Everything's Coming Up Kaloogian

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The blood from Ben Domenech's scalp had hardly dried before the liberal blogosphere tomahawked another fact-juggling conservative. Today's victim: former California Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, a GOP candidate for former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham's open House seat.

Kaloogian had made a sort of comeback in 2004, co-founding a Bizzaro MoveOn.org wittily dubbed MoveAmericaForward. He visited Iraq as part of the group's "Voices of Soldiers" Truth Tour, and a photo of a bustling Baghdad street made its way from the frontlines to Kaloogian's campaign site. Forget the MSM—here was proof that "Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be."

On Tuesday afternoon Daily Kos blogger AnthonyLA questioned whether this vista of non-Arabic signs and scantily-clad women actually came from Baghdad. Eight hours later he got a response from jem6x, who'd found a picture of the same street from a different angle. (Compare the two angles here.) The street wasn't in Baghdad but in an Istanbul suburb called Bakirkoy. Turks have never felt the liberating winds of a US land invasion, but their city streets have generally turned out calm and stable.

After a pile-on that involved Joshua Micah Marshall and TPM Muckraker blogger Justin Rood, Kaloogian backtracked and replaced the pic with a Baghdad establishing shot that does a lot less to advertise the city's dynamism and white-hot excitement.

NEXT: Meathead Down

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  1. You know, a lot can be said for the death of blogs, but you just can’t match the shear power of number of fact checkers.

  2. I love the new replacement photo of “Baghdad”. It looks like it was shot from a helicopter or the 20 story of a very tall building.

    Somehow I get the suspicion that the photographer of this photo didnt’ particularly feel like strolling on the street level.

  3. Have to agree. Baghdad looks pretty sedate from high up on a hotel balcony.

  4. The most remarkable thing about this is that this idiot actually thought no one would find out.

    This is the same blogosphere that picked apart the flaws in a memo based on the year make and model of the typewrite it was supposed to have been composed on.

    The second most remarkable thing about this is that there is a whole culture of people that both (a) think it’s important to show a picture that dispells an alleged myth and (b) thinks it’s no big deal if it’s a fake.

  5. If you’ve been following the story, the gentleman’s explanation was that he and his group took thousands of pictures and the Turkish photo (which really does look like a very nice place) just got mixed in with the enormous photographic output by mistake. Perfectly understandable, really.

    But that being the case, why doesn’t ANY of the thousands of other photos show a pleasant, peaceful Baghdad neighborhood? He found peace but, to his anguish, he forgot to remove the lens cap? I hate it when that happens.

  6. I’m glad to finally see a politician who isn’t afraid to support our troops publicly, facing head on attacks from our nation’s strong anti-troop lobby.

  7. Who said anything about being anti-troop?

    Pro-truth, perhaps.

  8. The new pic also presents some new questions.

    Is that smog in the background, caused by the hustle and bustle of daily economic activity, or merely gunpowder smoke?

  9. The Roman script has to be a giveaway. Outside of company logos and brandnames, Turkey is the only place in the Middle-East where you would see it.

    As for the new photo, it looks like it was taken from the heart of the “calm and stable” Green zone. You can even see the concrete Bremer Walls along the roadside.

  10. Great headline. 🙂

  11. I love it;

    “Your grades in geography are tellible, little Johnny, how can you expect to land a good job like that?”

    “I plan to become a GOP politician”

  12. Looks like the photo was taken from about 33 degrees, 19 minutes and .15 seconds North and 44 degrees, 23 minutes and 26.04 seconds East.

    Yeah, that’s the Green Zone.

    You can check my work using Google Earth, but I’m fairly certain.

  13. Shoulda added, “…looking Northeast…”

    Sorry.

  14. Where the hell did the Dailykos blogger find the other picture of the same corner?

  15. H Rose – In another post, jem6x says a friend in Istanbul emailed him about the identity of the street in the photo. Then jem6x googled around for more pics of the street.

  16. I’m wondering, should I order anchovies or parma ham on my pizza tomorrow night?

  17. Turks have never felt the liberating winds of a US land invasion, but their city streets have generally turned out calm and stable.

    Except when they are running with the blood of Armenians, Kurds or Greeks (not that the Greeks were any better in their campaign against Turkey following WWI).

  18. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it – in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.

    Funny, each day the news media finds any violence in this country and screams and shouts about it, too. In the face of declining crime rates. They clearly oppose our tireless, freedom fighting police forces.

  19. Hakluyt – Well, now they’re calm and stable.

  20. If you look closely, you can see the news media killing soldiers and civilians to jack up the death toll.

    Those crazy journalists will stop at nothing to keep terrorism alive!

  21. Who said anything about being anti-troop?

    Well I got the joke. Don’t despair, Citizen Gnat. Deadpan humor is still a viable internet genre.

    I must say, I love Kaloogian’s replacement shot. I think I can speak for Johnny Cochrane when I say

    If it doesn’t look like St. Lo,

    it’s a copacetic status quo!

  22. “If you look closely, you can see the news media killing soldiers and civilians to jack up the death toll.”

    The smoke in the distance is an auto-da-fe of National Guard troops hosted by Daryn Kagan and Brian Williams.

  23. If you’ve been following the story, the gentleman’s explanation was that he and his group took thousands of pictures and the Turkish photo (which really does look like a very nice place) just got mixed in with the enormous photographic output by mistake. Perfectly understandable, really.

    If it was a legitimate (and it probably was), I think that it shows either him or his staff the carelessness that needs to be scrutinized by the voters before he is elected, especially since he is running for the U.S. Congress.

  24. if that was a legitimate mistake, then that fucker deserves to lose anyway. no one that *unlucky* is good for this country.

    jackass just got slapped by something called the “blogosphere” for zog’s sake. “betcha 5000-to-1 you can’t draw the one photo which sinks your nascent new career!” going over his resume you can now see “real name doubles as assumed name for motel registries” and “got slapped in face by ‘blogosphere'” under “Experience.”

    it would be helpful as well if his name was easily turned into a verb. such as:

    “man, did you hear tom accidentally served his fiancee the one kind of wheatgrass that she’s allergic to? now i have to return that tux because he pulled a kaloogian.”

  25. also: i’ve seen real estate agents with more genuine smiles.

  26. The sad thing is that this was such an empty gesture to start with. If this guy found one street in all of Baghdad that looked calm and busy for one split second of one day, that does absolutely nothing to prove that Iraq, or Baghdad, or even that one street, is generally peaceful and prosperous. The fact that he couldn’t actually come up with even one real picture speaks volumes.

  27. “If it was a legitimate (and it probably was), I think that it shows either him or his staff the carelessness that needs to be scrutinized by the voters before he is elected, especially since he is running for the U.S. Congress.”

    Come on, that can’t be legitimate. They can’t possibly have accidentally posted a picture that doesn’t look like *anything* they saw in Iraq – nobody on his trip saw anything *like* that in Iraq. It’d be like if I took a trip to Roswell, NM, and then posted a photo of Roswell which depicted the Eiffel Tower, and blamed it on a mixup.

    All I can say is, he’s lucky he didn’t post a picture of the progress of Iraqi reconstruction which was actually a recent picture of Ground Zero.

  28. Citizen Gnat,

    I also admire his steadfast refusal to back down in the face of apple pie haters.

    But hey, if the guy can confuse the war in Iraq with the war on terror, it’s perfectly plausible that he could confuse Turkey with Iraq.

  29. As to whether or not a picture of a bustling street proves anything at all, Kos also had a post or two yesterday in which he described the surreal conditions in El Salvador during the civil war there, when life would go on as usual in the midst of all the violence. It was a pretty good post for anyone who wants to read it.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/3/29/112744/728

  30. But hey, if the guy can confuse the war in Iraq with the war on terror, it’s perfectly plausible that he could confuse Turkey with Iraq.

    ooooooh, diss. the score is now joe 7, kaloogia 0.

  31. “you just can’t match the shear power of number of fact checkers.”

    Yes, but chatboards have more torque.

  32. I haven’t been able to verify this (mainly because I lack the time), but I’ve read elsewhere that the large building in the center of the picture showing how peaceful Baghdad is when viewed from 20 stories up has since been blown up in a bombing.

  33. “it would be helpful as well if his name was easily turned into a verb. such as:

    “man, did you hear tom accidentally served his fiancee the one kind of wheatgrass that she’s allergic to? now i have to return that tux because he pulled a kaloogian.””

    wonderful! fantastic!

    it’s like pulling a “Fraser” or doing a “Homer” 🙂

  34. Deus ex Machina: here in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, almost all signage is in English and Arabic. That includes store signs and “official” signs like street signs and signage on government buildings. And licence plates. English is the lingua franca of this part of the world – it’s the only tongue common to the Arabs, westerners, subcontinentals, east asians and FSUers. Some of my Arab friends and students are upset by the fact that a person who has lived here for 20 years need not learn a word of Arabic to get by.

  35. Bahgdad is the size of Los Angelas. There are lots of peaceful crowded streets in Bahgdad. Millions of people live there. Do you dopes really think they all spend their days cowering in basements dodging debris from suicide bombers? People have to live, work, shop, eat ect.. It wouldn’t have been hard to come up with a good picture of Bahgdad, had this guy bothered to look. I can see where it maybe was an honest mistake. Take a few hundred pictures on a trip and you start to forget where each one was taken. That said, you would think that he would have been a little more careful about the one he posted on the internet.

  36. The second most remarkable thing about this is that there is a whole culture of people that both (a) think it’s important to show a picture that dispells an alleged myth and (b) thinks it’s no big deal if it’s a fake.

    I often wonder about the disconnect between believing something to be true, and manufacturing the evidence to prove it.

  37. John: our point is that he apparently doesn’t have one. His replacement picture looks like it was taken from a satellite. I, too, believe it was a mistake. I think they opened their pictures when they got home and they only genuine street shot they got was of when they were in Turkey on the way back. I think they never left their armored vehicles. Because it wasn’t safe for them to do so. Because they never dared.

    In other words, everything he’s saying about how “he went to Baghdad and everything was much better than that wicked old press will tell you” is basically a lie or self-delusion. He simply doesn’t know anything more than what he might have found out by staying home and reading official statements because that’s all he got while he was there. He never saw anything with his own eyes. Look at the photos on his site: shaking hands with military officers in their briefing rooms…the long shot of some buildings, too far away to even see the people.

    His “fact-finding tour” is pretty short on facts, except that it’s possible to go into Iraq heavily escorted and make it out again, as long as you never leave your armored vehicle. No one in the dreaded “liberal” media is disputing this, as far as I know.

  38. James,

    I can’t go to Nueva Larado without taking a huge risk of being shot or kidnapped. As a matter of fact, I think it would be a pretty close call, unarmed stuck in Baghdad or unarmed stuck in Nueva Larado. I guess if there is any point to this it is that things are more complex than whether a rich westerner can wonder around a city with lots of expensive stuff and a big target on his back safely or not.

  39. I can’t go to Nueva Larado without taking a huge risk of being shot or kidnapped. As a matter of fact, I think it would be a pretty close call, unarmed stuck in Baghdad or unarmed stuck in Nueva Larado. I guess if there is any point to this it is that things are more complex than whether a rich westerner can wonder around a city with lots of expensive stuff and a big target on his back safely or not.

    This example would be more relevant if you posted a big blog entry talking about what a safe and wonderful place Nueva Larado was, and insisted that Nueva Larado only has a bad reputation because of the big bad liberal media.

  40. John: I gotta call bullshit on that. I wandered all over East Africa unarmed and no one ever set off a car bomb at me. Border towns are notorious and yet, Anglo tourists wander into Nuevo Laredo every day. They take tour buses, not armored cars, and are protected by guides, not heavily armed mounted infantry.

    Baghdad is not a tourist trap. It’s the capitol of the country with the heaviest police and military presence in the world. But you can’t even get out of a vehicle in broad daylight long enough to take a photo of a street scene? Comparing that to bordertown pickpockets is absurd.

    Incidentally, Jennifer, the word on the building in the picture was that it is a police station and it was bombed on April 12 of 2005. From the pictures I saw the exterior of the building was not badly damaged and it’s quite possible the site’s photo is genuine. But it does make a nice bookend to the story to see posts of the same building wreathed in smoke from a car bomb eleven months ago…

  41. James,

    I live in San Antonio and used to go to Larado used to be a tourist trap and only dangerous to the unlucky and the stupid. The drug gangs have now taken it over. The murder rate is huge, the local cops are in a running war with the federals and kidnapping is second only to drug smuggling as the local industry. It is not getting much play outside the Southwest, but the Mexican border is out of control and Northern Mexico is getting close to becoming Columbia. Larado is not a tourist trap anymore. Americans don’t go there because it is so dangerous. All of the old tourist places have closed down. I was very serious about Baghdad versus Larado comparision. Yeah, a car bomb or two may go off in Bahgdad, but like I said, it is the size of Los Angelas, what are the odds of you being there?

  42. Yeah, a car bomb or two may go off in Bahgdad, but like I said, it is the size of Los Angelas, what are the odds of you being there?

    So if one or two car bombs per day are set off in Los Angeles, you’ll be of the opinion that really, this is nothing for Angelenos to worry about?

  43. If two car bombs per day went off in Los Angeles, and we proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Syria was behind it, John would call for an immediate invasion of Turkmenistan.

  44. In a city the size of Los Angeles, how many car bombs have to be set off per day before you’d consider it an actual problem, John?

  45. The keys to a successful car bombing in southern California are:

    1) Leave plenty of evidence so that your guilty is clearly established.

    2) Get a celebrity of some sort involved in the act.

    With those measures in place, there’s no way that any southern California jury will convict.

  46. Look, I had to go back to the restaurant to get my detonator. I was nowhere near the place where the bomb went off. And it’s merely a coincidence that I had previously asked my stunt double if he could rig up some explosives.

  47. I was very serious about Baghdad versus Larado comparision.

    If you’re serious about it, then could you provide at least ball-park figures on the rates of violence for each city?

  48. Kidnapping, Murder Sweep Nuevo Laredo
    Friday, August 05, 2005

    NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico ? A city official in charge of public security was gunned down along with another man in the downtown area of the embattled city of Nuevo Laredo on Friday.

    According to reports, it appeared to be an organized hit involving two cars.

    Nuevo Laredo, just cross the border from the United States, has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Rival drug cartels have turned the city into a war zone as they battle for control of the lucrative illegal drug market in the U.S.

    Gun battles in broad daylight are common, and the U.S. Consulate (search) has shut down, at least temporarily.

    The drug gangs have killed the city’s last two police chiefs, the second of whom lasted only six hours on the job. Widespread police corruption has compounded the problem. The entire 700-officer force was fired for corruption this summer, though many were hired back.

    In addition to the killings, there has been an epidemic of kidnappings. There have been over 400 in the past year, including dozens of Americans.

    **SNIP**

    Often, there are no ransom demands. Both of Rosita Gonzalez’ sons were kidnapped, and she has no idea why.

    “It’s a pain that you can’t have no appeal for it,” said Gonzalez.

    The Nuevo Laredo story that has gone largely unreported, as many journalists say the drug wars in there are too dangerous to cover, especially after a number of their colleagues have been gunned down.

    **SNIP**

  49. NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – Last September, Brenda Cisneros was celebrating her 23rd birthday with her family at a restaurant in Laredo, Texas, when she begged her father to let her go to a concert with a friend across the border in Nuevo Laredo.

    “Please, Daddy, I’m a grown-up now,” her father, Pablo Cisneros, remembers her pleading. Reluctantly, he said yes. “I know you’re legally an adult,” he recalls telling her, “but remember, you’ll always be my baby.”

    His daughter and her best friend, Yvette Martinez, set out for Nuevo Laredo and a concert featuring the popular ranchero singer Pepe Aguilar on Sept. 17. Cisneros hasn’t seen them since.

    The last he knows is that she and Martinez, a 27-year-old mother of two, called a friend at 4 a.m. to say they were heading back from the concert and were just five blocks from the U.S. border.

    Since January, at least 107 people have been killed in a fierce war that pits rival drug gangs in an increasingly violent struggle to control this key crossing point into the United States. Bodies are found in streets showing evidence of painful deaths: tortured, bound and gagged, handcuffed, with missing limbs. Some have been burned alive.

    But the deaths are only part of the story. Since last fall, 23 Americans and at least 400 Mexicans have disappeared here, and their relatives complain that little is being done to investigate the disappearances or stop the gangs who perpetrate them.

    No one knows who’s doing the kidnapping. Some residents and police blame the abductions on the same gangs that are battling for drug turf. They talk of “safe houses,” where victims are taken until ransoms are paid. Some say young women are housed there for drug lords “to play with” until they’re used up, ending with death.

    Others, such as Martinez’s stepfather, William Slemaker, blame the police. He claims he spotted his stepdaughter’s 2001 pearl-white Mitsubishi in a municipal police parking lot about a month after her disappearance but that when he pointed it out to police they denied it was hers. Later, the car turned up in the lot of a private towing company, which sought $2,500 for storage before it could be released. Slemaker said he didn’t have the money, and the car remains in one of the company’s lots.

    “There’re fingerprints, DNA, who knows what else inside that car,” said Slemaker, who quit his job as a railroad worker to help Pablo Cisneros found a Web site called laredosmissing.com.

    Every week, Cisneros and Slemaker cross from Texas into this gritty city of nearly a half-million residents to continue searching for their loved ones. They paste up posters asking for information. In return, they get death threats and anonymous calls: Their daughters were killed by drug traffickers, who used them for sex until they were “done” with them; they were fed to lions; their bodies were submerged in acid and only bones remain.

    Cisneros and Slemaker said the calls were painful to hear, and they worry that they may be true. Forty-three Americans are known to have been kidnapped so far this year; 17 either escaped or were ransomed, though police will provide little information about them. Three others were found dead.

    Mexican officials said they were concerned that the reports of kidnappings and violence were hurting this border city’s reputation as a tourist destination. They said most of those who’d disappeared had ties to drug traffickers and that others were safe.

    “In my experience, most of the missing and murder victims are involved in organized crime,” said Daniel Hernandez, Mexico’s consul general in Laredo. “Sometimes, it’s involuntary; it can be a cousin of a cousin and they’re at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

    U.S. officials are less certain. The State Department, at the urging of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza, has issued a travel advisory for Mexico, warning U.S. citizens to stay clear of Nuevo Laredo.

    The United States can do little to solve crimes in Mexico. U.S. authorities can’t go into Mexico to investigate a crime against an American unless Mexican authorities invite them. So far, there’s been no such invitation.

    “Mexico is very protective about its national sovereignty. That’s the issue. It could become a political problem,” said Laredo-born Raul Salinas, a burly and congenial 27-year veteran of the FBI who once worked at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and now is running for mayor of Laredo.

    The suggestion that their daughters might have had drug connections enrages Slemaker and Cisneros.

    “Our daughters didn’t have criminal records. But suppose they came in contact with a trafficker or Mafioso; is it all right to kill and kidnap people because of this?” said Slemaker, who’s been Yvette’s stepfather since she was 8.

    Slemaker acknowledges that Martinez’s estranged husband is in a Texas prison for drug crimes, but he said Martinez had been seeking a divorce for the past six years. He and Cisneros also said it was possible the women ran into a bad crowd.

    “We heard later that a bunch of 70 armed men dressed in black uniforms turned up at the concert,” Slemaker said.

    Police refuse to discuss the Cisneros-Martinez case, or any case for that matter, saying doing so would endanger current investigations.

    The local police chief said drug trafficking and related crimes were the problem of Mexico’s federal police, not him.

    “My priority is to prevent assaults, burglaries and auto theft,” said Omar Pimentel, 37, whose predecessor was gunned down after just seven hours in office. “The federal police are in charge of drug crimes.”

    Cisneros said the months since his daughter disappeared had been hard. He said he could barely eat and that his chest burned.

    “My heart and soul are broken,” he said. “All my energy is spent on finding our daughters. But I know what will cure me: Brenda.”

    Knight Ridder special correspondent Janet Schwartz contributed to this report.

  50. http://www.mexidata.info/id750.html

    187 people were murdered in Nuevo Larado in 2005. The population there is about 335,000. Baghdad has a population of 5.9 million or about 17.5times the populuation of Nuavo Larado. In the three years since the war started in 2003, there have been 24,000 civilian deaths in Baghdad. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11763834/. No one seems to know however, how many of those were due to violence. That is total death count that includes death by all causes.

    That works out to about 8,000 deaths per year. If Nuevo Larado were the size of Baghdad it would suffer 3,300 deaths per year. If you discount the natural deaths in the 8,000 figure, Baghdad is probably twice as dangerous as Larado. More dangerous yes, but Larado is a lot closer to Baghdad than people think and that was my point.

  51. I appreciate the numbers hunting and anyone would agree that Laredo is in terrible shape. If only the drugs they were fighting over (like the alcohol gangs used to fight over during Prohibition) were legal, there’d be less to fight about.

    But I think we’ve lost the point here. A Bush loyalist prints a picture he says is of peaceful Baghdad as proof that the media is trying to paint a negative picture of the city. When it’s pointed out that his picture is of a city in Turkey, he doesn’t post a picture of a peaceful, happy city scene in Baghdad, which he claims to have seen. Instead, he posts a picture of Baghdad from a balcony. The same kind of picture he condemns the MSM for showing. And he still maintains his position that the MSM is working to paint an inaccurate picture of safety in Baghdad. How is this defensible?

  52. If you discount the natural deaths in the 8,000 figure, Baghdad is probably twice as dangerous as Larado. More dangerous yes, but Larado is a lot closer to Baghdad than people think and that was my point.

    New tourism motto: “Baghdad–Only a little more dangerous than Larado!”

  53. John,
    How does saying Baghdad is as dangerous as Nuevo Larado (one of the most dangerous in the world) bolster your point? Baghdad is a dangerous scary place, exactly as portrayed by the media.

    Oh, most signs, government and commercial, in Cairo and other parts of Egypt (Sharm, Alexandria, etc.) are in Arabic and English/French (the older ones are in French, when it used to be the internatinal language).

  54. Fine. Nuevo Laredo is, apparently, half as bad as Baghdad. And according to the news stories you’ve cited, the liberal press isn’t reporting very much good news from Nuevo Laredo. In fact, it sounds almost like they’re dwelling on the kidnappings and drug murders instead of looking for heartwarming stories about new schools opening and cops that only take payoffs from the drug lords instead of actually killing on their behalf.

    That darned liberal media! It never says anything good about Nuevo Laredo! It’s almost as if they want the Federales to fail!

    On another note, it appears as if the Drug Warriors got a real bargain in Mexico. The nightmare in Iraq cost us hundreds of billions of dollars but the nightmare in Nuevo Laredo is practically free by comparison. Maybe the DEA can give the Pentagon some tips on how to destroy a civil society on a budget so our future fiascos don’t bankrupt us.

  55. I’m with James. If the good news is that Baghdad is twice as dangerous as a city racked by drug violence, then maybe Iraq isn’t turning out quite as well as the hawks had hoped.

  56. I like the idea of a rabidly anti-immigration son of Armenian immigrants, raised in an Armenian immigrant neighborhood, completely unaware that he’s visiting Turkey.

  57. “The new pic also presents some new questions.

    Is that smog in the background, caused by the hustle and bustle of daily economic activity, or merely gunpowder smoke?”

    Comment by: Happy Jack

    Something like that was my thought – remember that famous picture from the Vietnam war, where a police official was shooting a VC prisoner in the head?

    There could have been an equivalent moment in that picture – one hundred people in that street with the bullets just exiting their heads, a horrific sight – and you couldn’t have known it from that picture.

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