September 13, 2006

AP Reporter Obscures Truth about ‘The Sixteen Words’

Understandably, there’s a lot of fatigue in the center-right blogosphere over having to constantly defend “The Sixteen Words” from George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”).

But when an AP reporter tries to cleverly rewrite history, it shouldn’t be left alone.

AP reporter Matt Apuzzo was way too clever in his article about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson adding Richard Armitage to their lawsuit. The second-last paragraph reads:

Wilson discounted reports that then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Such a claim wound up in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

Very cutely done. One might think that the “discounted” “claim” didn’t belong in Bush’s 2003 SOTU. It’s pretty clear to me that Matt Apuzzo WANTS us to think not only that it didn’t belong, but that it wasn’t, and isn’t true.

WRONG, Matt — Way back in April, Christopher Hitchens proved that “The Sixteen Words Were True.”

Enough already, Matt. Why don’t you track down Peter Fitzgerald and ask him if he still has any kind of case against Scooter Libby? If that’s not challenging enough, read Bob Novak’s column about how deceptive and squirrely Dick Armitage has been all this time, and ask yourself why anyone is still wasting their time on Val and Joe.

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UPDATE, Sept. 14: Cassandra, at the newly-blogrolled Villainous Company, goes into much more necessary detail, because a misleading “Wilson Report” from last October still resides without revision at The Washington Post.

UPDATE, Sept. 16: Hitchens surveys the “16 words” proof in one convenient package at The Weekly Standard.

Air America: Bankruptcy, If It Happens, Won’t Necessarily Mean Disappearance (Update: Think Progress Retracts; AAR Troubles Remain)

Filed under: Business Moves,Corporate Outrage,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 5:45 pm

From Think Progress, in a headline on a par with “Chicago Cubs Finish in Last Place Again; Team Optimistic”:

Air America To Declare Bankruptcy, But Progressive Radio Remains Strong

Air America Radio (AAR) will announce a major restructuring on Friday, which is expected to include a bankruptcy filing, three independent sources have told ThinkProgress.

Air America could remain on the air under the deal, but significant personnel changes are already in the works. Sources say five Air America employees were laid off yesterday and were told there would be no severance without capital infusion or bankruptcy. Also, Air America has ended its relationship with host Jerry Springer.

I’m not going to engage in premature e-celebration, partially because I’ll believe it when the filing takes place (remember who my patron saint is; also, this report appears to cast some doubt). Too many angels have swooped in during AAR’s lifetime to rule out another angelic appearance by someone with more money than sense. But more importantly, tempting as it is in this case, I’m not a big fan of celebrating business failure anyway. Recognizing it — important (something Think Progress is not doing). Learning from it — of course. Celebrating it — Nope. Criticizing and ridiculing those who are pretending it’s no big deal — fair game.

Michelle Malkin makes great points about the outstanding work of Brian Maloney at The Radio Equalizer in exposing the ethically challenged conduct of AAR from its very beginning, and the failure of the New York Times’ and others in The 527 Media to cover AAR’s post-launch travails. Proof: Here’s an NYT search just done on “Air America” (it may require free registration); you’ll find plenty of results, but virtually nothing covering AAR’s financial difficulties. Specifically, there’s an August 2005 story about Gloria Wise (no longer accessible unless you have TimeSelect), and a very incomplete correction shortly thereafter that was forced by Malkin.

Brian’s post today reminds us that “the Gloria Wise scandal has still not been resolved.” For late arrivers, a previous entity operating as AAR “borrowed” money from a not-for-profit, the Gloria Wise Foundation, that was operating a Boys & Girls Club and providing senior services. That company was gutted when new owners took over AAR only a few months after its launch, leaving Gloria Wise holding the bag and short of funds to provide its basic services. These services had to be taken over by other agencies. A legal investigation in New York City is ongoing and the money ($875,000) has, per Brian, been “sitting in an escrow account that is controlled by an Air America attorney.”

Also escaping many is the fact that companies can operate in bankruptcy for a loooooooong time before either emerging from it, which would not appear to be likely in AAR’s case, or folding their tent once and for all.

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UPDATE: A probably not unrelated item from yesterday“Greenstone Media, a radio company whose founders include social activist Gloria Steinem and actress Jane Fonda, has launched an all-women, all-talk network across the United States.” Brian at Radio Equalizer, who is speculating that Greenstone might take station slots AAR would abandon, mentioned a while ago (link not available; site has no search function) that investment capital that could have gone to prop up AAR might have gone to Greenstone instead.

UPDATE 2: AAR responded at Think Progress — “If Air America had filed for bankruptcy every time someone rumored it to be doing so, we would have ceased to exist long ago; it may be frustrating to some that this hasn’t happened. No decision has been taken to make any filing of any kind, we are not sure of the source of these rumors and frankly can not respond to every rumor in the marketplace.”

UPDATE 3, Sept. 14: The New York Sun confirmed that Gloria Wise is still owed the $875,000 noted earlier (HT Michelle Malkin).

UPDATE 4, Sept. 15: Good thing I had all the “ifs,” because Think Progress has retracted their report, based on this statement from Al Franken today on his show (reported by Inside Radio; another story is here) –

Franken tells listeners “we’re not in Chapter 11” and pokes at conservative talk hosts and websites for getting it wrong with quips like “who’s gloating now Bill O’Reilly?” We still believe it’s a tough economic situation at the libnet – and several staffers have been laid-off.

This writer learned long ago that not to buy into a bankruptcy rumor until the filing takes place, as I’ve seen too many companies limp along as zombielike shells for years without actually going to court for the formal funeral. As Brian at Radio Equalizer notes, a few too many center-right bloggers were ready with last rites (remember what I said about “premature e-celebration”?). But then again, Think Progress got the ball rolling by screwing up bigtime.

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Previous Posts:

  • Feb. 26 — Is the Air America Radio Bailout a Violation of Campaign-Finance Laws?
  • Jan. 26, 2006 — The Franken-stein Monster That’s Eating Air America Radio
  • Oct. 21, 2005 — Air America: If They Can’t Make It There, Can They Make It Anywhere?
  • Sept. 8 — Air America Radio (AAR) Update: Is the Endgame Near?
  • Aug. 8 — If It’s Monday, There Must Be At Least Three Obvious New York Times Errors, Omissions, or Hilarities to Report
  • July 27 — Did the Liberal Talk Network Really Steal from Kids and Seniors?

Novak On Armitage, from His Weekly Politics E-Mail

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:40 pm

I’ll get a web link as soon as I find one (aha–HERE IT IS), but I just received this:

CIA Leak

Now that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has finally acknowledged he was my source three years ago in revealing Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA employee, his interviews have obscured what he really did and said. I want to set the record straight based on firsthand knowledge of what transpired.

  1. Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he “thinks” might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He told the Washington Post last week that his answer was: “I don’t know, but I think his wife worked out there.” Neither of us took notes, and nobody else was present, but I recalled our conversation that week in writing a column, while Armitage reconstructed the conversation months later for federal prosecutors. In fact, he had told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division and had suggested her husband’s mission.
  2. Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column. It is highly doubtful that he never expected this to be published, as he specifically noted to me that Mrs. Wilson’s role was the sort of news item very much in the tradition of the old Evans & Novak column.
  3. An accurate depiction of what Armitage actually said deepens the irony of his being my source. He was a foremost internal skeptic of the administration’s war policy, and I, likewise, had long opposed military intervention in Iraq. Zealous foes of George W. Bush have depicted me, implausibly, as the President’s lapdog. But even they cannot fit Armitage into the left-wing fantasy of a well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson. The news that Armitage, and not Karl Rove, was the leaker was devastating for the left.
  4. During his quarter of a century in Washington, Armiage and I had no contact before our fateful interview. I tried to see him in the first two and a half years of the Bush Administration, but he rebuffed me — summarily and with disdain, I thought. Then, without explanation, in June 2003, Armitage’s office said the deputy secretary would see me. This was two weeks before Joe Wilson outed himself as author of a 2002 report for the CIA debunking Iraq’s interest in buying uranium in Africa.
  5. I sat down with Armitage in his State Department office the afternoon of July 8 with tacit rather than explicit ground rules: deep background with nothing said attributed to Armitage or even an anonymous State Department official. Late in the hour-long interview, I asked why the CIA had sent Wilson, who lacked intelligence and nuclear policy experience as well as recent contact with Niger. This began the three-year saga during which Armitage’s silence caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source.

I’ll leave it to people who have been following this more closely than me to interpret the cosmic meaning of this latest release.

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UPDATE: Novak’s Sun-Times column is up; based on the “14″ in the URL, I think it got pulled forward a day.

Is There a “Terror Discount” Built Into the Stock Market?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:18 pm

Jim Glassman thinks so, and says so in the October issue of Kiplinger Personal Finance. Unfortunately, I don’t have a link even for subscribers, as I’m in the process of converting my subscription from print to digital. Here are his money paragraphs:

The markets fear the worst, and those fears ar reflected — or discounted — in stock prices. In other words, 9/11 lives on — in the diminished value of every share of stock that’s traded globally.

Of course, I can’t prove that the “terror discount exists, but the signs are unmistakable. If the discount did NOT exist, then an event like the London subway bombings of July 7, 2005 would have clobbered stock prices in Great Britain and the US. (But they didn’t — Ed.)

….. You might think that after five years without a terrorist attack on US soil, investors might demand a smaller geopolitical discount from stocks. But as Prudential strategist Ed Keon once said, the fear of conflict has historically been worse for stocks than conflct itself. For example, although the stock market fell in calendar years 1939, 1940, and 1941, as Pearl Harbor approached, the period between the attack and 1945 was the best ever until the 1990s.

I would add two corollaries to what Glassman said:

  • The market of the 1990s, after the First Gulf War, took off as it did not only because of the dot-com silliness, but at least partially because it, like everyone but a few in and out of the government, underestimated the impact of the building terror threat.
  • Second, the markets had a great run from Feb. ’03 to Jan. ’04, with the Dow going from about 7900 to about 10600) because of the investment-related tax cuts (of course), but also because there was a sense (naive in retrospect) that victory in Iraq would critically weaken worldwide terrorist ambitions. It will take a sense that the threat is greatly and permanently diminished, or perhaps a new round of denial, depending on real circumstances on the ground, to get the markets going upward at a double-digit clip again.

The Business & Media Institute’s Director Explains Himself

And very well.

My favorite Q&A from the e-mail interview with Dan Gainor, the organization’s director, is this one (bold in answer is mine):

8. What do you see as the biggest issues in business journalism today?

I’ll say two: The first might surprise you because I’ll say audience. Who are business stories written for? Investors? Owners? Workers? Depending on that answer, you know how to write. Too many stories try to do a little bit of everything. The result is a mess. Unemployment goes down and workers are happy but businessmen aren’t. How do you write that story? Usually, it’s written from the consumer angle as good news. Wage drops are a worker problem and wage increases spur inflation – so both results end up bad news. A new business might displace an old one – which do you focus on?

The other problem is the dreaded B-word everyone hates talking about – bias. It’s the big freakin’ elephant in the room. Everyone has biases and opinions. Most journalists are inherently suspicious of wealth and power even in their own organizations, so that sets them up to be antagonists to business. But unions also are wealthy and powerful, and government is more so. You could say the same about trial lawyers and more. Everybody has an agenda. A good reporter shouldn’t embrace one side more than another. Until journalists accept that this is a problem and work to fix it, the American public will continue to lose confidence.

I’m going to include a micro-rant on this: The first publication, network or whatever that realizes this wins big. If a major media outlet really starts to analyze how it puts together stories, how they are presented and spun and tries hard to get all of the stakeholders (as much as I hate that word) into the process, they will be the first ones to really win back credibility. Nobody I know wants a conservative monopoly on the press or a solely pro-business press. What they want is the media to tell the story of life here in America without spin or agenda – and that’s darn hard.

Carnival Roundup (091306)

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 9:24 am

Newshound’s 39th is here.
Boring Made Dull’s 12th Economics and Social Policy roundup is here.

Psst, Don’t Tell Anyone — Silicon Valley Is on Fire Again

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 8:08 am

The entrepreneur quoted in the USA Today article (“Silicon Valley starts to party like it’s 1999″) says that things changed for the better four months ago. The Wall Street Journal noticed that venture capitalists and angels were showering money on speculative Bay Area ventures about six months ago.

How much longer will it be a secret that the US economy is steppin’ out?

Jungle Fever?

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:03 am

I’ll just guess that Adam Howard thinks he’s an open-minded and tolerant person, even though he wrote this:

Has the Republican Party suddenly caught a case of jungle fever? This year Republicans will most likely run three African-Americans in statewide elections: Kenneth Blackwell (for governor in Ohio), former NFL star Lynn Swann (for governor in Pennsylvania) and Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, who is seen as the frontrunner for the Republican Senate nomination there.

As Hat-Tip recipient Jim Taranto at Best of the Web asked on Monday: “What do these three distinguished politicians have to do with the ‘jungle’?”

An on-the-record explanation from Howard would be a fascinating read.

Still a Bad Idea, Just Not Totally Awful

Filed under: Business Moves,Money Tip of the Day,Scams — Tom @ 7:58 am

H&R Block is cutting its refund anticipation loan fees, with strings attached:

The largest U.S. tax preparer said it is reducing by more than 60 percent the typical rate on refund-anticipation loans (RALs). These are short-term cash advances made to customers who expect refunds after H&R Block prepares their tax returns.

Under the new fee schedule, a typical $2,800 refund loan might cost as little as $60, so long as customers open H&R Block bank accounts and arrange for refunds to be deposited directly into them.

H&R Block said this equates to a 36 percent annual interest rate, in line with what consumer advocates suggest. It said this is below the 93 percent effective rate it might have charged before, and the 103 percent that rivals might charge.

They’re still a bad deal. Avoid them.

Apple Is in the Movie Game

Filed under: Business Moves,Marvels — Tom @ 7:53 am

Just as it appeared that iPod sales might start going into a funk, and just when it appeared that rivals might get a toehold in the entertainment market, Apple has entered the movie download business and introduced a new line of iPods and a new device call iTV:

Hoping to solidify its dominance in digital media, Apple began selling movie downloads from Disney on Tuesday and introduced a new device to take media content like music, movies and photos from PCs to the TV.

“In less than one year we’ve grown from offering just five TV shows to offering over 220 TV shows, and we hope to do the same with movies” Jobs said, according to the Associated Press. “ITunes is selling over 1 million videos a week, and we hope to match that with movies in less than a year.”

At an event in San Francisco, Apple CEO Steve Jobs also announced upgrades throughout the entire line of the company’s iconic iPod music and video players.

“Apple basically made its claim on the living room today,” said Gene Munster, an analyst with equity firm Piper Jaffrey. “The hundred-million-dollar question for companies has been how to get content into the other room, simply. Apple has the advantage because of iTunes.”

Apple’s music and video software iTunes, which got a major overhaul Tuesday, is used by 70 million consumers, Munster said. Apple’s new media transfer box, code-named iTV and expected to start selling in January for $299, will move the content to the TV via iTunes.

The article goes on to say that movie downloads might take as long as a half-hour on Broadband connections. That time will get considerably shorter when Sprint finishes this work.

UPDATE: Downloaded iTunes 7 last night. Sweet.

Positivity: Scott Jones Owes His Life to the Late Steve Irwin

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

Mr. Jones didn’t even know “who Steve Irwin was” at the time:

Q-C man recalls how Crocodile Hunter saved his life

September 5, 2006

A Davenport man who was once saved by Steve Irwin, Australia’s crocodile hunter, is joining the rest of the world in mourning the loss.

Scott Jones, owner of Scuba Adventures QCA Inc., Davenport, said he feels like he’s “lost another friend.”

Three years ago, Mr. Jones and several other area residents were on a diving trip in Baja, Mexico. The group had just gotten into a rough current when he noticed his friend, Rock Island resident Katie Vrooman, had become separated from her dive partner.

“They’d been diving together for years, so I knew something was wrong,” said Mr. Jones.

A moment later, a wave caught Ms. Vrooman, who was 77 at the time, and “smashed her against a wall of rocks.” By now, Mr. Jones and Ms. Vrooman were separated from the rest of the group. The other divers thought the two were lost at sea and returned to shore.

Mr. Jones tried to revive Ms. Vrooman through CPR for several hours until he had no more strength. Mr. Jones held onto Ms. Vrooman’s lifeless body for 27 hours. For most of the ordeal, Mr. Jones was being repeatedly slapped against the rocks by waves, and his back “looked like hamburger meat,” said his wife, Deborah.

Mr. Jones finally was found by a couple on kayaks who could only get close enough to throw him a bottle of water. The kayakers then headed for the closest boat, Mr. Irwin’s, and asked for some assistance in rescuing Mr. Jones.

“He (Mr. Irwin) was filming a documentary and he stopped everything and made it his goal to find me” said Mr. Jones. “He didn’t even think twice. When he went below the boat to get something, one of his crew said to me ‘What do you think of the Crocodile Hunter?’” and I had no idea who they were talking about. I thought they meant Crocodile Dundee.”

Upon returning home, his wife and daughter quickly gave him a lesson on the Crocodile Hunter and his show on Animal Planet. Mr. Irwin died earlier this week while filming a documentary.

….. Mr. Jones expressed sympathy for Mr. Irwin’s wife and two children and said the world will miss the enthusiastic wildlife educator.

“He showed the good of all animals,” no matter how poisonous or dangerous, he added.

“The world has lost a true conservationist,” added Ms. Jones. “Because of him, I have my husband.”