Saturday, December 09, 2006

NYT: So much to cover, so much to cover up

The failure to speak truth is all over the New York Times today. I'm skiping Kirk Semple's article because the headline screams tabloid. It probably is or aspires to journalism but as long as the word "Times" and not "Sun" follows "New York," it doesn't belong on the front page.

What does? Well the story Sabrina Tavernise is covering should be on the front page but that would require a real newspaper. Reading "U.S. and Iraqi Accounts Vary Concerning Airstrke That Kills At Least 20" you realize that a real newspaper would probe the story and that the officials' newsletter has no interest.

All that Tavernise offers that can be praised is her opening sentence: "The only thing that was clear from the accounts of Friday's airstrike by American forces north of Baghdad was that at least 20 Iraqis had been killed." That and the fact that she reports it was US forces. That wasn't being confirmed yesterday.

I'll pin most of the blame on the paper's institutional problems but there's only so much you can excuse. The snapshot was dictated and dictated quickly yesterday. I thought it would be a brief day because I had no interest in another word about the James Baker Circle Jerk and had typed the parts about Nora Barrows-Friedman and Kyle Snyder the night before. I'd added a bit to it and thought it was done when a call from a friend changed that and I had to check if it had been typed up yet? It hadn't so we added what was known.

Tavernise tells you that images were shown by "Iraqi satellite channel, Sharquiya". Prior to that happening, it was already known that AFP had photos of children killed and that, when shown the photos, the US military was playing dumb. It was already known that AP had footage of a ten-year-old boy. Now Tavernise may not get calls from friends in the press saying, "You've got to note this!" But she should be aware of what others are reporting.

Three such friends walked me quickly through what was known and emphasized what to link to. Don't identify where it happened because it's in dispute. (Which is why we went with the province and any specific area is noted as a report by an outlet.) Tavernise is a reporter (I'm not), she shouldn't need anyone to walk her through slowly or quickly.

AFP and AP are 'respectable' mainstream news sources and the paper notes them frequently (more so AP). For a reporter to be attempting to make sense of what happened and yet to fail to note the reports from wire services with eye witness reports is really sad.

This isn't a he-said, she-said story. This isn't a case where US officials say one thing and Iraqi officials say another. AP and AFP had eyewitness reporting of the carnage. It's also true that the US military did not immediately note that two women were killed. That came after the initial announcements and they quickly tacked on their 'feminist' statement that even women can be 'insurgents.'

Having already allowed that, it's too much for them to admit to the death of children because it's much more difficult to tack on a "Kids Are Insurgents Too!" statement.

But civilians were killed in the 'precision' strike. That's reality. And it's not a 'he-said, she-said but no one can be sure' issue when you have confirmation from two wire services.

How much of the blame is Tavernise and how much the blame is the paper's is the only question about the whole issue.

David S. Cloud's article had me excited and then I saw that it was "Still-serving" and not "Self-serving." "A Still-Serving Rumsfeld Is Set for Mustering Out." The only thing of use is that slowly the fact that Rumsfled was on his way out before the election (this was decided mid-October) is emerging. Some day the press may tell you why, but don't hold your breath.

Paul von Zielbauer's "Former Detainees Argue for Right to Sue Rumsfeld Over Torture" belongs on the front page (next to Rumsfled's front page photo), not on A8. The issue is whether people tortured in American operated prisons outside the US' geographic boundaires can sue in a federal court or not? As von Zielbauer notes, two of the defense arguments are (a) torture is illegal in the US and (b) the Bremer laws make accountability from within Iraq impossible. (A colony is how Iraq's legally set up and foreign forces operate with impunity there -- legally.)

Instead of a news analysis about Rumsfled, the paper would better serve readers by analyzing this. (von Zielbauer is reporting. It's not a "news analysis.") The editorials? "Back to the Moon!" or some such nonsense. So don't expect probing of the issue elsewhere. The article is news. If Rumsfled rates a "Pentagon memo" and a front page photo, his being sued for torture rates a front page piece. It's as though it's the 70s and we've suddenly been transported to Chile where Pinochet must be covered gingerly. The article isn't even touted within the "INSIDE" box on the front page, nor is the article advertised in the caption to the front page photo.

Apparently, a US Secretary of Defense being sued in an American court for torture is so common that it's not to be considered news?

Edward Wong's "Iraqis Near Deal On Distribution Of Oil Revenues" describes a world that Americans won't recognize because what's being forced off (by the US administration) on Iraq isn't reflective of any system in existance in the US. "Democracy" has not been exported.
But the story is based upon what "Iraqi and American officials say" (noted in the first paragraph) so no one should be fooled that Iraq has an independent government. (Well, it's independent from the Iraqi people -- but it serves the US administration.) It's one of those 'free' trade stories the paper loves. There's more coverage of the James Baker Circle Jerk which really shouldn't have a say as to what the Iraqi people will do. But if the Times couldn't get behind xenophobia, they'd have a hard time filling out the daily paper. (Maybe they could just get behind the "Wednesday Repeats" notion?)

On page A9, James Glanz gets a whopping six paragraphs to note a story that is more important to Iraqis and to Americans than anything to be found in the James Baker Circle Jerk, oversight of contracts for reconstruction will continue since the Senate (on Wednesday) and the House (on Friday) voted to continue the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

It's Saturday and Carl notes Margaret Kimberley's "Police State" (Black Agenda Report):

Not to be stopped again by pesky civil libertarians and a nosy press, Homeland Security is proposing that all passengers must be cleared by that agency before traveling into or out of the United States. "A carrier must not board any passenger subject to a 'not-cleared' instruction, or any other passenger, or their baggage, unless cleared by CBP." The proposed rule does not define what information provokes a "not cleared" instruction, provides no means of legal redress and doesn’t exclude American citizens.
Homeland Security didn't make a public announcement regarding this plan. They stuck it deep inside the Federal Register, hoping not to be noticed. That shifty method has worked very well for big brother. No one knew until recently that this federal agency has been keeping records on international travelers for the last four years.
Since 2002, Homeland Security has attached threat assessments to the names of anyone crossing U.S. borders. The assessments are based on criminal records, any purchases of one way tickets, seating preferences, meal preferences and DMV records. Whatever information the government finds and whatever assessment is made will be kept on file
for 40 years.

On the topic of radio, Rachel notes that WBAI

Sunday, December 10, 11am-noon
Kate Valk, actress and founding member of The Wooster Group hosts with
post-Warholian radio artists Andrew Andrew.

Monday, December 11, 2-3pm
Playwright Mac Wellman on "Two September," his new play about the
origins of the Vietnam conflict; playwright Sabina Berman on "Heresy," her
new play about hidden Jews in Mexico; theatre visionary Peter Schumann
on the latest production of The Bread and Puppet Theatre; Bruce Adler on
his one-man show on "Yiddish Vaudeville." Hosted by Janet Coleman and
David Dozer.

And the following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:

Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Korner;
Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mikey Likes It!;
Like Maria Said Paz
The Daily Jot:
and Trina's
Trina's Kitchen

Laura Flanders? We note her program in the next entry.

The e-mail address for this site is