Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ruth's Report

Ruth: As Congress prepares to betray the people who put them in office, it is worth noting that they only are able to do that because they are so far removed from the people. The Democrats appear to think there is so much fear and anger over Ralph Nader's presidential run in 2000 that the Democratic Party will go along with anything. It is, of course, a misreading in the same way that blaming the 2000 election on Mr. Nader is a misreading.

The constant whine that a Democrat lost because a third party candidate ran is a cry that resonates less and less although a number of childish commentators still attempt to push that lie. It honestly reminds me of a child who comes in second in a race throwing a fit and insisting she or he would have won if that other child had not been in the race.

The longer they go to the well on that, the more obvious it becomes. The other big fear they run on is the Bully Boy who, if the Constitution is followed, leaves office in January of 2009. Which leaves one to wonder exactly what they plan to run on after the immediate future?

Having repeatedly spent 2007 and their majorities in both houses of Congress to betray voters on the issue that swept them into office, Iraq, it will be very interesting to watch them yet again trot out the "trust us" pledges. I also find it interesting how little reporters seem to know.

Democrats in Congress who want to force a withdrawal of most combat troops don't have the votes. To pass a law mandating a withdrawal by a certain date, they'd need more Republican support, and most Republicans reject the idea.

Nancy A. Youssef and Renee Renee Schoof's "Despite Iraq reports, troops' future is set" (McClatchy Newspapers) wrote the above indicating that they never paid attention in high school civics class or they rushed through the writing of their piece. The Democrats do have the votes. They do not have the votes to override a presidential veto. But Congress has the powers to end the illegal war. One way was explained by former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel who is currently running for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Speaking with Diane Rehm on the August 8, 2007 broadcast of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Senator Gravel explained how you end the illegal war:

Real simple. You see, they do a cloture vote. Oh one cloture vote, two, can't do it. Stop. Or an override veto. Can't do it? Stop. That's ridiculous. The rules permit to have a vote on cloture every single day, seven days a week, and all the way through this August recess which they're all taking -- and then when the bill comes back vetoed they can repeat it every single day and, I promise you, Diane, that in twenty, forty days we will have a law on the books to withdraw the troops from Iraq. Now time is fleeting. This could have been done by Labor Day and all, I mean all the troops, would come home by Christmas.

It is a rather "simple" point and it is rather distressing that Ms. Youssef and Ms. Schoof do not bother to report it and instead go with the simplistic version which pushes the notion that, even if the Democrats wanted to end the illegal war, their hands are tied. The only ones tying the hands of Congressional Democrats are the very weak leaders. The ones providing them cover include Ms. Youssef and Ms. Schoof. Recently, McClatchy Newspapers felt the need to respond to online criticism of an article. The article was not noted here because, C.I. explained, "it was so ridiculous and potentially offensive." Yes, it was. McClatchy Newspapers electing to announce that US military deaths were falling backed up by their creative accounting was embarrassing.

In August, the original article written by Youssef, which I will not link to because we do not link to trash, argued, US military deaths fell to fifty-seven in Iraq. Fifty-seven would certainly be news especially since the reported figure of US deaths, reported by the US military, stands at 84. I am sorry that Ms. Youssef feels she was called a partisan hack for her bad reporting. I have no idea whether she is or is not a partisan hack. I would tend to doubt she is a water carrier for the administration because, while reporting from Iraq, she showed independence. Of course, partisan hacks do not simply have to be Republicans. Possibly she is a partisan hack carrying water for Democratic Congressional leadership?

Knowing her motive or motives is not necessary to call out bad reporting. What she wrote was bad reporting. She arrived at that figure of fifty-seven by eliminating all deaths announced, by the U.S. military, as "non-combat deaths." That allowed her to erase the deaths of twenty-seven U.S. service members who died in Iraq in August.

A question Ms. Youssef might need to consider is whether PTSD is a combat related illness or not? I asked Elaine and she said she certainly considers it a combat related illness in the veterans she treats and she could not imagine any psychologist who would classify it as a non-combat related illness. Some of the twenty-seven Ms. Youssef elected to eliminate may have died of suicide. Were that true, they died in a combat zone as a result of what they were witnessing. It is very doubtful, for instance, that the cancellation of The King of Queens stateside promoted the deaths.

It is equally true that Ms. Youssef appears to have no knowledge of how the twenty-seven died. She knows that they are dead, beyond that she is accepting the word of the U.S. military that the deaths were non-combat related. She is accepting the word of a U.S. military that went along with the hiding of returning bodies, refusing to allow the coffins to be photographed arriving at Dover.

Along with blindly accepting that twenty-seven deaths classified as "non-combat related" by the U.S. military are unimportant, Ms. Youssef is also so very trusting about the deaths of
Sergeant Matthew L. Tallman, Chief Warrant Officer Paul J. Flynn, Captain Corry Paul Tyler,
Specialist Rickey L. Bell, Corporal Jeremy P. Bouffard, Specialist Tyler R. Seideman, Captain Derek A. Dobogai, Staff Sergeant Jason L. Paton, Sergeant Garrett I. McLead, Specialist Jessy G. Pollard, Corporal Phillip J. Brodnick, Specialist Michael A. Hook, Corporal Joshua S. Harmon, and Corporal Nathan C. Hubbard. Those fourteen U.S. service members died in Multaka At-Ta'mim on August 22nd. How did they die? Like any of the twenty-seven Ms. Youssef designates as not worthy of counting, the U.S. military noted the deaths were 'under investigation.' The helicopter they were traveling in crashed. Ms. Youssef does not know if it was shot down. The U.S. military tends to stall on helicopter crashes and it may be six months, or more, before they fess up to the fact that a helicopter was shot down. In fact, prior to February 2007, pretty much all the press was running with the 'hard landings' nonsense and the U.S. military spin that 'insurgents' did not have the capacities to shoot down helicopters. Of course, that is a known lie today. But Ms. Youssef was perfectly happy to grab on to the U.S. military's statement that the helicopter was not shot down. That is rather strange when the helicopter crash is classified as "under investigation."

I do not need to know Ms. Youssef's motives to know that she wrote a dumb article. I do not need to know her motives to find the article insulting. There were eight-four reported deaths of U.S. service members in Iraq in the month of August. For reasons unknown. Ms. Youssef elected to eliminate twenty-seven of those deaths from the count. McClatchy Newspapers has stated their reason was because those were non-combat related deaths. All the deaths were combat related, despite McClatchy Newspapers' ignorance. Now the eighty-four, or some of them, might have died had they been in the United States. They might have been involved in an accident on a highway, they might have been killed in a mugging. They could have died any number of ways, or they might not have, but the reality is they died while serving in Iraq.

My grandson Sheldon brought the article to my attention and asked to be mentioned by name. He is a bit jealous that his cousins Tracey and Jayson get mentioned in the reports. I only mention my grandchildren by name if they give permission. Sheldon was surfing the net this week and came across a blogger reacting to McClatchy Newspapers' explanation as 'good news.' They, the blogger told his readers, were responding.

Well, by all means, if the only issue here is whether or not old media and new media can have a conversation, call it a "success." If, like me, you tend to see the erasing of twenty-seven deaths as offensive, there is no "success" to be found in the fact that McClatchy Newspapers' 'explained.' Read through the explanation and find anything that indicates they are aware of how insulting their 'methodology' was to those who lost their lives, to the families of those who lost their lives.

In fact, try to detect anything that indicates any awareness of what death actually is. McClatchy Newspapers elected to render twenty-seven deaths as unimportant. They accepted the government spin on the helicopter crash, they accepted the classifications of "non-combat related" deaths without any proof. Mark Seibel 'explains,' "We've earned a reputation for not accepting something just because someone says it's true, so being accused of uncritical reporting stings." Mr. Seibel appears to fail to grasp that in accepting, without proof, the U.S. military classification of "non-combat related, under investigation," McClatchy Newspapers was "accepting something just because someone says it's true".

A real explanation might include exactly what Ms. Youssef feels those twenty-seven deaths are since they are not, in the count she produced, the results of war. Were they victims of a renegade picnic? Eighty-four U.S. service members died in Iraq in August and Ms. Youssef eliminates twenty-seven of those deaths apparently assigning herself the role of God because it certainly not the role of journalism to merely repeat spin. Nor is it evidence of a thinking person who might feel that some of the deaths were suicides and to assume that serving in a combat zone had nothing to do with one's decision to take their own life. Does Ms. Youssef feel the deaths were "accidents"? If a helicopter crashes in a war zone, it may have been shot down and there were, in facts, reports by some eye witnesses that the helicopter was shot down. Ms. Youssef elects to ignore that as well. She elects to classify those fourteen deaths "under investigation" as non-combat related.

If a blogger wants to applaud the 'engagement' between new media and old media over this matter, he appears to have other things on his mind than the illegal war. If McClatchy Newspapers wants to avoid being called on uncritical reporting, the easiest way to avoid that is to not practice uncritical reporting.

I do not know Ms. Youssef's motives. I do know she wrote an embarrassing, ill informed article. Nothing in the 'explanation' changes that.

The same press that, at the end of July and start of August, were applauding "only 72 deaths in the month of July" when the deaths were much higher did not bother, as C.I. pointed out, to note the fact this go round that the deaths for August rose to 84. Ms. Youssef, in fact, wrote about fifty-seven deaths in August. McClatchy Newspapers does not exist in a vacuum, they exist on a press landscape. If they wanted credit for the fine work they, including Ms. Youssef, often do, they must also accept the blame for the bad work they do. Pretending that Ms. Youssef's article was not a journalistic embarrassment does not bode well for the future of McClatchy Newspapers. Pretending that an 'excuse' is good news because it demonstrates 'engagement' does not bode well for the emerging new media.