Saturday, June 16, 2007

NYT: Rubin flogs self in public

Yesterday, an F-16 crashed in Iraq. The US military is playing mum with the details. In addition, a mosque was destroyed in Basra (the same thing happened today, by the way). Also five US service members were announced dead yesterday. And of course, Robert Gates (Secretary of Defense) made a trip to Baghdad. It's equally true that Peter Pace revealed that he was forced out as Joint Chiefs of Staff. So picking up the New York Times, you might expect Iraq to be front page news? Some would argue that just the plane crash should make it so.

Iraq's buried inside the paper as usual (A5). Gaza's front page, Iran's front page, Duke's front page, snake wranglers is front page. No, I'm not making that last thing up. Jennifer Steinhauer does a bit of feature writing entitled "Pests That Bite And Slither? Call Snake Wranglers" -- a story that belongs on no front page. Mitt Romney, a 2008 candidate for the GOP presidential nomination (and presently unemployed) is somehow front page news. Worst of all, Julie Creswell proves she listened to NPR this week. I believe that story aired on Wednesday or Thursday but it's been a long week. On Saturday, Julie Criswell offers up "Web Help for Getting a Mortgage the Criminal Way." It's not just a pale copy of the NPR story, it's also wrong. There is nothing "criminal" about what's going on. It soon will be. Laws are being discussed (as NPR informed you) and one business is going to drop the procedure in September. But it is not currently "criminal." (What is it? People allow others to piggy back on their good credit for a fee.) And "experts" may whisper to Julie Criswell that this "has caused a huge spike in loan defaults in recent months" but Criswell, an alleged reporter, should have known better than to fall for that crap. There is no study to back that. Predatory loan companies have caused the huge spike and there are studies to back that up. But Criswell wants to buy into the lie that a national crisis can be pinned on a few shady individuals outside the normal business setting. Danny Schechter covers this (and more) in his documentary In Debt We Trust. Criswell's an idiot. (And apologist/propagandist for the loan and housing industry. Don't believe me? Well I think "experts" say that and, like Criswell, feel no need to check it out before publishing.)

Libby Lewis, in an audio segment that is appoximately five minutes ("Good-Credit Holders Lend Their Histories for Cash") and I see that it aired on June 13th (Wednesday). Good to know that three days later the Times can (mis)report the exact same story. If you're unable to listen online, you can read what's a summary of Lewis' report but don't waste your time on Criswell's nonsense. While we're still on NPR, let me borrow from Rebecca, "click here if you want to hear the npr story on the 40th anniversary of the monterey pop festival with some (not enough) commentary by michelle phillips" -- though far from perfect, that was a segment worth noting.

Alissa J. Rubin offers nothing but bad reporting in "Blast Destroys Sunni Mosque in Iraq, Raising Fears of Reprisals." The F-16 crash? That is first mentioned in paragraph four. Let's point out that a plane crashed in Iraq (it may have been brought down) and Rubin thinks that a paragraph four. Damien Cave, doing the same round up of violence report, has the sense to do an opening paragraph that notes various violence so that, no matter where an incident like that finally pops up in the article, it's in the opening paragraph (frequently in the opening sentence). To Rubin, a plane crash is paragraph four. That's bad reporting. Five US service members killed? That's paragraph five.

So what's taking up all the space before? You could say it was the mosque destroyed in Basra Friday but you would be wrong. It's not about the mosque, read closely. It's Rubin trying to explain how she could be so wrong (and she was wrong) on Friday.

Rubin was wrong on Friday. It happens. That was Friday. You move on. If your name isn't Gordo, Filkins or Miller, just move on to the report you need to write for the new day. Rubin's 'report' was based on a 'hunch' (one had by many) that ended up wrong. It happens. It's not the end of the world and it certainly does not require three paragraphs to explain. We all got our chuckles from it the day before. Today is a new day and you've got an F-16 and 5 dead US service members to cover. There's no time for explanations of how you were wrong. She's been wrong before, she's been right before, both will happen again. She's yet to exhibit any bad patterns of her own (all the bad patterns of the paper are on display) so there was really no reason for the three paragraphs. But if the paper would like for Gordo or Filkins to wear a hair shirt (Miller's no longer with the paper), by all means do.

Thom Shanker tries to tease a press conference into an article with "In Iraq, Gates Says Progress Toward Peace Lagging." Either the F-16 crash or the declaration of the dead US service members could have easily fit into this article. For those who might forget, Gates is Secretary of Defense. Either story applies directly to the office he holds.

Shanker's entire report can be reduced to its third paragraph:

In what appears to be a coordinated campaign by the Bush administration, the defense secretary will be reinforcing a message delivered to the Maliki government in person over recent days by Adm. William J. Fallon, the American commander in the Middle East, and John D. Negroponte, the deputy secretary of state.

And, of course, by Ryan Crocker. But that Operation Happy Talk-er's name has just dropped from the reports of the pressure as the story has gone on throughout the week, hasn't it?

Today in Iraq, Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three police officers wounded by Kirkuk roadside bombings, and that The Bright Ten mosque was bombed in Basra today (partially destroyed) while, dropping back to Friday, notes "Muhammad Al-Daini (the chief judge of what is known as the Islamic State of Iraq) was killed during clashes that took place between two armed groups at Mustafa neighborhood in Baquba (50 km north of Baghdad), resources from Diyala Salvation Council said." Alex Jimenez and Byron Fouty are two US soldiers who went missing in Iraq on May 12th and the press coverage (with few exceptions) went missing on May 19th. The press found interest again when a video reported to show their murders appeared online. Reuters reports that Jimenez and Fouty's i.d. cards have been discovered in a house "north of Baghdad" as well as video equipment and other devices. Stressing, Alex Jimenez and Byron Fouty have not been found. They remain listed as missing. More importantly, their families have nothing to bury. They may or may not accept the video footage as confirmation and that is entirely their business. If they do not, and are public with that, we will continue to note Jimenez and Fouty as missing.

Ruth is doing a report this weekend. Probably late tonight. On that and other things. If you're using the public e-mail address, you should be a visitor (members need to use the private addresses) and you should be doing that to contact a limited number of people. If you disagree with what I write, by all means use it. If you're writing Ruth, Kat or Isaiah, you need to note that in your e-mail heading. They all come into the public account and folders are created for them so they can go straight to what is intended for them. Unless it's my contribution, it's always credited so there's not really an excuse for saying, "I didn't know that was Isaiah's comic!" or whatever. Shirley, Martha, Eli, Ava and Jess also work the accounts (Ava and Jess can also post here -- Shirley and Martha do once a year with their year-in-books pieces and they're welcome to post more if they'd like, Eli can do whatever he wants whenever he wants, he is the oldest member of the community -- age wise, he's also a long termer -- and he can do whatever he wants) so you can use the public account to write to them or reply to them. But you really need to be clear whom you are writing to. There has been repeated confusion all week and Ruth had her report sketched out and now, due to the fact that she's checked her folder in the public account, she's trying to work many other things into it. Ruth checks her folder in the public account on Monday mornings, on Wednesday mornings and on Saturday mornings. Due to a huge number of visitors writing after she'd last checked her e-mail, she's trying to come up with a new report to cover issues that she's just being greeted with. She wants this noted: In the future, anything that is not brought to her attention by Wednesday 6:00 am EST, will not be addressed in a report that week or weekend. No matter how important it may be to a visitor or even if she (Ruth) thinks it's important as well. I told her, my opinion, go with the report she had planned. She's attempting to contact people (many of whom are not clear -- I'll get to that in a minute) about their e-mails. "In a minute." From now on, Ruth's not replying to any visitor unless she feels there's a need. Her feature is hugely popular and unlike Kat, Isaiah or myself, she won't just make an effort to read, she replies to everything that comes in. She's estimating a good two hours this morning alone just on replies. From now on, her reply will be the report and nothing else unless she needs to follow up on something. She's a busy woman and during the week is watching her grandson. I've told her before that nothing she writes will be posted on a certain weekend or holiday because I know she's so busy and doesn't have the time to do a report. (Ruth calls that being "benched.") What she does is very valuable and we all appreciate it. She is not a penpal for visitors. She doesn't have that kind of time and it may be time (because the volume of e-mail she's now getting from the public account) for her to just get a summary the way Martha and Shirley do for me on the majority of e-mails. I'm speaking of visitors. Members can write (and most use Ruth's own e-mail for that) as often as they want. The other big issue here, on the profile it states the guidelines. Unless they've been altered by someone, they remain that if you want to be quoted or noted, you say so. That's up to Ruth to decide whether you will. But it's not her job or anyone else's to chase down some visitor who is upset about something they heard on the radio and find out if they wanted this addressed and do they want to be noted by name. The only exception to that rule is Ava. She's had with cry babies from the press (small media) and she has informed several to stop writing and done so for weeks now. She has informed them that if they continue to do so, she will note their gripes here. And she did just that Thursday morning. She didn't break policy because that person writes every other day and has nothing to say -- nothing worth hearing. Two weeks ago, she informed him to stop writing or she'd be noting it. He did not heed it and wrote seven more times including on Thursday. He could never be quoted here because he can't manage a sentence without a curse word in it. But I believe that covers everything regarding e-mails. To repeat, Ruth's not going to be burnt out because she's having to trash her reports and start all over. She's not going to be wasting time responding to e-mails asking, "Do you want to be quoted? Do you want to be named?" That's been the policy at this site for some time and the fact that a visitor can't grasp it shouldn't mean extra work for Ruth. She also will not be e-mailing to tell visitors that their issue has been noted. She doesn't do that for members, there's no reason she should for visitors. If this sounds rude (it probably does), this is all me speaking. I was on the phone with Ruth and she was very stressed out. I'm not having that happen again. The community loves her, loves what she does and she can't do that and also respond to every e-mail (including one on something that aired two months ago on a station she doesn't listen to). Kat's not going to spend hours on e-mails so I don't worry about her. Most visitors writing Isaiah are telling him what he should draw next and I know those go write in the trash. (Isaiah needs to visualize what he's going to draw. Suggestions to him are not helpful. Nor does he need a co-writer. This has been repeatedly noted here.) I am not going to have another weekend of this happening, of Ruth putting everything on hold to try to deal with issues raised by visitors we've never heard from before and work herself ragged. I've also instructed Ruth not to write any visitors from her private account unless she establishes some sort of relationship with them over time. I will seriously be suggesting that Martha and Shirley (who I spoke with this morning and are fully behind this idea) do a summary of visitors e-mails to Ruth. Those e-mails that she does need to see would still go in her folder but this ,"Write about this! Tackle this!" . . . She's a busy woman and I think she's being tasked with more than one person can handle.

Beth's ruling? I excused myself from the roundtable (that's noted in the transcript) when Beth was about to discuss it. Like most members (not participating in the roundtable), I found out what she'd decided Friday morning when I read the gina & krista round-robin. I turned the issue over to Beth for several reasons including the fact that I'm only one member of this community. She read all the e-mails on this topic and made her decisions. Three will be removed after this goes up as she decided.

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

A number of those are guest posts.

RadioNation with Laura Flanders now airs Sundays at one p.m. on Air America Radio, XM radio and streams online. We'll note it on Saturday when possible. (I'm often posting her Sunday too late.) What's on? Don't know. But we can note this event on Monday taking place in New York City and note the ticket prices (five and ten dollars, that's really a bargain):

Left Forum and The Nation Present:
A debate between Stanley Aronowitz and Laura Flanders
Monday June 18 , 7pm
CUNY Graduate Center
Elebash Recital Hall
365 5th Avenue at 34th St.
New York City
Stanley Aronowitz, author of Left Turn: Forging a New Political Future (Paradigm Publishers, 2006), and Laura Flanders, author of Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (The Penguin Press, 2007), will discuss and debate the possibilities and limitations of working within the Democratic party.
$5 to $10 admission, ticketing at the door (no advance sales)
Stanley Aronowitz and Laura Flanders will be signing their books after the discussion.
Information: 212-817-2003 or
STANLEY ARONOWITZ is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at CUNY Graduate Center, where he is Director of The Center for the Study of Culture, Technology and Work. He is Founding Editor of Social Text and Situations, was Book Review Editor of Social Policy, and serves on the Editorial Board of Ethnography; Cultural Critique. He has authored and edited 24 books, the most recent being Left Turn: Forging a New Political Future (2006).
LAURA FLANDERS is the host of "RadioNation" heard on Air America Radio and syndicated to non-commercial affiliates nationwide. She is the author most recently of Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (The Penguin Press, 2007) and also BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004), an investigation into the women in George W. Bush's Cabinet.

I'm following Kat's lead and leaving out the moderator. If you can't cover war resisters, you don't deserve to be mentioned. If you can mention Darrell Anderson in an article last month and never note that he is a war resister, you're a coward and your name doesn't belong at this site unless we're ridiculing you. Hence, no mention of the moderator. Alicia was the first to note Margaret Kimberley's "Phoney Terror and Black America" (Black Agenda Report) this week:

Ever since September 11, 2001 Americans have had a legitimate fear of terrorist attacks, yet the government has done little to ease those fears. Color coded terror alerts were announced on a consistently convenient basis. They were meant to make the public more supportive of war, or fearful of changing political horses midstream. Miraculously, none have been issued since the November 2004 presidential election.
Despite the Bush pledge to catch bin Laden "dead or alive," Osama is still at large and there have been no terror convictions of any substance. There has been plenty of publicity about dubious cases that don't pass the smell test. Those cases are always built around the entrapment of Muslims, immigrants and African-Americans.
The most recent case to make headlines involved Guyanese and Trinidadian immigrants. They followed through on an informant-inspired plan to blow up JFK airport in New York. The informant was a
convicted drug dealer looking at the possibility of a life sentence. It is an understatement to say that he had an incentive to create a terror plot. Criminals weaseling out of their own legal troubles are at the heart of many of these cases.
The "plot" ringleader, Russell deFreitas, was unemployed at the time of his arrest, and had been homeless on more than one occasion. He had no money, weapons, explosives or plot that could possibly have been carried out.

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