Friday, November 11, 2005

Other Items

Wally will be glad to know that the Times has finally stopped reporting on fishing laws in Florida and actually discovered that, oh my goodness, things aren't back to normal in south Florida. Took them long enough. (Visitors can check The Daily Jot as well as The Third Estate Sunday Review where Wally has been quite vocal about the conditions in his grandfather's neighborhood as well as the national press' lack of interest.)

From Abby Goodnough's "South Florida Scrambling to Find Emergency Housing:"

From mobile home parks in rural Palm Beach County to condominium complexes near Fort Lauderdale and apartment buildings in Miami, roofs were battered or torn off. Heavy rains last week worsened the damage, collapsing hundreds of ceilings that had barely survived the hurricane and forcing many more people into emergency shelters.
Many of those people awoke to emergency officials' pounding on their doors and announcing that they had 15 minutes to gather what possessions they could and leave because their building was unsafe. Some were elderly. Many were struggling financially even before the hurricane hit on Oct. 24.
On Thursday, the Red Cross was still housing 1,253 people in 10 shelters around the region. Broward County, where the storm inflicted the worst damage, had the highest shelter population: 551 people, all at the county's last open shelter, in Hollywood. Miami-Dade County had 217 people at a single shelter, while Palm Beach County had 307 and Monroe County, home to the Keys, had 40 people at two shelters.

But elected officials said the homelessness problem was much larger than those numbers implied. Many hurricane victims are staying with relatives, they said, but may soon need subsidized housing. Some are sleeping in cars, because the few shelters are far from their workplaces or their children's schools.

Why does "far" matter? Because they've had problems with some stations not having gas, some stations that did have gas weren't able to pump it and long lines (Wally's waited up to three hours to get gas to fuel the generator) have been everywhere. Wally spent yesterday helping more of his grandfather's elderly neighbors pack up to move in with relatives (outside of Florida). I'm ignoring Goodnough's assertion that most have had their power restored. I'm not sure what qualifies for "most" but since over a million were being told that they'd have to wait until November 22nd for power to be restored, I'm not sure we define "most" the same way?

Krista nominates Michiko Kakutani for "the dumb ass of the day." Reviewing a new book (Craig Crawford's Attack the Messenger), Kakutani stumbles upon, apparently for the first time, Poppy Bush's remark to Dan Rather was scripted (by Roger Ailes). It's news to Kakutani because she's a nonreading sort of book reviewer. Others have covered this before. We'll note Robert Parry because he's done so online and in book form (Secrecy & Privilege).

From the review:

"It's not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran," Mr. Bush asserted. "How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York?"

Kakutani is a curious sort of "informed" reviewer since this is apparently new to her. She's also a curious one in that she's only stunned that it was on a cue card. How about being stunned by equating a personal tantrum (Rather's) with subverting the Constitution, the Congress and and an indepedent investigation? All Kakutani can see is a cue card held by *Ailes*.

Let's also note that she got a lot of mileage out of Norman Mailer's attack on her. "Feminist" Kakutani reels off a list of media critics. It's all male. She got "a big loan from the girl zone" (Tori Amos, "Caught a Lite Sneeze, off Boys for Pele) and her repayment is to stick to her usual crap.

I haven't read the book (chances are neither has Kakutani -- based on the Times poor history of book reviews and refusal to correct even blatant errors and false claims put out by reviewers that are contradicted by a reading of the books in question -- members all note the hatchet job on David Brock's last book which chided him for not knowing something that, in fact, he not only knew, but he also wrote about in the book that was supposedly being reviewed). Kakutani's not too impressed with it. Translation, read the book. When the Times isn't impressed, consider it an endorsement.

As always with Kakutani's reviews, it's hard to know when she's covering the book and when she's putting her own spin on it. But her greatest fault as a reviewer is that she finds the most scandalous moment (to her) and then fails to analyze it. Today she takes a very serious moment in the press history, when the Howie Kurtzes could have noted that breaking the law and a tantrum weren't the same thing. The press applauded Poppy in real time praising the "strategy" involved. (That's the way they deal with serious issues, tossing off their reporters' caps to become horserace handicappers.) No one forced Kakutani to pick that incident to lead her review with (or to provide the longest quote from). It was her choice. Having elected to highlight it, a good reviewer then examines it. That's why Kakutani is not a good reviewer.

Like everyone else at the Times, she wants to give a book report (a summary of the plot) and doesn't want to actually review a book which would require critical thought.

Kakutani identifies with the notion of a poor put upon press (as opposed to a lazy one that often acts out of its own personal interests) which brings us to Zach's e-mailed highlight. CounterPunch has been covering Ron Brown (the embedded reporter who thought he was serving in the military, check out this entry) attempts to trash Jimmy Massey. CounterPunch has Massey's response to Brown's questionable critique -- "Is Ron Harris Telling The Truth?:"

Quantico Marine Base Public Affairs Officer Lt. Col. Richard Long, former director of Public Affairs and the embedded reporter program in Iraq, began circulating an article Monday published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Saturday, November 5, by former embedded reporter Ron Harris, accusing me of lying. Harris not only was not assigned to my Weapon's Company, (he was with Lima), and was not present for any of the incidents he disputes, but before last week, had not spoken with me once since my return.
On Monday, Harris appeared on CNN's "American Morning," in an unrebutted interview stating, "not only did I not see any protesters, nobody saw any protesters," and "nobody ever interviewed the marines, which I did all of. Nobody ever checked his story. They don't even have another source that says on background or another source who didn't want to be quoted." Apparently, it is more important to Ron Harris to promote fiction than tell the truth. When he finally did call me and my co author two week's ago to prepare his article, I told him I didn't know how he could live with himself by concealing the truth, and told him "he would have to answer to a higher power."
Harris' apparent contempt for me seems to stem from the fact that one and a half years ago, I exposed him for having greatly embellished an incident at Rasheed Military complex in his April 9, 2003, article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. (Note the caption confirming Harris' assignment to Lima Company). In the article, Harris described a dramatic, daylong battle glorifying heroic deeds and describing guerillas "hiding behind civilians." Speaking at the Boston Veterans for Peace Convention in 2004, I said Harris had greatly exaggerated the combat in what was subsequently hailed as an example of American military prowess. I confessed publicly that"contact that day was thin and sporadic," and that "as my unit entered Iraq it came upon empty Iraqi military bases with weapons lying on the road." I noted that We shot it up with everything we had, and we were laughing and having a good time. The Iraqis let us in the country; we didn't take it.'
It is ironic that Ron Harris should accuse others of bad reporting. It was Ron Harris himself that misquoted me as having mentioned a 4 year old with a bullet in her head, and then conveniently used his own misquote to accuse me of lying. Simply doing a web search for "Jimmy Massey" and "4 year old," you will find that the only source even suggesting that I knew of an incident when Marines had killed the child is Harris' own story. My only related quote had been "Lima Company was involved in a shooting at a checkpoint. My platoon was ordered to another area before the victims were removed from the car. The other Marines told me that a 4-year-old girl had been killed."
Most importantly, this incident is not even mentioned by me and my co-author in "Kill, Kill, Kill" because it relied on a second hand account. Harris would know this if he had read the book that he denounced so virulently on CNN and in his article, but he has not and cannot read it because it is only out in French, a language he openly admits he cannot speak. After nearly 2 years of remaining silent despite knowledge of my confessions, why has Harris saved his charade for the publication of a book of which he has absolutely no knowledge?
Fumbling for incriminating evidence, Harris reports that "while touring with Sheehan in Montgomery, Ala., [I] told of seeing the girl's body." Cindy Sheehan and I were never together in Montgomery. In a similar confusion, Harris goes on to claim that I have said I personally killed a 6-year-old.Before numerous interviews and reports frayed its edges, my original statement had been "I brought these series of events up through the chain of command. Each time I was told they were terrorists, or they were insurgents. My question to the marine corps at that point became, how was a 6 year old child with a bullet hole in its head a terrorist or insurgent?"
In the aforementioned April 9, 2003, article, Harris refers to a makeshift morgue and quotes Lt. Col. Belcher, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 7tth Marines without deeming it relevant to make further investigation, "These are apparently Iraqi soldiers that were killed in the attacks. Some people had leg wounds, chest wounds, tears, cuts, shrapnel holes." Why did Ron Harris swallow the command's stories?
Apparently, Harris didn't read any more of the articles in USA Today or Vanity Fair that he cites in his article than he did of "Kill, Kill, Kill." USA Today and Vanity Fair never published my accounts of mounting civilian casualties in Iraq. Both of their stories were about military recruiting practices, and not concerned with Iraq.

For critical thought, Lloyd e-mails Matthew Rothschild's "ExxonMobil Under the Lights" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Republicans didn't even have the integrity to swear in the oil executives testifying before them.
Why make your contributors libel for perjury charges? (Oil companies give $52 million in campaign contributions, "with 80 percent of that going to Republicans," according to Sept. 22 Senate testimony by Tyson Slocum, research director of
Public Citizen’s Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.)
But it was a sight, anyway, to see the head of ExxonMobil on November 9 trying to explain away the $10 billion profit his company made in the last quarter.
Lee Raymond, chairman of ExxonMobil, tried to fob it off by saying that oil profits and commodity prices "go up and down" from year to year.
But that excuse didn’t wash.
Even before Katrina, as Slocum noted, oil prices had been jumping, in part because of the consolidation in the oil refinery industry over the last decade. "Recent mergers in the domestic oil refining industry have consolidated control over gasoline, making it easier for a handful of companies to price-gouge consumers," he testified in September. "In 1993, the five largest U.S. oil refining companies controlled 34.5 percent of domestic oil refinery capacity. . . . By 2004, the top five--ConocoPhillips, Valero, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP--controlled 56.3 percent."
And after Katrina, price hikes at the pumps did not seem to come from the invisible hand of the market but from the headquarters of ExxonMobil.

Today's scheduled topics for Democracy Now!, via Rod:

* New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer on whether the C.I.A. can legally kill prisoners.
* Arianna Huffington on the resignation of New York Times reporter JudyMiller.
* And famed writer Octavia Butler joins us in our Firehouse studios.

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[Note: "*Ailes*" indicates a correction. I'd had "Rove" in the sentence where "*Ailies*" is now. It should be Ailes. My apologies.]