Monday, January 14, 2008

The benchmark?

In the New York Times this morning, Solomon Moore offers a "news analysis" that runs on A6 and is entitled "Ex-Baathists Get A Break. Or Do They?" which attempts to examine the potential impact of the legislation that passed the Iraqi Parliament on Saturday (and still awaits being signed into law). Moore notes "troubling questions -- and troubling silences -- about the measure's actual effects" in the "confusing and controversial, a document riddled with loopholes and caveats". Moore notes he gets pushed aside by US officials when he asks for their opinion, that "some Sunni and Shiite officials" feel the details within the measure could lead to more obstacles for the de-de-Baathification. What Moore's basically left with is the "translated copy received by The New York Times" and he notes that the most literal reading (of the translated document) could mean "as many as 30,000 people" who are currently barred could be let back into government jobs. That's a literal reading and Moore notes disagreements among Iraqis as to what the measure actually means.

He quotes a Sunni member of Parliament, Khalaf Aulian, declaring, "This law includes some good articles, and it's better than the last de-Baathification law because it gives pensions to third-level Baathists. But I don't like the law as a whole, because it will remain as a sword on the neck of the people. Maybe in the future they will use it to prevent anyone they like from keeping their job."

We're not bothering with what the puppet's spokesperson says, who trusts the puppet to begin with and he's not even speaking directly to the paper. (That's not a swipe at Moore or the analysis. That is noting al-Maliki is press savy and made the decision to avoid speaking to the paper so we're not interested in his representatives who -- when the whole thing explodes as a fraud -- will be said by him not to have been speaking for him.)

We're also not interested in anything Moore has to say on Iraqi oil when he only presents it as 'sharing the revenues' (with no addition of 'with foreign oil corporations').

Stephen Farrell's "An Iraqi House Was Rigged To Kill American Soldiers" (also A6) is only of interest for what Farrell does. That's not the fact that he writes of the incident last Wednesday that claimed the lives of 6 US service members though that needs to be noted. The importance here is that he drops all the way down to sereant (Joseph Weeren) and even opens the story with his comments. I'm not being sarcastic by the way. The paper has the worst reputation of any US outlet among enlisted serving in Iraq. That has nothing to do with perceived patterns of political bias or knowledge of the paper's history (long history or recent). It has to do with the fact that the paper's initial correspondents (US reporters with bylines, I'm not referring to stringers) were seen as flat out rude and not giving a damn, eager to rush to officers and too busy to be bothered with the enlisted. That was the perception in 2003, in 2004, in 2005 and in 2006. And the paper deserved that perception and lost a story in early 2006, a story that was basically wrapped in a bow and handed to them but they repeatedly blew off and ignored the enlisted (another paper got that scoop). It's always been the biggest complaint about the New York Times so the fact that Farrell quotes a Sgt. and opens with him (later on we get the higher ups) hopefully is a signal of a change being made on the part of the paper.

(Don't bring up Dexy Filkins 2006 embarrassment. We went after him here for his journalistic embarrassment -- see "NYT: The soft porn of dizy Dexy" -- but it's equally true that before I wrote that I'd already heard 'jokes' about how if the Times is stuck with a rank and file member and no one else around for hours and their life depends upon staying with that service member, the reporter might make a little time to speak to them. If I was caustic online, that was nothing compared with the comments on that story from the enlisted.)

So take a second to register Moore's accomplishment this morning which is as important as Sabrina Tavernise's discovery that there are women in Iraq. (That's not an insult to Tavernise, that is noting that it took her to note what the papers Go-Go Boys in the Green Zones couldn't be bothered with.)

The e-mail address for this site is