Saturday, March 12, 2005
Sgrena takes a different view
I never said that they wanted to kill me, but the mechanics of what happened were those of an attack.
Her boyfriend Pier Scolari is also denying any such attributions—
None of us is so stupid as to think the Americans did it on purpose. But the dynamic was that of an ambush and we want a convincing explanation of what happened, because the first American explanation was totally false.
Of course, either Scolari was previously misquoted or he is indeed that stupid.
My own reaction is that the Italian government has asked the two to cool the rhetoric. While the government may not have the means to enforce such a request, it does have a certain moral suasion in that it clearly went to great lengths, including (possibly) the payment of a ransom, to effect Sgrena's release. It can now say, "Giuliana, dear. We have demanded an investigation at the highest levels of government, and your off-the-cuff remarks are not helping. Could you please be a little more circumspect?" She has also been interviewed several times by Italian investigators, which may have cleared her mind a bit.
The right (and many on the left) will be jumping all over this. What they will be ignoring is the indisputable fact that lies were stated by the Americans in the immediate aftermath of the event. When the guy sitting next to you has just been killed and you yourself have survived by a hairbreadth, and then the first thing out of the authorities' mouths are lies, what would you think? That it was perhaps by intent?
Attempted murder of Italian journalist?
Friday, March 11, 2005
The Lords are holding firm against Blair terror
Though both the Conservatives (Tories) and Liberal Democrats are resisting the bill, the Tories especially are taking a browbeating from Blair and his henchmen. Blair said,
This is an issue of judgment for Michael Howard and the Conservative party. They have simply got to understand: to continue to water down and dilute this legislation is not responsible. It is wrong. They should stop it.
But now there are suggestions that Blair never intended the bill to pass. Rather that he is using it as a ploy to trump up charges of being "soft on terrorism" against the Tories in the upcoming election.
The Daily Mail editorialized—
With the government's anti-terror bill facing another defeat in the Lords ... Tony Blair makes no secret of his determination to blame the Tories for being 'soft'.
"How ripe. Our anti-terrorist defences are only in this mess because of his government's crass Human Rights Act. Moreover, he has refused every Tory offer to improve the wretchedly botched terror legislation ... Michael Howard is not alone in suspecting this untrustworthy prime minister of playing party politics. Mr Blair's record encourages such suspicions ... No wonder voters are so bitterly disillusioned.
Former Prime Minister Lady Thatcher is standing doddering but firm in solidarity with the Tory leadership. Her awareness of the need for the protection of civil liberties in cases of detention has perhaps been quickened by the recent experience of her son Mark in South Africa, who, if truth be told, was far more up to his eyeballs in efforts to overthrow a sovereign government than any of the unaccused being held illegally in Belmarsh.1
In the midst of this Parliamentary hubbub it was announced that the immediate threat to the Realm—the release of the Belmarsh prisoners without bail—by which such urgent action on the bill was being justified, had been averted. The immigration judge overseeing their case is expected to order their release under conditions of bail that are in fact little different from those that the government would have imposed under the new act. According to reporters from the Guardian—
Mr Justice Ouseley, chairman of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), ordered the immediate release of an Algerian national known only as A. He also ordered the release on bail "in principle" of eight other detainees. Restrictions on a 10th detainee, G, who has been released on bail, were due to be relaxed.
Their release was set after an all-day hearing during which human rights lawyers and the Home Office argued over the precise details of their release.
The terms, which include tagging and controls over who they can meet and talk to, mirror those of the orders that the government was still battling to get on to the statute book. They include a ban on meeting anyone without the prior approval of the Home Office.
The release of the detainees was triggered after Mr Justice Ouseley's patience ran out with the home secretary, Charles Clarke, for whom he has been waiting for more than three weeks to negotiate the details of their release on bail.
Current speculation is that the Tories and Liberal Democrats will maintain their resistance by insisting on a "sunset clause." The Lords had originally set the bill to expire in November, but Michael Howard seems willing to extend its life up to 12 months.
According to the Guardian, Howard expressed his views on BBC Radio this morning—
"If Mr Blair insists on having this bill and thinks it is necessary to fight the terrorist threat, he can have the bill. He can have it for 12 months."
"During that 12 months period we should all work together to come up with a better way of fighting the terrorist threat.
"We believe that terrorists should be brought to trial and put in prison, not wandering around with an electronic bracelet. The notion that a tag of this kind is going to be a serious inconvenience to an al-Qaida operative takes a great deal of swallowing."
House of Lords tears into the Terrorism Bill (3/9/05)
Capitol Hill. Thursday, January 13, 2005 ---- Irish-Americans feel that — if there is to be a fair and balanced policy — Mark Thatcher should not be allowed to enter the U.S. , having pleaded guilty to involvement in the Equatorial Guinea coup attempt.[back]
"Such an attempt surely comes under the heading of international terrorism", said Father Sean Mc Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus. "If Irish persons have been banned from entering the U.S. for far lesser reasons, then surely this would-be mercenary should be banned, too? 'If you harbor a terrorist, you are a terrorist', is the Bush doctrine. Then President Bush should apply it to Thatcher and bar him entry to the U.S.
Fr. Mc Manus went on to explain: "President Bush has already shown a double standard by funding a terrorist, Tim Spicer, with a $293 Million contract in Iraq. He must not now compound his error by giving safe harbor to Thatcher, a buddy of Spicer."
"Both Thatcher and Spicer belonged to a gang of English white guys out to plunder Africa, 'white man's burden and all that.' Spicer, now moved to Iraq, is plundering the American tax payer to the tune of $293 Million, with the blessing of President Bush"
Quote of the Day
—Lord Kingsland, on the British Anti-Terrorism bill
Thursday, March 10, 2005
More charter school failure—this time on Jeb's watch
From the perspective of the Hillsborough County School Board the charter schools in the Tampa area have not only been getting a free ride, they've been getting free money—and they say they're not going to put up with it.
According to Jeffrey S. Solochek of the St. Petersburg Times,
Board members said Tuesday [3/1/05] they want to bar charter schools from participating in the district's teacher job fair and to increase what they are charged for district services to reflect true costs.
"I have changed my mind about charters," said Carol Kurdell, the board's longest-tenured member. "I am very open on charters, but they have become private schools in their own right."
Chief of staff Jim Hamilton cautioned that the state, which created the charter school law and can overrule some district actions, might reprimand the district.
Kurdell was unbowed.
"If the state wants to take us to task on that, fine. I'm ready to take that fight on," she said. "We need to set the rigorous standards now."
Tough talk to a Republican legislature. I hope they're not arrested.
The district already has sent letters to six charter schools notifying them it will take action against their contracts if students do not show marked academic gains, chief academic officer Donnie Evans said.
Board members said two of those schools should be closed right away, though they did not indicate which two.
Board member Susan Valdes said charter schools should provide something the district cannot. Few meet that mark, she said.
Valdes said the district should rigidly enforce its contracts and demand repayment of all debts. At least two schools owe the district several hundred thousand dollars. Meanwhile, the district has run a deficit of close to $500,000 administering charter schools.
"I hate the fact that we are owed money, and that we are spending money, with no accountability," she said. "We have to be held accountable. They have to be held accountable as well."
I should emphasize that there is nary a school board in Florida composed of wild-eyed left-wing radicals.
Since the Florida legislature is considering some changes to the charter school laws, I have an idea. Why don't they merge them into the public school system?
Dumb your child down the Republican way (8/18/04)
Bush's education legacy in Texas: More cheating and lying (12/21/04)
Blogspot has been spotty to nonexistent
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
House of Lords tears into the Terrorism Bill
This Guardian report conveys a sense of the drama—
.... Government defeats in the Lords are hardly unusual, but this was as emphatic a revolt against part of a major bill as the upper house has seen in at least a generation.
Monday's drubbings on judicial scrutiny, the burden of proof and the role of the director of public prosecutions proved yesterday to be anything but a one-day wonder. Yesterday the Lords returned to work in the same merciless mood as before, lopping more clauses off the original bill and inserting further safeguards. They overturned the government on making changes to the list of control-order measures and on suspects' rights to state benefits. Then came the most substantial revolt of the lot, the insertion of the so-called "sunset clause" under which the new bill lapses at the end of November. That vote, a government defeat by 297-110, sent the parliamentary anoraks scurrying to the record-books. Record or not, it was certainly the climax of one of the roughest humiliations any government bill has ever suffered in the Lords in modern times. [emphasis added]
According to the Independent, the shadow Lord Chancellor, Lord Kingsland, protested during debate that—
Parliament has spent the last 700 years protecting our liberties; it seems outrageous that we should be asked to allow an open-ended right to remove the most fundamental of them from our statute book.
What is primarily at issue is a set of anti-terror measures known as "control orders," which could mandate anything from electronic tagging to curfews and bans on phone and Internet use to full house arrest. These powers were to be available to the Home Secretary (think "Director of Homeland Security") on the basis of mere suspicion and, as originally proposed, were not reviewable by the courts.
On Monday, February 28, the bill narrowly scraped through the Commons by a 14-vote margin that saw a sizeable defection by members of Blair's own Labor Party. In fact, if the Liberal Democrats had shown up for the late night vote, it might have been defeated at this stage.
The government has been pushing the bill through Parliament at breakneck speed, which some say is a government attempt to prevent the legislators from having time to think. The justification for the haste is the March 14 lapse of current laws which have been used to hold 11 foreign terror suspects in Belmarsh, Britain's Guantánamo. Britain's Law Lords have already found these laws to violate the European Convention on Human Rights. (See "The Law Lords have decided — Let those people go!")
The bill must now return to the Commons. The government is trying to decide what further concessions it is willing to make if it hopes to secure passage of any sort of bill.
Blair attended the weekly "question time" for the Prime Minister in Commons this morning and put forward the latest list of concessions. Bill Jacobs of the Scotsman writes—
... Home Secretary Charles Clarke is to cave in over giving judges the powers to decide on the imposition of the less severe "control orders".
And he will agree the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, if it becomes law, will have to be renewed every year by votes in both houses of Parliament.
However, he and Prime Minister Tony Blair are not prepared to give in to Tory demands for a "sunset clause" in the Bill which would end its effect in November, requiring new proposals.
And they have also refused to replace the test of "reasonable suspicion" that a suspect is involved in terrorism with the higher level of proof of "balance of probabilities".
However, it was not clear whether these concessions would be enough to satisfy Labour rebels in the Commons, let alone the House of Lords.
British news has been filled with talk of terrorists while the bill is under consideration. On Sunday there was this—
London's Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens says more than 200 al-Qaeda "terrorists" are operating in Britain and the threat of attacks is real. He has backed proposed anti-terror laws, saying critics were naive about the "brutal" threat posed by fanatics.
The Royal wedding and the general election are among "enormous" potential terrorist targets which will have to be protected in the coming months, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said yesterday.Speaking of the G8 meetings coming up, there is reasonable suspicion that the government wants this bill available to suppress protests. In this morning's Q&A with Blair, Matthew Tempest of the Guardian reports this exchange—
Sir Ian Blair, whose force is responsible for royal protection, also listed Britain's presidency of the EU and its role in the G8 group of nations as factors which increased the risk of terrorist attack.
Michael Howard rises. Will the provisions of the bill be used against those protesting against the G8 meeting in Gleneagles? Mr Blair says he does not recall saying so, but the measures are against terrorism, and people have the right to come and protest in the time-honoured way.
The Tory leader brandishes a copy of the paper, where the quote says "I couldn't rule it out" in relation to G8 protests. I'll have to check the transcript, jokes Mr Blair, but adds it is nothing to do with protests, but rather with terrorism.
The American press has barely noted these doings in Britain. Can Blair keep enough Labor support to get some semblance of the bill passed? Will the Liberal Democrats stand firm in opposition? Check back tomorrow.
The Lords are holding firm against Blair terror
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
NY Times finally covers White House press pass episode (updated)
Mr. Graff said he was inspired to try to seek access to the White House by the controversy over James D. Guckert, who used the alias Jeff Gannon. Mr. Guckert was granted daily passes to White House briefings while writing for a Web site run by a Republican operative in Texas. The episode raised questions about who was a legitimate journalist and how access to the White House was granted.
Of course, it raised no such questions. It raised the question of what a tart was doing in the White House press room during working hours and at whose behest he was there. The White House has taken the position that when it comes to the press corps, they shouldn't be expected to distinguish one tart from another and that all are welcome.
Mr. Graff did challenge the latter assertion, and White House mendacity was once again exposed. It turns out that to get a press pass it takes "pull" from your fellow tarts—
He made 20 phone calls and got nowhere. Bigger blogs picked up on his saga, and traffic on FishbowlDC increased tenfold, he said. But it was not until the traditional media joined in, Mr. Graff said, that the White House relented.
"USA Today started making calls on Thursday. CNN mentioned it on 'Inside Politics,' and Ron Hutcheson, president of the White House Correspondents Association, raised the issue with the White House Press Office," he said. "I think a combination of all of that made the White House pay attention and decide to let me in."
Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said he had met with the White House Correspondents Association and they had decided to let Mr. Graff in. "It is the press corps' briefing room and if there are any new lines to be drawn, it should be done by their association," he said.
This was a fascinating revelation in light of the story "White House Correspondents Want No Role in Credentialing" by Joe Strupp from just a week ago.
The White House Correspondents Association announced Monday [2/28/05] that it would not seek changes to the White House press-credentialing process....
The decision effectively keeps the WHCA out of the credentialing process following talk during the past month that the 300-member group might take more of a role in deciding who gets press credentials. Currently, the Standing Committee of Correspondents on Capitol Hill, a committee of congressional reporters, has sole authority over who gets press passes there. But all White House press passes are distributed by the White House Press Office with no WHCA involvement. [emphasis added]
I've been wanting to apply, but feared that with my spiked hair protruding above my green eye shade, no one would take me seriously as a tart.
In any case Seelye declares that this is a "signal moment for bloggers."
Mr. Graff, 23, may be the first blogger in the short history of the medium to be granted a daily White House pass for the specific purpose of writing a blog, or Web log. A White House spokesman said yesterday that he believed Mr. Graff was the first blogger to be given credentials.
Does this mean I'm a journalist now?
First, let me note that the NY Times placed the article I linked above not in the "National" or "Washington" sections, nor even in the "Business" section. It appeared under "Technology." Go figure. But I have been noticing a tendency at the Times to stick the news that isn't "fit to print" into the Technology section.
Guckert/Gannon welcomes Graff to the bordello
Meanwhile, E&P notes that Guckert/Gannon has reacted to Graff's admission to the White House.
The New York Times is hailing the first blogger to be issued a "day pass" to a White House press briefing. It goes to great lengths to play up his genealogical background in journalism, but fails to mention that the Vermont native served as deputy national press secretary on Howard Dean's presidential campaign last year. Hmmm...no political ties there!
According to the "Gannon Standard", I am expecting to see other bloggers' reports on his sexual and financial history as well as some conspiracy theories about who this guy is.
Actually, I like the guy, we've talked on the phone several times. I wish him luck and am pleased that others will gain from what I pioneered. Now I'm looking for a conservative blogger to step up and get in there!
E&P scolds that
Gannon fails to mention that, whatever his political background, Graff is not currently employed by a partisan political organization (as Gannon was during his two-year stint at the White House), nor does Gannon differentiate "sexual history" from "selling sex."
That's because selling sex falls under "Commerce" rather than "Personal history," though "Technology" might be appropriate if toys were used.
Newspaper strikes back
Now Randall Beck, Executive Editor of the South Dakota Argus Leader that was scurrilously attacked by Guckert/Gannon and other right-wing bloggers in the lead up to John Thune's defeat of Daschle, has gotten all huffy about bloggers—
... blogs are locations in cyberspace where an individual can post his or her thoughts and provide links to other sites. There are blogs dedicated to almost everything, but for the most part political blogs are created by and for true believers on the extreme fringes - left and right.
Until today I had thought that the only thing extreme about my blog was an insistence that journalists report on what the government and its covert propagandists are really up to. During the election campaign Beck explains why he did not share my view—
As the Internet attacks on Kranz and the newspaper intensified throughout 2003 and into 2004, I decided not to share with you what was happening behind the scenes.
My reasoning was pretty simple.
First, attacking the messenger - and especially an influential newspaper - has been a strategy employed by politicians since the beginning of time. (Remember Bill Janklow?) Responding publicly to such efforts tends to jeopardize the newspaper's role as an independent news medium. [emphasis added]
Second, it is my experience that most readers don't care - and probably shouldn't - about what journalists occasionally have to put up with to report the news accurately and fairly. Our primary duty during the campaign was to tell you where political candidates stood on the issues and offer insight into what made them tick, while maintaining our high ethical standards.
It isn't your "high ethical standards" that matter to your readers, but the lack of them on the part of John Thune in using a prostitute to subvert Daschle's campaign. Would it have made a difference in the outcome of the election if the Argus Leader had investigated and reported what was going on behind the scenes? Quite possibly.
But character issues during the election weren't enough to make Beck speak out against Guckert/Gannon and the other bloggers. No, quite astonishingly, it is the Left that has forced him to do it—
Only in the past month has it become clear that I needed to explain the ugly backdrop to the 2004 Senate campaign - and then, not for reasons you might think. For most of us occupied with our daily lives, the news during the past couple months has been dominated by President Bush's plan to reform Social Security, our military's efforts to develop a post-election strategy in Iraq and the failing health of Pope John Paul II.
For most of us occupied with our daily lives, that's what the media tell us that we should be thinking about.
But those embedded in the Washington, D.C., Beltway - that curious netherworld of politicians and the journalists who cover them - have been preoccupied with news of a different stripe. From the Washington Post to Salon.com to a host of Internet bloggers, the sometimes salacious coverage of the rise and fall of that zealot I mentioned earlier - Jeff Gannon - has titillated Washington insiders. It also has energized many liberals who are convinced that Daschle was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy that - yes, you guessed it - successfully manipulated the Argus Leader into becoming a lap dog for Thune during the campaign.
That notion, I can assure you, is as ludicrous as conservatives' claims that we tried to make Daschle look good.
There is no question that there was a right-wing effort to manipulate the Argus Leader. The only question is whether the Argus Leader caved in and helped—either by omission or commission. (On that matter, read what Beck says below about the Thune campaign.)
Beck then launches into a diatribe on Guckert/Gannon of which the most tantalizing tidbit is this—
At one point, Gannon portrayed himself on his own Web site as a "two-holiday Christian" devoted to advocating conservative causes and exposing the "liberal lies perpetuated by the media, Hollywood, the teachers' unions and the Democratic Party." And, just to make sure you knew he was serious, he boasted that his weapon of choice is a Beretta 9mm pistol.
But Beck reins himself in—
The frenzy to discredit Gannon - like the frenzy to discredit Daschle - became nasty and personal as bloggers (and some mainstream journalists) dug into his past. I won't repeat most of what they found; that's stooping to the level of bloggers, and it serves no good purpose here.
Beck just reeks of integrity, doesn't he? But even he is forced to admit that
... legitimate questions did arise, including the fact that "Jeff Gannon" wasn't Jeff Gannon at all, but a pseudonym for somebody named James Dale Guckert. That, in turn, prompted journalists and Senate Democrats to ask the White House to explain how someone using a phony name and representing a politically partisan group was able to get clearance to cover the White House. [emphasis added]
The legitimate questions that "arose"—somewhat mysteriously in Beck's account—were in fact proposed by bloggers. This inconvenient fact puts Beck's arguments about bloggers in a different light. And his wording here certainly calls into question his willingness to be forthright with the reader.
Was the right-wing blogger campaign effective?
It's not really worth chronicling the rest of the campaign against Kranz and the newspaper, except to note that Thune's campaign recognized its obvious value.May I observe here that the payments represented Thune's estimate of the bloggers' value to the campaign.
Thune's campaign paid $27,000 to Lauck and about $8,000 to Van Beek, who landed a job working for Thune after the election. In an interview with Gannett News Service last week, Thune said the two bloggers were paid "because their research was so good. They were getting information that wasn't coming out anywhere else."
Thune also said Lauck and Van Beek helped him prepare for debates.
And was Thune similarly rewarded for employing Van Beek and Lauck? Did he benefit, as the left wing now maintains, from bloggers' efforts to manipulate public opinion? "You can't believe how many fathers there are of this victory," Thune said half-jokingly last week. "My media guy said it was television. My campaign thinks it was our organization. ... What decided the race was issue differences as much as anything else." [emphasis added]
And what about Gannon, who now seems to be claiming some credit for swaying voters in last November's election? It seems unlikely.
Thune said his campaign never paid Gannon and that blogs, whether conservative or liberal, mostly preach to the choir. "I'm not sure that blogs swing a lot of undecided voters," he said.
No, but they can certainly sway some undecided newspapers.
Nevertheless, it's clear Thune views blogs as a valuable political tool.
As The New York Times reported recently, Thune has introduced other senators to the concept of blogs and how self-published online political commentary can sway public opinion.
"I think there's value there, and I've conveyed this to our leadership," Thune said.
So Beck doesn't know what all the Left-wing fuss is about.
"The triumph of the bloggers illustrates the revolutionary rise of the Internet, which is undermining the traditional media in many ways," Howard R. Gold, editor of Barron's Online wrote last month. Professional journalists, he said, "still do a better job than anyone else of informing the public about the most important events of our day."
Gold warned that relentless pressure from society's political fringes already is pushing some media into "timidity and self-censorship."
That hasn't happened at this newspaper, I am happy to say.
Clearly not. The Argus Leader vociferously attacks the Left after the elections are but a fading memory, but when it mattered they uttered not a word about the right-wing bloggers' efforts to affect their coverage. That should keep them firmly ensconced among the mainstream media.
Getting a daily press pass from the White House—or not (3/3/05)
Fishbowl DC gets press pass (3/4/05)
Monday, March 07, 2005
Eason Jordan on his mind...
It sounded like he was saying it was official military policy to take out journalists.
That is not what a journalist is supposed to sound like. And as David Ehrenstein writes, "And thus in a life devoted to mediating spin, a tiny sliver of truth leaks out."
I haven't written about Jordan. If I had, I would have said that his sin was not in the utterance but in his capitulation to the criticism. But Jordan thought he was speaking "off the record" and failed to realize that the "record" is no longer maintained exclusively by the mainstream media.
David Ehrenstein, who has a somewhat cinematic view of reality, drips some acid on a Howard Kurtz commentary on the Jordan controversy that appeared in the pages of the Washington Post.
Attempted murder of Italian journalist?
Quote of the Day
—Giulietto Chiesa, Member of the European Parliament and Genoese journalist, commenting during Giuliana Sgrena's captivity