Sunday, March 22, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

The New York Times new USA Today style and look hasn't allowed much time to offer reports from Iraq. It still doesn't but they squeeze an extended brief today. Before we get to that, it does need to be noted that the paper has moved beyond Bill Keller's desire for shorter stories to largely no stories. The layout is embarrassment and the best example is A10 (national edition) which not only includes a huge picture but manages to fit five "articles" on the page. Remember, this takes place after -- after -- they have downsized the physical page -- it's not as long and it's not as wide. The New York Times now rivals USA Today for the paper catering to non-readers. All last week, starting last Sunday with the chat & chews, we heard people bemoaning that the Washington Post was doing away with its finacial section. 'How could they!' moaned everyone from George Steph to Danny Schechter -- as usual, all missing the obvious point.

The financial section is worthless. What's the point in it? Did the American people get loud warnings before Enron crashed? Did the financial sections lead the charge for needed changes before the meltdown was so obvious it's probably even a topic on playgrounds these days?


The finanical sections of every paper have proven themselves as useless as CNBC and everyone else. There are few reporters who do some actual reporting at various outlets. They can be kept on. But the financial section of all the domestic outlets has repeatedly been exposed this decade as little more than advetorials -- it's the complimentary copy that brings in advertisements. Or brought in. So there's no reason for it.

After over eight years of not doing their job, all of those reporters and personalities should be out in the cold. It is a waste of money to keep these people on. If your the paper in Maggieville and Sanders Jones is assigned to cover Glory Hospital and for eight years people die in ambulances which repeatedly break down while enroute to the hospital and Sanders never has that story, you fire Sanders. He has done nothing to justify being on the payroll.

Does anyone moaning actually read financial sections? In the Times, it's nothing but gadgets that companies have given Davy to promote, a Docker Boy or two write bad mid-life columns, a generic report on the markets that's a paint-by-number 'report,' etc. And that's before we get into the 'reports' that are nothing but 'so and so said on ___ (TV program) yesterday . . .'

There's no need to pay for that crap. It's puff pieces and gas bagging. It's failed on its beat repeatedly. They should all shut down their business sections. And you don't need to look any further than "Sunday Business" in the New York Times today. As per usual, Gretchen Morgenson has an actual report. Those things can be carried over to the news section. And what else does the business section offer? Susanna Hamner's puff piece on Harley motor cycles? Andrew Martin on "the gardner in chief"? Randall Stross doing ad copy for PalmPilot and calling that 'reporting'? Ben Stein offering 'tips'? This is garbage, people. Gretchen's the only one working and you've wasted money paying people to fill fourteen pages with bad columns passed off as 'reporting' -- bad columns on topics so bad, someone writing for the local freebie wouldn't grab these topics. And when they stop writing bad columns, it's just to do ad copy for various products. They slap Business at the top of the section and non-readers think the section has something to offer. The New York Times should follow the Post's lead and shut down their embarrassing business section. Gretchen can be folded into the news section because she's actually a reporter, she is actually on the job doing what a reporter does, week after week, year after year. These other people are either glorified copy writers or they assume they're auditioning for the op-ed pages. Only the really stupid think the 'business' section is about business. (And you can trace the end of a real business section to the day outlets began dropping their labor reporters.)

Alissa J. Rubin's extended brief is entitled "Iraqi Offer of Scholarships Draws Crowds to U.S. College Recruiters." We could note it's twelve paragraphs long but, in the interest of truth telling, we should probably point out that the bulk of the paragraphs are one and two sentence paragraphs. Again, it's becoming the paper for non-readers. Not too many words and really short sentences that make for really short paragraphs.

That's not me slamming Rubin, that's a decision being made above her head and you can choose any news article in today's paper and see the same problem over and over. This is a stylistic decision that's being handed down from the top and it's going to be the death of the paper because when the Times can't tilt it's head back for a good dose of snobbery, it really has nothing. They are a family name and the minute they try to play just-plain-folks, the Times brand goes into the toilet.

Rubin's extended brief tells you there was a college fair in Kurdish Sulaimaniya and that approximately 700 students showed up to apply to attend British and US universities on scholarships provided by al-Maliki's government (only 500 scholarships will be granted).

Maybe if Rubin had more space she'd explore this story? Maybe not. But here's the thing, "students" is as deep as the extended brief goes. al-Maliki's sending 500 "students" to the US and England. Who are these "students"? Who will they be? Considering al-Maliki's hostility to women, the first obvious question is whether women will be considered? Then you can ask whether Sunnis will be? You can also address how they're being selected? The program requires that, after your advanced training, you return to Iraq. So are their fields that the scholarships are focused on? Medical? Engineering? What? You can't find that out in a brief, not even an extended brief.

And more and more, you can't find news in the New York Times.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4256 and tonight? 4260. Turning to some of the violence reported today . . .


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad sticky bombing which left four people wounded and a Diyala Province roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers.


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report an armed clash in Mosul which left one person injured. Reuters adds, " U.S. forces said they killed an armed man they said approached them with 'hostile intent' in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad."


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 corpse discovered in Nineveh Province (an Iraqi soldier).

While Iraq offers scholarships for Iraqi students to study in the US and England, in the US, the economy traps people in the military. From Scott Fontain's "In the Army, there's no recession" (Seattle Times):

As the nation's economic woes drag on, more local guardsmen are choosing to continue military service by re-enlisting, extending their stay in Iraq or transferring to active-duty status.
The reasons for continuing service are varied and often complex; incentives range from tax-free bonuses to sure-fire promotions, from camaraderie to patriotism. But a reliable paycheck during an economic recession is an increasingly important factor, according to guardsmen whose job is to retain soldiers.

As Mike pointed out, one of the most effective signs at yesterday's March on the Pentagon was A.N.S.W.E.R.'s "WE NEED JOBS AND SCHOOLS NOT WAR." Meanwhile Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports:

The most senior U.S. general in Iraq said that if security continues to improve and political progress advances, he may recommend further troop reductions by the end of this summer.
But big challenges remain, Gen. Raymond Odierno said, including the threat that a new hiring freeze by Iraqi security forces, forced on Baghdad by falling oil prices, could imperil gains.
The U.S. military said this month that 12,000 American troops, in addition to 4,000 British forces, will leave Iraq within six months. Gen. Odierno said he will make a decision by the end of August or early September on whether the U.S. troop presence could decrease further.

Odierno will make a decision? Goodness, remember when we had civilian control of the military? Remember when Hillary told Charlie Gibson that she would withdraw US troops from Iraq even if commanders on the ground objected and Charlie then tossed it to Barack and asked if he would do the same and Barack replied yes? Barack said that the president sets the mission and he would listen to the commanders on the ground about how to implement it but he would set the mission (at that point, his mission set was 1 brigade would be pulled out each month). Anthony Shadid also does reporting. His "In Iraq, Chaos Feared as U.S. Closes Prison" ran in today's Washington Post and opens with:

The release of hundreds of prisoners from Camp Bucca, a U.S.-run prison in southern Iraq, has facilitated the revival of Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents in Basra, Baghdad and the borderless expanse here along the Euphrates, according to police chiefs, intelligence officials in the Interior Ministry and residents.

For the sake of accuracy, we should note that Shadid's report runs on the front page of the Washington Post, not buried inside -- the pattern the New York Times prefers. Chon and Shadid's report get to issues of what happens when the US military draws down? Massoud A. Derhally (Bloomberg News) also tackles that topic reporting on the hiring freeze Jawad al-Bolani, Interior Ministry, has put in place for Iraq's security forces. Derhally reminds, "Violence has been on the rise recently, with at least 70 people killed in three separate attacks in early March. The death toll in February was 35 percent higher than the previous month." Iraqi media is more focused on a column he wrote for today's Chicago Tribune entitled "The meaning of Iraqi freedom" and their focus is on one sentence in his sixth paragraph. Al Arabiya News Channel is among those noting the firings mentioned in passing: "Iraq's Interior Ministry fired 62,000 employees accused of corruption and launched an intensive campaign to dismantle sectarianism among security forces, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani wrote in a U.S. newspaper Sunday."

Meanwhile AP has various report on puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki flapping his gums about Muntadher al-Zaidi (here's one) and he claims in them that Muntadher received a fair trial and that Muntadher is not popular with Iraqis. al-Maliki's a known liar but he really grows his nose out with those claims. CNN's Ivan Watson reports on CNN's interview (link has text and a video option) with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, who states, "With regard to the exit of the American soldiers, we are positive on that issue." This announcement was whispered about for some time and the Turkish press began reporting it was coming at the beginning of this month. Prime Minister Erdogan added, "If weapons and ammunition are going to come out, it has to be clear where they are going to be heading. If we are informed about where this military equipment would be going precisely, then we can make a proper evaluation."

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: Barack's too immature to apologize
TV: The War Goes Ignored
The Katrina goes to . . .
Stevie Nicks, rocking it her way
Stand up
How to raise two ungrateful brats
TV: Explaining Moyers
Who's that hiding in the hangers?
The dog (still not picked out) ate his homework

And the roundtable is where Mike comments on the signs at yesterday's march. Isaiah has a comic that goes up after this. Yes, he did a comic. He really should have taken a week off. It's a great comic, however. (Isaiah did comics for all the newsletters that published in the last few days -- El Spirito, Polly's Brew and for the gina & krista round-robin which was in special daily editions starting Friday -- they conclude tomorrow and Isaiah has a comic that will run in tomorrow's.)

Nicholas Watt (Guardian) reminds that Gordon Brown stated in March 2008 that a public inquiry could be held into the Tony Blair's government's rush to illegal war after British troops were out of Iraq and Watt explains Brown states he will 'consider' an inquiry in July when most British troops should be out of Iraq. Consider. Pru notes with digust that the UK Socialist Worker has still not reported on the British government e-mails released this month further exposing that 'intel' was fixed to mislead the people in the lead up to the Iraq War and that the periodical is also ignoring last week's polling results which found the bulk of the people want a public inquiry into the Iraq War and that they ignore Carne Ross' testimony Thursday on the need for an inquiry. She's not very high on the periodical at present but figured one thing might be useful considering the "jubiliation over Barack Obama's video version of Voice of America aimed at Iran." With that in mind, she notes "Obama fails a foreign policy test:"

Barack Obama was elected on a wave of hope and the expectation of a clean break with the disastrous policies of George Bush.
One area where change is desperately needed is in US policy towards Iran and Syria. Some hoped for an easing of the US sanctions that have been disastrous for both countries.
This week Obama had the chance to prove that change was indeed coming. Unfortunately, he decided to renew the sanctions on Iran.
Meanwhile a delegation of US diplomats recently travelled to Syria. This is a step forward. But the message delivered remains the same – that Syria must drop its support for the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance or face further sanctions.
Despite his fine words and polite statements, Obama has sent a very strong statement with these two acts – that nothing has fundamentally changed for the US, as far as the Middle East is concerned.
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Meanwhile CNN has breaking news on the US filing criminal charges in Iraq.

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