Commentary Magazine


Topic: Brian Williams

Responding to John Derbyshire (Again)

John Derbyshire has responded to my post in which I took him to task for his criticisms of President Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Here are a few reactions to what Derbyshire writes:

1. One way to judge a debate is by how much ground the other party concedes. With that in mind, Derbyshire began by saying this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

He is now saying this:

“22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years.” Possibly so; but does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, which is the subject under discussion?

So Derbyshire has shifted from saying that thanks to the generous efforts of America, Africans are “continu[ing] in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits,” to conceding that, as UNAIDS reports, HIV infections have significantly declined in the past decade. Derbyshire is now arguing whether PEPFAR deserves credit for the decline. That’s progress of a sort, I suppose. Read More

John Derbyshire has responded to my post in which I took him to task for his criticisms of President Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Here are a few reactions to what Derbyshire writes:

1. One way to judge a debate is by how much ground the other party concedes. With that in mind, Derbyshire began by saying this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

He is now saying this:

“22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years.” Possibly so; but does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, which is the subject under discussion?

So Derbyshire has shifted from saying that thanks to the generous efforts of America, Africans are “continu[ing] in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits,” to conceding that, as UNAIDS reports, HIV infections have significantly declined in the past decade. Derbyshire is now arguing whether PEPFAR deserves credit for the decline. That’s progress of a sort, I suppose.

(For those interested in the most relevant findings of the UNAIDS report, I would recommend page 11 [Figure 1.3], which shows drops in people aged 15–25 years who had sex before age 15 years and who had multiple partners in the past 12 months; page 22, which shows AIDS-related deaths by region, 1990-2009; page 27 [Figure 2.8], which shows the number of people newly infected with HIV as well as adult and child deaths due to AIDS; and page 28, which reports, “With an estimated 5.6 million … people living with HIV in 2009, South Africa’s epidemic remains the largest in the world. New indications show a slowing of HIV incidence amid some signs of a shift towards safer sex among young people. The annual HIV incidence among 18-year-olds declined sharply from 1.8% in 2005 to 0.8% in 2008, and among women 15–24 years old it dropped from 5.5% in 2003–2005 to 2.2% in 2005–2008.”)

So did PEPFAR have measurable effects? Drs. Eran Bendavid and Jayanta Bhattacharya evaluated the program’s outcomes in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year. They found that the program was responsible for a decrease of more than 10 percent in “deaths due to HIV or AIDS.” Millions of lives were saved thanks to “improved treatment and care of HIV-infected persons,” especially “the greater availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy,” which was an important focus of the program.

Admittedly, the prevalence of HIV infection in the population did not decline — precisely because people who would have died because of the virus were instead still living thanks to the drugs they received. But in the long run (as Drs. Julio Montaner, Viviane Lima, and Brian Williams note, also in the Annals), there is good reason to believe that “expanded antiretroviral therapy coverage may play a significant role in curbing the spread of HIV.”

More research will be necessary to fully determine the effects of PEPFAR, especially over the long term. But surveying the scientific literature to date, we can now reasonably conclude, I think, that while PEPFAR certainly isn’t solely responsible for the positive changes we’ve seen in Africa, it has contributed to them. And it has certainly not, as Derbyshire originally contended, made things worse.

2. Mr. Derbyshire writes:

There is then some argument that PEPFAR helps promote orderliness in poor nations. On this, I don’t have anything to add to what I said in my December 2 post. Mr. Wehner’s remarks are anyway just a chain of unjustified, unreferenced assertions. Some of them are contradicted by the much more knowledgeable Princeton N. Lyman and Stephen B. Wittels in the Foreign Affairs paper that was the hinge of my original post.

Mr. Wehner has nothing to say about that paper.

I thought my original piece was plenty long enough, but since Derbyshire insists on raising the topic: I have indeed read the essay by Lyman and Wittels that Derbyshire calls the “hinge” of his original post. The authors argue that, among other things, the U.S.’s commitment to helping treat HIV patients is limiting Washington’s leverage over recipient countries. But what I will tell you, which Derbyshire does not, is that Lyman and Wittels strongly support PEPFAR. But let them speak for themselves:

None of these issues [raised in the essay] should be allowed to undermine the commitment to treat all HIV/AIDS patients. This undertaking [PEPFAR and associated international programs] is one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in history and a statement by the developed countries that they refuse to deny life-saving treatments readily available in rich states to the millions elsewhere who need them. But the full implications of this commitment need to be addressed before they become a more serious problem.

Messrs. Lyman and Wittels are in fact offering steps that will “help sustain this major undertaking.” So the very essay on which Derbyshire rests his anti-PEPFAR case describes PEPFAR as “one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in history.” How inconvenient for Derbyshire.

3. Derbyshire writes, “If [Wehner] has read [the Lyman and Wittels essay] he will know how spurious is his comparison of PEPFAR — an ever-increasing permanent welfare commitment — to the 2004 tsunami relief effort, a one-off rescue mission.”

Actually, my comparison is not at all spurious. Remember, in his original post, Derbyshire wrote, “There is, however, no virtue in a government official spending your money and mine unless for some reason demonstrably connected to our national interest.”

My point is a simple one: even if you don’t believe that helping the victims of the tsunami was in the “national interest,” it still might be a good thing to do. Derbyshire’s argument, taken literally, denies such a thing. But when pressed on this, Derbyshire backs away from his original position. In fact, he now seems to favor “one-off disaster relief efforts in remote places.” Again, this is progress of a sort.

4. Derbyshire can’t seem to comprehend why I quoted Lincoln. Let me see if I can help him out. The quote articulates Lincoln’s view about the inherent dignity of all human beings, a belief that is relevant to this discussion since it touches on why we should care about people from other continents and other cultures — a sentiment that Derbyshire’s writings are arrestingly free of. Speaking of which: in reaction to my citing his 2006 comment that “I don’t care about Egyptians,” made after learning that around 1,000 Egyptians had perished in a tragic ferry accident at sea, Derbyshire writes this:

The rest is just more low ad hominem sneering. Goodness, how the man does sneer! He says that I am “eager to celebrate [my] callousness,” and quotes in support something I wrote in early 2006. Since I write roughly a hundred thousand words of fugitive journalism a year, that is around half a million words ago. I don’t see much “eagerness” there. If I were to mention, say, Brussels sprouts once every five years, would Mr. Wehner accuse me of being obsessed with that vegetable?

Let’s set aside the obvious irony — obvious to everyone but Derbyshire, that is — of having Derbyshire lecture anyone about sneering. I never said Derbyshire was “obsessed” with this matter — but clearly he was eager to express his views about his utter indifference to the death of many innocent people. Derbyshire now implies that his lack of compassion for Egyptians was because citizens like him were “so busy working for a living, caring for their families and friends, and worrying about the condition of their country that they have nothing to spare for the misfortunes of people in remote, unimportant places.”

Of course he was. Derbyshire’s empathy and mercy tank is empty; there is nothing to spare. Compassion fatigue takes a toll on us all.

5. Then there’s the matter of the Derbyshire put-downs like (but not limited to) this one:

Then there are some impertinent speculations concerning what I do and do not care about. I shall surrender here to the temptation that always comes over me when I am the target of sanctimonious bullying by self-congratulating prigs: Bite me, pal.

Perhaps at some point, Derbyshire will learn to distinguish crude, adolescent insults from witty ones. I would simply point out that Kathryn Lopez, Derbyshire’s colleague at National Review Online, rendered this carefully understated verdict on Derbyshire’s pieces: “I think the thread on President Bush, AIDS, and Africa took another unfortunate and unnecessary tonal turn this morning.”

John Derbyshire seems to have settled on a pattern. He makes bad arguments in callous ways and calls it conservatism. There are many things that might explain why Derbyshire says what he says; conservatism is not one of them.

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Not Obama’s Katrina

In his interview from New Orleans yesterday with NBC’s Brian Williams, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama assured the world that his handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not his administration’s Hurricane Katrina.

The president is right, if the people of Louisiana are to be believed. Mr. Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill is judged by them to be considerably worse than how Bush reacted to Katrina.

A Public Policy Polling survey reports this:

The oil spill in the Gulf may be mostly out of the headlines now but Louisiana voters aren’t getting any less mad at Barack Obama about his handling of it. Only 32% give Obama good marks for his actions in the aftermath of the spill, while 61% disapprove.

Louisianans are feeling more and more that George W. Bush’s leadership on Katrina was better than Obama’s on the spill. 54% think Bush did the superior job of helping the state through a crisis to 33% who pick Obama. That 21 point margin represents a widening since PPP asked the same question in June and found Bush ahead by a 15 point margin. Bush beats Obama 87-2 on that score with Republicans and 42-30 with independents, while Obama has just a 65-24 advantage with Democrats.

Louisianans are generally softening with time in their feelings about how Bush handled Katrina. Almost as many, 44%, now approve of his actions on it as the 47% who disapprove.

President Obama casts his response to the oil spill, like his response to everything, as textbook perfect. Yet the silly people of Louisiana, like so much of the nation, just don’t appreciate how extraordinarily able and competent Obama is. How difficult it must be for The One We’ve Been Waiting For to go through his presidency without the public appreciating the magnitude of his greatness. For the president, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished, no great achievement gets its proper due, not enough villains (Bush, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, conservative bloggers, Fox News, etc.) get nearly enough blame.

When will the scales finally fall from our eyes?

In his interview from New Orleans yesterday with NBC’s Brian Williams, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama assured the world that his handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not his administration’s Hurricane Katrina.

The president is right, if the people of Louisiana are to be believed. Mr. Obama’s handling of the BP oil spill is judged by them to be considerably worse than how Bush reacted to Katrina.

A Public Policy Polling survey reports this:

The oil spill in the Gulf may be mostly out of the headlines now but Louisiana voters aren’t getting any less mad at Barack Obama about his handling of it. Only 32% give Obama good marks for his actions in the aftermath of the spill, while 61% disapprove.

Louisianans are feeling more and more that George W. Bush’s leadership on Katrina was better than Obama’s on the spill. 54% think Bush did the superior job of helping the state through a crisis to 33% who pick Obama. That 21 point margin represents a widening since PPP asked the same question in June and found Bush ahead by a 15 point margin. Bush beats Obama 87-2 on that score with Republicans and 42-30 with independents, while Obama has just a 65-24 advantage with Democrats.

Louisianans are generally softening with time in their feelings about how Bush handled Katrina. Almost as many, 44%, now approve of his actions on it as the 47% who disapprove.

President Obama casts his response to the oil spill, like his response to everything, as textbook perfect. Yet the silly people of Louisiana, like so much of the nation, just don’t appreciate how extraordinarily able and competent Obama is. How difficult it must be for The One We’ve Been Waiting For to go through his presidency without the public appreciating the magnitude of his greatness. For the president, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished, no great achievement gets its proper due, not enough villains (Bush, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, conservative bloggers, Fox News, etc.) get nearly enough blame.

When will the scales finally fall from our eyes?

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Like LBJ Losing Cronkite?

It wasn’t too long ago that Obama wasn’t funny. That is, none of the late-night comics thought he was funny. The New Yorker couldn’t run a funny cartoon on its cover. Obama was above jokes. You don’t laugh at “sort of God,” you see. But as the mask of competence slips and the blunders mount, he becomes once again a comic target. Howard Kurtz tells us Obama is now really in trouble because he’s lost Jon Stewart:

It was inevitable that Obama would become a late-night target, at least when Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Dave Letterman have taken time out from sliming each other. But Stewart, who makes no secret of leaning left, is a pop-culture bellwether. And while the White House notes that Obama used the prompter to address journalists, not the students, the details matter little in comedy.

Stewart’s barbs are generating partisan buzz. …

“He’s clearly become an important cultural arbiter,” says Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “He’s pulled off the trick of being taken seriously when he wants to be and taken frivolously when he wants to be.”

What is even more remarkable is that “real” news people seem to take their cues from a comic. He’s an “icon” to real journalists, Kurtz tells us. He quotes Brian Williams: “A lot of the work that Jon and his staff do is serious. They hold people to account, for errors and sloppiness.” Well, everything is relative, I suppose. The “real” media’s disinclination to treat Obama as roughly as they have treated previous presidents has left the field wide open for a cable network comic to play the role that independent journalists used to — holding the White House accountable, skewering the president for errors, and refusing to take seriously the spin coming from administration flacks.

It may be that Stewart’s newfound boldness in ribbing Obama is indicative of a change in Obama’s fortunes. But it also speaks volumes about the reluctance of the entire media — serious and otherwise — for the better part of a year to critically assess Obama’s policies and political instincts.

Now that the spell is broken and Obama is “funny,” maybe the media will discover he is also fodder for serious reporting. Perhaps they will ask some serious questions — when and if he ever gives another press conference. How was it that he claimed that the Christmas Day bomber was an isolated extremist? Did he really let Eric Holder come up with the idea all on his own for a New York trial for KSM? Did Obama not know that his own health-care plan would chase Americans out of their own health-care plans? Why did he sign an omnibus spending bill with 9,000 earmarks if earmarks are nothing more than petty corruption? How can he say the stimulus is a success if he promised it would keep unemployment at 8 percent?  There is nothing funny about any of those issues, but the media might want to press the president for answers to these and other queries. At least if they want to stay ahead of Jon Stewart.

It wasn’t too long ago that Obama wasn’t funny. That is, none of the late-night comics thought he was funny. The New Yorker couldn’t run a funny cartoon on its cover. Obama was above jokes. You don’t laugh at “sort of God,” you see. But as the mask of competence slips and the blunders mount, he becomes once again a comic target. Howard Kurtz tells us Obama is now really in trouble because he’s lost Jon Stewart:

It was inevitable that Obama would become a late-night target, at least when Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Dave Letterman have taken time out from sliming each other. But Stewart, who makes no secret of leaning left, is a pop-culture bellwether. And while the White House notes that Obama used the prompter to address journalists, not the students, the details matter little in comedy.

Stewart’s barbs are generating partisan buzz. …

“He’s clearly become an important cultural arbiter,” says Robert Lichter, director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “He’s pulled off the trick of being taken seriously when he wants to be and taken frivolously when he wants to be.”

What is even more remarkable is that “real” news people seem to take their cues from a comic. He’s an “icon” to real journalists, Kurtz tells us. He quotes Brian Williams: “A lot of the work that Jon and his staff do is serious. They hold people to account, for errors and sloppiness.” Well, everything is relative, I suppose. The “real” media’s disinclination to treat Obama as roughly as they have treated previous presidents has left the field wide open for a cable network comic to play the role that independent journalists used to — holding the White House accountable, skewering the president for errors, and refusing to take seriously the spin coming from administration flacks.

It may be that Stewart’s newfound boldness in ribbing Obama is indicative of a change in Obama’s fortunes. But it also speaks volumes about the reluctance of the entire media — serious and otherwise — for the better part of a year to critically assess Obama’s policies and political instincts.

Now that the spell is broken and Obama is “funny,” maybe the media will discover he is also fodder for serious reporting. Perhaps they will ask some serious questions — when and if he ever gives another press conference. How was it that he claimed that the Christmas Day bomber was an isolated extremist? Did he really let Eric Holder come up with the idea all on his own for a New York trial for KSM? Did Obama not know that his own health-care plan would chase Americans out of their own health-care plans? Why did he sign an omnibus spending bill with 9,000 earmarks if earmarks are nothing more than petty corruption? How can he say the stimulus is a success if he promised it would keep unemployment at 8 percent?  There is nothing funny about any of those issues, but the media might want to press the president for answers to these and other queries. At least if they want to stay ahead of Jon Stewart.

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More on Barstow

Apparently John Podhoretz and I weren’t the only ones underwhelmed by David Barstow’s 7,600-word magnum opus in Sunday’s New York Times. (The piece detailed how the Pentagon tries to woo retired military officers to get out its side of the story in the Iraq War.) According to this Los Angeles Times online article, the article “made minimal ripples”:

The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. . . . the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter in the blogosphere. . . . NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog.

The LA Times blogger explains this lack of interest by claiming that Americans are used to having their government manipulate the media: “You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.” That may be true. But I think it’s also true that most Americans are aware that the MSM have their own spin on the news, and they don’t think it’s wrong for those with a different viewpoint–even if they work at the Department of Defense–to try to get out another side of the story.

For all the angst over “media manipulation,” the reality is that the public isn’t so easily manipulated. Public opinion of the war effort eroded when we were losing the war on the ground. Now that we’re making progress, public support has rebounded. There’s nothing wrong with the Pentagon trying to highlight what it sees as positive news–just as there is nothing wrong with the MSM reporting largely negative news. The body politic will gradually sort it all out.

Apparently John Podhoretz and I weren’t the only ones underwhelmed by David Barstow’s 7,600-word magnum opus in Sunday’s New York Times. (The piece detailed how the Pentagon tries to woo retired military officers to get out its side of the story in the Iraq War.) According to this Los Angeles Times online article, the article “made minimal ripples”:

The Sunday-morning talk shows ignored the piece. . . . the Pentagon caper likewise seemed a nonstarter in the blogosphere. . . . NBC’s Brian Williams, who’s been known to take a rooting interest in media-industry shopkeeping, didn’t even mention it on his “Daily Nightly” blog.

The LA Times blogger explains this lack of interest by claiming that Americans are used to having their government manipulate the media: “You don’t have to tell John Q. Public that the fix is in; he takes it for granted.” That may be true. But I think it’s also true that most Americans are aware that the MSM have their own spin on the news, and they don’t think it’s wrong for those with a different viewpoint–even if they work at the Department of Defense–to try to get out another side of the story.

For all the angst over “media manipulation,” the reality is that the public isn’t so easily manipulated. Public opinion of the war effort eroded when we were losing the war on the ground. Now that we’re making progress, public support has rebounded. There’s nothing wrong with the Pentagon trying to highlight what it sees as positive news–just as there is nothing wrong with the MSM reporting largely negative news. The body politic will gradually sort it all out.

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Brian Williams: Hillary Will You Stand Up For Yourself?

She reiterates her own experience (which is rather thin beer, by the way) and then makes a lame effort to say his opposition to the Iraq war before he came to the Senate doesn’t really count. (Like all those little Red states don’t count in the delegate race, I suppose.) She never comes out and says: he’s an unrealistic and unprepared novice. But McCain will.

She reiterates her own experience (which is rather thin beer, by the way) and then makes a lame effort to say his opposition to the Iraq war before he came to the Senate doesn’t really count. (Like all those little Red states don’t count in the delegate race, I suppose.) She never comes out and says: he’s an unrealistic and unprepared novice. But McCain will.

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McCain the Mensch

Tonight’s dreary but polite debate made it impossible to declare a winner. No mistakes, no huge moments, no great, punchy lines. Softballs were served up to nearly all the candidates, and no one seemed to want to take a big swing.

As a result, I think McCain might have done best precisely because no one really engaged him. The test tonight was “credible leadership.” There are lots of reasons to question McCain’s fitness as a GOP leader (his age, his anti-party reflexes, his wrong-headedness on the Bush tax cuts, etc), but no one challenged him. He arrived tonight as the leader and no one pushed him off the throne. His sudden statement near the end of the debate praising Rudy – apparently an effort to criticize the nasty quote about Giuliani from the New York Times editorial endorsing him that was read by Brian Williams – remind people that, even in the heat of battle, McCain is a mensch. Not a bad thing to be in the Florida primary.

Tonight’s dreary but polite debate made it impossible to declare a winner. No mistakes, no huge moments, no great, punchy lines. Softballs were served up to nearly all the candidates, and no one seemed to want to take a big swing.

As a result, I think McCain might have done best precisely because no one really engaged him. The test tonight was “credible leadership.” There are lots of reasons to question McCain’s fitness as a GOP leader (his age, his anti-party reflexes, his wrong-headedness on the Bush tax cuts, etc), but no one challenged him. He arrived tonight as the leader and no one pushed him off the throne. His sudden statement near the end of the debate praising Rudy – apparently an effort to criticize the nasty quote about Giuliani from the New York Times editorial endorsing him that was read by Brian Williams – remind people that, even in the heat of battle, McCain is a mensch. Not a bad thing to be in the Florida primary.

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Bad Questions = Bad Debate

This debate is dull, in large part, because the questions are so lame. Tim Russert and Brian Williams don’t have any deep observations on policy or the state of the country. So instead, they pose synthetic questions asking the candidates to respond to polls or primary election results. They think they are asking substantive questions because they ask for “specific” answers. This is journalistic vanity at its worst. Even Russert’s phony grilling of how much Mitt Romney has contributed to his own campaign is a question about an issue that only the media cares about.

This debate is dull, in large part, because the questions are so lame. Tim Russert and Brian Williams don’t have any deep observations on policy or the state of the country. So instead, they pose synthetic questions asking the candidates to respond to polls or primary election results. They think they are asking substantive questions because they ask for “specific” answers. This is journalistic vanity at its worst. Even Russert’s phony grilling of how much Mitt Romney has contributed to his own campaign is a question about an issue that only the media cares about.

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Ned Colt’s Inspiration

Yesterday on the Today Show, NBC broadcaster Ned Colt offered a disturbing and inaccurate portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Colt begins: “Murderous fanatic or hero of radical Islam?” Strange use of the word or, indeed. But that’s not the real kicker by a longshot.

COLT: In the West the Saudi born al Qaeda leader is blamed for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and two years later the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. And while he’s never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11, at the very least he inspired the attacks that left 3000 dead.

Bin Laden’s guilt isn’t a stone-cold fact, but a Western construction. And how does Colt know this? Because bin Laden has “never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11.” Actually, he has. But since when does a criminal’s culpability rest on his taking credit for a crime, anyway?

The only person Colt speaks with during this piece is Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, who gushes: “History will remember Osama Bin Laden as the man who challenged the American superpower. The little David who actually stand up against the mighty Goliath.” Lest we miss the point, Colt closes with “American officials believe Bin Laden’s power [“inspirational”, Ned?] has only increased in recent years with his followers now active in at least 40 countries worldwide,” before throwing it over to Brian Williams.

I can’t imagine I’m alone in wanting to know if a prominent NBC news reporter considers Osama bin Laden a mass-murderer or a guiltless inspiration.

Yesterday on the Today Show, NBC broadcaster Ned Colt offered a disturbing and inaccurate portrait of Osama bin Laden.

Colt begins: “Murderous fanatic or hero of radical Islam?” Strange use of the word or, indeed. But that’s not the real kicker by a longshot.

COLT: In the West the Saudi born al Qaeda leader is blamed for the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the bombings at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and two years later the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. And while he’s never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11, at the very least he inspired the attacks that left 3000 dead.

Bin Laden’s guilt isn’t a stone-cold fact, but a Western construction. And how does Colt know this? Because bin Laden has “never directly claimed responsibility for 9/11.” Actually, he has. But since when does a criminal’s culpability rest on his taking credit for a crime, anyway?

The only person Colt speaks with during this piece is Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds, who gushes: “History will remember Osama Bin Laden as the man who challenged the American superpower. The little David who actually stand up against the mighty Goliath.” Lest we miss the point, Colt closes with “American officials believe Bin Laden’s power [“inspirational”, Ned?] has only increased in recent years with his followers now active in at least 40 countries worldwide,” before throwing it over to Brian Williams.

I can’t imagine I’m alone in wanting to know if a prominent NBC news reporter considers Osama bin Laden a mass-murderer or a guiltless inspiration.

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Sovereign Wealth Funds

Brian Williams of NBC asked the Democrats a substantive and a provocative question about sovereign wealth funds — giant pools of money controlled and managed by foreign governments like China, Singapore, and Gulf oil states — investing in American companies like Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. This issue will be a rallying point for the protectionist left and right this campaign season. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton gave a lot of boiler point about more transparency and the need to do something. Barack Obama, clearly knowing nothing about the topic, talked about alternative energy.

But the U.S. attitude toward sovereign wealth funds is going to be the most important test of American acceptance of globalization. By this fall, there will be many more companies that get their funding from government investment funds from the Gulf State, Singapore, and China. Irwin Stelzer has made the best case for being wary about having a foreign government holding the purse strings of American businesses. But the fact is, these funds are going to be the most important engine of finance and growth capital in a global economy whether we like it or not. As a political matter, this is probably a losing issue for free traders. Yet all those politicians who want to deter foreign financial investment in American companies have to tell us what Citi, and Merrill, and all the other cash-strapped companies should do when they need to find new sources of capital if they can’t get access to these pools of wealth.

Brian Williams of NBC asked the Democrats a substantive and a provocative question about sovereign wealth funds — giant pools of money controlled and managed by foreign governments like China, Singapore, and Gulf oil states — investing in American companies like Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. This issue will be a rallying point for the protectionist left and right this campaign season. John Edwards and Hillary Clinton gave a lot of boiler point about more transparency and the need to do something. Barack Obama, clearly knowing nothing about the topic, talked about alternative energy.

But the U.S. attitude toward sovereign wealth funds is going to be the most important test of American acceptance of globalization. By this fall, there will be many more companies that get their funding from government investment funds from the Gulf State, Singapore, and China. Irwin Stelzer has made the best case for being wary about having a foreign government holding the purse strings of American businesses. But the fact is, these funds are going to be the most important engine of finance and growth capital in a global economy whether we like it or not. As a political matter, this is probably a losing issue for free traders. Yet all those politicians who want to deter foreign financial investment in American companies have to tell us what Citi, and Merrill, and all the other cash-strapped companies should do when they need to find new sources of capital if they can’t get access to these pools of wealth.

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