Monday, October 17, 2005

Other Items

David D. Kirkpatrick teases more out of the fact that someone will fill out a questionnaire than would be possible if he were at a paper that worked seven days a week. (He's not, he's at the New York Times.) From his "Nominee Gets First Chance to Counter Critics:"

Strategists close to the White House, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, say they hope that Ms. Miers can use open-ended questions about subjects like "judicial activism" to lay out her approach to constitutional issues and to placate her conservative critics without providing ammunition to potential liberal opponents.
Her answers could play a role in helping the White House and its allies recast the debate over her selection in terms of "judicial restraint" that prevailed during the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Billie notes Glen Justice's "As Scrutiny Grew, DeLay Continued to Raise Money:"

Representative Tom DeLay continued to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in the three months before his indictment in September despite facing legal scrutiny and political pressure over his ties to lobbyists, his foreign travel and his political tactics.
Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican who has been charged in a campaign finance case in his home state, raised about $920,000 for his campaign from July 1 to Sept. 30, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. His total for the year is about $2.3 million, and he had about $1.2 million remaining on hand.
He was charged with conspiracy Sept. 28 and with money laundering several days later. Mr. DeLay has vowed to fight the charges, which he says are a political ploy by a Democratic prosecutor; until the case is resolved, he has stepped aside as House majority leader.

I'll note this from the article:

Some say fellow lawmakers will want to distance themselves from Mr. DeLay, while others say that his defense will resonate with loyalists and draw more money.

That's also known as "we just don't know." And one wonders how and why it made in the article.

Ericka e-mails to note that "truth comes out in bits and pieces" and steers us to David E. Sanger's "Administration's Tone Signals a Longer, Broader Iraq Conflict:"

For most of the 30 months since American-led forces ousted Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has argued that as democracy took hold in Iraq, the insurgency would lose steam because Al Qaeda and the opponents of the country's interim government had nothing to offer Iraqis or the people of the Middle East.
Over time, President Bush told troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., this spring, "the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world."
But inside the administration, that belief provides less solace than it once did. Senior officials say the intelligence reports flowing over their desks in recent months argue that even if democratic institutions take hold, the insurgency may strengthen. And that possibility has created a quandary for an administration that desperately wants to equate democracy-building with winning the war, but so far has not been able to match the two.

The resistance's strength is noted, but are we something else? A trial balloon to justify changing course? I'm not referring to bringing the troops home. I'm talking about a trial balloon to justify being more open about what the government has been doing all along?

Rachel e-mails to note Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Innocent Voices" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

When Oscar Torres saw a Venezuelan band perform the song "Casas de carton" ("cardboard houses") in 2001, he knew that he wanted to "write something about the song" that he remembered so well from his childhood days growing up in war-torn and impoverished El Salvador. Soon after, Torres started working on a screenplay that ultimately served as the basis for the film Innocent Voices which will begin playing in 11 US cities on October 14.
The film has received critical acclaim after being released in Latin America and shown at this year's
Amnesty International Film Festival. It deserves a wide audience in the United States. Directed by the talented Mexican filmmaker Luis Mandoki, Innocent Voices tells the story of Torres' embattled youth. The narrative is exquisitely told through the eyes of an 11-year-old boy named Chava whose character is based on Torres' boyhood. (Chava, appropriately, is a nickname for "Salvador.") Innocent Voices depicts the horror of war and its impact on children caught in the middle of El Salvador's civil strife in the 1980s.
There are no "good guys" in this conflict (though it's fair to say that the government paramilitary militias are definitely the "worse guys.") The film shows the government's soldiers hunting down and conscripting all 12-year-old boys in the village to serve in the military. But the bullets of the rebel-led Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) kill children just as effectively as the guns of the right-wing government's forces. And then there are the US soldiers who train and arm the government's military and who come across as depraved and without remorse.

Zach e-mails to note Robert Parry's "Bush's Latest Iraq War Lies" (Consortium News):

With his earlier war rationales shattered, George W. Bush now says the Iraq War must be continued indefinitely because of the presence of foreign Islamic fighters -- even though they are estimated to represent only a tiny fraction of the Iraqi insurgency and might well quit the struggle if U.S. troops were to leave Iraq.
In an Oct. 6 speech aimed at rallying U.S. public support for the Iraq War, Bush painted a harrowing picture of the consequences that would follow an American withdrawal. Bush warned of "a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia" and the strategic isolation of the United States.
Bush's alarmist vision, however, clashes with both recent intelligence assessments on the significance of foreign fighters to the Iraq War and fears expressed in an intercepted letter purportedly written by al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri to al-Qaeda’s chief in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The "Zawahiri letter" cautions that an American withdrawal might prompt the "mujahedeen" in Iraq to "lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal." To avert this military collapse, the letter calls for selling these foreign fighters on a broader vision of an Islamic "caliphate" in the Middle East, although nothing nearly as expansive as the global empire that Bush depicted.
But the "Zawahiri letter" indicates that even this more modest "caliphate" is just an "idea" that he mentioned "only to stress … that the mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq."
In other words, assuming U.S. intelligence is correct that the letter was written by Zawahiri, al-Qaeda sees promoting the dream of an unlikely "caliphate" as a needed sales pitch to keep the jihadists from simply returning to their everyday lives once the Americans depart Iraq.
Exaggerated Threat
Bush also appears to be exaggerating the significance of the foreign fighters.
Though their spectacular suicide bombings have garnered headlines and killed hundreds of Iraqis, recent intelligence assessments put the size of this foreign jihadist force at only a few thousand, or around 5 percent of the overall Iraqi insurgency.

Zach sends more from Consortium and we'll note it in later entries. There's a third entry that I feel needs to be done because Ava had prepared a report for it that got killed due to running out of time. I asked if she wanted to write something on it and she said no, she just wants to move on with the week. (Members will grasp the why of that.) It was an important topic and she worked hard on it. If I had her notes, I'd attempt to reconstruct it. I don't, so I'll just note it via excerpts.

But it's an issue the community cares about and it needs to be noted.

Lastly, via BuzzFlash, Susan found Lorna Tychostup's "Weapons of Mass Deception: An Interview with Danny Schechter" (Chronogram):

Lorna Tychostup: Weapons of Mass Deception begins by discussing the difference between "journalism" and "coverage." Can you explain the difference?
Danny Schechter: Coverage can be pointing the camera at something, at a press conference, at a bomb going off, at a bunch of tanks rolling down the road and you can report on what you are watching and seeing. Journalism attempts to put information in context. It attempts to add a dimension of reporting so that you find out what else is going on, what is the back story to it, offer some assessment, analysis, context, etc. And that is what is often lacking.
LT: How would you define journalism?
DS: Journalism is an effort to report on news, on the news of the day. It is an effort to try to explain what is going on, to find out what is going on, first of all. Check the accuracy of the claims by government agencies and the like, and also to offer some perspective. Different countries have different styles of journalism, but ours tends to be a news story with the five W's and an H--who, what, where, when, why, and how. That is [our] classical approach to journalism--an effort by the press, which has been given a First Amendment protection to serve the public interest--to be a check on power. Not only tell us what is going on, not only to inform us, but also to bring out information that other people want hidden.
LT: What is "independent" journalism? How does it fit into the definition?
DS: We are living in an age of corporate domination of big media. Larger and larger companies controlling the information system—publishing, television, radio, print; often companies that are not really primarily committed to journalism but they are in the media business. They are into advertising, entertainment, and other forms of communication. Reporting is a small part of it. Sometimes their [business] priorities take priority over their journalistic interests.
LT: Independent journalism, how does it fit into this?
DS: In corporate hierarchies and structures, reporters report to their bosses. Priorities often are set at the top of a hierarchy. Independent journalists, can be but not always are, separate from those structures, initiate their own stories, work as freelancers, or work for publications that are not dominated by big media cartels. For example, the New Yorker is a corporate publication. It is owned by Condé Nast but has a reputation for independent writing. So journalists like Seymour Hersh appear in the New Yorker and they are a lot more critical in their outlook--which is another characteristic of independent journalists--than journalists who work for big corporate organizations. When you work in a big structure, you tend to conform to what is expected of you and the priorities. If someone says, "OK, we are going to spend 80 percent of our resources covering entertainment and only 5 percent of our resources covering the world, if you want to work in that organization, that is what you do. Journalists don't initiate a lot of their own stories. They're assigned to cover stories. They're told how much time they have, and how to do it. There are certain templates of coverage. That is why there is so much similarity in coverage, why it all sort of looks alike.

For an example of independent journalism, watch Democracy Now! today (or listen, or read the transcripts).

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