Innocent children around the world!


Sheth gets it right at Salon: We’ve found it hard to watch a lot of the cable coverage of the Boston bombing.

We’ve found it hard to watch some of the usual cable suspects with their usual trademarked bluster. But then, we were also disappointed by the way Daniel D’Addario began a piece at Salon.

In his piece, D’Addario explained why we hear so much misinformation after such an attack. But sure enough! In this, just his third paragraph, he authored a very shaky claim about the misinformation:
D’ADDARIO (4/16/13): False information also spread yesterday. There was former congresswoman Jane Harman on CNN, warning of additional attacks because “A signature of al-Qaida is simultaneous attacks.” Never mind that we still don’t know who was behind the bombing. The New York Post cited 12, rather than the two deaths first confirmed by officials. And the question of just how many “unexploded devices” there were in the city of Boston hung over the day, as this Examiner piece extrapolating from a Bloomberg News tweet proves.
“A signature of al-Qaida is simultaneous attacks?” You know us—we tend to check.

We can find no record of Harman making the quoted statement on CNN. D’Addario links to a British news report, not to a transcript. That report seems to be quoting Harman from a BBC program, although the source of the statement attributed to Harman isn’t clear.

D’Addario accounced the source as CNN. He assumed the quoted statement was accurate and that it had been presented in full context.

Is that true? We have no idea. For what it’s worth, here’s something Harman did say on CNN on Monday afternoon. In fairness, she specifically said that we don’t know if the bombing was done by al Qaeda:
TAPPER (4/15/13): What's going through your mind as you watch these events unfold?

HARMAN: Well, I'm concerned. A signature of al Qaeda, if this may be al Qaeda—and we have no proof yet—or some associated organization, is near-simultaneous attacks. And yes, there were at least reported so far several bombs that went off along the route of the marathon. But there may be other things at other sporting events or in other cities that are high targets. I'm looking at Peter Bergen, who is sitting across from me, and he's nodding.
Is that what D’Addario was quoting? If so, he wasn’t quoting accurately. Indeed, he himself was spreading false information, even as he complained about the way false information gets spread.

Our journalistic practices tend to be very poor. That said, we will recommend Falguni Sheth’s commentary at Salon. The headline: “Where does the hate come from?”

We don’t agree with everything Sheth said. Did the bombing even come from “hate?” She can’t exactly tell you. Some conduct simply comes from the realm of the crazy/insane.

But as he started, Sheth captured something which bothered us as we watched some commentators:
SHETH (4/16/13): Yesterday’s news of multiple explosions going off near the end of the Boston Marathon route was heart-stopping. That such a joyous event—attended by tens of thousands of families, of international visitors and athletes—could be so violently disrupted by such heinous evil was unfathomable. The tragedies are made all the worse by the realization that for some, it was a memorial in the name of the children and adults who died in the Newtown massacre. And even as I empathized with yesterday’s victims and their families, I shudder to think that they experienced what countries around the world treat as a fact of their quotidian existence.
Sheth goes on from there. But as watched some commentators, we were struck by the number who betrayed no earthly sense that innocent children die in these ways every day, all around the world.

It isn’t that pundits are required to note that fact. To our ear, some commentators conveyed the sense that the bombing death of an innocent child has never occurred before.

“No more hurting people,” an eight-year-old child had told the world, back when he was only seven. Such innocent children get hurt very badly all around the world. Who knows? If Boston’s innocent child had lived, he might have tried to address that state of affairs some day.

Sheth worried that our own behavior around the world could be producing the hatred exhibited Monday. That’s always possible, of course, although we have no idea who conducted Monday’s bombing, or why they did so.

That said, Sheth spoke to realities we found ourselves thinking about yesterday. And he brought in Dr. King, with his great admonitions.

We will openly challenge one passage from Sheth’s piece. In this passage, he is discussing mistreatment of prisoners at Gitmo. Then, he swerves to a strangely unrelated concern.

Good lord! How we love being tribal!
SHETH: Naji’s story, told to his lawyer by phone, was published in one of the nation’s leading state organs [the New York Times]—a newspaper that often reproduces uncritically the government’s interpretation of the War on Terror. That fact gave me hope: that perhaps the American public might be open to entertaining the obvious, that these prisoners have been held unjustly for years. I even fantasized that sympathetic Times readers might be able to leverage an outraged collective political will to impel the President to release these prisoners from their cruel and endless confinement. This would be the spirit that Dr. King insists we must embrace in order for violence to end.

Yet, 24 hours after the appearance of Naji’s Op-Ed, the Times also published the news that a school in Missouri, under the direction and approval of its school board, had trained its teachers to carry guns in their school. This policy was thought to be a solution to the violence of the Newtown shootings that occurred last November.
Many schools, all over the country, already have armed guards. The Times reported on a community in the Ozarks which has decided to go with armed teachers. To read that report, click here.

Sheth may not agree with that decision. But in a piece where he pleaded for greater global understanding, he was quick to swerve off the road to announce what people simply must decide to do, many miles from the street where he lives.

Yesterday, we were thinking about the topics Sheth raised. But good lord, how we love being tribal!


  1. Neither here nor there, but Sheth is a woman, not a man. Just FYI.

  2. Bob makes an excellent point. Off topic from his point, I would question Sheth's assertion that radical Islamists hate America because of bad things we've done to Muslims. The US has done big-time good things for Muslims. E.g., we have long provided essential financial support to Egypt and to the Palestinians. Bill Clinton took military action to prevent the slaughter of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. We went to war to save Kuwait from Saddam. We protected the Iraqi Kurds from Saddam's murderous attacks. Although it's arguable, I've read that most Iraqis today are grateful to the US for overthrowing Saddam, despite the horrendous costs of the war.

    The world has seen plenty of examples of groups being hated, not because they did hateful things, but simply because they were different. The Jews are a good example. They were hated by Christians thoroughout much of the last two millenia. Obviously, they were particularly hated by the Nazis. And, today, anti-semitism often seems to be part and parcel of the Islam religion.

    Maybe radical Muslims hate America simply because we're different from them. We give full rights to women. We're tolerant of gays. We treat all religions as equal. Maybe these praiseworthy principles are why some radical Muslims hate America.

    1. You are despicable, David.

    2. He is also a troll. Don't feed him.

    3. Now that you solved that, David. Can you explain the Tea Party's problem. They say it's high taxes, but taxes are currently the lowest they've been in six decades.


    4. Glad to, Berto.

      First of all, total taxes are not particularly low. It's true that federal tax rates are low. However, total taxes paid are not low, when you consider the sum of
      -- federal income tax
      -- state income tax
      -- city wage tax
      -- property tax
      -- sales tax
      -- co-payments for Medicare benefits
      -- Social Security and Medicare assessments
      -- Self-employment tax

      Worse, federal taxes are artificially low, because under Quantitative Easing 3 the federal government is creating money at a rate of $85 billion/month, which is $1.02 trillion per year. This can't continue. When they stop printing money, taxes will have to rise very sharply and/or spending will have to be cut very sharply.

      Federal projections are unrealistically optimistic. They assume a quick end to the current slow economic growth, followed by a long period of high growth -- around 4%. But, there's no sign that our anemic 1% - 2% growth rate will improve the way the plans assume. Also, Medicare and Social Security are projected optimistically. Actual spending on these programs is likely to be higher than budgeted.

      Meanwhile, states and localities have underfunded their pension plans. That means that state and local taxes will have to rise when actual pension costs turn out to be higher than the amounts funded.

      Look at the situation in Greece and Portugal. These governments can't afford to keep spending the way they have been. Borrowed money isn't available or is too expensive. However, austerity doesn't work either. If they drastically cut government spending, that produces an economic slowdown, so they still can't balance their budget. In short, they're screwed.

      The Tea Party is afraid that the US will follow that same pattern.

      P.S. Unlike Greece and Portugal, the US has the option of inflating our currency. I'm afraid they'll take that course, because it's easiest politically. Hyper-inflation is no fun. It wipes out peoples' savings. It makes commerce difficult. And, the cure may will involve throwing the country into recession. That's what happened when Paul Volker's policies ended the Carter inflation.

  3. David in Cal,
    Would have been nice for those Tea Partiers to object to government spending instead of whole-heartedly supporting the Iraq Clusterfuck (i.e. the greatest waste of government dollars in the lifetime of any Tea Partier) the past decade.

    RE: overly optimistic view of the recovery
    The economy is not coming back until the bankers and Wall Street fraudsters (who crashed the world's economy) are imprisoned. Since that will never happen, I agree that any view of an economic recovery is automatically overly optimistic.

    Don't worry about social security outlays. We have a $2.3 Trillion surplus in the SS Trust fund.

    Another difference between the US and Portugal and Greece is we don't have to go the way of austerity. That just makes the economy worse by strangling demand in the crib. With the low cost of debt, it should be easy to spend our way out of the mess. Of course, we need the political will, and the know-nothings (it always comers back to the Tea Party) to keep their (economic) ignorant mouths shut (or at least for the rest of us to ignore them).

  4. One last comment about the Tea Party. They are just as ignorant about economics now as they were when they were called Bush's Base.


  5. Don't worry about social security outlays. We have a $2.3 Trillion surplus in the SS Trust fund.

    $2.3 Trillion seems like a big number, but SS is paying out $800 billion per year. That annual payout is growing. With SS income projected to lag behind expenditures, the surplus in the Trust Fund will be used up in 20 years or so.

  6. And, speaking of the future, how long will the low cost of debt last, Berto? You seem to optimistically assume that the low rates will last forever. But, as our debt to GNP ratio grows or if our inflation rate grows, don't you think foreign banks will be less willing to lend us money at very low interest rates?

  7. David in Cal,
    20 years? That's two decades, son. But since you're so worked up about it, we'll remove the cap on FiCA, just so you don't lose sleep. I assume you'll have no problem telling the 1% to suck it up, since it's so important right now.

    BTW, how long will the money outlayed for the Defense Department last? I hear they'll be broke later this year. Best we fix the disaster that is the Pentagon's finances, so the Pentagon will be there when we need it.
    Not sure how long debt will be cheap, so we need to spend our way out and grow the economy now while it is so.