Monday, December 26, 2005

NYT: Is the paper on vacation or just its common sense?

What I wish I'd written yesterday, in the community note, was, "Not only will I be sleeping in, if there's nothing worth noting in the paper, really worth noting, I'll be going back to bed after I read it. Without posting anything."

Maybe it's just me?

No. Remaining house guests said the Times was the worst paper this morning. (I subscribe to papers other than the Times.) One guest offered that an article on Karen Hughes (by Steven R. Weisman) made her giggle. Not due to the article. It just made her remember Isaiah's "Celibacy in the City" version of The World Today Just Nuts, when Mary Cheney stands up in that power blue (sky blue?) jogging suit with whistle to show off her outfit from the Karen Hughes collection. Which led to several questions of if only Harriet Miers hadn't dropped out so soon, did I think Isaiah would have done another "installment" of Celibacy in the City?

(Yes, he would have. He was in the midst of working out a tale of the "work wives" when Harri announced she was dropping out.)

The Katrina coverage this morning? (There's lots of it.) No one was impressed. One guest with a home in Florida (vacation home, no need to feel too sympathetic) noted a sentiment Wally has at his site (and Florida members have noted in e-mails) which can be summed up as, "If you're just going to rehash the reporting of others and have nothing to contribute to the larger story, why not focus on the effects of Wilma or Rita?"

A16 and A17 were noted by the few who were brave enough to trudge through "maybe" reports and Reuters and Associated Press articles. (The paper's obviously on vacation this morning.) I looked at the photos (by Adam Nadle) and they are moving. I was willing to just note that this morning until someone asked if I'd read the "cover our ass" intro by John F. Burns?

No, I'd just focused on the photos. Then you read the "here's why we are printing this" note by Burns and realize that the only thing worth praising in the paper this morning had the legs kicked out from under it as the paper feels the need to justify running the photographs.

Maybe the note should be explaining why a feature of this type appears only months before we hit the three year mark? Then again, between Dexter Filkins turning the slaughter of Falluja into a rah-rah-rah video game (let's hope somebody got the "award winning" twerp an X-Box to play with in the Green Zone this Christmas), the "I'm reporting from" which usually means a stringer's outside the Green Zone, not the reporter, et al, many dependent on the paper as their sole provider of news may need a justification/explanation note?

Burns apparently feels he's writing for the op-ed pages because a reporter, doing reporting, wouldn't speak of what war really means to a group of people he's never interviewed, would he?
Would he?

Making my own way through the paper, I found Steven R. Weisman's "Powell Speaks Out on Domestic Spy Program" on A18. "I found" because even the bravest house guest had long tossed aside the Times before getting that far. When not writing of Karen Hughes, Weisman's in front of his TV watching This Week which appears to be sum total of research required to write this article.

We're to leave the article, apparently, feeling that Powell, still the darling of the media elites, took a stand. Forget that he's standing on his self-described "blot." Here's Powell's stand (my summary of Weisman's summary of This Week): "I would have gotten warrants but Albie and Bully Boy have explained why they didn't." Powell is even quoted as saying, "I see absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions" and that "Yes, of course it should continue." "It" being the spying on American citizens.

Somehow this is headlined "Powell Speaks Out." Our last voice of brave truth, apparently. Let's add perspective through musical parody:

Thank heaven for press ninnies
For press ninnies spin wilder every day!
Thank heaven for press ninnies
They report in the most subservient way!
Those little suck ups so cowed and controlled
One day they'll long for their souls they sold
Thank heaven for press ninnies
Thank heaven for them all
No matter where, no matter who
For without them what would war criminals do?

("Press Ninnies" steals from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from the soundtrack to Gigi.)

Powell "speaks out"? No such thing. Powell wishes there had been a warrant but feels the violation of checks and balances, the circumventing of the law, the dishonoring of the rights of Americans should continue.

It's just like his "blot." Remember the self-described "blot"?

Powell and Barbara Walters attempted to remake The Way We Were and call it "news" on 20/20. As Ava and I noted:

Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"
Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.
Walters: How painful is it?
Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it was painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.

That was his "owning" his mistakes, you know, the interview where he pinned the blame (falsely) on the intel community? Despite using the intel community as a (false) fall guy, Powell goes on to say that he's glad we're at war and the cut and run Secretary of State wants to bandy about the term "cut and run" to justify us "staying the course" (while he didn't).

Powell's "blot" was a media moment trumpeted as brave honesty when the whole thing was built on lies. Similarly, his 'speaking out' is trumpeted in the paper this morning despite the fact that there's no speaking out. "I would've gotten warrants but there's no harm done and they can continue to do what they're doing," sums up Powell's position.

Lap dog sucking up yet again. The mainstream press always manages to discover bravery in Powell -- despite the fact that his actions demonstrate none.

Why is cut and run Colin even on This Week, let alone written up in the Times this morning? Because a lot of the press have invested so much time into the myth of Powell (that overlooks his own actions in white washing My Lai)?

As the mainstream press continues to spin, we'll note, as Martha's request, Consortium News'
archive on Colin Powell. From one article in the archive, "Vietnam Lessons:"

On March 16, 1968, a bloodied unit of the Americal division stormed into a hamlet known as My Lai 4. With military helicopters circling overhead, revenge-seeking American soldiers rousted Vietnamese civilians -- mostly old men, women and children -- from their thatched huts and herded them into the village's irrigation ditches.
As the round-up continued, some Americans raped the girls. Then, under orders from junior officers on the ground, soldiers began emptying their M-16s into the terrified peasants. Some parents used their bodies futilely to shield their children from the bullets. Soldiers stepped among the corpses to finish off the wounded.
The slaughter raged for four hours. A total of 347 Vietnamese, including babies, died in the carnage. But there also were American heroes that day in My Lai. Some soldiers refused to obey the direct orders to kill and some risked their lives to save civilians from the murderous fire.
A pilot named Hugh Clowers Thompson Jr. from Stone Mountain, Ga., was furious at the killings he saw happening on the ground. He landed his helicopter between one group of fleeing civilians and American soldiers in pursuit.
Thompson ordered his helicopter door gunner to shoot the Americans if they tried to harm the Vietnamese. After a tense confrontation, the soldiers backed off. Later, two of Thompson's men climbed into one ditch filled with corpses and pulled out a three-year-old boy whom they flew to safety.
Several months later, the Americal's brutality would become a moral test for Major Powell, too.
A letter had been written by a young specialist fourth class named Tom Glen, who had served in an Americal mortar platoon and was nearing the end of his Army tour. In the letter to Gen. Creighton Abrams, the commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, Glen accused the Americal division of routine brutality against civilians.
Glen's letter was forwarded to the Americal headquarters at Chu Lai where it landed on Major Powell's desk.

[. . .]
The letter's troubling allegations were not well received at Americal headquarters.
Major Powell undertook the assignment to review Glen's letter, but did so without questioning Glen or assigning anyone else to talk with him. Powell simply accepted a claim from Glen's superior officer that Glen was not close enough to the front lines to know what he was writing about, an assertion Glen denies.
After that cursory investigation, Powell drafted a response on Dec. 13, 1968. He admitted to no pattern of wrongdoing. Powell claimed that U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were taught to treat Vietnamese courteously and respectfully. The Americal troops also had gone through an hour-long course on how to treat prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, Powell noted.
"There may be isolated cases of mistreatment of civilians and POWs," Powell wrote in 1968. But "this by no means reflects the general attitude throughout the Division." Indeed, Powell's memo faulted Glen for not complaining earlier and for failing to be more specific in his letter.
"In direct refutation of this [Glen's] portrayal," Powell concluded, "is the fact that relations between Americal soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."
Powell's findings, of course, were false, though they were exactly what his superiors wanted to hear.
It would take another Americal hero, an infantryman named Ron Ridenhour, to piece together the truth about the atrocity at My Lai. After returning to the United States, Ridenhour interviewed Americal comrades who had participated in the massacre.
On his own, Ridenhour compiled this shocking information into a report and forwarded it to the Army inspector general. The IG's office conducted an aggressive official investigation, in marked contrast to Powell's review.
Confirming Ridenhour's report, the Army finally faced the horrible truth. Courts martial were held against officers and enlisted men who were implicated in the murder of the My Lai civilians.
But Powell's peripheral role in the My Lai cover-up did not slow his climb up the Army's ladder. After the scandal broke, Powell pleaded ignorance about the actual My Lai massacre.

Check out the archive (and the above excerpt is from an article by Robert Parry and Norman Solomon, by the way) because press ninnies are more interested in spinning you than in addressing reality. Steven R. Weisman proves himself a supreme ninny today. (As does the headline writer.)

All Powell's doing is what he always does, suck up to power (no wonder so many in the media identify with him) and when the (public) waters get rocky, he comes forward with a mealy mouth statement that supposedly is bread from heaven.

So a Sunday TV appearance where Powell stands by his Bully Boy, testifies for him (no idea whether or not "testify" has its roots in testes but possibly Powell, like Matt Damon in the The Rainmaker, was directed to hold his own "equipment" during the filming of the big scene?).
Somehow that translates into "speaking out" on the pages of the New York Times this morning.
Todd S. Purdum may have moved on but Weisman appears to have stumbled upon a open locker containing Todd's musty jock. (Toss it in the trash, Weisman, toss it in the trash.)

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(And as soon as the last house guest departs, I'm going back to sleep. I'll post again later this evening. And Adam Liptak has a front page article entitled "Courts Critizie Judges' Handling of Asylum Cases" that's the subject of debate here this morning -- some praise, some mock. I wasn't in the mood to wade through. After I take a nap, I may be. But if you're interested, you can use the link to check it out. And if you're a member who's been away due to the holidays or weekend, Saturday was an all nighter due to cooking and helping with The Third Estate Sunday Review, Friday due to Ava and I writing the piece and the usual weekend things so I am more than worn out. We're saving the year-in-review for New Year's Eve due to the fact that Kat called and wants to post her year-in-review of music then. Really though, that's just my excuse to avoid posting it this morning since that requires publishing over and over and pinging technorati over and over. I don't have several hours to give this morning. I just want to put on a Marx Brothers film and go to sleep laughing. Rebecca called and she's posting "tonight." So look for that at her site.)