Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 14th, 2007

How the mainstream media fail at their job

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They won’t follow up on someone else’s scoop. Saul Friedman explains:

Too many of us in journalism are still stuck in that stupid old rut: We won’t follow up on a good story broken by someone else, as if the reader cares who got it first. We are reluctant to acknowledge someone else’s scoop. And that’s especially true if the news was broken first in a regional newspaper or another media that isn’t the New York Times or Washington Post. Even now they’re ignoring a helluva good story.

As a reporter for Knight-Ridder Newspapers and later Newsday, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated because my good exclusive stories were ignored by the big Washington-based media outlets. It’s as if they weren’t stories until the Post or Times recognized them. But imagine what might have been if the Post and Times had followed up aggressively on the Knight-Ridder Bureau’s accurate, repeated and skeptical reports that doubted the existence of those WMDs in Iraq.

The other day, the Times Public Editor, Byron Calame, was on the mark when he chastised his paper for ignoring, for nearly a week, the Post’s two-part piece exposing the miserable conditions for wounded soldiers awaiting outpatient treatment at Walter Reed Army Hospital. Then, it buried its piece, which grudgingly gave credit to the Post.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Media

Panel discussion of Iraq War

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Kevin Drum:

QUOTE OF THE DAY….From General Tony McPeak (ret.):

America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

This is from a Rolling Stone roundtable about Iraq that asks, How bad can it get? The answers span the gamut from soul-crushingly-depressing to abandon-hope-all-ye-who-enter-here. In other words, don’t click the link unless you’ve taken your Prozac today. Seriously. You have been warned.

Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 8:16 am

More on Bush’s strange personality

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Glenn Greenwald provides another insight into Bush:

Last week, George Bush hosted what he called “a literary luncheon” to honor “historian” Andrew Roberts. Accounts of that luncheon — which describe the “lessons” the guests taught the President (and they call them “lessons”) — really provide an amazing glimpse into the Bush mindset and his relationship with neoconservatives.

Roberts recently wrote the right-wing historical revisionism tract entitled History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900. The book, as Roberts himself described it in an interview with Front Page Magazine, “does not consider British imperialism to have been a Bad Thing, argues that the Versailles Treaty was not harsh enough on Germany, [and] defends the bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki . . . . ” A central theme is that “Intellectuals of the Left bear a heavy responsibility for the cruelties and savagery of the 20th century,” and Roberts’ world-view is filled with banalities like this:

I fear, in the light of Congress’s recent nonbinding (and utterly self-contradictory) resolution opposing the surge, the gross bias of much of the Left-Liberal media, and the present poll ratings of Sen Hillary Clinton, that the US will lose the will to fight the War against Terror in any manner that might hold out the hope of ultimate victory.

So one can see why Roberts was chosen to be honored as the President’s new favorite historian, and why his “history” book, which affirms George Bush’s imperial worldview in every way, has become one of the President’s favorites.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 6:46 am

Two posts worth reading

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Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 6:08 am

The treatment of our veterans

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Eric Mink of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a good column on this terrible situation:

Broken windows and empty hallways.
A pale dead moon in the sky streaked with gray.
Human kindness is overflowing,
And I think it’s going to rain today.
— Randy Newman

Less than three weeks ago, articles in the Washington Post described conditions
in parts of the United States’ Walter Reed Army Medical Center: broken
ceilings, open walls, a creeping plague of black mold, vermin infestations,
urine spilled on floors and soaked into mattresses, a shortage of staff and
supplies.

The reports that some injured American military men and women, back in the States after service in Iraq and Afghanistan, were being subjected to such treatment provoked indignation in and out of government, as well they should have. Senior officials have been fired, investigating commissions are being formed and, this week, congressional committees have begun holding hearings, some on the grounds of Walter Reed itself.

What outraged me more than the descriptions of the physical plant at Walter Reed, though, were some of the experiences of individual soldiers:

— Staff Sgt. Mike McCauley, a 57-year-old Vietnam veteran, had a heart attack after he was sent to Afghanistan. Shipped back to Walter Reed, he was assigned to supervise 200 rooms of injured troops, which subsequently triggered a recurrence of the post-traumatic stress disorder that had lain dormant since Vietnam.

— Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, a 43-year-old former sniper, was shot in the eye and brain in Iraq, requiring replacement of a large chunk of his skull. But at Walter Reed, he couldn’t get a replacement uniform for the one that medics had cut off his body when he was injured. Shannon finally thought to use his Purple Heart medal as proof that he had served in Iraq and, thus, was entitled to a free uniform.

— Sgt. David Thomas, 42, couldn’t get a new uniform at Walter Reed, either, despite having lost his in combat in Iraq — along with a leg. Sent to a Red Cross outpost, he was given some sweats but still couldn’t get any underwear.

There is more here — and in earlier reports by Salon.com and UPI — than facilities having fallen into disrepair, inadequate staffing levels or even a massive, gummy bureaucracy. At the core of these outrages is a fundamental disrespect for the humanity of returning injured troops and military veterans, an affront to their dignity as individuals and a betrayal of their acceptance of the risks of military service.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 5:53 am

Blowing away a Purge smokescreen

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The GOP is starting to say “Clinton did it, too” regarding the Purge that Alberto Gonzales orchestrated, apparently at the behest of the President and Rove. But, like so many GOP claims, it is false:

The Bush administration and its defenders like to point out that President Bush isn’t the first president to fire U.S. attorneys and replace them with loyalists.

While that’s true, the current case is different. Mass firings of U.S. attorneys are fairly common when a new president takes office, but not in a second-term administration. Prosecutors are usually appointed for four-year terms, but they are usually allowed to stay on the job if the president who appointed them is re-elected.

Even as they planned mass firings by the Bush White House, Justice Department officials acknowledged it would be unusual for the president to oust his own appointees. Although Bill Clinton ordered the wholesale removal of U.S. attorneys when he took office to remove Republican holdovers, his replacement appointees stayed for his second term.

Ronald Reagan also kept his appointees for his second term.

“In some instances, Presidents Reagan and Clinton may have been pleased with the work of the U.S. attorneys, who, after all, they had appointed,” Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, speculated in a 2006 memo outlining Bush’s alternative approach. “In other instances, Presidents Reagan and Clinton may simply have been unwilling to commit the resources necessary to remove the U.S. attorneys.”

Nonetheless, Bush aide Dan Bartlett noted Clinton’s first term firings in defending Bush’s second term dismissals.

“Those discretionary decisions made by a president, by an administration, are often done,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 5:40 am

GOP crackdown on whistleblowers

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Whistleblowers—people who expose safety and security problems that the companies for which they work are trying to conceal—deserve protection, since usually that’s how the wrongdoing is exposed. But the GOP, always on the side of the companies and never the workers, doesn’t like that:

The federal government is sanctioning agreements that cost whistle-blowers their jobs after they expose safety and security lapses at nuclear facilities and toxic waste sites, Labor Department records show.

Federal law requires the department to safeguard whistle-blowers from reprisals and approve settlements of their retaliation claims against private or federal employers. Yet 45 of 73 settlements approved since 2000 involving whistle-blowers who complained of environmental and nuclear safety problems included permanent bans on working for the employer.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that the clauses amount to blacklisting, which is barred under whistle-blower protection laws. He promised to investigate their use: “It is especially troubling to now learn that our own Department of Labor … is recklessly approving (employment bans) to the detriment of individuals who had the audacity to report wrongdoing.”

The employment bans stem from cases in which companies settled charges that they wrongly fired or disciplined whistle-blowers. In some cases, the settlements came after state or federal authorities validated the workers’ concerns about safety and health issues.

The Labor Department released the agreements under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a whistle-blower advocacy group that provided the records to USA TODAY.

GAP has petitioned the department to prohibit the employment bans. The group said the bans violate the workers’ rights to keep their jobs under whistle-blower protection laws.

The Labor Department would not comment on details of the settlements it released to GAP. In a written statement, it said it is “giving careful consideration” to GAP’s petition.

The agreements amount to “economic coercion,” GAP lawyer Tom Carpenter said. “It’s silencing those workers by removing them. … It sends a message to everyone on site that raising a concern gets you a lifetime employment ban.”

Whistle-blowers often wait months or years without pay while their cases await legal reviews. They tend to accept settlements with employment bans because they need the back pay and monetary damages, Carpenter said.

Gregory Keating, a Boston lawyer who represents employers in whistle-blower cases, said the restrictions are legitimate. “These agreements are knowing, they’re voluntary, and you have a federal agency putting its stamp of approval on them that says the public interest is covered,” he said.

If the Labor Department fails to bar employment bans, Dingell said, he will consider legislation to do so. Whistle-blowers “should be treated as heroes, not pariahs,” he said.

Written by Leisureguy

14 March 2007 at 5:34 am

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