Category - Blog Criticism

The Whistle In The Wind


Poor Jon Chait.

He had the audacity to question whether the right of free speech comes with a responsibility on the part of both the speaker and the listener, and got hammered for it. In other words, he took on “political correctness” and in what may be one of the grandest moments of self-reinforcing demonstration, got spanked by the very movement he sought to critique. Read More

Arianna Huffington Post wants you to DESTRESS!

Arianna Huffington Post (I wonder if she is related to the late Marjorie Merriweather Post) was on “The Daily Show” last week, introducing her new book, Thrive. It wasn’t clear from the way she explained it, or perhaps from the unrelated conversation she was having with Jon Stewart, what the book is about. It’s something to do about the need for all of us to disengage from the frantic, plugged-in world we inhabit, and maybe take deep breaths, meditate, and do some yoga. I learned more about the book, and the frantic, plugged-in world Arianna lives, from a post on Slate this morning. Arianna is by any definition a workaholic, sending emails to her employees at 3:00 a.m., juggling two Blackberry’s at all times, which she consults routinely during her yoga lessons, but gets away with it because her trainer says she is such a “spiritual” person. She regularly overbooks flights because she is too busy to get on a plane until the last second. She installed two nap rooms at the Huffington Post, but the pace she sets for her employees prevents them from using these amenities.
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Cryptome releases hack of US and UK Syrian rebel supporters – Hersh critics

cryptomeCryptome is a web site devoted to promoting transparency by publishing leaks on a variety of current topics of the day.  John Young and Deborah Natsios founded Cryptome in 1996.  It is considered a precursor to Wikileaks.  The site just posted a series of links from an anonymous source claiming that Elliot Higgins of the Brown Moses blog was linked to U.S. journalist-rebel fighter (Libya, Syria), Matthew Van Dyke, and that Van Dyke had told Higgins of the Syrian rebel group Al Nusra’s “possession” of sarin gas.  Higgins claims Seymour Hersh’s recent article was incorrect on that issue.  The claims are based on an alleged hack of Van Dyke’s social media sites, which contained alleged exchanges between Higgins and Van Dyke.  Van Dyke admitted that his site was hacked but alleged that the hackers, the Syrian Electronic Army, would distort his emails etc.  The Cryptome release is presented without further comment for your review.

From Cryptome: 

10 December 2013

Elliot Higgins, Matthew Van Dyke, Syrian Supprt Group, Seymour Hersh [Link to Cryptome original]

Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2013 13:17:47 -0800 (PST)
From: C
Subject:  Elliot Higgins, Matthew Van Dyke, Syrian Supprt Group, Seymour Hersh
To: <cryptome[at]>

Prominent English Blogger Eliot Higgins has been linked to American Terrorist Matthew Van Dyke and supression of information of Jabhat Al-Nusra possession of Sarin. The Van-Dyke Facebook was hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army and his private Twitter messages published. (website now blocked in Australia by ASIO order)     Read More

‘They stole our dreams': blogger reveals cost of reporting Mexico’s drug wars

The Guardian Exclusive:

For three years it has chronicled Mexico’s drug war with graphic images and shocking stories that few others dare show, drawing millions of readers, acclaim, denunciations – and speculation about its author’s identity.

Blog del Narco, an internet sensation dubbed a “front-row seat” to Mexico’s agony over drugs, has become a must-read for authorities, drug gangs and ordinary people because it lays bare, day after day, the horrific violence censored by the mainstream media.

The anonymous author has been a source of mystery, with Mexico wondering who he is and his motivation for such risky reporting.

Now in their first major interview since launching the blog, the author has spoken to the Guardian and the Texas Observer – and has revealed that she is, in fact, a young woman.

When looking at the comments at The Guardian and Texas Observer, one can’t help notice that one site’s commenters are pretty complimentary of Blog del Narco and the other site’s commenters accuse the site of plagiarism.

Citizen Journalism in Egypt – Egyptian Chronicles

Optimized-egyptportsiadNews sources are always a challenge. It is even more difficult when looking for decent citizen journalists, particularly in foreign countries. I’ve been reading an excellent blog out of Egypt for a while, The Egyptian Chronicles. The blogger is Zeinobia, an Egyptian woman, maybe a student or college faculty member. Events in Egypt are dynamic and unsettling. The blog provides first hand reporting on the various factions and alignments. For example, the protests in Egypt’s Port Said, the nation’s most prosperous city, pit the military against the police!!!

#PortSaid : Another day of clashes ,another round of madness

“And Port Said is once again on fire and it seems that it is not the usual clash between protesters and security forces from police as it stared but it evolved madly to clashes between armed forces and police forces from CSF.” (Central Security Forces tied to the national police)

(Image left: Port Said citizens aid Egyptian military after government police attacked military with tear gas)

After the jump, there’s a photo essay from Port Said that’s part of a citizen news service called Storify, which looks like it has potential.
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Fostering Understanding

I love what Jodie Foster did last night at the Golden Globes. It was a magnificently snarky yet polite way of telling people to f-off. The juice quote, as far as I’m concerned:
But now I’m told, apparently, that every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show. You know, you guys might be surprised, but I am not Honey Boo Boo Child. No, I’m sorry, that’s just not me. It never was and it never will be.

A Schmear With Your Hagel?

OK, now that things have settled down a bit, I’m ready to take on what I think will be the key issue over the next few weeks: filling Obama’s Cabinet.
John Kerry should be a slam-dunk for Secretary of State. Yes, the Swift Boaters are rearing their ugly heads again, but now that John Corsi has been not only thoroughly discredited with his treasonous slanders against President Obama, they will barely be a pebble under Kerry’s halftrack.
Chuck Hagel should be a slamdunk for Secretary of Defense and I believe, despite the brouhaha being raised by the small-penis caucus, he will be. But let’s take a closer look at this phenomenon and its evolution.

Contemplating anonymity

What Turned Jaron Lanier Against The Web?

Whole article is worth reading – and thinking about.

Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to social catastrophe.

if you say we’re creating the information economy, except that we’re making information free, then what we’re saying is we’re destroying the economy.

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Now. Not Tomorrow. Not Next Week. Now.

The assault weapons ban must be put back in place, immediately. If President Obama has to risk looking like “He’s comin’ fer our gunz,” then so be it. We shouldn’t have to explain to the parents of the next school shooting, “It wasn’t the right time to talk about banning assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols.”
Because if this incident doesn’t immediately make it clear that a) there is no wrong time to talk about the ban and b) assault weapons have no place in society, period, I can’t imagine what the hell a gun nut could possibly want to convince him.
There is absolutely no need for any civilian, not even an off-duty cop, to own an assault weapon. Period. Here we have a case of legally owned guns being used to slaughter dozens of innocent people. These guns were employed by someone who had authorization to use them, having fired them any number of times at gun ranges under the auspices of his mother.
As Michael Moore so deftly tweeted this weekend “If only Nancy Lanza had more guns, none of this would have happened.” The Lanzas clearly had too many guns.
The answer, clearly, is not more guns. Indeed, no civilian in the past 30 years has stopped a mass shooting. Ever. Not once. Indeed, another gun tends to incite more gun violence, as anyone who lives in a deep urban area can attest. Or you merely have to look at this past summer’s incident at the Empire State Building, where nine bystanders were injured by police firing upon the assailant. And they’re trained in the use of firearms to the point they are warned not to draw unless its absolutely necessary.
It’s also funny how when it comes to the Second Amendment, conservatives suddenly become so flexible, where on the rest of the document, they are strict constructionists.
I mean, I might be wrong, but back when the founders wrote that Amendment, you had to measure out black powder, pour it down the barrel of your musket or pistol, tamp it down with wadding, then stuff a lead ball into it. You took very careful aim because the barrel wasn’t rifled so the ball didn’t fly true (and besides, it was a ball so it was likely to veer off course anyway) and you looked “into the whites of their eyes” and you fired.
This gave you more than a moment’s pause before you wasted a shot. Indeed, a miss meant you had to start the whole process all over again and risk being killed by your target, even with his bare hands. You couldn’t spray a roomful of children like you were watering a garden.
It shouldn’t be easy to shoot someone. It certainly shouldn’t be easier to buy a gun of any kind than to buy a car and drive it. There ought to be insurance involved, too, since something like 80% of guns used in this country are legally owned, and that insurance ought to be goddamned expensive.
In New York City, it costs something like $500 annually just to own a gun, and another $400 or so to have a gun license of the most minimal permit (to keep a gun in your house.) That ought to be the minimum, the bare minimum, and then we can move onto defining what a gun actually is.
So conservatives? You want to be all “strict constructionist,” how about here? How about we define a “gun” as something that cannot fire more than a bullet faster than every three seconds (I’m being very generous here, since it took longer than three seconds to load a musket)? Anything faster is a “military weapon,” and therefore not covered in the Second?
There is not one legitimate argument for any civilian to ever own a military weapon.
MAS: Rich Abdill over at Wonkette has posted one of the best explorations of the counterarguments to the gun nuts in America I’ve ever read, thus neatly proving that we snarkcastic folks are really smart, too.

Owen Gleiberman Reviews “Zero Dark Thirty,” Says Message of Film Is That Torture “Worked.”

The film is about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, culminating in the raid in 2010 in which OBL was killed. No one disputes that. That’s what the film is about. The scenes of detainees being tortured are obviously within that context. Now, it’s true that people in the CIA and others associated with the Bush administration have claimed that the CIA’s torture program helped find bin Laden. However, the reality is that it did not — and Kathryn Bigelow could have presented the torture in such a way that this reality is the message conveyed to viewers. It doesn’t have to be a documentary to do that. In the film “Dead Man Walking” (which I saw), two points of view are portrayed: that executing Sean Penn’s character was justified for his part in a brutal murder, and that executing Sean Penn’s character was murder, too — state-sanctioned murder, and that it was not true justice at all. But even though the movie did show both sides, there was no doubt what its message is: “Dead Man Walking” is an anti-death penalty film.

But according to Owen Gleiberman (and many others, as I understand), “Zero Dark Thirty,” although it may suggest that torture is a horrible thing to watch, also clearly conveys the impression that its use was crucial to finding bin Laden.

Here is what Gleiberman says (emphasis is mine):

Once in a long while, a fresh-from-the-headlines movie — like All the President’s Men or United 93 — fuses journalism, procedural high drama, and the oxygenated atmosphere of a thriller into a new version of history written with lightning. Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s meticulous and electrifying re-creation of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, is that kind of movie. Early on, a Saudi Arabian terror suspect, imprisoned at an undisclosed CIA ”black site,” is stripped, starved, and waterboarded. For the audience, it’s a deeply unsettling spectacle, but also a darkly fascinating one, since Dan (Jason Clarke), the bearded, thoughtful-looking agency veteran who’s doling out the abuse, is anything but a sadist. ”When you lie to me,” he says, ”I hurt you,” and this mantra, repeated with terse resolve, lets us know that he’s doing whatever it takes to extract information. As Maya (Jessica Chastain), a young CIA analyst, looks on with a mixture of horror and stony approval, Dan plays both bad cop and (as he offers food and relief from torture) good cop.

The suspect finally gives up a name: Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, whom he claims works as a courier for bin Laden. Part of the power of Zero Dark Thirty is that it looks with disturbing clarity at the ”enhanced interrogation techniques” that were used after 9/11, and it says, in no uncertain terms: They worked. This is a bin Laden thriller that Dick Cheney and Barack Obama could love. At the same time, the film spins its fearless — and potentially controversial — stance toward the issue of how the U.S. treats its prisoners into a heady international detective thriller.

I have not seen “Zero Dark Thirty,” and I don’t intend to — I already know that torture is morally heinous and pragmatically useless, and I prefer not to watch almost an hour of it being done to people, given that I know it really happened to real human beings and cannot be dismissed as “just a movie.”

I don’t need to have seen the movie myself, though, to know that, first, Owen Gleiberman has seen it; and second, that Owen Gleiberman says the movie says that torture helped find bin Laden (and if you think about it, why would a movie about the hunt for bin Laden even show 45 minutes of suspects being tortured if the movie’s creators were not trying to say that torture helped find bin Laden?); and third, that Owen Gleiberman LOVED the movie — that he thought it was meticulous, electrifying, fearless, and a heady international detective thriller– because he said so, in his review, and in those words.

I think it’s repulsive to heap with praise a movie that says the U.S. under Barack Obama successfully located and killed Osama bin Laden because the U.S. under George W. Bush tortured Muslim detainees in Eastern European former Soviet prisons turned into secret American black site interrogation centers. And if I say that in a blog post (like this one!), I’m not reviewing a movie I haven’t seen — I’m criticizing the reviewer’s own standards for judging this movie’s quality.

So why did Glenn Greenwald receive such a barrage of attacks when he did precisely this? Based on Glenn’s post updates and his Twitter feed, his critics’ beef was that (they say) he reviewed the movie when he had not seen it. He clearly stated that was not what he was doing, and explained what he *was* doing, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Even without the disclaimer, it seemed clear to me that he was commenting on what the reviewers had said about the movie and not about the movie itself, but apparently a lot of people saw it differently.

I don’t really expect answers or explanations about why Glenn’s piece created such an uproar — I’m just somewhat mystified by how fierce the objections were, and I’m mostly just giving voice to that.

Breaking: IAEA Inspectors Are As Smart As Bloggers

I’ve been thinking this for some time, haven’t said it, so I know I don’t get credit, but both Mark Hibbs and Julian Borger said it today: IAEA inspectors had the same questions about that AP graph purporting to show Iranian nuclear weapon calculations that a number of bloggers and other commentators, including me, brought up since the graph surfaced.


Debate in the media over the meaning of the leaked Iran document probably resembled internal discussion of how to interpret some documentary evidence obtained by the IAEA. Conversations with enough people who might know have persuaded me that the IAEA had likely seen and evaluated the document before it was leaked to the press, and that there was an internal discussion at the IAEA about whether the document was genuine and what it implied.


“This is just one small snapshot of what the IAEA is working on, and part of a much broader collection of data from multiple sources,” the diplomat said.

“The particular document turns out to have a huge error but the IAEA was aware of it and saw it in the context of everything it has. It paints a convincing case.”

When you step back a little from the keyboard and the need to be the smartest guy in the class with what’s wrong with everyone else’s homework, it should be obvious that the questions you’re asking might be thought up by someone else. I know that in all the kerfuffle, there were at least three of us who suggested that kT might not mean kilotons, because that is usually abbreviated kt, for only one example.

I’m not sure I agree with Borger’s theme that the release of the graph has undermined the IAEA. Only those who felt that AP’s source was reliable seem to believe this. But let me think about that overnight.

Borger also points out that Mossad is very active in Vienna. Golly gee, do you think they might be some of those anonymous officials and diplomats that people like the AP’s George Jahn quote?

Both articles contain a lot more.

The End of His Story

Back in 1992, all-around idiot Francis Fukuyama posited the end of history. His rationale was, now that the Soviet Union was dead and the then-nascent Chinese economy was tooling up to be globally competitive, the ideology of liberal democracy married to capitalism would take hold and the world would enter a glorious era of unicorns and bunnies.
Twenty years on, it seems more a warped Peter Pan nightmarish scenario. Even America has lost the thread of that ridiculous ideology that Fukuyama posited after twelve years of Reagan/Bush.

ZOMG! Obama Didn’t Mention God!

Obama didn’t explicitly reference the Christian God in his thanksgiving speech!!!!

Maybe he didn’t want to exclude the millions who are Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, Wiccan, Agnostic and a thousand other colors of faith or non-faith. I mean, what is he – President of all Americans or National High Priest?

But oh boy are the loony-fundie Right butt-hurt about it. I mean, really butt-hurt.

Eventually the old white men in smoke-filled rooms will figure out that the loony-fundies are just another version of those whining about the “47%”, a movement that wants America to be about only them and to exclude everyone who doesn’t fit  – but that only really serves to make the Republican party unelectable because there are more of everyone else.  Right after that, those same old Mammon-worshipping men will realize they can gather an ungodly smaller amount of money and power unto themselves if the GOP is unelectable and the loonie-fundies will be quietly sidelined.