Posts from March 12, 2004

Who are the bastards?

Who are the bastards?
: These days, when even accidents happen we are tuned to wonder whether it was The Terrorists — which, in this country, of course, means Islamofascist terrorists. A jet blows apart over Queens… the East Coast is thrown in to a blackout… we wonder every time whether it was them again.

In Spain, they are forced today into a sick and sad guessing game: Pick your terrorists… who are the bastards?

CNN analyzes the data so far. As we all know, it was at first assumed to be the Basque ETA; then a van was found with detonators and a tape of Koranic verses:

That doesn’t make a direct link of course. But we also have a claim of responsibility from a group calling itself Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade.

This is a group that has made false claims before for other actions though, including for example, the U.S. power blackouts last summer that turned out to be caused by technical problems and not an act of terror.

What do we know is that if this was indeed ETA it would represent a dramatic shift from what we have seen from them in the past: In terms of tactics and targeting; in terms of the way it was carried out; the indiscriminate targeting of civilians with no warning and no claim of responsibility.

Terror organizations, as bizarre as this sounds, act within their own boundaries, to their own rules, and have their own justification for how they operate and who or what is an acceptable target.

Thursday’s attacks broke every one of the rules that ETA has operated by in the past. So if this was ETA, the attack marks a fundamental shift, a passing of one guard to another, according to some Spanish officials.

: And in The Age, Tony Parkinson warns that whether or not bin Laden is behind Madrid’s 3/11, he is a model for terrorists who must be hunted down and stopped:

For the Spanish, understandably, there will be anger and despair. For their fellow Europeans, it is a sickening reminder that nobody is immune. Indeed, it was British Prime Minister Tony Blair who warned only last week that “we are in mortal danger of mistaking the nature of the new world in which we live”. Now, one of his more resolute allies in the war on terror, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, leads a nation in mourning.

If any of this speculation is close to the truth, the imminent US-led “spring offensive” in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan becomes all the more critical. The struggle to disrupt and destroy al-Qaeda now takes on added urgency. What sort of future beckons if bin Laden and his ilk serve as the model inspiring terror movements worldwide?

The fact that the Madrid bombings occurred despite a top-level alert points to the limits to security in open societies when fanatics are hell-bent on the mass murder of civilians. It is a challenge to which conventional law enforcement is struggling to respond.

Consider the grim ironies: in Germany, another alleged member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg cell has just walked free; in Jakarta, Abu Bakar Bashir is poised for early release; in Canberra, lawyers for David Hicks demand justice.

In Madrid, they will bury the dead.

: Iraqi blogger Alaa shouts:



: Ali, the Iraqi blogger, believes it was al Qaeda’s fault:

-The nature of the attacks leaves no doubt that whoever carried them wanted to cause as much as possible causalities among civilians, which seems to be a trade mark for AL QUEDA.

: Sam offers the sentiments of support from many of his fellow Iraqi bloggers:

Terror against innocent civilian is same anywhere and this should unite us irrespective of our ideas and religions as Muslims, Christians, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikhism, or any one else against the terror any where from any one.

For Spanish people there are friends for you in Iraq!

: Did anyone else notice yesterday that it took the BBC hours to even mention the possible al Qaeda connection? FoxNews and the AP were way ahead, from what I could see. Laziness? Agenda? They didn’t want to admit that the U.S. was in Baghdad and now they don’t want to admit that bin Laden is in Europe?

UPDATE: A commenter says that Reuters was the first to report the Islamic link. I’m hoping and assuming what I saw on the BBC was merely a dropped ball; just struck me as odd since they are usually quite quick on big news such as this.

: Sophia Sideshow says:

If al Qaeda is behind their only export–death–I wonder about any other targets, Bulgaria is an ally in this war, and certainly not as well-protected as the US (all the more courageous they).

I’m glad that the words coming out of Spain are not, “flee!” That would be so U.N.

The Daily Stern Extra

The Daily Stern Extra

: RADIO SILENCE: Howard Stern is not talking today.

He started his show with a brilliantly edited montage of words from the news and from Congress yesterday about free speech and stopping it. He mixed it with music of protest and freedom.

And we heard a message he left for his producer, Gary Dell’Abate, in the middle of the night saying that he was headed into the station to make a show in which he doesn’t talk.

Because, if the American Taliban has its way, soon he won’t talk.

It is a strong statement, well done.

: Stern did this for the first hour and a half of his show.

: POWELL’S A CHICKEN: Stern said that for his ABC interview show, ABC contacted FCC Censor Michael Powell to invite him to be on Howard’s first show. What better: Howard interviews Powell about broadcast standards.

Powell refused.


: MORE ALLIES: has a great list of links to news and more.

: THE SEVEN DIRTY PARTS OF SPEECH: The House of Representatives tells us what is dirty:

`(b) As used in this section, the term `profane’, used with respect to language, includes the words `s***’, `p***’, `f***’, `c***’, `a******’, and the phrases `c*** s*****’, `m***** f*****’, and `a** h***’, compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).’.

Block that gerund! [via Lost Remote]

: Says Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post:

If lawmakers feel it necessary to write obscenities in order to fight obscenity, who am I to make fun of them? Why, that would be as ridiculous as making fun of someone who tries to fight obesity by eating a rhinoceros.

In short, I am trying to be completely fair here to Doug Ose and the 29 other harrumphing, schoolmarmish co-sponsors of this bill — which, sadly, reads like the graffiti on the stall in the men’s room of the American Association of Nose-Pickers and Sexual Deviants.

Otherwise known as Congress.

Jersey blogger MeetUp (I’ll be there)

Jersey blogger MeetUp (I’ll be there)
: is holding a Jersey blogger MeetUp next Wednesday with the goal of spreading the gospel, the virus, the habit, whatever you call this. We want more local bloggers! Details here. Please sign-up here. See you there.

Why I like Howard Stern

Why I like Howard Stern

In the maelstrom around Howard Stern and free speech — and my daily coverage of the story here — one thing I haven’t made clear is why I like him and his show so much.

I once thought what many of you thought about Stern — because I hadn’t listened to him. I heard the same snippets and quotes and characterizations. I made the same assumptions. But then I assigned myself to review his cable show for TV Guide and I listened to his radio show.

And I liked him. I found that Stern is best taken in large doses. In the small dose of one outrageous quote or stunt, well, sure, anybody wouldn’t like what they hear. But listen to him for a whole hour, then a whole show, then a whole week — and by then he’s a habit — and you’ll find that he’s a very charming, likable, decent — and funny — man.

But more than that, he is an antedote to all the over-packaged, smiley, phony, condescending, pap of personality in American media and entertainment. The most frequently used word to describe Stern — and the most frequently mocked — is “honest.” But it is the truest description of him. In an age of political correctness, of tiptoeing — dishonestly — about no end of topics, of a numbing cotton gauze covering our national rhetoric, Stern cuts through the crap and says what he thinks… and what many of us think. And that is incredibly refreshing. No, it’s liberating.

Be honest: We don’t all talk like Hallmark cards and ministers and HR directors all the time. When we sit down in the bar with friends, we gossip and talk about people we don’t like and joke about sex. Be honest. And when we look at some news on TV, we think thoughts we wouldn’t like to admit. Stern admits them.

Is he racist? No, he certainly is not. He has racists on the show — a KKK somethingorother or just the random bozo on the phone — and he ridicules them, allowing them to expose their utter idiocy. And idiots are funny. Admit it: When you watch game shows or reality shows you love to make fun of the idiots there and that’s not necessarily anything to be proud of; making fun of idiot racists is

Stern gives us the respect to know that we, too, ridicule them; he doesn’t have to protect us from them or explain to us that they’re hateful fools; we’re smart enough to know that. Practitioners of political correctness don’t give us the respect for that judgment.

Is he mean to people who are different? No. I’d argue that he accepts them for who they are rather than just what they are far better than those of us who avert our eyes or treat them differently because they are different. Stern takes them at face value. He took a stutterer and turned him into a star who just got a big-bucks gig with Jay Leno. He reveals a garbageman to be one of the most together guys on radio. He attracts the different — the wack pack — because they feel comfortable with him and each other. We’re all misfits in some way; Stern admits his oddities and they theirs.

When I first started listening to Stern, I did think he could be mean to his staff. But then I was let in on the joke. He pulls their chains. They pull each others’ chains. The truth is that what you hear in Stern’s “office” is very much like the drama and personal politics of any workplace. It’s better than Dilbert.

He and his crew share their lives on the air with sometimes incredible candor. Stern lived through his marriage and divorce; his crew talks about their marriages with amazing candor. They’re real.

Stern is quite self-aware. He knows he has to have a big ego to be an entertainer. He also makes fun of himself as much as anyone.

All that is about Stern’s personality (at least on-air). He is also a damned talented entertainer: He’s creative and funny and he is one of the best interviewers alive; he can get stars to say the things they didn’t think they’d say (why do you think ABC hired him for an interview show?).

I’ve come to like the guy. I don’t know him. I used to appear on TV or radio with some frequency as a critic and (token) Stern defender. I spoke with him once on the air about one of those appearances. He read the review I wrote in TV Guide on the air and said grateful things (involving sexual favors, as I recall). But I haven’t been concentrating so much on him and the maelstrom around him because I’m a friend.

I am doing this because I am a fan. Every morning, I look forward to listening to him and his crew when I run and show and drive too damned far to work. I like to listen. If you don’t, fine. Listen to something else. I won’t stop you. So don’t stop me.

I am also doing this because I fear for the First Amendment. In the hysteria — and admit it’s hysteria — over Janet Jackson’s iron-clad and not naked boob — the result of a malfunction of judgment, not wardrobe — Congress and the FCC are about to trample the rights of anyone who speaks on radio or TV or in print… or on the Internet.

Defend Stern. Defend speech.

The Daily Stern

The Daily Stern

: FREE SPEECH JUST GOT DAMNED EXPENSIVE: So the House passed its indecent “indecency” bill. Dolts.

: FROM A REASONABLE MAN: Dan Gillmor says in his newspaper column:

I have some advice for Howard Stern, whose radio talk show just got dropped by a big broadcasting company. Ditch those bozos, who are too spineless for words. Go to the Internet and satellites, radio’s last bastions of free speech.

: ADVERTISERS LOYAL: Advertisers are sticking with Stern:

Howard Stern is in hot water again, but the shock jock’s advertisers are standing by their man.

Purveyors of everything from diet pills to tax advice say they will continue to buy air time on Stern’s show, despite the Federal Communications Commission’s crackdown on indecency and a decision by the nation’s largest radio broadcaster, Clear Channel Communications Inc., to suspend the show from six of its stations.

Advertisers say they are sticking with Stern because his show attracts an important audience: young men.

Bush, beware.

: POLITICAL FALLOUT: Eric Boehlert in Salon examines the political consequences of the culture war for the Republicans now that Stern is in the fight:

Declaring a “radio jihad” against President Bush, syndicated morning man Howard Stern and his burgeoning crusade to drive Republicans from the White House are shaping up as a colossal media headache for the GOP, and one they never saw coming.

The pioneering shock jock, “the man who launched the raunch,” as the Los Angeles Times once put it, has emerged almost overnight as the most influential Bush critic in all of American broadcasting, as he rails against the president hour after hour, day after day to a weekly audience of 8 million listeners. Never before has a Republican president come under such withering attack from a radio talk-show host with the influence and national reach Stern has….

Stern had strongly backed Bush’s war on Iraq, but in the past two weeks, he has derided the president as a “Jesus freak,” a “maniac” and “an arrogant bastard,” while ranting against “the Christian right minority that has taken over the White House.”…

Boehlert also points out that Stern’s audience is sizable (and I have heard bigger numbers than he uses):

By way of comparison, that’s more than the number of morning viewers at any given time watching Fox News, CNN and MSBNC — combined.

“There’s no question,” says Harrison, “Stern is the sleeping giant of liberal radio.”

: FROM ALL SIDES: Conservatives have stuck up for Stern and free speech. But leftits are coming to the cause, too. Granted, that’s in great measure because Stern is now bashing Bush. But if the most politically correct are defending the least politically correct, well, that tells you something. Hell, even Alternet and Ted Rall (and let me remind you I’m certainly no fan of either) are defending war-loving, death-penalty-pushing, raw-and-ribald Stern. Talk about the oddest possible bedfellows. Here’s Rall. And here’s Alternet on the political fallout:

It seems that President Bush’s “culture war” may finally succeed where Operation Iraqi Freedom did not. Namely, W and Rove’s latest foray seems sure to find those long-sought-after WMDs. Weapons of Mass Destruction? No, not them. I’m talking about White Male Defectors, voters who four years ago responded favorably to Bush’s no-nonsense, common man veneer, but now find themselves alienated by his increasingly expansive religious agenda and his assaults on the Bill of Rights.

: PREVIOUS STERN POSTS: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.