Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cronon's Blog Included This Whopper...

Thanks to HSG campaigns for tweeting the link to Scholar as Citizen, which contained this statement from The Frederick Jackson Turner and Vilas Research Professor of History, Geography, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:"My concern is rather to promote open public discussion and the genuine clash of opinions among different parts of the political spectrum, which I believe is best served by full and open disclosure of the interests of those who advocate particular policies."

Richard Vedder v Paul Krugman on the Cronon Affair

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
I laughed reading this, because Krugman shows here a lack of perception that almost equals that shown in his views on the economy. Remarkably, like Cronon, I have been forced, by a  public records request, to make available vast numbers of e-mails to a critic. A former student who became a minor Ohio political operative—and a Republican one at that—with whom I publicly disagreed once accused me of being “a slobbering, drunk old fool.” When a newspaper reporter asked me to comment, I replied, “I don’t slobber.” The critic got mad and tried to intimidate me by demanding my e-mail records.

I would agree with Krugman that this sort of tactic is an inappropriate way to deal with critics, and even is inconsistent with academic freedom broadly defined. I certainly agree that Cronon has a right to speak his mind. But Professor Cronon, like me, is subsidized in his speaking and writing by the public, including taxpayers, and they believe that they have a right to know what the people subsidized by them are doing. I don’t like it, Krugman doesn’t like it, and Cronon, no doubt, doesn’t like it, but that happens when public employees start speaking up on policy issues on what some taxpayers perceive to be their dime. The more higher education is dependent upon government support, the more the freedom of expression of those within the academy is likely to be subject to scrutiny.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Professor Cronon Calls His Center's Website "CHE"

The website says that C-H-E stands for "Center for Culture, History, Environment." But somehow, I don't think that as a University of Wisconsin historian, Professor Cronon would be oblivious to the nickname used by Ernesto "Che" Guevara...

The more you know about Professor William Cronon, the more questions...

Finally, A Reasonable Discussion of the Cronon Affair

By Peter Wood, published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, no less, who finally points out that responding to a FOIA request need not compromise academic freedom:
I don’t know of any evidence that Professor Cronon did in fact violate any laws. It may be that the Wisconsin Republican Party is simply fishing. If so, its action is further unwelcome, not as a violation of academic freedom, but as a demonstration of small-mindedness. The better way for the Wisconsin Republican Party to answer a critic is by answering his arguments on their merits.

If Professor Cronon were in jeopardy of losing his job for what he wrote on his personal blog or published in the Times, I would agree with the AAUP and the AHA. Academic freedom in that case would be at risk. He faces no such risk. Separating the ostensible motive of the Wisconsin Republican Party (i.e. political reprisal for his public writings) from its chosen tactic (the Open Records Law request) may seem a fine distinction, but it is a necessary one. It’s necessary because the doctrine of academic freedom will lose legitimacy if it is allowed to become an excuse for breaking the law.

The Cronon affair has prompted widespread commentary, including articles by Paul Krugman, Jonathan Tobin, KC Johnson, and Mitchell Langbert, and an editorial in the Times. Some of this is hyperventilating. Krugman, for example, compares the e-mail request to “the ongoing smear campaign against climate science,” and asserts that there is a “clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.”

What’s needed is some level-headedness and clarity about what academic freedom can and cannot protect. Unfortunately higher education’s traditional watchdog for academic freedom, the AAUP, has recently mislaid its once sturdy understanding of this key concept. The AAUP’s recent pronouncements on academic freedom have served mainly as a rationale for further left-wing-inspired politicization of the university. As a result it is unable to offer trustworthy guidance in a case where a university has been served with a legitimate legal request.

Cronon & Supporters Violate AHA Standards of Professional Conduct...

Have Prof. Cronon or AHA officers even read their own statement of principles? IMHO, this should apply to the current Open Records Law controversy at the University of Wisconsin:
Furthermore, the different peoples whose past lives we seek to understand held views of their lives that were often very different from each other—and from our own. Doing justice to those views means to some extent trying (never wholly successfully) to see their worlds through their eyes. This is especially true when people in the past disagreed or came into conflict with each other, since any adequate understanding of their world must somehow encompass their disagreements and competing points of view within a broader context. Multiple, conflicting perspectives are among the truths of history. No single objective or universal account could ever put an end to this endless creative dialogue within and between the past and the present.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the University of Wisconsin IT Regulations...

Did Prof. Cronon violate this rule?
Persons may not use University IT resources to sell or solicit sales for any goods, services or contributions unless such use conforms to UW-Madison rules and regulations governing the use of University resources. University employees may not use these resources to support the nomination of any person for political office or to influence a vote in any election or referendum. No one may use University IT resources to represent the interests of any non-University group or organization unless authorized by an appropriate University department.
(Source:Nicole Stockdale, Dallas Morning News) From the same source, a useful link to Wisconsin's Open Records Law:http://nxt.legis.state.wi.us/nxt/gateway.dll/Statutes%20Related/Wisconsin%20Statutes/840/857?f=templates$fn=document-frame.htm$3.0$q=[field%20folio-destination-name%3A%2719.31%27]$uq=$x=Advanced$up=1#LPHit1.

New Yorker Commenter Understands FOIA Better Than AHA President

...or New Yorker writer Anthony Grafton, for that matter, viz.
As a reporter myself (in San Diego, California), I use this state's open records law all the timeto request emails . This article states: "After all, Cronon’s mails, like those of most professors, include materials meant to be confidential: messages to and about students or colleagues. The only reason to compromise the protection these materials enjoy would be evidence of wrongdoing on his part, and there is none." This is a silly point that mis-characterizes the process of responding to such open records requests. The university could very easily run a search for the queries submitted by the Republican Party "fishing expedition," then redact any such confidential or sensitive emails from the pile it gets back, as I'm sure is allowed under Wisnonsin's public records law. Besides, it's unlikely that any emails containing the terms being searched for would be sensitive anyway, since the professor's unlikely to mention, say, Rob Cowles, in an email counselling a student. On another note, the notion that "fishing expeditions" of this kind are in some way nefarious or underhand bothers me as a journalist anyway. If the professor has, indeed, been using his university email account, and his publicly-subsidized position at the university, to engage in political activities, then the public that's footing the bill for his salary has a right to know that. Indeed, that's exactly what public records laws are designed for, isn't it? The university should accurately and in a timely manner respond to the request, while redacting any sensitive or confidential emails to the extent legally allowed. Then the public can make its own mind up about whether this was, indeed, a misuse of the professor's time and resources.
POSTED 3/29/2011, 4:46:18PM BY WILLCARLESS

Obama's FOIA Schizophrenia

Meanwhile, the FOIABlog points out that, when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act, the Obama administration says one thing--and does another...

AHA President Does Not Understand FOIA

I took a look at Professor Cronon's blog to see what he had to say about FOIA and the public's right to know. Not surprisingly, Prof. Cronon does not seem to understand even the basic principles underlying open records laws, or open government for that matter... His blog post is shameful evidence of how far American scholarship has descended into political correctness. As the professors say, viz.
When should FOIA and Wisconsin’s Open Records Law apply to universities?

Answer: When there is good reason to believe that wrongdoing has occurred.  When formal academic governance proceedings are making important decisions that the public has a right to know about.  When teachers engage in abusive relationships with their students.  When the documents being requested have to do with official university business. And so on.


When should we be more cautious about applying such laws to universities?

Answer: When FOIA is used to harass individual faculty members for asking awkward questions, researching unpopular topics, making uncomfortable arguments, or pursuing lines of inquiry that powerful people would prefer to suppress.  If that happens, FOIA and the Open Records Law can too easily become tools for silencing legitimate intellectual inquiries and voices of dissent—whether these emanate from the left or the right or (as in my case) the center. It is precisely this fear of intellectual inquiry being stifled by the abuse of state power that has long led scholars and scientists to cherish the phrase “academic freedom” as passionately as most Americans cherish such phrases as “free speech” and “the First Amendment.”

It is chilling indeed to think that the Republican Party of my state has asked to have access to the emails of a lone professor in the hope of finding messages they can use to attack and discredit that professor. It makes me wonder if they have given even the slightest thought to what would happen to the reputation of this state and of its universities if they were to succeed in such an effort.

It also makes me wonder how a party so passionate in its commitment to liberty and to protecting citizens from abuses of state power can justify resorting to this particular exercise of state power with the goal of trying to silence a critic of its own conduct.
But FOIA is not limited to cases of wrongdoing! If Prof. Cronon has done nothing wrong, why won't he share work emails from a work computer from a state university address with citizens who pay his salary?

Cronon claims he has nothing to hide, but he is acting as if he does. As a historian, he should realize that often the coverup is worse than the crime. Right now, his stonewalling reminds this blogger of Richard M. Nixon...

 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Frank Furedi on Phronesis in Higher Education

Aristotle took the view that there is a range of human actions whose objectives could not be achieved according to a prescribed formula. Whereas pottery-making could be pursued through technical knowledge (techne), healing the sick required practical wisdom (phronesis). For Aristotle, phronesis was the most significant intellectual virtue because by developing the capacity for moral judgement, other virtues of character could be exercised.

From this perspective, practical wisdom helps academics to make judgements about the relevance of data and the meaning of information. And most important of all, it is through practical wisdom that academics develop the capacity to make judgements that are morally right for the situation at hand.

Like all forms of judgement, academic judgement is acquired through experience and as with every endeavour, the more varied and the more extensive its practice, the better we get at it. Unfortunately these days, society provides little encouragement for the practice of judgement.

...

Since universities are subject to the influence of broad cultural trends, it is not surprising that academic judgement does not enjoy the authority it deserves. Higher education has internalised the wider cultural suspicion towards judgement and has given it an institutional affirmation. Although academic judgement is rarely explicitly challenged, there are powerful institutional pressures to confine it to the margins.

Why? Because academic judgement runs directly counter to the expansion of the formalisation of university life. The purpose of the so-called reform of higher education is to displace informal relationships, networks and practices with rules and regulations. The formalisation of academic practice encourages a disregard for context.

Indeed, the justification for the invention of procedures is to ensure that there is little room for context-informed judgement. When lecturers are asked to leave paper trails and follow procedures, they are in effect forced to act in accordance with a template rather than on the basis of their accumulated practical wisdom.

The values of institutionalised standardisation, calculability and measurable achievement mean there is little call for judgement. When the ways for achieving a learning outcome are carefully prescribed, what is required is after-the-event measurement and box-ticking, and not deliberation and judgement.

The triumph of procedure over academic judgement is illustrated by an often unnoticed but important change in terminology. These days, academics do not so much judge as evaluate. Although superficially “evaluation” can be seen as a synonym for “judgement”, in a contemporary institutional context it may more accurately be its antonym.

The act of judgement invites an academic to apply intuitive knowing or practical wisdom to questions that are not always susceptible to generalisation or formalisation. It is a context-informed and often unique act of deliberation. In contrast, evaluation occurs in relation to a set of pre-existing standards. Guidelines provided to academics to evaluate students according to a benchmark may be helpful, but often their role is to spare academics the burden of making a judgement.

The ubiquitous evaluation form encourages academics to develop the skill of box-ticking, but it actually distracts them from developing their capacity to judge. It is the form and not the tacit understanding gained through experience that guides the response. This may render the act of evaluation formal and explicit, but our really significant intuitive feelings about a person or a situation cannot be communicated through template rhetoric.

Yes, university regulations insist that academic judgement regarding an exam result cannot be challenged. However, academic judgement, even in the sphere of assessment, is far from immune to external pressure. A close reading of such regulations indicates that although an academic judgement cannot be challenged, students can appeal if they can identify a “procedural error in the assessment process”. Experience shows that complaints against procedure easily mutate into the questioning of the outcome of judgement.

Examination boards are all too aware of this threat and are sometimes forced to suspend their judgement to spare themselves costly procedural wrangles. Often even the mere hint of an impending appeal regarding procedure is sufficient to bring about the alteration or modification of an exam or degree grade.

It is worth noting that, increasingly, academics and their institutions are held legally accountable for their judgement. Academic judgement has become an issue that can be challenged in court, through questions raised about whether the procedures were followed and whether a decision was influenced by extraneous factors.

In a world where process is everything, the capacity to exercise academic judgement has become compromised. For decades, schoolteachers who have been forced to teach to the curriculum have complained about the loss of their freedom to exercise professional judgement. It is about time that academics recognised that they are confronted with a threat that is not dissimilar to the dispossession of the teaching profession of their right to judge.

Academics do not need to be threatened with the sack if they exercise judgement. The current climate of proceduralism stops lecturers from acting on the basis of deliberation and judgement.

The desire to defend and preserve the unique position of academic judgement is not motivated by an impulse to protect narrow professional privilege. Judging is a creative expression of disciplinary knowledge that can serve as a prelude to conversation and dialogue. The positive potential of an act of judgement depends on the degree to which it is based on experience, reflection and impartiality. As with so many things in life, the dictum “use it or lose it” applies with force.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Documented Steven Inskeep Bias on NPR

In a 2009 CAMERA report on NPR's anti-Israel bias, Steve Inskeep's name appears again:
This habitual negativity in judging Israel was on display recently as well in a Nov. 20 interview with Farah Pandith, a State Department official responsible for outreach to Muslims. Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep asks:

You don't get any questions, for example, hypothetically, why is the United States such a blind supporter of Israel?


There are many ways Inskeep could have framed the question. He could even have addressed a reality overwhelmingly ignored on NPR: "Do you find yourself having to address the scapegoating of Israel by various regimes seeking to deflect attention from their own conduct and domestic problems?"

WSJ NPR Defender Steve Inskeep Hosted Anti-Israel Activists on Morning Edition

Steve Inskeep published a most biased, dishonest, meretricious, fraudulent, and peculiarly self-serving op-ed to defend NPR in the Wall Street Journal this morning. I wondered how this illogical, misleading, pathetic screed got by the editors, then googled the author. Of course, he himself had been accused of bias, for personally hosting anti-Israel activists (and accused anti-Semites) Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer on NPR's Morning Edition, by CAMERA, the pro-Israel media watchdog. Andrea Levin published her account of Inskeep's personal bias on July 21, 2006:
"Israel Lobby" Authors Find Friendly NPR Forum

Leave it to National Public Radio to give a helping hand to professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the notorious study, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Assailed by scholars, policy analysts, pundits and diplomats for their crude disregard of fact and scholarly standards, the two have generally ducked open debate with their critics. They opt for exchanges in print or safe broadcast venues – such as C-Span – where they allege that supporters of Israel systematically and traitorously undermine American interests in the service of the Jewish state.

Now NPR too has given the duo an unfettered opportunity to air their slanderous claims without a word of substantive challenge or interaction with knowledgeable critics. On July 6 anchorman Steve Inskeep pitched soft-ball questions at his guests, neglecting to mention even one of the errors, false and selective citations or glaring omissions cited by the many commentators faulting their paper. In prime listening time, Walt and Mearsheimer leveled one distorted charge after another.

They alleged that President Bush was “humiliated by the Israel lobby” at the behest of Ariel Sharon when he declined to comply with American pressure and pull the Israeli military out of West Bank towns. Inskeep did not ask his guests why they omitted mention that Israel was then under siege by Palestinian terrorists, with over 130 Israelis murdered in the preceding month and the military had reentered the towns to root out terrorist bases. He didn't ask whether Sharon, a legendary general, had a right and responsibility to judge how best to deploy his army at such a time. Nor did he note the possible sense of humiliation of a small nation being instructed by a super-power to forfeit its own decision-making about self-defense. Nor, of course, was there any suggestion that allies inevitably disagree at times about specific policies.

Walt and Mearsheimer alleged that “neo-conservatives” who are “closely identified with Israel and have been pushing American policy for a long time to support Israeli objectives” drove the U.S. against its own interests into war with Iraq. Inskeep didn’t bother to mention any of the many counter-arguments to this scapegoating of Jews for the Iraq war, including, for instance, stories in the New Yorker, the New York Times the Washington Post and the LA Times that record Israeli ambivalence and even dismay at Bush administration intentions to invade Iraq. Israeli security specialists were far more concerned about Iran and feared focus on Iraq would distract from what the saw as the central regional threat. So outspoken were some Israeli military officials on the subject that Sharon called on them to mute their misgivings over action in Iraq lest the U.S. administration take offense.

Walt and Mearsheimer deplored U.S. backing for Israel in light of its alleged “continued occupation and control over the Palestinians, and the refusal to negotiate a long-term peace settlement with the Palestinians.” They charged “Israelis have essentially been unwilling to give the Palestinians a viable state since 1967." Once more, the NPR interviewer was derelict, permitting these absurd assertions to stand with only the non-specific observation that "Israeli spokesmen would dispute" such accusations.

There was no hint of the Arab agenda enunciated in 1967 predicated on the infamous three "no's" — no recognition, no negotiation and no peace. There was not even an allusion to the many Arab calls for the destruction of Israel. There was not a mention of the unprecedented offer by Ehud Barak at Camp David/Taba just six years ago that would have given the Palestinians statehood.

The professors also lamented that Israel distorts American policy regarding various regional problems in the Middle East, saying “we would have been adopting a much more flexible policy” there, “most notably [toward] Iran.” By “flexible,” the two evidently mean U.S. policy would benefit by downplaying, if not disregarding, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to destroy Israel.

Inskeep concluded saying “this debate continues tomorrow, when we’ll talk with one” of the writers' critics, former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. But this was not a debate; it was a platform for bigotry, indulged and abetted by the interviewer. And the notion of balance is mocked in suggesting interviewing one speaker a day later is an appropriate or sufficient response to a litany of anti-Israel – and anti-Jewish – defamation.

Dennis Ross was subsequently on the air for less than five minutes and Inskeep was notably more pointed with him, asking for instance: “Whatever you think of U.S. support of Israel, is it not a liability that the United States has allowed itself to be so closely associated with Israel over time as a major supporter, a liability in the Arab world?”

Having served as a senior State Department envoy, Ross could provide first-hand testimony to the actual nature of policymaking by the American administration and did provide broad refutations of the professors. He said in his experience in two administrations "we never took a step because we felt the quote 'lobby' was insisting we do it." He also noted that, “If tomorrow Israel wasn’t there, would we still have a problem with al-Qaeda? With the Jihadists? You bet. They object to who we are.”

But Ross was placed on the defensive; no one took apart the calumnies against Israel and its supporters, Jew and Christian, perpetrated by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

This was not NPR's first round of distortion on the issue. On April 21, the network reported on the controversy without hearing from the two professors who, according to the commentator, "say they will no longer comment publicly on their research and declined NPR's request for an interview."

In the lineup were three critics of the views expressed in "The Israel Lobby" and three who endorsed them. Professor Eliot Cohen of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University called the paper anti-Semitic, "an attack on the loyalty of American Jews." Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel Ned Walker said the "history" presented was unrecognizable and Foreign Affairs editor Gideon Rose offered vague disapproval that the authors' case was too "strongly and over-broadly" framed.

On the other side, Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff under Colin Powell, and himself a believer in neo-conservative cabals, endorsed the paper as containing "blinding flashes of the obvious." Conspiracy theorist and former CIA member Michael Scheuer too lauded the "courage" of the professors whose dark views of Jewish manipulation are nearly identical to his own.

At a Council on Foreign Relations session in February 2006, Scheuer had explained how Israel allegedly controls U.S. policies. “Well, the clandestine aspect is that, clearly, the ability to influence the Congress – that’s a clandestine activity, a covert activity.” He also lamented the effect of the Holocaust Memorial Museum on Americans in arousing feelings of guilt. This is the same writer who has lauded Osama Bin Laden as “gentle, generous, talented and personally courageous.” A Wall Street Journal essay bluntly termed him a cross between “an overwrought Buchananite and a raving Chomskyite.”

NPR enlisted one other rabid Israel-hater, Paul Findley. Elated at the appearance of the Walt-Mearsheimer study, he enthused: "You can't imagine how pleased I was." Findley is founder and chairman of the radical anti-Israel group, the Council for the National Interest.

CNI has long cozied up to Islamist groups, including those on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. In early 2006, for example, CNI leaders met in Damascus with Hamas chieftain Khaled Meshal as well as with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. A CNI advertisement in the New York Times explained: "Many Americans do not understand that Hamas is a typical anti-colonial insurgency responding to an Israeli occupation and what amounts to government terror against Palestinian civilians."

Findley's bizarre claims also include his contention that Israel's Mossad was implicated in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But NPR's Deborah Amos introduced this man as simply "a former Republican Congressman" with no hint of his wild theories and charges.

Findley's bizarre claims also include his contention that Israel's Mossad was implicated in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But NPR's Deborah Amos introduced this man as simply "a former Republican Congressman" with no hint of his wild theories and charges.

NPR in its pandering to Walt and Mearsheimer did not interview another outspoken fan of theirs – former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke who warmly endorsed their study as "a great step forward." Had they enlisted the white supremacist, no doubt Steve Inskeep would have introduced him simply as a former Louisiana legislator.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Of Gods & Men


Just saw Etienne Comar's and Xavier Beauvois's new French film, OF GODS & MEN. Can't recommend it highly enough, very serious and moving drama about French monks trapped in the Algerian Civil War, killed in 1996 by Islamist guerillas. It is about the power of their faith, and their decision to remain even when asked to leave, so as not to abandon their mission. What was so refreshing was the commitment shown. They simply refused to surrender their beliefs. It is about honor and faith and charity and hope and all the corny virtues that "sophisticated" American filmmakers no longer seem to understand. Yes, the heroes of this film became Christian martyrs. And the French message seems to be: "Death before dishonor."

Wish we saw some American films along these lines. IMHO, it should have won the Oscar instead of THE KING'S SPEECH, it's even better than THE SOCIAL NETWORK--because the topic is more serious. If not the Oscar, at least Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. It's the best film I've seen in years.

Five stars, plus.

Here's a link to the official website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/ofgodsandmen.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who Are the Libyan Rebels?

Some links with different answers:

ABC NEWS: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/libyan-rebels-target-libya-missile-strike-war-us-president-obama-battle-13176688

THE FINANCIAL TIMES: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5bfb98b0-52fd-11e0-86e6-00144feab49a.html

NOLAN CHART: http://www.nolanchart.com/article8465.html
None of this is surprising. The leaked State Department memos describe Eastern Libya (2008) as an area of fervent Islamic sentiment, where "a number of Libyans who had fought and in some cases undergone 'religious and ideological training' in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the West Bank in the late 1970's and early 1980's had returned [...] in the mid to late 1980's". There they engaged into "a deliberate, coordinated campaign to propagate more conservative iterations of Islam, in part to prepare the ground for the eventual overthrow by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) of Muammar Qadhafi's regime, which is 'hated' by conservative Islamists". While Qaddafi's position was perceived to be strong, the East Libyans sent jihadis to Iraq, where "fighting against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq represented a way for frustrated young radicals to strike a blow against both Qadhafi and against his perceived American backers".

It is these same religiously and ideologically trained East Libyans who are now armed and arrayed against Qaddafi. Qaddafi's claim that all his opponents are members of Al Qaeda is overblown, but also not very far off, in regards to their sympathies. Anyone claiming that the Eastern Libyans are standing for secular, liberal values needs to overcome a huge burden of proof. First, what is the social basis of such a movement, when neutral observers have been characterizing East Libya as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism? Second, if the revolt has started on religious grounds, when and how exactly has it radically changed its character?
Caroline Glick in THE JERUSALEM POST (ht Martin Kramer)
Then there is Libya. One of the most astounding aspects of the US debate on Libya in recent weeks has been the scant attention paid to the nature of the rebels.

The rebels are reportedly represented by the so-called National Transitional Council led by several of Gaddafi's former ministers.

But while these men - who are themselves competing for the leadership mantle - are the face of the NTC, it is unclear who stands behind them. Only nine of the NTC's 31 members have been identified.

Unfortunately, available data suggest that the rebels championed as freedom fighters by the neoconservatives, the opportunists, the Europeans and the Western media alike are not exactly liberal democrats. Indeed, the data indicate that Gaddafi's opponents are more aligned with al-Qaida than with the US.

Under jihadist commander Abu Yahya Al- Libi, Libyan jihadists staged anti-regime uprisings in the mid-1990s. Like today, those uprisings' central hubs were Benghazi and Darnah.

In 2007 Al-Libi merged his forces into al- Qaida. On March 18, while denouncing the US, France and Britain, Al-Libi called on his forces to overthrow Gaddafi.

A 2007 US Military Academy study of information on al-Qaida forces in Iraq indicate that by far, Eastern Libya made the largest per capita contribution to al-Qaida forces in Iraq.

None of this proves that the US is now assisting an al-Qaida takeover of Libya. But it certainly indicates that the forces being assisted by the US in Libya are probably no more sympathetic to US interests than Gaddafi is. At a minimum, the data indicate the US has no compelling national interest in helping the rebels in overthrow Gaddafi.

The significance of the US's descent into strategic irrationality bodes ill not just for US allies, but for America itself. Until the US foreign policy community is again able to recognize and work to advance the US's core interests in the Middle East, America's policies will threaten both its allies and itself.

Juan Williams on NPR's Fall

From The Hill:
Liley’s revealing comment and Schiller’s arrogance are instructive because they provide a window in to the culture of elitism that has corroded NPR’s leadership. They're willing to do anything in service of any liberal with money. This includes firing me and skewing the editorial content of their programming. If anyone challenges them on this point, they will claim with self-righteous indignation to have cleaner hands than the rest of the news media who accepts advertising revenue or expresses a point of view.

I'm not just talking about conservatives but also the far left, the poor – anybody who didn't fit into leadership's marketing design of NPR as the elitist voice of comfortable, liberal-leaning, highly educated, upper-income America.

As Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, it was not until he saw the secretly recorded videotape of NPR executives that he understood the extent of political bias at NPR. “Of all the data that we’ve seen, we still had not absorbed the culture of NPR until we saw the video of that dinner.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added: “Why should we allow taxpayer dollars to be used to advocate one ideology?”

That dinner tape and the Democrat’s fundraising letter set the table for a totally partisan vote with Republicans voting in opposition to public funding of NPR and Democrats voting for it. Last Thursday, 228 Republicans voted to defund NPR while seven Republicans joined with 185 Democrats to preserve it. The effort was largely symbolic as there is hardly any chance the Democrat-controlled Senate will go along with the House on this one. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is a huge NPR fan. When I was host of NPR’s afternoon talk show he once called me up to tell me how much he enjoyed an interview with soul singer Al Green. Sen. Reid is going to defend public radio.

The Democrat in the White House, President Obama, issued a statement of opposition to the House vote but stopped short of promising to veto any budget that eliminates NPR funding. And the White House did not make the case for why NPR deserves funding.

Before NPR’s top executive, Vivian Schiller, resigned her goal for NPR was to increase federal support to create an American version of the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC]. The BBC, which also began as a radio news service, is funded by a mandatory licensing fee paid by all British subjects. It is essentially a tax set by Parliament every year to support a national news operation.

At the moment the government funding for NPR is only one of many sources of revenue and a very small one in the grand scheme. Arguably, the appropriators of federal dollars are more important to the local affiliates who depend on that money to buy public broadcasting programming. To my mind, this is the underlying problem that connects the hidden camera episode and the funding issue.

Journalists should not be doing news to please any donors – private citizens, political parties or government officials – out of fear of losing funding.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

LIMITLESS...

Reviewed by Jefferson D. Dunbar:
LIMITLESS...
...concerns a "blocked" writer, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), who is unable to begin, let alone, complete his novel until he runs into his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who offers a rescue in the form of a new experimental, pharmaceutical drug called NZT, which is likely a stand in for the well known prescription drug Adderall. Desperate, Eddie accepts the pill. Reluctantly - at first. The effects occur within thirty seconds after we actually follow the pill down the inside of Eddie's throat. Seemingly unbounded, focused energy allow him to sanitize himself and his ratty apartment situated in a not so pleasant location in Manhattan's Chinatown. The bigger bonus is that he's able to finish his long overdue novel and turn it in to his publisher, who has long ago lost faith in Eddie.

An old saying goes something like: "...Nothing on this earth or in life is free..." Well, in "Limitless", it applies to Eddie. Because along with his new found success (financial freedom; the return of Lindy (Abbie Cornish), the girlfriend who dumps him early in the movie; a shave, haircut, and a hip new wardrobe), comes more than a few nefarious characters and wicked incidents that may lead some to believe Eddie sold his soul to Satan rather than swallowed a pill that contains more than one dangerous and deadly side effect. Not only does Eddie come near to losing his new life, he also places Lindy in harm's way.

There are a few surprising, enlightening twists - Eddie is not the only one who climbs the ladder of success taking multiple giant steps at a time. If one stops to consider the satirical subtext of "Limitless", some may come away wondering about or questioning the rapid rise to the room at the top of business icons such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg; Google creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin; and the sustained success of Apple's Steven Jobs. But see it for just what it is. A visually inventive and entertaining movie that utilizes more than its share of smoke, mirrors, and red herrings. "Limitless" opened nationwide Friday, March 18th. Neil Burger is the director and it is written by Leslie Dixon, based on Alan Glynn's novel, "The Dark Fields".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

White House Introduces Chutzpah.gov (aka FOIA.gov)

I got a laugh when I saw this, given 3 wasted years and 2 expensive lawsuits, that produced zero documents from my own FOIA request to the CIA about its role in the Andijan, Uzbekistan violence of May, 2005...IMHO, the Obama administration has been worse than Bush in this regard. From the White House blog:
Introducing FOIA.gov
Posted by Melanie Ann Pustay on March 14, 2011 at 07:33 PM EDT
Ed. Note: This post originally appeared on The Justice Blog.

FOIA.gov is a site dedicated to the Freedom of Information Act, a law at the very heart of open government. Congress passed the FOIA in 1966 and since then it has been known as the law that keeps citizens “in the know” about what their government is doing. Any citizen can make a FOIA request about any topic.

FOIA.gov makes it easier than ever to find information about the FOIA. With clear explanations and short videos, we’ve explored all the major aspects of the FOIA, including how you can make a request and what happens when you do.

We’ve also gathered information on where to send a FOIA request into one location. Just click on the name of a department and you’ll see where to send your request and the names of the officials responsible for making sure your request is completed.

If you want a quick glance at an agency’s data – we’ve got that too. Select any agency and you’ll see top-line data, like the number of requests for the most recent year and the number of total and partial grants made.

For more detailed information from an agency, you can generate your own report.

Each year, every federal agency is required to report to the Justice Department, which oversees FOIA compliance, basic information about how they complied with the law. This data is compiled into an annual report. This includes data like:

How many requests were received?
How many requests were processed?
How old is an agency’s oldest request?
How much did it cost to answer requests?
FOIA.gov takes that data and lets you search, sort and compare the information. You can compare one agency to another. You can even compare the data from within the offices of a single agency.

Every year, we’ll add the numbers to the database, allowing users to see trends over time. Using the “FOIA Spotlight” we will spotlight some of the most interesting documents to be released under the law. We’ve invited every agency to submit their suggestions for this section of the site.

The Freedom of Information Act is a key part of open government. FOIA.gov celebrates that, while providing a deeper look at how agencies are striving to improve their compliance with the law. We welcome your feedback on how we can improve the site in the future. If you have ideas, e-mail us at: feedback@foia.gov.

Melanie Ann Pustay is the Director of the Office of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice. OIP oversees agency compliance with FOIA directives and encourages all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA on behalf of the President and the Attorney General.
Not to be outdone, the US Department of Defense claims to still be "processing" a FOIA request that I filed in 2006--and given the lack of success in the last FOIA dispute, I haven't had the desire to spend any more money on attorneys to fight the delay. IMHO, they could call it the "Expensive Restriction of Information Act." The US government releases only what it chooses to release, to whom it chooses, when it chooses. We had better public information about our government before FOIA created the illusion of openness--thanks to people like Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson....

Ann Althouse's Madison, Wisconsin Updates

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Glenn Garvin on the NPR Scandal

From the Miami Herald:
If just 2 percent of NPR’s money comes from the government, why not just tell Congress to take a flying frack at a rolling doughnut? Two percent, heck, you could make that up on doughnuts. Tens of millions of Americans have taken hits of more than 2 percent in this economy and lived to tell about it. And think of the inner tranquility that 2 percent nip and tuck would buy: Nobody from NPR would ever again have to listen to some braying reactionary complaining that NPR has more practicing witches on its staff than Republicans. (Even if it’s true: NPR reporter Margot Adler is a Wiccan high priestess, while any registered Republicans on the staff remain deeply closeted.)

The answer: NPR gets a lot more than 2 percent of its budget from taxpayers — perhaps 20 times that. It’s completely a creature of government subsidies and cannot possibly survive in anything like its current form if Congress plucks public broadcasting from the federal teat. NPR’s real costs are hidden in a system of back-and-forth payments quaintly known along the Bogota-Miami axis as “money-laundering.”

Here’s how it works: Congress gives money to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which cuts off a small slice — the hallowed 2 percent — and hands it directly to NPR. The rest of the money goes out to public radio stations themselves, who then pay it back to NPR as programming fees. Other taxpayer money — from the Energy Department, state and local governments and state universities — also gets mixed into the pot.

In the end, something close to 40 percent of NPR’s budget has been extracted from taxpayers. And that doesn’t even include tax money spent on the operations of the radio stations themselves, without which there would be no audience for NPR programming. If NPR bosses look slightly twitchy when they talk about how insignificant their subsidies are, it’s probably because they’re glancing around for signs that the roof is about to fall in on them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Juan Williams: End Federal Funding for NPR

He's finally said it. I hope Congress listens, and acts accordingly. From FoxNews.com:
I'm not being vindictive when I say that NPR leadership had become ingrown and arrogant to the point that they lost sight of journalism as the essential product of NPR. People like Schiller and Ellen Weiss, the head of news for NPR, who made it her life's work to fire me, came to think of themselves as smarter than anyone else. They felt no need to answer to any critic. No other point of view had any importance to them. They came to personify anti-intellectual resentment and arrogance in journalism. Any approach at variance with their own was considered traitorous and a basis for exiling them to the Gulag or in my case, firing me.

The recent videotape showing NPR chief fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation to Vivian Schiller) is just an open microphone on what I've been hearing from NPR top executives and editors for years. They are willing to do anything in service to any liberal with money and then they will turn around and in self-righteous indignation claim that they have cleaner hands than anybody in the news business who accepts advertising or expresses a point of view.

Ron Schiller's performance on videotape -- which included lecturing two young men pretending to be Muslims on how to select wine -- is a "South Park" worthy caricature of the American liberal as an effete, Volvo-driving, wine-sipping, NPR-listening dunderhead.

The work of NPR's many outstanding journalists is barely an afterthought to leadership with this mindset and obsessed with funding. NPR has many, very good journalists. But they are caught in a game where they are trying to please a leadership that doesn't want to hear stories that contradict the official point of view. I'm not just talking about conservatives but also the far-left, the poor, anybody who didn't fit into leadership's design of NPR as the official voice of comfortable, liberal-leaning upper-income America.

This just confirms my belief that it is time for our government to get out of the business of funding NPR. NPR's management had been wanting to not only maintain current funding but expand the network to create a much larger BCC-style institution in the United States. The idea to me of government-funded media doesn't fit the United States. No matter the good intentions about protecting journalists from the excesses of the marketplace such as sensationalism and the dominance of entertainment news, journalists should not be doing news to please any party or any elected official -- out of fear of losing funding. And the tremendous variety of sources for news -- in print, broadcast, on the radio and on the Internet, does not suggest that there's any reason for the U.S. government to make a priority of supporting NPR while cutting funding for school breakfast programs or college scholarships.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, Fox News may have budget struggles but they do fine journalism while accepting advertising. Over the last several years, NPR's leadership had become so obsessed with the money issue, as evidenced by Ron Schiller's behavior, that it had started to corrupt the news gathering process because non-profit fundraising has devolved into an underworld cesspool.

The result is that NPR's leadership under the likes of Weiss and the two Schillers has been diminishing their own brand. They created an anti-intellectual environment that took delight and pride in censoring journalists like me for honestly admitting that people dressed in Muslim garb make me nervous at airports. They had lost slight of promoting debates and providing information that is essential for people who want to be well-informed as citizens of a thriving democracy.

I am still insulted when I hear Ron Schiller, no doubt reflecting his boss Vivian Schiller, still making the case that my firing as a good thing, it was just handled badly. This was not a process problem. I said nothing, I violated no journalistic standard that should have resulted in me being fired. It's only in the very small world and small thinking of NPR's leadership that appearing on Fox News Channel and speaking about a feeling in the context of a larger debate somehow makes for a bad journalist who needs to be muzzled.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sympathy to Japan...and a link to Google's Crisis Response Website

Our thoughts go out to our Japanese readers, and to those affected by the terrible earthquake, tsunami, and its aftermath. Here's a link to Google's Crisis Response Website, which includes a "people finder" to help locate missing persons:

http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tim Graham Explains NPR Scandal to ABC Nightline

Althouse Reader Explains NPR Scandal

Tom from Virginia posted this parable to explain NPR's candid camera video scandal:
A man in Havana loses his parrot. He reports it to the Ministry of Lost Pets and tells them "if you find my parrot, please understand that I do not agree with any of his political opinions."

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

NPR Boss Quits

From NPR's website:
NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned, NPR just announced.

This follows yesterday's news that then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) was videotapped slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding during a lunch with men posing as members of a Muslim organization (they were working with political activist James O'Keefe on a "sting.")

Vivian Schiller quickly condemned Ron Schiller's comments, and he moved up an already-announced decision to leave NPR and resigned effectively immediately. But Ron Schiller's gaffe followed last fall's dismissal of NPR political analyst Juan Williams, for which Vivian Schiller came under harsh criticism.

NPR just sent this statement from NPR Board of Directors Chairman Dave Edwards to its staff and member stations:

"It is with deep regret that I tell you that the NPR Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

"The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.

"Vivian brought vision and energy to this organization. She led NPR back from the enormous economic challenges of the previous two years. She was passionately committed to NPR's mission, and to stations and NPR working collaboratively as a local-national news network.

"According to a CEO succession plan adopted by the Board in 2009, Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, has been appointed to the position of Interim CEO. The Board will immediately establish an Executive Transition Committee that will develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership.

"I recognize the magnitude of this news – and that it comes on top of what has been a traumatic period for NPR and the larger public radio community. The Board is committed to supporting NPR through this interim period and has confidence in NPR's leadership team."
According to NPR's website, the new NPR boss apparently has a background in what Senator DeMint calls the "Muppet Lobby's" licensing business, marketing Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine and Sesame Street. In addition, she had been NPR's "Chief Ethics Officer" (sic)--therefore, logically responsible for the type of ethical problems at NPR revealed in James O'Keefe's hidden camera expose, which must have occured under her "ethics guidelines" and obviously on her watch:
Joyce Slocum joined NPR in July 2008 and serves as Senior Vice President, Legal Affairs, and General Counsel. She is responsible for directing all legal and business activities and the staff of the Office of the General Counsel. In addition, Slocum serves as NPR's Chief Ethics Officer and as Secretary to the NPR Board of Directors.

Prior to joining NPR, Slocum was Executive Vice President, Global Legal and Business Affairs, and General Counsel at HIT Entertainment, a leading provider of high-quality children's programming worldwide. There, she oversaw all legal and business affairs aspects of the company's content production, acquisition, and distribution businesses (more than 1,500 hours in its catalogue), directing a 23-person in-house legal team. Slocum assumed the role at HIT in 2001, when it acquired ownership of Lyrick Corporation, a privately owned entertainment company that she joined in 1994 to establish that company's first in-house legal department. Following the HIT/Lyrick acquisition, the combined companies' legal and business affairs worldwide were consolidated under Slocum's leadership.

Among her accomplishments, she was a key participant in bringing together HIT, PBS, Sesame Workshop, and Comcast Cable to establish the 24/7 pre-school children's channel PBS Kids Sprout. Launched in 2005, Sprout is now available on digital cable and satellite to over 45 million homes. Slocum also played a critical role in HIT's acquisition of Gullane Entertainment, a publicly traded UK company which owned the Guinness World Records and Thomas the Tank Engine properties, among others, and in acquiring representation rights for other famous properties.

From 1984 to 1994, Slocum was staff attorney for The Southland Corporation, where her work included international licensing and franchising, involvement with the company's business expansion, and serving as a liaison between the company and its licensees, franchise owners' groups, community groups, and government officials. Slocum's early legal career was as an associate at the firm Johnson & Swanson in Dallas.

She received her B.A. from Southern Illinois University and her J.D. cum laude from St. Louis University School of Law.

Saudi Opposition Calls for DC Protest

Ali Alyami of the Campaign for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudie Arabia sent the following email:
Freedom fighters, please join us
Tyranny is a threat to humanity
The Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia invites you to join us on March 11, 2011 at 10 AM in front of the White House to show our solidarity with and support for the Saudi people in their noble struggle to liberate themselves and their country from the yoke of oppression, gender segregation, discrimination, exploitation, religious extremism and its byproduct, terrorism. Stand up and join us to demonstrate our universal commitment for what’s morally right.
Contact: Ali Alyami 202.413.0084, ali@cdhr.info

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Why Didn't We See This NPR Hidden Camera Interview on 60 Minutes?

From the Daily Caller (ht Drudge):
A man who appears to be a National Public Radio senior executive, Ron Schiller, has been captured on camera savaging conservatives and the Tea Party movement.

“The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian – I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move,” declared Schiller, the head of NPR’s nonprofit foundation, who last week announced his departure for the Aspen Institute.

In a new video released Tuesday morning by conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe, Schiller and Betsy Liley, NPR’s director of institutional giving, are seen meeting with two men who, unbeknownst to the NPR executives, are posing as members of a Muslim Brotherhood front group. The men, who identified themselves as Ibrahim Kasaam and Amir Malik from the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center (MEAC) Trust, met with Schiller and Liley at Café Milano, a well-known Georgetown restaurant, and explained their desire to give up to $5 million to NPR because, “the Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere.”

On the tapes, Schiller wastes little time before attacking conservatives. The Republican Party, Schiller says, has been “hijacked by this group.” The man posing as Malik finishes the sentence by adding, “the radical, racist, Islamaphobic, Tea Party people.” Schiller agrees and intensifies the criticism, saying that the Tea Party people aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

Schiller goes on to describe liberals as more intelligent and informed than conservatives. “In my personal opinion, liberals today might be more educated, fair and balanced than conservatives,” he said.
Here's a link to the Project Veritas NPR Investigative Journalism Website.
Here's a partial transcript from National Review Online:
On the Jewish influence of media coverage:

Fake Muslim: … The extent to which Jews do kind of control the media. I mean, certainly the Zionists and the people who have the interest in swaying media coverage toward a favorable direction of Israel. The Palestinian viewpoint since NPR is one of the few places that has the courage to really present it. It was kind of a joke that we used to call it National Palestinian Radio.

Lilely: Oh, really? That’s good. I like that.

Fake Muslim: I’m not too upset about maybe a little bit less Jew influence of Jewish money into NPR. The Zionist coverage is quite substantial elsewhere …

Schiller: I don’t actually find it at NPR.

Fake Muslim: What exactly?

Schiller: The Zionist or pro-Israel even among funders. … I mean, it’s there in those who own newspapers obviously, but no one owns NPR. So actually, I don’t find it.

Fake Muslim: I just think what Israel does, I don’t think, can be excused frequently, so I’m glad to hear that. …

[Lilely talks about how one of NPR’s funders, the American Jewish World Service, doesn’t necessarily agree with NPR’s perspectives always.]

Schiller: Right because I think they are really looking for a fair point of view and many Jewish organizations are not. Frankly, many organizations … I’m sure there are Muslim organizations that are not looking for a fair point of view. They’re looking for a very particular point of view and that’s fine.

Fake Muslim:We’re not one of them.

Schiller: I’m gathering that you’re not.

Fake Muslim: Our funding comes from a place like the Muslim Brotherhood. You look at the way they are demonized and looked down on and shown as horrible, terrible people when they are simply just trying to help.

Lilely: Sadly, our history from the record … shows that we’ve done this before. We put Japanese Americans in camps in World War II.

On Juan Williams:

Schiller: In all of the uproar for example around Juan Williams, what NPR did, I’m very proud of. What NPR stood for is non-racist, non-bigoted, straightforward telling of the news. Our feeling is that if a person expresses his or her opinion, which anyone is entitled to do in a free society, they are compromised as a journalist, they can no longer fairly report. And the question we asked internally was can Juan Williams when he makes a statement like he made can he report to the Muslim population, for example, and be believed and the answer is no. He lost all credibility and that breaks your basic ethics as a journalist.

Happy International Women's Day!

In the former USSR it's Secretary's Day, Mother's Day, and Valentine's Day all rolled into one...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Paul Moyar: To Win Afghan War, Cut USAID Funding

After 10 years of fighting, someone finally publishes the obvious: USAID money has paid for the Taliban to fight the US Army. So says Dr. Paul Moyar, in a summary of his study, Development in Afghanistan's Counterinsurgency: A New Guide, posted on the Small Wars Journal Blog:
In the areas of Afghanistan beset by insurgency, development spending has done little to increase popular support for the government, casting doubt on the counterinsurgency and development theories that have inspired this spending. Practitioners, however, have lacked access to viable alternative theories or principles on the use of development in COIN. This guide offers a comprehensive alternative approach, derived from the leader-centric model of counterinsurgency and based upon a wide variety of counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and previous conflicts. According to this approach, the primary purpose of development aid in counterinsurgency should be to improve local security and governance, because development is less important than security and governance and is effective only where security and governance are present. Development aid should be used to co-opt local elites, not to obtain the gratitude of the entire population, and should be made contingent on reciprocal action by those elites. The elites must be selected carefully, as the selection of certain elites will empower malign actors or alienate other elites. The number of organizations involved in development activities should be kept as small as possible, and greater attention should be paid to the selection of leaders for those organizations, as leadership quality has a great impact on project effectiveness. In select districts and provinces, governors should be permitted to use development aid to bolster patronage networks. The current aid streams flowing into Afghanistan far exceed the capacity of leaders and development personnel to handle them, so aid levels should be reduced, and emphasis on quantity of aid spent should be replaced with emphasis on attainment of COIN objectives. In Afghanistan, senior leaders of USAID and other foreign development organizations still prefer long-term development to short-term stabilization, to the detriment of the counterinsurgency. If they cannot be convinced to change their ways, then their participation in Afghanistan may need to be downsized.
You may download the full report as a PDF file, here.