Sunday, November 11, 2007

NYT summarzies US government case

Sunday's New York Times had an Iraq article they front paged. It is the only article the paper runs. Last week, the attacks on officials became more obvious. The attacks on educators continued (two women -- math teacher and a principal -- were among the dead) and a UN report came out on the crisis of edcuation around the world with special nods to Iraq. You read none of that in the New York Times.

All of that is to say to the visitor at the public account, calm down. He's convinced someone else will "link to the story and talk about it first!" We're not trying to be first here. It's really not a race. And considering the complaints that many sites on the left can go an entire day -- sometimes an entire week -- writing no more than two words on Iraq (I know the two words and, if you think about it, they'll come to your mind too -- think of the old military song -- it's that two word title) -- it's hardly likely.

Wish it were. Wish Iraq wasn't falling off the radar again. It is. The mainstream media's done a poor job since what, August? As they've dropped their coverage, it's become even less of a topic online for the left -- or even for those an inch to the left of Christy Todd Whitman.

Maybe six months from now, the net will come alive with people calling out the lies that have been sold in the last six to eight weeks? Probably not.

This is a talking entry, if you haven't guessed, and this replies to 7 e-mails in the public account. Before we go further, let's note the Times' article. The reporters are Eric Schmitt, Ginger Thompson, Margot Williams and James Glanz writing credit is given to Schmitt and Thompson. We've got time to note that -- the two with writing credit -- so we will. Normally, we don't. If an article has an above the story credit to reporters who worked on the story, we usually just note that credit and don't then also note the ones who wrote. End credits we treat differently. The article's entitled "A Broken Supply Channel Sent Arms for Iraq Astray" and it reolves around Kassim al-Saffar, an Iraqi entrusted by the US, who is accused of suppying (for cash) the resistance with weapons back in 2004. Visitors to the public account absorbed that detail from the story. The missed the bigger one -- that he did so "with the seeming approval of some American officials and executives".

Is it true? Is any of it true? It's one article. These are allegations. The paper plays it with one group alleges and the Pentagon and the Justice Department are investigating. It may have happened, it may not. The key is that the Justice Department and the Pentagon want you to think it happened. That doesn't mean it didn't happen. That does mean that there's little in the report to show any independent research on the part of the paper. They appear to listen very well to what they are fed. They write a nice summary.

One reporter actually tried something resembling reporting (I'll assume Schmitt or Thompson -- Glanz is in Iraq so it is not him): they went to the house of Col. Levonda Joey Selph (in Virginia) to confront her on the oversight she was supposed to provide and ask if she was aware the alleged incidents took place when the US government alleges they took place: ". . . Colonel Selph would say only that she was not guilty of any wrongdoing, and she said she was under orders not to speak to the press."

Did she or anyone else in the US military do anything wrong? The US government wants you to believe so. That doesn't make it true. We could hop on the story here and say, "US GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY SUPPLIED ARMS TO THE RESISTANCE!" Maybe some will do that, proclaim that. But there's nothing in the story that indicates that's the case. This isn't saying, "Selph couldn't speak! They shouldn't have run the story!" They're not required to provide both sides. Especially when one side won't speak. But they haven't done an investigation. They've talked to officials -- many of whom go unnamed -- and this story's been floated to the press for nearly two weeks. What they've done is summarize the case as the Justice Department and the Pentagon see it.

To be clear, they're not required to prove that the charges are too. This isn't a court of law. Reporters are just required to get the story out and real reporters are required to express skepticm at anything the government feeds them.

This is a nice little summary and it no doubt pleases all the ones providing the whispers.

It's not anything we're going to trumpet or run with based on the way it was printed in the paper.

To repeat, this story has been shopped around (by the government) for two weeks. The article conveys that the paper can receive information from the official channels and allow sources to go on deep background. It doesn't convey that they can actually investigate.

That's it for the Times.

Let's note the new content at The Third Estate Sunday Review and then the talking entry continues:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
Editorial: Victories for Watada and the Constitution
A Note to Our Readers
TV: The drip-drip of Carpoolers
Saint Bam-Bam
The kind-of left embarrasses with age
Dumb ass found online by reader Lou
Cassie's got a beef
To non-members and non-regular readers
M.E. Moses
November 17th, Robert, Nat and Sam Parry in Arlington
Something to Remember
From the Illinois Green Party
Excluding Gravel

That's the content. One of the visitors e-mailing the public account that is most bothered by the delay of entries here this morning suggests that I should step away from Third to focus on this site. Thanks for the input. But Gina and Krista polled on the issue of delays here on Sunday. That's their newsletter. I didn't ask them to poll on that, I didn't even know they were polling on that. They did three polls that ran in Friday's round-robin. The first I knew about because it appeared in the round-robin two Fridays ago. They announce the poll and get input throughout the week. If something comes up, they will do a mass e-mail on a topic and do another poll. When something became an issue with members last week, I asked if they could add that as another topic. They did so (thank you to Gina and Krista) and they also added the issue of Sundays here. I didn't ask for the latter and didn't find out about until I read the round-robin on Friday.

Once upon a time, probably two years ago, I proposed the idea of taking Sunday off due to working Saturday night/Sunday morning with the gang from Third. That did not fly. So it didn't happen. I haven't proposed anything similar since.

Either last Sunday or the one before, we were up until four p.m. straight working on the edition. Four p.m. Sunday, we started before ten p.m. Saturday. That week an editorial wasn't working and we made it a feature while at the same time I was advocating for another editorial and for a specific topic. The deal we agreed to was, we would work on it (Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and myself) and then we would post it and all go to bed. Entries here would wait.

Based on that, Gina and Krista decided to see what the feeling was? Community members felt there was "more than enough content at Third and in the newsletters" (that's Polly's Brew and El Espirito -- the first done by Polly, the second by Maria, Francisco and Miguel) "to cover Sunday morning." As a result of that, I'm not going to worry about posting Sunday morning if we go past noon Sunday working on an edition. What I would like to do is get Isaiah's comic up on Sunday morning.

That wasn't possible. As noted in "Highlights" at Third, Flickr wouldn't let us log in. Rebecca and I tried repeatedly. That's why there are no illustrations at Third -- even older illustrations like the one we use for the TV piece each week. If Flikr lets me in, Isaiah goes up tomorrow morning. If it's a weekend where Kat's done a CD review, that will go up on Sunday as it has been doing for some time now.

Two wanted to know where Ruth's report was? Ruth and Kat didn't do entries here this weekend. "Roundtable," "Roundtable," "Roundtable in the Kitchen," roundtable," "The Keeping It Real Roundtable," "Roundtable," "Community roundtable" and "Roundtable" was done late Friday night into Saturday morning. Everything said is in the transcript (with typos on the part of Ava and myself). It went fairly quickly compared to the Third roundtables. That's because except for Betty and Kat, all participating (Trina, Rebecca -- who moderated, Ruth, Elaine, Ava and myself) were all together (at Trina's). When your face to face, or the bulk is, it does allow it to move more quickly because you can nod to each other to indicate pick up. It's also true that we knew the topics we were going to touch on. Rebecca can get highly organized and she'd been talking about the roundtable for at least a month. It was decided at the last minute on Friday when Ruth decided not to drive home but stay over at Trina's. Rebecca had already set the groundrules in terms of posting -- everyone posted and that counted as each site's entry, Kat didn't work on a CD review, Ruth didn't do a report for this site -- so we did just focus on that. Since the bulk were together from Friday night on, we'd already gotten the topics narrowed down even further. So it moved quickly considering how many things were being covered. There's a break in there that was called when Mike, Jess, Tony and Mike's father got back. (From where? Read Mike tomorrow.) And then we continued. Elaine does bring up a topic not on the agenda and she asks if that's okay? It was. Only Kat and myself still had to speak besides Elaine (it was the closing thought section) and we were fine with confining our comments to that topic. It was a topic penciled in for Third if there was time for a roundtable. Because we had one article that might have been rough to write, Jim had already called off the roundtable (I believe he did that on Thursday) so we picked it up in Friday's roundtable. It should be noted the roundtable went longer than planned (no surprise) and that part of the reason it seemed easier is that after finishing it we didn't have to continue working the way we do after roundtables at Third. Rebecca came up with the agenda and everyone agreed to it. She didn't request topics because she's talked to everyone (multiple times) throughout the week -- any week (Rebecca's notorious for her phone usage -- always has been) and she was really organized. At Third, the roundtables work best because things do come up that weren't on the list Jim pulls together and Jim goes with it. That's his style. One's not better than the other, they're both valid. But that's a difference in their roundtable styles. Also Rebecca -- read the transcript -- tends to assign. She'll mention the topic and then say who is starting.

For myself, that meant no sleep Friday. I woke up Friday morning, did the entries here. The first one went up fairly normal, the second one had to wait until we had spoken to the first group that morning. The snapshot went up late because we grabbed a number of non-planned groups due to the news of Ehren Watada (credit to Dona who schedules all planned meet ups -- she took that upon herself and she now sets them up based on geography). We went straight from the last group (which was planned) to Trina's (where they were having the Iraq study group they hold each Friday). Rebecca, Ruth, Jess, Ava and I spoke briefly about the reaction of students to news of Watada's victory and then I dictated the snapshot. I then rejoined the meeting and when it ended spent two hours returning as many phone calls as I could get to in that time period. After which we started the roundtable. Ava and I typed it up in an e-mail

E-mails are easier to copy and paste -- if we'd typed it up in an entry at any site, those copying would have to space the entire thing which would have all run together -- by copying from an e-mail, when you paste it doesn't run together -- which is the main reason the snapshot is always e-mailed and why no corrections go into it until everyone's had a chance to copy and paste -- I may correct the spelling of a name here, if it's a correction that needs to be made and is known before hand, I send out an e-mail -- or have a friend do so -- with the correction and where it needs to be added. If I go in and do the correction to an e-mail entry, all copying and pasting after I make the correction have to space out the entire entry. "Space out" means there are no paragraphs. It runs without any breaks. So it's easier for everyone if I wait until they have something up.

After that was done, I worked on Saturday's entries (which Mike was kind enough to post for me, thank you, Mike) and then Mike and I ran, I took a shower, dressed and Mike took Ava, Jess and myself to the airport. That was "Friday." On the plane, Ava and I worked on our columns for Hilda's Mix and for El Espirito. (Due to the huge time difference -- Polly's in England -- I get my columns for her newsletter that goes out Sunday completed and e-mailed to her on Friday.) (Before anyone feels sorry for Jess, he was studying for his classes on the long plane ride.) We landed, got back home, I showered (I don't like "plane feel" on me) and then had to review the plans for Thanksgiving in terms of invites and what's being served. I generally do the bulk of the cooking myself and the rest is catered, this year it will be about two-thirds catered because there's simply not time. Not a complaint, I'm thrilled they're there, but since Jess, Ava, Jim, Dona and Ty live there now, I also had to confirm hotel reversations for guests that would usually be sleeping over. (Elaine and Mike will be sleeping over. It's too late for me to call Elaine and she'll see this before we talk tomorrow so personal note to Elaine: Don't offer to go to a hotel, you're staying. The guest room's already ready.) By the time I finished that and returning personal calls, it was probably five p.m. We started the writing session at seven p.m. Saturday night and I think it was eleven or noon when we finished.

With the poll, and no sleep, I wasn't in the mood to do an entry this morning.

Again, normally (if Flickr works), Isaiah will go up Sunday morning's as well as a review by Kat if it's a weekend where there is one. (And as Kat has noted, when she agreed to do reviews here, she thought she'd be doing only 12 pieces a year. 11 reviews and one year-end wrap up. She does far more than that.)

There are several pieces that there just was not time for at Third. They included the piece mentioned in the roundtable. It will be done next week. They also include a piece on war resister Joshua Key that is postponed for the second week in a row. Wally and Cedric have suggested a piece on the primary schedule (Wally lives in Florida, we're talking about the schedule of the primaries) and that's been postponed too many times already. There are at least two other pieces that I'm now forgetting.

Third does a mixture of long and short pieces (Dona's mantra is "Short feature! Short feature!"). That was one specific question in an e-mail. I think that answers it. Another wanted me to know how "shallow" they think writing about TV is. If they're expecting a big disagreement from Ava and I, they are mistaken. In January 2005, Third started their site. A list of features was proposed and we all worked on them. At the last minute, it was intended to be a site geared to students and in the old days covered student abortions, students in rehab, incest, etc., Jim insisted TV had to be covered. He said you couldn't walk by a lounger or through a dorm without hearing TVs. Ava and I were against it and outvoted. For the month of January, those were group efforts written by Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and myself. In February, those became Ava and mine exclusively. It is an assignment. We didn't ask for it. We were opposed to TV being covered.

The TV commentaries are very popular and probably for the reason that had Jim originally proposing it -- most people watch TV. Were they not so popular, Ava and I would have said, "We don't have the time" a long time ago. We're reviewing Spanish language TV programming for El Spirito each week, we're reviewing radio programs for Hilda's Mix. We don't have the time. But they are popular and what most readers of the site expect every week.

When we've tackled news programming there has been an attitude, from some, of "now they're serious." We try to have fun with it regardless of the type of program reviewed and we think we offer serious issues in each review. In today's we're noting sexism and racism. I don't think those are "light" issues and if anyone else has noted the racism in Carpoolers I would be surprised considering the screaming phone call we had tonight from a friend with the show.

Are they worth reading? I've never argued they are. I don't believe Ava has either. We never re-read those. We never have. We don't read the e-mails coming in on them (Ty will give us a report that's just statiscal unless it's something he's bringing up for a "Mailbag" feature). While everyone else is editing other pieces, we've got to go off and come up with a TV piece. And we know that some people will only read that. Jim is very good now about not putting on pressure about those but they are considered the calling card for the site and we are aware of that (more pressure). Some are easier to do than others. This week's wasn't an easy one and I'll leave it at that. (As Ava and I note in the review, we're biting our tongues.) Overall, friends whose shows get what is now known as "the treatment" receive it well and laugh at it. Regardless of whether they laugh or not, we do hear the feedback (positive and negative) on the commentaries. We made two hours (Ava and I) tonight to listen to one friend scream at us over the phone. Only when we reviewed The Loop did we get anything like that. When one piece was accused of breaking up a marriage (it was going to break up before we wrote that piece -- we only highlighted the need for it to), we didn't get complaints. Friends at Mad TV were ticked but they didn't scream like the phone call tonight. It's also true that Carpoolers is, like The Loop was, not performing and that the any negative comments could mean it is cancelled. Though we'll include private jokes within the reviews for friends, we're not writing them for friends.

We just do broadcast TV (in answer to another e-mail) because the site was focused on students when it started. Students don't generally have a huge pool of money. (That was one of Jim's arguments the first weekend -- not everyone can see a movie each week, but most have access to a TV.) Since we just do broadcast, that leaves us very little options. If you've missed it, the big three no longer offer seven nights of new programming -- something the Water Cooler Set has refused to call out though Ava and I have done so regularly. NBC is doing something smart. They're using Saturday night to provide a second showing of two new series (Bionic Woman -- aka My Life As a Pet Rock -- and Chuck currently). Even so, networks have given up on Saturdays and that's a big mistake.

Writers are on strike, an e-mail pointed out, so shouldn't we be honoring the strike by not reviewing TV? That's a good question and Ava and I did toss it around on the plane ride back yesterday as our "At last a weekend off!" excuse. But we decided not to. Third isn't on strike. (We do support the writers' strike.) If the strike is as long as the one in 1979 (I think it was 1979, I'm tired), we will still be providing TV pieces each week. We'll dip back in to older shows now in syndication. The same e-mailer wondered what TV could do if the strike goes on for several more weeks? NBC could program 30 Rock and The Office (I only like the first show) each night for the first hour, Monday through Friday. That would take care of four weeks. It would also provide both shows with the kind of exposure that could turn them into hits. A hideous sitcom called Filty Rich was actually a hit when nothing else was availabel once upon a time. Showing repeats of both sitcoms could allow them to become genuine hits and remain so after the strike was over. Medium has been filming (a great show) and it could back early with episodes already filmed. But you could easily fill the schedule with repeats and do so in a way that there's no significant damage and that, after the strike, you ended up with two hit sitcoms. CBS has Christine on hold and could begin airing new episodes of that. All the networks have mid-season replacements that have already begun filming. It's not the end of the world.

That's not to depower the writers. The strike can't go on forever. The demands of the writers need to be met. But the networks are being really stupid if they don't grasp this might be a long strike and use a time when viewers will be a little more understanding to offer up promotion (via repeats of shows like 30 Rock) to increase the reach of those shows.

I believe that covers the questions in that e-mail. If not, write again and I'll carry it over to Third. The issue of a strike effecting what goes up, FYI, has also been something I've debated about every third Friday of the month which is Iraq Moratorium Day. That hasn't happened either because I think, on my part, it would be less about honoring the strike and more about getting a day off.

I'm tired and I'm stealing Kat's trick. This entry mentions the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz,
Wally of The Daily Jot
Ruth of Ruth's Report
and Trina of Trina's Kitchen

Let me add, I have to catch a flight early tomorrow morning. If Flickr's not working or taking too long, Isaiah won't go up tomorrow. If that's the case, Rebecca's already offered to try to get the comic uploaded to Flickr tomorrow afternoon, in which case it would go up here on Tuesday morning. (Unless members want it up Monday night.)

Oh wait. I forgot an e-mail. Quickly, I don't ever advocate that anything I've written be a "Truest Statement of the Week." I argue against it. If I'm tired and the others are intense, it becomes one. I feel bad this week because Mike had a truest, Mike had written one that was being considered, but he would only agree to it if it included one more sentence. I was mentioned in the second sentence and voted against it for that reason. Second, Iraq is a focus at Third. It is not the only focus. I really enjoy the M.E. Moses feature that the person's griping about. The decision was made to make Watada the editorial and to make that the focus in terms of Iraq for the edition due to the importance of the decision. In addition to that, Iraq is touched on in other features including in Ava and my TV commentary. Rebecca, who worked in public relations and had her own company (until she made enough to retire very, very early) is a strong advocate of moves such as those. She would argue that Watada being the focus (due to the editorial) means those coming to the site would leave grasping how important the ruling by Judge Benjamin Settle was. Others are free to disagree but that was the thinking behind this edition. The M.E. Moses feature was addressing one of their regular readers e-mails and, again, I really like that feature. (That's not self-praise. I had no input. I interviewed Ramona and turned over my notes on that. Then Ava and I went off to write our TV piece.)

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