Patterico's Pontifications

1/28/2006

Large, Not “Venti”

Filed under: Humor,Real Life — Patterico @ 7:28 pm

When I order Starbucks coffee, I refuse to use their silly sizes, such as “venti” and “grande.” I insist on ordering a “medium” or “large” — even if they try to correct me:

STARBUCKS EMPLOYEE: You want a “venti”?

ME: I want a “large.”

Somehow, they always figure it out.

Am I the only one who does this?

UPDATE: No, I’m not. See the fourth story down at this link, titled “Clash of the Titans.” It is riotously funny. (Thanks to Justice Frankfurter in the comments for the link.)

The story may or may not be true, but who cares? Like frat-boy James Frey’s “memoirs” or the CBS forged TANG documents, it’s just too good a story to pass up — true or not true.

L.A. Times Asks Misleading Poll Questions About Bush’s NSA Surveillance Program

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Dog Trainer,Terrorism — Patterico @ 11:34 am

A recent L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll, trumpeted in a front-page LAT article yesterday, contained the following misleading questions regarding the president’s NSA surveillance program (all emphasis mine):

Q34. As you may know, George W. Bush authorized federal government agencies to use electronic surveillance to monitor phone calls and emails within the United States without first getting a court warrant to do so. Do you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? (IF ACCEPTABLE/UNACCEPTABLE) Do you feel strongly about that or not?

Q35. Would you mind if you found out that your phone calls were being monitored by the U.S. government as part of the fight against terrorism?

Q36. Do you think Congress should hold hearings to investigate the legality of George W. Bush’s authorization of electronic surveillance to monitor American citizens without a court warrant, or not?

Q37. If a congressional investigation finds that George W. Bush broke the law when he authorized government agencies to use electronic surveillance to monitor American citizens without a court warrant, do you think that is an impeachable offense, or not an impeachable offense?

These questions all omit an important fact: the administration has said that the program was designed to intercept communications that were 1) international, and 2) involved suspected members of Al Qaeda or related groups. (The New York Times has reported that a very small number of purely domestic calls were accidentally intercepted despite strict protocols against it. But this was not “authorized” but rather an accident.) As Alberto Gonzales put it:

This program, described by the President, is focused on international communications where experienced intelligence experts have reason to believe that at least one party to the communication is a member or agent of al Qaeda or a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda.

As Dafydd ab Hugh has repeatedly noted, John Hinderaker has summarized this concept in a very succinct and powerful way: “If Al Qaeda is calling you, we want to know why.”

This is quite a different scenario from that described in the poll questions, which repeatedly refer to warrantless “electronic surveillance to monitor American citizens” — with no mention of the requirement that the monitored calls be international calls in which one party is suspected of a connection to Al Qaeda or related groups.

Not only do the questions omit these highly relevant details, but they imply that there is no such requirement, by suggesting (in question 35) that the government might be deliberately monitoring the phone calls of the poll respondent — who presumably has not been talking to Al Qaeda operatives overseas.

As Ed Morrissey observed about another recent poll (by the New York Times and CBS) with similarly misleading questions:

Neither form of the question mentions two salient facts: the monitoring involved only international communications [except for a small number of accidentally intercepted domestic calls, as noted above — Patterico] and were initiated by other evidence showing at least one of the participants had connections to terrorist organizations. Do you suppose those numbers would have been significantly different under that context? I suspect that both the NYT and CBS knows it would have been — which is why they asked the questions above instead.

I suspect the same about the Los Angeles Times.

1/27/2006

A Potentially Reasonable Clemency Request

Filed under: Crime — Patterico @ 10:29 pm

Unlike the Tookie Williams situation, this sounds like a reasonable request for clemency — assuming the story’s facts are accurate (a rather dangerous assumption, given the source).

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Michael Hiltzik Says That Whether or Not Hamas is a Terrorist Organization Is a “Minor Issue of Syntax and Diction”

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Terrorism — Patterico @ 9:27 pm

L.A. Times blogger Michael Hiltzik has complaints about my post from this morning, in which I noted the odd reluctance of L.A. Times editors to call Hamas what it is: a terrorist organization. The Times editorial I criticized contained this infuriating passage:

Although the United States, Israel and the European Union brand Hamas a terrorist organization, Palestinians admire it for the schools and hospitals it runs. And the organization that once routinely dispatched suicide bombers into Israel has mostly refrained from such attacks for about the last year.

(My emphasis.)

As I noted this morning, this amounts to a simple refusal to call Hamas what it is: a group of terrorists. It is also a semi-apology for the group’s behavior, which has maintained its murderous character throughout 2005, notwithstanding the editors’ phony and half-assed suggestions to the contrary.

According to Hiltzik, my complaint amounts to nothing more than “picking at minor issues of syntax and diction.” This criticism is so ridiculous, it refutes itself.

It’s difficult to know just how to respond to someone who doesn’t see the importance of labeling terrorist organizations as terrorist organizations. But I’ll give it a shot.

Certain portions of the left — including, it now appears, the editors of the L.A. Times — seem so opposed to this president’s efforts to combat terrorism that they are unwilling even to call a terrorist a terrorist. It is this unfortunate tendency that I am criticizing, and it is a significant issue. If we can’t get clarity on this point, we can’t get it on anything.

It is the height of absurd relativism to suggest, as L.A. Times editors did this morning (and have in the past), that whether Hamas is a terrorist organization simply depends upon your point of view. Hamas is an organization that, not so long ago, bragged on its web site of its murderous operations, with boasts like these:

“He was able to kill 2 and injure 21″

“Three militants stabbed two Israelis. . .The Hamas members wrote some slogans and considered this operation as a gift for Yitzhak Rabin on the occasion of winning the Israeli elections.”

“The group disarmed the sergeant and took all his papers. He was then exterminated and disposed of.”

Nor has the organization’s thirst for blood disappeared. As I pointed out in my post, Hamas took credit for the brutal kidnapping and murder of Sasson Nuriel last year, and according to this source, sent 29 potential suicide bombers into Israel last year.

It is, quite simply, a murderous, terrorist organization. That’s not all it is, of course. It is also a selfless creator of hospitals and schools — just like that other selfless creator of hospitals and schools, Al Qaeda. But its creation of hospitals and schools doesn’t change the fact that it is a terrorist organization.

A news organization that can’t admit this — such your newspaper, Michael — has a real credibility problem. To call this “picking at minor issues of syntax and diction” is to trivialize a very serious complaint about the paper’s willingness to speak simple truths.

Moreover, Michael, this is a problem that appears to be characteristic of the staff at your paper. Take, for example, the refusal of your paper’s Barbara Demick to call Kim Jong Il “evil” — despite his deliberate responsibility for a famine that killed up to 2 million of his people.

It is irrelevant to me whether this stems from a misplaced desire for “objectivity,” some off-kilter form of moral relativism, or a mixture of the two. Who cares? If your paper and its staff can’t tell the truth, it is worthless as a source of information.

Kim Jong Il is evil. Hamas is a terrorist organization. If you can’t bring yourselves to acknowledge and articulate such obvious facts, how can you expect anyone rational to trust you?

I’ll put the question to you directly, Michael Hiltzik: is Hamas a terrorist organization? If so, shouldn’t your editors simply say so?

The question answers itself.

Hiltzik also complains that I selectively quoted from the editorial:

Applying his customary method of leaving out any and all information that contradicts his theme, the conservative blogger Patrick Frey unloads on the L.A. Times today for an editorial whose language he brands as “enraging.”

What did I leave out? While I noted that the editors were strangely unwilling to call Hamas a terrorist organization, I didn’t tell you that they did manage to bring themselves to say some bad things about Hamas:

Let’s fill in the blanks, shall we? Here’s some of the language the editorial employs to describe Hamas, phrases Frey conveniently forgot to mention: “Dedicated to the destruction of Israel…[with] leaders who have refused…to disarm and renounce violence…preachers of hate.”

Wow. They really let Hamas have it!

Let me paraphrase commenters Dana and perfectsense in response. Let’s say, hypothetically, that I were to write the following:

Although Adolf Hitler has been branded by the Allies as a racist who has ordered massive genocide, he built autobahns, liked dogs, and was a vegetarian. And his Luftwaffe, which once bombed London, largely refrained from such attacks after 1942. However, Hitler certainly was a preacher of hate and refused to renounce violence.

If I were to write such tripe, the news would be in the first two sentences, which suggest that: Hitler may not have been a mass murderer; may not have been such a bad guy; and didn’t do such a bad thing in ordering the bombing of London. Do you really think that someone who criticized me for these two sentences would be misrepresenting my position if they failed to quote the third sentence, which weakly criticizes Hitler for some of his lesser sins??

Apparently, Michael Hiltzik would complain if you quoted the first two sentences, but omitted the third. What nonsense.

Ironically, Hiltzik does exactly what he accuses me of: ripping a sentence from its context and “conveniently” failing to include critical surrounding sentences. (The difference is that I didn’t really do that, as I have already explained.) To see what I mean, see what I really wrote (read the whole paragraph) about everything being “okey-dokey” if Hamas has “mostly” refrained from terror attacks. Then look at how Hiltzik characterized my post. Note especially that Hiltzik omits my documentation of Hamas’s continuing terrorist activities in 2005, including a murder unrelated to suicide attacks. Once you’ve read my entire post, tell me whether you think he’s being fair. (Hint: he’s not.)

Weak, Michael. Very weak. This is the best you can do???

Postscript in the extended entry:

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Branding Terrorists as Terrorists

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Terrorism — Patterico @ 6:46 am

A Los Angeles Times editorial this morning caught my attention with this enraging sentence:

Although the United States, Israel and the European Union brand Hamas a terrorist organization, Palestinians admire it for the schools and hospitals it runs.

Sorry? We “brand” Hamas a terrorist organization? How about simply saying that Hamas “is” a terrorist organization?

But putting it that way might make it seem kind of silly to then praise it for running schools and hospitals. After all, a sentence like this would be kind of jarring: “Although Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization, Palestinians admire it for the schools and hospitals it runs.” Doesn’t have that ring to it, does it? It would almost be like praising Al Qaeda for establishing schools and hospitals — which it has done, by the way.

How about Al Qaeda, L.A. Times editors? Is Al Qaeda a terrorist organization — or is it just branded one? If the Palestinians overwhelmingly voted in Al Qaeda, would you still be saying that most Palestinians want peace, and praising their wonderful hospitals and schools??

The editorial goes on:

And the organization that once routinely dispatched suicide bombers into Israel has mostly refrained from such attacks for about the last year.

Well then! As long as they have mostly refrained from dispatching suicide bombers into Israel, everything is okey-dokey! They’re not really a terrorist organization — just an organization that we “brand” as a terrorist organization! (“Mostly” means only 29 potential suicide bombers from Hamas were arrested in 2005.) You might think that it’s small comfort to, say, the family of Sasson Nuriel, who was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists in September 2005 — but who knows? Maybe his family is grateful that Hamas has “mostly” refrained from terror attacks.

Note how full credit for “mostly” refraining from terror attacks goes to Hamas, with no mention of the role that the security fence has played in controlling the attacks.

I wish I were an artist or a photoshopper. The image that comes to mind is a rancher branding a steer with a brand that reads: “Steer.” Whether you brand it or not, a steer is a steer. Regardless of how it is branded, Hamas is a terrorist organization. And the editors of the L.A. Times, who can’t bring themselves to call Hamas a terrorist organization . . . well, they are also what they are, regardless of how they might “brand” themselves.

1/26/2006

Question After the Hamas Victory

Filed under: General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 11:07 pm

So, I assume we’re not giving any more money to the Palestinians . . . right?

Treacher on Wusses

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 6:34 am

I’m not advocating that we spit on Joel Stein. All I’m asking is that we read Jim Treacher’s satire of him.

Then maybe we should go back to not caring about him. But read Treacher’s post first.

1/25/2006

Chris Penn Dead

Filed under: Movies — Patterico @ 7:23 am

Actor Chris Penn, brother of Sean and Michael, has died. He played “Nice Guy Eddie” in the film Reservoir Dogs. Some of his memorable lines from that movie can be read here.

1/24/2006

“If You Will . . .”

Filed under: Grammar — Patterico @ 9:32 pm

It always bugs me when people say “if you will . . .”

I won’t.

Where Joel Stein Went Wrong

Filed under: Dog Trainer,War — Patterico @ 9:28 pm

Joel Stein’s piece about not supporting the troops has certainly created quite a furor (albeit a predictable one.)

Stein’s piece was basically a column about how he doesn’t support our troops in Iraq, because he doesn’t support the war. His argument is that it is a weak-kneed position to oppose the war but “support the troops,” because opponents of the war actually don’t support what the troops are doing.

What is so infuriating about Stein is that he cheerfully admits in the column (and admitted in more detail to Hugh Hewitt today) that he knows nothing about the military — yet he presumes to know that our soldiers fighting in Iraq are morally opposed to the war:

But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they’re following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff’s pet name for the House of Representatives.

Where does Joel Stein get the idea that the Army is a body of people “ignoring their morality”? If you read Hewitt’s interview with Stein today, you know that Stein doesn’t get that idea from any knowledge of the military, because he doesn’t have any. Given his ignorance in this area, it’s pretty damn presumptuous of this guy to pretend that he knows that the members of the Army are “ignoring their morality.”

Memo to Stein: just because you think that the war in Iraq is immoral doesn’t mean that the people fighting it do. If you admittedly have absolutely no freaking clue about anything having to do with members of the military, then don’t presume to know their moral beliefs about the war in Iraq, and then to criticize them for acting inconsistently with those beliefs.

Thank you.

More details on Stein’s ignorance of the military in the extended entry:

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