Thursday, May 04, 2006

Reality? No one likes Criminal Condi, Innocencents get executed and Iraq

Thursday! We got to get through Friday morning and afternoon and then it's the weekend! (If you're lucky.) Before we get started Nina, the shy Nina!, wants me to put something in. Here it is: "Mike needs to clean his keyboard." :D I do. It's all gunked up. Nina keeps her keyboard spotless, she wipes it down and uses Q-Tips and all that. I've cleaned this keyboard, in the 2 years I've had it, exactly . . . zero times! And I intend to continue cleaning it just as regularly! :D Now let's kick things off with Democracy Now!

BC Professors Protest Honoring Condoleeza Rice
In Massachusetts, nearly 100 Boston College professors have added their names to a letter protesting their university's decision to award Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice an honorary degree. Rice has been announced as a commencement speaker for graduation ceremonies later this month. The letters' authors, including theology department chair Rev. Kenneth Himes, wrote: "On the levels of both moral principle and practical moral judgment, Secretary Rice's approach to international affairs is in fundamental conflict with Boston College's commitment to the values of the Catholic and Jesuit traditions and is inconsistent with the humanistic values that inspire the university's work."

That was old news to me. That's not a slap at Democracy Now! which is carrying it in a timely manner. I just mean I knew that one was coming, a little bird told me about it. :D Things are changing for the administration more than they know. Get the word out on Democracy Now! and on any other show, magazine or website you like. It does make a difference. I'll just focus on Democracy Now! for a moment. If you're talking about it with people who watch (or listen or read the transcripts), you know that's great and you each get to share your favorite part of that day's show. Nina and Tony and a few others and me do that and that's cool. But if you're talking about it to someone who doesn't follow the show, you'll realize that even if they try to follow the news, they're missing a lot. And they'll start to realize it too. So make sure you get the word out on the stuff that matters to you. It makes a difference. Maybe a campus gives a job to Yoo and people start talking about that and wondering what a higher institution of learning is doing giving a position to a torture czar? Then they may start wondering about other jobs or honors for a corrupt administration. Bit by bit, step by step, it matters.

Investigators: Faulty Evidence Led To Wrongful Execution of Texas Man
And in Texas, private investigators have concluded faulty evidence in separate arson cases led to the wrongful death sentences of two men, one of whom was later executed. In a report prepared for the legal advocacy group the Innocence Project, the investigators said negligence and misconduct by prosecutors and fire marshals undermined not just the two cases in question but possibly several others where similar investigative methods were used. The executed man Cameron Willingham, was convicted in 1992 of a fire to his home that killed his three daughters. He was put to death in February 2004. The other man, Ernest Willis, had his sentence overturned that same year after spending nearly 18 years in prison.

I talked about executions before and how I was against the death penalty. If you hear a story like that about Cameron Willingham, I don't understand how you can think that someone should be executed. I mean, if you're okay condemning a person to death, maybe you're also okay knowing that you might have sentenced someone to death that was innocent?

I think that's important to ask and I hope if you're someone who supports the death penalty, you hear about Willingham, who is dead now, and think, "Maybe it's not so fool proof."

It's not. That's reality. And here's reality via C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Chaos and violence.
Yesterday, in Baghad, the number of corpses found continued to climb. Reports when
the snapshot was done yesterday had reached 36. The Associated Press reports that the final number of corpses discovered in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday was 43. On Thursday, corpses continued to be discovered with KUNA reporting that 18 had been found in Tikrit and Babylon.
Also noted yesterday were German press reports that the release of hostages Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke were the result of payment. Today, China's
Xinhua reports, "The German government . . . denied that it had paid a ransom to kidnappers in Iraq". Also yesterday, we noted that Jawad Kadom "the No. 3 official in Iraq's electricity ministry" was killed (gunshot). Today, KUNA reports that Iraqi police have stated Wadie' Yahya Saleh was assassinated today. Saleh was "a high ranking official from the Iraqi oil ministry."
As David Enders reported yesterday, on
Free Speech Radio News and The KPFA Evening News, tensions run high as debates in Parliment address the constitution ('adopted' six months ago) and on the issue of who holds what positions.
In Baghdad, a bomb went off outside of a court house. Depending upon the organization, the bomb was a "roadside bomb" or
a vest. Depending upon the organization, the vest was worn by the person or it had been taken off and the person walked away from the explosion they set off. Depending upon the organization, the bomber was a male or a female. What is known is that at least ten people have died and at least 52 more are wounded. Australia's ABC reports that among the dead are at least two women and at least one child.
Roadside bombs did go off in Baghdad and one bombing
took the lives of two US troops.
In Ramadi, two houses have been bombed by US air forces. This despite the initial claims of US Army Sgt. Dan Schonborg that "
no coalition aircraft launched bombing runs in Ramadi on Thursday" (that's the AP summarizing Schonborg, not a direct quote). The BBC notes that the US military later confirmed the attack and, noted, refused to provide casualty figures. During news breaks in KPFA's The Morning Show, Sandra Lupien noted that doctors and neighbors say children were killed in the bombings (US denies that) and that local TV footage shows the corpse of one small child. Doctors treated a teenage female and noted that two girls and a boy (age eight-years-old) were among the dead.
Still on the topic of Iraq, but switching to another country: Juso Sinanovic. Who?
On Sunday, while we were discussing Jake Kovco, I wondered: "Has anyone attempted to identify that body? I'm sure his or her family is just as outrage as the Kovko's." Pravda identifies Juso Sinanovic as the person sent to Australia instead of Jake Kovco. Sinaovic, Pravda reports, was 47 years old, died of a stroke ("reportedly), and had worked in Iraq for three years for KBR. Survivors include his wife Refija, and children Jasmina, Jasmin and Asmir. The AP quotes Jasmina Sinanovic, commenting on the fact that Juso Sinanovic's body has still not made it to Bosnia, "The officials keep telling us our father's body will arrive on Monday, then on Wednesday, then on Friday and then on Monday again. It's been the most difficult 19-20 days of our lives."
AFP reports that Paul Pillar has denounced the lies of the administration that led us into war: "There was an organised campaign of manipulation. That would be the proper way to define it." Pillar made his remarks in an interview with El Pais (Spanish newspaper) and is "a former CIA analyst speciailizing in counter-terrorism in the Middle East and Asia." This as the Times of London notes that while 'reconstruction' in Iraq has little to no success with projects such as electricity, the mammoth US embassy (104 acres) is "on target."

I've got a test tomorrow night and Nina and I need to study for it (she's in the same class) so I'm calling this a post. I'm doing my tags, but keep reading. After the tags, I've got C.I.'s commentary on the New York Times' coverage of Ireland. If you missed that Saturday, read it now. Everything after the tags is C.I.'s.

"NYT: Grey Lady, check the slip, your bias may be showing"
Accountability? Let's talk the Times for a bit.

Did Brian Lavery's doctor put his finger tips on bed rest? What other possible explanation could there be for his (and the paper's) silence on a story that others have covered this week? While Lavery's been playing "cute" with travel reporting ("Letter From Dublin: Want a Debate With That Drink," April 26, 2006; "Affordable Europe: Dublin," April 23, 2006) there has been real news out of Ireland, or, at least, other news organizations have seen it as news.

The Financial Times of London:

Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland secretary, welcomed the latest assessment yesterday of IRA moves to end its terrorist campaign. He said it should provide a "helpful contribution to the rebuilding of trust and confidence in Northern Ireland which is necessary for a return to full devolution".

What's he welcoming? New York Times readers might wonder since there hasn't been an article on it. If there hasn't been an article on it, maybe it doesn't matter?

Scotland's The Herald didn't think it was unimportant:

A GLIMMER of hope appeared in the Northern Ireland peace process yesterday after the Independent Monitoring Commission declared the IRA leadership was committed to following a political and peaceful path.
If the report had found the IRA had not reduced its criminal activity and intelligence gathering, the peace process would have been dead in the water.

The peace process would have been dead in the water? If the Independent Monitoring Commission had come to different conclusions? Sounds like news. Even Tony Blair thoughts so as evidenced by what the Toronoto Sun ran:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he hoped the experts‘ conclusions would promote "sufficient confidence and trust" in Northern Ireland for the province‘s legislature to elect a new power-sharing administration involving Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics in the British territory.

The Independent of London reported the following:

In its most upbeat report ever, the Independent Monitoring Commission, which makes assessments of terrorist groups in Northern Ireland, said it was not aware of any current terrorist, paramilitary or violent activity sanctioned by the IRA leadership. It said: "There has now been a substantial erosion in the IRA's capacity to return to a military campaign without a significant period of build-up, which in any event we do not believe they have any intentions of doing."

Considering the Times' willingness to smear Sinn Fein and to lecture Ireland ("Bullies" was a popular term in one editorial), you might think the report would be of interest to them. Other reports from the Independent Monitoring Commission have been. (See reports that the Times ran on January 19, 2005 by Lizette Alvarez and numerous ones by Brian Lavery himself -- the most recent being February 2, 2006. The most interesting may be this one from 2005 penned by Lavery.) Of course the difference between previous IMC reports and this one is that they aren't as damning. When you've worked yourself into a righteous lather over the "Bullies of Belfast" (as opposed to the ones at West 43rd?) maybe you just choose to ignore what even the Associated Press reports? (Longer version here.) The BBC reported it but possibly Alan Cowell wasn't looking for stories that day?

Just as the paper somehow missed Bill Clinton's trip to Ireland, they somehow didn't hear this news. Readers who place their faith in the Times can be forgiven if they're caught off guard by the news, but can the paper be? The paper that sees a death and immediately knows the culprit, (Lavery's a one man Frank & Joe Hardy) is the same paper that's managed to report on parade violence. At least some parade violence. The reason that Irish and Irish-American members of this community wonder if the paper's hostile to Catholics or just Irish-Catholics has to do with which stories get reported and which ones do not. A parade where Irish Catholics are reported to be assaulted (by other outlets) doesn't make the Times. A little bit later, when anoter parade leads to reports of Protestants being assaulted does make the paper.

It's not balance. And if the "Bullies of 43rd Street" are at all interested in the peace process in Ireland (as opposed to just smearing), they have a strange way of demonstrating that. Bill Clinton's trip to Ireland was, in part, about the peace process. But, despite the fact that any trip abroad by a former president meets the Times' criteria for "news" (official + travel = "exotic"), that trip didn't. And Clinton wasn't hiding from reporters as coverage elsewhere demonstrated. The Times appeared to be hiding the news from their readers.

Why that was is anyone's guess. But in a week when their much cited IMC issues a report that's favorable to the peace process, it's very strange that the Times has no interest in reporting it.

That's sort of action is at the heart of charges of bias. I'm sure the paper would have another excuse for it. They usually do. But this was news . . . just not in the pages of the New York Times.

Now travel's all very well and good and it might even teach Lavery the name of towns he reports on (see his July 31, 2005 piece to grasp the necessity of that). But when he pops up with his latest bit of news, like it or not, the paper of record will have to know that some readers will be reading it closely. They have to, the paper's own actions make that necessary. (And did they ever run a correction of any form when they referred to Sinead O'Connor as "Mr."?)