Archive for Journalism

Abraham, Martin, and John…and Barack

Has anybody here seen my old friend Barack?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?

President Barack Obama went to the West Coast to meet donors from two top Democratic super PACs, but the press wasn’t invited.

Tuesday, the reporters and photographers traveling with the president on Air Force One and in his motorcade were left on the gravel path not even within sight of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal’s house in the Seattle suburbs where Obama sat for a Senate Majority PAC fundraiser with a $25,000 entrance fee.

Wednesday morning, when he met with big donors for the House Majority PAC at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown San Francisco, they weren’t even told what room or floor he was on.

“We think these fundraisers ought to be open to at least some scrutiny, because the president’s participation in them is fundamentally public in nature,” said Christi Parsons, the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. “Denying access to him in that setting undermines the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing. It’s of special concern as these events and the donors they attract become more influential in the political process.”

Despite constant complaints from the press corps and promises from White House officials, access to the president continues to be limited. The constantly repeated line that they’re running the “most transparent administration in history” tends to prompt snickers. Halfway through Obama’s West Coast swing, it’s tipping toward outrage.

Okay, tough guys, what are you going to do about it?

Parsons said the WHCA has asked the White House to reconsider its position regarding access, but has not yet filed a formal complaint.

Pussies.

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Practicing Journalism w/o a License

Sharyl Attkisson lost her job at CBS for questioning the Obama administration. At all.

Now she is reduced to the lowest form of life, a phylum that looks upon pond scum and banana slugs with the greenish tinge of envy: bloggress.

According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS reports having “lost” former IRS manager Lois Lerner’s emails to and from other IRS employees sent between January of 2009 and April of 2011 due to a ‘computer crash.’

In light of the disclosure, these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:

Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.

Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.

Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.

Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?

Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?

Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.

Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.

Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.

I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.

You can take the girl out of journalism, but you can’t take the journalist out of the girl. If Andrea Mitchell weren’t so high on hydrogen peroxide fumes and David Gregory weren’t so intoxicated with himself, they might think to ask even one of these questions.

Nah.

You can see why Attkisson had to get out of the business: she has an unspellable name and too many scruples. Welcome to the Lower Depths, sweetie. You’ll find it’s not so bad when you get used to the swamp gas.

PS: But then, you come from the network of Dan Rather, so you probably already are.

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Made You Look!

CNN’s obsession with the missing plane long ago became the stuff of farce, ridicule, parody.

Ratings bonanza!

The 850 square kilometers scanned off the coast of western Australia in the hunt for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane are not the “final resting place of MH370,” the agency leading the search said Thursday.

The search area is where four acoustic pings originally thought to be from the black boxes of the Boeing 777 were heard in early April.

“The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has advised that the search in the vicinity of the acoustic detections can now be considered complete and in its professional judgment, the area can now be discounted as the final resting place of MH370,” a statement from the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said.

Authorities now almost universally believe the pings did not come from the onboard data or cockpit voice recorders but instead came from some other man-made source unrelated to the jetliner that disappeared on March 8, according to Michael Dean, the Navy’s deputy director of ocean engineering.

I don’t watch CNN, but I understand from those who are paid to do so that it has obsessed on this subject like Michelle Obama on curly kale. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that CNN itself dispatched some junior producer to the South Pacific with a triangle from a high school band. He’s floating in a dinghy, surrounded by sharks, pinging the triangle every eight seconds. Well, now he’s stopped, back on dry land, applying makeup to Wolf Blitzer’s brow.

I guess I should declare that I am not making fun of such a tragic loss of life. Real people, not that different from me, lost people they loved very dearly. But is CNN’s comical coverage any more respectful?

“Now clearly we were hoping that the pings would narrow that broad area down to a narrow one, but that has not been the case, and now we have to unfortunately go the long road,” he told CNN.

You just take your time, says CNN. We’ve got hours of programming to fill.

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While Obama Putted

[NB: Hat Tip to Keith Koffler's invaluable White House Dossier for most of these links.]

This was how the VA scandal broke:

At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.

The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.

Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.

Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments.

That was on April 23, on CNN.

Dr. Foote explains himself in the New York Times today a day and a month later:

MY decision to become a whistle-blower after 24 years as a physician in a Veterans Affairs hospital was, at first, an easy one. I knew about patients who were dying while waiting for appointments on the V.A.’s secret schedules, and I couldn’t stay silent.

But there was no response to the two letters I sent to the Veterans Affairs inspector general, one in late October 2013 and one in early February. Going public would damage an institution I gave more than two decades of my life to, trying to make a better place for veterans to get their care. But I had to be able to sleep at night.

Any scandal that befalls the V.A. necessarily lands on the party that is in the White House. As this is an election year, we can expect that there will be significant pushback to delay and limit the discovery of negative information — which is why I expect my suggestions to be vehemently opposed by the White House and the V.A.’s upper management.

I am worried about the patients whose care is entrusted to the V.A., and I am skeptical about our chances of creating real, long-lasting reform — but I hope that this time we will. It is easy, especially on Memorial Day weekend, to pay lip service to the need to “support our troops” and our veterans. But it is much harder to actually do it.

Dr. Foote has little faith in President Obama’s leadership, a pretty cynical point of view when the president was described as “madder than hell”. But if we look at the intervening 31 days since the story broke, we may see the reason for the good doctor’s skepticism.

Obama was in Asia when the story broke (You remember, he told Malaysia that the US has “work to do” on human rights.) He returned to the White House on the evening of April 29th.

There was a lot of business to catch up on, as one might expect, but that’s what weekends are for—to work through the backlog of the nation’s business.

Eventually:

From the pool report:

POTUS motorcade departed WH at about 11:40 am and arrived at Fort Belvoir, Va. at 12:06 p.m., at which point motorcade pulled off from pool van. Pool did not see president.

Per White House, POTUS is playing golf with Marvin Nicholson, Joe Paulsen and Michael Brush.

Doubtless strategizing how to fix the VA. But he got busy the next week.

Fundraising:

Obama Schedule || Wednesday, May 7, 2014
by KEITH KOFFLER on MAY 6, 2014, 9:53 PM
10:00 am ET || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
11:05 am ET || Departs White House
12:35 pm CT || Arrives Arkansas
2:50 pm CT || Delivers a statement
3:35 pm CT || Departs Arkansas
5:00 pm PT || Arrives Los Angeles
6:55 pm PT || Delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint fundraiser for House and Senate Democrats; private residency, Los Angeles
8:10 pm PT || Attends USC Shoah Foundation dinner; Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles

The Shoah dinner as a cover for a fundraising junket—well played, sir!

And he wasn’t done yet!

Obama Schedule || Thursday, May 8, 2014
by KEITH KOFFLER on MAY 7, 2014, 8:26 PM
9:30 am || Participates in a DNC fundraiser; The Beverly Hilton
11:10 am || Departs Los Angeles
11:50 am || Arrives San Diego
1:15 pm || Delivers remarks at a fundraiser for congressional Democrats; private residence
2:30 pm || Departs San Diego
3:50 pm || Arrives San Jose
4:15 pm || Participates in a DNC fundraiser; private residence
6:30 pm || Speaks at a DNC fundraiser; Fairmont San Jose

A few more days pass—and it’s the weekend!

It’s the usual Saturday golf. President Obama and three White House aides – usual type players – arrived at the Joint Andrews course shortly after noon.

It’s the president’s 12th time out this year and the 169th round of his presidential golfing career.

Okay, he’s golfed enough, and fundraised enough—surely he’s over jet lag—it must be time to address the nation’s veterans.

But it’s not:

Obama Schedule || Wednesday, May 14, 2014
by KEITH KOFFLER on MAY 13, 2014, 10:26 PM
10:00 am || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
1:20 pm || With the first lady, departs the White House
2:30 pm || Arrives New York City
3:25 pm || Delivers remarks on infrastructure; Tarrytown, NY
5:00 pm || Attends a DNC fundraiser; InterContinental Hotel, New York City

It’s been three week, sir: surely time to display that legendary Obama temper and kick some ass, no?

Not exactly:

Rob Nabors, a White House deputy chief of staff, will work with the VA temporarily to help assess its practices and develop recommendations on how veterans’ hospitals can increase access to timely care, the White House announced Wednesday.

“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans. I’m grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisors, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment.”

Maybe he hides his anger:

TAPPER How on earth, can the president still have full confidence in him. People died.

McDONOUGH You heard what Gen. Shinseki had to say about this. He’s mad as Hell about this. Nobody’s more mad than the president.

Grateful, angry, what’s the difference? Either way, he got his man:

Today, I accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Petzel, Under Secretary for Health in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I thank Dr. Petzel for his four decades of service to Veterans.

“Four decades” should have been a clue: it turns out the guy retired, a couple of weeks early.

That done, it was back to the golf course:

A reporter got stuck in less than stellar surroundings Saturday. As President Obama golfed at the fancy Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., an exclusive course that has hosted four President’s cups, the reporter was put in a maintenance shed.

On the way to the shed, Houston Chronicle‘s Kevin Diaz first waited in the equipment shack cafeteria (whatever that means). Later, he was sent to a” maintenance shed” to wait out the President’s golf game.

As he noted in his White House Pool Report, “POTUS motorcade departed at 4:45 from the gated, lakefront campus of Robert Trent Jones’ signature golf course, which looked like a nice place to play golf, at least from the maintenance shed where pool spent the day.”

If the designated reporter is meek enough to sit on his ass in a maintenance shed, that’s probably where he belongs. What a useless lot the Washington press corps is.

FINALLY! Four weeks since the story broke:

Some of the problems with respect to how veterans are able to access the benefits that they’ve earned, that’s not a new issue. That’s an issue that I was working on when I was running for the United States Senate. Taking care of our veterans and their families has been one of the causes of my presidency.

And dummy lists, Mr. President? Have they been “one of the causes of [your] presidency”? Military “folks” died waiting for access to your “issue”.

What are you going to do about it?

President Obama headed out unusually early this morning for his customary Saturday round of golf, motorcading to the course at Joint Base Andrews.

From the pool reports:

The president left the White House in his motorcade at 9:25 am. He is wearing a well-tailored pair of khaki pants, a white polo shirt, a navy blue windbreaker and no hat.

At least, that’s how it looked from the maintenance shed.

In the month-plus since the story broke, Obama has “retired” one bureaucrat, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Democrat Party, and golfed four times. Perhaps that explains Dr. Foote’s jaundiced view of affairs expressed above.

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PUMA (Paper Unity My Ass) II

A white woman who’s got the job all sewn up suddenly finds herself out on her ass, replaced by a black man.

Nah, could never happen:

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson was suddenly fired on Wednesday, less than three years after taking over the top editorial position at the newspaper.

In an article posted on its web site, the Times said Abramson has been “dismissed” and will be replaced by Dean Baquet, the managing editor of the newspaper.

The first female executive editor at the Times is being replaced by the first African-American to fill the post. Baquet, 57, was Abramson’s hand-picked deputy during her term in office.

“I’ve loved my run at The Times,”Abramson, 60, said in a statement released by the paper. “I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism.”

Sulzberger told the employees that Abramson was leaving due to “an issue with management in the newsroom,” adding that there were no editorial issues during her tenure that caused the move. Abramson was not in the newsroom during the announcement, Politico reports.

“I chose to appoint a new leader for our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects of the management of the newsroom,” Sulzberger said, according to the Politico report. “This is not about any disagreement between the newsroom and the business side.”

The Times’ article on the dismissal states “people in the company briefed on the situation described serious tension in [Abramson's] relationship with Mr. Sulzberger, who had been hearing concerns from employees that she was polarizing and mercurial. They had disagreements even before she was appointed executive editor, and she had also had clashes with Mr. Baquet.”

Who said Ms. Abramson was “likable enough”.

Except when she wasn’t:

The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta reported in a blog post that Abramson, the first female to serve as executive editor for the prestigious newspaper, was let go because she demanded “equal pay” to male personnel, a point immediately denied by The Times.

“Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs,” Auletta writes.

“‘She confronted the top brass,’ one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy,’ a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect,” he continued.

Auletta notes that Sulzberger feels the financially-strapped Times needs to be less extravagant with its salaries and that Keller had spent many more years at the paper than Abramson, which would also explain the pension disparity.

He concludes that, whether Abramson was “right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, ‘She found out that a former deputy managing editor’ — a man— ‘made more money than she did’ while she was managing editor. ‘She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.’”

Nothing makes working women all warm and fuzzy like being told they’re pushy. (Especially if they’re Jewish, as I suppose Ms. Abramson to be.)

Me, I think this is what got her canned:

Abramson made waves in January when she said in an interview with Al Jazeera that President Obama was operating “the most secretive White House” she has ever covered.

“I would say it is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering, and that includes — I spent 22 years of my career in Washington and covered presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term,” she said in the interview.

Talk about waving a red flag at a bull! That’s like a Nigerian schoolgirl walking up to a pack of Boko Haram and saying “The sum of the areas of the two squares on the legs (a and b) equals the area of the square on the hypotenuse (c)…asshole!”

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All Americans Look Alike

That can be the only rational explanation for this bizarre outburst:

A prominent Japanese politician has raised hackles as Barack Obama visits Tokyo by claiming it’s an ‘open secret’ that he and the first lady are headed for divorce, and that the president has been using Secret Service agents to cover for him as he pursues extramarital affairs.

Kazuyuki Hamada, who sits in the upper house of Japan’s parliament, earned his PhD a half-mile from the White House at George Washington University, and emerged as a shrill commentator on America’s economy and foreign policy.

Hamada complained April 5 on his official blog about Obama’s decision to visit Tokyo without first lady Michelle Obama in tow. ‘His approval numbers are dragging down near 30 per cent,’ Hamada wrote, according to an English translation, ‘and his failed leadership in some places brings him scorn as the worst president of the postwar era.’

‘The biggest reason – of many – for the collapse of his reputation is his failed relationship with his wife,’ Hamada claimed.

‘It is an open secret that the pair are already negotiating their divorce, and that they are waiting for his term in office to be over, and then they’ll separate.’

He had stiff words for the impact of the first lady’s multimillion-dollar ‘goodwill’ trips to far-flung places on the taxpayers’ dime.

The Japanese pol claimed that ‘if you ask the president, he will tell you, “I can’t show my face to the voters after how she’s spent so much money”.’

‘On the other hand,’ Hamada added, ‘if you get his wife to talk, she’ll tell you: “The president is a pathological philanderer. He uses the Secret Service for this, and has used them to hide evidence that he’s a cheater”.’

I believe he means the Clintons, doesn’t he? I mean, we’ve dipped our toe in the National Enquirer stories about the Obamas’ marriage, but we didn’t believe them. Any more than we believe in the president’s African birth. (What African would treat his extended family so coldly?)

That shrill sound you hear is not the First Lady letting her hound dog of a husband have it (unless it’s an echo of 20 years ago), it’s the shrieks of dog whistles blaring like sirens at a nine-alarm fire. I think the Japanese need some racial-sensitivity training—and have had for about a century.

PS: Obama may cheat in elections (throwing candidates off the ballot), fundraising (millions in shadowy contributions), governing (executive orders), and killing (trials for some American citizens, drones for others), but that doesn’t mean he cheats at the important stuff like marriage and golf.

PPS: Well, no one’s accused him of cheating at golf.

PPPS: Do you think Michelle would have gone to Japan if she knew that its legislature was called the Diet?

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Another Reason To Hate The Military…

Some of them are talking about Benghazi

As usual, if you want to know what happened in the US, read the British press. We are such a banana republic.

Benghazi attack could have been prevented if US hadn’t ‘switched sides in the War on Terror’ and allowed $500 MILLION of weapons to reach al-Qaeda militants, reveals damning report
Citizens Committee on Benghazi claims the US government allowed arms to flow to al-Qaeda-linked militants who opposed Muammar Gaddafi
Their rise to power, the group says, led to the Benghazi attack in 2012
The group claims the strongman Gaddafi offered to abdicate his presidency, but the US refused to broker his peaceful exit
The commission, part of the center-right Accuracy In Media group, concluded that the Benghazi attack was a failed kidnapping plot
US Ambassador Chris Stevens was to be captured and traded for ‘blind sheikh’ Omar Abdel-Rahman, who hatched the 1993 WTC bombing plot

The Citizens Commission on Benghazi, a self-selected group of former top military officers, CIA insiders and think-tankers, declared Tuesday in Washington that a seven-month review of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack has determined that it could have been prevented – if the U.S. hadn’t been helping to arm al-Qaeda militias throughout Libya a year earlier.

‘The United States switched sides in the war on terror with what we did in Libya, knowingly facilitating the provision of weapons to known al-Qaeda militias and figures,’ Clare Lopez, a member of the commission and a former CIA officer, told MailOnline.

She blamed the Obama administration for failing to stop half of a $1 billion United Arab Emirates arms shipment from reaching al-Qaeda-linked militants.
‘Remember, these weapons that came into Benghazi were permitted to enter by our armed forces who were blockading the approaches from air and sea,’ Lopez claimed. ‘They were permitted to come in. … [They] knew these weapons were coming in, and that was allowed..

‘The intelligence community was part of that, the Department of State was part of that, and certainly that means that the top leadership of the United States, our national security leadership, and potentially Congress – if they were briefed on this – also knew about this.’

The weapons were intended for Gaddafi but allowed by the U.S. to flow to his Islamist opposition.
The Citizens Committee on Benghazi released its interim findings on April 22, 2014 in Washington. Pictured [at link] are (L-R) Clare Lopez, Admiral (Ret.) Chuck Kubic, Admiral (Ret.) James ‘Ace’ Lyons, former CIA officer Wayne Simmons and civil rights attorney John Clarke

‘The White House and senior Congressional members,’ the group wrote in an interim report released Tuesday, ‘deliberately and knowingly pursued a policy that provided material support to terrorist organizations in order to topple a ruler [Muammar Gaddafi] who had been working closely with the West actively to suppress al-Qaeda.’

‘Some look at it as treason,’ said Wayne Simmons, a former CIA officer who participated in the commission’s research.

Retired Rear Admiral Chuck Kubic, another commission member, told reporters Tuesday that those weapons are now ‘all in Syria.’
‘Gaddafi wasn’t a good guy, but he was being marginalized,’ Kubic recalled. ‘Gaddafi actually offered to abdicate’ shortly after the beginning of a 2011 rebellion.
‘But the U.S. ignored his calls for a truce,’ the commission wrote, ultimately backing the horse that would later help kill a U.S. ambassador.
Kubic said that the effort at truce talks fell apart when the White House declined to let the Pentagon pursue it seriously.
‘We had a leader who had won the Nobel Peace Prize,’ Kubic said, ‘but who was unwilling to give peace a chance for 72 hours.’

More at the link, including names and pictures of committee members. Then, take the Aggie Challenge! Go to the NY Times and the Washington Post and see if you can find any mention of this. BTW did you notice that those weapons are now in Syria? If this President and his administration had declared their intent to allow the murder of as many Muslim civilians as possible, they couldn’t have done a better job. How many have died in Syria? How ’bout The Arab Spring™? Libya? Various drone attacks on wedding and such-like. You can see why they might not care for us.

- Aggie

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Islam for Journalists

[...] (Null set.)

[See below]

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Islam for Journalists: An Oxymoron

Written by just a moron:

A “how-to” guide published by a prominent journalism school to help reporters covering Islam-related issues is under fire from critics who say it sacrifices the First Amendment to political correctness.

“Islam for Journalists,” an online guide from Washington State University, says coverage of the Muslim world can be fair, yet inoffensive without compromising journalistic principles. Yet it pointedly condemns publication of images of Muhammed, an act which is forbidden by the Koran, and seems to equate it with violence carried out in the name of Islam.

“Across the Muslim world extremists are wielding their swords with grisly effect, but the pen…can be just as lethal,” Lawrence Pintak, dean of the school’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, wrote in the introduction to the guide.

I beg to differ, Pintak: those weren’t pens sticking out of Theo van Gogh’s lifeless, bloodstained body. They were swords—or knives, close enough.

The author also seemingly panders to the Muslim faith, explaining in the guide that Muhammad is off-limits because “although he is not divine, he is considered ‘the Perfect Man.’”

“By imitating him, “Muslims hope to acquire his interior attitude—perfect surrender to God,” he added, as if such a deep knowledge of a particular religion is required of journalists.

Great. Knock yourselves out, Mohammedans. But lay off the reporters. If this guy has his way, they’ll sure as hell lay off you.

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Saved or Created Health Insurance Policies

The Obama regime can claim to have “saved or created” millions of jobs in congressional districts that don’t exist (anybody found the North Dakota 99th yet?), so why not claim 7.1 (love the 0.1!) enrollees in ObamaCare?

Like the media are going to check?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: [T]his is a phony number and it’s wonderfully precise. You know, these guys go six months without any idea what the numbers are, and all of a sudden, it’s to a decimal point. 7.1, not 7.2. But of course, it’s meaningless because, a, we don’t know how many of them have paid. And it’s an enrollment number that’s not enrollment, but the more important one is how many were previously uninsured?

Such a cynic.

Let Jay Carney explain it all for you:

ED HENRY: At the beginning of all of this, when the website was having so much trouble, and there were only hundreds and thousands of people signing up in the first month you were saying then, ‘I’m not going to cherry-pick numbers and we’re going to put out the numbers monthly, of the people who are signing up.’ So now when you have records number of people coming into the website, how can you turn around with these numbers in 24 hours and tell us with accuracy –

JAY CARNEY: Because our system has gotten a lot better, which I think anybody who went on Healthcare.gov in October and went on it in the last week can attest.

HENRY: [inaudible] that you know it’s an accurate number?

CARNEY: I think that we’ve got better and better at compiling and collecting the data…

Does he kiss Claire Shipman with that mouth? The very system that crashed—twice—yesterday is better? It can tell you how many signed up, but nothing about them?

I know why they lie, but I wish they were better at it. This crap is just an insult.

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Michelle Obama’s Chinese Vacation [UPDATED]

Some might say that a First Lady who reports on herself has a fool for a subject.

Michelle Obama, rather, believes: FLOTUS, report on thyself:

Untitled

First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia and Sasha visit the Great Wall of China. March 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Today we drove about an hour north of Beijing to a village called Mutianyu to visit a section of the Great Wall of China, which was simply breathtaking. The scenery on the way there was beautiful – a wide vista of mountains and trees – so the car ride alone was a treat. But then, running along the highest ridges of the mountains, you see it: The Great Wall – one of the great marvels of human history.

Sound familiar?

PRESIDENT [NIXON]. I can only say to the media, who, like myself, have never seen the Great Wall before, that it exceeds all expectations. When one stands there and sees the Wall going to the peak of this mountain and realizes that it runs for hundreds of miles, as a matter of fact thousands of miles, over the mountains and through the valleys of this country, that it was built over 2,000 years ago, I think that you would have to conclude that this is a great wall and that it had to be built by a great people.

Why’d they build it again?

“…to protect the Chinese Empire or its prototypical states against intrusions by various nomadic groups or military incursions by various warlike peoples or forces…”

Huh.

Anyhow, back to the State Media travelogue:

To get to the Wall, we rode a cable car up a mountain (and we later rode back down on a long slide!). The section we visited is one of the more popular parts of the Wall for tourists, and it’s easy to see why. At Mutianyu, the Wall is roughly 20 to 25 feet tall and full of stairs, and there’s a watchtower every 100 yards or so. Those watchtowers serve as a reminder of why the Wall was built in the first place – to defend against attacks from armies descending from the north. Throughout its history, the Great Wall has gone through decades, even centuries, of ruin and disrepair. But it has always served as not only a physical barrier, but a psychological one to intimidate potential invaders.

Huh.

A long slide, huh?

Untitled

First Lady Michelle Obama takes a toboggan ride after visiting the Great Wall of China with Malia and Sasha. March 23, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Who needs Pravda when the Kremlin—sorry, White House—can report on itself?

UPDATE
I have been laboring under the impression that this junket is media-rein, but I stand corrected:

From a Q&A Mrs. Obama had today with CaixanOnline, a China-focused news site.

Never mind what bilge she spewed, or that she spewed it to state-run media organ (much like AP, NPR, NBC, et al), Mrs. Obama did sit for an interview. I regret the error.

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Michelle Obama’s Chinese Vacation

The Obama/Robinson women are in China now, without a man and without the press, so how’s it going so far?

Obama, who is visiting China with her mother and two daughters, is expected to forgo discussion of trade, human rights and the tangle of other issues that have weighed on U.S.-China relations. Instead, she plans to focus on building goodwill through soft diplomacy.

Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan accompanied the visitors on a visit to the Beijing Normal School attended by elite Chinese students and American teenagers from prestigious schools such as Exeter, Andover and Sidwell Friends on study abroad programmes.

Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer, wore wide-legged black slacks and a loose black vest.

Good to know! Of course, if that sentence isn’t a non-sequitur—two, actually!—I don’t know my non-sequiturs. (What relevance do her slacks have to her law degree? What relevance does her law degree have to her family vacation on the public’s dime?)

Peng, dressed immaculately in a cornflower-blue skirt suit, with a red leather clutch and matching stud earrings, appeared to speak limited English, but gamely ventured a few comments to foreign students and the Obama family.

Is that a shot at Michelle’s frumpy outfit?

Deserved, if it is.

But if we’re to get the real story of the First Lady’s Beijing junket (no press), we’ll have to go to the source:

After a long flight from Washington, D.C. – one that took around 20 hours – my mother, my daughters, and I arrived in Beijing to begin our official visit to China. Our first stop was at the Beijing Normal School, where we were hosted by Madam Peng Liyuan, the First Lady of China.

Madam Peng (her name is pronounced “Pung”) first became known to the Chinese people long before she was First Lady.

Pronounced “Pung”? Who knew? Betcha NPR wouldn’t know that.

As my family and I can attest from our time together at the Beijing Normal School, Madam Peng is a warm and gracious host. And this visit was a perfect opportunity to highlight the themes of my trip: the value of education and the importance of cultural exchanges between young people in different countries.

About 800 students attend the Beijing Normal School, and of those, roughly one in four are international students – including some Americans. All the classes are taught in English (one room even has a map of the United States on the ceiling), and the curriculum prepares students to study internationally once they graduate. Many students here hope to one day attend college in America.

Which opportunity will be denied to them to make room for affirmative action students. (Am I wrong?)

Madam Peng and I first visited a class where students were actually building their own robots, and they were kind enough to do a demonstration for us. The first robot we saw could actually walk over obstacles. Another one, which was shaped like a triangle, was referred to as “bad boy” by its student creators (one of them explained to us that this robot is “really naughty”).

It holds up little signs that say “I’m Falun Gong!” and “Free Ai Weiwei!”

I jest. But Nixon went to China in 1972 and we’re still playing ping-pong diplomacy 42 years later?

After the robotics class, we stopped by a ping pong practice session where I got some tips from the instructor and then had the chance to play with one of the students. She was excellent (though I think she may have gone easy on me, just to be nice).

Isn’t that sweet?

Look, there’s a role for this sort of thing, I guess. But isn’t it fair to say that Michelle’s personal ambitions (not least wanderlust) are covering up some very real problems? China’s human rights abuses; its support of North Korea; its territorial ambitions; intellectual property theft—one could go on. And her insistence that she be the only reporter with direct access to the participants in the trip is disturbing, dare I say Chinese, in its authority. It’s like Jay Carney asking questions of himself in a news conference. (Oh wait.)

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s dispatch from the front lines: dinner and a show.

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