Category Archives: watch: Democracy, Economics and Trudy Rubin Create More Confusion

It’s been a bit since Trudy Rubin has been a subject of my analysis. But her column today is a dandy. It is clear that Rubin doesn’t understand Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Today she tackles democracy, economics and the debt ceiling, blaming Republicans for causing the potential downfall of the United States as a world leader. Huh?

Following is an excerpt from her column:

Few Americans grasp the dangers of the congressional battle over the debt ceiling. Somewhere between 33 percent and 40 percent of every dollar the U.S. government spends is financed by borrowing. Under Republican and Democratic administrations alike we have been able to finance this debt because U.S. Treasury bills are considered the world’s safest investment. Countries such as China and Saudi Arabia keep their excess funds in T-bills because of their unqualified faith in U.S. institutions.

That could change.

The debt ceiling needs to be raised at the latest by early August – not to spend more, but to cover current obligations. Republican and Democratic leaders have been locked in talks to find $2 trillion in federal savings to offset a rise in the debt limit.”

This column simply adds to the confusion by those, including me, who studied and reported on economics for years.

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Filed under Economy, Journalism, watch: Ryan Dunn Hit a Nerve in Society

All right. I still don’t really understand the fascination with Ryan Dunn and Jackass, but I am getting there. runs a piece that tries to explain the fascination with Dunn at

I guess it has to do with the fact that I don’t understand people who climb mountains, skydive or test the limits where death is a distinct possibility. I guess I did that when I was younger as a war correspondent. So maybe Dunn and I did have something in common. The only thing is war scared the hell out of me. I still don’t understand why someone would stick a toy truck up his you know what.

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia, watch: A Good Story About Cancer

As you know, I am a frequent critic of and its affiliated news organizations. I have to give a tip of the hat for a good story about the Villanova football coach Andy Talley and his organization to support bone marrow research and donors. See the story at 

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Filed under Journalism, watch: Where in the World is Trudy Rubin?

Well, I apologize that I didn’t have time to write about Trudy Rubin’s assessment of al-Qaeda in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Gone. History. Nothing to really worry about. Huh?

You now have to pay for Trudy’s column, but here it is. Could someone please decode it for me? BTW, I have never met a jovial Algerian.

Ex-bin Laden ally sees al-Qaeda waning – Abdullah Anas says that without the slain leader’s charisma, the violent sect is failing.

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) – Thursday, June 9, 2011
Author: Trudy Rubin
Abdullah Anas, a jovial, bearded onetime Algerian imam, was a close colleague of Osama bin Laden in the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.He considered bin Laden a friend, but broke with him over the slaughter of innocents on 9/11. Today, Anas thinks al-Qaeda’s grip on the minds of radical Muslim youth is finally ending.”I think the philosophy of al-Qaeda is failing now,” Anas says. He thinks no one in al-Qaeda can replicate the role played by bin Laden, whose charisma helped give his grim message global appeal.

Indeed, Anas, and other experts at a London conference on terrorism sponsored by the Thomson Reuters news agency, painted a picture of a terrorist group struggling to find its footing after its leader’s death. It is also deeply challenged by the nonviolent Arab rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia, which disdained al-Qaeda’s worship of suicide bombs.

No one discounts al-Qaeda’s continuing capacity, or that of its regional affiliates, to inspire mayhem in the West, the Mideast – and in nuclear-armed Pakistan. But all agreed the group was no longer capable of spectacular attacks like those of 9/11, due to the deaths of key leaders and the awakening of the world to the terrorist threat. The group now has to turn to discontented individuals, like the would-be Times Square bomber.

But the message of violent jihad that bin Laden promoted so powerfully has lost much of its luster. Arab attitudes toward al-Qaeda’s violence were already shifting before the killing of bin Laden (as borne out by polls). The organization was stained by bombings of civilians in Iraq, Jordan, and Pakistan.

The Arab Spring has changed attitudes even more dramatically. “What has happened in the Arab world,” says Anas, “is completely different from [the methods] al-Qaeda tried to spread.”

Equally important, bin Laden’s demise creates a leadership crisis in al-Qaeda. “No one can be equal to him for his charisma, his history,” says his old friend Anas. “Osama brought credibility from [his role in] the war against the Soviets.”

Noman Benotman, former head of a Libyan militant group, who also rejected al-Qaeda after 9/11, says none of the likely successors have the qualities that enabled him to build a global organization. “From 1998, [bin Laden] was acting like the Khomenei of Sunni Muslims,” he says, referring to the Iranian ayatollah who led the radical Shiite revolution in Tehran.

The leading contenders to replace bin Laden are Egyptians, including al-Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Yet the choice of an Egyptian would alienate the crucial Gulf Arab base of al-Qaeda, says Benotman, especially those religious Saudis who support global jihad. Zawahiri’s intolerant personality, Benotman adds, would not attract a wide following. “He is the opposite of Osama bin Laden, who was very tolerant [of followers] and never punished people.”

In this new era, Zawahiri, or any new leader, “needs to come up with a political strategy beyond giving people a chance to die,” says the former Libyan jihadi.

Zawahiri realizes that, and yesterday he made the latest of several statements endorsing the Arab revolutions. He wants to establish a base in Egypt, believing he can build on inevitable discontent when the post-revolutionary government fails to meet popular hopes.

But the secular heroes of the Egyptian revolt totally reject al-Qaeda, as does the Muslim Brotherhood, the best-organized Islamist force in Egypt, but one that espouses nonviolence.

One can already see al-Qaeda fumbling to find a new modus operandi. Example: In Yemen, one group of local al-Qaeda members have reportedly changed their name to Ansar al-Sharia (“Supporters of Islamic Law,” a title hard for locals to disagree with). They have started delivering services, and hoisted a white flag, rather than al-Qaeda’s black flag, apparently to avoid being linked with suicide bombers.

Perhaps they recognize that the region has tired of the breed of young jihadis bin Laden fostered who have no interest in creating a better state, but who want only to be martyred. We are entering a new era where al-Qaeda’s cult of death will have to compete for alienated young Muslim minds against more positive models of change.

Yet there is a postscript to this hopeful message. One of the main stages for continued al-Qaeda carnage is likely to be Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed. Virulent Pakistani Taliban groups allied with al-Qaeda and hoping for Afghanistan’s collapse will keep trying to undermine the Pakistani military and state to get hold of its nukes.

So it was ironic to hear the former militant Abdullah Anas make a plea for NATO troops not to leave Afghanistan before Afghan leaders can reach a political settlement with the Taliban. He is now facilitating Afghan mediation efforts. He says, “I won’t be happy to see NATO leave before we solve the political problem.”

I’ve been skeptical about odds for Afghan political talks, but they could put a final nail in al-Qaeda’s coffin. Talking to bin Laden’s former friend, one could imagine a new era where suicide bombers no longer wreak havoc, an era where young Arab and South Asian Muslims have reason for hope.

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Filed under Journalism, watch: Inquirer Gives You a Print Story; We Give You the Full Story in Text and Video runs a story about two sisters trying to make Germantown a better place to live. The Inquirer story gives print. Philadelphia Neighborhoods gave it to you Sunday in print and video. Take a look at

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Neighborhoods, watch: On the Afghan Beat with Trudy Rubin

My colleague and longtime friend, Wolf Achtner, pointed out that Trudy Rubin, on a tour of Afghanistan and Pakistan, reported today what already appeared in German publications four days ago.

Nevertheless, there is no reference to that report. We used to call that plagiarism in my day. You know, I think it’s still called plagiarism. But maybe Trudy doesn’t have a good Internet connection–only sources that tell her stuff that people already know.

Okay, it’s my last post for the moment on the intrepid Inky reporter. But it’s so much fun to see how a bankrupt newspaper can spend money to send a bankrupt reporter to cover nothing while spending a whole lot of money. Sorry.

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Filed under Journalism, Philadelphia,, Uncategorized watch: Where in the World is Trudy Rubin?

I know some people want me to be nicer to foreign affairs expert Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But I have important news: she’s disappeared. Not in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but from

When you go to the Trudy Rubin link, you only see nine photos.

Your intrepid reporter–that would be me–has found Trudy. She’s behind the pay wall of the newspaper. I am not certain whether that means that the Inky is embarrassed by what she is writing or actually think people would pay to read it.

Using my investigative talents, I found a way around the pay wall so that you, my readers and viewers, can see what Trudy is up to.

I found today’s dispatch from Kabul:

KABUL, Afghanistan – The talk of talks with the Taliban has taken on new momentum in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden. Even as the Taliban was mounting its spring offensive, Afghan officials told me of recent meetings in Qatar and Germany between U.S. officials and a Taliban official named Tayyeb Agha, who may – or may not – be an emissary of Mullah Omar. And there lies the rub. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called for a diplomatic surge that will build on military gains produced by the U.S. troop surge. The hope is that Mullah Omar and his Quetta shura (core Taliban leaders) might be sobered by the U.S. ability to hit bin Laden and to break up their networks, and thus be willing to reconcile. Yet conversations with U.S. and Afghan officials and members of the former Taliban government make clear that, even today, no one is certain who can speak for Omar. Nor do they know what he wants. (Despite last week’s rumors of his death, he is believed to still be alive, and hiding in Pakistan.)

Harper back: I have put on my media decoder helmet to try to decipher the above. It may take me a few months, but I will post when I have determined what all of this means. Harper out.


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