Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Test of journalism ahead


This week in Chicago, we'll get a read on the ideology of the MSM. We have a perfect storm building—irrefutable good news from Iraq that the surge is working and a convention Thursday-Sunday in Chicago of anti-war lefties hosted by hate speech spewer Markos Moulitsas Zúniga that is being legitimized by nearly every major Democrat in the country.

As a former reporter, this is exactly what we lived for—conflict. In a world without ideological bias, the news media would be asking all those Democrats on their pilgrammage to their liberal promised land, "YearlyKos" their opinions about the positive military progress in Iraq. Even the Chicago Tribune's Swamp, at the end of the day yesterday, acknowledged that the op-ed by liberal Brookings Institution scholars Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack was bound to throw a hand grenade into conventional wisdom in Washington.

Congressional Democrats and Democratic presidential candidates who are arguing for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq will have to contend with an op-ed piece in the New York Times that has gotten a lot of attention in Washington today and will for weeks to come.

The piece about Iraq is headlined "A War We Just Might Win" and it was the equivalent of kicking the legs out from under the anti-Iraq war faction within the Democratic establishment by two people within that very establishment.
That op-ed was based on a recent eight-day visit.

Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily "victory" but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.

After the furnace-like heat, the first thing you notice when you land in Baghdad is the morale of our troops. In previous trips to Iraq we often found American troops angry and frustrated — many sensed they had the wrong strategy, were using the wrong tactics and were risking their lives in pursuit of an approach that could not work.

Today, morale is high. The soldiers and marines told us they feel that they now have a superb commander in Gen. David Petraeus; they are confident in his strategy, they see real results, and they feel now they have the numbers needed to make a real difference.
A rundown of the reaction to the sea change op-ed is available here.

Will the news media press Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Dick Durbin, et. al, for their reactions to not only the op-ed piece but observations from the New York Times' John Burns and others that the surge is working. After all, all those politicians declared that the surge was futile and our further involvement in Iraq is a mistake. What do they say now? Will the media allow them to get away with their shop worn cliches such as, "We shouldn't be intervening in a sectarian civil war?" As anybody who has been following the progress in Iraq will note, al Qaeda has been trying to provoke a civil war and our focus on the instigators has turned the war effort around.

Just today, Markos continues to promote our retreat from Iraq at the same time our troops are defeating our enemies.

The Democrats' unprecedented proclamation of defeat and retreat in the midst of a winnable war is of historical note. Will they be held responsible? The YearlyKos is the perfect test case of whether the MSM is composed of impartial journalists or pr agents for liberal rock star Markos. The media flunked the test last year. It has a chance to redeem itself in a few days. We'll be watching.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

More dead wrong analysis by MSM

I have nothing personal against Chicago Tribune national correspondent Mark Silva—I don't know him. Yet his name keeps appearing on obviously biased or off-base articles.

Today, his "analysis" of why John McCain's candidacy for president is sinking is nearly 100 percent wrong. In short, Silva said McCain's support for the Iraq War is killing his candidacy.

Today, McCain's establishment-oriented campaign for president is imploding under the weight of the candidate's own attachment to a political black hole, the war in Iraq. With the newest resignations of his campaign's media experts, following the earlier departure of his managers, McCain approaches a critical fall primary campaign in debt and in lack of much hope for reviving the sputtering star of his candidacy.
That may be the narrative that Silva wants to believe, but it is dead wrong. McCain's support of the war is one of the positions that conservatives and most mainline Republicans admire. I saw that myself in a roundtable meeting of conservative leaders in Illinois a few months ago. Instead, Republicans' problems with McCain largely center on his support of McCain-Feingold, the perception that he panders to the MSM, and, now, his soft immigration stance.

Anyone tracking the polling would notice that the immigration debate caused the bottom to fall out of McCain's already sagging numbers. If Silva had visited any of the big GOP political blogs or listened to any commentators other than liberal ones, he could have figured out McCain's problem with GOP voters quite easily.

Or, he could have used an ounce of logic. ALL major Republican presidential candidates strongly support President's Bush's position in Iraq and believe we must achieve victory there rather than scamper for the borders like the Democrats advocate. If all the GOP candidates have the same position on Iraq and only one has dropping poll numbers, it would be elementary to assume Iraq wasn't the reason for the decline.

Republicans like me admire McCain for his unwavering support for victory in Iraq. We all know that is a plus for McCain, not a minus. The only people who seem incapable of comprehending this are MSM reporters, who can't wait to forward another anti-war narrative, regardless of the truth.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Patton on Iraq

The General lives.


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The surge, the mob, and Blago

Three new websites/blogs to pay attention to:
Victory Caucus. A one-stop destination for reporting from Iraq you won't find in the MSM. Citizen-journalists, at the tip of the surge, send back riveting reports from the front, free of liberal media filters. The site also has useful information about the country in general.

Chicago Sun-Times mob blog. Intrepid reporter Steve Warmbir adds important color to his day-to-day "Family Secrets" mob trial coverage from the federal courthouse in Chicago. He also answers questions from readers.

Anti-Blagojevich blog. The Illinois State Party, better late than never, starts a blog centered on the plentiful material surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mistake-prone Hunter won't stop digging

Maybe "columnist" Jennifer Hunter of the Chicago Sun-Times won't admit her whopper of a mistake because she has made so many in recent months.

I can't think of a more rational explanation for Hunter's hysterical column this morning. In it, for the second time, she tries to defend the indefensible—that her July 16 column claiming Pennsylvania trial lawyer James Ronca is a "staunch Republican" was correct. She used that description as a convenient hammer against President George W. Bush, saying that Ronca had switched parties and now was supporting Democratic presidential candidates.

As those who have been following this story know, conservative bloggers quickly found that Ronca was anything but a "staunch Republican." In the last dozen years, he has given approximately $10,000 to federal candidates. More than 90 percent has gone to Democrats, including such lightning rod figures as uber liberals Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Nobody can reasonably be called Republican with those metrics.

Jack Kelly, columnist of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, excorciates Hunter today for refusing to admit her mistake. Instead, Hunter has written two columns belittling those who question her as partisans.

If Ms. Hunter had fessed up, I wouldn't be writing about her. But she responded by attacking Web loggers for doing the research she should have done, and blaming her error on her editor.

"The grumbling arose partially because my editor took a small part of my story and made it into a headline: 'GOP lawyer sold on Dems,'" Ms. Hunter wrote in her July 19 column.

But what her readers objected to was the description of Mr. Ronca as a "staunch Republican," which was Ms. Hunter's own, and which appeared in her lede. To blame the headline writer for the mistake is as dishonest as it is lame.
Other respected conservative websites operated by experienced lawyers have also weighed in, including Power Line, and Patterico's Pontifications.

Back to my original premise. Why is Hunter digging in and threatening to enlarge this story when she is so obviously wrong? Maybe because she is reaching the point where her mistakes are becoming an issue—even though she has plenty of cover as wife of the Sun-Times publisher.

Here's what a quick search turned up:

Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
July 13, 2007
Jennifer Hunter's column Thursday should have said that a quote from Arthur Schlesinger reflected President Kennedy's concerns. The column also should have stated that the Iraq war started more than four years ago.

Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
June 22, 2007
Jennifer Hunter's column on Thursday incorrectly suggested that Sen. Barack Obama is a recent supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. In fact, he was one of 46 Democratic co-sponsors of the act.

Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
May 18, 2007
-Jennifer Hunter's Tuesday column should have identified J.B. Pritzker as the national chairman of Citizens for Hillary, a campaign initiative charged with grass-roots outreach and policy matters for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
October 6, 2006
In a column by Jennifer Hunter about Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in Wednesday's editions, the word "until'' was dropped, altering the meaning of a sentence. It should have read: "And what she has done in a socially conservative country -- that until recently banned divorce, is staunchly Roman Catholic and will not allow abortions -- is miraculous.''
Because Hunter won't admit this larger mistake, she is assuring that the last line in her column today—"As far as I'm concerned, this is the end of the conversation."—won't come true.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Daily Herald takes a hit

My former employer, the Daily Herald, is feeling the deep pain that permeates the newspaper industry—the nosedive of classified and display advertising and an evaporating readership base.

This trend is nothing new, of course, but the DH has been able to sidestep some of it the last two decades by moving quickly to gain market share in fast-growing suburbs.

But the hard reality is setting in—even the Daily Herald must dramatically change its product or continue the slide. Daily Herald President/CEO Doug Ray spelled it out in a companywide memo last week (via Mike Miner) that included the news that pay raises would be frozen, salaries cut 5 percent across-the-board, and department budgets cut 10 percent.

As I said in my last operational update, the precipitous drop in advertising revenue has made this one of the most difficult years in some time.

In fact, the traditional display and classified advertising categories have fallen this year to levels not seen since our most difficult recessionary cycle. In past cyclical downturns, we have weathered the storm with temporary measures that reduced expenses, awaiting a return of business in the wake of economic recovery.

This situation is different and requires short-term expense reduction initiatives as well as long-term structural adjustments in the way we do business, which will position the company for the future.
Doug Ray hired me at the Daily Herald more than 20 years ago and I worked there nearly 10 years. During that time, the paper was growing rapidly. Its circulation was about 70,000 or so when I was hired and it is about 150,000 today. There are many fine people at the Herald and one of the attractions of working there was the company's fighting spirit and its nimble adjustments to market trends. For example, the paper was a nationwide leader in "zoning" its various editions to provide a tailored product to dozens of suburban population clusters.

That nimbleness might be an advantage for the paper as it heads quite literally into a fight for its life. Only those newspapers that thoroughly and rapidly reinvent themselves as internet products will likely make it. Here's hoping new Managing Editor Madeleine Doubek, Ray and others at the DH can pull it off.

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Hunter digs deeper

Clueless Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jennifer Hunter is digging deeper after her embarrassing mistake labeling a Pennsylvania trial lawyer and Democratic contributor as a "staunch Republican."

She refused to admit her mistake and instead inartfully tried to mock Republicans for calling her on it. Now, she is drawing another round of deserved scorn on the blogosphere. This, today, from the respected conservative website, American Thinker, which recounts how a reader spent a mere 20 minutes of fact checking that Hunter should have performed. The post concludes that Hunter might be incompetent instead of biased.

The Homer Glen resident, who does not have a journalism background, utilized the internet to find out basic facts about Ronca. Just like me, he found the FEC filings listing political contributions. He also verified that the James Ronca listed was the same person in the story by doing a basic internet name search through Google. Burian located the law firm he works for and sent Ronca an email verifying that he was the same person in the story. James Ronca, who according to his biography is former President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, confirmed that he was in fact the same person in the article.

Burian claims that his amateur investigation took about "20 minutes." In the time it takes to cook a frozen pizza, he was able to determine without a shadow of a doubt that Ronca could not be labeled a "staunch Republican." The question still remains, why couldn't or wouldn't a professional journalist for a highly respected newspaper verify her source and come to the same conclusion?
Patterico's Pontifications, the blog that broke the Hunter story, is amazed at Hunter's continued refusal to acknowledge her huge blunder.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pete Hegseth vs. John Kerry

When I watched television the other night and saw Iraqi war vet Pete Hegseth, I thought of John Kerry.

Kerry served his country in Vietnam and then came back to a nation divided by the war. He made the decision to trash our troops. He spoke before Congress and was regaled by the news media, which was siding with the anti-war movement. Surely the young John Kerry made a calculation at the time that he could instantly be somebody by taking the route he chose. The downside of his decision is that he left behind a cadre of his brothers who never forgave him for selling them out. They were the Swift Boat Veterans, who sunk his candidacy for president.

Pete Hegseth is a courageous and smart patriot. Princeton educated, he chucked a great Wall Street job to fight in Iraq. Back in America, he could be an instant hero on TV by criticizing the war. Instead, he is standing up everywhere and defending it, saying we must succeed to protect our long-term national security interests. He makes it on TV, but hardly as a hero. I watched the other night as MSNBC's Chris Matthews interrupted him and generally treated him as a semi-criminal. Of course, Hegseth deserves our gratitude instead of our scorn, and it tells you all you need to know about the MSM that it treats Cindy Sheehan better than it treats men and women like Hegseth.

Kerry came back from Vietnam and took the easy road of sure approval. Hegseth is taking a tougher route, swimming against the tide of public opinion. A hero is defined by acts of courage. Pete Hegseth showed his courage in Iraq and he's showing it as executive director of the Vets for Freedom. Even though the news media is not on his side, there's one consolation: If he ever runs for public office, he won't have to look over his shoulder for a band of angry brothers filming a negative TV ad.

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Durbin snubs General, embraces Markos

Our Senator Dick Durbin did not attend a video briefing today by our commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus. After the briefing, Durbin's staff blamed the White House for inadequate notification, even though many of Durbin's Democratic colleagues knew about it and attended.

The above facts are a perfect microcosm of Durbin's behavior as a senator. He has his spin, and he won't allow inconvenient facts to get in their way. And when in doubt, blame President Bush.

Radio host/blogger Hugh Hewitt interviewed Petraeus for nearly an hour yesterday and elicited some fascinating information from the man whose been in Iraq most of the war. I encourage anyone who wants unbiased information about what's going on now to read the entire interview. Petraeus, as even liberals know, is not prone to sugarcoating anything.

Here's one exchange:

HH: Welcome, General. You took over command of the multinational forces in February of this year, February 10. In the past five months, how have conditions in Iraq changed?

DP: Well, obviously, we have been surging our forces during that time. We have added five Army brigade combat teams, two Marine battalions, and a Marine expeditionary unit, and some enablers, as they're called. And over the last month, that surge of forces has turned into a surge of offensive operations. And we have achieved what we believe is a reasonable degree of tactical momentum on the ground, gains against the principal near-term threat, al Qaeda-Iraq, and also gains against what is another near-term threat, and also potentially the long term threat, Shia militia extremists as well. As you may have heard, that today, we announced the capture of the senior Iraqi leader of al Qaeda-Iraq, and that follows in recent weeks the detention of some four different emirs, as they're called, the different area leaders of al Qaeda, six different foreign fighter facilitators, and a couple dozen other leaders, in addition to killing or capturing hundreds of other al Qaeda-Iraq operatives.

HH: Do you think al Qaeda in Iraq is buckling, General Petraeus?

DP: Well, it's probably too soon to say that, but we think that we have them off plan. Now having said that, they clearly retain and have demonstrated, tragically in recent, the past week or so, the ability to continue to carry out sensational attacks. They continue to demonstrate the ability to counterattack against our forces, and those of our coalition partners. But the detention, or the capture or killing of the number of leaders that we have taken out in recent months, and weeks, actually, and the progress in terms of just clearing areas of them…as you know, Anbar Province has really become quite relatively clear of al Qaeda. Eastern Anbar still has some, and we are working in that area. We have recently cleared Western Baquba, which was almost al Qaeda central, the capitol of the new caliphate that they have tried to establish here in Iraq. So there has been considerable progress against them, but they do continue to receive foreign fighters through Syria, who become suicide bombers in many cases, and they do certainly have an ability to regenerate, to regroup, and to come back at us.
Durbin doesn't want to be bothered by information like this. One event he won't miss, however, is the YearlyKos hate speech fest in Chicago next month, where he already is booked as a speaker. The event is put on by DailyKos blogger Markos Moulitsas Zúniga who uttered one of the most despicable sentiments of the entire war.

Senator Dick has his priorities.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jennifer Hunter of the DNC

We've said it here many times before: It is much easier being a Democratic public relations person than a Republican one. That's because the news media does their work for them, free of charge.

"Columnist" Jennifer Hunter of the Chicago Sun-Times is proving that point in dramatic fashion the last two days.

On Monday, she wrote about a "staunch Republican" lawyer who had decided to suddenly support Democrats for president because of his dissatisfaction with the Republican Party. The Power Line blog's John Hinderaker uncovered that the lawyer, Jim Ronca, is not really a Republican at all—he is a top ranking trial lawyer in Pennsylvania. That affiliation alone would have told a journalist with a warm pulse that the lawyer was probably not a Republican. But not Hunter, who of course was too lazy to do a five-minute check of his prior campaign contributions, which showed most of his past donations went to Democrats, including Ted Kennedy.

It's worse than that, too. The reporter, Jennifer Hunter, didn't just take Ronca's word for his political affiliation without researching his political contributions. The event she was covering was the annual convention of the "American Association for Justice," which is the new name for the American Trial Lawyers' Association (ATLA). ATLA, an association of plaintiffs' lawyers, has long been one of the principal supporters of the Democratic Party. This is why the newly-named AAJ invited the Democratic Presidential candidates, not the Republicans, to speak at a lunch forum, and also invited Howard Dean to address another event at the convention. As for Jim Ronca himself, he is a well-known plaintiffs' lawyer and a former President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers' Association.

Now, it is possible for an ATLA bigwig to be a Republican. But the odds against it are long, just as it's highly unlikely that an officer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will turn out to be a member of the GOP. For a reporter to cover this event and not understand that she was swimming in a sea of Democrats, so that Ronca's claim to be a "staunch Republican" needed verification, was singularly obtuse.

I've written to Ms. Hunter for an explanation of how this deception occurred, and will publish any response I receive.
Hunter followed that intrepid journalism up with a gem today titled "Could Obama end centuries of corruption?" It started on this note:

Even in colonial days, chicanery and corruption were endemic among American politicians. It's become part of the American electoral tradition.

Can it ever be fixed? Barack Obama has been a champion of improving government ethics at both the state and federal level, but he faces a long history of improbity among our elected officials.
Apparently Hunter does not read the paper her husband publishes. In news stories, it has strongly questioned Obama's ethics in his dealings with indicted businessman Tony Rezko. And it's a matter of public record that Obama has cozied up to and failed to speak out against ethically challenged city and state Democrats, including the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Obama talks about ethics, but his record shows that he doesn't always walk the talk. Even a "staunch" liberal like Steve Rhodes found the column absurd.

What's coming tomorrow, Jennifer? A column on how Dennis Kucinich would be tougher against al Qaeda than Rudy Giuliani?

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Monday, July 16, 2007

An AT&T view on the iPhone

The AT&T-Apple partnership on the iPhone is decidely one-sided: Apple gets all the credit for the product and, if things go wrong, AT&T is invariably blamed. Here's a note sent to me by a friend in Missouri who works for AT&T:

Buying an iPhone, whether it is an Apple Store or an AT&T store is very easy. Once you make the decision to buy, you should be out of the store--once you speak with a sales person--in five minutes. It's that fast. Of course, that's because the activation process takes place via the iTunes site. There is no other way.

Now, you're going to be excited--like a five year-old on Christmas morning--with your iPhone purchase. That's fine--up to a point. Many of the activation problems have resulted from new owners who hook up to the device, click next...next...next....and realize than rather keeping their same number--whether they're a current AT&T Mobility customer or they want to "port" their number to AT&T--they've accidentally signed up for service with a brand new phone number.

So slow down!

There is no way to "unlock" an iPhone, that is, to deprogram it so it can work on another GSM carrier's network, whether in the United States or overseas.

If you try to mess with it, or hand it over to an "expert," you've not only voided the warranty, but the phone probably won't work again. But you've got a unique paperweight on your hands.

Don't be a cheapskate with your iPhone--by a leather case for it. Would you buy a car without a bumper? Accidents happen, and over the next 24 months---you cannot buy an iPhone without a two year contract--your device will be dropped.

Outside of billing issues, Apple handles all iPhone problems. If your device is defective, call 1-800-MYIPHONE, or go to an Apple retail outlet. AT&T staff are unable to help you--don't travel to a AT&T store, and demand to see the manager and try to "work the system." The system is as simple as this: You'll be dealing with Apple. Besides, very few AT&T employees---and only the top executives--have an iPhone, or have handled one other than the demo units in the store.

Whether it's an Apple or AT&T store--and you arrive and find out their out of iPhones, direct fulfillment--having the handset shipped to you, works fabulously. Currently, purchasers are receiving their iPhones five business days after ordering it.

The handset works great. The negative, is that multimedia messaging, that is picturing messaging doesn't work on the iPhone. Pictures can be sent via e-mail though.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Obama: Four-star bumbler

Barack Obama will not acknowledge al Qaeda's existence in Iraq because it fits a partisan political agenda. If we had a news media that wasn't slanted hard left, he'd have to answer for this ridiculous statement.
"We cannot win a war against the terrorists if we're on the wrong battlefield," Obama said. "America must urgently begin deploying from Iraq and take the fight more effectively to the enemy's home by destroying al-Qaida's leadership along the Afghan-Pakistan border, eliminating their command and control networks and disrupting their funding."
Barack doesn't do much reading, apparently. Here's what Pulitzer Prize winning author Lawrence Wright said about al Qaeda in Iraq:

Secondly, there is al Qaeda in Iraq, which is really the heart and soul of al Qaeda right now, and that's where the main effort is.
We are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq every day. That's where much of the enemy is right now. If Barack Obama is too dense to absorb this, he certainly is not qualified to be commander-in-chief.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

National media rolls over and plays dead

The most disgraceful chapter in the national media's sorry coverage of the Iraq War is happening right now. The MSM simply refuses to seriously cover what is happening in Iraq except if it gets tape of a suicide bombing, which of course is exactly the outcome terrorists are trying to achieve.

There are major successes occurring on the ground in Iraq. We have moved Al Qaeda out of Baquba, its base of operations. We have helped turned many of the Iraqi people against Al Qaeda. Yet, there's nobody there to report it. Jules Crittenden, journalist/blogger, says this in a comprehensive, forceful, must-read post:

So please let me know if you find it: An actual, meaningful, in-depth look at the execution of the counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq by someone who has taken the time to understand what its goals and methods are, and isn't just interested in kicking the crap out of it from a distance. An effort to understand and report fairly on what may be the last chance to prevent a bloody humanitarian disaster on a scale not seen since Cambodia, quick, before the opportunity is thrown away.

I was going to wrap this rant up right there, but I read back over it and still can't believe it. It is absolutely stunning in its absence. A screaming vacuum. I wonder how it is this possible.
Meanwhile, to prove the point, Hugh Hewitt interviews war blogger Michael Yon, who has been on the ground in the heart of the action. Keep in mind that Yon is no neo-con lapdog: he declared Iraq a civil war in early 2005.

HH: Now yesterday, Harry Reid said on the floor of the Senate that the surge has failed. Do you think there's any factual basis for making that assertion, Michael Yon, from what you've seen in Iraq over the last many months?

MY: He's wrong, he's wrong. It has absolutely not failed, and in fact, I'm finally willing to say it in public. I feel like it's starting to succeed. And you know, I'm kind of stretching a little bit, because we haven't gone too far into it, but I can see it from my travels around, for instance, in Anbar and out here in Diyala Province as well. Baghdad's still very problematic. But there's other areas where you can clearly see that there is a positive effect. And the first and foremost thing we have to do is knock down al Qaeda. And with them alienating so many Iraqis, I mean, they're almost doing it for us. I mean, yeah, it takes military might to finally like wipe them out of Baquba, but it's working. I mean, I sense that the surge is working. Reid is just wrong.
Because the MSM is closing its eyes to success, they let Reid and other Democrats get away with statements that are clearly false. No wonder Joe Lieberman is embarrassed to be a Democrat.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

IPA's bounty to politicians: $923,269

Cal Skinner asked me in the comments the other day how much the controversial business consulting firm International Profit Associates of Buffalo Grove, IL. has given politicians in campaign contributions. The answer is $923,269 from the company and its executives to state and federal candidates.

I've written extensively about the company, whose trail of public documents tells a tale of sex, fraud and politics. Draw your own conclusions why the Democratic Attorney General of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, has investigated IPA for four years looking for fraud, and, despite 175 complaints in her own office and more than 400 from the Better Business Bureau and a wide-ranging civil RICO lawsuit, among many other private fraud actions, has done nothing.

Notable unreturned donations
Hillary Clinton $150,000 including ride on IPA corporate jet in 2004
John Edwards $6,000
Democratic National Senatorial Committee $86,000
Democratic National Congressional Committee $32,500
John Kerry $47,500
Melissa Bean, U.S. House, $23,700
Ted Kennedy $2,000
Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Governor $25,000
Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General $20,750
Dan Seals, Congressional candidate, $8,400
Jan Schakowsky,U.S. House, $2,000
Chris Lauzen, Illinois State Senator $77,650

Notable returned
Barack Obama, $2.000
Rod Blagojevich, Illinois Governor, $195,200
Andrew Cuomo, New York Attorney General, $20,000
Jim Doyle, Wisconsin Governor, $10,000
Peg Lautenschlager, former Wisconsin Attorney General, $25,000
This list does not include donations from IPA's lawyer, Myron "Mike" Cherry, deemed by the news media to be "Individual H" in the Tony Rezko indictment. Cherry was on the host committee of a recent Hillary Clinton fundraiser in Chicago and he raises and or donates money to many Democrats, including the slow-on-the-draw AG Madigan.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

The ghosts of al Qaeda

Liberals love to spin the fantasy that the NY Times and other news media failed to properly scrutinize the case for war before the U.S. invaded Iraq. Had the news media been tougher on George W. Bush, we wouldn't have gone to war, the argument goes.

In reality, the press was actually close to neutral prior to the war. Once the war started, the press has relentlessly hailed every failure and ignored nearly every success in its never-ending quest to relive Vietnam in all its non-glory.

It is now that the national press is really failing. The MSM is so fully invested in our retreat and defeat there's no turning back. Media outlets are stretching the truth so blatantly they are further eroding what little trust the American people still hold in them.

Power Line's stunning takedown of the New York Times public editor should be read and digested by every American. In essence, the paper is acting as an al Qaeda denier. Any news that shows we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq is an inconvenient truth for the Times, so therefore it denies it. The paper is so arrogant it doesn't feel it has to make even a normal effort to check its facts. John Hinderaker catches the sloppiness red-handed.

Then, every American ought to read brilliant war correspondent Michael Yon's latest dispatch from Iraq, where he describes in chilling detail the true nature of our enemy, the one the NY Times doesn't want you to know about.

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IPA's Google smokescreen

One of the most underreported stories in Chicago is the saga of International Profit Associates, a high pressure business consulting company based in the northwest suburbs that has drawn attention from the New York Times, Washington Post and Inc. Magazine, but relatively little locally.

The company's history is a virtual stew of sex, fraud and politics. It is being sued for sexual harassment by the federal government, it is under fraud investigation by the Illinois Attorney General, it has an "unsatisfactory record" according to the Better Business Bureau, its founder is a convicted criminal, its lawyer is "Individual H" in the Tony Rezko indictment and private fraud lawsuits are pending.

You would expect that a simple Google search would yield flashing lights for prospective clients to steer clear of the controversial company, or at least ask some pointed questions. That's not the case. A Google search will produce a long list of innocuous, self-serving entries. When you click on them, you'll find that most lead right to the IPA website, which has many pages and boilerplate material.

IPA most likely is producing these results intentionally as a public relations technique to hide bad results. The Washington Post outlined the technique in this fascinating article last week. Some bad results can be removed from the Internet, but news stories and public records usually cannot be. Therefore, the best way to "hide" the bad results is to bury them under a landfill of positive results. Most casual Google searchers do not venture past a page or two of results.

I checked with several computer experts I know and they told me they were certain that IPA's Google results were being manipulated. In isolation, such techniques probably are not illegal. However, in conjunction with a fraudulent operation, it might be. An aggressive state Attorney General would get to the bottom of this. So far, Lisa Madigan's investigation is at four years and counting and nothing has happened.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Promising signs from Iraq

A special 4th of July correspondence from Phil O'Connor, who says that despite the gloomy coverage in the news, things are looking up in Iraq. He notes the Iraqi Parliament may soon approve a law governing the oil industry, making it a more productive body than the current U.S. Congress. Phil is a former political advisor in Illinois who took a leave from his post at an energy firm to help the U.S. State Department and Army Corps of Engineers as a advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity.

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

I am past due for a communiqué from Baghdad. My excuse is that I wanted to wait until General Petraeus said that half of all Baghdad neighborhoods are now under control as a result of the "surge." And so he has, just in time for the 4th of July.

I cite the definition of cognitive dissonance above because Iraq has a way of bringing deeply help beliefs in to conflict with empirical data. More to the point, Iraq has a way of confronting one with information that is subject to fundamentally different interpretations.

We get all the same news here that we would at home, thanks to newspapers and streaming on the Internet, Stars & Stripes, Armed Forces Network and BBC World Service. There is a lot of cognitive dissonance here since much of the commentary we hear form home about the meaning of information from Iraq conflicts the interpretations that one tends to find here.

For example, the 126 U.S. military fatalities (the third highest monthly tally so far) were taken by many as proof that the surge was failing and that we are losing. Also cited as evidence of a losing battle were the 1800 Iraqi civilian and 200 Iraqi security forces fatalities. On the other hand, counter-insurgency theory (and this is a counter-insurgency) tells us that this is precisely what was to be expected as our side began to seek out and engage the enemy and as the enemy fought back as it lost control of the initiative. So which is it?

In June, U.S. fatalities stood at 101 and Iraqi civilian deaths fell to 1150 and security deaths totaled just under 200. If rising casualties meant we were losing in May, do declining casualties in June mean that we are winning? I have noticed in the media coverage that the June data are being rolled into the past two months so that the unit of analysis is the "quarter," allowing the observation that the past quarter was one of the worst so far. The problem with all of this is not only that the information is open to different interpretation, but that one or three months is simply not long enough to figure out which direction a counter-insurgency effort is going.

So let me add my few bits of information, all of which is likely subject to multiple interpretations.

- Remember Al Anbar province? That's the area west of Baghdad and was known as the deadliest area of Iraq. No more. The Sunni tribes in Anbar have turned on al Qaeda which had found refuge there. The tribes figured out that al Qaeda was a bigger threat to tribal traditions and a decent life than we are. During a meeting at the Embassy with a Navy Commander serving as a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) member working Anbar, we had to briefly move into a hallway after an alarm went off suggesting that a projectile of some sort might be coming in our general direction. He remarked that he was not too crazy about these alarms and was ready to get back to Anbar since things were pretty quiet there. Bottom line is that a place that was regarded as "lost" is now moving toward security and stability.

- When I first got to Baghdad in mid-March our morning security briefings usually included an item that 40-60 bodies had been found around Baghdad the day before. These would often be sectarian murders of Sunnis by Shia or vice versa. As more Baghdad neighborhoods are being secured that number each morning has fallen to 15-20.

- Downtown Baghdad has been fairly quiet with a whole month having gone by with no incidents on one of the major routes used by Coalition people to visit some of the ministries.

- While we see the news reports of a rocket and mortar attacks on the IZ, the take on them here is different than the tone I sense in the coverage. The attacks in no way interfere with the mission and the work here. There may be some inconvenience but if you happen to spend any time in a bunker waiting for the all-clear, impromptu stand-up comedy passes the time quickly.

- The finding of weapons caches, bomb factories and al Qaeda jails & torture chambers is way up. These types of discoveries occur only when local people feel fed up enough or secure enough to tip off the authorities. And the recent offensive in Diyala province east of Baghdad dislodged al Qaeda there. Let's hope they are kept out.

- The Iraqi Cabinet has approved a new law to govern the oil industry here and moved it up to debate in the Parliament. Passage will be a very big deal since it will embody an agreement on the sharing of almost all government revenues. There really are no taxes here and oil money pays for all government activity which covers most every nook and cranny of Iraqi life. We may see an Iraqi Parliament that is more capable of passing important legislation than is our own Congress.

- And we are not alone here helping the Iraqis. I have seen military, civilian contractors and private security people here from Australia, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Georgia, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa and, of course, UK. There are a lot of Iraqi-Americans here too.

I do not know if any of these are straws in the wind and suggest longer term improvements. There is a very long way to go. However, virtually everything that we see here right now is consistent with established counter-insurgency theory. It is a day-by-day thing. There will not be some big decisive battle or moment.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Freedom concert

Can't think of a better way to show appreciation for our brave soldiers than to buy a ticket to a concert July 21 at Cantigny Park near Wheaton. Gary Sinise will be there, as well as Dennis Miller. This interview by Frank Avila explains the event.


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Monday, July 2, 2007

Justice served: Matthews gone for commutation

The most delicious part of today's announcement that President Bush has commuted the sentence of Lewis "Scooter" Libby is that it happened on the first day of vacation for MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

Matthews, who has literally slobbered on himself talking endlessly about the trumped up media story for several years, has been waiting for this day for months. And he apparently is unavailable to interrupt his vacation to do the show tonight. Ha!

If Karl Rove or Tony Snow thought about Matthews' absence in timing this commutation, they deserve a Reverse Spin devious achievement award.

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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Jobs flee Illinois

Democrats love to trumpet increases in the "minimum wage," a move that polls well. However, when one state ups its minimum pay unilaterally, like Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich did, the consequences are lost jobs to other states.

Here's a real time example in today's Daily Herald.

Hoffman Estates-based Rely Services has a data-entry center in downstate Carlinville, which for years held state contracts to manually input tax and vehicle data.

But in bidding to keep those contracts, the company was undercut, in part, its officials say, because out-of-state firms can pay their employees a lower minimum wage. As a result, the center that at its peak employs 134 will see its workforce plummet to 14 on Monday.

"It's been a pretty sad day," production manager Brenda Witt told the Daily Herald last week as employees were finishing their final days at work.

The work those employees had done now will be handled by firms based in North Carolina, Michigan and Indiana, all of which have lower minimum wages than Illinois.
I'd be interested in a rebuttal from an Illinois Democrat on how this law is good for the more than 100 employees who won't be working at Rely Services any more.

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