Saturday, February 18, 2006

NYT in full on Harvey Keitel mode this morning

This morning the New York Times is in full on Harvey Keitel mode. No they're not attempting to recreate the nude scene in The Piano -- and the nation breathes a sigh of relief over that. But they are attempting to recreate the role Keitel has twice placed: The Cleaner. He played it first in Bridget Fonda's Point of No Return and then again in Pulp Fiction.

For those who may have missed the films, Keitel's Cleaner shows up to . . . clean up. Not clean up in the, "Shane, Aisle six! Get the big mop!" way. No, Scott Shane's not been called in to fix the bad reporting by others all week and restore a few facts to the paper's "reporting." This Cleaning is where the paper carries the administration's water for them. They tidy up the crime scene and they're gone before most realize what has had occurred.

Take Sheryl Gay Stolberg's front pager "Senate Chairman Splits With Bush On Spy Program." The article continues inside the paper on A9 which is where Stolberg presents as fact the claims of the administration. Is she gearing up to take William Safire's place on the op-ed pages? (Tierney's never really filled those shoes. He comes off like Davey Brooks' little brother.) She's not reporting. The paper's played Hot Potato with the Bully Boy's warrentless spying program since they found themselves out in the cold. Today, Stolberg (or "Stolberg" indicating the participation of others) pens the following:

The eavesdropping authorized in secret by President Bush soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 has allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone and e-mail communications of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people within the United States -- without warrants -- when the authorities suspect they have links to terrorism.

"When the authorities suspect they have links to terrorism" is a Bully Boy talking point; however, it's not established fact, just a talking point. Stolberg presents it as fact. If she or the paper has information to back up that claim, they should certainly come forward with it. (They don't.) She also minimizes the number of people involved. ". . . hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people within the United States . . ."? The paper's gone with that low ball since the original reporting. As James Bamford noted on Democracy Now!:

The New York Times indicated that there was somewhere between several hundred and maybe several thousand people that were affected by this. But apparently, it's been going on at least since 2001, so there's probably quite a few people out there that have been surveilled, and have no knowledge about it, and again, without any court order.

The story the paper never wanted to run but was forced to as a result of Risen's then pending book has been down played since. Today Stolberg (or "Stolberg") presents the administration's talking points as fact and not as claims.

Let's go back to that Democracy Now! report:

MARTIN GARBUS: I think that one of the things that we should be aware of is the way the argument by the Bush administration has shifted. First, when they admitted to this wiretapping, they were saying it was wiretaps for surveillance between domestics and people overseas. Now, they’ve admitted it's the wiretapping and investigation of people within the United States, domestic calls to domestic calls. Secondly, the way the argument has shifted: The argument originally had been that the mandate, given as a result of September 11, gave the President the power to do this, as it gave him the power to do torture, as it gave him the power to restrict detainees, as it gave him the power to stop habeas corpus. The argument has now shifted. They're no longer claiming that it's that particular enactment which gives him this authority. This is a straight constitutional argument, saying that under the Constitution, he has the power to protect the United States, and he can do anything under the Constitution to protect the United States, and therefore, he now has a constitutional power, not a statutory power, and that was, again, the argument in the Nixon case.

You don't find that in the Times today. They're in full retreat mode on this story. Which may be why the only "official voices" they present are Republican elected officials? Stolberg apparently doesn't have Russ Feingold or Charles Schumer on her speed dial. She also, apparently, has never read the Congressional Research Service's "Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information" (click here for PDF format, click here for HTML format for those whose computers freeze up when they attempt to view PDF documents). Which puts her in with a large number at the paper since the often referenced report by the paper has never been utilized by the paper. That might lead to articles that include statements such as "The administration claims . . .; however, the Congressional Research Service dismisses that claim . . ."

It's not surprising that the New York Timid continues to disown the story that they never wanted to break, it's not surprising that the Timid continues to low ball the figures for the multi-year program, it is surprising (shocking) that a "reporter" presents claims as "fact." The article, such as it is, fails to tell you any whys of their headline so let's translate the headline here: Pat Roberts is under pressure from other elected officials and his own constituents to take seriously a matter he'd prefer to dismiss.

The paper also can't grab facts on John Bolton and the UN. What's the story there? According to Warren Hoge (remember he partnered with Judith Miller) . . . Well according to Hoge's "U.S. Criticized For Actions In U.N. Council" it's not clear what happened. He's caught in the freak sideshow that is John Bolton. When Bolton screams and blusters (aided by a letter from Henry Hyde or not), that's never the magician's trick, just the distraction. Hoge refers to "two volatile issues" that caused Bolton to erupt. Hoge refers to two in his second paragraph. Then he goes on to jerk off for four paragraphs of his short article (no fast shooter jokes, please) until name checking (that's all it is -- a name check) what he sees the "two volatile issues" as in the second to last paragraph. The last paragraph? Bolton's views and a quote by Bolton of course -- it's "balance" in someone's mind.

Here's what the paper's not wanting to tell you this morning. Bolton's trying to rewrite the way in which the head of the UN is selected. He seems especially concerned that the next head might come from an Asiatic region and probably most concerned that he or she might come from China. Edith M. Lederer's "Bolton Launches Talks on Replacing Annan" (Associated Press):

So far, the announced candidates are all Asian men. They include South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who is backed by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and former U.N. disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka who recently represented the government in peace talks with the Tamil Tigers.
Equality Now, an advocacy organization which campaigns for women's rights, came up with a sampling of 18 qualified women from all over the world. Its list of candidates includes the presidents of Latvia, Finland and Chile, several current and former senior U.N. officials, and Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who remains under house arrest by the country's military rulers.

Now what's the concern with China? Well the Timid never told you but, thanks to Olive, this community is aware that the "US sees China as Biggest military threat" (Kim Landers, Australia's ABC):

The United States has labelled China as its greatest military threat in a new report issued by the Pentagon.
The Pentagon has released its strategic blueprint for dealing with anticipated security threats over the next 20 years.
It says China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and "field disruptive military technologies".

Hoge didn't write about that yesterday and doesn't today. It somehow missed his keen observation skills. Instead, he's focused on the smoke and mirrors of Bolton. The flash, not the substance. He can't even do more than name check the "two volatile issues." (Non-issues, distractions, but if he wants to claim they're issues, he should certainly have something to write about them.) He plays The Cleaner today as well.

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