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Monday, May 31, 2004

Understanding Judy Miller: Learning to read a magazine story

Her daddy ran with the mob. Where she learned her manners.

This is second in a series of posts about understanding the media. Magazine pieces are written slightly differently than news stories, in that they take time to gather and to be produced. The strict segregation of the newspaper newsroom doesn't exist in a magazine, so writers can write about many different things.

This piece on Judy Miller is written as a response by Times staffers against their boss's coddling of the most hated employee on the news staff. Make no mistake, Judy Miller is hated by her coworkers, which is rare in the incestuous, closely knit, no secrets world of the newsroom. I mean journalists sleep with each other, drink with each other and know each other's secrets. There is a general understanding that what goes on in the newsroom stays in the newsroom. For people to leap up and run down a collegue, and this goes into her professional ethics, is rare.

Former Chicago Trib columnist Bob Greene shagged many a young woman(some teenagers) to the utter disgust of his collegues. But even when his adultery was exposed, many of his coworkers, some of whom could not stand him, defended him. They defended his work, if not the man, and some defended the man. Other noted newsroom grumps like Jimmy Breslin, are never discussed negatively by their coworkers, even when they don't get along. People keep their shit in the newsroom.

Why are newsrooms so prone to exposing your life? Because even today, they are open workplaces. Have a girlfriend, everyone knows it. Have a fight with the wife, people hear it. Given the antics and egos of reporters, a lot of secrets have to be kept for social peace at work.

So when people talk about Judy Miller and her bed habits, there is powerful hate going on. I'll get into her mistakes later on.

The Source of the Trouble

Pulitzer Prize winner Judith Miller’s series of exclusives about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—courtesy of the now-notorious Ahmad Chalabi—helped the New York Times keep up with the competition and the Bush administration bolster the case for war. How the very same talents that caused her to get the story also caused her to get it wrong.

By Franklin Foer

Miller is a star, a diva. She wrote big stories, won big prizes. Long before her WMD articles ran, Miller had become a newsroom legend—and for reasons that had little to do with the stories that appeared beneath her byline. With her seemingly bottomless ambition—a pair of big feet that would stomp on colleagues in her way and even crunch a few bystanders—she cut a larger-than-life figure that lent itself to Paul Bunyan–esque retellings. Most of these stories aren’t kind. Of course, nobody said journalism was a country club. And her personality was immaterial while she was succeeding, winning a Pulitzer, warning the world about terrorism, bio-weapons, and Iraq’s war machine. But now, who she is, and why she prospered, makes for a revealing cautionary tale about the culture of American journalism

What this does is set the reader up for a series of pretty brutal accusations

Installed amid colleagues—they were almost all men—who’d spent decades working their way up the paper’s food chain, Miller stood out immediately for her sharp elbows. While the culture of the paper assiduously practices omertà—what happens in the newsroom stays in the newsroom—Miller is cause for reporters to break the code of silence. An unusual number of her co-workers have gone out of their way to separate themselves and their paper from Miller. Few are brave enough to attach their names to the stories, but they all sound a similar refrain. “She’s a shit to the people she works with,” says one. “When I see her coming, my instinct is to go the other way,” says another. They recite her foibles and peccadilloes, from getting temporarily banned by the Times’ D.C. car service for her rudeness to throwing a fit over rearranged items on her desk. Defenders are few and far between. And even the staunchest ones often concede her faults. Bill Keller told me in an e-mail, “She has sharp elbows. She is possessive of her sources, and passionate about her stories, and a little obsessive. If you interview people who have worked with Sy Hersh, I’ll bet you’ll find some of the same complaints.”

Except for one thing, no one has EVER questioned Sy Hersh's ethics in serious way. The rudeness thing is a big deal. Journalists need people, both inside and outside to survive the Kremlin on the Hudson. Keller has to defend her, because she's still on his staff. But he's a tool.And many of her collegues will leave her to hang. She's like the salesman who butters up his clients and shits on the office staff. When trouble comes, they jump in on the pile. You hear not ONE word of defense from her coworkers. Not her former partners, not her peers on other papers.

Miller also racked up the sort of adventure tales that correspondents love to dispense after a dram or two of whiskey. She witnessed a hanging in Sudan, flew across Afghanistan in a rickety Northern Alliance helicopter held together in places by duct tape. “Judy is a smart, relentless, incredibly well-sourced, and fearless reporter,” says Keller. “It’s a little galling to watch her pursued by some of these armchair media ethicists who have never ventured into a war zone or earned the right to carry Judy’s laptop.”

That's not the problem. It's her peers deafening silence which should concern Keller. They will simply not defend her. Not just the people on the Times, but collegues like Robin Wright of the WaPo. If she was a decent person, she would have defenders

Long before Miller’s current difficulties, she was known at the paper for a different sin: rudeness, amplified by a legendary temper. Seth Faison, a foreign correspondent who has punched his ticket with the Times in China, tells the following story: In 1993, Miller had been billeted over to the Metro desk from her day job as a staff writer at the Times Magazine to help report on the World Trade Center bombing. Faison, a young Metro reporter, had left the office for jury duty. During his absence, Miller ensconced herself at his desk. “I had been at the Times for less than two years, and I’m not a very assertive person. And so I just said, ‘Judy, could I sit here?’ She said, ‘You have to go someplace else.’ ”

When Faison went to his editors, they did nothing to help him. “They held up their hands palm up, like, ‘I’m not going to touch this one.’ They didn’t want the wrath of Judy Miller.” And so for a week, without ever acknowledging Faison’s refugee status, Miller occupied his territory.

The epicenter of Miller-bashing is the Washington bureau. The phenomenon has a long history. During her tumultuous time as deputy bureau chief in the late eighties, she proposed reassigning many reporters out, to other bureaus and lesser posts. Adam Clymer, who served as the paper’s political editor, recalls, “She ran the bureau day to day, and that regime was probably the unhappiest in my experience.”

According to Clymer, she would call reporters and editors in the middle of the night to complain about stories. She found an unusual way to pass on others’ complaints as well. To listen to a daily feed from the afternoon story meeting in New York, she moved a squawk box onto her desk in the newsroom, where everyone else in the bureau could hear the feed, too. They could eavesdrop on top editors ripping into colleagues’ stories with vicious remarks obviously not intended for wide distribution.

Tact is a major tool in business success. Miller has none. In fact, her collegues and former collegues are lining up to stick a shiv in her because they feel wronged by her. Revenge is a dish best served cold and she's made enemies for over 25 years.

At a paper that prides itself on at least a veneer of collegiality, Miller’s reporting tactics often left jaws agape. According to two Times veterans, reporters at the Pentagon and on other beats have frequently found themselves calling their sources, only to be told, “I’ve already talked to Judy Miller.”

They charge her with forcing her bylines onto stories, staunchly arguing for the addition of her name after adding mere dribs and drabs of information. “She’s not afraid to get her byline by bigfooting. In fact, that’s how she gets many of them,” charges one of her colleagues.

But when there is trouble, it appears she’s more than happy to pass around the responsibility. One incident that still rankles happened last April, when Miller co-bylined a story with Douglas Jehl on the WMD search that included a quote from Amy Smithson, an analyst formerly at the Henry L. Stimson Center. A day after it appeared, the Times learned that the quote was deeply problematic. To begin with, it had been supplied to Miller in an e-mail that began, “Briefly and on background”—a condition that Miller had flatly broken by naming her source. Miller committed a further offense by paraphrasing the quote and distorting Smithson’s analysis. One person who viewed the e-mail says that it attributed views to Smithson that she clearly didn’t hold. An embarrassing correction ensued. And while the offense had been entirely Miller’s, there was nothing in the correction indicating Jehl’s innocence.

The bad feelings from these incidents have festered over time, and as problems have come to light with Miller’s reporting, her critics at the paper have eagerly piled on. Over the course of the past six months, Washington reporters have complained vociferously about Miller. They have been especially angry that Miller appears on Larry King Live and Paula Zahn Now to discuss Iraqi WMD. “There’s anger and embarrassment among the staff that Judy is still the voice of the Times on the subject,” says one reporter. In addition, some of these reporters have frankly told their editors that they will never share a byline with her. All this pressure has succeeded in forcing official reforms. The paper’s current policy is that any time Miller visits Washington, her editor Matthew Purdy must provide bureau chief Philip Taubman and his deputies with advance notice and explain her purpose for visiting. In January, the bureau officially deprived Miller of her desk. Although this was ostensibly done to make space, according to denizens of the bureau it had an intentional symbolic value, too. “It gave the bureau a way to move her out without saying it was moving her out,” says a reporter.

Stealing credit in a world of egomanics is a way to make enemies. Miller is not only sloppy, but makes enemies without regard. She acts as if the Times is there to serve her, not the other way around. You can do that if you suck up to the right people, but there is a limit to how long it will work. When it doesn't, it fails spectacularly.

Where Miller exhibited so much hostility to other reporters, she would be fawning and generous to her sources. “Judy treats her sources well, with a sense of loyalty. She’s an attentive and courteous person to them,” one Times reporter says. Her strength was that she viewed the relationships as more than transactional. Her sources were her friends.

According to some of her critics, they have occasionally been more than friends. In the early eighties, she shared a Georgetown house with her boyfriend, Wisconsin congressman Les Aspin—a rising star in the Democratic Party, who went on to become Bill Clinton’s first secretary of Defense. Aspin, many noted, had appeared a dozen times in Miller’s pieces, offering sage words about national security. Certain catty colleagues liked to read these stories aloud. Each time the phrase “Aspin said” appeared, a reporter would add, “rolling over in bed.” When Reagan nominated Richard Burt to be assistant secretary of State for European affairs, Jesse Helms and other right-wingers bludgeoned him for their relationship. “It would help [your chances for confirmation],” Orrin Hatch delicately wrote to Burt, “if you could lay to rest the rumors about Judith Miller’s articles on arms control appearing so soon after your own meetings with her. . . .”

The gossip about Miller’s romantic life was circulated most widely by a columnist writing in Spy magazine under the pseudonym J. J. Hunsecker. He chronicled her exploits, referring to her as “frisky deputy bureau chief Judith ‘Is that a banana in your pocket . . .?’ Miller.” As a commentator on the mores of the Times, Hunsecker lacked a certain subtlety. “Miller has been enriching the lives of high-level sources around Washington with her own very special brand of journalistic involvement,” the columnist sneered in 1988. But gradually, the allegations moved from innuendo to out-and-out rumormongering. The column reported, outlandishly, that President George H. W. Bush called his resident political genius, Lee Atwater, into his office “and informed him that it might be better if he ended his very special relationship with Miller.” Hunsecker was hardly credible. He could produce some howlers, and nothing he wrote could necessarily be believed. But the point wasn’t his information, but the way he obtained it. Colleagues within the Times had come to despise Miller so greatly that they apparently picked up the phone, called Spy, and dished their hearts out.

This isn't exactly the way I remember it. Miller's sex life was a joke in Spy, but they were not the only people complaining. Judy the Mattress was widely known around journalism circles, as were questions about her ethics. When Todd Purdum, bailed out his then girlfriend (now wife) Dee Dee Myers out of jail on a DUI charge, his editors were pissed he hadn't mentioned that he was dating the White House Press Secretary. They were not happy to see him leading her out of the MPD station on their morning news. Miller, otoh, was quoting her Congressman boyfriend in news stories. And this was 15 years ago. Miller was pounding mattresses for news, and none of her editors thought fit to call her on it.

She must have been awful for that kind of dishing to take place. It was the kind of thing which really hurt her reputation and it was done for spite. And the sad fact is that rumors about her bed hopping have not stopped. The Howie Kurtz story about MET Alpha drip with the same kind of unspoken allegations. She's hardly the only woman to sleep with the "wrong" people at the Times, but she made so many enemies that they felt no reason to keep her little secrets.

Last month, I traded e-mail with Eugene Pomeroy, a former National Guard soldier who is now working in Baghdad as a contractor for a security firm. During the war, Pomeroy served as the public-affairs officer for MET Alpha. This meant that he had one primary duty: to shepherd Judy Miller around Iraq. It wasn’t a particularly happy experience. In one e-mail to me, he joked, “As far as I can gather, not many people at Defense liked this woman, and the sense I got was that she wasn’t their problem anymore now that she was in Iraq. Maybe they were hoping that she’d step on a mine. I certainly was.”

Miller guarded her exclusive access with ferocity. When the Post’s Barton Gellman overlapped in MET Alpha for a day, Miller instructed its members not to talk to him.

According to Pomeroy, as well as an editor at the Times, Miller had helped negotiate her own embedding agreement with the Pentagon—an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Although she never fully acknowledged the specific terms of that arrangement in her articles, they were as stringent as any conditions imposed on any reporter in Iraq. “Any articles going out had to be, well, censored,” Pomeroy told me. “The mission contained some highly classified elements and people, what we dubbed the ‘Secret Squirrels,’ and their ‘sources and methods’ had to be protected and a war was about to start.” Before she filed her copy, it would be censored by a colonel who often read the article in his sleeping bag, clutching a small flashlight between his teeth. (When reporters attended tactical meetings with battlefield commanders, they faced similar restrictions.)

As Miller covered MET Alpha, it became increasingly clear that she had ceased to respect the boundaries between being an observer and a participant. And as an embedded reporter she went even further, several sources say. While traveling with MET Alpha, according to Pomeroy and one other witness, she wore a military uniform.

Up until Vietnam, this was standard practice. Reporters wore uniforms. For her to wear a full set of fatigues would be uncommon as hell these days, because it could get you shot. Miller had some kind of relationship with the unit's leaders, one so disturbing that serveral warrant and comissioned officers went to the rival Washington Post to complain. They knew that complaining about her actions could raise questions about their conduct and did it anyway.

Another management problem was that Miller, like many in her profession, didn’t take well to editing. “Judy has never been shy about crawling over the heads of editors,” says one retired Times colleague. And Raines had crafted Judy’s assignment so that it became extremely easy for her to circumvent the desks. According to one of her editors, she worked stories for investigative one day, foreign the next, and the Washington bureau the day after. It was never clear who controlled or edited her. When one desk stymied her, she’d simply hustle over to another and pitch her story there. It was an editorial vacuum worsened by the absence of a top editor on the investigative unit, her nominal home. Between Doug Frantz’s departure for the Los Angeles Times in March 2003 and Matthew Purdy’s arrival in January 2004, Miller had almost no high-level supervision from editors with investigative experience.

Many editors I spoke to consider Miller to be such a high-maintenance, uncollegial writer that they’d rather not deal with her at all. One Times veteran says, “She considers us to be her minions.” The process of editing her sounds like an exercise in misery, requiring a constant subjection to her fits of anger; it draws editors into her interoffice disputes with other reporters. Another adds, “There’s only one editor who has had the skill, energy, and willingness to harness her energy—Stephen Engelberg.” But after Engelberg edited a series on Al Qaeda for which Miller and her unit won a Pulitzer in 2001, he left the paper, leaving Miller without the strong hand capable of directing and containing her zealousness. It was a perilous dynamic: By being so difficult, she became so much more vulnerable to journalistic sins than her more affable colleagues.

So why did it take so long to run an editor’s note? In the newsroom, there are several theories. The first, and least persuasive, is the Sulzberger factor. “There was always the sense, true or not, that she had a benefactor at the top,” says Seth Faison. When Miller joined the Times in the late seventies, she arrived in the Washington bureau at about the same time as Arthur Sulzberger Jr.—a recent college graduate getting hands-on experience in the shop floor of the family business. The D.C. office had only about half a dozen reporters under the age of 35, including Sulzberger, Miller, Steve Rattner, and Phil Taubman. They clung to one another

Judy worked the system to get what she wanted. The problem is that by doing so and bigfooting her way around the office, it left the paper open for a major mistake.

Ok, what's the missing part from this story? Miller's ties to the neo cons. It's way too easy to explain away the reputation destroying scandal by tossing blame on some squirrely behavior by Howell Raines or her sex life. She wrote a book with wingnut Laurie Mylroie in the 90's and was obviously close to the ruling junta at State DOD. The question you have to ask about Miller was if she was pushing a political agenda, regardless of the consequence.

Unlike what she may or may not do with her vagina and her large brown eyes, her politics being questioned is the WMD of journalism. No one cares, except on ethical grounds, if she fucked or fucks her sources. But to write politically biased stories is the greatest sin one could commit. Worse than making up stories, worse than getting things wrong. To accuse her of it is like accusing a CIA agent of treason. Even the implication is so serious, so deadly, that it is more likely to harm the accuser than than the accusee.

But there is real reason here to ask. Her reporting so relied on a few key sources, and she was given such access, that one has to wonder if this happened because they knew she wouldn't question their spin?

People outside the profession think reporters routinely have political biases. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be further from the truth. Bias is the worst of the newsroom sins and one most people would be ashamed to be accused of. It is very easy to leave journalism and work in politics. I've done it, and it's common. But to stay as a reporter and to push an agenda is a very serious charge.

But Miller was SO wrong and so off base, that questioning her agenda is called for. She never even questioned how her sources kept coming up dry. Which most people would be angry as hell at. But MIller defended her reporting and her sources for a year. Even when it was clear that her work was wrong. Her editors have not even considered that she might have had an agenda in her reporting. Was it as simple as her plotting with Rummy? No. But since she shared a world view with these people, it was easy to stick with them and ignore the truth. And her editors have not even begun to ask her the hard questions they need to ask. Maybe they'll avoid it and let her go off to think tank land. But I seriously doubt Miller can withstand the emnity from her coworkers and the outside. At some point, before the end of the summer, she's going to have to get a job from her friends. Her actions, whether it was fucking warrant officers or being a useful fool for the neocons, have harmed the credibility of her employer beyond explaination. No one is going to protect her. She's made too many enemies for that.

It is only a matter of time before the question is raised why Miller kept her job for far worse sins than the mentally ill Jayson Blair was fired for. And if the questions come from the outside, the Times will have to worry about accusations of racism, no matter how well-deserved his firing was. And the Times black opponents have plenty of reason to go after them. What I don't think Bill Keller gets, and his bosses are blind to, is that journalists made a very nasty stink over Blair, some many black people felt was unfair. I don't, because I despise plagerists. But keeping Miller on is not just an internal or Washington problem. It affects the entire paper and they have to deal with it.

posted by Steve @ 7:54:00 PM

7:54:00 PM

The News Blog home page

The White Man's Protection Party

Selfish white people gather to protect their "rights"

Somalia - a libertarian paradise. No government, no laws, daily drug use.

Libetarians are like small children, unable to realize why they can't have their way. They have no idea of social responsibility, but they cloak it in freedom. I saw the convention of the assclowns on Saturday, and started to laugh. Three people, the sybarite bad movie producer Aaron Russo, radio talk show host and bad hair victim, Gary Nolan, and yet another "computer consultant" asshole, Michael Badnarik were campaigning for the nomination to run for President. All three of these people make Zell Miller look more like a noble civil servant than the rank opportunist he is.

Why? Beccause the libertarian platform is fundamentally and unalterably racist at it's core. Not the cross-burning, nigger lynching kind. If you had rolled up to their convention with the Stars and Bars and a cross, they would have beaten you silly. But just as there is more than one way to skin a cat, there's more than one way to be a racist.

What the libertarian policies would do is enshrine the status quo as law. No social mobility, no redress of grievences. Government would let the rich rule the poor without any chance of altering that.

So let's look at some of their bright ideas and deconstruct them.


  • To transfer control of education from bureaucrats to parents and teachers and encourage alternatives to the public school monopoly, the Libertarian Party would:

    * Support a true market in education -- one in which parents and students would not be stuck with a bad local school, because they could choose another.

    * Implement measures such as tax credits so that parents will have the financial ability to choose among schools.

    * Provide financial incentives for businesses to help fund schools and for individuals to support students other than their own children.

    * Eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, which spends billions on education and educates no one. The growth of this agency and its numerous regulations is a major reason for runaway costs in American schools.

  • Ok, there is no evidence that a "market" for education works. France doesn't have one, China doesn't. And their people are literate. Americans have real problems with this. Tax credits only benefit the people who pay taxes. Businesses are businesses, not the government. They should run their businesses. If people choose to not educate others, what happens then? Do we do what they do in the Third World and charge for education? Or do people just become more ignorant.

    What is lacking here is any sense of collective responsibility. We should all feel collective responsiblity for each other, and express that through government. We tried schools based on charity of others and 50 percent of America was illiterate. Libertarians are selfish, sheltered people. Poor people know the need for collective responsibility and collective action, which is what a government is. It isn't just designed to take your money.


  • Since we believe that all persons are entitled to keep the fruits of their labor, we oppose all government activity that consists of the forcible collection of money or goods from individuals in violation of their individual rights. Specifically, we:

    1. recognize the right of any individual to challenge the payment of taxes on moral, religious, legal, or constitutional grounds;

    2. oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes;

    3. support the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, and oppose any increase in existing tax rates and the imposition of any new taxes;

    4. support the eventual repeal of all taxation; and

    5. support a declaration of unconditional amnesty for all those individuals who have been convicted of, or who now stand accused of, tax resistance.

    As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.

  • Like small children, they want to keep all their money. Build roads? No. Fund colleges? No. Do anything for the collective domestic tranquility of America? No. We pay taxes to have a civil society. To prevent banditry and starvation. Not just to waste money. Countries which can't collect taxes soon look like Somalia.

    Unions and Collective Bargaining

  • We support the right of free persons to voluntarily establish, associate in, or not associate in, labor unions. An employer should have the right to recognize, or refuse to recognize, a union as the collective bargaining agent of some, or all, of its employees.

    We oppose government interference in bargaining, such as compulsory arbitration or the imposition of an obligation to bargain. Therefore, we urge repeal of the National Labor Relations Act, and all state Right-to-Work Laws which prohibit employers from making voluntary contracts with unions. We oppose all government back-to-work orders as the imposition of a form of forced labor.

    Government-mandated waiting periods for closure of factories or businesses hurt, rather than help, the wage-earner. We support all efforts to benefit workers, owners, and management by keeping government out of this area.

    Workers and employers should have the right to organize secondary boycotts if they so choose. Nevertheless, boycotts or strikes do not justify the initiation of violence against other workers, employers, strike-breakers, and innocent bystanders.

  • These people forget that labor law was forged in blood. People died for the right to strike. The federal government intervened in labor disputes to prevent deaths, not just to interfere. The Roosevelt Administration had to become involved in labor disputes because the states were siccing the National Guard on non-violent strikers. Labor law comes from a brutal history of violence, which many of these folks do not realize.

    Poverty and Unemployment

  • Government fiscal and monetary measures that artificially foster business expansion guarantee an eventual increase in unemployment rather than curtailing it. We call for the immediate cessation of such policies as well as any governmental attempts to affect employment levels.

    We support repeal of all laws that impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws, so-called "protective" labor legislation for women and children, governmental restrictions on the establishment of private day-care centers, and the National Labor Relations Act. We deplore government-fostered forced retirement, which robs the elderly of the right to work.

    We seek the elimination of occupational licensure, which prevents human beings from working in whatever trade they wish. We call for the abolition of all federal, state, and local government agencies that restrict entry into any profession, such as education and law, or regulate its practice. No worker should be legally penalized for lack of certification, and no consumer should be legally restrained from hiring unlicensed individuals.

    We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and "aid to the poor" programs. All these government programs are invasive of privacy, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.

  • Private charity failed in the 19th Century. Which is why the government got involved. Minimum wage is not some random idea, but forces employers to pay fair wages. It was one of the basic worker rights established. They have to be kidding about no licenses. I like my doctors to be licensed and my lawyers to have passed the bar. Maybe I'm funny that way, but these are not arbitrary requirements, but manditory ones for public safety and security.

    Social Security

  • We favor replacing the current fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, government sponsored Social Security system with a private voluntary system. Pending that replacement, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary. Victims of the Social Security tax should have a claim against government property.

  • Social security is not insurance, it pays current benefits. It was never designed to be insurance. Once you make it voluntary, it converts into an insurance plan and becomes extremely expensive. If you make it voluntary, you ensure some folks would be living in penury, the system Social Security was designed to prevent.

    Foreign Aid

  • We support the elimination of tax-supported military, economic, technical, and scientific aid to foreign governments or other organizations. We support the abolition of government underwriting of arms sales. We further support abolition of federal agencies that make American taxpayers guarantors of export-related loans, such as the Export-Import Bank and the Commodity Credit Corporation. We also oppose the participation of the U.S. government in international commodity circles which restrict production, limit technological innovation, and raise prices.

    We call for the repeal of all prohibitions on individuals or firms contributing or selling goods and services to any foreign country or organization.

  • Americans give very little foreign aid compared with our allies, and much of it is spent on US goods and services. We also place onerous conditions on what we do give. We are not a particularly generous nation.

    Most of the Libetarian ideas are selfish, which is why these ideas were so popular with computer people. As long as they were making money, they thought this was fine. Everyone could care for themselves. But when they were back in momma's basement and doing the 1-9 shift at Starbucks, they saw the idea of social responsibility in a very different light. All their anti-union tirades faded as they saw how their former bosses walked off with fortunes while they were sitting home on weekends too tired to do anything.

    The effect of the Libertarian ideas would be to limit help to the poor to charity. The poor would no longer have the right of neutral decision making, but would have to jump through hoops to get services. They would become modern day serfs, relying on businesses to fund their schools, private organizations to help them in times of need and have no say in how these resources were used.

    Government is not just the waster of money, but the arbiter of social justice. By having the decisions decided by neutral bodies, which is what government is, social justice can at least be attempted. When America let private individuals and charity run the show, you could be denied services for any number of reasons. Government cannot be so arbitrary. The reason we have civil rights is due to a government able to enforce them. Left up to the whims of individuals, black people would still be eating in colored only sections.

    This is a profundly anti-democratic way of seeing the world. While the libertarians would get their guns and dope, they would leave millions to the whims of fortune and arbitrary treatment. It is a profound lack of faith in the ability and intellect of others. It is the perfect ideology for the arrogant and isolated. It is surburban selfishness.

    When a local libertarian group handed out toy guns at the elementary school down the block, the local residents not only called them racist, but literally put the boot to their ass. Gunplay is no joke in my neighborhood, where the local knucklehead is occasionally shot in gang warfare or the police may gun down the innocent. These liberterians had no idea that the parents would want to kick their asses because there is a consequence for their action. Which might be the death of their child.

    The libertarian thinks that HE or SHE can manage their own life to perfection, and that is not the case, Societies were formed because people need help to survive. It is a cooperative effort, not just proof you're smarter than other people.

    I was surprised to see a sea of white people at the Libertarian convention, not a black or brown face in sight. It was the face of middle class, suburban complacency, who don't really want to live the consequences of their ideas. You don't get freedom with their ideas, you get Somalia. You get armed thugs, daily drug use and random violence as the order of the day. justice devolves into the whims of the powerful, not the rule of law.

    What libertarianism would do is freeze the society in its status quo. No racial, no social justice, just angry people relying on the whims of the powerful to do as they would. Government is the social leveller, without it, people would do as they chose, and in many cases, the weak would suffer and revert to serfdom.

    posted by Steve @ 9:45:00 AM

    9:45:00 AM

    The News Blog home page

    Anarchy in Iraq

    They cannot protect her.

    Unchecked Lawlessness Stresses Iraqi Society

    By Karl Vick
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Sunday, May 30, 2004; Page A30

    BAGHDAD -- The report of his death found Abdulsemi Janabi in a meeting. His cell phone chirped, and through her sobs his wife told him that a radio station had just reported that his head had been found in one part of Baghdad, his body in another.

    Janabi, a dean at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, assured his wife that he remained in one piece, safe and sound. He was on campus, sitting opposite a group of angry Shiite students demanding a prayer room and an office. In that moment, Janabi decided to take their demands more seriously.

    Faced with the threatening broadcast and rumors that the students were supported by shadowy allies off campus, Janabi stopped going to work. His colleagues, who recounted the story, called his decision prudent in a city ruled by the law of the jungle for more than a year.

    Violence, and the fear of it, defined everyday life in occupied Iraq long before the current insurgency. Ambushes, kidnappings and militias -- all the dangers lurking for Western visitors since last month -- emerged as dangers for many of Baghdad's 5 million residents shortly after the city fell in April 2003.

    In the months that followed, while car bombs and attacks on U.S. forces grabbed the headlines, a relentless sense of insecurity eroded the patience of Iraqis, 92 percent of whom agreed that "freedom and democracy are meaningless without peace and security," according to a poll conducted in January for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

    Much of the country has been badly destabilized by the recent surge in fighting aimed at forcing out U.S. troops. But Iraqis say that their society was already strained by the disorder that emerged whenever U.S. forces were not around -- a lawlessness largely unchecked by a U.S.-trained police force that many citizens regarded as ineffectual from the start.

    "Is there any solution for this?" said Abu Fateh, cradling his gray head in his hands in a room crowded with friends of his nephew, a mechanic murdered in the Volkswagen repair shop the family runs across the street from their home. Ahmed died beside a co-worker in the kind of gangland killing that has become routine over the last year in a neighborhood in western Baghdad called Khadra.

    The killers, who wielded German-made submachine guns and cleared out in seconds, seemed professional. The police did not. "They just came in their cars and watched from a distance," Fateh said.

    The wonder is that any came at all. For months after a car bomb destroyed the district's police station in early November, an adjoining precinct deployed just 15 officers to the neighborhood, which has a population of 100,000 people.

    "The police work sometimes. Sometimes they're tired," Ahmed Kadim Ibrahim, deputy interior minister, said on one of his last days on the job before heading to a position with Iraq's delegation to the United Nations. ("I need to learn politics," he explained.) Ibrahim spent a year working alongside U.S. overseers trying to build the national police force, which partially collapsed last month when some members joined insurgents and others simply surrendered the streets to men with guns.

    "Three months ago you could see Iraqi police setting up checkpoints all over at night," he said. "Now, you cannot find them."

    On paper, the force entered April at full strength: 70,000. But Coalition Provisional Authority figures show that fewer than 3,000 completed a two-month training course, and 55,000 were listed as "untrained."

    "Police officers require long training," said Sameer Shaker Sumaidaie, Iraq's new interior minister. An effective force "cannot be produced by courses that take as long as boiling eggs."

    Iraq is in near anarchy. Hell, 100 cops walked off the job today in Najaf, they don't have weapons or enough numbers to do the job. While the neocons ignore the absolute lawlessness in Iraq. Americans don't like living in violence ,why should Iraqis catch hell. Iraq is like some abatoir where no one controls anything. The cops cannot protect the citizens and the their ranks are completely penetraited by resistance members.

    I think Memorial Day is making people look a lot harder at Iraq and its consequences. Despite the claim that things are going well in Iraq, a fantasy I feel honor bound to refute daily, the reality is nothing is going right. Not the war, not the reconstruction, not security. Our successes are few and far between.

    The real question is how long will Iraqis tolerate this before reacting en masse?

    posted by Steve @ 2:08:00 AM

    2:08:00 AM

    The News Blog home page

    Memorial Day

    War doesn't get easier over time

    I'm watching Tina Brown at the moment, because she's talking about Iraq. In the span of the previous 20 minutes, both 60 Minutes and Dateline ran heartbreaking stories on the dead from Iraq. I can decide which affected me more, the faces of the dead or the letters from the dead. Both were deeply emotional.

    There are thousands of families which are suffering this Memorial Day, the relatives of the dead and the relatives of the injured.

    They also dedicated the World War II memorial on Saturday, and the reaction was not the one you would have been led to expect from decades of war movies. One veteran said to an ABC reporter "I wouldn't come back here if you paid me. The memories were just too painful". Another, on NPR, broke down in tears as he remembered landing in Normandy at the age of 16. All he could remember was his friends who died that day. There was none of the fake lauditory crap so evident in Tom Brokaw's hagiographic work. It was just so painful for these men, and their memories at 80 were pretty sharp. We forget how young these men were in 1944, but most were teenagers or 20-21. Kids, no more or less.

    When Dateline interviewed the mother of a dead 19 year old female soldier, it was the same sense of waste and loss. The idea is that 19 year old girls do not die in combat, but they do. At least in Iraq.

    The 60 Minutes tribute had so many young faces, kids in prom tuxes and graduation gowns. A year or two ago, they were sitting in classes and serving fast food. Now, they were dead. Killed in Iraq in a war without point.

    Bush has been quite this Memorial Day, showing up at the WWII Memorial, but saying nothing of comfort or sense to the people who's teenage children are either crippled for life or dead. Iraq is a pathetic mess as crooks decide to divide up the spoils of their loot. Allawi, Chalabi, it doesn't matter. They're all crooks and the Iraqi people hate them more than Saddam.

    This seems to be all a waste, a sad, pointless waste.

    This is a painful Memorial Day because we are not talking about the past, but the present and all we're getting from Bush is more of the same. More platitudes, more protecting the same exiles who lied to us so nakedly, more of the same failures. It is tiring to see and one can only hope that people realize that the war needs to end. No matter how tough we talk, Abu Ghraib was our Gettysburg. We lost the Iraq war because no Iraqi will ever trust us again unless we line their pockets.

    posted by Steve @ 12:01:00 AM

    12:01:00 AM

    The News Blog home page

    Sunday, May 30, 2004

    Beer Can Chicken

    Beer can Chicken is one of the great recipes of the grill. Unlike many barbecue recipes, this one produces awesome results from the oven. I live in an apartment and don't have regular access to a grill and to be honest, I'd rather fix steaks due to the time factor. This takes at least an hour to cook. And since it is Memorial Day weekend, those of you having parties and barbecues might want to toss this on the grill or in the oven. It's one I'd clip and keep myself.

    Steven Raichlen, an expert barbecue cook, has the following recipe for beer can chicken:

  • Method:
    Indirect grilling

    Special Equipment:
    1 1/2 cups mesquite chips, soaked in cold water to cover for 1 hour and drained

    * 1 large whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
    * 3 tablespoons Basic Rub for Barbecue or your favorite dry barbecue rub
    * 1 can (12 ounces) beer

    1. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body cavities of the chicken. Remove the package of giblets, and set aside for another use. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water. then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the rub inside the body and neck cavities, then rub another 1 tablespoon all over the skin of the bird. If you wish, rub another 1/2 tablespoon of the mixture between the flesh and skin. Cover and refrigerate the chicken while you preheat the grill.

    2. Set up the grill for indirect grilling, placing a drip pan in the center. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; then, when smoke appears, lower the heat to medium.

    3. Pop the tab on the beer can. Using a "church key"-style can opener , make 6 or 7 holes in the top of the can. Pour out the top inch of beer, then spoon the remaining dry rub through the holes into the beer. Holding the chicken upright, with the opening of the body cavity down, insert the beer can into the cavity.

    4. When ready to cook, if using charcoal, toss half the wood chips on the coals. Oil grill grate. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan. Spread out the legs to form a sort of tripod, to support the bird.

    5. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, until fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 hours. If using charcoal, add 10 to 12 fresh coals per side and the remaining chips after 1 hour.

    6. Using tongs, lift the bird to a cutting board or platter, holding a large metal spatula underneath the beer can for support. (Have the board or platter right next to the bird to make the move shorter. Be careful not to spill hot beer on yourself.) Let stand for 5 minutes before carving the meat off the upright carcass. (Toss the beer can out along with the carcass).

  • But some people disagree, like Chicago Trib columnist John Kass:

    I'll help readers do it right, with my special secret Mediterranean ingredients, so they'll be the envy of their friends.

    Steve wants you to toss wet hickory chips on the coals, to drive smoke into the chicken. This should properly be called "Hee Haw" Chicken or "Deliverance" Chicken.

    Heavy wood smoke is perfect for ribs, turkey, brisket and pork shoulder but never for a delicate chicken. That's a chicken hate crime, Mr. Steve.

    Obviously, Steve's chicken is for toothless rustics sipping jug whiskey, with hound dogs named Blue sleeping at their bare feet on a rickety porch, flies everywhere and some sullen, slow-witted adolescent squatting on a cool patch of dirt while picking malevolently on a banjo.

    Do you want that image anywhere near your back-yard deck this weekend? Of course not. Instead, you want my gentle and sophisticated Kass' Beer Can Chicken™.

    And it won't cost you $12.95. I'll give it to you for the price of this newspaper, just so Steve won't get it, that dern rip-off.

    "Hey, he didn't rip you off," said my editor. "If I'm not mistaken, you ripped it off from the New York Times, and I know this because I gave you the article. So you probably ripped him off first."

    Perhaps. But he didn't think of it first, either. It's a cheap philosophical argument, anyway. Joyously inserting an open can of beer deeply into the rump of a chicken and setting it on a covered grill is as American as jazz. Who can rip off jazz?

    What really bothers me is that he's charging $12.95, and I'm not wetting my beak in the profits.

    So without further whining, here's my free summer treat to you--how to properly make Kass' Beer Can Chicken™:

    Set up your grill for the indirect method. On a gas grill, simply turn half the burners to medium, leaving the others off. On charcoal grills, place a disposable aluminum drip pan on the bottom grate. Pile the coals on either side. Light them. Then prepare the bird.

    Use only a tender fryer (not a roaster). Remove the giblets; rinse the chicken with cold water. Throw a handful of salt in a bowl of cold water. Soak the chicken for about a half-hour. Rinse again. Pat dry.

    Squeeze a lemon into the cavity and down the neck. Squeeze the juice of another lemon or two and one tablespoon of olive oil into a cup. Stir quickly and apply to the outside skin, sprinkling salt and pepper.

    Open a beer can (not a bottle) and drink a quarter of it. Punch two small additional holes in the top of the can.

    Put one teaspoon of Cavender's Greek Seasoning into the can. Cavender's, from an ancient Greek formula, is made in Arkansas. Sprinkle Cavender's all over the chicken. If you don't have Cavender's, use oregano, a dash of garlic powder, basil, thyme, salt, pepper and a little more oregano.

    Insert the can of beer into the cavity all the way, without bending the can. The bottom of the can and the two legs serve as the base of a tripod, with the chicken sitting, upright, on the grate. Once the coals are ready, put the chicken on the top grate (on a charcoal grill). Put the cover on the grill.

    Cooking time is between one hour and 15 minutes and an hour and a half. Once done, remove chicken from grill to cool. The best way to remove the can is to lift the chicken firmly with tongs, insert a long spoon down the neck and push the can out. Enjoy.

    Since I saved you $12.95, do me a favor. Don't tell Steve.

    Personally, I cook mine at 350 in the oven on my cast iron frying pan, so I can catch the juices and make a barbecue sauce or cook some potatoes in a hot cast Iron pan.

    But no matter how you cook it, the juices stay in the bird, the fat drips down into the pan and leaves a lot of flavor. You know how chicken often sits if not in it's own juices, close enough to steam it. Which is why I like this in the oven. It's a good way to test the recipe before a barbecue.

    Also, you can use Coke, white wine or any liquid instead of beer. I used a can of ginger ale because I was out early and you can't buy beer before 12 on Sunday in New York. But the liquid rises, the chicken is cooked upright, like a rotisserie without the skewers and you get the most tender chicken possible.

    posted by Steve @ 4:15:00 PM

    4:15:00 PM

    The News Blog home page

    A simple lie

    Pipeline to Haifa? Come on, you didn't really believe that.Sucker.

    Ahmad Chalabi pushed a tainted case for war. Can he survive the occupation

    Paul Wolfowitz, who was one of the earliest and most outspoken proponents of an invasion of Iraq, and who has been friends with Chalabi for years, spoke of him with studied detachment at a recent congressional hearing. He praised the I.N.C.’s effectiveness in providing battlefield intelligence since the war began, but he said, “I think there’s quite a bit of street legend out there that somehow he is the favorite of the Defense Department, and we had some idea of installing him as the leader of Iraq.”

    But a prominent State Department official told me that he saw numerous documents that had been prepared by the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, which devoted considerable effort to planning the war. The office was overseen by Douglas Feith. “Every list of Iraqis they wanted to work with for positions in the government of postwar Iraq included Chalabi and all of the members of his organization,” the State Department official said

    This is the kind of revisionist history which would make David Irving proud. Who is he kidding. He pimped Chalabi harder than West Coast Autos remake the hoopties Xzibit drives in the shop on Pimp My Ride. He and the neocons wanted President Chalabi, because they believed their own bullshit.

    Peter Galbraith, a former Ambassador to Croatia and a human-rights activist, who has long supported Chalabi’s efforts to depose Saddam, suggested that if the Administration was unhappy with the outcome in Iraq it had only itself to blame. “Chalabi is one of the smartest people I know,” he told me. As Galbraith put it, Chalabi “figured out in the eighties that the road to Baghdad ran through Washington. He cultivated whom he needed to know. If he didn’t get what he wanted from State, he went to Capitol Hill. It’s a sign of being effective. It’s not his fault that his strategy succeeded. It’s not his fault that the Bush Administration believed everything he said. Should they have? Of course not. They should have looked critically. He’s not a liar; he believed the information he was purveying, and part of it was valuable. But his goal was to get the U.S. to invade Iraq.”

    Isn't thsi the same man who wants to dividen Iraq and screw the Sunnis? Ah, many things are now clear. Chalabi isn't only a liar, he's a thief and killer of American troops, who he clearly could not give a damn about as long as he wins. This is not effective, it is the butchery of American troops, Clearly, Galbraith considers American soldiers lesser human beings than his friends the Kurds and Chalabi. The consequences of his lies fill hospitals and cemetaries.

    Wolfowitz was particularly taken with Chalabi, an American friend of Chalabi’s said. “Chalabi really charmed him. He told me they are both intellectuals. Paul is a bit of a dreamer.” To Wolfowitz, Chalabi must have seemed an ideal opposition figure. “He just thought, This is cool—he says all the right stuff about democracy and human rights. I wonder if we can’t roll Saddam, just the way we did the Soviets,” the friend said.

    We what the Soviets? Uh, no. They collpsed from their own rot and we didn't have to occupy Moscow to do it. Sucker Wolfowitz forgot one thing, people say a lot of shit, it's what they do which matters.


    When the Bush Administration took office, in 2001, neoconservatives such as Wolfowitz and Perle were restored to power. Brooke told me that in February of that year Wolfowitz called him late one night and promised that this time Saddam would be deposed. Brooke said that Wolfowitz told him he was so committed to this goal that he would resign if he couldn’t accomplish it. (Wolfowitz called this account “nonsense.”)

    Why? It sounds like something he would say. It also makes him sound like a spendthirft with American lives. I wonder if anyone will ask him how does it feel to have helped kill 800 Americans to establish the Islamic Republic of Iraq, a number he couldn't even remember last time they asked him on the Hill

    In an unusual arrangement, two months before the invasion began, the chief correspondent for the Times, Patrick E. Tyler, who was in charge of overseeing the paper’s war coverage, hired Chalabi’s niece, Sarah Khalil, to be the paper’s office manager in Kuwait. Chalabi had long been a source for Tyler. Chalabi’s daughter Tamara, who was in Kuwait at the time, told me that Khalil helped her father’s efforts while she was working for the Times.

    In early April, 2003, Chalabi was stranded in the desert shortly after U.S. forces airlifted him and several hundred followers into southern Iraq, leaving them without adequate water, food, or transportation. Once again, the assistance of the U.S. military had backfired. Chalabi used a satellite phone to call Khalil for help. According to Tamara, Khalil commandeered money from I.N.C. funds and rounded up a convoy of S.U.V.s, which she herself led across the border into Iraq.

    Tyler told me that he hadn’t known that Khalil had helped Chalabi get into southern Iraq. He added that Khalil had a background in journalism, and that Chalabi hadn’t been a factor in the war when he hired her. “We were covering a war, not Chalabi,” he said. The Times dismissed Khalil on May 20, 2003, when word of her employment reached editors in New York. During the five months that Khalil was employed, Tyler published nine pieces that mentioned Chalabi. When asked about Khalil’s rescue of Chalabi, William Schmidt, an associate managing editor of the Times, said, “The Times is not aware of any such story, or whether it happened. If so, it was out of bounds.”

    Is he fucking kidding? First, hiring Chalabi's niece was so wrong it wasn't funny. First question is: was he shagging her? Second question is: was this a payoff to Chalabi? Why would you hire a source's relative, who then took days off to rescue her uncle. Tyler's claim of ignorance is a joke. The only question is his relationship with this woman and why he would hire her to be office manager for the Times Beirut Kuwait bureau, a relationship so out of bounds, New York ordered her fired. The fact that the Times didn't know of her activities, and her days off, is either fishy or stupid. You really have to ask if Tyler hired his girlfriend and then covered for he with his bosses. After all, she was apparently close to Uncle Ahmad, the American killer, and her job as office manager allowed him to possibly know exactly what the Times planned to cover and what Chalabi needed to feed them to promote his quest to be the next king of Iraq.

    For many years, Chalabi has been openly collegial with reformist leaders in Iran, such as President Mohammad Khatami, with whom he met last November, in Tehran. He has also admitted to meeting with the head of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security. Immediately before the invasion of Iraq, Chalabi was living in a gated villa in Tehran that he had persuaded the U.S. to purchase as a satellite branch of the I.N.C.

    What the fuck? We did what? Bought him a motherfucking villa in Tehran? You have to be kidding. This is the kind of thing must have Iranian intelligence laughing their asses off. We buy Chalabi a villa in Iran. My God, that is just dumbfounding. It leaves me speechless, no stunned. No, speechless, dumbfounded and stunned. How could DOD be so fucking stupid. They buy this clown his reltirement villa. I'm sure his Iranian paymasters are amused. And there are neocons who still defend him? Jesus. Do these people need a bridge in Brooklyn? There's one for sale, cheap, only $340K a month for the maitenence.

    Mayer's article is required reading to understand Chalabi and the US. It hits all the high points and provides new insights. The New Yorker has done what the Times has not, examine the US occupation in Iraq and how it happened. They will be loaded with National Magazine Awards for their reporting (the Pulitzer is only for daily newspapers, drama and history).

    posted by Steve @ 8:31:00 AM

    8:31:00 AM

    The News Blog home page

    Shocked and appalled

    Gallery owner Lori Haigh after being hit by a coward

    The picture which caused so many cowards to crawl from under their rocks, forgetting that if it didn't happen, no one could paint it

    Attacked for art, S.F. gallery closes
    Backers rally after violent responses to painting of tortured Iraqis

    Ryan Kim, Chronicle Staff Writer

    The furor began on May 16 when Colwell, an East Bay artist, made an addition to his monthlong showing at Haigh's gallery on Powell Street. Angered by the pictures he saw of Iraqi prisoners being abused, he created a black and white painting depicting three hooded and naked men undergoing electric shock torture by American soldiers. Colwell, who took down his paintings Saturday, declined to comment.

    Two days after the painting went up, Haigh arrived at her gallery to find broken glass, eggs and trash strewn outside her storefront. Haigh also began receiving the first of about 200 angry voicemails, e-mails and death threats.

    A week ago, a man walked into the gallery and spit in Haigh's face. On Tuesday, Haigh decided to temporarily close the gallery and began to consider giving up on her dream of owning an art gallery. Just two days later, another man knocked on the door of the gallery and then punched Haigh in the face, knocking her out, breaking her nose and causing a concussion.

    It's more than Haigh ever imagined. She opened the studio 1 1/2 years ago, hoping to display the works of important and possibly controversial modern artists.

    "I enjoyed listening to people's different opinions on what they saw," said Haigh, a mother of two. "That was part of the joy of having a gallery."

    "When this can happen in the middle of North Beach in San Francisco, where people always expressed themselves, it means Iraq is not the only place being occupied," said Daniel Macchiarini, a North Beach gallery owner himself. "But this is an act of desperation. The people who attack like this, their ideas have failed."

    On Saturday, Haigh's supporters tried to remind her of the joy in owning a gallery in North Beach, long a haunt for counterculture poets and artists.

    I am outraged by this.

    First, US troops tortured these people and saying so is the truth, not a slander or fiction. It happened.

    Second, where are the police? The mayor of SF was brave when he had to hand out some now useless marriage licenses to same sex couples, but this woman is violently attacked by cowards in the most liberal city in America and she doesn't merit police protection? It's obvious that she's been the vicitim of harassment and violent assault and from this story, there is a deafening official silence. Which is intolerable. SF is supposed to be the least likely city, for this kind of thuggery. And it is thuggery, pure and simple.

    I think, in New York, the police would be outside the gallery and looking for suspects. After the mayor denounced a painting n the Brooklyn Museum, people were arrested for attempting to deface it.

    Third, any man who could walk up to a woman and punch her in the face belongs in jail. If he was so brave, he could enlist at any time and walk around Iraq or Afghanistan, where courage is always needed. He didn't show anything but the rankest sort of cowardice. As did the man who spit in her face. What utterly gutless, shameful cowards. Did they think they were proving their manhood by doing this? Or defending America?

    Daniel Macchiarini is right. People do this kind of despicable shit out of desperation, not out of conviction. They are afraid of the truth and have to resort to violence to make their point. However, the city of San Francisco should make every effort to jail these cowards. Anything less is an abdication of the responsibility as government officials and Americans.

    posted by Steve @ 12:06:00 AM

    12:06:00 AM

    The News Blog home page

    Saturday, May 29, 2004

    How to read a newspaper story

    Ok, all of you know how to read a newspaper story, but I think many of you don't know how they're constructed.

    So I'll explain the process of news gathering, then we'll go through a Washington Post story.

    First, the reporter goes to work, checks their e-mail, then calls their regular sources. In some cases, it's a press spokesman or PR person, sometimes a direct worker. Reporters usually have a few stories juggling at once.

    So, they check what is knows as an assignment desk to see what the editors expect. Some days, they'll have to cover a conference or a meeting, some days they'll have to work their sources. Which means pester them.

    Sources can be anyone, but in most of the stories discussed on the blogs, they're usually, mid and upper-level bureaucrats in Washington. Washington is a special case, and very different than journalism elsewhere. In any other place, being socially close to a source is discouraged, but in Washington access is everything. It is common to spend social time with the people you cover in Washington. Social status and proximity matter in Washington journalism. Not that most reporters get those invites, only those covering politics and the major federal agencies can play, Health reporters stay home.

    Anonymous sources are used in stories for two reasons, to protect a source from retribution and to float a trial balloon a story about a controversal proposal.

    Reporters are honored bound to protect their sources,even at the cost of going to jail. Which is why you won't see Robert Noval reveal his source in the Plame case. Traditions are not always comfortable or easy to live with, and this is one of them. Just because many people think Novak is wrong, the right to protect sources is a cornerstone of a free press.

    A news story goes through several stages. The first is the reporter. In many cases, the original story looks nothing like what runs in the paper the next day. First, a reporter usually has to finish their story by a set time, called a deadline. This allows the story to go into editing at the copy desk. Daily newspaper journalism is divided into reporters and copy editors. Usually being on then desk is a quicker route to promotion, while being a reporter is the route to some public fame and book contracts.

    Copy editors fact check each story and jmay substancially rewrite what is handed in. The fact is that people good at digging up facts can be mediocre writers. Which is why unedited copy NEVER leaves the newspaper. But if you ever see it, it can be stunningly bad. Copy editors clean up the writing, correct the spelling, add in facts and any extra material. They also work with the designers to decide what theb story will look like in the paper. They also write the headlines and generally clean things up.

    The section editors read the stories, decide their placement, final length (copy can be trimmed from the bottom) and design. The senior editors for their section (each seperate section has a senior editor) then read the copy which goes into the paper. The senior staff of the newspaper may read a selection of the stories, but only intevene in the most serious stories. They also settle disputes over space and which stories run on the front page. At a large, national paper, like the Washington Post or LA Times, the city desk, national desk and foriegn desk all fight for space in the front of the paper. There is a limited number of inches in print and all these different desks want that space. The editors settle it. Local stories get cut for national and foreign news in these papers, even though they have seperate Metro/local sections.

    However, reporters have to pitch their stories to their editors and many stories will never run because the editors are not interested in them. Weeks, months, even years will go by before some of these stories can run, if at all.

    The most prestigious jobs on a newspaper is to cover the White House or to be a columnist. Second best is to be a foreign correspondent, then national reporter, then city hall, then the sate house. State capitals are usually boring. The best reporters in these jobs command the most space for their work.

    Editorial is the name for all of the newspaper's news sections. Everything else is called business. The two sides of the newspaper are regarded as seperate entities, with limited influence on each other.

    OK, now let's look at a story from today's Washington Post

    Pick Appears to Catch Bush Administration Off Guard

    By Mike Allen and Robin Wright
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Saturday, May 29, 2004; Page A16

    Mike Allen is a White House reporter, while Robin Wright is Judy Miller's rival and widely respected, unlike Miller, for her work on the Middle East, which she has covered for 20+ years. She's not seen as carrying water for any particu;ar cause

    The Bush administration appeared to be caught off guard and somewhat confused yesterday after the Iraqi Governing Council nominated a physician with longtime CIA ties as the post-occupation prime minister. Officials in Washington scrambled to respond after the Iraqis took the public lead in a process that was supposed to be run by a U.N. envoy.

    The Administration is at least one high powered source within the White House , Defense or State Department.

    In a telephone conversation at 2:30 p.m., a senior U.S. official involved in Iraq policy sounded uncertain about whether Ayad Allawi would head Iraq's interim government after the United States transfers limited authority on June 30.

    The confusion could be coming from Defense, because State is now running the show, It is likely that this is Powell's Deputy Richardf Armitage, who have long been unhappy with aspects of Iraq policy..

    "We may or may not have heard the last word on the prime minister," the official said. "You have to put a lot of pieces together first."

    This also hints at inteference and unhappiness with the CIA's boy Allawi stepping over his cousin Chalabi. Remember, the INC is DoD's baby, the INA, Allawi's group, is State's and the CIA's baby.

    A senior administration official in Baghdad said that L. Paul Bremer, the civilian U.S. administrator, and Robert D. Blackwill, the U.S. presidential envoy to Iraq, knew about the impending selection on Thursday. But officials in Baghdad feared a leak and told few officials in Washington. Some members of Bush's war cabinet knew where the process was heading but were surprised by the timing of the council's decision.

    This clearly points to defense as the source of this story, even nthoufh
    The administration's statements were reserved because the United States did not want to appear to be driving the process, officials said, especially because of the country's past ties with Allawi.

    The confusion extended to the United Nations in New York, where chief spokesman Fred Eckhard at first said that the U.N. envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, had been in the room for the selection by the U.S.-appointed council but then later corrected himself to say that Brahimi had not been there.

    This indicates Kofi Annan, UN General Secretary, is not happy with the process. He sends a signal that the process is confused and the UN is not to blame for it

    "It's not how we expected it to happen," Eckhard told Reuters.

    By day's end, Brahimi and Bremer had both endorsed Allawi, and a senior U.S. official in Baghdad said without equivocation that Allawi will take office.

    One of the working assumptions among senior foreign policy officials in the Bush administration had been that Iraq's new prime minister, the most important of the 30 jobs to be filled, would not come from the Governing Council. None of the 25 council members, all handpicked by the U.S.-led coalition, has rallied significant popular support, according to several public opinion surveys over the past few months.

    State was left holding the bag

    In an attempt to ensure that the new government would enjoy a degree of legitimacy in the eyes of Iraq's 25 million people, U.S. officials also thought they needed to find someone who would not be seen as a surrogate of the United States -- representing a "clean break from the occupation," as a diplomat from a coalition country said. Allawi is among those with close U.S. ties, including to the U.S. intelligence community.

    State is saying they have nothing to do with this. This could be the result of a deal between DOD and CIA. But State is saying "he's not our boy."

    During his speech Monday on the future of Iraq, Special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is now consulting with a broad spectrum of Iraqis to determine the composition of this interim government," Bush said in Carlisle, Pa. "The special envoy intends to put forward the names of interim government officials this week."

    Seems someone jumped the line

    Four hours after the council's vote, Bush said during a Rose Garden ceremony that the United States was prepared to "transfer complete and full sovereignty to an Iraqi government that will be picked by Mr. Brahimi of the United Nations."

    That was not how the selection emerged. The Associated Press moved its bulletin from Baghdad at 8:26 a.m. Eastern time, saying: "The Governing Council has unanimously endorsed Iyad Allawi to become Iraq's new prime minister." Reuters followed at 8:41 a.m.: "IYAD ALLAWI CHOSEN AS IRAQI PRIME MINISTER -- AIDE TO ALLAWI."

    Shortly after 10 a.m., White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters: "Mr. Brahimi is the one who will make the determinations about who the representatives are on the interim government."

    The White House, caught flatfooted, after shifting towards State's view, was sandbagged. So now they blame the UN

    Now, to the average reader, who doesn't know about sourcing or attribution, they may think this is another case of White House inepdtitude, but in reality, it's about another day in the war between State and DOD and State, the White House and the UN were caught flat. Now, ask yourself who is missing from this story?

    Every news story has people who are included and people who are missing. Who is the one person who should have had a handle on this and seems not to? Condi Rice. The NSA was not quoted, nor were her people, unless it was to say "we had no clue". State is wildly unhappy about the choice, but sends the wrong signal in saying he can be replaced. The whole discomfort with this comes from State's mistrust of the IGC. This is why there are National Security Advisors. This story also suggests gameplaying by the GOPCPA, where little conservatives leak stories to their patrons.

    Every story has missing people as well as those who speak, and the guess and it is a guess, that Condi and the White House were not informed of this until it was too late./

    posted by Steve @ 1:01:00 AM

    1:01:00 AM

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    Friday, May 28, 2004

    Dead Man Walking

    So, why wouldn'r Iraqis trust me, a former CIA puppet, to run their country.

    This is ridiculous. Here I was, ready to relax, watch Ashley Judd jump around in her panties on Fox, and I read about the totally screwed up selection process. Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord, a former Baathist and a CIA/MI6 rentboy, is now PM. You don't have to wear a tin foil hat to realize this guy is dead. They blew up Sergio DeMello, one of the Hakims, and Shia pilgrims. How Allawi expects to stay alive is beyond me.

    Usually, like Noriega, they hide their CIA ties. This guy, besides coming from the hated Chalabi family, worked for the CIA and MI6. You don't have to be Sadr to think this stinks on ice. The Brahimi "agreement" seems like a US hustle to me. So they couldn't get Chalabi in the job, so they get his cousin. Not that Iraqis are that stupid, they know a hustle when they see one, So they will try their level best to blow him away, probably via semtex car bomb.

    What's the big mistake? They picked someone from the hated IGC. Iraqis hate these exiles who came back to scoop up the country while their kids fought the wars and suffered under the sanctions. These people cannot be given credibility by the US, UN or EU. By picking an exile, especially one greedy, desperate or stupid enough to take the job, is reenforcing failure. They could have picked a worse US puppet, but that's unlikely.

    Laura Rozen a Washington-based national security reporter, wrote that Chalabi was caught by a "European intelligence agency" read GCHQ, the British NSA, passing methods and sources of signal intelligence to Iraq.

    Jonathan Pollard is still in jail for doing the same thing for Israel. John Walker is serving life for this. Handing over signals intelligence is one way to go to jail forever. It is the US gold standard.and they get very upset when it goes into other people's hands. Especially Iranian hands. The worst intelligence failures in the US were signal intelligence.

    You cannot get more serious than an accusation of trading signals intelligence. And that means someone in DOD is a traitor. It's treason to even discuss sources and methods, so how did a foreign national without the SCI ( above Top Secret, Secure Compartimentalized Intelligence) required to discuss such a subject be able to pass them on to Iran? Someone,and I mean a ranking civilian, passed them on and the list who can get that kind of thing is real small, a hundred people or so, outside NSA. The reason they cut him off so fast was the proven allegation he revealed the gold standard of US secrets.

    There is no way that Chalabi could have gotten that info without someone high in DOD giving them to him. Doing so was treason. Not in the Bob Novak way, but real, go to jail for life treason. It would be a massive intelligence failure if this is true. Chalabi should have never hd access to this informtion. Whoever gave it to him betrayed the United States.

    posted by Steve @ 8:13:00 PM

    8:13:00 PM

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    Olympics my ass

    Will never be built

    This has been irritating nme for a while. There is absolutely no clamor for the Olympics coming to New York, none. It's an invention of the real estate industry and politicians. No one who really cares about New York wants this expensive monstrosity of an event here.

    First, the Jets Stadium will face massive opposition from the locals. The new stadium will be built over the Penn Rail Yards on a gigantic platform. This boondoggle will expand the Carlo Gambino Javits convention center. Cablevision, a long time New York villian, has joined the side of the angels with their A Better New York website.

    Let me explain the geography of New York, first. The subway lines end on Eight Avenue, the new stadium would be on 11th Avenue. Right now, most of what is on 11th Avenue on the 30's and 40's is a mix of light industrial, garages, stip clubs and car dealerships. There is no real reason to go to the far west side now. The Jets, who by common sense, should build their stadium in Queens and not Manhattan, would draw thousands of cars from Long Island, where the fan base is. If you've ever been to the Meadowlands after an event, you can imagine the godawful pollution which would follow.

    The way New York is, expect massive lawsuits and an economic review. People were stunned that this plan has gotten as far as it did.

    The Olympics is a pipedream. The planned sites in Queens will all draw lawsuits from local residents siting everything in the book. In fact, this kind of construction will draw a massive legal reaction from ever litigious New Yorkers. The pollution, the crowding, and the vanity use of state and city funds...well, if the IOC is stupid enough to give the city the Olympics, they can enjoy the lawsuits which will follow. Because the only people who want this is the Real Estate lobby.

    Nobody wants to pay for these giveaways or care about a subsidized new Jets stadium. Not when kids don't have gym abd libraries close early.

    posted by Steve @ 6:07:00 PM

    6:07:00 PM

    The News Blog home page

    How to complain to the media

    CNN got it wrong, Al Qaeda is working for the President's reelection.

    Yesterday, CNN's Justice Deparment correspondent, Kelli Arena, said the following:

    [Kelli] ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

    BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.

    Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I know Kelli Arena. We worked on the NYU student newspaper in the 80's, and while I haven't seen her in 15 years, I can state that she's neither stupid nor evil and I seriously doubt a tool of the GOP. She wasn't a close friend or anything, but she was a reasonable person when I worked with her.

    However,many of the e-mails people have been reporducing on Kos and Atrios attack her personally and not the fact that what she said was misleading. She didn't say AQ was on Team Kerry, this idiot Venzke did. All she did was report what he said. Which is her job.

    And that's the problem. Just because she said something you disagree with, and I think the comment is not only stupid, but wrong, savaging her, calling her an idiot and generally implying she's taking her marching orders from Karl Rove is ineffective. How would you react if your e-mail box was filled with invective as her's is today? You'd probably either get really angry or blow it off. What you would NOT do is take it seriously.

    What you have to understand is that reporters have very thin skins. I can tell you that Arena and her bosses are both surprised by the reaction and have discounted most of them. Just like they discount the wingnuts when they run pictures of Abu Ghraib.

    There is a way to complain to the news media and one which will nearly always get their attention, and it's not an invective filled letter, which might make you feel better, but will surely be deleted and ignored.

    1) Be polite

    Journalists are people and really, really thin skinned. If you insult them, they stop listening. Not all do, but most get their backs up like an alley cat. So when you write to criticize, don't say they worship at the alter of Karl Rove or John Kerry. Mention coverage that they've done which you've liked. Address them in a way that will get them to listen. Anyone on TV or in a major newspaper gets a lot of nasty mail, some from unhinged cranks and chronic masturbators.

    2) Don't accuse them, directly, of political bias

    Most journalists take pride in their objectivity. Once you say they're biased, they stop listening. If you think there is a genuine issue of bias, write to their editors, not the reporter. Your goal is to point out an error, not question their professional integrity, unless you have a reason to.

    3) Leave out the invective

    Once you accuse them of working for the GOP, you lose the battle. Simple as that. They're people, they made a mistake, and you're pointing it out, not questioning them like a prosecutor.

    4) Make your point with facts

    A good letter to write to CNN is not how Arena screwed up, but the lack of balance in quoting this Venzke guy without balance. That's the sin here. This guy can think what he want and say what he wants. The problem is a lack of balance. Arena needed to quote someone else rejecting his wacky and disproven theory. After all, AQ was on Team Bush since March. Don't accuse her of his words. Ask where the other viewpoint is.

    5) Do some research

    Find out who the editors are. Not just the President of CNN News Gathering, but the direct supervisors are in Washington and their bosses and CC your letter to all of them. Once a letter is CC'd, they are far more likely to deal with it. You can always delete one e-mail, but five going into the right boxes may get action.

    The goal here is to deal with the coverage and the lack of balance, not insult journalists who report stupid comments from wackos. The issue is getting the other side represented, not merely heaping invective on people.

    posted by Steve @ 3:47:00 PM

    3:47:00 PM

    The News Blog home page

    The menace of the Goths

    Evil...just evil

    $132K of Grant to Combat Goth Returned

    Fri May 21, 6:57 PM ET

    BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - Almost half of a $273,000 grant awarded in 2002 to fight the Goth culture in Blue Springs has been returned because of a lack of interest — and the absence of a real problem.  

    Blue Springs received the grant two years ago from the Youth Outreach Unit, money the city and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves trumpeted proudly as a way to fight a perceived Goth problem.

    But $132,000 of the grant was returned because officials never found much of a problem with the Goth culture, which some students called a fad that most people eventually outgrow.

    Slightly more than $118,000 of the money was earmarked for therapy, assessment and case management, and the plans also included a series of town meetings to discuss the issue.

    "It never happened because referring someone for looking, acting Goth is not a concept that ever got imbedded in people's heads," project manager Allyce Ford said of the therapy proposal.

    Jesus. Are they talking about those mopy motherfuckers who listen to shit like the Smiths and Bauhaus? Goths, unless Alaric is leading them, are pretty fucking harmless. They use up a lot of dark make up, black dye and might be Wiccans or something. But for $132K, they should have been laying RPG ambushes or kidnapping dogs for sacrifice.But in my experience, they're passive, smart kids. Not a threat to the community, like the high school football team.

    posted by Steve @ 1:56:00 PM

    1:56:00 PM

    The News Blog home page

    How stupid can a man be?

    This is the stupidest fucking thing I've read all week.


    PAT Boone says he'll never watch CBS again because "60 Minutes II" aired images of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. The squeaky-clean crooner claims that showing those pictures has made the U.S. more of a target than ever. "For me, CBS has become 'the enemy within,' and I hope never to watch the network again," Boone wrote in a letter to conservative Boone the famously bland singer who was once criticized for singing cleaned-up versions of songs made popular by black singers (he changed Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame" to "Isn't That a Shame") goes on to say: "I think most Americans ought to reflect on the results of their irresponsible and unpatriotic behavior and perhaps narrow their viewing options by one network. The next time America or Americans suffer at the hands of terrorists, thank CBS."

    No, Pat, I intend to blame the terrorists, not CBS. How dare you call CBS the "enemy within" as if they're the one running around raping people. I know guys like you don't read the Constitution, but Freedom of the Press is exactly that. I know you think you're some kind of patriot, but you're the worst kind of traitor, one who would condone torture and abuse in the name of the United States. Isn't it bad enough that 800 Americans have died for Bush's folly? Did we really have to shame the country as well? When we torture, Pat, we betray everything this country stands for.

    The enemies of America are those who use dogs and rape to shame this country., not the ones who expose their nefarious deeds. Patriotism is not some blind tunnel where questions are not allowed. True patriots, like the ones who founded this country, would never accept such mindlessness.

    The irresponsible and unpatriotic behavior, one Americans will pay for with their lives, is not Bob Simon's, but the leadership of the Pentagon which justified this abominable act. If you were a true patriot, you would than God we live in a country where such crimes by the government can be reported and investigated. You would be glad CBS ran that story and showed that all Americans do not condone such barbaric acts. That's what a true patriot would do.

    posted by Steve @ 11:24:00 AM

    11:24:00 AM

    The News Blog home page

    Thursday, May 27, 2004

    The failure of American journalism

    The face of failure

    Salon discusses the Times mea culpa today:

    The failures of Miller and the Times' reporting on Iraq are far greater sins than those of the paper's disgraced Jayson Blair. While the newspaper's management cast Blair into outer darkness after his deceptions, Miller and other reporters who contributed to sending America into a war have been shielded from full scrutiny. The Times plays an unequaled role in the national discourse, and when it publishes a front-page piece about aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds, that story very quickly runs away from home to live on its own. The day after Miller's tubes narrative showed up, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News went on national TV to proclaim, "They were the kind of tubes that could only be used in a centrifuge to make nuclear fuel." Norah O'Donnell had already told the network's viewers the day before of the "alarming disclosure," and the New York Times wire service distributed Miller's report to dozens of papers across the landscape. Invariably, they gave it prominence. Sadly, the sons and daughters of America were sent marching off to war wearing the boots of a well-told and widely disseminated lie.

    Of course, Judy Miller and the Times are not the only journalists to be taken by Ahmed Chalabi. Jim Hoagland, a columnist at the Washington Post, has also written of his long association with the exile. But no one was so fooled as Miller and her paper.

    Russ Baker, who has written critically of Miller for the Nation, places profound blame at the feet of the reporter and her paper. "I am convinced there would not have been a war without Judy Miller," he said.

    The introspection and analysis of America's rush to war with Iraq have turned into a race among the ruins. Few people doubt any longer that the agencies of the U.S. government did not properly perform. No institution, however, either public or private, has violated the trust of its vast constituency as profoundly as the New York Times.

    There is, of course, a deeper question here than Judy Miller's bad reporting. Miller, long known for doing her best reporting on her back, is a supreme newsroom politician. The fact that she's still employed by the Times, and the fact they didn't use her name, indicates that she still has some pull in the newsroom. Anyone else would have been canned.

    A lot of newly found critics on the left seem to think that the media is centrally controlled or the consolidation of the media plays some massive role in this. However, conglomorates care about one thing: the bottom line. If it makes money, you can do what you want, say what you want, act how you want. Viacom doesn't stand by Howard Stern because they like strippers. He brings in a billion a year in ad revenue. They could have cared less about the war as long as they made money.

    The same with reporting. A lot of what happens in the newsroom is a dynamic of office politics. Judy Miller is the entre into upper Washington society for many of the editors. She's the one who goes on their arm to the big parties. She knows everyone and where the dirt is buried. Maureen Dowd is a much less reliable social partner, with her snarky comments and relatively moralistic world view. Miller, otoh, has been known for fucking her sources, a matter of journalistic debate for 20 years. Her ethics, personal and professional, have been questioned for as long as I can remember.

    That, short of writing fiction on the news pages, is probably the worst thing you can accuse a journalist of. It's one thing to date someone you've interviewed, it's another to fuck people you rely on for stories. Miller's been accused of this for years. Her lack of professional distance has probably ruined what is left of her career. The blowback from these charges, that she helped manipulate the US into war, are so serious that the Times will not be able to protect her for long.

    But Judy Miller is only one of many, many people who shirked their responsibility to cover Iraq failrly.

    What I think turned the tide was not 9/11, because no one could reasonably object to hunting down Osama, but the Beltway Sniper. The shootings last year scared Metro DC to the core. Reporters and their families were scared in a very personal, very intimate way. It was up close terrorism and it scared many of them. The idea that Saddam had all these magic weapons which could kill Americans, which was a joke at the time for rational people scared the crap out of a lot of people. They accepted Bush's arguments based on fear.

    No one wants to believe the president is a liar. No on wanted to believe Bush was as venal and evil as he has turned out to be. Even the Guardian was pro-war. They focused on the evil of Saddam and not what came next, which was known as early as December, 2002. Of all the major US and UK papers, only the Independent was seriously anti-war (and thus accurate) in theirn coverage. The Guardian ran a lot of stories which, while doubting Saddam's capability, also bolstered the claims of the exiles, especially in their opinion pages.

    It's important to remember this, because the weight of the bad reporting is falling just on a few newspapers, and it's far more widespread than that. It wasn't just the Times, but nearly every major newspaper in both the US and UK which, if they didn't endorse the war, accepted the claims of the exiles, if not the US government, with scant questioning. The Guardian ran a long piece on what Iraqi exiles, especially pro-war exiles thought , with scant opinion coverage of experts who disagreed.

    Few people, outside of Robert Fisk in the Independent, seperated evil Saddam from chaotic Iraq. Ken Pollack's The Threatening Storm set the intellectual basis for war, neatly glossing over Saddam's strategic challenges and making the case for overthrowing him, under some conditions. Conditions which were not met before the war. There were no stories about how Iraq had strategic and moral challenges with or without Saddam. No one looked past Iraq as Saddam's creation and as a set of other logistical challenges. Iraq was Saddam and not a country.

    The US media, as well as the Democratic Party, made an assumption which a lot of people have not realized, they assumed the President would not lie about national security. This was a reasonable assumption for every other President, but not for Bush. But no one realized how politically driven and ideological the White House was. They took it on faith that Chalabi and his patrons were telling some version of the truth.

    Given that, and the cudgle of patriotism, most accurate reporting, including think tank reports, foreign media, and NGO reports, didn't get much coverage outside the blogosphere and a few columnists. The mainstream media refused to believe the war in Iraq was mismanaged. Even when US soldiers expressed open disdain for the Secretary of Defense on camera, most of the media wrote it off to homesickness. Not a totally mismanged logistical system, which to this day has parents raising money for their kids in Iraq so they can get radios and armor.

    The US media failed, not because they wrote uncritical stories about the war, given the political tenor of the times, that was the likely outcome. The failure of the media comes in the aftermath of the war. When it was clear that the GOPCPA was the new NKVD, driven by politics, few stories asked who was staffing our new colonial service and what they were up to. Many of the stories have shown less enterprise than local city hall reporters. The finances of the reconstruction have received far less coverage than the fighting, despite its long-term importance.

    Despite ample evidence that the reconstruction was corrupt, only NPR's Marketplace has done the long form journalism needed to explain this.

    The other major gap in US coverage has been the behavior of the US troops in Iraq. Abu Ghraib is the final stop in a chain of abuse which has left civilians dead, robbed and probably raped. The raids into homes have left a long chain of bitterness among Iraqis. Abu Ghraib is just poison into the wound. Yet, there is ample evidence that US troops lack fire discpline and routinely disrespect Iraqis as a matter of course. This doesn't make the US papers, even though it is widely discussed elsewhere. So Americans are left mystified as to why hostages are taken and others are burned alive and hung from bridges.

    This is not the kind of thing which is politically popular, but is necessary to understand why Iraqis refuse to support the occupation, which they don't, and haven't.

    The American media is only now, slowly, beginning to understand, how badly they did their jobs. However, they still have to do a lot more than finally firing Mattress Judy and writing off her malfeasance as a singluar act.

    posted by Steve @ 1:09:00 PM

    1:09:00 PM

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