Thursday, March 10, 2005

Wilgoren and topics to note in today's New York Times

In contrast to stories the paper fumbles as they try to take ownership of (for instance, see the previous entry this morning), they actually do "own" one story in this morning's New York Times Jodi Wilgoren's "Judge Tries to Regain Balance in a Family Shaken by Killings." She's owned it not by hyping or inflating but by relying on what is known and what isn't. She's been a fact based reporter throughout this story. She's examined the story from a variety of angles. There's been no resorting to hyperbole (and the story certainly packs enough drama on its own -- though not every reporter realizes that).

The Times came in late to this story (they were scooped by their sister publication The Boston Globe by one day) but Wilgoren's touch has been steady and worthy of note. It's by the far the most consistent and best coverage the paper has to offer right now. Admittedly, that can sound like a backhanded compliment. But it's not meant as such. On any of the Times' strongest days,
(my opinion) her coverage of this story would stand out. (Yes, I keep waiting for a slip as well.)
(And it should be noted that on yesterday's story, focusing on the lawyer of Matthew Hale, as well as today's she's had assistance from Gretchen Ruethling.)

From the article:

Judge Lefkow is left to rely on sleeping pills at night, laugh and cry at memories with her daughters, make her own morning coffee.
In the interview, she said she was taking comfort in a sermon about brokenness she heard years ago at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Evanston, where her daughters sang in the choir and she makes sandwiches for the homeless once a month.
"Some things are just broken, they're broken and go on from there," she said, echoing the priest. "Don't think that you can repair them, but go on from there.
"Meg says, 'Why is the world so evil?' and I said, 'Well, honey, most people are good, most people wouldn't even think of doing this,' " Judge Lefkow said softly. "I just want to look these people in the eye and say: 'How could you, how could you do that to me and my family?' "

That's the conclusion and a bad reporter would try to rack up the emotions factor by mucking it up with extreme sentiment to turn it into melodrama that never lets you forget s/he's trying to tug at your heart strings. Wilgoren is letting it just play out straight and it's much more effective that way (as well as more factual).

Kevin e-mailed Monday and asked if it bothered me to have to praise Wilgoren? Not at all. I'll be bothered if I have to go back to criticizing her. If someone's doing their job I have no problem noting it. I also have no problem giving some praise to Wilgoren when she's not just doing her job but doing it well.

In other news the Bully Boy administration (and remember Condi's in charge of the State Dept. now) continues to make it up as they go along.

For 40 years, from 1946 to 1986, the United States accepted the general jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in all kinds of cases against other nations that had also agreed to the court's jurisdiction. After an unfavorable ruling from the court in 1986 over the mining of Nicaragua's harbors, the United States withdrew from the court's general jurisdiction.
But it continued to accept its jurisdiction under about 70 specific treaties, including the protocol withdrawn from on Monday, said Lori F. Damrosch, a law professor at Columbia. The other treaties cover subjects like navigation, terrorism, narcotics and copyrights, and they are unaffected.

The above is from Adam Liptak's "U.S. Says It Has Withdrawn From World Judicial Body."
Rules are changing. Various people weigh in on our distancing ourselves from the International Court of Justice in The Hague. But especially pay attention to this:

In a statement, Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas, questioned the president's authority.
"The State of Texas believes no international court supersedes the laws of Texas or the laws of the United States," Mr. Strickland said. "We respectfully believe the executive determination exceeds the constitutional bounds for federal authority."

Abbott was elected AG after Bully went to Washington so that may be why he feels he can disagree publicly. Or maybe he's setting himself up for a run for governor? (We're certainly not endorsing Abbott's comments/view, we're just enjoying, gleefully, a moment of disunity in the Republican party.)

I believe the Times has previously told us that possible candidates include U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Texas comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (mother of Scotty McClellan). (But I could be confusing that with reporting done elsewhere. Or possibly members' e-mails.) All three are Republicans, as is Texas current governor Rick Perry. (As is Abbot.) Perry was elected in 2002 (he completed the Bully Boy's term when BB got outsourced to D.C.).

Billie, Dallas and In Dallas have been commenting for some time on what appears to them to be some serious infighting. Billie: "The man Molly Ivins dubbed Governor Good Hair is the incumbent but things are getting fierce." All note public skirmishes over the budget between Keeton Strayhorn and Perry. But Dallas says the point is this: "If the [Democratic] party was smart they'd be working on getting someone out in the public right now to build up name recognition. Everyone's thinking the Republican primary is going to be a blood bath."

Billie also thinks that a televised news conference Perry held last year to denounce unnamed rumors may come into play again. (BuzzFlash readers are aware of those rumors.) (See what you miss if you don't read BuzzFlash!) Billie: "I can picture Granny Keeton Strayhorn demanding to know, 'What were those rumors!'" [Billie notes that "Granny" is not an insult to Keeton Strayhonr's name, it was part of her campaign when she was running for comptroller.]

In other news from the Times, Texan Tom DeLay held a press conference. Philip Shenon and David D. Kirkpatrick write about it in "DeLay Says He Was Aware of Fund-Raising Methods."
Shouldn't it be front page news? The writers either don't understand what they potentially have or they underplay it. From the article:

Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said Wednesday that he was aware of how accounts for corporate donations had been set up at a political action committee that is under criminal investigation by a Texas grand jury and that the committee's lawyers closely monitored all fund-raising activities.
Discussing the committee's origins, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, it was my idea, or it was our idea - those of us that wanted to enhance the Republicans who served in the House of Representatives in the Texas Legislature."

DeLay's need to be a glory hog may be his undoing.

Back to the article:

Two of Mr. DeLay's political operatives based in Washington were indicted last September in the Texas investigation, charged with taking part in what prosecutors have described as a plot to funnel corporate donations from the committee to Republican candidates, in violation of state election laws. Texas law bars companies from making donations to state candidates.
The prosecutors in Travis County, Tex., which includes most of Austin, the capital, have not ruled out filing criminal charges against Mr. DeLay, who has been gathering contributions in Washington in recent months for a legal defense fund.

[. . .]
But documents subpoenaed for the trial and entered as evidence in the case showed that Mr. DeLay was more actively involved in raising corporate contributions for the committee than was previously known.
An e-mail exchange from the computer files of a member of the committee's advisory board notes that a "finance committee" conference call in October 2002 was postponed at Mr. DeLay's request "because of action on Iraq."
Other documents show how often Mr. DeLay's name was cited by the committee's fund-raisers when they were seeking donations. An e-mail message sent by Mr. Colyandro on Sept. 20, 2002, asked that a telephone call be made to a prominent Texas lawyer for his help at a fund-raising event the following week. "He needs a push," Mr. Colyandro wrote. "Please tell him how important he is and how important this is to T. D."

Where this will lead is anyone's guess. Like the roaches DeLay used to hang with, he has a tendency to keep coming back. (But we can hope.)

Picking up on myths (we noted last night how some people use them to push the party center- right), a popular myth was that the environment wasn't a big issue to voters. And it certainly didn't get bandied in the conventional wisdoms on "values." Turns out the Cokie Roberts might have been wrong again (imagine that!) judging by Laurie Goodstein's "Evangelical Leaders Swing Influence Behind Effort to Combat Global Warming."

From that article:

A core group of influential evangelical leaders has put its considerable political power behind a cause that has barely registered on the evangelical agenda, fighting global warming.
These church leaders, scientists, writers and heads of international aid agencies argue that global warming is an urgent threat, a cause of poverty and a Christian issue because the Bible mandates stewardship of God's creation.

The Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals and a significant voice in the debate, said, "I don't think God is going to ask us how he created the earth, but he will ask us what we did with what he created."
[. . .]

People on all sides of the debate say that if evangelical leaders take a stand, they could change the political dynamics on global warming.
The administration has refused to join the international Kyoto treaty and opposes mandatory emission controls.
The issue has failed to gain much traction in the Republican-controlled Congress. An overwhelming majority of evangelicals are Republicans, and about four out of five evangelicals voted for President Bush last year, according to the Pew Research Center.

Also of interest is Ian Fisher's "Italy's Premier Again Insists U.S. Explain Agent's Death:"

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday repeated his strong demand that the United States fully explain the shooting death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq, even as he himself categorized it as a tragic case of "friendly fire."
"The case of friendly fire is certainly the most painful to bear," he said in a 10-minute address to the Senate, his first major speech since the shooting on Friday. "It feels like an injustice beyond any sentiment. It's something unreasonable."

It's all about how they're attempting (Berlusconi & the Bully Boy) to get ahead of the outrage. (And one standing ovation after Berlusconi attempts to talk tough won't mean much if he can't back it up. Remember the Times wisely told us on Saturday that there was nothing to say here, move along. When in fact this week has been all about something to see. Sometimes the Magic 8 Ball doesn't come through.)

Are the British that much smarter than us or does it just look that way? Check out Alan
Cowell's "Blair Rejects Demands for Milder Laws to Control Terror Suspects." (And our community members from the UK are welcome to weigh in on the smartness question.)
(The e-mail address is From the article:

In a bitter political duel over new antiterrorism legislation, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that he would make no further concessions to opposition demands for milder laws to control terrorist suspects.
The dispute provoked a showdown in Parliament between Mr. Blair and Michael Howard, leader of the Conservatives, with each man accusing the other of seeking political gain by appearing tough on terrorism before elections expected in May.

Oh, but for that kind of debate over here. (Last November or now.)

[Note: This post has been corrected for spelling and punctuation. Thanks go to Shirley.]