Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NYT: Operation Happy Talk explodes in Kirk Semple's face

In the deadliest day for American forces since the beginning of the year, at least nine members of the military were killed in the insurgent stronghold of Anbar Province, including four in a rebel attack and at least five when their truck accidentally flipped over, the American military command said Monday.

The above is from Kirk Semple's "Americans in Iraq Face Their Deadliest Day in Months" in this morning's New York Times which could just as easily be called "When Operation Happy Talk Explodes in Your Face." That's what happened for Kirk Semple. Sunday, he and Edward Wong has happy talk about an apparent corner turned -- one that required underestimating casualities -- and turns out that corner was actually a loop and things are right back where they were before.

He really hasn't learned a great deal since Monday. You'd think after he did what he did in the room, in front of everyone, without so much as an "excuse me," he'd have learned but then "turned corner" and "learning curve" are both apparent dead ends in the coverage of Iraq.

So Semple wants to tell you about nine American military deaths in Iraq Monday. (Total for April is currently 14.) And he wants to act as though he hadn't just penned (in print Sunday) happy talk about a decline ("have steadily declined").

He also wants to continue to use "casualty" when the more precise term ("fatality") is available. Anything to confuse the issue, apparently.

So on Sunday, with American casualties (the war wounded) the focus of the media elsewhere, Semple and Wong wanted to tell you that things were looking up and used the more elastic term "casualty" to cover deaths. ("Fatality" is the precise term.) With the Nixonian push by the Bully Boy to blame reality not on reality but upon media coverage, it would be easy to assume that Semple and Wong felt pressure to come up with a "good times" story. But considering the "from Iraq" coverage of the Times, from day one, that's a little too generous.

At a time when the Times earns applause from some for their editorials on Iraq, the reporting ("reporting") is still as lousy as ever, still the sort of reading press releases live from the Green Zone that has been their hallmark. It would be easy to blame it on the Bully Boy but the reality is the coverage (with few exceptions) has never been informed, has never lived up to the paper's beloved concept of balance and has never seemed to connect one day to the next.

It's as though Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford had Semple, Wong, Dexter Filkins, et al in mind when they wrote the following:

Some things you never get used to
It's the same routine of getting up every morning
And putting on a smile
But underneath there's another person
Who can't find a reason to make living worthwhile

"Some Things You Never Get Used To" was sung in the sixties by Diana Ross & the Supremes. Today, it's sung by Dexy and the Green Zoners.

Linda Greenhouse covers the Court's refusal to grant cert on Jose Padilla's case in this morning's New York Times. From "Justices Decline Terror Case of a U.S. Citizen:"

Jose Padilla, the American citizen held for more than three years in military custody as an enemy combatant, fell one vote short on Monday of persuading the Supreme Court to take his case.
Four votes are necessary for the court to take a case, and Mr. Padilla's appeal received only three. The result was to leave standing a decision by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., that endorsed the government's power to seize a citizen on United States soil and keep him in open-ended detention.
Nonetheless, the outcome was not the unalloyed victory for the Bush administration that it might have appeared to be.
Three justices who voted not to hear the case -- Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and John Paul Stevens, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. -- filed an unusual opinion explaining their position. They noted that Mr. Padilla, who is now out of military custody and awaiting trial in federal district court in Miami on terrorism-related charges, was entitled to a criminal defendant's full range of protections, including the right to a speedy trial.
Most significant, the three justices warned the administration that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, stood ready to intervene "were the government to seek to change the status or conditions of Padilla's custody."
The comment was clearly a reference to the sequence of events last fall, when the administration, days before it was due to file a brief in response to Mr. Padilla's Supreme Court appeal, announced that it had obtained a grand jury indictment and planned to shift him to civilian custody.

Micah asked that we note both parts of Democracy Now!'s interview with Noma Chomsky one more time: "EXCLUSIVE...Noam Chomsky on Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" and "Noam Chomsky on Iraq Troop Withdrawal, Haiti, Democracy in Latin America and the Israeli Elections." And remember to listen, watch or read (transcripts) of Democracy Now! today.

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