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« on: September 24, 2006, 07:37:25 PM »

"That's where we kind of agree with some of the people who've criticized our show," Stone says. "Because it really is open season on Jesus. We can do whatever we want to Jesus, and we have. We've had him say bad words. We've had him shoot a gun. We've had him kill people. We can do whatever we want. But Mohammed, we couldn't just show a simple image."

During the part of the show where Mohammed was to be depicted — benignly, Stone and Parker say — the show ran a black screen that read: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

Other networks took a similar course, refusing to air images of Mohammed — even when reporting on the Denmark cartoon riots — claiming they were refraining because they're religiously tolerant, the South Park creators say.

"No you're not," Stone retorts. "You're afraid of getting blown up. That's what you're afraid of. Comedy Central copped to that, you know: 'We're afraid of getting blown up.'"

Conveying an unfortunate message, and lesson, in the process.

3DHS / Nasrallah’s Malaise
« on: September 21, 2006, 05:06:35 PM »
Nasrallah’s Malaise 
By Ehud Yaari
Jerusalem Report, October 2, 2006

Hassan Nasrallah is showing clear signs of “dejection, melancholy and depression,” according to the editors of the Lebanese daily al-Safir, who are counted among the most steadfast supporters of the leader of Hizballah. Alongside a tiresomely long interview with him, published on September 5, they note that the man radiates a sense of “disappointment and distress.”

It is no trifling matter that Nasrallah, who is always punctilious in demonstrating self-confidence and determination, comes across this way to those visiting him in his hideout. “I myself don’t even know where I am,” he told his interviewers. “They have moved me from one hiding place to another dozens of times.”

Nevertheless, his words were as polished and considered as usual, and included the now-familiar remarks about Ehud Olmert’s “stupidity,” fictional accounts of his ongoing communications with fighters on the frontline during the war, and wild exaggerations about his achievements in the last round. This is the same Nasrallah that we have known for years, and at the same time, a different Nasrallah than we have seen before. An analysis of the text helps solve the riddle of why Nasrallah is so frustrated even as he claims “victory,” and what the source of his anxiety is, even though, in his assessment, he succeeded in “defeating” the Israeli army.

The impression given is that Nasrallah is worried about not being able to continue the armed muqawama, or resistance, in the new framework of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. He understands that in South Lebanon, in the area below the Litani River and on the slopes of Mount Hermon along the contours of the Hazbani, his people will no longer be able to set up open military camps. In addition, they have lost the numerous positions they had seized close to the border with Israel following the Israeli withdrawal of May 2000, and from now on, they will have to conceal their weapons in secret mountain caches, outside the villages. Hizballah’s southern “Nasr” (Victory) unit will no longer be able to move freely in the area, where the 15,000 soldiers of three regular brigades of the Lebanese Army will be manning roadblocks and carrying out patrols, bolstered by the troops of an upgraded UNIFIL force.

There are already signs that Hizballah has started moving its military equipment from the South toward the Lebanese Biqa. In other words, Nasrallah understands that the South has ceased to be “Hizballahstan” and he is conceding the role that he had taken upon himself in the past, to serve as the guardian of Lebanon’s border.

Moreover, Nasrallah fears that under these circumstances, he stands to lose control over portions of the Shiite community. Indeed, there is growing evidence of disaffection with Hizballah, and reservations on the part of some of the Shiite middle class, and among the local village leaderships, about the disaster visited upon them by Nasrallah’s belligerent adventurism. Nasrallah’s promises to provide generous and speedy compensation to the thousands of families who lost their homes are not being realized. So far, only a few hundred families have received downpayments on the $12,000 each is supposed to receive to cover a year’s rent pending the rehabilitation of their permanent homes. At least 30,000 families, most of them Shiite, are expecting funds from Nasrallah’s “Construction Jihad” organization—a huge financial burden even for Iran, and all the more so considering that the Lebanese government will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the Arab states and other donor nations to compete with Hizballah for the hearts and minds of the victims.

Nasrallah is now forced to rely more than he would like on his partner/rival in the Shiite sector, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a sleek and shrewd politician who heads the more secular “Amal.” Nasrallah has suddenly taken to calling Berri “my big brother,” and is advising all the other actors in the Lebanese arena to accept the aid of Berri’s “infinite wisdom.” All this smacks of Nasrallah conceding his seniority, if only temporarily, in the Shiite leadership.

What’s more, Nasrallah fears rising tensions between the Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon. He is trying with all his might to avoid open confrontation, but Sunni public opinion, under the leadership of the Hariri family and its loyalists, has turned largely against him. Hizballah is now forced to rely on second echelon Sunni elements in Tripoli and other places, but at this stage, he has squandered any opportunity of getting the central pillars of the Sunni minority to identify with his positions.

Surprisingly, Nasrallah’s standing among the Christians is somewhat better for now. That is because of the alliance he struck before the war with the strongest Maronite, Gen. Michel Aoun. Together they are pressing to rout the anti-Syrian government headed by Fuad Siniora, or at least to broaden the coalition by adding more partners from Hizballah, along with Aoun’s faction (the Patriotic Current) and other figures such as the Christian Suleiman Franjieh from the north, the Druze Majid Arslan and the Sunni Omar Karameh. But the Aoun-Nasrallah alliance is not firm and may not hold up over time. And herein lies Nasrallah’s concern that he will be left without any powerful allies in the Lebanese arena, amid growing pressure on him to disarm, as demanded by the March 14 anti-Syrian coalition.

Nasrallah has apparently come to the conclusion that he was too hasty in pulling the trigger on July 12, and admits that he did not expect so strong an Israeli reaction. From his perspective, the war did not end with the cease-fire, and the results will only become clear once the dust kicked up by the internal wrestling in Lebanon has dispersed.

3DHS / Death of Opinion Journalism
« on: September 20, 2006, 10:58:01 PM »
Everybody Has One: Bloggers and the Death of Opinion Journalism
by Brendan Nyhan

Not that long ago, many people thought the Internet would break down partisan boundaries and improve the quality of political debate in this country -- a prediction that sounds as silly today as previous hype about the educational potential of television and radio.

Today, online politics has come to be dominated by two warring camps, just like offline politics. And while many critics complain about the polarization of the blogosphere and its effect on elections, how blogs will affect the economics of opinion journalism is less well understood. In particular, partisan blogs have become so popular that they are threatening the business model -- and the independence -- of center-left opinion magazines, which may be forced to toe the party line to ensure their survival.

I learned this lesson the hard way after I signed on as a contributor to The American Prospect's media criticism blog a few weeks ago. It seemed like a bit of an awkward fit -- the Prospect is a liberal magazine, and I had previously co-founded Spinsanity, a non-partisan watchdog of online spin -- but I assumed they knew who they were hiring. I was wrong.

Last Wednesday, controversy broke out when I slammed two liberal blogs for using an airline employee's suicide after 9/11 to take a cheap shot at President Bush. My post, which initially contained a minor factual error, prompted one of the bloggers, Atrios (aka Duncan Black), to label me the "wanker of the day" and to call on TAP editors to "rethink things a bit." Hundreds of Atrios readers filled the Prospect's comment boards with vitriol. In an email Friday morning, Sam Rosenfeld, the magazine's online editor, asked that I focus my blogging on conservative targets. He specifically objected to two posts criticizing liberals (here and here ) that I wrote after the Atrios controversy. I refused and terminated the relationship.

Why was I asked to slant my work to the liberal party line? In an email statement, TAP editor Michael Tomasky said that "[t]he Prospect is hardly averse to criticizing liberal verities" and that the magazine had no problem with my initial posts criticizing liberals, but "there were a few posts in succession that struck us as either inaccurate or an effort to draw equivalencies where none existed. The Prospect has always opposed a 'pox on both houses' posture, and that's what we came to believe you were doing."

However, no editor at the Prospect ever contacted me about the posts, nor did any of its writers attempt to engage me in a public debate. More fundamentally, while TAP can choose to (almost) exclusively criticize conservatives, isn't open and honest debate a value that liberals prize? Is it appropriate to largely ignore one side while jumping on virtually any misstatement from the other?

One important factor shaping TAP's decision may have been the popularity of Democratic bloggers like Atrios, who pump out a stream of pre-filtered news and commentary. Before the rise of online competition, opinion magazines had some freedom to be idiosyncratic and less partisan than their readers. The initial incarnation of the Prospect, for example, had a thoughtful, academic tone. But the availability of more points of view online (while laudable in many ways) has paradoxically increased the pressure on ideological publications to pander to readers, who have the option of seeking out exclusively partisan blogs instead.

In addition, the huge audiences of the partisan bloggers make them a key source of online traffic for opinion magazines if they supply ideologically favorable content. (At Spinsanity, we quickly learned that it was virtually impossible to get links from liberals when we criticized a liberal, and vice versa for conservatives.) Similarly, the risk of not getting links means that few commentators are willing to criticize the gatekeepers.

In some cases, the threat may be existential. Opinion magazines lose money -- a lot of money -- and are vulnerable to further financial losses. Atrios, Kos, and other liberal bloggers have attacked The New Republic for years, helping to undermine the center-left magazine's lagging popularity among liberals. If TNR's subscriber base were to shrink as a result of these attacks, the viability of the magazine could be threatened.

Considering these factors, TAP's decision makes perfect sense; they have no incentive to incur the wrath of the liberal heavyweights whom they depend on for traffic. According to, is less popular than Atrios and dwarfed by Daily Kos (whose site also includes reader blogs and discussion boards). With Eric Alterman [a former blogger now on Media Matters] and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Kos joining Atrios' attack on the Prospect Friday afternoon, the risk was real.

At a deeper level, these developments may offer a preview of the future of opinion journalism. Ex-reporters and political insiders currently dominate the nation's op-ed pages, but mainstream news organizations like the Washington Post are hiring a new generation of ideological bloggers who are likely to take their place. And conservative magazines, while less heterodox than their liberal counterparts, also face competition from ultra-partisan blogs like Power Line, Time's 2004 blog of the year (sample quote: "It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice.")

Ironically enough, the liberal writers who decry the excesses of capitalism have failed to recognize what it is doing to their business. In a marketplace where publications compete on partisanship and ideological consistency, our democracy loses.

3DHS / common-sense variety of multiculturalism
« on: September 17, 2006, 09:04:50 PM »

AUSTRALIA'S Muslim leaders have been "read the riot act" over the need to denounce any links between Islam and terrorism.  The Howard Government's multicultural spokesman, Andrew Robb, yesterday told an audience of 100 imams who address Australia's mosques that these were tough times requiring great personal resolve.

Mr Robb also called on them to shun a victim mentality that branded any criticism as discrimination.

"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," Mr Robb said at the Sydney conference

"And because it is your faith that is being invoked as justification for these evil acts, it is your problem

You can't wish it away, or ignore it, just because it has been caused by others
"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, defend your role in the way of life that we all share here in Australia."

We need more of this common-sense variety of multiculturalism.

3DHS / Corn Denies Charge in 'WSJ' That He Outed Plame
« on: September 17, 2006, 12:35:37 AM »
Corn Denies Charge in 'WSJ' That He Outed Plame

By E&P Staff

Published: September 15, 2006 10:20 PM ET

NEW YORK David Corn, co-author with Michael Isikoff of the new book "Hubris" that has made so much news lately, today heatedly denied what he called an old and false charge in the Wall Street Journal that he -- not Robert Novak -- outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.

In the Journal on Friday, Victoria Toensing, the attorney, wrote in a column, "The first journalist to reveal Ms. Plame was 'covert' was David Corn, on July 16, 2003, two days after Mr. Novak's column. The latter never wrote, because he did not know and it was not so, that Ms. Plame was covert. However, Mr. Corn claimed Mr. Novak 'outed' her as an 'undercover CIA officer,' querying whether Bush officials blew 'the cover of a U.S. intelligence officer working covertly in...national security.' Was Mr. Corn subpoenaed? Did Mr. Fitzgerald subpoena Mr. Wilson to attest he had never revealed his wife's employment to anyone? If he had done so, he might have learned Mr. Corn's source."

On his Web site, Corn, the Washington editor of The Nation, writes that he has long been friendly with Toensing, and so, "I am disheartened to see her embracing a rather idiotic conservative talking point and ignoring basic facts to tag me as the true culprit in the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. It is an argument that defies logic and the record. But it is an accusation that pro-Bush spinners have used to defend the true leakers and columnist Bob Novak, the conveyor of the leak.

"This is a canard that has been previously advanced by other conservatives--all to absolve Novak and the actual leakers (mainly Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, not Richard Armitage). And you see the suggestion: that Joe Wilson told me that his wife was an undercover CIA officer and that I then disclosed this information to the public. I've debunked this before. But for Toensing's benefit, I'll go through this again--though I doubt it will do much good."

The full explanation can be found at In a nutshell, Corn notes that Novak had already described Plame as a "CIA operative," which essentially means she was covert.

"At this point," he adds, "her cover--whatever it might have been--was blown to bits. The fact that Novak did not state she was a 'covert' operative is utterly meaningless. (Does the CIA employ non-secret 'operatives'?)"

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