Max Baucus on Obamacare’s hidden agenda – redistribution of wealth

Thursday, March 25, 2010
Posted by: Hugh Hewitt at 5:08 PM

Max Baucus is the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and the Democrat most responsible fo Obamacare’s final shape other than Nancy Pelosi.

In an unusual speech on the Senate floor moments ago, Max Baucus declares that the “healthcare bill” to be  “an income shift, it is a shift, a leveling to help lower income middle income Americans.”  Baucus continued, “[t]oo often, much of late, the last couple three years the mal-distribution of income in America is gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.  Wages have not kept up with increased income of the highest income in America.  This legislation will have the effect of addressing that mal-distribution of income in America.”

Max Baucus on Obamacare’s hidden agenda – redistribution of wealth

Baucus’ candor is appreciated, though the fact that he waited until the bill passed to announce the real agenda behind the massive tax hikes isn’t a profile in courage.  And the seniors on fixed income who are about to lose Medicare Advantage would laugh at Baucus’ pseudo-populism.

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Is the L.A. Times Repeating Enemy Propaganda? Or Is There Another Reason The Paper Is Getting Basic Facts Wrong and Failing to Report the Military’s Side?

Is the L.A. Times Repeating Enemy Propaganda? Or Is There Another Reason The Paper Is Getting Basic Facts Wrong and Failing to Report the Military’s Side?

Filed under: General, Dog Trainer, War — Patterico @ 9:11 am

Is the L.A. Times reporting unconfirmed enemy propaganda from an Iraqi stringer with ties to the insurgency? Or is the paper simply misreporting the facts, and failing to seek out and report the military’s side of the story?You be the judge.

On November 15, the L.A. Times ran an article titled Iraqi residents say U.S. airstrike kills 30. The article emphasized that 30+ people, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike. A headline proclaimed: “Victims include women and children, witnesses in Ramadi say. The military has no immediate comment.” The story began as follows:

BAGHDAD — A U.S. airstrike in the restive town of Ramadi killed at least 30 people, including women and children, witnesses said Tuesday.

The aerial attack, which took place late Monday, brought the number of violent deaths reported in Iraq on Tuesday to at least 91, according to military sources and witnesses.

. . . .

A Times correspondent in Ramadi said at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment and families could be seen digging through the ruins with shovels and bare hands.

Last Friday, my reader Tom Blumer sent me a link to an interesting blog post, by a blog called “One Oar in the Water,” which attacked the L.A. Times story about the Ramadi airstrike. The post quoted what purported to be an e-mail from a soldier who was involved in the Ramadi incident. The e-mailing soldier claimed that the “Times correspondent in Ramadi” has ties to the insurgency, and is knowingly repeating enemy propaganda:

The [L.A. Times article] is an example of why you simply cannot believe most media reports coming out of Iraq. The LA Time[s] reporter, Solomon Moore, is not in Ramadi. He relies on an Iraqi stringer here who has ties to insurgents. In this article, Moore repeats almost verbatim, insurgent propaganda we have intercepted. The fighting in question occurred in my battle space within Ramadi and I was personally and intimately involved.

The soldier then disputed certain assertions made in the L.A. Times article. The soldier said that there had been no airstrike, and that only a few insurgents had been killed, by small-arms fire and tank fire. The solder concluded the e-mail with a slap at the L.A. Times:

Every target engaged was well within what our restrictive rules of engagement authorize. I am disgusted by the editorial slant of this article, by what passes from journalistic integrity at the LA Times, and by their complicity with our mortal enemies. My Soldiers fight with great precision and skill on a very difficult urban battlefield. The LA Times dishonors them and give aid and comfort to my enemies.

Assuming this alleged e-mail from a Ramadi soldier was genuine and accurate, it made an explosive allegation: that the L.A. Times is relying on a stringer with ties to the insurgency, and is repeating enemy propaganda.

But was it true? I decided to check into it.

My investigation, which I detail below, has revealed that the soldier’s account of the events in question appears to be accurate in most respects. For example:

  • The soldier claimed that there were no airstrikes in Ramadi that day, while the L.A. Times stringer claimed there had been an airstrike. When I checked into it, the weight of the evidence indicated that the soldier was right and the L.A. Times was wrong.The military flatly denies that there was an airstrike — a denial that the L.A. Times has failed to report to this day. Several other media reports state that civilians died from small-arms fire and tank fire, and not an airstrike.
  • The soldier claimed that only insurgents were killed in the fighting, while the L.A. Times claimed that women and children were killed. Once again, the soldier’s claims appeared to be true, and the L.A. Times claim false.Other than the L.A. Times report, there is no evidence that women or children were killed in the attack. The available evidence, including other media reports and information through a contact at a Ramadi hospital, indicates that the bodies brought into a Ramadi hospital were all adult males. This fact is suggestive of the possibility that those killed were insurgents, not innocent civilians.
  • The soldier claimed: “No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged”; by contrast, the L.A. Times stringer claimed that “at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment.” There are no media reports with reliable firsthand accounts of pulverized homes.Indeed, I found only one story (published by Reuters) in which a journalist claims to have been on the scene to report observations of the damage firsthand, and he said: “One small structure was burnt out in that street.” Once again, the objective evidence seemed to favor the claims of the soldier.

I also learned that one of the doctors quoted in the L.A. Times story has been quoted in other stories over the years — always telling the media that the U.S. killed women, children, and innocent civilians. Apparently, this doctor has never seen a terrorist or insurgent killed by U.S. forces — or if he has, the media isn’t interested.

I learned one fact that didn’t gibe cleanly with the soldier’s account: most news reports, and my own independent investigation, tended to corroborate the allegation that 30+ people died in Ramadi that night. However, according to all accounts (excepting that provided by the “Times correspondent in Ramadi”), those killed were adult males, killed by fire from tanks — not women and children killed in an airstrike. The fact that 30+ people died, if true, does not necessarily demonstrate the soldier’s account is false. Rather, it suggests that he may have been unaware of the full extent of the carnage caused by the shelling from the tanks.

In the end, I was unable to determine whether the e-mailing soldier was correct when he claimed that the L.A. Times is relying on propaganda supplied by a stringer with ties to insurgents.

However, I can say this: the journalists at the L.A. Times 1) have utterly failed to report the full extent of the military’s side of the story; 2) very likely got some basic facts about the incident wrong; and 3) have done an extremely poor job of explaining the possible limitations on their knowledge — what I like to call “telling the reader what you don’t know as well as what you do know.”

In addition, after talking with numerous sources who are knowledgeable about Iraq, I came away depressed about the poor quality of information we are getting out of that country. Embedded writers and bloggers like Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, Michael Fumento, and Bill Ardolino will continue to be absolutely critical to understanding what is going on in Iraq, and I encourage you to support embedded bloggers as much as possible.

The full details of what I learned are below, in the extended entry.

[Extended entry]

As I mentioned, there are two significant factual problems with the L.A. Times story, based on the evidence I uncovered. First, it appears that there was no airstrike. Second, it appears that those killed were adult males, not women and children. Let’s start with the lack of an airstrike.


The Military Denies There Was an Airstrike . . . and the L.A. Times Never Reports It

Although the L.A. Times story describes an airstrike on November 13, the military flatly denies that there was any airstrike. In an e-mail, Capt. J. Elaine Hunnicutt (USAF) at CENTCOM told me without qualification that “there were no air strikes on Ramadi Nov. 13 and 14.” Similarly, Major Megan McClung, a Public Affairs Officer with the Marine Corps in Ramadi, said in an e-mail:

Thank you for your interest in setting the record straight on the events of Nov 13 -14. . . . There were no CF [Coalition Forces] air strikes that day.

Despite these clear denials, the L.A. Times has to this day never reported that the military denied that there was an airstrike.

The original L.A. Times story on the alleged airstrike said: “U.S. military officials had no immediate comment on an airstrike in Ramadi.” The use of the word “immediate” suggests that the military press officer had very little time to respond to this new allegation being raised by the reporter.

Did reporter Solomon Moore ever follow up later, to see whether the military confirmed that the story was true? I sent Mr. Moore an e-mail and asked him that very question, along with several others. He never responded.

Other Media Reports Say Nothing About an Airstrike

Are there any other reports of an aerial attack on Ramadi on November 13 or 14? I didn’t see any — but I did find several other reports of Iraqis killed by tank fire.

For example, the Turkish Press reported:

Meanwhile, medical sources in the restive western city of Ramadi reported they had received 32 bodies believed to be of men killed in a tank bombardment by US forces.

A US officer in Ramadi, however, said these were not civilian casualties and were caused by clashes with insurgents planting a bomb.

(One wonders whether that U.S. officer is the same individual who wrote the e-mail quoted earlier in this post, decrying the coverage of the incident by the L.A. Times.)

The AP had this report:

Meanwhile, Ali al-Obaidi, a medic at Ramadi Hospital, said those killed were civilians who died in shelling by U.S. tanks. A police spokesman said 20 people were killed, but gave no information about their identities or how they died.

The U.S. military said it had no information on fresh Ramadi clashes.

Reuters reported:

Iraqi medical officials said at least 30 people were killed in violence overnight in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi in what local police described on Tuesday as a US military raid.

. . . .

Local residents, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said U.S. tanks had fired into the area and that those who died were not militants.

There was one media source that apparently reported the possibility that there were airstrikes: Iraqi television. Commenter steve notes a Deutsche Presse-Agentur story that appears to be based on Iraqi TV reports:

In Ramadi, 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, a US military raid killed at least 30 Iraqis and wounded 17, Iraqi television reported Tuesday.

Iraqi police said US military carried out ground and air raids Monday night and Tuesday morning, destroying more than 20 houses. Both Iraqi authorities and the US military refused to comment.

A source who is knowledgeable about Iraq (about whom more below) independently confirmed in a chat that their sources said Iraqi television had given various explanations for the deaths. My source said: “Some channels said tank fire, others said airstrike, [and] others said artillery.” The source added: “You can’t rely on what locals say to reporters. The locals would say what pleases the insurgents.”

Later in the post I’ll discuss a little more about the pitfalls of relying on randomly selected Iraqi civilians. For now, let’s just say that I’m not putting a lot of credence in a press report about something shown on Iraqi TV, repeating the claims of civilians or police who (for all we know) may be terrified by insurgents and terrorists. I’ll place a lot more credence in a reporter on the scene . . . even one from Reuters!

The Military *Did* Say There Was Tank Fire

Why should the reader care whether it was a tank battle or an airstrike? There are at least two reasons.

The first reason is this: we know from the story that the apparently false report of an airstrike originated from an unnamed Iraqi stringer — the mysterious “Times correspondent in Ramadi.” Remember what the Times story said:

A Times correspondent in Ramadi said at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment and families could be seen digging through the ruins with shovels and bare hands.

Apparently, the correspondent was wrong. We know nothing about this stringer — his name, his background, or his possible motivations. I asked the reporter for details about the stringer and received no response. If the stringer got this very basic fact wrong, it calls his other reporting into question.

The second reason that it’s important that the deaths were caused by tank fire is this: a tank battle is exactly what the military said had happened — and what the anonymous e-mailer to the One Oar in the Water blog said had happened.

If it was a tank battle, it makes it more likely that the dead were insurgents, killed in a battle that was described by the military in some detail.

The military does not deny that there were deaths that day; it merely says that the dead were anti-Iraqi forces, not civilians, and that they were killed by tank fire and small-arms fire, not an airstrike. The military described the scenario in a November 14 press release, which is available here. Here is how the press release describes the events of Nov. 13:

Coalition Forces killed 11 insurgents in three related incidents in Ramadi.

On Nov. 13, Coalition Forces observed a small number of insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device. The insurgents were engaged by Coalition Forces with small arms fire, killing two. The three remaining insurgents returned to the emplacement site and Coalition Forces fired one tank main gun round, killing all three insurgents. There were secondary explosions, and the remains of the IED continued to burn for about an hour.

Following an IED attack on a Coalition Vehicle four hours later in the same vicinity, four insurgents were killed after they attempted to take mission essential equipment from the vehicle. Two of the insurgents were killed by small arms fire and two were killed with one main gun tank round.

This event occurred during curfew hours.

In a separate incident Nov. 14 in the same vicinity, three insurgents were observed emplacing an improvised explosive device. They were engaged with small arms fire and a main tank gun round. Two insurgents were killed.

This sounds a lot like the description of events in the e-mail reprinted by the One Oar in the Water blog:

There were no air strikes anywhere in Ramadi on the day in question. Through two different means, we acquired a group of[]AIF [Anti-Iraqi Forces] emplacing a large IED on a neighborhood street. After I was sure they were enemy, I ordered one of my tanks to engage. Its cannon fire killed the enemy and set off the IED. Shortly afterwards, one of my Bradley crews engaged and killed two more AIF emplacing an IED on a nearby street.

In both cases, we continued to observe the area and the locals left the dead lying in the street; this is a sure sign that they are AIF because the Iraqis normally pick up dead civilians in the street quickly. Later that night, I had a route clearance team move through the area. We found the bodies and removed multiple hand grenades off one of them. During that same operation, one of Bradleys escorting the route clearance team was attacked by an IED. The IED set the Bradley on fire and wounded the three Soldiers aboard. One of those brave men now clings to life with burns over 93% of his body.

We established a security perimeter around the burning vehicle and over-watched it until it burned out and we were able recover the hulk. While over-watching the burning vehicle, we had multiple tank main gun and machine gun engagements against AIF who were desperately trying to steal ammunition from the vehicle (a fool’s errand if ever there was one) or emplace additional IEDs to attack the recovery mission they knew would follow. No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged.

The L.A. Times reported this skirmish in the story — but made it sound like a separate incident, unrelated to the one that killed 30+ people. By reporting the 30 deaths as resulting from an airstrike, the L.A. Times made it sound as though two entirely separate incidents had occurred that day: 1) an airstrike that killed 30+ civilians, and 2) a smaller set of skirmishes involving small-arms fire and tank fire that killed 11 insurgents.

To the contrary, virtually every other media outlet to report on the 30+ deaths said that they occurred from a tank bombardment. This makes it likely that the deaths reported by the media all resulted from the very same tank battle with insurgents described by the military. It is possible that the military mistakenly undercounted the number of people killed in its fight with the enemy.

Lending further credence to that possibility is the fact that the 30+ dead appear to have been adult males, one and all — contrary to the L.A. Times’s suggestion that there were women and children killed. If this is true, it also suggests that the dead were insurgents.

All of this lends credibility to the e-mail published at One Oar in the Water.

I next discuss the evidence I found supporting the claim that the dead were adult males, not women and children.


Do you recall the lede of the L.A. Times story? It said that there were women and children among the dead:

A U.S. airstrike in the restive town of Ramadi killed at least 30 people, including women and children, witnesses said Tuesday.

Who are these “witnesses”? You can read the story again and again, and you’ll never learn. Are we relying on the “Times correspondent in Ramadi” again? You don’t know, and The Times isn’t saying. This is one of the questions that I put to L.A. Times reporter Solomon Moore in my e-mail — the one he didn’t respond to.

All Other Available Media Reports Claim That Men Were Killed in the Attack

Let’s review the other media reports discussed above from Reuters, the AP, and the Turkish Press, with an eye towards whether they claim that women and children were killed.

The AP story says nothing relevant to this issue, so let’s start with the Reuters story discussed above. On this issue, the report says:

An Iraqi police source, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said US forces raided the al-Dhubat district late on Monday and several houses were destroyed.

In one part of the district, a Reuters reporter saw several bodies of adult men still lying in a street, some being placed in coffins by relatives, and a number of body parts. One small structure was burnt out in that street.

This description is critical, because it’s the only report I found from any news agency that claims to have actually had its reporter on the ground, reporting his observations first-hand, rather than taking them from people who might have a hidden agenda. The Reuters reporter didn’t see 15 houses “pulverized.” And he didn’t see dead women and children. What he saw was “several bodies of adult men” and one small burnt-out building. This account is completely consistent with the military’s account.

Recall also the quote from the Turkish Press story:

Meanwhile, medical sources in the restive western city of Ramadi reported they had received 32 bodies believed to be of men killed in a tank bombardment by US forces.

Not even a rabid anti-war journalist covering the story could bring himself to say that there were women and children among the dead. This story was co-written by a rabid anti-war journalist named Dahr Jamail, who has written for Mother Jones, and has given speeches claiming that torture is rampant at Gitmo and elsewhere, and that U.S. doctors and nurses are complicit in that alleged torture. You can find another example of his work at Truthout, titled Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq. The co-author of the article, Ali al-Fadhily, regularly writes with Jamail.

Jamail’s article purports to quote numerous people, including civilians, doctors, and a policeman, saying that over 30 innocent people were killed by tank fire. But it doesn’t say that there were any women or children among the dead.

If women and children were killed, you’d think Mr. Jamail, the anti-war journalist, would be eager to report it. Yet, while he is quick to quote civilians claiming that the men were all innocent, he never says that a single woman or child was killed.


But there’s more!

A Hospital Contact Says All the Bodies Were of Adult Males

A contact that I trust, given the source, corroborates the assertion made explicitly in the Turkish Press and Reuters stories: that the bodies were of adult males.

Here’s how this came about. Through my blogger connections, I was introduced to someone who has been to Iraq and maintains a wide network of Iraqi connections. I’m withholding names, at the party’s request — which was made because of the concern that the party’s Iraqi connections might be identified through their connection and put at risk.

You can place any value on that you like. I’m not like the L.A. Times. I try not to attribute statements to unnamed witnesses without telling you as much as I can about them and why I trust them. I tell you what I know and what I don’t know — and you can use that information and make up your own mind.

For my part, I trust the person who connected us – and found his connection very knowledgeable. I have more confidence in the contact’s assertions than I do in the statements of some random doctor or civilian quoted in the L.A. Times. That’s not to say that I would blindly trust this contact, but I would give the contact’s statements appropriate weight, and examine them together with the other evidence.

The contact personally knows a doctor in a Ramadi who said that, indeed, 30+ bodies did come into the hospital there. They were all adult males, he said. The contact can’t allow me to publish the doctor’s name, because the contacts are maintained by adhering to a strict confidentiality. Doctors like the one quoted are fearful that if they say anything public against the insurgency or Al Qaeda, that their families will be killed.

Take that for what you think it’s worth. If you give no weight to this statement, then look at the numerous published press accounts. The bottom line is this: the great weight of evidence says numerous adult men were killed by tank fire, as opposed to the L.A. Times version — that women and children were killed by an airstrike.


I talked to numerous people with experience in Iraq who emphasized to me that it’s just about impossible to get reliable information out of Iraq. Making matters worse, newspapers often don’t send their own reporters in country, and instead have them rely on doctors, civilians, and stringers with unknown agendas.

As you can see from this post, that is a very bad idea that results in the publication of information that you shouldn’t consider trustworthy.

The blogger’s contact I mentioned earlier summed it up this way: “EVERYONE there knows damn well you can’t trust a thing you haven’t seen with your own eyes.” Bill Roggio, who was kind enough to speak with me at length on the phone, said the same thing about doctors. He told me that Al Qaeda either pays off, intimidates, or has sympathizers among many doctors in Iraq.

I spoke to a press officer named Jeffrey Pool, who was referred to me by Bill Roggio. He has been to Iraq and told me:

Based off of my experiences last year I found alleged reports from doctors and “local residents” to be highly suspect. . . . Once you start searching their names you’ll find an all too common consistency in their quotes, “women and children killed”. There are hardly ever any males reported killed, and the doctors usually make the point of saying no males were killed. The number of killed always changes but the storyline doesn’t.

Maj. Pool suspected that this might be true of the doctors quoted with respect to this incident, and encouraged me to Google the names of the doctors in the L.A. Times story. Interestingly, this is also a suggestion that Bill Roggio had made. So I did.

They were right to make that suggestion.

One of the doctors named in the L.A. Times story, Dr. Barakt Mansi, has no Google trail except for stories about this incident. But the doctor identified only as “Dr. Kamal” in the L.A. Times story is identified in other reports about the Nov. 13 incident (such as the Reuters story) as “Kamal Al-Ani.” If you Google Kamal Al-Ani, you find stories like this:

Six Iraqis, including three women and two children, have been killed in a US air strike in the city of Ramadi in western Iraq, a doctor said.

Kamal al-Ani, a doctor at Ramadi hospital, said the bodies of six members of a single family killed in the attack had been brought in, before being released to relatives for burial.

and this story, about a separate incident:

Dr. Kamal Al-Ani, a local hospital official, said the attack wounded five civilians, including three children. Witnesses denied the house was harboring militants.

Don’t we ever kill insurgents or Al Qaeda in Ramadi or Fallujah? If we do, Dr. Kamal Al-Ani doesn’t seem to know about it — or the media isn’t asking.

Maj. Pool emphasized to me that media reports often contradicted things he had seen with his own eyes:

During my year, 2005-2006, I tried to work with Western journalists in Baghdad to verify the information they were getting. There were numerous occasions I watched the live feeds from our surveillance platforms and saw armed men in a field or on the side of a road killed only to see reports from “local residents” and doctors quoted saying the enemy were woman and children.

Maj. Pool, Bill Roggio, and others emphasized to me that many of the doctors and civilians are scared to death. Maj. Pool said:

In part I blame the practice of using unreliable sources. What is a doctor going to say to a reporter if he knows his life and the lives of his coworkers and family could be jeopardy? Extremists will not hesitate in killing someone they deem a threat and since media are vital to the gains of the extremists, control over the local population who speak to the media is essential.

It reminds me of the gang situation in L.A. So very often, everyone on the street knows who killed someone — yet somehow, nobody will speak to the police. When they do talk to police, it’s more common than not that they will deny it when they get to court — even if they said it on tape. You can’t really blame them. Gangs can and do kill witnesses.

It’s the same in Iraq, according to numerous people I have talked to who have been there. Yet where do we see this point of view reflected in Big Media reports like the L.A. Times one above? Rather, Big Media journalists simply regurgitate the claims of doctors and people on the street, as if they were gospel. You never hear the fact that many of them are terrified of insurgents and Al Qaeda.


None of this definitively resolves the question I initially sought to investigate: is the L.A. Times is repeating enemy propaganda from a stringer with ties to Iraqi insurgents?

It’s not conclusive that the soldier who allegedly sent the e-mail making that claim appears to have a better grasp of many of the facts than the L.A. Times did. It’s not conclusive that he knew the deaths had occurred from tank fire, while the L.A. Times correspondent thought it was an airstrike. It’s not conclusive that he knew the dead were all adult males, while the L.A Times reported that the dead included women and children.

It’s not conclusive that he knew that there would be no evidence of widespread destruction of houses — and that a Reuters reporter on the scene saw no such evidence.

It’s not conclusive that one of the doctors quoted in the paper is always quoted as talking about women and children dying — but never about insurgents or Al Qaeda dying.

It’s not conclusive that Bill Roggio says the L.A. Times story sounds like “insurgent boilerplate.”

So I tried digging deeper. But I didn’t get anywhere. I tried checking the allegation by contacting people on both ends — the e-mailer and the L.A. Times reporter. Unfortunately, my efforts did not bear fruit.

I tried to get in touch with the soldier directly, by writing the blogger who had reprinted his e-mail, and asking that he pass along my e-mail address to the soldier in question. I never heard back. Although I had conveyed an offer for him to remain anonymous if necessary, the blogger told my reader Tom Blumer that he believed the soldier was concerned about possible negative repercussions.

I can’t tell you how distressed I am by the possibility that the military has evidence our media is being manipulated by a correspondent with ties to insurgents — yet won’t tell the public about it. It’s as if the military is fighting the P.R. war with both hands tied behind its back — and the military is the one which tied its own hands.

As I mentioned above, I also tried hitting the other end of the story, by giving Solomon Moore of the L.A. Times a chance to respond. I sent him an e-mail Monday morning, and asked numerous detailed questions about the story, such as:

  • How did he first hear about the airstrike, and who claimed it was an airstrike?
  • Did he personally speak to anyone quoted in the story? Did he do so in person or over the phone? How did he check the veracity of what they’d said?
  • Which witnesses claimed that women and children had been killed?
  • How did he determine whether the deaths had been caused by an airstrike instead of some other cause?
  • Who claimed that 15 houses had been pulverized? Did he have photos of the destroyed houses?
  • Did he ever check with the military after the story was published to see whether they could confirm or deny that there had been an airstrike? Did anyone from the military ever contact him to respond regarding whether there had been an airstrike?
  • Who was the Times correspondent on whom he relied? To what extent did he rely on that correspondent?
  • How did he ascertain the number of dead?

As I mentioned above, Moore never responded to my e-mail, which I sent out Monday morning. I copied it to the Readers’ Representative, who sent me her own response, which is fairly summarized as follows: “The answer to all your questions is right there in the article.” Of course, it wasn’t — which made the response even more amusing.

I also tried putting out feelers for people who are actually serving on the ground in Ramadi. That didn’t lead anywhere either, unfortunately. A few people wrote to say that they knew someone who was serving there. But I never heard back from any of them.

So I can’t tell you whether it’s true that the L.A. Times is repeating propaganda from a stringer with ties to insurgents.

But I can tell you this: I don’t have the resources of the L.A. Times. Yet in my spare time from my full-time job, using widely available resources on the Web and contacts built up through blogging, I probably got a more accurate picture of what happened in Ramadi on November 13 than the paid reporter for the L.A. Times did.

In doing so, I found I learned something important about reporting from Iraq in general. Big Media journalists often rely on sources that are unreliable. They don’t tell you the pressures these sources might be under from insurgents and terrorists. They refuse to tell you who their stringers are, so we can assess their motivations. They get quotes from doctors who seem to see only civilian deaths. If the military has been given insufficient time to respond to an allegation, these journalists don’t check with the military later, to verify that the story they’ve written is accurate. And sometimes, as here, their stories are completely at odds with numerous other accounts reported in other press outlets — and they seem to have no interest in finding out why.

It’s very sobering to realize that much of the news coming out of Iraq is completely unreliable. And it’s a bigger issue than whether the L.A. Times got a single story wrong on November 15.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit, Power Line, Hot Air, Captains Quarters, Winds of Change, Blackfive, and others for the links. You can bookmark the main page here and subscribe to this site via Bloglines by clicking this button and choosing the first feed:

What the Islamists Have Learned.

 good one from Michael Novak: What the Islamists Have Learned.

What we have discovered in Iraq is the weakest link in the ability of the United States to sustain military operations overseas. That link is the U.S. media. They are Islamists’ best friends.

Experience shows that the mainstream press of the United States is alienated from the U.S. military. In addition, the American press is extremely vulnerable to anti-U.S. propaganda. Thus, the American public will be fed nearly everything that foreign adversaries—our band of brothers—wish to feed it about the war. Therefore, I write:

Maxim # 1: To defeat America, impose upon the imagination of its media your own storyline.

Even if you can muster only 10,000 soldiers over the entire countryside of Iraq, paint the narrative like this: The Americans are irresistible occupiers, and yet they cannot prevent small (even individual) acts of destruction. Daily, unrelenting acts of destruction demonstrate that chaos rules. The American strategy, and the American storyline of the war, are invalidated by continuing chaos, highly visible, every single day, on worldwide television. The new dominating story is that the Americans cannot win.

Even though our own forces (for nearly two whole years now) can no longer afford to fight in a single operation lasting longer than a few hours, our martyr-brothers cannot be prevented from committing daily acts of destruction—the more stomach-turning the better—which demonstrate a ferocious will and a determination to destroy.

In such wars, my brothers, whichever party maintains the stronger will, along the most durable storyline, always wins.

The untold story of Iraq reconstruction

The untold story of Iraq reconstruction

 What should be driven home in “lessons learned” concerning the Iraq Campaign is that first and foremost, the enemy must be utterly defeated before starting any massive humanitarian projects.  Yet, in spite of the skewed views of some of our leadership in this regard, the story of Iraq reconstruction is nothing short of remarkable taking place as it does in the face of increasing insurgent attacks and a non-existent Iraqi private contracting sector.
The Washington Times’ Rowan Scarborough chronicles the heroic efforts of military, civilian, and private contractors in completing over 4,000 projects since the 2003 invasion.  The Army is the executive agent for Iraqi reconstruction, and the effort is led by Dean G. Popps, who is the principal assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology.  According to Popps:

“Most Americans don’t understand something equivalent to the Marshall Plan has been accomplished in Iraq.”

Under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers, electric grids, health care centers, schools, water and sewage treatment facilities, and police stations have been refurbished or built from scratch. This huge program has been extremely successful, while receiving largely negative press coverage with an emphasis on corruption and mismanagement.  But the latest assessment from Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, notes that the vast majority of projects have “proceeded as required.”
Popps reveals a critical factor not frequently discussed in the media.  US intelligence knew Saddam had not adequately maintained Iraq’s infrastructure, but it turned out that they wildly underestimated the decrepit state of Saddam’s Iraq.  The Corps of Engineers were stunned to find out that,

• The three regional sewage treatments plants in greater Baghdad did not work; raw waste poured into the Tigris River and downstream through villages.
• Sadr City, the impoverished Shi’ite slum repressed by the ruling Sunni Ba’ath Party, lacked any sewage system.  [“Some slam the Americans because there is sewage in Sadr City,” said an incredulous Mr. Popps. “Please.”]
• Few towns had a central supply of clean water.
• The electrical grid suffered under 1950s technology and disrepair. Saddam Hussein starved the rest of the country of power to give the capital of 6 million about 20 hours a day.
• The country lacked any primary health care facilities; .. new hospitals had not been built in 20 years.

Some of the accomplishments so far:

• Six new primary care facilities, with 66 more under construction; 11 hospitals renovated
• More than 800 schools fixed up; more than 300 police stations and facilities and 248 border control forts.
• Added 407,000 cubic meters per day of water treatment; a new sewage-treatment system for Basra; work on Baghdad’s three plants continues.
• Oil production exceeds the 2002 level of 2 million barrels a day by 500,000. [emphasis mine]
• The Ministry of Electricity now sends power to Baghdad for four to eight hours a day, and 10 to 12 for the rest of the country.
• Iraqis are now free to buy consumer items such as generators, which provide some homes with power around-the-clock.

Keep in mind that all of this was accomplished with great sacrifice including loss of life by Iraqis and all components of our forces including uniformed military, civil servants, and yes, even those much-maligned contractors.
On this Thanksgiving, we owe all of them and Secretary Popps our deepest gratitude for what ultimately will best serve our national security; a free and prosperous Iraq.
Douglas Hanson   11 22 06

Page Printed from: at November 23, 2006 – 01:12:08 PM EST

What American journalists should be thankful for

Garbage in, garbage out

Chavez leads gloating over vote

Chavez leads gloating over vote

By David R. Sands
Published November 9, 2006

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday led a global chorus of Bush administration critics gloating over the outcome of Tuesday’s midterm elections, but some foreign leaders expressed concern over what the Democratic victory will mean on issues such as global trade and the Middle East.
    Latin American populists, European leftists and Islamic fundamentalists were all quick to point to the U.S. vote as a repudiation of Mr. Bush’s aggressive, go-it-alone approach on Iraq and the global war on terror.
    The resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld also sparked praise from leaders of countries from the heart of what Mr. Rumsfeld once memorably dismissed as “Old Europe.”
    The Democratic sweep ranks as “the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world,” 200 members of the Socialist bloc in the European Parliament declared in a joint statement yesterday.
    Said Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema, “A cycle has ended. The cycle of pre-emptive wars, of unilateralism, ends in great failure.”
    With Mr. Bush still in charge of U.S. foreign policy for another two years, the pugnacious Mr. Chavez was one of the few world leaders to comment publicly on the elections.
    “It’s a reprisal vote against the war in Iraq, against the corruption” inside the Bush administration, he told reporters in Caracas. “All this fills us with optimism.”
    Informed of Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation as he was speaking, Mr. Chavez said, “Heads have started to roll. The president should resign on moral grounds, and Rumsfeld should go to jail.”
    Iran’s state-controlled television said in a commentary that U.S. voters were rejecting “Bush’s wrong strategy in the Middle East,” as well as “financial corruption in the United States.”
    Sudan, which has clashed with the United States over the humanitarian crisis in its Darfur region, is hoping for “relations of cooperation, not confrontation” with the chastened U.S. administration, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs al-Samani al-Wasiyla said.
    The celebration was not universal, with some foreign commentators worrying that the new Democrat-led Congress will be more protectionist on trade and will disappoint those hoping for a major U.S. shift on issues such as Iraq, North Korea, global warming and the International Criminal Court.
    Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, urged the United States to make a “renewed commitment” to revive faltering World Trade Organization talks for a new global trade pact.
    A spokesman for Mexican President Vicente Fox said the Democratic gains could soften the U.S. stand in talks on illegal immigration.
    “We hope this new makeup of Congress can be a catalyst for the U.S. government working toward a migration reform with the characteristics proposed by Mexico,” spokesman Ruben Aguilar said.
    Mr. Bush’s diminished clout also was a cause of concern for some allies.
    Japanese press commentators worried that a weakened Mr. Bush will not be able to push through major trade deals or stick to the hard line he has taken against North Korea’s nuclear-weapons programs. Analysts in India predicted Democrats may demand new concessions in the massive civilian nuclear pact Mr. Bush has championed, putting the deal in doubt.
    Alexander Pikayev of the Moscow-based think tank Scholars for Global Security noted that U.S.-Russian relations historically fared better under Republicans than Democrats.
    “As a result of the election, we expect the political struggle in the United States to toughen, and this may lead to sudden, spontaneous jumps of the American elephant in the international arena,” he told a Moscow radio interviewer yesterday.
    Foreign leaders closely aligned with Mr. Bush, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard, were undercut by the U.S. vote.
    John McDonnell, a leftist member of Mr. Blair’s ruling Labor Party and a critic of the Iraq war, said the U.S. results “mean that Blair is now totally isolated in the international community.”
    •This article is based in part on wire service reports.   

Iraqi Leader Disparages US Media Coverage

Iraqi Leader Disparages US Media Coverage
By Dawn Rizzoni Correspondent
November 06, 2006

( – U.S. media coverage of Iraq was so gloomy that during a recent visit to the U.S. the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan wondered whether the situation had deteriorated to such a degree during his absence that he should stay away.

“CNN International and [Arabic television network] al-Jazeera are equally bad in their coverage of the situation in Iraq,” Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani was quoted as telling a visiting group of Americans on Monday.

“When I was in the United States recently and read the negative news in the Washington Post, New York Times and in the network TV broadcasts, I even wondered if things had gotten so bad since I had left that I shouldn’t return,” he said.

Barzani was speaking during a meeting with a group of Americans who have lost sons during the conflict in Iraq. The group is in the country, according to the trip organizers, to learn for themselves what their loved ones died for.

The Americans also met with Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani.

“The emotional meeting lasted for an hour as the families and Barzani exchanged stories of loss at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s violent regime,” reported Joe Wierzbicki, spokesman for Move America Forward (MAF), the group that organized the visit.

Earlier Monday, the delegation met with U.S. troops stationed in northern Iraq and presented them with a “God Bless Our Troops” banner that had been signed by several hundred Americans at rallies around the nation.

Wierzbicki told Cybercast News Service that the visit had been supported solely by funds from contributors. The delegation, comprising seven family members as well as MAF representatives, arrived in Irbil on Saturday for a 10-day stay.

The trip, which organizers call “historic,” has been in the planning stages for over a year and has been kept strictly secret until now.

“For more than one year, we have worked with these Gold Star families to put this trip together,” said Wierzbicki.

“These families have suffered an awful loss, and yet, they’ve redoubled their efforts to supporting our troops and the missions they are serving in,” he added. “Now they want to bring their message to the American people, and we are doing all we can to make sure this message is heard from coast to coast.”

U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003 to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. An Iraqi court Sunday found the former leader guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to death.

Wierzbicki said the families regarded the Saddam verdict as “especially heartening since their children gave their lives to free the people of Iraq and bring an end to Iraq’s dubious role as a state sponsor of terrorism under Hussein’s brutal rule.”

On Monday, the group released comments made by delegation members.

“Justice has been served, and we are now celebrating together with the people of Iraq,” said Joseph Williams, whose son, Michael, was killed near Nasiriyah in March 2003.

Another parent, Mike Anderson, said the verdict provided additional justification for the war on terrorism.

“We are doing the right thing in Iraq, and many of the people in Iraq are trying to do the right thing in building a future free of violence and terrorism,” said Anderson, whose son, Michael Jr., died in Anbar province in December 2004.

Debra Argel Bastian, whose son Derek Argel died in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province in May 2005, agreed.

“I am so happy to see that justice has prevailed over terrorism and bloodshed,” she said. “I am so proud of the men and women of the United States military who have made this moment possible. And I honor the sacrifice my son gave to serve his country in the war against terrorism.”

‘Spitting mad’

Argel also commented on Sen. John Kerry’s controversial “stuck in Iraq” comments last week.

“I am spitting mad at John Kerry for insulting our troops,” she said. “Duck and run was [Kerry’s] specialty in Vietnam.”

Joe and Jan Johnson, who lost their son, Justin, in Baghdad in April 2004, had similar feelings about the Massachusetts Democrat’s remark.

“These were grown men we are talking about,” the couple said in a statement. “Contrary to Kerry’s belief, they made an ‘educated’ decision to join the military, most of them after 9/11, so they knew the possibilities of going to war were pretty good, and they chose to serve anyway.”

Kerry last week triggered a storm when he said during a California campaign event: “Education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

As Cybercast News Service reported recently, the Johnsons claim in a newly released book that Kerry tried to recruit them at their son’s funeral to speak out against President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Instead, the family, whose son was good friends with Casey Sheehan, son of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, said they support the president and the war.

“I want to be able to tell the troops that there are Americans who still believe we are doing the right thing by being here,” Joe Johnson said.

A key reason for the visit is to enable the delegation visiting Iraq to see the progress the U.S. has made there since the war began.

“The American people are shown a skewed picture of the situation in Iraq day after day by the international news media,” said MAF Chairwoman Melanie Morgan.

“We felt it was time to allow the families of U.S. troops who died in Iraq to come see the progress being made in Iraq and report it back to the American people,” Morgan noted.

“I will tell anybody who will listen the good that we have done and are currently doing,” Anderson said. “We cannot find security by turning a blind eye or thinking that ‘if we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone.’ That’s utterly ridiculous.”

Todd Bastian, Derek Argel’s stepfather, said the delegation had been “welcomed with open arms” when they arrived in Irbil province. “There appear to be a very grateful people here for our presence,” he said.

Irbil is one of the safer areas in Iraq – something MAF says that the media fail to show. “Most provinces in Iraq are without the violence that is shown each day by the international news media,” the group said in a statement, “but for some reason only the most negative developments from Iraq are regularly reported.”

Live updates and photos of the trip, as well as biographies of delegation members, can be found at the MAF website.

Mainstream Media and Democrats: Terrorists’ Best Friends

Mainstream Media and Democrats: Terrorists’ Best


Written by Sher Zieve
Saturday, November 04, 2006
     It’s difficult to believe that the American left could hunker down even further, under the saturated-with-innocent-blood covers, with terrorists who have unequivocally announced their intentions to destroy us.  But, it has. 

      Recently, Bill O’Reilly of ”The Factor” program, asked leftist celebs Rosie O’Donnell and David Letterman if they wanted the
United States of America to win the war against terrorists.  Neither would answer.  In fact, when O’Reilly commented to Letterman that it was an easy question requiring a simple yes or no answer, instead of answering Letterman said that he was “being thoughtful.” 


     Thoughtful?  Letterman has to “think” about whether or not he wants the
United States or the Islamic terrorists to win?  These Islamists regularly and with impunity blow up infrastructures in the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Spain, and myriad other countries (including the
Center and the Pentagon in the
United States) and behead people on videotape.  And this leftist representative of the New York and Hollywood Industrial Entertainment Complex has to think about whether or not he wants the
United States or the terrorists to win?  

          This attitude is both reprehensible and appalling.  It is also the attitude voiced by the many elitist leftist celebrities (including George Clooney, Alec Baldwin, Barbra Streisand, and others) who have become extremely wealthy due to the ideologies and opportunities within the
USA.  Thesee are opportunities that, should the terrorist entities take over or destroy the country, would be lost to all of us.  But, the socialist Democrat “principles” allow for only the haves and the have-nots–“the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  One only need look to
France’s form of government for proof.


     Prime examples of Democrat politicians working to destroy the
United States seem to crop up almost every day.  We have Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voting against any programs that would protect the country–including the Patriot Act and the NSA terrorist surveillance programs.  Both of these politicos falsely claimed that the NSA program is wiretapping American citizens, instead of the reality that it was monitoring terrorist and potential terrorist calling patterns. Instead, the Democrats and even some of our liberal Republican leaders are proposing and passing legislation that gives terrorists U.S. constitutional rights!  Shameful. 


     Then, we have Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) who calls U.S. soldiers Nazis and worse and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) accusing U.S. troops of committing torture–not the terrorists. 


     Note:  Those now continual thumping sounds, growing ever louder, you hear are our founding fathers rolling over in their graves.


     Not to be outdone by his buddies Durbin and Kennedy, on Monday Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) trashed U.S. troops–again.  Kerry began actively vilifying U.S. soldiers in the 1970s, when he lied before a Senate committee about their having committed “atrocities” in the manner of “Genghis Kahn.”  In 2005, vilifying U.S. troops in Iraq, Kerry told CBS’s Face-the-Nation Bob Schieffer:  “And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking historical and religious customs.”  On Monday, Kerry decided it was time for him to deliver another blow to the
U.S. military. 

     Speaking before a group of assembled students at California’s
College, Kerry denigrated
U.S. soldiers’ educational level with: 
“You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well.  If you don’t, you get stuck in

     Under pressure from some of his colleagues, predominantly due to the fact that the November elections are almost upon us, Kerry offered a “non-apology apology.”  He said that his comments reflected a “botched joke.”  A joke?  Hardly.  I’ve watched the video of Kerry’s performance.  He was not joking.  Kerry even released an obviously rewritten sample of what he was “supposed” to say.  It was typical Kerry format: bobbing and weaving but always deceiving.


     Kerry’s comments are strongly indicative of the real Democrat attitude toward our troops–our frontline, some would argue our only line, against the terrorists enacting their terror on our shores.  But Democrats, despite some who are feigning a more “conservative” stance in their attempts to win elections, don’t like the military–at all.


     Last, but certainly not least, we have the mainstream media–far left in both design and practice.  Since shortly after 9/11/2001, these media have been working solidly to help the Islamo-fascists and to hurt the
United States.  The New York Times has published classified information on our national security programs over and over again–from printing U.S. programs that tracked terrorist financial transactions to our NSA call-monitoring programs.  It even gave specifics as to how the programs worked and were implemented.  The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and others quickly followed suit in publishing the specific programs’ data.  The leftist mainstream media’s hatred for President Bush has trumped their ostensible reason.  Do these actions constitute working for the terrorists?  Of course, they do.  We also have the CNN embedded-with-Islamic-terrorists “journalist” Michael Ware who reported on and sent a videotape of the terrorists performing the snuffing of an American soldier back to the CNN Mother Ship–the terrorists’ U.S. network.   


     Little to no doubt remains that the majority of Democrats and their media work against the
United States and for the Islamo-fascists–whether by design or due to naiveté.  The reason behind their madness doesn’t really matter.  The mere fact that it exists should send chills down the spines of each thinking and rational American.  The data are inimitable and compelling.  Want the possibility of losing the country to the very real threat of an Islamic caliphate?  Then, vote Democrat.  If you’d like the
United States to continue as a country, vote Republican.  It really is that straightforward.


     Your vote counts.  

I Was Also Wondering

I Was Also Wondering
November 4th, 2006

Exhausted from covering J-Lo, T.O., Foley-o, and other uh-ohs, will the media ever find time for minor matters?

Such as that 8,000 Iraqi soldiers and police – volunteers all – have died in just two years, with 16,000 more wounded.

That Iraqi recruits still sign up to defend their country despite threats to their families.

That Baghdad has as many people as Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Fort Worth combined in area smaller than Fort Worth.

That more Americans are murdered in New York and LA than US troops die in Iraq in a year, 43 times as many commit suicide, 21 times as many die in drunk-driving crashes.

That less than ½ of 1% of American troops serving in Iraq have been killed and 97% haven’t been injured at all.

That American troops by the thousands volunteer to re-enlist and return to Iraq, while tens of thousands new recruits sign up year after year.

That Iraq went from tyranny to new constitution seven times faster than America did.

That Iraq’s prime minister has been in office less than six months (will network ratings and newspaper circulation turn around that quick?).

Though wearied from pursuing Paris Hilton, the media might ask why land mines were barbaric when Princess Di spoke but IEDs – causing half of American deaths – are no worse than Gangsta rap?

Since World War II’s the standard for some, they might ask if Baghdad should have been nuked, 16 million U.S. soldiers have served, 400,000 die in combat, 700,000 others be wounded? They could ask who was left to resist in Germany and Japan and with what?

They could probe why the NFL is more serious about steroids than the UN is about WMD. Players have to prove they’re clean, the NFL doesn’t have to prove they’re not.

Then why did the press say it was up to the US to prove Saddam had WMD when the UN decreed he had to prove he didn’t?

UN inspectors proved he produced WMDs. They proved he had been developing even more. Saddam couldn’t prove he’d destroyed them. He lied repeatedly. Take his word? Saddam?

But the UN only barked. Saddam could wait, keep scientists and technologies with zero sanctions, billions from Oil for Food, continue killing more people than have died in Darfur, and have Uday and Qusay waiting in the wings.

France promised President Bush it would send troops as part of a US-led liberation army. Colin Powell then went to the UN. France then went back on its word. Surprise.

Didn’t the press notice the Senate Intelligence Committee lied about what the UN found? That Senators Levin, Rockefeller, and Durbin doctored intelligence documents?

Why didn’t it stress that the UN refused U.S. security in Iraq, saw its ambassador killed, accused the U.S., then belatedly confessed the disaster was its fault?

The ambassador had cited Iraq’s “broadly representative” Governing Council as a “significant step” towards democracy, called it “an achievement to be recognized, applauded and nurtured,” “urged all Iraq’s neighbors to play their supportive role to the full, to embrace the Governing Council and provide it with whatever assistance it may request,” sought to “help facilitate and build consensus among Iraqis, and between Iraqis and the CPA,” discussed with Iraqis “the process of de-Baathification” and “the dissolution of the Iraqi army.”

Then Al Qaeda attacked. The UN ran.

Kofi Annan had said – before the bombing – that his ambassador was “working very closely with the Iraqis and Mr. Bremer to ensure that we do have this smooth transition from the Coalition to the establishment and creation of an Iraqi government down the line. And we are working very well together.”

Nice words.

Pooped from Martha Stewart reporting, the press also couldn’t emphasize that Ayatollah Al Sistani refused even to meet with Ambassador Bremer to rebuild Iraq and reconcile factions.

Bremer still sought Iraqi ideas, formed a Governing Council, wrote,

“The coalition wants them to exercise real power and will thrust authority at them,”

and asked in a broadcast address,

“What things are not working? What can we do better?”

Silence. From Sistani. From his followers.

How many fewer would have died if he hadn’t shut Bremer out? Would Sadr have surged, the domed mosque been bombed, oil fields attacked, electrical grids destroyed if Sistani – supreme leader to the Shia majority – had told Bremer, “These are our demands”?

But why worry about any of that? 

We have all the news that’s fit to print.

Michael J. O’Shea