How stupid can two men be?
Pretty damn stupid.
Take this opening paragraph from Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny's "Democrats' Proposals Make Deal on an Iraq Bill Harder" from this morning's New York Times:
The aggressive attempts by Democratic presidential hopefuls to shape the war debate are threatening to complicate Congressional efforts to reach a deal on the Iraq spending bill, as the candidates' calls for accelerating an end to the conflict compete with efforts by legislative leaders to extend financing for the war.
They offer no attribution for that claim. That claim doesn't reflect reality (though they do give "good spin" -- whether they swallow or not, you'll have to find out on your own). So we're left with the fact that they've presented their shakey opinion as fact. In a non-op-ed. Once upon a time, editors at the Times would have caught that. They wouldn't have objected, mind you, but they would have read the paragraph and insisted on, at the very least, "some insiders say" being added to the first paragraph.
Now there's stupid and then there's flat out malice and lie. Welcome to the world of the Bobble Head Pundit, the gesticulating Helene Cooper who teams up with Michael Slackman to offer Gossip to Go with Flo though they call it "U.S. Now Reaching Out to Those It Shunned:"
The opportunity was almost there -- and it was derailed. Ms. Rice planned to seek out Mr. Mottaki at dinner on Thursday, but he arrived before she did, took one look at a female Russian violinist clad in a red dress -- too risque for strict Muslim sensibilities, diplomats said -- and left as Ms. Rice arrived.
For those who've forgotten, it was Helene who lied in print earlier claiming that Hugo Chavez referred to Noam Chomsky as deceased. He did no such thing. It was a ha-ha moment for Helene and she thought she could get away with it (others thought so as well). She's back to lying like a good flunky for the State Department.
Is that why Mottaki left? No, it's not and we went over this in yesterday's snapshot. He stated publicly at a press conference why he left: there was no scheduled appointment and he was tired of waiting. But Helene can print any damn lie she wants and get away with it. She can lie about Chavez, she can lie about anyone. The Times doesn't give a damn about accuracy, it just cares about sucking up to the State Department (regardless of which party is in the White House). Helene really needs someone to go over the office dress code with her. She's scoring points right now by repeating State Department spin/lies as fact. But what she doesn't grasp is that she's the joke of the office. Not for her lies, sadly, but for her outfits and accessories. That's what will take her down at the paper and those who doubt it should take a moment to think about a 2004 'star' who faded some time ago. The same 'reward' probably awaits Helene.
Diplomats said it, did they? Let's review this section of yesterday's snapshot:
Now let's turn to the apparent lie. CBS and AP report that Manouchehr Mottaki (Iran's Foreign Minister) "walked out of a dinner of diplomats where he was seated directly across from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, on the pretext that the female violinist entertaining the gathering was dressed too revealing." Cute. Kind of like the lie that Hugo Chavez said Noam Chomsy was dead, no? Other versions take greater strides to note that Rice wasn't walked out on, she wasn't present. But they love this apparently false claim of the scantily clad violinist -- in Egypt? the US State Department can't lie any better than that? -- and most include this non-diplomatic quote by Sean McCormack who is a spokesperson for the State Department: "I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state." What's the truth?
Oh, you don't think it's coming out of the braying mouth of Sean McCormack, do you? KUNA reports: "On Thursday evening, Mottaki left dinner in Sharm el-Sheikh before Rice arrived to sit at the same table" and "Asked why he did not meet Rice, Mottaki told a news conference: 'There was no time, no appointment and no plans. A meeting between foreign ministers has certain requirements (such as) political will and it also has to be clear on what basis such a meeting would be held." AFP, to its credit, noted the comments being put out by "US officials" were "a swipe" on the part of "US officials" but somehow Mottaki's press conference just slipped everyone's attention.
McCormack's statements aren't diplomatic but they are the sort of calculated cheap shots. So nice of so many in the press to run with them just because US officials said they were true. Our Hedda Hoppers of the press.
Sean McCormack said it. He wasn't the only one. It was a cute little lie that was supposed to paint Condi as reasoned. Condi was bullying throughout the conference. (She lost her composure and shouted at least three times. But you won't read that in Helene's mash note to Condi. Which, for laughs, is labeled a "news analysis.") Condi, like Henry Kissinger during Vietnam, was at the conference not at the urging of Iraqis (as the lie has been told) but at the demands (on the Iraqi government) by the US government. The lie about what was said is supposed to (a) make Condi look "stateswoman like" and (b) make some Americans angry.
What! That man doesn't like what a violinist is wearing! Those sexist pigs! As though the White House hasn't been one of the biggest destroyers of women's rights since 2001. The lie is as phoney as Laura Bush's claim (pre-invasion) that women in Afghanistan would be liberated.
Condi wanted no meeting. (The proof's there in her repeated statements about how she did want a meeting.) She was a bully throughout the conference (shocking many who thought she would at least make some gestures) and her big targets were Syria and Iran. Photos of her on Thursday night show a very glum Condi, sitting sullen at a table.
If she hadn't tried to power play, try to one up her Iranian counterpart, he wouldn't have left. But he wasn't going to wait around while Condi played "My ego is bigger than yours!"
There was never going to be any real agreements coming out of this conference. It was supposed to be about the region and that's why Condi was injected into it by the White House over the objection of the Iraqis.
Helene's a fool, she'll die a fool. But she'll do so many years after the Times either dumps her or moves her to one of those desks where nothing gets done but pencils sharpened and paper clips played with. And if stockholders are worried the Times' profit margin, they might want to take a tour of the NYC building and see all the aging slackers that should have been kicked off the payroll years ago, people who don't produce any copy but take up space and pull a check, week after week. If Helene's not fired, she'll soon join the other ghosts who keep their heads down and keep banking the check. Real journalists wouldn't do that but the ghosts sold their souls to the paper long ago. (Which is the real reason the paper keeps them on the payroll -- not because they give a damn about employees -- anyone reading any of the editorial in the last 30 years knows damn well the editorial board is not pro-labor.)
Which brings us to Alissa J. Rubin who files the only story from (the Green Zone in) Iraq. She does so by rewriting. It was an entertaining military press release on Friday. Rubin pads it out a little and calls it "U.S. Forces Break Up Arms Smuggling Ring in Baghdad." She forgots to note that at least 46 corpses were found in Iraq yesterday. Rewriting military press releases can tax a soul apparently.
We'll close with Margaret Kimberley's "These People Frighten Me" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report) which Keesha was the first to highlight:
During the first Democratic presidential debate a little known candidate, former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, ended up with one of the most memorable lines of the evening:
"And I got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me - they frighten me. When you have mainline candidates that turn around and say that there's nothing off the table with respect to Iran, that's code for using nukes, nuclear devices.
"I got to tell you, I'm president of the United States, there will be no preemptive wars with nuclear devices. To my mind, it's immoral, and it's been immoral for the last 50 years as part of American foreign policy."
Of the eight candidates on that stage in South Carolina, only Gravel and Congressman Dennis Kucinich will say that there is no reason for the American people to incinerate the Iranian people with nuclear weapons.
When Senator Barack Obama repeated the lie that Iran is on the verge of attaining nuclear capability only Kucinich would call him out. He politely said that Obama's assertions were in dispute.
Obama: I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate a war with Iran.
But, have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region.
Obama: I understand that, but they're in the process of developing it. And I don't think that's disputed by any expert. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism...
Kucinich: It is disputed by...
Obama: ... Hezbollah and Hamas.
Kucinich: It is disputed.
Obama: And there is no contradiction, Dennis, between...
Kucinich: It is disputed.
Obama: Let me finish.
Kucinich would have been correct if he had called Obama a liar. Gravel is right, most of the Democrats are very frightening indeed.
The following community sites have updated since yesterday morning:
Rebecca's Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Cedric's Cedric's Big Mix;
Kat's Kat's Korner;
Betty's Thomas Friedman is a Great Man;
Mike's Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine's Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally's The Daily Jot;
and Trina's Trina's Kitchen
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be another entry today. It may be me doing it (on Iraq) or Kat may do a review. Ruth plans to do a report this weekend. Radio programs? None of what we normally note sent out e-mails. (I called Rachel and Martha to double check.)
the new york times
alissa j. rubin
like maria said paz
sex and politics and screeds and attitude
the daily jot
cedrics big mix
mikey likes it
thomas friedman is a great man