March 25, 2011

U.S. Media Mostly Mum on Brotherhood’s Improving Egyptian Playing Field; NYT Provides ‘Surprised’ But Still Naive Coverage

On Monday, an unbylined Associated Press item briefly reported the results on results of Egypt’s weekend referendum, and the U.S. reaction:

The United States has welcomed the results of Egypt’s weekend referendum after it opened the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within months.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the approved term limits for the next Egyptian president, multiple ways for candidates to get on the ballot and judicial supervision of elections are positive trends.

Toner said “Egyptians took an important step toward realizing the aspirations” of the revolution that toppled long-time leader Hosni Mubarak from power.

Whose “aspirations”?

If all you read is AP-generated international news (not impossible, given the wire service’s pervasive influence), it’s hard to understand how you would know. A search on “Muslim Brotherhood” at the AP’s U.S. home site has no story from Egypt referencing the group on or after the referendum date. (See this comment at NewsBusters for clarification and elaboration.)

There is very little news coverage of how the referendum results appear to favor the Brotherhood, which has been an organized, relatively disciplined group for many years, in contrast to other groups within Egypt which are just now emerging in the wake of Mubarak’s resignation. One notable exception is the New York Times. On Thursday (appearing on the front page in Friday’s print edition), Reporter Michael Slackman laid out recent developments, which can only be seen as favorable towards long-term representative government in Egypt if one naively believes that the Brotherhood has renounced its long-held repressive Islamist beliefs.

The Times also seems to have deliberately toned watered down its headline. The web browser window title, which I’m guessing probably came first, is: “In Egypt, Muslim Group Takes Lead Role in Post-Mubarak Era.” The actual article title in both the online and print editions is: “Islamist Group Is Rising Force in New Egypt.”

Slackman’s reported content indicates that the window title headline was much more accurate. Here are excerpts from Slackman, some of which might leave readers slack-jawed (bolds are mine):

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

As the best organized and most extensive opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was expected to have an edge in the contest for influence. But what surprises many is its link to a military that vilified it.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. “It makes sense if you are the military — you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street.”

… The question at the time was whether the Brotherhood would move to take charge with its superior organizational structure. It now appears that it has.

… When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side. A Brotherhood member was also appointed to the committee that drafted amendments to the Constitution.

But the most obvious and consequential example was the recent referendum on the amendments, in the nation’s first post-Mubarak balloting. The amendments essentially call for speeding up the election process so that parliamentary contests can be held before September, followed soon after by a presidential race. That expedited calendar is seen as giving an advantage to the Brotherhood and to the remnants of Mr. Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which have established national networks.

… A banner hung by the Muslim Brotherhood in a square in Alexandria instructed voters that it was their “religious duty” to vote “yes” on the amendments.

This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state. From the first days of the protests, Brotherhood leaders proclaimed their dedication to religious tolerance and a democratic and pluralist form of government. They said they would not offer a candidate for president, that they would contest only a bit more than a third of the total seats in Parliament, and that Coptic Christians and women would be welcomed into the political party affiliated with the movement.

Earlier today, Rush Limbaugh commented (link will be available until late afternoon on April 1) on Slackman’s expressed “surprise” at how things are turning out, and how people who several weeks ago were warning about exactly what has happened were ridiculed.

I also find Slackman’s description of the Brotherhood to be very naive, given the group’s history and agenda since its founding:

They believe the Quran and Sunna must be the basis of individual morality, and stress application of the Shari’a in all relevant matters. In social policy they hold the primary role of women should be care of the family. They avoid ideological positions in economic matters, but stress importance of minimizing the differences in wealth between rich and poor. For them, social justice is more important than technological, economic, or administrative issues. In general, these groups believe their society has been corrupted by secular values and only a return to Islamic principles will restore morality, economic health, and political power.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for Coptic Christians or other non-Muslims in the above set of beliefs, and there is no really good reason to believe that the Brotherhood has all of a sudden fallen in love with legitimate representative government.

Beyond that, the Associated Press’s lack of coverage besides relaying the State Department’s naive congratulations will work to ensure that few U.S. news consumers will be told that things in Egypt are ominously heading in a decidedly Islamist direction. (See this comment at NewsBusters for clarification and elaboration.)

Read more: http://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2011/03/25/us-media-mostly-mum-brotherhoods-improving-egyptian-playing-field-nyt-pr#new#ixzz1Hi7Ifpdr

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Reuters ‘Analysis’: Obama Not ‘Going It Alone’ Like Bush Did; Oil Now a ‘Concrete Interest’

On Thursday at Reuters, Andrew Quinn, with the help of Caren Bohan, cobbled together a pathetic “analysis” full of sympathy for a “struggling” Barack Obama and recognition of the need to keep oil flowing from Saudi Arabia. It also contained a false jab at George W. Bush and the War in Iraq.

First, let’s look at Quinn’s Bush jab:

Obama is committed to partnering with other countries rather than going it alone as did his predecessor George W. Bush, which both broadens and complicates the decision-making process.

This got the attention of Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic (HT Instapundit), who linked to the identical but unbylined Reuters item at the New York Times. Goldberg’s response:

This, of course, is wildly inaccurate and misleading. Say what you will about the second Iraq war, but George W. Bush made partnerships with many nations in advance of the invasion, including and especially America’s most valuable ally, Great Britain, as well as Australia, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Denmark, South Korea, the Czech Republic, and a couple of dozen others. Reuters should correct this inaccurate statement.

Good luck with that.

Quinn’s assertion is more than “wildly inaccurate.” It’s objectively false. ICasualties.org has a list of casualties by country entitled (of all things): “Coalition Military Fatalities By Year and Month.” 23 Counties are listed. There was a military coalition. George W. Bush was not “going it alone.” Additionally, Fox Nation has a post indicating that the Iraq War coalition involved roughly twice as many nations (30, reportedly per the State Department) as the Libya (cough) “kinetic military action” (16).

What’s more, even though the wire service appears to have been childishly determined to avoid using the word “coalition” during the Iraq War, I was able to find two examples where Reuters did acknowledge the existence of a military coalition:

July 7, 2006 (“US Sees Security Transfer in Half Iraq’s Provinces”) –

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Iraqis should take over policing from U.S. and coalition forces in half of Iraq’s provinces by year-end, but that may not have an impact on American troop levels, a U.S. general said on Friday.

… The roughly 1,400 coalition troops now there will relocate, with some remaining nearby to move in again if requested by Iraq’s prime minister. Security control also could revert to coalition forces if requested by the prime minister, Cichowski said.

December 6, 2006 (“US Forces Kill 7 Militants in Iraq, Two Children Die”) —

BAGHDAD (Reuters) U.S.-led forces in Iraq killed seven militants with links to senior al Qaeda leaders in a raid on Monday near the area where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed last week, the U.S. military said.

It said there were several women and children at the scene and that two children had also been killed.

“Coalition Forces received enemy machine gun fire from a rooftop upon arriving at the objective,” it said. “Coalition aircraft supporting the ground force immediately suppressed the enemy fire, killing seven.”

In the second instance, Reuters might respond by saying they were quoting the U.S. military; but why did the report’s opening describe the protagonists as “U.S.-led forces”? Reuters might then respond that “U.S.-led” meant Americans and Iraqis. Nice try; no sale.

I found other examples of Reuters reports where military spokesmen were quoted as referring to “coalition forces” and the like. Reuters might respond that they have to carry quoted material as it was stated. But if there was no coalition, as Andrew Quinn claims and which the wire service appeared to believe during the war itself, shouldn’t Reuters reporters have been challenging what Quinn would appear to believe were obviously false assertions?

Now let’s get to some of the rest of Quinn’s insufferable, violin-playing drivel posing as “analysis”:

U.S. President Barack Obama is struggling to fashion a coherent Middle East policy that can encompass his decision to launch military action in Libya alongside his hesitant response to repression elsewhere.

It has not been easy to strike a balance between pragmatism and principle, with diverging U.S. national interests at stake in each conflict and an overworked Middle East policy team absorbed with crisis management.

“On a senior level there is a serious challenge on how to navigate all of this,” said Brian Katulis, a Middle East expert at the Center for American Progress.

“They are doing the best that they can, but even folks in the White House and the National Security Council only have 24 hours in a day.”

Stung by accusations it had sent mixed messages on Middle East events, the White House has said it was putting together a new, overarching strategy that will set out basic principles of U.S. policy towards the region.

If this were a conservative or Republican administration, the above would be described as “disarray” at best and “shoot first, figure out policy later” at worst. Also note that the ultraliberal Center for American Progress is, as usual, not described as such, while later hanging the “conservative” label on Max Boot.

As for oil, after a beginning tease telling readers that “U.S. ideals (are) tempered by concrete interests — like oil,” Quinn writes:

Saudi Arabia, the source of 12 percent of the United States crude oil supply, is vital economically and, as a result, Washington is unlikely to do anything that might fuel instability or undermine the ruling Saud family.

What? The government is using ensuring reliable supplies oil as a consideration in its decision to go to war and how to conduct it? How dare they!

Where’s the “it’s all about oil” crowd when you need ‘em?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Green Political Advocacy, With Your Tax Dollars

From an Investors Business Daily editorial:

The Environmental Protection Agency is giving funds to charitable organizations to attack GOP members of Congress. Did you know telling the truth about climate change causes childhood asthma?

We have heard the litany of horrors that climate change is said to bring about — retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, drought and flooding, disease and famine.

Now we are told that fighting the EPA’s power grab to regulate greenhouse gases will lead to an increase in childhood asthma.

The American Lung Association, considered one of America’s most credible and worthy charities, has placed four billboards in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District — including one outside the office of Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee — that feature a sickly looking girl with an oxygen mask and read, “Rep. Fred Upton, protect our kids’ health. Don’t weaken the Clean Air Act.”

But what Upton and the Republican House majority that most voters elected in November are trying to do is restore the Clean Air Act to its true meaning and congressional intent.

… This relationship between the EPA and the ALA goes back to at least the early 1990s.

As John Merline reported in IBD way back in 1997, from 1990 to 1995 the EPA gave the American Lung Association some $5 million. JunkScience.com reports that the EPA has given the ALA an additional $20 million the past decade.

In return, the ALA is putting up billboards in opposition to reining in an EPA that is guilty of at least mission creep and at worst of accumulating power not authorized by our elected representatives in Congress.

This is what a Punk President and his Gangster Government do with their power, in the name of what is on track to go down in history (assuming free people get to write it) as one of the greatest hoaxes in human history — all without a peep of objection from a state-compliant press which would be screaming bloody murder if a GOP or conservative administration were handing out money to charities for political campaigning purposes.

Positivity: John Shear is a hero for all time

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Santa Anita, California (HT Daryn Kagan; bolds are mine):

March 22, 2011, 9:35 p.m.

Our television screens are filled this month with the breathtaking exploits of young men in short pants and tattoos, and for their dramatic efforts we call them heroes, and, really, we have no idea.

You want March Madness? How about an old man saving the life of a little girl by throwing himself in front of a frightened horse?

You want one shining moment? It happened a couple of weeks ago, when longtime Santa Anita paddock guard John Shear, 90, tossed a 6-year-old girl out of the path of a runaway horse just in time to be trampled.

Cinderella story? That would be when Shear walks again, which could be in a couple of months, as he is lying today in a hospital with a multiple pelvic fractures, a fractured cheekbone, and gashes above his left eye and down his left arm.

“Could have been worse,” Shear said, wincing beneath an oxygen tube during a Tuesday visit. ”Something could have happened to the little girl.”

We interrupt the annual frenzy over the NCAA basketball tournament to write about a real buzzer beater. Nobody was cheering, the video has been locked up, and the only visible reward is a mug of flowers sitting next to a thin bed in a sterile room filled with pain and worry. But when a 5-foot, 110-pound giant of an athlete makes a play that saves a life, somebody should holler about it.

“I’ve already lived most of my life, the little girl has her entire life in front of her,” Shear said. “There’s no question I would do it again.”

It was an early Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita. Shear, working his 50th year at the track, was supervising the paddock guards, making sure the huge horses don’t harm the gawking fans.

Three of those fans were a father and his two young children. The father, who has asked not to be identified because his daughter is still traumatized by the incident, was holding his young son in his arms while his 6-year-old was on his hand.

The man said his daughter was aware of being very small for her age, so he took her to the track to show her the jockeys.

“I wanted her to see that you could do great things no matter how big you were,” the father said .

While the family was standing with a crowd outside a wooden fence, a three-year-old horse named Sea and Sage reared up and began running toward them.

“Loose horse!” track workers shouted, and all but one person parted and scattered away from the one section where the fence had been replaced by a rope held by Shear.

As the 1,000-pound animal ran toward that rope, Shear noticed a solitary child standing frozen in its way.

Said her father: “I reached for her and she was gone . . . then I saw her standing by herself with the horse coming at her.”

Shear jumped in front of the horse and pushed the girl aside just as the animal knocked him to the ground. The girl immediately stood up and shouted to her father that she was fine. Then she saw the Shear lying there bleeding, and began screaming.

“If he had not protected her, that horse would have crushed every bone in her body,” said the father. “That man saved my daughter’s life.”

Shear will tell you that he wasn’t protecting a customer, he was taking care of family. For a half-century, the tracks in Southern California have been his home, the paddock has been his corner, his life devoted to the beauty and beasts of the racing game. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

Positivity: Vatican welcomes European court’s reversal of crucifix ban

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Vatican City:

Mar 21, 2011 / 04:54 pm

The Vatican has welcomed the European Court of Human Rights’ decision to overturn a ruling that would have banned the display of crucifixes in Italian public schools.

Following the March 18 ruling,Vatican Spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi stated that the court’s decision to allow the crosses to remain “has been received with satisfaction by the Holy See.”

He hailed the “historic and significant sentence” as a sign of reconciliation between the court and those who viewed its initial ruling by a lower chamber as a serious error.

“This new sentence of the Grande Chamber,” he said, “effectively contributes to re-establishing trust in the European Court of Human Rights on the part of a large number of Europeans.”

“It is thus acknowledged, at an authoritative and international juridical level, that the culture and rights of man should not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilization, to which Christianity has made an essential contribution.”

The Vatican spokesman noted that many citizens were “convinced of the vital role played by Christian values in their history, and in the construction of European unity and its culture of rights and freedom.”

He recalled that the Italian state’s appeal against the crucifix ban had received “an unprecedented degree of support from numerous other European States as well as from many non-governmental organizations.” He described the outpouring of support as “an expression of widespread feeling” among Europeans.

The new ruling overturns a lower chamber’s 2009 judgment, which declared that the crosses violated students’ human rights and constituted religious discrimination. The case began when an Italian mother of two non-Catholic students complained about the crosses in public schools. …

Go here for the rest of the story.