Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And they want to whine about declines in circulation?

Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- Three U.S. Coalition Soldiers and an interpreter died as a result of combat operations in Diyala Province, Iraq, Feb. 23." The announcements bring the number of deaths of US service members in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4250.

The above appeared in yesterday's snapshot. It was probably 4:45 p.m. EST when someone called about that. Point? Where is it in the papers?

I don't care what US paper you're reading, where is the article? You may come across an AP article by Kim Gamel. US papers with staff in Iraq might want to consider explaining why they're not covering it? And they might want to grasp that they look uninformed, stupid, incredibly slow or like liars (or a combination of all) by dropping the ball. Americans who follow Iraq knew about the deaths before they woke up this morning.

"Three US soldiers and their interpreter were killed in Iraq. The US military reported they died in combat in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad. For the month of February, 13 Americans have died in Iraq," Gwen Ifill informed viewers last night on The NewsHour.

Sadly, you can't find coverage of it on the commercial broadcast news yesterday. CBS News has a new poll. Here's how they describe it:

Americans are more optimistic about the situation in Iraq than they have been since 2003, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds, with 63 percent saying that things are going well for the United States in the country.
Less than two years ago, just 22 percent said things were going well.
The improved perceptions do not mean Americans want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq, however: Seventy-eight percent believe it is important that troops leave the country within President Obama's timeline of 16 months, with 46 percent saying it is very important they do so.

Well, golly, I guess when you LIE or are STUPID or JUST MISUSE THE PUBLIC AIRWAVES, Americans might feel that way.

The pledge of 16-months was supposed to take place upon his being sworn in. What newscast has pointed that out? I guess it's easy to feel optimistic when you don't grasp that since Saturday alone, the US military has announced 5 deaths in Iraq. When the deaths are hidden, it's easy to skip down the sunny side of the street.

Let's be clear, this is the NEWS DEPARTMENTS CENSORING. This is not a new ban imposed by the White House, the way the previous White House imposed a ban on photographing the coffins at Dover. This is news departments REFUSING to do their damn jobs.

Yesterday's CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (click here to view) was the sort of garbage you could find on all three networks. They all couldn't stop boring you with non-network India footage. Oh, had the networks all gone to India? Hell no, they were 'reporting' on the Academy Award winner Slumdog Millionaire. Not reporting, that would have required weighing the issues of exploitation. But they all WASTED everyone's time with that Entertainment Tonight garbage. They should be ashamed of themselves. CBS Evening News gets a link for a few reasons including that they also offered a report on newspapers. Oh, the poor papers, oh, they might go under, oh, blah, blah, blah.

Today demonstrates how fat and wasteful newspapers have become.

Let's hop into the way-back machine for a once-upon-a-time. Once upon a time, Broadway openings were covered as news and the critics were required to file for the next day's paper's. That meant they didn't see the ends of the plays they were reviewing. They rushed out of the theater before the performance was done, rushed back to file their reports.

Where the hell did the New York Times -- or any other paper -- get the idea that news was a nine-to-five occupation?

By 4:30 pm EST yesterday (if not earlier), NYT knew about the deaths of three US soldiers. Was everyone too damn eager to get out the door? Did no one grasp that this was actually news and should damn well be treated as such? (I'm leaving out those NYT reporters stationed in Iraq due to the time difference though I really don't think that's an excuse.) Did no editor have time to say, even on the way out the door, "Whatever we run on Iraq in tomorrow's paper, be sure to paste on the news of the deaths to the story?"

Let me repeat, once upon a time, Broadway opening night meant the paper's reporter watched MOST of the play and rushed out before the end, rushed back to the paper and wrote the review. That was for a play. But somehow an ongoing, illegal war means the paper can file what they want and when they want.

Why the hell should anyone pay for a paper (I pay for several) when the news is not timely? There is no excuse for this sloth. It's not just the money wasted, it's the fact that the industry refuses to grasp that they better at least cover -- at least -- what Americans know about the evening before. If you haven't done that, you haven't done your damn job.

The big, long whine CBS filed yesterday refused to address that. It's not just that the net moves so much quicker, it's also that papers are not moving as fast as they are supposed to, as fast as they once did. This is ridiculous and any paper whining about lost circulation better do a self-check and see if their staff was all eating dinner at home at five p.m. or actually working?

Journalism is not a nine to five job, it's never been one and it never will be. It's probably past time for the New York Times to, in fact, change their office hours. They should have staggered shifts. I'm not talking about the so-called night crew (a night crew that apparently no longer works). I'm saying, there's no reason for any domestic reporter to be at a desk at nine a.m. or prior. Nothing's going to be happening and there's no paper to put out at nine a.m.

We follow Iraq here. You can use any story, whatever interests you, and follow the US paper of choice and you'll see that they aren't covering it the way they should. They're working 'regular' hours while whining that circulation isn't there. Well, if you can't keep on top of the story, why the hell should anyone read you? Let alone pay to read you?

There's no excuse for it. (Nor is there any excuse for any broadcast network refusing to note the three deaths yesterday in their evening news.)

When news outlets can't get it together, the public's aware of it. They sense it and there's always something else to spend money on. As there should be. Any reader of the New York Times who follows Iraq went to sleep last night knowing more about what took place in Iraq yesterday than what made it into the paper this morning. That's why people don't pay, that's why newspapers are (wrongly) seen as obsolete. The industry better get its damn act together and quit blaming the public.

Self-examination would also mean, for the New York Times, grasping that their columnists need to be thinned out. There's no need for X number of columnists writing the exact same damn thing. Used to, someone promoted to columnist had something unique to offer (they also used to do actual reporting). These days, it's all a bunch of gas bags and there's no real difference in the approach (don't call it "style") of Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Bob Herbert or Frank Rich. (Herbert occasionally does actual reporting.) It has nothing to do with where they fall on the political spectrum. It has everything to do with the fact that one of them would have been kept 20 years ago and the others told, "We already have someone just like you."

In the New York Times today, Campbell Robertson covers arrests. I'm saying nothing on it, I'm not quoting from it. We did the same thing in the snapshot yesterday on this topic. A former Iraq correspondent and a current one warned me off this story saying details are too confusing and uncertain. You can read Robertson (or the Reuters article we linked to yesterday). I've made no comment and won't because several aspects of the story are not adding up. (I was hoping it would be clearer in today's reporting -- no surprise -- see above -- that did not happen. And this goes beyond the fact that the only 'reporting' being done is repeating statements from officials who apparently believe you try a case in the press.)

Kristoffer Walker is the 28-year-old Iraq War veteran who is saying "no more" to the illegal war. We covered him yesterday (including in the snapshot). Today he is the topic of an editorial in the Green Bay Press-Gazette entitled, "Editorial: Walker should return to duty" -- an editorial that is exactly the reason that people stop buying newspapers. The paper wants Walker back in Iraq. That's their opinion and they could argue it wisely or unwisely. But they need to be bound by the facts. Anyone paying even cursory attention in the last nearly six years of this illegal war will grasp all the ways the paper doesn't know what the hell it's talking about.

That's not said because this community believes Walker should continue his stand. That is our opinion; however, the point is Green Bay Press-Gazette chose to write an editorial and offer 'facts' that are not, in fact, facts. In the process, they look like idiots. In a movie or TV show, you might want a character you're a little smarter than to feel better about yourself, but as a news consumer, it's not really reassuring to always know more than the outlet.

We'll note one section only:

Banks said Walker is putting himself in danger of being a deserter, although not yet: "He's taking the wrong way to handle it and will probably face judicial punishment. But it takes 30 days for him to be declared AWOL. The Army says he's not violating any rules yet."

We hope some kind of resolution can be made in those 30 days -- hopefully by Walker coming to his senses. He called the Iraq war "an illegitimate, unnecessary campaign," but his objections seem to be more political than moral. He claims not to be a conscientious objector in the sense that he's opposed to all war -- just this one.

Nathan Banks -- the lisping Nathan Banks -- is a military spokesperson. Trusting him is about the same as trusting a recruiter. But the paper goes along. 30 days, the paper swallows and spits back, he has 30 days. If he waits past 30 days, he's a deserter!

That's not a rule. And anyone paying attention caught on to that when Agustin Aguayo turned himself in after being gone less than 30 days. Agustin was still court-martialed for desertion. The Green Bay Press-Gazette flaunts their ignorance in many ways this morning but never more so than when they don't know the facts. Instead of giving readers who might disgaree with the editorial board something to think about, they have all who disagree laughing at them and at how stupid and uninformed an editorial board can be.

Semi-related, Suzanne Swift's webpage should have had a link in yesterday's snapshot. That was an oversight and it will be noted today. My apologies. And we may also go into the stupid editorial by the Press-Gazette in the snapshot later today -- go into it more.

The Kurdistan Regional Government notes that a German Consulate has been opened in the KRG (northern Iraq under Kurdish control):

Prime Minister's speech at opening of German Consulate General

Ladies and gentlemen,
Distinguished guests,

Good afternoon and welcome to you all. On behalf of the people and the government of the Kurdistan Region, I would like to offer a very warm welcome to the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and to the Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Iraq, His Excellency Hoshyar Zibari, and their accompanying delegations.

I am pleased and privileged to be here with you today to participate in the official opening of the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Kurdistan Region. Today is an historic day and marks the start of a new era in our relations.

Germany has a strong global reputation in the fields of industry, commerce and development, and is an effective member of the European Union. Germany also has a long history with the peoples of the region.

We in the Kurdistan Regional Government have worked hard to establish friendships and build bridges with members of the international community. Germany has been among our very important partners.

The opening of this Consulate today in the Kurdistan Region is a most encouraging sign to strengthen our relations. This step comes after the important changes that have occurred in Iraq – the transition from dictatorship and one-party rule to a federal and democratic Iraq; an Iraq that is governed by the Constitution.

We in the KRG are committed to the Constitution for which the people of Iraq have voted. And we will work closely with the main Iraqi parties to build a country that achieves the dreams of all.

We understand the desire of the government and private companies of Germany to participate at a variety of levels within the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. The Goethe Institute for culture has opened a Dialogue Centre in Erbil. German contributions in the sector of education have been very much appreciated as well.

German companies have long had a presence in the Region, and German business delegations have been active participants in the trade fairs in the Kurdistan Region.

I deem it necessary to briefly highlight the history of the Kurdistan Region under the rule of the former dictatorial regime. And at the same time I want to point out the freedom that Federal Iraq enjoys today. I would also like to discuss the KRG vision for the future.

The history of our people has been one of oppression and systematic violations of the most basic human rights. We have suffered genocide at the hands of the brutal Ba’ath regime. In order to foster recognition of the mass killing that has been committed, later this year we will sponsor an academic conference in Brussels regarding the genocide against our people.

The history of this crime is not that distant. Twenty years ago, and in front of the eyes of the entire world, our people suffered ethnic cleansing, mass killing, and the deployment of chemical weapons against them. Unfortunately the international community, at that time, was not ready to come to our aid in order to put an end to the genocidal campaign against the people of the Kurdistan Region.

Today is an opportunity for all those who call for the protection of human rights and freedom to come to the support of oppressed people. We believe that the European Union, as a humanitarian matter of conscience, cannot turn a blind eye to the crimes that were committed against our people.

And I hope that the European Parliament will issue a resolution recognising the crime of genocide against our people, with a view to preventing such a crime from ever occurring again. We in the KRG appreciate the fact that the Iraqi Council of Representatives already has passed such a resolution recognising this crime as genocide. Here I would like to once again thank members of the Iraqi Parliament for this noble position in supporting truth and justice and condemning this crime.

We in the government have scaled up our cooperation with the private sector. Our citizens can see and recognise an improvement in living conditions and services. And though we still have more to do, our Region is developing and flourishing.

On this occasion I invite our guests today to become involved in our process of reconstruction and rebuilding. And I would invite you to cooperate with us, and to return home and spread the word that the Kurdistan Region can act as a gateway to Federal Iraq and is open for business.

We in the KRG continue to cooperate with the Federal Republic of Iraq, in pursuit of a democratic, federal, pluralistic state based on the Constitution and the rule of law.
Respect for the rule of law and principles guaranteed in the Constitution are prerequisites for any genuine democracy. We will continue to work in a spirit of cooperation and fraternity, and we will promote dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

Indeed the principles of peaceful coexistence and the culture of tolerance have made the Kurdistan Region a safe haven and have inspired the displaced; particularly our Christian brothers and sisters, to find refuge here. We have done whatever possible to help and support minorities.

And in the Kurdistan Region the Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, Syriacs, Chaldeans and Arabs -- whether Muslim, Christian or Yezidi -- from different ethnicities and religions, all live together in peace. This is a success that we cherish deeply.

We are very pleased by the visit of His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Germany, along with his accompanying delegation. We commend the German government for opening their Consulate General in the Kurdistan Region.

And we hope that you return with a positive impression and are able to discuss the stability and peace in the Region with your colleagues in the European Union, so that other countries are encouraged to come to the Kurdistan Region for the same purpose.

This step is a turning point to further develop and strengthen relations between the Kurdistan Region, as a part of Iraq, and Germany.

We hope that this initiative will help to reduce the obstacles European citizens face when travelling to the Kurdistan Region, such as travel advisory restrictions.

We thank the German Embassy in Iraq for their continued efforts in promoting relations between both countries, Iraq and Germany.

I would also like to thank the Embassy Office of Germany in the Kurdistan Region, which has worked very hard to improve relations. I commend you for your efforts.

I would also like to thank France for recently deciding to upgrade their presence from embassy office to consulate. I would also like to thank those countries who had earlier decided to open their consulates, such as Iran and the Russian Federation.

I assure you that the Kurdistan Regional Government is ready to provide every kind of coordination and cooperation necessary for the German Consulate General, and we wish you much success.

Thank you very much.

See also

Press release on the German Foreign Minister's visit.

Photos of the German Foreign Minister's visit to Kurdistan Region

Iraq's Foreign Ministry announces:

23 February, 2009

Foreign Minister Receives Three British Deputy Ministers

Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari met on Monday 23/2/2009, at the Foreign Ministry headquarters with Mr. Peter Raict Permanent Secretary of the British Commonwealth Foreign Office, and Sir Bill Jeffrey, Permanent Secretary of the Defense Ministry and Ms. Savic Ominoc Permanent Secretary of the International Development Ministry with the presence of British Ambassador Mr. Christopher Prentice in Baghdad. During the meeting they discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways of strengthening them in all areas and the importance of exchanging visits between the two countries officials.

The delegation congratulated the Government on the success of the Iraqi provincial elections, considering it a positive indication of the stability of Iraq, and expressed the willingness of British institutions to contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq in all areas, including extending relations between the two countries and restoring them, pointing to the importance of strengthening cooperation between businessmen in both countries.

Mr. Zebari explained the latest developments in Iraq and its openness to the world, referring to the high-level official delegations that visited Iraq recently and that will visit in the near future as well as the development of relations with Iraq's neighboring countries that serve the stability of the region.

The following community sites updated last night:
Theme (for non-humor sites) was music history.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends