thesaurus includes “code of ethics, good example, paragon, prescribed, prevailing, principle, required, retaliatory, rule, settled principle, uniform, universal, upright, working principle, yardstick.”

So Senator Stabenow is talking about telling a decision-maker that he must do the right thing, or face punishment; she implies that the right thing will be defined precisely, will be clear and enforceable, and contribute to the public good.

Of course all the above assumes that things as they are now need improvement.

Her subject is the fairness doctrine (FD), which was dealt with at length in PenPo 40 (request a copy if you do not have this issue). The FD would apply only to radio, and would impose censorship on programming.

The Senator is trying to trick her audience into mistaking pure, unadulterated Bandini for wisdom. Her words sound reasonable at first, because they are so vague and ambiguous. That will warn the alert that this female is practicing deceit.

Next she implies that some villains are currently being secretive, unfair, and naughty — and getting away with it. She declares herself ready to right the wrongs and punish the rascals.

Nothing in her innuendoes and implications is true.

This senator fears free speech. She longs for censorship, and intends to impose it by lying about it, namely calling it something it is not — “fairness.”

She is an enemy of Liberty who should be confronted publicly and pinned down; that would expose her as yet another Democrat who cannot tolerate democracy.

A Footnote

More on the campaign against right wing talk radio, as explained by a right-wing talk radio broadcaster. Not impartial or particularly balanced, but the facts look solid.

Krugman, With Whom This Newsletter Is Bored

Paul Krugman won the Nobel prize in economics, and has parlayed that into a gold mine. He is smart enough to pretend (A) economics is a science, and (B) that he is wise. A lot of folks who should know better agree with both of those claims.

Krugman is, at heart, a politician who does not want to go through the messy election process. He’d rather play the Kissinger-Brzezinski game, in which an unelected sage enjoys the perquisites of being an adviser to the monarch. Better to be a permanent gray eminence than a displaced leader. Look at Henry The K (or here) — good grief, the man and his consultancy just go on and on and on, minting millions. No matter who is in power.

Like all ideologues posing as wise men, Krugman knows how to play the odds and the egos. Arguing with him is dangerous; he can spout claimed facts and asserted conclusions faster than a preacher can show you paths to damnation. He reminds one of Noam Chomsky, who is never at a loss for a convenient untruth.

See what you think of this, though. It is introduced with the line, “Nicolas Chatfort calls foul on the absurd sense of moral superiority trumpeted by Paul Krugman when the man’s own pronouncements are riddled with falsehoods.”

Bad, Bad News You Did Not Get From The Major Media

This won’t do any good, but here it is anyway. One weblogger quotes four others, and the PenPo sends you to the guy who quoted the other four so you can read their views on the “stimulus” package that Pelosi and Reid will pass. It can all be summarized as this: Congress is giving tons of money away to cement special relationships the members of Congress have with businesses of all sorts, as well as reward local politicians for their support or buy it in the future; meanwhile, the economy will go to hell in a handbasket, because the Democrats and most Republicans don’t have any idea how it works or why it breaks from time to time. Obama is not running the show; Congress is (a circumstance this newsletter predicted before the election). End of report. Resume fretting.

“Cognitive Dissonance” Is Just A Trendy Term For “Guilt Caused By One’s Hypocrisy”

No article that ends like this can be ignored:

We are in for a hell of a ride if international policy is driven by a need to put balm on the left’s self-inflicted verbal wounds — each of which USED to have a “solution” which invariably required the making of a weakened and deferential America.

Much as we found that the more anti-American a non-American is, the more they favored Barack Obama during the election season, we find that strange deference having to face itself and change itself, both in the US and abroad. Good luck, because it was the very essence of cognitive dissonance.

Why not begin at the start of the piece?

Journalism Reform Remains The Impossible Dream

A weblogger takes on the LA Times over an immigration story — and then expands on his charges when more information becomes available. It’s actually a bit sad; the biased, propaganda-themed newspapers continue to distort facts, which lowers their reputation and then has them wondering why financial success is slipping through their fingers. Their apologists blame the decline of newspapers on the internet. Big mistake. It’s not electronic competition that is hurting the print media, it’s both the different budgeting of the consumer’s time and a growing perception that newspapers are simply not trustworthy.

Palin In Context

Here are choice quotes from an article that’s very enlightening.

…Palin became an instant cultural and political magnet, attracting some and repelling others and dragging a helpless McCain into a culture war for which he had little stomach. Indeed, the overheated response to Palin’s presence on the national stage, from both friend and foe, was oddly disconnected from Palin’s actual actions, statements, and record. It was a turn of events no one could have anticipated, and one that has much to teach us about American political life in our day.

Palin’s social conservatism had never been the core of her political identity in Alaska.

Palin was assigned every view and position the Left considered unenlightened, and the response to her brought into the light all manner of implicit liberal assumptions about cultural conservatives. … Her personal life came under withering assault as well. … Palin became the embodiment of every dark fantasy the Left had ever held about the views of evangelical Christians and women who do not associate themselves with contemporary feminism, and all concern for clarity and truthfulness was left at the door.

“Her greatest hypocrisy is her pretense that she is a woman,” wrote Wendy Doniger, a professor at the University of Chicago. “Having someone who looks like you and behaves like them,” said Gloria Steinem, “who looks like a friend but behaves like an adversary, is worse than having no one.”

This preposterous effort to excommunicate Palin from her gender suggests that the kind of new-order feminism she represents — a feminism that embraces cultural traditionalism and workplace egalitarianism at the same time — is especially frightening to those on the feminist Left because they recognize its power and appeal. The attempt to destroy Sarah Palin by rushing to paint her as a backwoods extremist was not a show of strength, but rather a sign of desperation.

The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. … Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance. Even the poor in our country tend to be moved more by cultural than by economic appeals. It was this sense, this feeling, that Sarah Palin channeled so effectively.

Palin will be explained, defined, deconstructed, analyzed, criticized, lauded and savaged for years to come. She probably represents a genuine turning-point in the USA’s cultural history, and whether she will define a new feminism is a question for debate. The Palin phenomenon is much bigger than the Palin persona. This article is an insightful, cogent contribution to the effort to understand that phenomenon and its many implications.

Addendum: that said, this newsletter insists that any article that includes the statement, “And yet one must acknowledge that Palin was a problematic candidate” reveals its author and its editors as inattentive to fundamentals. The meaning of the word “problematic” is neither arcane nor subject to alteration by frequent abuse.

Too Cute To Ignore

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.


A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Who is that? He looks familiar…wait, I think it’s…Jimmy Carter! Cripes, why isn’t he off making warranty repairs on those shoddy houses?? Imagine that, the Jew-Baiting Good Ol’ Boy From Jaw-Jah, running around without his keeper! …Wait a minute…good grief! Look at that string-bean physique…look at those ears!! Holy cow, that’s not Captain Peanut…it’s…it’s…The One!!

Alternative Fuels Are Too Often The Stuff Of Utopian Fantasies

“But it’s green!” So is Kermit the Frog, but you don’t want to use him for fuel. Look, the problems with these alternate energy sources usually turn out to be both familiar and frustrating. Creating these wonderful fuels often takes more energy than it takes to create customary fuels, or there are peripheral problems that never get mentioned by the breathless promoters of “green” technology. For example, where will we get all the hydrogen to power our cars? You don’t hear much about that, and those “breakthroughs” in hydrogen generation technology are reported in the gullible press, and then disappear for good. As for jatopha and switchgrass, it’s way too early to tell whether those plants can be grown and harvested in sufficient quantities. Their practicality has yet to be explored, let alone demonstrated. Face it, replacing petroleum is a huge challenge that could take a century to meet.

Back To Basics: The Cheerful Comrades Choral Society Achieves Solidarity Through Song

“Obama has only been President for 17 days. It’s mind-boggling how many screw-ups there have been. . . . It seems to me that the mode of ambulation is the stumble.” What this malcontent needs is a slot in the choir. Somebody hand her a copy of the words and put her in the first row, where we can keep an eye on her. OK, now try to stay together this time, everybody…a-one, a-two, a-sing!

Links On Which You Should Click, Not Tee Off

“We’re going to be in the Hudson.” It’s probable that you have seen this, but just in case….

Required listening. The next step after the Fairness Doctrine.

Who’s running this mess?

At present, you are permitted to read this. Enjoy that benefit while you can.

These guys can’t agree on anything. Maybe that’s good…. Remember, it’s not a science, it’s a study.

Painful to read, because it’s almost certainly all true. Oh, cripes.

“…given Obama’s radical roots in the neo-Marxist, nihilist politics of Saul Alinsky, it is the undermining of America’s fundamental values that is likely to be this President’s most strategically important goal.” Sheesh, Melanie, why don’t you just tell us what you really think?

Those ears must be burning.

Close-up card magic. A half hour of pure entertainment. Which may help….

Hoax! Exposed!

Jews, the UN, and Israel. A ghastly tale.

Feminist mythology meets primatology. Who ya got?

Oil. In the USA. Lots of oil. Don’t tell the Arabs!

Whodunnit? A list of the villains. It just might be correct. Break out the pitchforks and torches.

From The Archive

A portion of a newsletter that predates The Terrapin Gazette; the date is December 12, 2003.

The Spike in Action

Here is how it is done, and how it is spotted, and what the perpetrators say when they are caught at it. The following has been edited down and is summarized from various internet websites.

First, a number of impressive anti-terrorist public demonstrations took place in Iraq. Iraqis of all political stripes met and marched with banners and signs, and the terrorists left them completely alone. These are the first non-Saddam demonstrations in almost four decades; as such, they are a tremendously important milestone in Iraqi history.

They also secondarily give some credence and support to US policy, so….

…they were not reported in the news media.

I have already told you how CNN avoided reporting the demonstrations. That unhappy and revealing event is documented and proved. Now we have a fuss being kicked up about the New York Times’s failure to report the antiterrorist demonstrations, as well.

What the NYT failed to reckon with, you see, is that Iraqi “bloggers” (folks who have personal websites on which they post their comments and photos) would tell the world about the demonstrations.

So while the media were “spiking” the story, Iraqis were providing eyewitness commentary and proof, in the form of photographs, that the events actually took place.

Called on it, the NYT’s “Public Editor,” one Daniel Okrent, had this to say:

I’ve been in touch with the Times’s Baghdad bureau and the paper’s foreign desk, who attribute the failure to cover the story in detail (a three-column picture did appear in the paper) to two things: The organizers of the demonstration failed to alert the Times in advance. And, more crucially, the responsible parties at the Times dropped the ball. As you might imagine, life can be difficult and work terribly complicated for journalists in a war zone. Still, the story should have received more thorough coverage.

I am sending a copy of this explanation to newsroom management.

That’s three significant statements, to wit: “(1) We DID cover the demonstrations, (2) We did not know they would take place, and (3) We goofed.”

I would say (1) is true, but so marginally so that it amounts to a lie; (2) is worse, because it is totally implausible, and (3) is absurd, because the NYT was acting out of bias, not error. Here is why I am so tough on the paper:

1. The “coverage.” I quote from messages put on the internet:

“I notice the nyt public editor is still using the argument `but we published a photo of them.’

How could I have missed a picture of the demonstrations?

I had to page through the paper twice to find it. There’s a picture all right. There’s a reason I missed it. It’s a beautiful picture, very `arty,’ but it hardly works to convey the information needed.

This image could not be better crafted to not attract the eye, and it could not be better crafted to not tell the narrative story of a demonstration involving thousands of people.”

2. The NYT was “not informed” of the forthcoming demonstrations. More comments from the internet:

“The Baghdad bureau of the New York Times didn’t know the demonstration was scheduled? I’m a suburban housewife sitting in Washington State, and I knew the demonstration was scheduled.

My eleven year-old comes up with *much* better excuses than that for failing to do his homework. Dropped the ball, indeed.”


“I live in the Yukon Canada, way up in Northern Canada, and I don’t work for a newspaper and I do not have broadband, etc., etc., AND I KNEW THERE WAS GOING TO BE A DEMONSTRATION IN BAGHDAD ON THE 10TH OF DECEMBER. Really. Those `reporters’ in Baghdad are losers.”


“I’m just a poor country lawyer in semi-rural Washington State — and I saw it coming. I think the Baghdad bureau is putting a con-job on Okrent. Okrent buys this kind of garbage/spin? Is he that credulous?”


“The demonstrations on the 10th had been telegraphed by bloggers from Iraq almost three weeks ahead of time, and had been discussed across the internet. Zeyad (an Iraqi blogger) said there were `reporters from every station in the world’ there.

This story was well and truly spiked by editors who thought we didn’t really need to know this, and they aren’t kidding anybody.”

3. Regarding the “we goofed” excuse, we have to depend on our interpretation of the validity of the “we were not told in advance” claim, don’t we?

An internet comment:

“Okrent is doing his job, but the Times people in Baghdad have not given a satisfactory answer, certainly not remotely like one they would accept from a government spokesmen or politician without follow up.”

Well, from the dismal chronicle above, I draw a few conclusions.

First, while the NYT is not watching the internet for tips and information that might improve its standards of print journalism, the internet is watching the NYT very carefully.

Second, the result of that scrutiny is a lot of data to support the growing cynicism many US voters feel toward the news media. The evidence is damning.

Third, journalism itself is in a state of flux, if not outright crisis. We don’t know what that means yet, but we can expect the unexpected. Some mass media outlets will adapt, while others will become extinct.