Saturday, February 25, 2006

NYT: On the seventh day, they decide to roll up their sleeves and do a little work

"Schools, With Few Classes, Build Hoop Dreams" cries the front page of this morning's New York Times. And what do papers, with few stories, build?

So after blowing off the entire week, on its final day, the Times tries to get its act together and produce something that indicates that everyone's earned a paycheck. They haven't but unless you think they could get real jobs, let is pass. (They need to eat and it's not like they set the standards at the paper -- they just follow them.)

We'll start with Carlos H. Conde's "Emergency Rule in Philippines After Failed Coup Is Cited" which tells you what you already knew (if you went elsewhere other than the Times for your news) that in the Phillipines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared emergency rule and is saying there are attempts at a coup:

Ignoring the ban on rallies, former President Corazon Aquino, who remains a popular figure here, led thousands of demonstrators in a march through the financial district calling for Mrs. Arroyo's resignation. The opposition has crystallized around allegations that Mrs. Arroyo rigged national elections in 2004, as well as charges of government corruption and human rights abuses, charges that she vigorously denies.
Mrs. Aquino urged Mrs. Arroyo to "make the supreme sacrifice by resigning." Dozens of demonstrators were arrested.
Political analysts, meanwhile, suggested that the coup threat was overstated and that the government's reaction could backfire.

Do political analysts suggest that? I see business analysts commenting. I see a professor commenting. Oh well, the Times uses "reporter" so loosely, why not "political analyst" as well?
What you won't see is the paper quoting any citizens. Is there a coup being plotted? What's the mood in the country? I'm not sure that anyone outside of the Times really expects the answer on that to come from a "consulting firm for companies doing business in Asia."

Did you notice the "Mrs." by the way? I wasn't kidding when I said it was a lengthy battle to get the Times to use "Ms." and you'll note that they still can't do it uniformly. (Laura Bush is never "Ms." -- she's always "Mrs.") Which sort of defeats the purpose of "Ms." For those too young to remember before the days of the term's widespread use, you were (if female) "Miss" or "Mrs." depending upon your marital status. You were (if male) "Mister" regardless of your marital status. The Times has finally stepped away from "Miss"; however, they still insist on "Mrs." when dealing with "wife of"s. There's no consistency to their use. And you'd think by the time you're dealing with two female presidents (one current, one former), you could just use "Ms." but not in the Times' still sexist minds. Maybe in the next hundred years they can find a style "element" and stick with it?

So the paper's late to the dance and it's reporting reads like the journalist just emerged from an hour of watching the coverage on CNN International. You've got the US State Dept. weighing in, you've got international business weighing in, you've got some military in the Phillipines, some official spokespeople for Arroyo and that's really it. There's nothing in this story to indicate that it was filed from the Phillipines other than the dateline -- so why did the paper even bother to file from there? It's lazy reporting even for the Times which can never do an international story without rushing to reassure (sometimes falsely) what the Zogby poll always calls the "investor class." And Arroyo? She's probably wishing she was still entertaining Bully Boy and Laura, that they (including her husband) were still seated around the table drinking from wine glasses whatever that beverage was (but we're sure it was non-alcoholic). I believe it was BuzzFlash that linked to those photos. (May of 2003?)

The Washington Post carries a Reuters' report that Martha notes. It's entitled "Philippines, Under State Of Emergency, Recalls Revolt:"

Early on Saturday, police raided a pro-opposition newspaper, the Daily Tribune, gathering documents, confiscating copies of the paper from the printing press and padlocking the office.
"They just swooped down, went inside," Editor in Chief Ninez Cacho Olivares said on the radio. "This is like martial law."
Police also went to the offices of the Abante tabloid, but Elvira Altez, a member of its board, said the officers left after seeing crews from two TV stations.

No, you didn't read a word of that in Conde's "reporting."

In other bad reporting, Thom Shankar contributes "Bush Sees a Tough Test for the Skills of the Iraqi Troops." Shankar quotes bits and pieces of Bully Boy's speech to the American Legion yesterday. Bully Boy didn't focus on Iraq, despite what Shankar tells you. The White House has a transcript of the speech posted online. How many sentences before Bully Boy makes his first glaring error? Five. (Check my math.)

I'm proud to be with my fellow Legionnaires.

His fellow Legionnaires? What's that supposed to mean? When Bully Boy was AWOL from the Guard he got so tanked he accidentally ended up Vietnam? Bully Boy saw combat when? Shankar's not fact checking, he's not even reporting. He's fluffing.

(Sidebar, anyone else remembering when the American Legion, in 1999, was calling for the withdrawal of American forces from the former Yugoslavia? Telling Bill Clinton there had to be clear support from the people for the war? Yesterday, they cheered and applauded Bully Boy and seemed to have no concerns over clear support from the people re: Iraq.)

What did Bully Boy speak about? (Shankar must have been out of the hall during the bulk of the speech.) Hurricane Katrina and health benefits. He spun on both topics. In paragraph thirteen he finally mentions Afghanistan and Iraq. And the remarks? The same canned ones he's been giving for months. There's no real difference in this and the televised speech in June that Ava and I reviewed at The Third Estate Sunday Review. Then he declared: "The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001." Yesterday he declared: "The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001, when our nation awoke to a sudden attack." It's the same, old same-old but an official said it, the Times wants to peddle it, and we're falsely told it's news. He's drawing comparisons yet again between 9-11 and Iraq and Shankar's not even up to refuting it.
The paper's motto: "When officials speak, we jot!" Which is a good transitional note to remind everyone that Wally took on the speech (via "Bully Boy Press") at The Daily Jot yesterday.

Neil A. Lewis offers up "Former Aide to Cheney Gains Access to His Notes." Here's the gist of that, Scooter Libby's trying to use every legal trick in the book to walk away from the charges. (The Times doesn't note this, but he's even saying that Patrick Fitzgerald's post wasn't lawful. Yes, the Bully Boy blunders so much that even Dick Cheney's former right hand now tries to hide behind the administration's loose grasp of the law.) So Scoots will get his own notes but not the PDBs he's been requesting. Now Scoots has every right to toss out every principle in the book and try to save his own ass. That's what a criminal defendent does (and that's what Scoots is) but note that the so-called Law & Order Republicans who will decry the same to-be-expected behavior by someone not of their "crowd" falls silent on the issue of Scoots. Fred Thompson himself signs on to help out Scoots.

And try to remember that Scoots, someone in the administration until his criminal indictment (let's say that one more time: criminal indictment), expects to have access to the PDBs. Does everyone remember the song and dance, the teeth pulling, it took for the 9-11 Commission to get ahold of the August 2001 PDB that began "bin Laden determined to strike . . ."? Hopefully, people are noting that all the "principles" the administration supposedly stands on go out the window when it's their own ass in the fire. (The Times, if it notices, doesn't comment.)

So what's today? They have some topics to cover. They blew off the whole week and today everyone rushes to file and prove that they weren't asleep on the job. Reading the "reporting," you think they've only demonstrated that you need not be awake to type. (And I thought only I proved that.)

If anyone put in a day's work at the paper, it was probably David S. Cloud who files "Military Contractor Pleads Guilty to Bribery:"

A military contractor pleaded guilty Friday to paying a California congressman more than $1 million in bribes and to hiring the son of a Pentagon official in a scheme that helped bring his firm more than $150 million in military contracts since 2002.
The contractor, Mitchell Wade, founder and former president of MZM Inc. in Washington, admitted in an appearance before Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of Federal District Court that he bribed the congressman, former Representative Randy Cunningham, with cash, cars and antiques.
Mr. Cunningham, a Republican, resigned from Congress last November, after pleading guilty to taking bribes from Mr. Wade, among others.

[. . .]
Mr. Wade also admitted that he did favors for a Defense Department official, whom lawyers involved in the case have identified as William S. Rich Jr., the former director of the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville, Va.

Nicole notes Griff Witte's "A First Look Back at the Horror" (The Washington Post):

Afghanistan's first war crimes trial has brought emotional pleas from witnesses and a lengthy catalogue of charges against Sarwari, a communist-era intelligence chief who is accused of ordering executions in the late 1970s. But no one who testified at the hearing saw him commit a crime.
Lack of evidence is one of many problems that have arisen as Afghanistan attempts to confront its violent past, conducting the first such trial after a quarter-century of conflict that claimed at least a million lives.
Until recently, the country had seemed more intent on burying its history than reliving it through potentially explosive investigations and trials. That is beginning to change. But as the process gets underway, it is revealing unpleasant truths about the present as well as the past.
In many ways, the Sarwari case has degenerated into a farce. The defendant, who has been imprisoned for 14 years, has had difficulty keeping an attorney because lawyers are pressured not to represent him. The prosecutors have presented scant evidence. Witnesses have spoken at length about what they heard from relatives or friends, but none has produced evidence.

For news on Iraq, we go to Dahr Jamail's "Who Benefits?" (Iraq Dispatches) which a number of members note but it looks like Keesha was the first to note it:

The most important question to ask regarding the bombings of the Golden Mosque in Samarra on the 22nd is: who benefits?
Prior to asking this question, let us note the timing of the bombing. The last weeks in Iraq have been a PR disaster for the occupiers.
First, the negative publicity of the video of British soldiers beating and abusing young Iraqis has generated a backlash for British occupation forces they've yet to face in Iraq.
Indicative of this, Abdul Jabbar Waheed, the head of the Misan provincial council in southern Iraq, announced his councils’ decision to lift the immunity British forces have enjoyed, so that the soldiers who beat the young Iraqis can be tried in Iraqi courts. Former U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer had issued an order granting all occupation soldiers and western contractors immunity to Iraqi law when he was head of the CPA...but this province has now decided to lift that so the British soldiers can be investigated and tried under Iraqi law.
This deeply meaningful event, if replicated around Iraq, will generate a huge rift between the occupiers and local governments. A rift which, of course, the puppet government in Baghdad will be unable to mend.
The other huge event which drew Iraqis into greater solidarity with one another was more photos and video aired depicting atrocities within Abu Ghraib at the hands of U.S. occupation forces.

Also on Iraq, Rita notes Mark Engler's "Commentary: Finding the tipping point for Vietnam -- and for Iraq" (Mother Jones):

In the center of the home page, an upward-racing ticker, presented in a large, red font, keeps a steady tally of the money spent for the U.S. war in Iraq. Every time I visit, it takes a moment to sort through the counter's decimal places and make sense of it. The hundreds of dollars fly by too quickly to track. The thousands change a little faster than once a second. As I write, the ticker reads $239,302,273,144.
It is worth staring at the site for a while to see the vast sums accumulate. Yet this exercise in wartime accounting quickly becomes unsatisfying. First of all, few Americans have any frame of reference for evaluating a number like $239 billion. The National Priorities Project, the organization hosting the counter, attempts to remedy this by allowing visitors to compare war costs with expenditures on pre-school, health care, and public housing, noting, for example, that this much money could provide basic immunizations for every child born worldwide in the next 79 years. Even then, the incomprehensibly large number ticking away on screen turns out to be no measure at all of what we will eventually pay for the war. Depending on what estimate you use, it could be off by almost a factor of ten. After all, it lacks a place for the trillions.
So how much will the war cost? The question occasionally appears in the media, never a new issue, never a settled one either. Still, there are some certainties about the costs of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. One is that it keeps going up. The President has now submitted a
"guns over butter" budget to Congress that increases Pentagon spending to $440 billion, while taking away funds from social services at home and development assistance abroad. One of the great curiosities of this huge sum is that it does not include funding for the wars we are actually fighting. Those are appropriated separately -- this year, the White House will reportedly be asking for another $120 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly equal to what it spent in 2005.
Another certainty of wartime accounting is that the cost of the war in Iraq will remain far higher than the Bush administration wants anyone to think. It's already stratospherically beyond the
initial estimate of $50-60 billion used to sell its war to the public. That number was meant to conjure memories of the previous Gulf War -- Operation Desert Storm -- an engagement Americans recall as swift and relatively painless, in part because an array of allies helped pay for it. The U.S. ponied up only $7 billion for that conflict. The administration's other magic trick was taking Larry Lindsey, the White House economic advisor who publicly suggested in late 2002 that a military return to Iraq would cost closer to $100-200 billion, and making him disappear.
In the years since Baghdad fell, several analysts have sought better estimates for the war's true cost. In August 2005, Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver at the Institute for Policy Studies
issued a paper predicting that the total cost could reach $700 billion at the then-current spending level of $5.6 billion per month. Like the tally, this figure included only direct expenditures.

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