There’s Competence and Then There’s “Competence”

I’m coming a bit late to this because of server problems, but it’s something that’s been bugging me about the whole Reid-Pace “competence” imbroglio.
The question nagging at me is not who called whom incompetent or whether Reid was wrong or right to do so. I mean, Pace had just been fired, so Reid’s not that far off calling the former chair of the joint chief’s abilities into question.
No, what I wonder is why Reid’s comments didn’t get picked up by the bloggers in the conference call.
Why did the almost all of the liberal bloggers deny he said that Pace was incompetent when from the “transcript posted on Talking Points Memo”:http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/electioncentral/2007/jun/14/obtained_a_tape_of_reids_conference_call_with_bloggers_reid_did_blast_pace, he did, and it appears pretty clear he’s talking about Pace? Did they screw up or are they trying to cover Reid’s ass, since he’s “on their team,” so to speak?
Now, I say this as a blogger with both indy cred — you’re reading it — and strong ties to the so-called MSM. But if bloggers are supposed to be an alternative/side dish or even an antidote to the excesses and failings of the mainstream press, why did they miss this? It’s a genuinely Big Deal, so was it a miss or a willful omission?
If it was a willful omission, it’s a horrible one. And it would prove that most liberal blogs — or conservative ones — shouldn’t be considered credible alternatives to anything if they can’t step up to their responsibility and report on newsworthy items even if it might get “their guy” in hot water. The right-wing blogosphere has had this problem for years now. Has it infected the left side as well?
On the other hand, if it’s a mistake, it’s a doozy. Any reporter who missed that would be tarred and feathered by editors. (And it’s significant that mainstream reporters in were the ones who broke this story, even though bloggers had every opportunity to break it.) So, why are the bloggers given a free pass on this lapse?
Indeed, it was Talking Points Memo itself that in 2002 was instrumental in bringing down another Senate majority leader. The mainstream press was heckled and criticized for missing Lott’s noxious comments. (And rightly so, in my opinion.)
But shouldn’t bloggers — in a friggin’ conference call with the current Senate majority Leader, for crissakes — need to be held to the same standards of accountability and, dare I say it, competence, that they hold the MSM to? Why the double standard?

Back Up and Running

BEIRUT — Hello all. Here at Back-to-Iraq.com, we’re back up and running at our new, zippy servers at LivingDot.com (who have been lovely, really.) Yahoo has been left in the dust, which was a long time coming. The domain may take a little while to propagate out, but within a couple of days, things should be back to normal.
This downtime came at a terrible time, what with things hotting up up north at Nahr el-Bared and Iraq always on fire. I’ve also got a nasty eye problem at the moment that prevents me using the computer for long, but that also should be cleared up in a couple of days.
In other news, I’m due to start a column for Spot-on.com soon, which will in theory put me on the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post.. Look for that to happen this week or next.
I’m also the new US media roundup writer for IraqSlogger.com, Eason Jordan’s amazing all-Iraq news site. Please be sure and check it out.
So, as soon as the eye gets better, I’ll see you all (heh) then. In the mean time, I’ll bug Johannes to write some more posts.

Seeking hosting solution

OK. This has gotten out of hand. I’m hoping some of you dear readers can point me in the right direction. I’m on Yahoo’s Small Business plan for hosting this blog and it’s less than optimal. It’s slow, and I often can’t get into the blog because of 500 Internal Server Error messages, preventing me from combating comment spam or rebuilding individual archives.
So if anyone can recommend a good host provider, who can make the transfer of files to their servers easy, I’d be most grateful. The provider should understand and support Moveable Type blogs installations and it would be ideal if it supports dynamic publishing. (You bloggy types know what I’m talking about.)
Please drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any ideas on hosting.
Thanks!
The Management

Escape from Iraq

A story I wrote appeared Monday in the Newark Star-Ledger, a great smaller paper that cares about foreign news. The story dealt with the plight of the Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

Lives suspended by war
AMMAN, Jordan — Rana crosses her legs on the threadbare carpet in her living room in this poor Palestinian section of town and watches as her three children light a candle. The kids are having a pretend birthday party without a cake or presents, but their faces are painted a magnificent shade of gold by the candlelight.

Across town, Hasa and his family sit in their richly-appointed apartment, with all the modern conveniences and bedrooms for everyone. The kitchen is especially bright and clean.

Rana and Hasa live in separate worlds, but have much in common.

Both families are Iraqi refugees facing an uncertain future in a foreign country. Both want to return to their shattered country. And both agreed to be interviewed and photographed for this story only if their real names would not be used because they fear deportation from Jordan and retribution in Iraq.
Driven from their homes by violence and threats of death, Rana and Hasa also provide rare portraits of the refugee life facing many Iraqis. The two families are among the 750,000 Iraqi refugees estimated to be living in Jordan, a country about the size of Pennsylvania and choking on the staggering burden of its new population. (The Iraqis account for about 15 percent of the people living in Jordan.)

Rana’s family is struggling to fit in and faces discrimination from other Iraqis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Jordanians, Rana says, complain to her that “you’re not wearing a hijab, you’re wearing tight jeans, you’re leaving the house.” Palestinians, meanwhile, say, “You killed Saddam.”
Hasa’s family, while well off, faces difficult circumstances as well. From their plush perch overlooking the local mosque, they made a comfortable life here after arriving in 2003.

Things have changed, though.

Hasa now complains government regulations make it impossible for him to run his businesses here or in Iraq, and his life savings is being bled dry.
At the same time, he rages at the U.S. government.

“We are in such a state that we who welcomed America now hate it, and hate the people as much as we hate the politics,” he says. “This isn’t the freedom we expected. This isn’t what we wanted.”

Two families in a country where they don’t want to be.

Two families in a country that really doesn’t want them.

“Please read the whole thing”:http://www.nj.com/starledger/stories/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1180932323248120.xml&coll=1. It should be noted that two days after the story appeared, the UNHCR raised the number of Iraqis who are displaced or refugees to 4.4 million — almost twice the numbers that were available to me at the time of my reporting. That’s 16 percent of the entire Iraqi population, making it the largest human catastrophe to hit the Middle East in recorded history. It dwarfs the Palestinian displacements in 1948 and 1967. If something isn’t done about this, it will further destabilize an already volatile region.

By the way, can someone recommend a good server host? Yahoo! is terrible and I keep getting 500 Server Errors preventing me from getting into the blog, rebuilding it, etc.

New authors at B2I

I’d like to take a moment an introduce B2I’s newest writer, Johannes Koch, who will be blogging from London and the U.S. on American policy and media analysis for the site.
Johannes is a German/Indian journalist who has been living, studying and working in London for the past five years. After graduating with a BA in journalism and politics went on to complete a masters of international studies/politics at the Universities of Birmingham and Melbourne. He’s moving to New York in August where he will continue to freelance and hopefully write for us!
His political interests include U.S. foreign policy (especially in the Middle East), international law and peacekeeping.
His first entry will be coming later today and will look at the implications of any Turkish actions across the Iraqi border for US policy as well as what it might mean for the U.S.-Turkish relationship.
*UPDATE:* It’s up.
I will be doing minimal editing once he gets the hang of B2I, except for perhaps little style issues, such as blockquotes, italics and the like.
Secondly, another writer will soon be joining us, a top-notch journalist based here in Lebanon with me. She’s Lebanese and brings a unique perspective to B2I. Also, if any of my journo friends from Iraq and elsewhere — and I know you guys read this — want to contribute as a “guest poster” basis, please drop me a line.