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Archive for November, 2007

GUSTAV HOLST: Mars, The Bringer Of War

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
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From The Planets.

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RUDY TUESDAY: Who Could Hang A Shame On You?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


amyzquinn.thumbnail.jpgBY AMY Z. QUINN You know how people like me always point out that New Yorkers hated Rudy Giuliani up until 9/11? And how many hearts softened toward him after, but it didn’t make anyone trust him more? That’s partly because everything the right wing hated about Bill Clinton in the ’90s — the two faces, the skirt-chasing, the marriage nobody could figure out — Giuliani was living, the whole time, back in the Empire State.

So now it’s an hour before the CNN/YouTube GOP debate and the Giuliani camp is surely backstage scrambling to script some responses to this, from The Politico:

As New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons, according to previously undisclosed government records.

rudy_giulianisaint.jpg The documents, obtained by Politico under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the mayoral costs had nothing to do with the functions of the little-known city offices that defrayed his tabs, including agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants. . . .

New York’s mayor receives round-the-clock police protection, and there’s no suggestion that Giuliani used his detail improperly on these trips.

Many of the receipts are from hotels and gas stations on Long Island, where Giuliani reportedly began visiting Nathan’s Southampton condominium in the summer of 1999, though Giuliani and Nathan have never discussed the beginning of their relationship.

Nathan would go on to become Giuliani’s third wife, but his second marriage was officially intact until the spring of 2000, and City Hall officials at the time responded to questions about his absences by saying he was spending time with his son and playing golf.

The receipts have languished in city files since Giuliani left office, apparently in part because of City Hall’s decision to bill police expenses to a range of little-known city offices.

Now. I mentioned Clinton before, right? Well, as in his case, the technical adultery isn’t the problem — Giuliani’s marriage to Donna Hanover ended very badly, very publicly and Rudy-Judy was an open secret — it’s what comesrudyventomoney_1.jpg with it that brings you down. If you’re acting shady, then what you’re doing is shady.

Giuliani loves to talk about how he was a 24/7 mayor, and we give him that. So, if in those 24 hours, he needed to dash out to Southampton for some snuggletime with Judy, then he should be can easily able to make that argument. Except whoops, he can’t, because the expenses were buried in backwater areas of the budget, hidden from taxpayers like a cheating husband hides hotel receipts.
My prediction? This issue could do what Bernie Kerik, flip-flops on immigration and (lest we forget) the firemen who died because their radios didn’t work couldn’t. Because there’s almost nothing people understand more clearly than that this guy used taxpayer money to get laid, then lied about it.

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Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


Click image to activate Internets.

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NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

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Sharon Jones, head of the old-school funk and soul band Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, is workingdapkings.gif it. She and her band have a new album, their third, called 100 Days, 100 Nights. They’ve been touring to support the album, and Jones was recently part of the cast of Berlin, along with Lou Reed. She also shot a part for the upcoming Denzel Washington film The Great Debaters. Jones shares a hometown with the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown. Though she moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., when she was little, she spent months of every year in Augusta, Ga., singing and dancing to his music. That and her early start singing in church have flavored the songs she sings now. She’s come all the way from working as a prison guard on Riker’s Island to being hailed as a “timeless soul singer” by The New York Times. Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth, co-founder of Daptone Records and bass player for The Dap-Kings, talks about the band’s increased involvement in songwriting and arranging on 100 Days, 100 Nights. He wrote many of the songs himself, including the title track. The Dap-Kings’ members have kept busy, as well. They backed Amy Winehouse on several tracks off her album Back to Black, including “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good,” and they served as her band during her first tour in the U.S. PLUS, Fresh Air critic KEN TUCKER sucks up to his daughter and her friends takes Britney Spears seriously.


Hour 1
How do we decide who gets deported? Since 1996, Congress made it easier to deport non-citizens if they commit ben_franklinarmsfolded.jpgcrimes. While it’s aimed at getting criminals and potential terrorists out of the country, it also results in the deportation of many families highly regarded in their communities. We’ll debate whether the current policy of who stays and who goes is working. We’ll hear from JAN TING, a former INS official and now Professor of Law at Temple University, and with JAYA RAMJI-NOGALES co-author of the recent report Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, and an Assistant Professor of Law at Temple University. Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3

Hour 2
Benjamin Franklin was known for many things, founding father, scientist, and inventor But Sudoku? Well, not quite that, but an earlier manifestation known as magic squares. Numbers add up no matter which direct the column goes. Well, turns out, Ben had major fascination with mathematics. Our guest is PAUL PASLES, an associate professor of mathematics at Villanova University who has written a new book on this little known side of Franklin it’s titled Benjamin Franklin’s Numbers: An Unsung Mathematical Odyssey Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3


The singer, rapper, and producer known as M.I.A. released one of the most celebrated albums of 2005. Critics and fans were wildly enthusiastic over her blend of revolutionary rhetoric, exotic musical infusions and explosive club tracks. Two years later, the follow-up has arrived. It’s called Kala, and it proves to be an even more adventurous effort. Kala is not another facile attempt at so-called world music fusion. True, M.I.A. does mix in everything frommiabluewig.jpeg Bollywood bass lines to Baltimore club beats to Australian aboriginal didgeridoo. But these are far more than showy stamps in a sonic passport. At a time when globalization is both dissolving and reinforcing national identities, M.I.A.’s music speaks from a blurry borderland through a lingua franca of agitated, propulsive pop. The energy should be familiar to restless youth almost anywhere. Aptly enough, one of the recurring sounds that shout out from the album are the voices of children.

Most of Kala was recorded in different cities in India, Trinidad, Angola — more than half a dozen locations around the world. On her first album, M.I.A. imported the sounds of Sao Paolo favelas and Kingston shantytowns into her studios; with Kala, she went mobile, making it a point to record on location as much as possible. The noisy clash of voices and rhythms makes Kala sound like it’s from everywhere and nowhere at once. Cutting through these contrasting styles is the thin blade of M.I.A.’s own voice — all insistent yelps, slurring syllables and British brogue. She favors repeated couplets that turn her lyrics into a rhythm of their own, as much a part of the sonic fabric as the howling synthesizers and gunshot drum rolls.

M.I.A. rhymes with the swaggering bravado of a street rapper, only she favors bandoliers over bling. Parse the songwriting though, and the sensibility awkwardly falls somewhere between party girl and guerrilla fighter. The message lacks cogency, but her hooks do pack potency, even when they sound nursery rhyme-inspired. Even if her politics may not prove as irresistible as her rhythms, the scope of her musical ideas and the focus of her execution have both improved over the last two years. Her debut rolled in on a wave of hype, but with Kala, M.I.A. shows that she’s a formidable tidal force all her own.

MIA performs Saturday at the Electric Factory. The show is sold out.

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BLACKWATER WHITEWASH: Head Of State Dept.’s Blackwater Investigation Tells Staff To Shut It Down

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


metweakedcropped.thumbnail.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA Before we get started I should tell you in the interest of full disclosure that the bitchin logo above is actually for the band Blackwater, not the mercenary army controversial independent security contractor we are about to discuss. However, A.) it is a bitchin logo, and B.) I am pretty sure these guys are too high or drunk to notice or care. So, let’s move on. This story is very convoluted and you really have to read the whole article to get your bearings on this, but in a nutshell: Long before the ongoing FBI probe into the September 16 drive-by murder of 17 unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad by Blackwater bodyguards, both the State Department and the Justice Department were already investigating Blackwater for smuggling illegal arms into Iraq. A lot of arms — many of which, it is suspected, wound up in the hands of insurgents. The alleged arms smuggling was discovered when two Blackwater employees tried to ship their weapons home only to have them intercepted by authorities at the U.S. border. Both of those former Blackwater employees are cooperating with the investigation. If only we could say the same about Howard “Cookie” Krongard, the man in charge of the State Department’s Blackwater arms smuggling probe [pictured below in Afghanistan, he’s the guy with the obligatory ‘wide stance’, posing between what look like two Blackwater guys]. When told that his go-getter underlings had taken the initiative and started looking into the Blackwater matter without even being asked, his reaction was odd to say the least:

In late June, John DeDona, then chief of the IG’s investigative unit, e-mailed Krongard and his deputy,howardkrongard_1.jpg William Todd, to alert them to the probe. Krongard responded cryptically: “Please do not treat anything in the e-mail below as having been seen by me, advised to me, or understood or approved by me. If there is something significant in the message below, please come and tell me about it.”

Again, this is from the senior State Department official, who’s job it is to root out and expose corruption, abuse and waste in the disbursement of the DOS’ $35 billion annual budget. Now, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does that sound like the words of a man trying to get to the truth of the matter, or does that sound like a man desperately vetting his email for smoking guns that might get him indicted down the road? But wait, it gets better, a few weeks later Cookie dropped the ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ routine and ordered the State Department investigation into Blackwater arms smuggling to cease and desist ‘IMMEDIATELY':

Two weeks later, as Militana was trying to obtain copies of Blackwater contracts from the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, DeDona sent another message to Krongard telling him of Militana’s work. In a July 11 e-mail to DeDona, Krongard told him Militana was to “IMMEDIATELY” stop the work.

This was not the only DOS investigation that Cookie put the kibosh on. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Cookie stands accused of:

howardkrongard2_1.jpg–Refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate $3 billion worth of State Department contracts.

–Preventing his investigators from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into waste and fraud in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

–Using “highly irregular” procedures to personally exonerate the embassy’s prime contractor of labor abuses.

–Interfering in the investigation of a close friend of former White House adviser Karl Rove.

–Censoring reports on embassies to prevent full disclosure to Congress.

–Refusing to publish critical audits of State’s financial statements.

During a House oversight hearing, Cookie was asked if it was in fact true that his brother, Buzzy Krongard, sits on the board of advisors for Blackwater. No truth in that whatsoever, Cookie said under oath. But then, during a break, he apparently called Buzzy and asked him point blank if he sits on the board of advisors for Blackwater and, shoot-howdy-shucks, it turns out he does. Who knew? (Actually, his brother later told reporters that he had told Cookie in no uncertain terms that he was taking the Blackwater gig and he has no idea why his brother lied to Congress under oath when he claimed not to know.) So then Cookie marches right back into that hearing, blackwaterbg01.gifexplains that he just spoke to his brother, withdraws all prior comments about Blackwater and hereby recuses himself from any current or future investigations of Blackwater and more or less throw himself on the mercy of the court. And people wonder why the majority of the American electorate doesn’t even bother to vote anymore. If there is a silver lining here it is the fact that there are people high up in the DOS, people with integrity, who were ashamed and disgusted with Cookie’s blatant White House cronyism and obstructions of justice, and weren’t afraid to say as much in an email exchange:

“Wow, as we all [k]now that is not the normal and proper procedure,” an investigator wrote to John A. DeDona, an assistant inspector general. DeDona forwarded the e-mail to Deputy Inspector General William E. Todd, saying, “I have always viewed myself as a loyal soldier but hopefully you sense my frustration in my voicemail yesterday.”

Todd wrote back: “I know you are very frustrated. John, you need to convey to the troops the truth, the IG told us both Tuesday to stand down on this and not assist, that needs to be the message.”

DeDona responded: “Unfortunately, under the current regime, the view within INV [the office of investigations] is to keep working the BS cases within the beltway, and let us not rock the boat with more significant investigations.”

PREVIOUSLY: HECKUVA JOB, COOKIE — The Brother Of The Guy In Charge Of The State Department Investigation Into Blackwater Sits On The Board Of …wait for it…Blackwater!
RELATED: How Blackwater Rolls

”The 5-man Blackwater crew that was assinged to CPA Najaf were coming under heavy small arms and mortar fire, the city was being taken over by insurgents. The police stations and hospitals were taken over as well, after a day of fighting off hundreds of insurgents the city had been completely overrun, with the CPA in the heart of the city and no way out…”


MAILBAG: My Country Tis Of Thee?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


AP photographer Bilal Hussein won the Pulitzer Prize for this 2004 photo of insurgents fighting the Battle Of Fallujah. He as been held in custody by the U.S. military without charge for the past 19 months.

Again, George Miller is my favorite professor. Today in my Journalism and Society class (which is responsible for introducing me to Phawker), Jim MacMillan came to talk about photojournalism, but more importantly Bilal Hussein. MacMillan personally knew Hussien. He was one of the members of the team who won the Pulitzer Prize. Watching MacMillan speak about a collegue and friend was tough-you could see the anger and sadness and confusion in his eyes.

How can the American government let this happen? Hussein had America credentials for his work…

Phawker Intern


I wish I had a better answer for you than: The whole thing stinks worse than a whorehouse at low tide. I do know that the AP hired a former federal prosecutor to look into the allegations against Bilal and he says the U.S. Army has refused to produce any evidence to back up their allegations and have refused to file any charges against Bilal, thereby frustrating any attempt by the AP to mount a legal defense of their employee. Which prompted Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, to write the following in a Washington Post Op-Ed piece:

We believe Bilal’s crime was taking photographs the U.S. government did not want its citizens to see.bilalhussein.jpg That he was part of a team of AP photographers who had just won a Pulitzer Prize for work in Iraq may have made Bilal even more of a marked man. In the 19 months since he was picked up, Bilal has not been charged with any crime, although the military has sent out a flurry of ever-changing claims. Every claim we’ve checked out has proved to be false, overblown or microscopic in significance. Now, suddenly, the military plans to seek a criminal case against Bilal in the Iraqi court system in just days. But the military won’t tell us what the charges are, what evidence it will be submitting or even when the hearing will be held.

Best I can tell, turning him over to the Iraqi legal system is like handing a stuffed turkey to the pilgrims. This is why we keep saying over and over again that habeas corpus matters, damnit. Why doesn’t anyone care about this? Why is it every time I bring this up people look at me like I’m trying to explain to them how to program their VCR — like, I’m sure this important but it’s just so boring I would rather not know. Under habeas corpus you can’t just arrest people, hold them indefinitely without charge and refuse to show them the evidence against them because it’s Top Secret. And without it you don’t have a system of justice, you have the Spanish Inquisition.


PS Apologies for the graphic images so early in the morning, but people should know that Bilal Hussein didn’t just take close-up action shots of insurgents, he also documented the ghastly results of their actions. Besides, it’s a dirty war and people should know it.

PREVIOUSLY: The Free Press Needs Your John Hancock


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MADLIB: Slim’s Return

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
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[Hat tip to EVA LIAO]

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Tuesday, November 27th, 2007



bates2_1.jpgClosing Requiem Concert:
Igni Natura Renovatur Integra
The Artistic Legacy of Jennifer Bates
On Saturday, December 1, 2007, six esteemed Philadelphia musicians will gather at Germ Books and Gallery to ritually close the current art show of our founder, the late Jennifer Bates. At approximately 3PM, David E. Williams– Germ’s owner and Bates’ widower– will open the performance on synthesizer with a plaintive melody from one of Jennifer’s own compositions. From there, the other musicians will join in an improvised performance of electronic drones, noises and other psychonautic sounds that evoke Jennifer’s spirit on the day before many of her paintings leave Germ’s immediate family forever to find homes among Germ’s extended family. The overwhelming mood is intended to be elegiac, but with the personnel involved, one cannot predict the performance’s ultimate direction, length or conclusion. The collaboration will be unrehearsed, with the intent that inspiration be drawn from Jennifer’s memory, legacy and irrefutable presence. [Photo by MICHAEL BRYANT / Inquirer]


NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

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A MacArthur Fellow and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick runs one of the nation’s leading water-conservation assessment centers. The institute’s biennial report, The World’s Water, surveys global water trends and issues, including the links between water and terrorism and the growing risk of flood and drought. PLUS, n Tamara Jenkins’ new film The Savages, two 40-something siblings have to put their lives on hold while they learn how to deal with their elderly father, who’s slipping slowly into dementia. The film — it’s a comedy — stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney, plus Broadway veteran Philip Bosco as their ailling dad. (Watch a clip.) Jenkins’ previous film work includes The Slums of Beverly Hills.


Hour 1
The Middle East Peace Talks: What’s the best we can hope for? We’ll talk to DANIEL KURTZER, the former U.S. Ambassador to both Egypt and Israel, and now Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Also, DANIEL LEVY, a former negotiator for Israel in previous peace talks, and GHAITH AL-OMARI a former negotiator for the Palestinians. Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3
Hour 2
(Rebroadcast tonight at 11)
What happened to the year of reform for the Pennsylvania legislature? After a wave of voter outrage over a midnight legislative pay raise 2007 was supposed to be time Harrisburg shed its secretive ways. But many of the major ideas championed by government reformers have been sidestepped. We’ll talk with JOHN BAER the government and politics columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News, and call out to JOSH SHAPIRO who co-chaired the Speakers Commission on Legislative Reform and TIM POTTS, co-founder of DemocracyRisingPA. Listen to this show via Real Audio | mp3

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Devendra Banhart -– his first name means “king of gods” in an Indian myth –- was named by an Indian spiritual leader his parents followed. He was born in Houston but spent his childhood in Caracas, Venezuela. After moving to Los Angeles with his family, he began writing songs in his teens, and was granted a scholarship to the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute in ’98, where he studied visual art. While in school, he began to perform music at smaller pubs and restaurants. In 2000, Banhart became disillusioned with his academic art studies and moved to Paris, where he took up more of a nomadic lifestyle, performing at small clubs and opening for indie bands. During his musical career, Banhart has constantly added new instruments and nuances to his songs, playing with their sound and texture. Yet, if anything has remained unchanged, it’s Banhart’s distinct style and his unique voice, both of which are still present in his most recent album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

DEVENDRA BANHART: Don’t Look Back In Anger

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EDITORIAL: Ivy League Murder, GED Justice

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

ivyleaguekillers.jpgBY AMY Z. QUINN The dead wife of Penn Professor Rafael Robb has been abused in death by Bruce Castor as badly as she was in life by her husband. He bludgeoned his wife to death with a metal bar in cold blood. By ANY objective analysis he appears to have gotten away with murder

Despite evidence that Robb, a PhD and expert on game theory, had been a controlling, abusive husband who couldn’t stand that the wife he despised was daring to divorce him and was planning to take their daughter away on a trip, the Montgomery County District Attorney offered Robb a plea of voluntary manslaughter. Worst case scenario, Robb is looking at seven years.

Meanwhile, Ellen Robb’s family spent yesterday launching a foundation in her name, meant to help women in similarly abusive situations. And while her family says they welcomed the deal, as it avoids a trial, we wonder how this satisfies anyone except Rafael Robb himself, who seemed to be looking for someone to tell him he was a good person simply driven to a bad deed.

Robb claims he “just snapped,” which may explain his “blitz attack” with a chin-press bar on his wife’s skull while she sat wrapping Christmas presents, but doesn’t address why he then tried to pull a Neulander, claiming his wife was killed during a robbery he staged. Once you “accidentally” murder somebody and then try to COVER IT UP, well, it’s no longer an accident is it? Sadly, the only conceivable explanation for Castor’s uncharacteristic leniency is that perp happened to be Ivy League intelligensia with the resources and connections to hire the kind of high-priced, in-the-boys-club attorney that can broker a such a deal with prosecutors. As such, the plea deal feels more like a smoky backroom handshake than the service of justice.

ATTYTOOD: Nope, Will, It’s Not Just You
RELATED: Rafael Robb Profile/ UPenn Dept. Of Economics

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GUNCRAZY: Five-Year-Old Shot In The Ass

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

guncrazykids.jpg A five-year-old boy was shot at his family’s home in the 600 block of West Huntingdon Street in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood around 1am on Tuesday. The young boy was under treatment late in the morning at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children where he was listed in stable condition with a gunshot wound of his buttocks. Police later found handguns in a nearby car and at the young victim’s house but had not immediately determined whether either of those weapons had been fired. Investigators initially said they were not sure if the shooting was deliberate or accidental, having received conflicting stories from various family members.  No one had been charged in the incident as late Tuesday morning. [via KYW]

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LIFE & DEATH: Redskin Dies, Veep Lives

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007


MIAMI (AP) – Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died early Tuesday, a day after he was shot at home by what police say was an intruder. He was 24. Family friend Richard Sharpstein said Taylor’s father told him the news around 5:30 a.m. “His father called and said he was with Christ and he cried and thanked me,” said Sharpstein, Taylor’s former lawyer. He said Taylor died early Tuesday at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he had been airlifted after the shooting early Monday.

Doctors had been encouraged late Monday when Taylor squeezed a nurse’s hand, according to Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins’ vice president of football operations. But Sharpstein said he was told Taylor never regained consciousness after being transported to the hospital and that he wasn’t sure how he had squeezed the nurse’s hand. “Maybe he was trying to say goodbye or something,” Sharpstein said.

Sharpstein said Taylor’s girlfriend told him the couple was awakened by loud noises, and Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection. Someone then broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor, Sharpstein said. Taylor’s 1-year-old daughter, Jackie, was also in the house, but neither she nor Taylor’s girlfriend were injured. Police found signs of forced entry, but have not determined if they were caused Monday, or the previous burglary. MORE


cheneyfangscropped.jpgWASHINGTON — Doctors administered an electrical shock to Vice President Dick Cheney’s heart and restored it to a normal rhythm during a 2 1/2 hour hospital visit Monday. The procedure was described as a low-risk, standard practice. Cheney, 66, went home from George Washington University Hospital and was expected back at work today. MORE

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Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

The sad, slow self-inflicted deflation of Time’s Joe Klein:

Thus, for now, I just want to ask that everyone ponder the extreme lack of professionalism and corruption required for someone like Klein to write the article that he did accusing Democrats of wanting to give Terrorists the same rights as Americans (therefore showing, as always, thattimepersonoftheyear.jpg Democrats can’t be trusted on national security), and then — once he is exposed for having spewed outright falsehoods — he announces that he really isn’t interested in bothering to find out (and isn’t even capable of determining) if anything he wrote was accurate.

As my post earlier today here demonstrates, that is hardly unusual behavior for Time. But that doesn’t make it any less flabbergasting, or repugnant. Doesn’t it go without saying: if Klein doesn’t have the time or background to understand what he’s writing about, then he ought not to write about it? Doesn’t anyone at Time agree with that?

Finally, I’ll just add for those who didn’t see it this morning: The Center for Citizen Media — jointly affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School — has picked up on the Klein/Time story, labeling Klein’s behavior “Shameful ‘Journalism’,” and contending that the “flagrantly inaccurate and misguided Time magazine column by Joe Klein” is “[o]ne of the most amazing episodes in modern American journalism.” They concluded: Klein’s “work in this case may become Exhibit A for what’s wrong with the craft today.” [via SALON]

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Via BuzzFeed

Cost of the War in Iraq
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