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Re: The Issues Americans Care About



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The ABC debate was also the highest rated to date:

The prime-time debate from Philadelphia on Wednesday was seen by 10.7 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research. That’s the most of any debate this election cycle — topping the 9.3 million who watched the Democrats on ABC Jan. 5 — and proving that the lull in primaries before Tuesday’s in Pennsylvania hasn’t dulled interest in the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The Issues Americans Care About



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There’s been a chorus of post-debate hee-hawing about how the ABC moderators ignored “the issues.” Every election, we’re treated to pious lectures about how Americans really want to hear about “the issues” and don’t care about personality politics and other trivia.

Is there any persuasive evidence for this belief?

In the media world, there’s lots of evidence to the contrary:

Circulation of Foreign Affairs: about 160,000

Circulation of The National Enquirer: more than 1 million.

Foreign Affairs, to its credit, published lengthy essays from the major presidential primary candidates on their foreign-policy thoughts. The essays were not, for the most part, very good. But if one wants to learn in some detail about Barack Obama slightly fuzzy foreign-policy ideas, his essay in Foreign Affairs would be a reasonable place to start. So how many people read that essay? Less than the population of Springfield, Missouri, or Greensboro, North Carolina. By way of comparison, that J-Lo baby scoop in People magazine will be read by more people than live in Los Angeles, Chicago, or Houston, two or three times as many people as live in Philadelphia or Phoenix, about three times the population of Dallas. The combined readership of People and TV Guide is larger than the population of Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, or Israel–and about twice the population of Hong Kong–while the paid readership of the Middle East Journal could be comfortably seated in the Cleveland Music Hall.

This isn’t to say that small journals don’t do important work–of course they do–but it’s also true that they serve a relatively small readership because magazine readerships are self-selecting, and readers’ preferences suggest that they care more about celebrity gossip than they care about reading about terrorism, trade, or the economy at any length.

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Kondracke on the ABC Debate



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I think he hit the nail on the head — 45 minutes spent on character questions is a bit much, but none of the questions was over the line in itself:

Imus Back in the News



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Media Matters is not happy with latest from Imus:

IMUS: Stephanopoulos I thought was great, and the debate was fine. I thought Senator Obama was on the defensive most of the night. But they’re both sissy boys or sissy girls, or whatever. Because they talk big when they’re out on the campaign trail, wolfing on each other.

McCORD: But then –

IMUS: And then when they show up at the debate, they fold up like a couple of cheap lawn chairs. I mean, I don’t understand that. And he’s almost a bigger p***y than she is.

At least he didn’t call them elitists.

Time Cover an “Absolute Disgrace”



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Trouble in MSNBC-Land



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It’s looking like Joe Scarborough walked off the set of David Gregory’s “Race to the White House” after getting annoyed with Rachel Maddow over a discussion on “framing” Obama.  Maddow went on to compare Reverend Wright to McCain’s Florida co-chair who was caught in a bathroom sex sting.  Scarborough came back with, “I don’t engage in Crossfire-type debates and certainly I don’t want to talk about what people do in bathrooms.”  You then hear what sounds like a mic dropping on a desk and when the cut back to the Brady-Bunch type graphic of all the pundits arranged on the screen at once, Scarborough was missing.

AP’s Giddiness Over More Deserting Iraqi Soldiers



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AP:

A company of government troops in Sadr City retreated when they came under attack from Shiite militiamen who used the cover of a sandstorm, police said Friday.

The clashes overnight killed two people and injured nine, a police commander said. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release the information, said it was unclear whether there were any casualties among the soldiers.

The reports of the latest setback for the Iraqi army come after government officials acknowledged that during fighting last month against Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, more than 1,300 Iraqi soldiers and police deserted or refused to fight.

There’s that 1,300 number again.  Funny how it keeps popping up, like in this BBC article on al-Sadr demanding that the Iraqi  government “reinstate” the 1,300 solider who deserted:

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has demanded the Iraqi government reinstate 1,300 soldiers and police who were dismissed for desertion during recent fighting.

His office said those who had handed their weapons to militiamen during the clashes in Basra and Kut were following orders from their religious leaders.

Those sacked are believed to be loyal to the radical cleric, whose Mehdi Army militia was the target of the raids.

It’s cute how the AP fails to mention the pesky fact that the soldiers didn’t desert because they’re badly trained or scared, they deserted because they were loyal to the guy they were ordered to attack, and then fired for it.

Back to the original AP piece…

This wasn’t just any sandstorm.  Elsewhere in AP land they report:

BAGHDAD (AP) — A thick layer of yellow dust blanketed houses and cars in the Iraqi capital Thursday as a heavy sandstorm over central Iraq sent dozens of residents to hospitals with breathing difficulties.

The spring storm, one of the worst in years, forced the closure of the Baghdad International Airport. It also appeared to hamper military flights.

None of the helicopter patrols that regularly roar over the city of 6 million people seemed to be airborne. The deadliest helicopter crash in this war occurred during a sandstorm that sharply reduced visibility in 2005, when a CH-53 Sea Stallion went down, killing 31 U.S. troops.

Apparently taking advantage of the reduced aerial activity, militants from eastern Baghdad repeatedly shelled the Green Zone, which houses diplomatic missions and much of the Iraqi government.

Is it really that hard to believe that during one of the worst sandstorms “in years” that a company of Iraqi troops might withdraw (not desert) when faced with an attack by an unknown number of Sadr goons with no help from US airpower?

One other thing, the AP story at the top of this post is sourced entirely from one, unnamed police commander.  Even if his story is entirely true, there should be a second source before they write a piece of this nature.

Hitchens: Pope’s a Dim Bulb



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The media loves to find balance in religion stories by seeking out the nasty atheist for comment. For the papal visit this week, the Washington Post-Newsweek “On Faith” site has been welcoming Christopher Hitchens and Susan Jacoby to lob their atheist bombs. When Mother Teresa’s book on her struggle with doubt came out, Newsweek invited Hitchens to lob an op-ed. (Now imagine Newsweek granting a page to someone who wrote a whole book denouncing in the most vicious terms Martin Luther King, and you get the point: they agree with Hitchens on the nun. Otherwise, he would be seen as beyond the pale.)

It’s perhaps less tedious to see Hitchens interviewed on atheism by trendy-left websites like Radar, but Hitchens really underlines how there’s more bile than intellect in his analysis. He says the former Cardinal Ratzinger is in no way distinguished:

Joseph Ratzinger, who now calls himself Pope Benedict XVI and claims to be the vicar of Christ on Earth, doesn’t strike me as someone who is up to the average intelligence of most of my friends. If he weren’t making these claims about himself, no one would listen to a word he says! He’s a completely undistinguished human being.

Hitchens betrays his view — all religious people are dim bulbs, all atheist people are wise — by claiming (wrongly) that Congressman Ed Royce is “a very bright guy from some greater Los Angeles district, and he simply says, ‘I’m not a person of faith.’” (Even Radar found that Royce’s staff reports he’s a practicing Catholic.)

Any religious conservative who likes Hitchens for his views on jihadis should realize the admiration is not returned. He doesn’t like the religious right, but doesn’t consider his atheist rantings are directed at them: “They’re hardly worth mentioning. They don’t say anything interesting now. They’re just sick people.”

It seems Radar’s favorite quote is Hitchens insisting that Heaven is like North Korea, except you can never leave:

Why did Heaven sound like Hell?
Eternal penance. You can never stop—like North Korea. In North Korea, they have compulsory worship from dawn until dusk. That’s all there is, everything is praise. So now I know what it would be like. I know it must be the most proximate place we have on Earth to being in Hell. But at least you can die and get out of North Korea. Kim Jong-Il does not promise you he’ll follow you into the grave. But you can’t die and get away from f—ing Jesus.

Photo of the Day



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Jimmy Carter to Israel:  Practice this if America adopts my peace plan!  (not really, but my caption is funnier than the AP’s)

RAND, Soldiers, Mental Health, &c.



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A reader writes in on that RAND/Reuters story discussed yesterday:

I was curious about those Mental Health stats on the soldiers as well. A quick glance at the website of the National Institute of Mental Health (link below) shows that among the general population, 26.2 percent of all Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. So if I understand this right, while only 1 in 5 troops are afflicted, a staggering 1 in 4 among the civilian population are similarly suffering! Remind me: what was the point of that Reuter’s report again?

Advice and the Pinch of salt



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I went from the New York Times’ editorial advice yesterday to Silvio Berlusconi on how to run Italy to today’s news that Pinch Sulzberger’s New York Times Company doesn’t seem to be able to run a newspaper.

According to the Times, the problem’s pretty obvious:

The poor showing stemmed from The Times Company’s core news media group, which includes The Times, The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune, as well as several regional newspapers.

The decline in first-quarter revenue was 10.6 percent, “the sharpest drop in memory.” That’s saying something: Pinch has already reduced the value of his media company by more than two-thirds since becoming prime minister of Times Square.

Berlusconi’s media company actually makes money. In Italy, no less.

CNN Just Can’t Win



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What’s worse than groveling before the Communist thugs in Beijing? Groveling before the Communist thugs in Beijing and then having them kick you while you’re groveling. CNN remains clueless, reports the AP:

BEIJING — China on Thursday snubbed an apology from CNN over remarks by one of its commentators as a wave of verbal assaults on foreign media raised concerns over coverage at this summer’s Beijing Olympics.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected CNN’s explanation that commentator Jack Cafferty was referring to China’s leaders — not the Chinese people — when he described them as “goons and thugs.” CNN said it apologized to anyone who thought otherwise.

But Jiang said at a regularly scheduled news conference that the CNN statement lacked sincerity and instead “turned its attack on the Chinese government to try to sow division between the Chinese government and the people.”

Does Drudge Heart Obama?



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Like countless Americans, I am addicted to the Drudge Report. Drudge’s no-frills collection of juicy headlines is a major player in my daily depth chart of web surfing, and by no means am I a Drudge critic. That being said, am I the only one who has perceived a decidedly anti-Hillary (and therefore, by default, pro-Obama) bent when it comes to the stories, polls, etc., that Drudge chooses to highlight?

Take today’s edition: Following Barack Obama’s most disastrous debate performance so far, Drudge is focusing on leftwing outrage over the alleged “bias” of ABC News. He’s also posted a photo of Chelsea Clinton with a non-linked observation that ABC included eight close-ups of the former first daughter during last night’s tilt. Another headline reads, “JOLT: Obama gains support, now leads among elected superdelegates.” There have been a number of fascinating poll nuggets over the last few weeks, but it seems like those most damaging to Hillary get top–and sometimes exclusive–billing.

I’m just curious if I’m the only one who’s noticed this trend throughout much of the primary season. I also find myself wondering if Drudge, who launched his career into the stratosphere by attacking the Clintons, has made slaying her campaign his top priority, and is saving his Obama fire for later.

Perhaps I have a selective memory. Or maybe I’m just bitter.

RE: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Blogger



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Maryland Conservatarian has the scoop on Abdul-Jabbar’s concern about the den of iniquity that is Whoville:

His concern got me thinking back to his days as a player and how I almost had one more final chance to see him play. I was stationed in Saudi Arabia in the immediate aftermath of the 1st Gulf War when it was announced that Mr. Abdul-Jabbar himself was part of a exhibition Basketball Tour that was coming to various parts of Saudi Arabia, including where I was.

Well, this would have been a wonderful diversion but unfortunately the exhibition game was off-limits to women spectators. Our military commanders correctly said then that if it was off-limits to female soldiers, it was off-limits to all soldiers.

…but I’m sure all the little Saudi girls who heard about the game from their brothers were clearly impressed by the message he brought.

Suspicious Numbers from Reuters



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According to this Reuters report, some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from some form of mental illness, from post-traumatic stress disorder to clinical depression. The story also reports that an additional 320,000 troops have suffered possible traumatic brain injuries. (And what is a “possible traumatic brain injury”? It’s the possible that confuses; isn’t a traumatic brain injury reasonably evident?)

But the total number of active-service military is only something like 1.5 million. And lots of them will not be in combat. So we’re to believe that 620,000 — or nearly half — of U.S. troops are suffering mental disorders or traumatic brain injuries? That seems like a suspect claim.

The story cites a RAND study, and RAND has a good reputation in these matters, but still: 620,000 out of 1.5 million? Does that not qualify for some skepticism?

I Stand Corrected



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A reader offers a helpful reminder:

How long will it take for like-minded authoritarians to argue that the First Amendment’s free-press guarantees only apply to government-recognized journalists?
 McCain-Feingold.  What do you mean, “how long until?”

 

He’s absolutely right, of course. Journalists can do whatever they like to influence an election, but if one of the little people tries to do so, he has to answer to McCain-Feingold.

You Have Got To Be Kidding



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Who thought this was a good idea?

McCain and the Shield Law



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John McCain has endorsed the misnamed “Free Flow of Information Act,” otherwise known as the “shield law” for journalists, which would confer special privileges on the Fourth Estate, including immunity from being forced by a court to reveal sources. It’s a bad piece of legislation and McCain is unwise to support it, though it has won him plaudits from the usual media suspects. Both the Democratic hopefuls support the bill, too.

The problems with shield laws are many. First, this is a law designed to make it easier, or even consequence-free, to break other laws. The bill should be called the “Free Flow of Classified Information Act.” It is illegal to disclose classified information. If you believe, as I do, that the government is promiscuous in its use of classification, and that much less information should be made secret, then you should support legislation to that end. Protecting those who break the law from the consequences of breaking the law is a very poor substitute for reforming laws that beg to be reformed.

But the most dangerous part of the shield law is that, at some point, either a judge or a federal functionary will be forced to make a determination about whom the law covers. Which is to say, there will be a federal determination of who counts as a legal journalist and who doesn’t. This amounts to having the federal government license journalists, which is undesirable on many levels, and which will certainly have First Amendment implications. The many uses of this sort of classification tend to get way out of hand very quickly, which is why things like an ID number for the government pension program and state permits to drive end up being entangled in so many areas of life that have nothing to do with pensions or driving. Try getting through a year without using your Social Security Number or your driver’s license. Many on the Left already believe that the Second Amendment should be restricted to state-authorized guardsmen. How long will it take for like-minded authoritarians to argue that the First Amendment’s free-press guarantees only apply to government-recognized journalists?

This Should Be the Top Story of the Day



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Signs of life on the immigration law-enforcement front.

Question: Why aren’t the managers and executives being charged, too?

Those Bitter Small-Towners



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A reader writes:

Thanks for your mention of Elkhart, a very nice town, where people aren’t bitter.  May I share an anecdote?  I am the City Attorney for [a nearby town].  A few years back, the city’s cable TV franchise came up for renewal.  I was directed by the city council to negotiate with the cable company and to insist that it get rid of CNN and replace it with Fox News. … The conclusion to the negotiations was a glass-half-full resolution:  We got Fox News, but the cable company kept CNN.

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