February 2010

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald made some pretty salient observations about the label “terrorism” in his Friday column:

Terrorism is simultaneously the single most meaningless and most manipulated word in the American political lexicon.  The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity.  It has really come to mean:  “a Muslim who fights against or even expresses hostility towards the United States, Israel and their allies.”  That’s why all of this confusion and doubt arose yesterday over whether a person who perpetrated a classic act of Terrorism should, in fact, be called a Terrorist:  he’s not a Muslim and isn’t acting on behalf of standard Muslim grievances against the U.S. or Israel, and thus does not fit the “definition.”

Greenwald is, of course, referring to Joseph Stack, a man who flew a plane into a Texas IRS building presumably to protest taxation. Although he left a very clear suicide manifesto behind, few have been willing to label Stack a “terrorist.”

As has been observed before, “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”

And it certainly seems that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sees the other side of the coin. King stopped short of explicitly praising Stack’s actions, but one can detect a certain underlying approval — after all, as King claims, he’s been trying to “abolish” the IRS for some 30 years, establishing a national sales tax and (although you’ll never hear this inevitable consequence from King) sending the bill for America’s wars, roads, police, and fire departments to the middle and lower classes.

At any rate, Greenwald seems to have forgotten something in his definition of terrorism. He neglects to mention how quickly the right wing was to pin the “terrorist” label to Bill Ayers, once they had established even the weakest of linkages to then-candidate Barack Obama.


Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) announced today that he would not seek reelection — just days before Indiana’s Friday deadline for the 4,500 signatures required for candidacy in the race.

As TPM reports:

R.J. Gerard, communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party confirmed to TPMDC that the state Democratic Party would be able to select a new candidate to run in November’s general election if no one files petitions with 4,500 signatures (500 within each of the state’s nine House districts) to run in the primary.

So the state Democratic Party is going to pick the candidate for November’s general election. Bayh had been leading in the polls against his Republican challenger, Dan Coats, by a healthy 20-point margin, and Bayh’s exit means that will probably be largely forfeit.

It remains to be seen what Democrats across the country have learned from Scott Brown’s unexpected victory in Massachusetts.

There was a bit of a brouhaha yesterday when Clerks director Kevin Smith was told by Southwest Airlines that he was too big to fly in a single seat. The details are available for anyone interested enough to type “kevin smith” and “southwest” into Google. However, I thought this was interesting. This morning, CNN’s newsroom blog posted an item on the issue, including a photo of Smith. Here is a screen capture of the page.

Stretched image?Is it me, or does that photo of the admittedly portly Smith look like it’s been significantly stretched on the horizontal axis?

Every course I’ve ever taken on journalism ethics has emphasized the idea that unduly manipulating photographs is verboten. Consider the case of the infamous TIME Magazine cover of O.J. Simpson’s mugshot, which was desaturated and otherwise altered, presumably to make Simpson appear more menacing.

CNN’s post this morning might not be quite as odious as TIME’s gaffe, but it’s certainly a cheap attempt to make Smith look larger than he actually is.

UPDATE: Looks like they’ve fixed it. Compare the current version with my screen capture.

There may well be a case to be made for the use of military tribunals in cases of terrorism. For some, the interests of national security may trump constitutional guarantees of liberty and due process (I’ve heard it suggested before that “liberty isn’t much use if you’re not alive to enjoy it”). Granting this possibility, I present the case that advocates of this process must make in order to become convincing.


I’m getting pretty sick and tired of hearing the innuendo and “rumors” surrounding the supposed “bombshell” story the New York Times has been allegedly sitting on for at least a week regarding the David Paterson administration here in New York.

From the Huffington Post:

Rumors are flying that the New York Times is set to publish a bombshell scandal regarding New York Governor David Paterson.

Note the use of weasel words, “Rumors are flying.” This is in their lede. In the next paragraph, “Members of the media are abuzz about the alleged story.” Members of the media? Abuzz? Weasel words. They’re designed to provide cover for an organization trafficking in unsubstantiated and potentially libelous rumor.

The Times has officially disavowed any knowledge of the story, and claims to have had no part in starting the rumor.

Put up or shut up, guys. This is, as Paterson himself put it during his appearance on Larry King Live, “Kafkaesque.”

I’m not a Paterson fan, but the treatment of this non-story (at best, it’s a story about a possible story) is beyond disgraceful.

This post is going to require a bit of a trip down the old rabbit hole, so bear with me.

Tuesday on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich argued against Mirandizing the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Stewart countered:

STEWART: Didn’t they do the same with Richard Reid, who was the shoe bomber?

GINGRICH: Richard Reid was an American citizen.

Well, that certainly wasn’t true — Reid, who was brought to justice under the Bush administration through the civilian court system, is a citizen of England. Gingrich later corrected himself, via Twitter:

@newtgingrich: On daily show was wrong re: ShoeBomber citizenship, was thinking of Padilla. Treating terrorists like criminals wrong no matter who is Pres.


Much has been made of Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) election to the U.S. Senate, since by taking the seat held since time immemorial by Ted Kennedy, Brown has effectively squelched congressional Democrats’ “filibuster-proof” 60-seat majority. This has been interpreted variously as rank ineptitude on the part of Brown’s Democratic opponent, former Massachusetts state Attorney General Martha Coakley, and as a “referendum on health care reform” by voters angry with Democratic inaction since they won their majority two years ago.

Lost in these analyses are the different sets of implications for any Democratic coalition in the Senate. Counterintuitively, 59 may be a more powerful majority that 60, at least from the perspective of Democratic party leadership.


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