Category Archives: Journalism

Fear and Stupidity: Wrong lesson in government

Contrast the  fear-mongering of elected Republicans  with the abiding words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
fear itself

Lindsey Graham:

If captured, I hope Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.

John McCain in a joint statement with Graham:

“The public safety exception is a domestic criminal law doctrine that allows questioning of a criminal suspect without Miranda warnings for a limited time and purpose.

Prejudgment, no facts, no faith in laws guaranteeing the constitutional rights of an American citizen.

Both are elected by a populace that should think things through. McCain, save us, could have been President of the United States.

The lesson to be taken from Boston is that police know their jobs, and the system does work. If anything, the danger is succumbing to fear. There is this wise analysis by author and journalist, James Bamford, echoing Roosevelt three-quarters of a century ago.

If the idea of terrorism is to terrorize, then the hyper-hysterical media coverage of the Boston bombing was made to order and almost guarantees that others, seeking similar attention, will follow. This was not 9/11, far from it. And shutting down an entire city, telling everyone to lock themselves inside, is not a sign of strength. It is also a terrible precedent to set. London and other major cities have seen much, much worse and managed to follow the principle, Keep Calm and Carry On.

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Filed under Intelligence, Journalism, Politics, Republicans

A Vision Test on Iraq and the Media. Choose A or B

Here are two competing visions of the media handling of the war in Iraq

This is the way it works at the eye doctor. He holds letters in front of your eyes and asks you to choose. The answer gets better and better, hopefully vision more and more clear.

Choose A….

This is a piece by Greg Mitchell, substantially published by The Nation, after being spiked by the Washington Post

For awhile, back in 2003, Iraq meant never having to say you’re sorry.  The spring offensive had produced a victory in less than three weeks, with a relatively low American and Iraqi civilian death toll.  Saddam fled and George W. Bush and his team drew overwhelming praise, at least here at home.

But wait.  Where were the crowds greeting us as “liberators”?  Why were the Iraqis now shooting at each other–and blowing up our soldiers?  And where were those WMDs, bio-chem labs, and nuclear materials?  Most Americans still backed the invasion, so it still too early for mea culpas–it was more “my sad” than “my bad.”

or B

A story by Paul Fahri published on the Opinion Pages

There’s no doubt that many news organizations, including this one, missed important stories, underplayed others that were skeptical of the administration’s case and acted too deferentially to those in power. A few instances — such as the New York Times’ September 2002 report hyping Iraq’s aluminum tubes as evidence of a reconstituted nuclear program — have become infamous. The Times and The Washington Post have publicly examinedand admitted their shortcomings.

But “failure” grossly oversimplifies what the media did and didn’t do before the war, and it ignores important reasons the reporting turned out the way it did. As new threats loom, from Iran to North Korea, better understanding these circumstances can help us assess what happened and whether we’re better positioned today.

Can they both be right? I don’t think so. Somebody will need new glasses.

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Iran and Argentina: Such a (bizarre) deal.

The Argentine government, under President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has signed an odd accord with Iran to conduct a so-called “truth commission” that would investigate the 1994 bombing of the AMIA, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Eighty-five people died and hundreds were wounded in the attack.Atentado_AMIA

In 2007, Argentine won Interpol indictments of six suspects in the case. Members of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist organization, and the Iranian government were among the suspects.

The new Argentine-Iranian deal appears to abandon that. As an Argentine journalist, FABIÁN BOSOER, and a New School professor,   FEDERICO FINCHELSTEIN, warn in the New York Times, the truth commission has no teeth:

The problem is that any recommendations by the commission would be nonbinding; moreover, some of the suspects in the attack are now high-ranking Iranian officials — including the sitting defense minister, Gen. Ahmad Vahidi — and therefore untouchable. Indeed, Iran has repeatedly refused to cooperate with Argentine investigators and ignored international warrants for the arrest of senior Iranian officials believed to have taken part in planning the bombing.

Two ironies in the story come to mind:

  • Nestor Kirchner, Kirchner’s late husband and former president, became emotional when I asked him about the AMIA investigation shortly after he came to office in 2003. Argentina, he said, would never rest until the culprits were found. He recalled his own past, having been himself a victim of human rights abuses himself during Argentina’s dirty war. 
  • The principal Argentine official responsible for the Iran deal is Hector Timerman, the foreign minister. Timerman, a veteran journalist, is the son of Jacobo Timerman. The elder Timerman, who died in 1999, was also a victim of abuse at the hands of the right-wing Argentine military.

The younger Timerman once said:

“If we don’t solve the problem of the AMIA — who placed the bomb, the
local connection and if there was a political cover-up — people will think
that Argentina is a place where we don’t punish those who commit horrendous
crimes and it will open the door to new attacks.”

Will the new deal with Iran help determine culprits and punishment? Not likely.

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Torture and the Movies: A false impression

A friend saw Zero Dark Thirty, the Katherine Bigelow thriller, the other day and was mightily impressed. He was also surprised when I mentioned the controversy about the film’s implication that torture led to the capture of Osama bin Laden. There is every indication that this never happened.

Another friend and colleague, Jeff Stein, writes this:

Moviegoers would be well advised to remember what one of the CIA’s most ardent defenders of torture, former clandestine services head José Rodriquez, admitted last April: That agency interrogators couldn’t get Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to give up Osama Bin Laden’s courier despite days of water-boarding and sleep deprivation.

Click here for Jeff’s report on the subject.

Starting with the Bush administration, some have tried to sell us on the notion that torture produces real-time intelligence. A great number of intelligence officers say the premise is not true. Virtually all of the time, a tortured prisoner will spill whatever beans necessary to stop the torture. Most, if not all of the time, the beans are so old as not to be useful at all.

My concern is that disseminating an idea of the false value of torture softens people up to thinking: “We don’t like it, but it’s necessary.” The necessity is extremely rare.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Journalism, Obama, Politics

McCain and Graham: Hypocrisy Over Benghazi and Susan Rice

Humor always wins out over outrage. Case in point is the blatantly political, obnoxious campaign by Republicans to blame Susan Rice for screw-ups in Benghazi. To understand the context, once and for all, turn to Jon Stewart who makes concise points about senators McCain and Graham, along with another politician named Rice — Condoleezza Rice. More than concise, he demolishes them. (Watch Episode Here)

–In 2002, Condoleezza Rice declared that Iraq is importing aluminum tubes “that can only be used” for enriching uranium and making a bomb.

–Unlike Susan Rice, Condoleezza Rice knew that she was lying about Iraq, and like other members of the Bush administration blames bad information from the CIA. That excuse is exactly what senators McCain and Graham are using to criticize Susan Rice, who is in a far less authoritative position than Condoleezza Rice was 10 years ago.

–Jon Stewart also plays clips of McCain and Graham defending Condoleezza.

The report is so clear and crisp as to melt McCain and Graham in their own hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, let’s be serious, the wing-nut Republicans are just trying to force the president to choose Senator John Kerry as secretary of state, thereby opening a senate seat they believe that defeated senator Scott Brown might reclaim in a special election. Nobody says it as clearly or as concisely as the humorist main man, Mr. Stewart.

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Filed under Bush, Condi Rice, Journalism, Obama, Politics, Politics

Obama’s Victory In International Headlines: “The Best is Still To Come.”

A Reminder that the Whole world is watching and waiting:

Obama tras su reelección: “Para EE UU, lo mejor está por venir” El Pais, Madrid

(Obama after his re-election For the US, The Best is Yet to Come)

“Nate Silver, La Revanche du Geek” Le Monde, Paris
(Nate Silver, the Revenge of the Geek)

Obama wins four more years as Romney challenge is crushed The Independent, London

War-weary Afghans shrug off Obama re-election, http://dawn.com/2012/11/07/obama-says-best-is-yet-to-come-in-victory-speech/, Islamabad.

Iran to take center stage again on new-old President Obama’s agenda Haaretz, Jerusalem

US Daily: Iran’s Tourism Industry Prospering Despite Sanction Fars News Agency, Tehran, which announced Obama’s victory earlier.

Later additions:

Mediocre Mitt Crashes Out, Sydney Morning Herald.

Obama to continue his China policy, <em>China (English) Daily USA</em>

Thai-American elected to US Congress, The Nation, Bangkok

The U.S. Should Learn From Venezuela How to Hold Elections, The Daily Journal, Caracas

Sin los latinos, republicanos ven díficil regresar a la Casa Blanca, El Tiempo, Bogota
(WIthout Latinos, Republicans find it difficult to return to the White House)

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Filed under 1, Afghanistan, Elections, Journalism, Obama, Politics

The Election Horse Race Won’t Be a Photo Finish

A favorable jobs report four days before the election is good news for President Obama. Unemployment remains under eight percent.

Even before that, Nate Silver of the 538 blog, the guru of poll analysis, showed the president has more than an 80 percent chance of winning the election.

The news of the day—and watching the campaign swings these days–adds fuel to my argument that the president has never been in as much trouble as most news outlets have been telling us. My guess is that even after his poor performance in the first debate, President Obama has been in pretty good shape for re-election.

Political reporting focuses on the horse race, rarely on issues. The race narrative gets boring unless you sell the idea of a close finish.

The story about Romney and momentum is mostly a narrative created by Romney’s handlers then swallowed up by the news, then regurgitated by the campaign once more. If nothing else, the closed circuit narrative makes it easier for Romney to hop on and off his plane every day with a dream of winning.

Romney’s key attribute—“I’m not Obama”—plays to his constituency but isn’t enough to win. I think a majority of the electorate—in terms of popular vote and certainly in terms of electoral vote–sees through Romney’s shape-shifting candidacy.

One part of the final sprint will be dirty tricks, anything Karl Rove and company have left in their bag.

Voter suppression, voter turnout, intimidation. Still, likely the tricks won’t be enough to propel Romney to victory.

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We have witnessed the October surprise: right-wing extremism is on the way out.

We have witnessed the October surprise. Right-wing extremism is on the way out.

The surprise came in two forms – most visibly when the governor of New Jersey turned to the president of the United States and began working with him to rebuild the ruined New Jersey coast.

Chris Christie told Republican ideologue television anchors at Fox that he didn’t give a damn about politics – he cared about saving his state.

“I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff. I have a job to do. I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the Shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”

In an October flash, the extremist Republican rhetoric about less government washed away in the reality of the storm called Sandy.

The other October surprise came earlier in response to John Sununu, Mitt Romney’s water bearer and a worthy Halloween ghoul. Sununu brought racism to the fore by saying that former Secretary of State Colin Powell supported President Barack Obama because of their skin color.

Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s former chief of staff, responded angrily. Wilkerson, a university professor and retired army colonel, who by the way is not African-American but is a registered Republican, said this on national television:

Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.

The presidential election on Tuesday has to do with a return to sanity. The victory of President Obama and the sign of a new pragmatic wave – personified by the likes of Christie and Wilkerson – shows that progress can be made.

Christie found a mission – statesmanship over ideology. Wilkerson dared to voice an uncomfortable truth.

The election next week could restore balance. A victory for President Obama is now linked to new moderation in the Republican Party and a return to two-party politics that works. A vote for the president helps to sweep away the dogged ignorance that has captured the conservative spectrum in this country.

Much is at stake on Tuesday. Vote.

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Filed under #Sandy, 1, Elections, Journalism, Obama, Politics

Krauthammer: The Shrink of Romney-land

A friend of mine asked after the attacks in Libya and Egypt – and Mitt Romney’s mindless and mistimed and lying reaction – “is there any decorum left?”
In this strange divided land, there certainly isn’t.

The dividing lines among Democrats and Republicans are stark – have a look at the closed loop of talking heads. Consider Doctor Charles Krauthammer, the Fox television analyst and pundit and columnist (who happens to be a physician and psychiatrist), and witness the depths of self-delusion.

Rallying troops more ignorant than he himself, the doctor tells us today – predictably – that the attack on the U.S. embassy this week was the result of Obama policies. Doctor Krauthammer parrots Romney’s nonsense about “apologizing for America.”

“The substance of what Romney said at the time was absolutely right…The problem is he needs to make a larger argument. There is a collapse of Obama’s policy. It began with the Cairo speech, it began with the apologies to Iran. It began with regret for the Iraq war, it began with the so-called outreach and it completely collapsed. It has gotten nowhere on Iran. These are the fruits of appeasement and apology.”

The good doctor is not alone – the Romney spin masters have sent out Senator Rob Portman of Ohio; the former senator of Minnesota, Norm Coleman, Laura Ingraham and their ilk to spit bile, to lie and confuse.

Romney lied about events in the Middle East this week – by creating talking points untethered to reality. Is there decorum? Is there shame? No.
How can such bull permeate the airwaves?

American journalism bears some of the blame for the state of affairs. The rules of the game say that we must be balanced; newspapers and magazines report that “both sides” are exploiting events for their own political advantage. All would be well, but journalism doesn’t know how to place a flashing light under the visage of a liar. Newspapers publish lies and then place the fact-checking elsewhere in separate columns, even separate pages. There must be a better way.

The Republicans have been lying and deceiving and blocking legislation – hell-bent on taking power, waging war based on fraud and then taking power again — for at least a decade. With a more reliable front-man than Romney, some day too soon, a Reaganesque know-nothing smooth talker one day will win. Probably not this time, unless the Supreme Court-authorized multibillion dollar campaign spending spree works.

One always had the idea that a doctor, a psychiatrist, would be a healing force. That is why Doctor Krauthammer comes across as such strange apparition. The obvious thing to say is “doctor, heal thyself.” And then heal thy brethren.

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Filed under 1, Egypt, Elections, Journalism, Libya, Middle East, Obama, Politics

Health care decision: Key quotes from the ruling – Tim Grieve – POLITICO.com

Health care decision: Key quotes from the ruling – Tim Grieve – POLITICO.com.

Interesting sidelight, the NBC/MSNBC correspondent at the Supreme Court, Peter Williams, described this as a mixed victory at best and downplayed it, even as everyone else was declaring it a major victory for Obama. Williams, a former government official himself under Republican administrations, is also a former staff aide to former Vice President Richard B. Cheney. Wonder what he was thinking.

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