Friday, 22 May 2009

Wet and Dry

Iffy power-supply permitting (here on the east coast of Florida, we've been, and still are, glugging two feet of rain this week), I've been enjoying the antics of your and our politicians and press . . .

Among the pols, hardy-har-har(d) to pick who sounds more ridiculous: Dick Cheney or Anthony Steen? Michelle Bachmann or Nadine Dorries?

Ooo, there's a toughie. But as between our Elizabeth Bumiller or your (sorta) Heather Brooke, 'tis no question at all who's producing the sillier excuse for journalism.

Bumiller (pronounced "Boo-miller") made a big splash in Right Blogovia Wednesday with her front-page New York Times story headlined (emphasis mine) "1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds," which began (emph. still mine),
WASHINGTON - An unreleased Pentagon report provides new details concluding that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against releasing any more prisoners as part of President Obama's plan to shut down the prison by January 2010. ...
That's how the story appeared in the print edition, but for the Web edition, NYT quickly changed the headline to "Later Terror Link Cited for 1 in 7 Freed Detainees" and the lede graf to "An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials."

Bumiller meanwhile hastened to the studios of MSNBC to explain that "there is some debate about whether you should say 'returned' because some of them were perhaps not engaged in terrorism, as we know -- some of them are being held there on vague charges." (And then, having been radicalized by seven years of unwarranted imprisonment, in many cases no doubt including torture, 1 in 7 took up "militant activity" -- whatever that means.)

Though Bumiller's bureau chief, Dean Baquet, pooh-poohed the idea that his stenographer reporter had been played by Bushie holdovers in the Pentagon, ThinkProgress blogger Ken Gude points out further evidence that, indeed, she had (emph. Gude's):
Not until the 17th paragraph does this key passage appear:
The Pentagon has provided no way of authenticating its 45 unnamed recidivists, and only a few of the 29 people identified by name can be independently verified as having engaged in terrorism since their release. Many of the 29 are simply described as associating with terrorists or training with terrorists, with almost no other details provided.
Got that? Bumiller admits that “only a few” can be independently verified, more than half aren’t even identified, and no details are provided about the specific accusations ... until almost the end of the story.

We know previous Pentagon efforts to link released detainees with terrorism have included those who have written op-eds or participated in films about their experience at Guantanamo as “returning to the fight.” What kind of journalism allows a reporter to write a story so clearly slanted in one direction without even a minimal effort to verify the information that forms its basis?
Sigh. I submit that readers would be better served were our Paper of Record to replace Bumiller with Heather Brooke, the freelance reporter whose name Michael Martin and the rest of Parliament will never forget.

London may celebrate her now, but she started out over here. Perhaps you'll enjoy her hometown paper's backgrounder? It begins:
"If the British tabloids knew about the sex-advice column Heather Brooke wrote for the University of Washington Daily nearly two decades ago they might run with it as a salacious news item."
Something like "sex writer rocks Parliament." ...
Another Left-Coaster, California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has long been anxious to get something effective accomplished in the way of climate-change legislation. These days, he's finally rolling hard toward this goal -- but of course, the Republicans on the committee are trying just as hard to stall.

Recently, when HECC's ranking member (i.e., senior Republican) allowed that he'd insist on the full reading of Waxman's 900-page bill and its 400-odd proposed amendments (a procedural step customarily dispensed with), the chairman knew just what to do. He hired a speed-reader. The GOPer backed down -- but not before requesting a sample (h/t to TPM for this YouTube). Dang, not only can that boy fly, he can fly in Texan.

Speaking of them, if you've seen him, you won't have forgotten Fort Worth's own Specialist Zachary Boyd . . .

Though he worried, "I may not have a job any more after the President has seen me out of uniform," young Zach need not fear. Last night, the Secretary of Defense hisownself told an audience in New York,
"Well, let me tell you, the next time I visit Afghanistan I want to meet Specialist Boyd and shake his hand. Any soldier who goes into battle against the Taliban in pink boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage. And I can only wonder about the impact on the Taliban. Just imagine seeing that -- a guy in pink boxers and flip-flops has you in his crosshairs -- what an incredible innovation in psychological warfare. I can assure you that Specialist Boyd's job is very safe indeed."
Finally, this week GW Bush's west Texas is oooing-and-wowing over a tale of limerence: the just-re-elected-by-landslide 32-year-old mayor of the town of San Angelo, JW Lown (at left), resigned Tuesday, just ahead of his fourth-term swearing-in.

He did so by email from Mexico, where he’s joined a lover he met only in March. As he explained to local reporters by phone, his young male partner has been in the States illegally for five years (he himself has dual citizenship), and Mayor Lown felt his choice to be "whether I pursue a promising political career or sacrifice my humanity." The local response may not be quite what you expect.

There you go: this week's report from the States -- where most of us wish (a) that shaming worked as well on our politicians as it does on yours, and (b) that we had a few more JW Lowns, dammit. (And as long as I'm wishing, I wish my car won't float away this evening.)


No comments:

Post a Comment