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a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Letterman interviews Jane Mayer

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th July 2008

Will wonders never cease — discussions of war crimes on late night TV with millions watching. It happened when David Letterman interviewed Jane Mayer, author of “The Dark Side,” a book about the Bush torture presidency.

Letterman does a remarkable job with the interview — asks the questions a “24” watcher might ask — but he didn’t shy away from going long the other way, with direct and repeated questions about war crimes. He might have skipped the “will never happen” part as unnecessary soothsaying, but other than that he’s put most of the network news teams out there to shame. Colbert, Stewart, Letterman: when the news “industry” is a joke, it takes jokers to bring you the news.

Via Avedon Carol; as she says, pass it on.

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News

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 28th July 2008

Domestic

Washington Post
New York Times*; op-eds
McClatchy

MSNBC, CNN, ABC
National Public Radio, and latest hourly broadcast
PBS: Lehrer NewsHour, Frontline, Bill Moyers Journal

Google News
AP (via Yahoo), Reuters

Christian Science Monitor
Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, San Jose Mercury News
The Village Voice, City Journal
CQ Politics

The Oak Ridger, Knoxville News Sentinel, Metro Pulse
Takoma Voice

Real News
Washington Independent


Foreign

German

Die Zeit, Die Welt, TAZ, Der Spiegel, Focus, Stern Magazin, Bild
Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel
Google News Deutschland
“German TV” consortium; English version; ARD, ZDF, Deutsche Welle
Yahoo!Deutschland German newspaper directory
Mainpost: Würzburg, Schweinfurt
Jungle World, NetZeitung, Telepolis

Austria, Switzerland
der Standard, profil.at (AT), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH)

UK

The Economist, The Sunday Times*
Guardian/Observer, The Times*
BBC: 1pm EST (1800GMT) radio news, 5am EST World Update

France

Le Monde
RFI Matin, Soir (French radio)

Israel

Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Post
Middle East Media Research Institute: selected translations of Arab newspapers

Middle East

Al Jazeera (English)
Jordan Times

Asia

The Nation, Dawn (Pakistan)
The Times of India
Asahi Shimbun (Japan)
Chosun Ilbo, Korea Herald
Asia Times
People’s Daily (China government)

Topical

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RealNews video clips

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 31st May 2008

The Real News Network is a great resource for different takes (and sometimes the only takes) on world news, with voices from outside the mainstream of U.S. media. Here are some of the clips I’ve saved, as recently as today, on topics from Iraq to Zimbabwe to the Democratic primaries. As storage resources tighten here, this and the recent deli.cio.us links post will migrate to the top of the blog.

Consider donating to Real News; I did. The link leads to a page with — of course — video pitches by Robert McChesney or Paul Jay, and a donation form. By the way, in case you care: it’s tax-deductible, and they’ll send you a receipt.

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PS: Take care with the donation form, it’s pre-set to monthly donations — not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it may not be what you expect.
[orig. date 4/21]

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It’s Yoo again

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 23rd May 2008

In today’s Washington Post article “Sentence in Memo Discounted FISA,” Robert Barnes reports that Senators Whitehouse and Feinstein have finally pried loose an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion purporting to provide legal cover for ignoring FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) as the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted. Barnes quotes John Yoo:

“[u]nless Congress made a clear statement in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that it sought to restrict presidential authority to conduct warrantless searches in the national security area — which it has not — then the statute must be construed to avoid [such] a reading.’

Or as Barnes puts it, “In short, in this context exclusive does not mean exclusive because Congress did not specifically rule out the alternative approach sought by the administration.”

Now we’ve known that Yoo is a dangerous authoritarian hack for years, so yet more evidence of that may evince nothing but yawns. Still…

  • It took 2008-2001 = 7 flipping years for this opinion to come to light — and even now only to Senators.
  • As ‘emptywheel‘ (“firedoglake”) writes, the document is part of a set of four by Yoo that Senator Whitehouse quoted from in the Senate late last year, all of which purport to let the President be the principal arbiter of what his Article II powers are under the Constitution. Yoo was writing the recipe for a silent putsch.
  • As Barnes reports, the Department of Justice continues to rely* on the 2001 authorization of military force (AUMF) against Al Qaeda as justification for warrantless electronic surveillance — despite a vociferous denial by the Majority Leader at the time, Tom Daschle, that the legislation gave such authority.

I also want to add another point to these, one that’s smaller in some ways, perhaps important after all in others.

After New York Times published Risen and Lichtblau’s initial story on the NSA warrantless electronic surveillance, it developed that the publication was prompted in large part by Risen’s threat to scoop his own story by publishing it in his then-upcoming book “State of War.” In the course of the last few days I’ve been poking around the Internet looking for background and discussion of those decisions — first, not to publish, and later to publish after all. One of the tangential items that hunt turned up was “Risen vs. Risen,” a comparison, by Slate’s Jack Shafer, of Risen’s book with his and Lichtblau’s reporting. Shafer sniffed at the allegedly poorer standards in the book:

…when Risen writes in his chapter about the “small, select group of like-minded conservative lawyers” in the Justice Department who Attorney General John Ashcroft assigned to write legal opinions to support the secret NSA surveillance. “They may have been some of the same lawyers involved in the legal opinions supporting the harsh interrogation techniques,” Risen writes, bringing two thoughts to mind: 1) They may also not be and 2) such unsupported speculation would never pass muster in the Times.

Well, Shafer can rest his little head easier tonight. In fact, it was exactly the same lawyer involved.

I’m no expert on the journalistic protocols involved here. I assume if Risen wrote “they may have been some of the same lawyers involved ” it’s because sources told him “they may have been some of the same lawyers involved.” And that’s good enough for me — even if there weren’t a lawless, stonewalling mafia of an executive branch involved.

What gets me is Shafer’s snotty attitude towards a journalist by someone allegedly concerned with journalistic standards. Shafer both leavened and sharpened the charge in his conclusion:

Enough of my ungrateful carping: James Risen deserves our thanks for both his book and his newspaper work. But my point stands. The fundamental difference between good book chapters and good newspaper articles boils down to this: The highest journalistic standard in New York book publishing is one of liability. “Did we libel anybody?” At newspapers like the Times it is, “Is it true?”

Given this week’s news, Mr. Shafer, your point doesn’t stand either. Actually, this is just the coup de grace — it never did. What Risen said was true either way, and worthwhile writing either way, and it was shabby to imply otherwise.

And let me suggest a second set of questions to distinguish Risen the book author from Times editors’ Hamlet-like indecision over his and Lichtblau’s story: do we fail the country and our journalistic mission by not publishing this story? Or do we sit around and wait for someone braver?

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* Memorandum from Brian Benczkowski, Deputy Attorney General to Senators Whitehouse and Feinstein, published at “firedoglake” via “emptywheel”. As a side note, it took the Post 2 days longer than this (excellent) blogger to report the story — and the Post failed to supply any links like this one to supporting documentation. Advantage: blogosphere.

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Another day, another Turkish New Lira for the Washington Post

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 16th October 2007

Both despite and because of the efforts of the Washington Post, the Armenian Genocide continues to be a hot topic in the media and in Congress. It’s despite their efforts, because the Post editorial board clearly wishes no one cared quite this much about a little old genocide years and years ago someplace far away. Ironically, it’s also because of those selfsame efforts, because a lot of good Americans are probably learning about that same little old genocide for the first time ever over their eggs and coffee — and thinking “huh? wait a minute, that’s not right” about the systematic, Washington establishment-assisted efforts to deny it.

The Post kicked things off last week with possibly the most despicable editorial in their recent history, a veritable barrage of genocide (make that “genocide”) denial, belittlement of those who refuse to forget, and slander of those working on their behalf that would make a David Irving flush with shame.

Sunday’s installment in the Post’s full court press came courtesy of David Ignatius. As someone with Armenian American roots of his own, he crafted a rather remarkable document that ends with this pearl of wisdom: But if foreign governments try to make people do the right thing, it won’t work. They have to do it for themselves.”

Call me crazy, but that seems a lot more applicable to a certain quagmire Ignatius and his buddies thought was such a great idea. The distinction between a nonbinding resolution and what Ignatius is babbling about is so obvious even the Post editorial page should be able to grasp it, but I’ll spell it out anyway: if you make someone do something at gunpoint, it may not be the right thing in the first place — and if it’s not at gunpoint, you’re not really making them do anything.

Next, on Monday Fred Hiatt wept big, salty crocodile tears for Armenia:

Imagine what the Armenian diaspora might have accomplished had it worked as hard for democracy in Armenia as it did for congressional recognition of the genocide Armenians suffered nearly a century ago. […] It’s hard not to think that 3 million Armenians might be less poor and more free than they are today.

One way 3 million Armenians would be less poor if their landlocked country weren’t blockaded by Turkey (population 71 million). I’m doing my best here to imagine what the Armenian diaspora can do about that — maybe advocate some kind of deal with a country… that… denies a million and a half Armenians died at its own ancestors’ hands. Just from a business standpoint, you’d always have to be wondering what other inconvenient facts they’d “forget.”

Hiatt has a point about one thing, though. Armenia — it may be freely stipulated — is not the very model of a major Western democracy: no military industrial complex to speak of, no “up is down, torture is OK when the president says it is” Office of Legal Counsel Mumbo Jumbo, no up is down, “genocide by our pals is fine, genocide by those sitting on a lot of oil we want isn’t” major news media firms. To be sure, Armenia has apparently mucked up a few elections lately, and we can only hope it will rise to Florida 2000 or Ohio 2004 levels with dedicated hard work.

As noted last week, the Turkish government is currently ingratiating itself with the power circles of Washington to the tune of $329,000 a month in lobbyist fees. Set against that, what do the Armenian Americans have? A brigade of little old ladies in wheel chairs, the last survivors of a genocide — and as such a suitable backdrop, of course, for Dana Milbank’s signature vapid, supercilious brand of drivel last Thursday.

No matter. Those little old ladies are going to win — at least well they should. Thanks to everything from Schindler’s List to Hotel Rwanda to The Pianist, even the dullest American theatergoer or TV viewer is reasonably sure who he’s supposed to root for when it comes to genocide and efforts to cover it up or baldly deny it. Paradoxically, the harder the Post and the Republic of Turkey try to flush the Armenian Genocide down the memory hole, the less they’ll be able to do it.

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Weisman and the Post are at it again

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 5th May 2007

Oh no! “Democrats’ Momentum Is Stalling: Amid Iraq Debate, Priorities On Domestic Agenda Languish, ” says the Washington Post’s Jonathan “Little Broder” Weisman:

…now that initial progress has foundered as Washington policymakers have been consumed with the debate over the Iraq war. Not a single priority on the Democrats’ agenda has been enacted, and some in the party are growing nervous that the “do nothing” tag they slapped on Republicans last year could come back to haunt them.

But it turns out “some Democrats” once again means Weisman’s LLTLC (Looks Liberal, Tastes Like Chicken) go-to source Leon Panetta — traumatized from his stint as Clinton’s chief of staff back in the late 90s — who backs up Weisman with the David Broder-esque view that everything would be ever so much easier and better if Democrats weren’t so darned contentious:

The primary message coming out of the November election was that the American people are sick and tired of the fighting and the gridlock, and they want both the president and Congress to start governing the country,” warned Leon E. Panetta, a chief of staff in Bill Clinton’s White House. “It just seems to me the Democrats, if they fail for whatever reason to get a domestic agenda enacted . . . will pay a price.”

The trouble with that analysis — Leon! David! Jonathan! stop fidgeting and pay attention! — is that right now the most pressing domestic agenda is to roll back outright executive lawlessness at home, and to free up money that’s being poured down a worse than hopeless rathole called “Iraq.” Among examples from just the past weeks: Condi Rice regally refusing to answer Congressional subpoenas or even allow State Department staff to be questioned; the White House trying to stonewall on AttorneyGate; security officials quietly undoing their recent pledge to work within FISA for domestic electronic surveillance; dozens of soldiers and billions of dollars lost forever each week in Iraq.

Leon Panetta et al would apparently shrug their shoulders and seek some remaining tiny patch of common ground elsewhere — i.e., pretty much the post office naming that Weisman derides in his piece. But most Democrats and most Americans seem to disagree. TPM’s Greg Sargent points out that Weisman had to ignore strong evidence from the very poll he cites for “lack of progress” that Americans are just fine with Democrats for going after Bush and the GOP — in fact, we’d like the heat turned up. Sargent:

Check out the numbers in this recent Pew poll:

Do you think Democratic leaders in Congress are going too far or not far enough in challenging George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq, or are they handling this about right?

  • Too far 23%
  • Not far enough 40%
  • About right 30%
  • Don’t know/Refused 7%

So 70% say that Dems are being appropriately or even insufficiently aggressive in challenging Bush.

I’ve noticed that Jonathan Weisman has become the predictable conveyor of Broderish conventional “wisdom” halfheartedly disguised as “reporting” at the Washington Post — and that his pieces about Democratic discontent and retreat are proving untrue time after time. Earlier this week, he reported that Democrats had already decided to “back down” about Iraq timelines — only to have that denied by Nancy Pelosi herself soon thereafter. During the run up to the supplemental appropriation vote in the House, Weisman reported that Democratic leadership was going to make timetables “advisory“– with no trace of that in the bill eventually voted through.

Meanwhile — and as usual — Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) gets it right:

[The] chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee [said] his party needs to get some achievements under its belt, but not until voters begin to focus on the campaigns next year. “People understand the Democrats in Congress are doing everything in their power to move an agenda forward, doing everything possible to change direction in the war in Iraq, and the president is standing in the way,” he said.

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NOTES: “Looks liberal, tastes like chicken” line originally by stolen from James Wolcott, who used it for Lanny Davis. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.
UPDATE, 5/5: Avedon Carol (“The Sideshow”) and Steve Benen (“The Carpetbagger Report”) lay into Panetta as well.
UPDATE, 5/6: re money down a rathole, eRobin (“Fact-esque”) notices the calculation that the cost to date of the Iraq War — $456B — could have fed and educated all the world’s poor for 5 and a half years.
EDIT, 5/7… accordingly revised from “tens of millions” to “billions” of dollars a week.

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Who pays for the news?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th June 2006

David Corn summarizes his comments to prospective journalism students at a Center for American Progress seminar:

The problem is, I told the students, that people their age do not want to pay for information. So the long-term question for them is, who’s gonna pay you to be a journalist in the years ahead? If people are not willing to buy information, it will be hard to earn money providing information.

Oh, I noted that being a journalist is great. It gives you license to be a busybody and call people up and ask all sorts of questions. And it’s a jazz to find out stuff before other people and disseminate it. But I do believe that for all the wonderfulness of the Internet, it has also allowed bad (and cheap) information to compete more efficiently with good (and expensive to produce) information. That’s a dynamic that may not shift for a while and that has severe ramifications for those who want to produce good journalism and those who want to read it.

At the risk of a cheap shot, complaints about bad information crowding out good from someone who joined PajamasMedia? But let’s focus on “cheap”– information, that is. Corn obviously knows more about the media business than I do, and he’s right that the Washington Post showing good journalists like Thomas Edsall the door is a sad sign of the times.

Is that all that’s going on, though? My take on Corn’s own status is that the same mixed blessing called the Internet has brought him some well-deserved recognition and (I’m guessing) some amount of direct and indirect income as he hawks his book and other paying propositions and beats the bushes for more. Hence, no doubt, the decision to join up with the otherwise execrable PajamasMedia — and more power to him.

Meanwhile, who exactly is paying for what exactly with the kind of news coverage we get from the New York Times, the Washington Post, etcetera? At the risk of being unfair yet again, these icons of journalism have repeatedly treated us to reporters and editors apparently more willing to reprint their subjects’ lies than their own legitimate stories (at least until they’re ready to publish the book).

Is it the circulation itself, the advertising revenues, or the sideline business opportunities that motivate the owners and managers of these papers? It doesn’t seem to be the love of pure journalism, at any rate. In the long run, that backfires, as news customers come to suspect that these companies are not so much in the business of finding the truth as they are in the business of managing lies for their allies, be they business, political, or social.

So be it. The Times and the Post can occupy a shrinking but no doubt lucrative niche as stenographers to power, with Cohens, Broders, Woodwards, and Millers ready to serve. Readers less interested in that will demand the output of reporters and writers like Corn, Edsall, Hersh, Dionne and others. And maybe new institutions (like the Center for American Progress, perhaps?) will provide them with new publications and the framework of an honest, upfront political and journalistic philosophy rather than the pseudo-balanced, hand-in-glove attitudes we see today.

It’s something I would pay for. In fact, it’s something I already do pay for, via a selection of magazine subscriptions. If I could believe that a daily newspaper would not sit on a story like the NSA scandal, or become a fashion accessory to Woodwardian hagiographies, I’d be very interested in subscribing to it. Maybe that’s unusual — but maybe it wouldn’t be if there were more newspapers worth subscribing to.

As it is, I feel justified in often not paying up for my news consumption because I think it’s just what I’m being allowed to see — not all there is to see. That’s not journalism, it’s PR. Why should I pay for that?

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EDIT, 6/22: “the media business” for “this” — that’s what I meant, but it might not have looked that way.

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Jill Carroll

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 14th March 2006

Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, was kidnapped in Baghdad over two months ago. All indications are that she is still alive. The Monitor has started a campaign, using Iraqi television, to distribute a video asking for Iraqis to help find and free Jill.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers isn’t particular that Ms. Carroll isn’t a blogger, and asks that everyone link to the Christian Science Monitor’s Jill Carroll video, which I’m glad to do.

Via Stygius.

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Mallaby on Wal-Mart

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 29th November 2005

The Washington Post’s “unalloyed joys of globalization” cheerleader Sebastian Mallaby gives it the old college try with “Progressive Wal-Mart. Really.” but swings and misses early:

There’s a comic side to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign brewing in Maryland and across the country. Only by summoning up the most naive view of corporate behavior can the critics be shocked — shocked! — by the giant retailer’s machinations. Wal-Mart is plotting to contain health costs!

But what Mallaby calls “containing health costs” is Wal-Mart’s campaign to avoid paying its fair share of its workers’ health care costs — instead of fobbing off that expense on the rest of us.

More substantively, Mallaby claims to refute that Wal-Mart is bad for poor Americans by citing studies that Wal-Mart’s low prices dwarf the economic costs of wage suppression — for which he cites Wal-Mart critic and UC Berkeley economist Arindrajit Dube’s estimate of $4.7 billion. Citing a New York University economist — supposedly inoculated from criticism as an ex-advisor of John Kerry — Mallaby asserts that food discounts alone “boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year,” and goes for broke claiming that the “savings are possibly five times as much if you count all of Wal-Mart’s products.” Who knows? The savings are possibly 100 times as much, or 1.09 times as much.

Max Sawicky points out that Mallaby has quietly changed the subject with the $50 billion figure to the aggregate price benefits — to poor, rich, and in-between alike. Mallaby later at least acknowledges those silly federal programs for the needy are “better targeted.” And Mallaby himself also acknowledges — well downstream of the original use of the figure — that the $4.7 billion in lost wages are data cherry-picking too: the figure focuses entirely on Wal-Mart, not on its suppliers.

There are similarly disingenuous arguments to come on the issue of Wal-Mart’s parasitism of the public health care system, such as it is:

Moreover, it’s ironic that Wal-Mart’s enemies, who are mainly progressives, should even raise this issue. In the 1990s progressives argued loudly for the reform that allowed poor Americans to keep Medicaid benefits even if they had a job. Now that this policy is helping workers at Wal-Mart, progressives shouldn’t blame the company. Besides, many progressives favor a national health system. In other words, they attack Wal-Mart for having 5 percent of its workers receive health care courtesy of taxpayers when the policy that they support would increase that share to 100 percent.

Of course “progressives” want poor people to have means-tested Medicaid benefits, whether they’re employed or not. That doesn’t mean they want people to be poor the way Wal-Mart’s unionbusting, timeshaving practices guarantee they will be. And it especially doesn’t mean they are compelled to welcome the nation’s largest employer gaming the system to give itself an advantage over “chump” companies that go ahead and pay for more decent health care.

The “national health care” argument, meanwhile, has been made by better (and less disingenuous) critics than Mallaby. To the honest proponents I say, fine, this may all be moot someday when there’s a national health care system in this country. And to Mallaby I say, we can surely count on your vigorous help with that, right? I didn’t think so.

Mallaby’s piece eventually boils down to a profession of his faith, and an appeal to the reader’s avarice:

But globalization and business innovation are nonetheless the engines of progress; and if that sounds too abstract, think of the $200 billion-plus that Wal-Mart consumers gain annually. If critics prevent the firm from opening new branches, they will prevent ordinary families from sharing in those gains. Poor Americans will be chief among the casualties.

Mallaby may have indeed shed some big, wet, crocodile tears at this point. But the rest of his argument makes it clear poor Americans rank somewhere between last and dead last on his list of concerns. The fundamental weakness of the price vs. wage tradeoff is that it’s so easy to see where it leads — both in China and in Wal-Mart-Land: to a kind of new sharecropping, wage slave, company store economic system where workers are too poor to afford anything but lowest prices, and too beaten down to be able to turn down any but the lowest wages and ‘benefits.’ As publius (“Legal Fiction”) pointed out a few weeks ago:

My point, though, is that citing lower prices alone is never sufficient to win the debate. As I said, it’s relevant, but never dispositive. That’s because there is a limit to what we will accept (morally) in exchange for low prices. So, whenever you hear that a practice lowers prices, there is always a necessary follow-up question – At what cost?

For instance, let’s say that China (or Wal-Mart) used slave labor to make its clothes. The clothes would certainly be cheap, but we wouldn’t accept them because the low cost was a direct result of morally reprehensible slavery. In this case, low prices would not justify the practice.

Slavery is of course an extreme example. In reality, questionable employment practices exist along a spectrum. While we can all agree on rejecting low prices caused by slavery, surely that is not the only place to draw the line. For instance, what about low prices caused by child labor? By 7-day, 14-hour workweeks? By practices that release mercury into the ocean? And so on.

Mallaby’s dubious assignment of Casablanca’s “Captain Reynaud” role (“shocked — shocked!”) to Wal-Mart critics seeks to accomplish the dual goal of making critics seem hypocritical and Wal-Mart a comparatively honest, if perhaps rough hewn (“not saints”) practitioner of real world global capitalism.

Let me return the favor: in this little set piece, Mallaby — who, as a guaranteed winner, can afford to be relaxed about the globalization sweepstakes — seems closer to Peter Lorre’s Ugarte, the “gambler” who has, ahem, come into the only pair of tickets out of town. You remember: the one who asks Bogart, “You despise me, don’t you?” To which Bogart replies, “if I gave you any thought I probably would.”

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UPDATE, 12/1: Yglesias disappoints on the subject, Sirota spanks him for it. An earlier Yglesias post shows he’s not altogether off in right field: he seems to wish the debate were about unionizing Wal-Mart per se, which he supports, not about Wal-Mart paying welfare/Medicaid-worthy wages, which he somehow doesn’t see as the flip side of the same point.

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A BBC journalist in King George’s Court

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 21st November 2005

BBC journalist (and neighbor) Adam Brookes is along for the ride with the “uber-pack” — his term for the press corps accompanying President Bush on his Asia trip. He’s been keeping an entertaining diary of the experience:

November 18: … And in an odd episode, the South Korean Defence Ministry has chosen this moment to announce that it intends to reduce its troop presence in Iraq by a third. This, a day after Presidents Bush and Roh stood side by side proclaiming solidarity over Iraq.

The White House didn’t seem to know it was coming.

“There has been no official communication to the United States of a change of position by the South Korean government,” was the line.

November 19: …John Murtha, a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania, is the critic of the moment. He has described the Iraq effort as “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion”, and has called for withdrawal.

Why should Mr Bush care about a lone Democrat? Because Murtha is a decorated veteran, a hawk, and he previously supported the war. Most importantly, he’s seen as close to the military. Is Murtha speaking for the army? Some in Washington think so.

As the president’s speech wears on, I can’t be sure, but I think the bursts of applause are becoming less frequent. On the Iraq passages, the clapping seems more restrained – polite rather than tumultuous.

One final observation: in the advance version of the speech was this line: “We will fight the terrorists in Iraq, we stay in the fight until we have achieved the victory our troops have fought and bled for.”

When the President delivered the speech, “and bled” had been taken out.

November 20: …Later, Mr Bush meets the ‘travel pool’ – a group that splinters from the uber-pack to dog his every move.

He is much more animated. America’s relationship with China is ‘big and complex’. China has ‘undergone an amazing transformation’. But a ‘freer economy will yield a freer political system’.

This is one of the president’s core beliefs, in plain view on this trip: when a state liberalises its economy, political liberalisation will inevitably follow.

This belief obviates the need to confront the Chinese leadership. Economic liberalisation is underway in China.

Ergo, political liberalisation is only a matter of time. The die is cast.

A reporter asks why he seemed so subdued earlier at his appearance with Mr Hu. The reporter suggests he was ‘off his game’.

‘Have you ever heard of jet lag?’ Mr Bush fires back. He then ends the meeting by striding purposefully away towards a door – which turns out to be locked. An aide shepherds him out.

Also, unless you’re Korean (or maybe Klingon) you’ll want to avoid octopus sushi in Busan, South Korea.

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UPDATE, 11/21: The Poor Man answers the president’s question with one of his own: “Ever heard of free drinks on Air Force One?”

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