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November 07, 2003
Firing Blanks

You have no doubt already seen Jessica Lynch's gentle criticism of the Pentagon's decision to "make up stories" about her ordeal and turn it into a dynamic reality TV segment ("I don't know why they filmed it...").

But perhaps what you haven't seen is all the craven, anti-American dissembling Lynch's comments have prompted in the elite media. Luckily, master cryptographers Glenn Reynolds and Cori Dauber are around to decode secret media assaults that might otherwise fly under the radar.

Here's Reynolds: "CORI DAUBER NOTES that folks in the media are again repeating long-discredited canards about Jessica Lynch -- even the bogus report of the BBC's John Kampfner that U.S. forces were firing blanks."

And here's Cori Dauber: "Several myths are just in the air about who said what when about the rescue of Jessica Lynch, and they are being repeated now that her book is out and with the Diane Sawyer interview...Finally, the canard that the special forces troops were 'firing blanks' comes from a single interview in that same BBC documentary. It is, frankly, absurd."

Of course, because such pathetic, frank absurdism doesn't deserve the residual light that a pair of truth-beacons like Reynolds and Dauber would inevitably cast on it, the duo wisely refrain from actually linking to any examples of said myth-perpetration. And Google News follows their lead: do a search on "Jessica Lynch" and "firing blanks," and you will come up empty-handed.

But don't let that lull you into a false sense of security. The myths are out there, all right, waiting to strike like a pack of Baathist terrorists, and capable of doing just as much damage. Kudos to Reynolds and Dauber for calling attention to them!

Posted by Greg Beato at 08:46 AM
November 05, 2003
Don't Show Me the Money Shot

As we sacrifice thousands of lives and billions of dollars to make Iraq safe for porn DVDs like The Dirty Family, the battle to Saddamize our homeland intensifies.

In August, as the Department of Justice issued a federal indictment against controversial porn producer Extreme Associates, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that this was an "important step" in "attacking the proliferation of adult obscenity."

In October, President Bush created "Protection From Pornography Week," a seven-day celebration of old-fashioned nanny-state intrusion. "Pornography can have debilitating effects on communities, marriages, families, and children," Bush exclaimed. "During Protection From Pornography Week, we commit to take steps to confront the dangers of pornography."

Overly broad? Check. Alarmingly vague? Check. Weirdly hysterical? Check. You'd think even the nation's most hardcore decency fetishists would be satisfied, but unfortunately Bush's proclamation quickly zoomed in on the wholly legitimate scourge of child porn. And, thus, zealous crotch custodians are still panting for more: "What we want is to have Congress go on record to say: 'the laws on obscenity are still on the books. The Supreme Court has upheld those laws, and if [Attorney General] John Ashcroft will begin to prosecute vigorously those who are violating federal obscenity laws, Congress is backing him up,'" says professional porn-fighter Patrick Trueman.

Meanwhile, the evil entertainment industry is inundating us with more filth than ever: porn-themed advice books, documentaries, reality series, nighttime soaps, and feature films are all on the way, as moral terrorists like the Fox network and ReganBooks try to cash in on the popularity of explicit hardcore action.

Of course, it'd be too simple to attribute the existence of porn to the demands of the market, and too rational to let the market work things out. This new wave of porn-themed material doesn't exist because people want it, the Washington Times concluded - it exists because President Clinton enjoyed extramarital blowjobs…

And even though any full-scale War on Porn would be just as pointless as Prohibition, the War on Drugs, the War on File-Sharing, and the War on Handguns, there will always be latter-day Comstocks determined to fight it. It's been a while since they've had much impact, but with Ashcroft fully behind them, who knows what they might accomplish, at least in the short term? Of course, if things get too dicey for American porn peddlers over the next few years, they can always move to Iraq, where freedom from oppressive government intervention is all the rage, apparently.

Posted by Greg Beato at 10:15 AM
November 04, 2003
38 is the new 40

How old is cubic zirconia populist Laura Ingraham? This Washington Times profile from last week carbon-dates her at 38, which seems to be the chronological glass ceiling for sexy right-wing pundits.

Last year, it was Ann Coulter who kept insisting she was 38 when she was really 40. Is Ingraham doing the same? Well,, which bills itself as "the worldwide leader in public information," lists only one "Laura Ingraham" in D.C., and says that that Ingraham is 40. A website called The National Debate puts her on the verge of 41. A call to the Washington D.C. Registrar of Voters yields one Laura Ingraham with a birthdate that had her turning 39 around four months ago.

Of course, even if Ingraham really is 39 or 40 or almost 41, it's possible that she's completely candid about that, and that the age given in the Washington Times profile is the paper's own error, rather than the product of her duplicity. Yesterday, I sent an email to the article's author asking him where he got the information regarding her age, but so far he hasn't responded.

In any case, I'm betting on 40. Why? Because I was always the youngest person in my class, I graduated from high school a year later than Ingraham did (1982 for me, 1981 for her), and much to my horror, I'm about to turn 39 myself. Of course, for publicity purposes, I will remain 38 in perpetuity.

Posted by Greg Beato at 09:07 AM
November 03, 2003
Irony 101

While the general public's opinion of Bush is declining, college students still give him high approval ratings. According to a Harvard organization called the Institute of Politics, 22% of the 1202 students who participated in a recent telephone poll "strongly approved" of President Bush's job performance, and 39% "somewhat approved" of it, for an overall approval rating of 61%.

Alas, Bush hasn't returned their love. As a presidential candidate in 2000, he promised to increase Pell Grant funding, the most common form of college financial aid. Employing some of his trademark business school analysis, Bush exclaimed, "A child eligible for a Pell Grant future will be affected by the size of the Pell Grant." Then he promised that he would "ask Congress to bolster the first year aid from thirty-three hundred dollars to five thousand one hundred dollars per recipient of the Pell Grant, to encourage children to not only to attend higher education but to complete the first year of higher education."

So what did he actually do when it came time to raise Pell Grants? According to the Association of Community College Trustees, "The Administration has proposed freezing Pell Grants for each of the past three fiscal years." The current maximum Pell Grant is $4000; that amount buys approximately 19 days of higher education at Bush's alma mater.

Posted by Greg Beato at 12:13 AM