Olbermann Rhetoric Busting

I saw another of Olbermann’s “Special Commentaries” last night. This time he tried to fact check the president’s SOTU claims of foiling four terrorist plots. One could almost imagine Olbermann’s outrage at the very idea of the president taking credit for any positive steps in the global war on terror, and his single-minded conviction to overturn those claims of counterterrorism success, no matter how far he had to stretch for evidence.

This time he stretched so far as to rely completely on the “facts” of a radical left-wing blogger who advocates impeachment of both Bush and Cheney.

David Swanson. After the SOTU, I recall seeing a number of blog posts discussing Bush’s counterterrorism claims, so I couldn’t help thinking as Olbermann delivered his sermon that he must have stolen his material from the left-wing blogosphere. Imagine my surprise to hear Olbermann actually fessing up to the theft: “I am indebted to David Swanson, press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, who has blogged about the dubious 96 words in Mr. Bush’s address this year…”

So Olbermann’s inspiration is one David Swanson. I had never heard of this guy, so I did some surfing on the Interwebs. David Swanson is indeed a young blogger who used to work for Dennis Kucinich. That alone would be enough to throw some doubt on Swanson’s objectivity (seeing as how his job would have been relating how President Bush didn’t deserve to be re-elected), but if you look at Swanson’s site you’ll find that it’s literally covered with ads for books on the topic of impeaching President Bush. Glancing at Swanson’s Career page reveals: “David Swanson is the Washington Director of Democrats.com and of ImpeachPAC.org. He is co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, creator of MeetWithCindy.org, and a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and of the Backbone Campaign.” It goes on.

One has to wonder at this point why Olbermann chose to describe David Swanson as the former press secretary for Dennis Kucinich, rather than as the director of, say, ImpeachPAC.org (a site which proudly proclaims, “ImpeachPAC supports Democratic candidates for Congress who support the immediate and simultaneous impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney for their Iraq War lies”).

Obviously I’m not a lawyer, but I think I’ve made a pretty solid case that David Swanson has a personal and professional stake in spinning words and events to make President Bush look bad. And this is the guy Olbermann credited with inspiring his Special Commentary — the guy he is relying on for the “facts” in his “fact checking.”

The Library Tower Plot. Bush: “We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast.”

In order to debunk this claim, one would need to show evidence that al Qaeda did not have any such plot, or that al Qaeda gave up on the plot. Instead of doing that, Olbermann chose to make fun of Bush for saying “Liberty Tower” instead of “Library Tower” in the 2006 SOTU address. Perhaps this is because it’s hard to debunk this particular terror plot when none other than the highly-respected 9/11 Commission Report confirmed its existence. And ABC News also confirmed the details of the broken plot as reported by the president.

That doesn’t leave Bush critics with much to work with, so they turned to the anonymous opinions of supposed government experts, who claim that, since this plot was foiled while still in the planning stages, that it doesn’t “count” as a counter-terrorism success. One has to wonder what exactly would count as a success to these supposed experts. I guess it doesn’t count unless the terrorists are foiled with last-second, Jack Bauer-style heroics.

Olbermann rhetoric: Busted.

The Southeast Asian Cell. Bush: “We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States.”

David Swanson, Olbermann’s blogger inspiration, suggested this was “fictional” simply because he didn’t understand the reference, and Olbermann also failed to nail down the reference. One has to wonder how hard they tried. But let’s say that Swanson and Olbermann are correct in describing this as just another name for the Library Tower plot. Even so, neither offered any evidence to suggest that the Southeast Asian terror cell didn’t exist or wasn’t foiled — they simply criticize the semantics of calling it a separate success.

Olbermann rhetoric: Partially Busted.

The Anthrax Cell. Bush: “We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America.”

Again, Swanson believes this al Qaeda cell was “fictional” because he could not locate any newspaper reports corroborating the story, as if the mainstream media is the official historical record of government counterterrorism activities. Olbermann went a step farther at least, asking NBC counterterrorism analyst Robert W. Cressey about it, who replied that he believed al Qaeda had only been “dreaming” about anthrax attacks. Both Swanson and Olbermann then inexplicably went on to conclude that Bush must have been talking about the highly publicized anthrax mailings to prominent newspeople and congressmen back in 2003, whose trail has long since run cold.

After a little Googling, I didn’t find this reference nearly as mysterious as they did. It wasn’t the first time Bush had referenced the al Qaeda anthrax program. He also mentioned it when he spoke about the Military Commissions Act and later when he signed it. In the first speech, President Bush described the al Qaeda anthrax program that was foiled in some detail, and how it was foiled, and it had nothing to do with the letters from 2003. I also found this interesting article discussing a CBS News report about the anthrax case, which suggests that al Qaeda may indeed have been behind the anthrax scare, but thanks to a bungled FBI investigation, we will probably never know for sure one way or another.

Olbermann rhetoric: Busted.

The British Airline Plot. Bush: “British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean.”

Again, to debunk this plot, we would need evidence that the plot didn’t exist or that the plot was called off by the bad guys. Swanson and Olbermann offer no such evidence. All they offered were the beliefs of unnamed “experts” that the plot couldn’t have worked and a quote from a British ambassador who hinted that the Pakistani prisoner who revealed the plot may have made it up under the duress of torture. The Pakistani prisoner was “only” charged with possessing bomb-making materials, Olbermann later assured us, as if it were perfectly normal for people to have bomb-making materials.

Swanson and Olbermann both failed to note that while 8 people have indeed been released, 16 people are still in British custody awaiting trial, and they failed to mention that the NY Times reported that police had recovered bomb-making materials and martyrdom videos from the suspects’ homes. I’m not an “expert” of course, but that sounds like a plot to me.

Olbermann rhetoric: Busted.

I’ve said this before, but this time I really mean it: Olbermann viewers should remember that, like comedian Rush Limbaugh, he’s an entertainer long before he’s a journalist.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Moving .NET Web Projects

I’ve had some annoying problems opening other people’s ASP.NET web projects from Visual SourceSafe.  By default, it sets up the local IIS directory in C:\Inetpub\wwwroot regardless of the location of the solution directory.  I prefer setting up a virtual directory that points to the actual project location, which for me is on the D: drive.  After a bunch of trial and error and some Google searches, I’ve found the following steps work somewhat reliably.

Let’s assume we’re trying to open a solution named “Beatles” which contains a web project named ”PennyLane.”  We want to put the solution in D:\Projects.

  • Get the solution from source control and place it in the desired location (eg. D:\Projects\Beatles).  I typically do this with Get Latest Version in the SourceSafe explorer, but you can probably do this inside Visual Studio as well.
  • If there is a .suo file in the solution directory, delete it.
  • Load the solution into Visual Studio (eg. Beatles.sln).
  • Visual Studio will prompt you to Enter a Working Copy Location for the web project.  The default location will be something like http://localhost/PennyLane created in C:\Inetpub\wwwroot\PennyLane.  Cancel this dialog.
  • You’ll then be asked if you’re sure.  Click “Skip loading listed projects.”
  • You may then get a message that loading from source control failed.
  • The web project (eg. PennyLane) will be listed in the solution as “unavailable.”
  • Remove the web project from the solution.
  • You’ll be prompted to check out the solution file from source control.  Go ahead and do that.
  • Run Internet Information Services (IIS) from Administrative Tools.
  • Navigate to Default Web Site.
  • You may see the name of the web project (eg. PennyLane) already in the directory list.  Visual Studio made that for you, even though you told it to cancel that step above.  Delete the directory.
  • Create a new virtual directory.  Click Next to start the wizard.
  • Enter your web project name as the alias (eg. PennyLane).  (Actually, you can enter any name you want here.)  Click Next.
  • Enter the directory where the web project file resides (eg. D:\Projects\Beatles\PennyLane).  Click Next.
  • Check the “Browse” box on the Access Permissions page.  Click Next.
  • Finish the wizard.
  • Go back to Visual Studio.
  • Either on the File menu, or by right-clicking the solution, select Add Existing Project From Web.
  • Enter the localhost URL to the virtual directory created in IIS above (eg. http://localhost/PennyLane).
  • Select the project filename from the list (eg. PennyLane.csproj).  (If you aren’t able to see the project file, you may have forgotten to enable the ”Browse” permission.)
  • At this point, one of two things might happen:
    • Visual Studio may tell you it can’t load from source control.  In that case, save and close the (possibly empty) solution, then re-load it.  Retry adding the project from the web, and it should work.
    • Visual Studio may also ask you to change the file share location of the project.  In that case, navigate again to the directory that contains the project (eg. D:\Projects\Beatles\PennyLane).
  • Load up the SourceSafe explorer and make sure the working directory of the web project is set to the project directory (eg. D:\Projects\Beatles\PennyLane), not C:\Inetpub\wwwroot.
  • At this point you should also be able to go back to IIS and turn off the “Browse” permission for the virtual directory.

I freely admit it’s a pain to do all of that.  You may choose instead to accept the default location of C:\Inetpub\wwwroot that VS uses for web projects.  If you do, don’t forget that you will have TWO copies of your web project on your system.  The “active” copy will reside in C:\Inetpub\wwwroot, but there might also be another copy in the same directory with the solution.  Don’t be fooled!  If you need to edit or change web project files outside of Visual Studio, make sure you go to C:\Inetpub\wwwroot and NOT the directory where the solution file resides! 

BlogAd Revenue Revisited

Last year I looked at how much the big name bloggers make in advertising. I thought it would be fun to revisit that subject to see how things might have changed in the new year, so I went back over to BlogAds and looked through their price list.

Price list as of January 29, 2007, for 1 week of advertising:

  • DailyKos, est. 4,200,000 – $9,000, $5,000, $3,000 (x5) = $1,508,000/year
  • Raw Story, est. 3,200,000 – $4,500, $1,600 = $317,200/year
  • Talking Points Memo, est. 1,800,000 – $10,000, $2,500, $1,250 (x5) = $975,000/year
  • Crooks and Liars, est. 1,400,000 – $1,295, $995 (x2) = $170,820/year
  • Hot Air, est. 1,100,000 – $1,100, $175 (x3) = $84,500/year
  • Americablog, est. 700,000 – $6,000, $2,000 (x4), $1,000 = $780,000/year
  • Firedoglake, est. 680,000 – $1000, $800, $695 = $129,740/year
  • Townhall, est. 620,000 – $1,100, $500 (x3) = $135,200/year
  • Power Line, est. 500,000 – $2,250, $500 = $143,000/year
  • The Agonist, est. 320,000 – $750, $375 (x2) = $78,000/year
  • MyDD, est. 290,000 – $1,500, $950 (x3) = $226,200/year
  • Captain’s Quarters, est. 230,000 – $75 = $3,900/year
  • Glenn Greenwald, est. 200,000 – $85 (x2), $65 (x2) = $15,600/year
  • Ace of Spades HQ, est. 197,000 – $150, $80 (x2) = $16,120/year

And in the local Virginia blogosphere, I found:

  • Not Larry Sabato, est. 44,000 – $50 = $2,600/year
  • Raising Kaine, est. 38,000 – $50 = $2,600/year
  • Waldo Jaquith, est. 4,300 – $15 = $780/year

Keep in mind that BlogAds gets 30% of that ad revenue.

Comparing to my numbers from last year, it looks like Markos got a big pay raise in 2007. :) (I wonder if he can afford to pay all of his contributing bloggers yet…) And I see that conservative blogs still haven’t quite mastered the free market forces of the Internet yet. RedState, however, seems to have taken a cue from Michelle Malkin and dumped BlogAds in favor of something called “ValueClick,” which I presume is a move toward greater ad revenue.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Walter Stosch and PayDay Loans

Continuing my observations of local politics, I perked up this morning when I heard Virginia 12th District General Assembly Senator Walter Stosch talking on the radio about his bill to repeal the Payday Loan Act here in Virginia. Apparently it’s not going so well; he didn’t seem optimistic about the bill’s passage.

I’m not a fan of payday lenders, but I’m undecided about regulating them. I could go either way. For myself, I would have to be insanely desperate–like, getting ready to sign the bankruptcy papers–to consider one, and I would certainly advise anyone I knew to avoid them like the plague, but hey if people want to throw their money and their lives away that’s their business I guess.

Anyway, getting back to Stosch, the thing that caught my attention was this: Apparently he’s received substantial campaign contributions from payday lenders, yet he’s sponsoring SB1326, a bill to repeal the Payday Loan Act. And he said he never considered returning the contributions, either, because his accountant handles contributions so he never knows who’s contributing to his campaign and who isn’t. Or something to that effect.

I find it hard to believe Stosch wouldn’t realize who’s contributing to his campaign, so I see two possible scenarios here: Either a) he’s happy to take money from lobbyists but doesn’t listen to a word they say, which could either be comforting or disconcerting depending on how you look at it, or b) he’s putting on a show of opposing payday loans for his constituents while secretly knowing and assuring his payday lender lobbyists that his bill won’t pass, which sounds downright deceitful.

I don’t know enough about Stosch or the inner workings of the General Assembly to speculate any further, but the apparent conflict of interest seems very odd to me.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Virgil Goode: Cervical Savior

RICHMOND, VA – Pregnant women of America can sleep sounder knowing that Virgil Goode is the only Congressman willing to take a stand against the growing problem of Muslims slapping gynecologists. As reported by Spank That Donkey, a wave of Muslim violence directed at male gynecologists has recently spread across the country of France, with nearly a single incident being reported in one Paris hospital. In that incident, an enraged Muslim, upset that his wife was treated after childbirth by a male doctor instead of the female doctor that he requested, attacked his wife’s gynecologist, hurling verbal insults, and viciously slapping and shoving him. The Muslim was eventually arrested and jailed by police, but not before his rampage ended with no one hurt or killed. The victim, however, suffered acute bruises to his ego, saying the Muslim’s insults were damaging to his fragile psyche.

Here in America, Rep. Goode has long expected Muslims to rise up and strike at maternity wards across the country, which has been viewed as a vulnerable area in our national security strategy. Goode’s tough plan to reduce Muslim immigration, however, will ensure that no American women or gynecologists will ever have to suffer at the hands of an abusive spouse again.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Virginia Guardsmen Fall

It’s been reported in the local news a lot, but it’s well worth noting again that two of the twelve soldiers who died in the Black Hawk helicopter crash near Baghdad this past weekend were Virginia Guardsmen: Va. copter-crash victims recalled.

“Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford was an exemplary soldier, and Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian was wedded to his military duty, they said.”

These appear to be the first fatalities from Virginia in 2007, according to Iraq Coalition Casualties. I’m sure it’s little comfort, but allow me to extend my thanks and condolences to the families of these men. Fallen soldiers should always be honored.

P.S. No, I don’t consider Iraqi insurgents, terrorists, or members of death squads to be honorable soldiers.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Civilian Reserve Corps?

One other part of the State of the Union address that jumped out at me was the president’s call for a Civilian Reserve Corps:

“A second task we can take on together is to design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps. Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the Armed Forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them. And it would give people across America who do not wear the uniform a chance to serve in the defining struggle of our time.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but after some Googling today, it turns out Bush was basically talking about private mercenaries. It’s not generally known (and even I was surprised at the total number), but the U.S. is already employing a rather large force of private mercenaries in Iraq. There are some 48,000, according to an article in the LA Times: Our mercenaries in Iraq. Each mercenary earns some $1000 a day, which is a lot more than an American soldier earns.

No wonder the war is costing so much.

The LA Times notes that many of these mercenaries come from a place called Blackwater USA, which I’ve heard passing references to before. Blackwater USA sounds essentially like a private army operating out of North Carolina. Sisyphus reports there are some 20,000 soldiers employed by Blackwater. I find the existence of such a large private militia one state away from me rather disturbing. Mainly because these Blackwater guys sound eerily similar in concept to the state-within-a-state operations of, eg., Nasrallah’s Hezbollah militia in Lebanon or al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in Baghdad. The only difference is that Blackwater happens to be on the same page as the U.S. Government. For now.

Maybe Bush’s Civilian Reserve Corps is an attempt to put Blackwater under some kind of government control. If so, I like the sound of it. A group of 20,000 rogue, unsupervised mercenaries running around North Carolina (with air support!) is not something to be ignored.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Hard-Hitting SOTU 2007 Observations

Here are some hard-hitting SOTU observations you won’t find anywhere else! (Mrs. Krehbiel also contributed to this list, though she probably doesn’t realize she was doing so.)

  • It was the first time I saw a SOTU in high definition!
  • NBC’s swoopy camera flying over the crowd really added a dynamic element to the spectacle.
  • Watching the expressions on the faces of Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi behind the president was very entertaining.
  • Surprisingly, Pelosi actually leaped to her feet much quicker than Cheney on several Iraq-related points.
  • Mike Chertoff looked like he had cancer–he looked even more skeletal than usual.
  • Senator Obama appeared to be painted yellow.
  • One reaction shot of Condi Rice made her look like a demonspawn of Satan.
  • John McCain appeared to be sleeping at one point.
  • Due to the president’s unpopularity, there seemed to be a lot less applause interrupting the speech than usual, which made it much easier to listen to.
  • Many politicians and their spouses look really afflicted when they clap.
  • The Asian woman sitting next to the basketball player from Congo only stood up to about his waistline.
  • Okay, one political comment: I thought it was incredibly lame that the Democrats didn’t applaud with the Republicans after the president said, “So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory.” I’m sorry, but you simply must applaud for victory, no matter what you think the policy should be.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Modern Secession

I sometimes wonder what kind of political situation would be so divisive that states might try to secede from the Union again. This came to mind again recently when Virginia legislators proposed that the Commonwealth acknowledge the wrongs of slavery, and a flood of pro-Confederacy people bubbled up to the surface here in the Virginia blogosphere. I have to admit I was a little shocked and awed at the vehement, almost violent reactions of some of these Virginians. It struck me that these were exactly the sort of people who would probably support a modern secession, if for no other reason than to get away from what one blogger charmingly called “race pimps.”

The legality of secession is, I think, a hotly debated topic, but it’s way outside the scope of my education. I can’t find any evidence to say it’s illegal, so I’m just going to assume it’s as legal now as it was in 1861.

Some Googling on this subject brought me to this interesting site: American Secession Project. It’s a site dedicated to, well, I’ll just quote it: “Dedicated to placing secession in the mainstream of political thought as a viable solution to contemporary problems.” Basically, I guess they’re saying that people should consider secession as a legitimate response to major problems in the Federal government.

So what might people secede over today? Before the Civil War, the southern economy was driven by slave labor, so it makes sense that slave states would secede when their livelihood was threatened. Many years ago I thought abortion might be divisive enough to split the United States, but it’s not really a region-specific issue, and I don’t think there’s much of an economic component.

These days I’m inclined to think immigration might be the issue that sparks a modern secessionist movement. It’s somewhat regional, it’s economic, and it’s got that essential “us vs. them” component that would really get radicals up in arms. What if the federal government really cracked down on immigration and started shutting down any business found hiring illegal immigrants? It seems like small business owners in places like California, New Mexico and Texas might start seriously considering secession as an option to keep their livelihood.

Yeah, I know, it’s pure fantasy. It’s a slow day.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.

Joe Blackburn Challenges Walter Stosch In The 12th

Continuing my effort to pay more attention to local politics, I see Not Larry Sabato is reporting that 12th District Virginia State Senate incumbent Walter Stosch will be challenged in the Republican primary by one Joe Blackburn. I don’t know anything about this Blackburn guy, but here is his campaign website, such as it is: www.joeblackburnforsenate.com. He says he’s a “commonsense conservative,” whatever that means. The Republican primary is Tuesday, June 12.

Thomas Krehbiel writes The Krehbiel Strikes Back, a generally centrist commentary on news, media, politics, and culture.