Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peter Pace Can't Handle The Truth

Updated Below

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Peter Pace claimed that fewer American soldiers have died in Iraq than people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. In doing so Mr. Pace grossly downplayed the number and significance of casualties in Iraq.

Appearing on CBS' Early Show on Memorial Day Mr Pace said:

When you take a look at the life of a nation and all that's required to keep us free, we had more than 3,000 Americans murdered on 11 September, 2001. The number who have died, sacrificed themselves since that time is approaching that number.
In fact just under 3,000 people perished on September 11th and not all of them were Americans. More importantly 3474 American soldiers have given their lives in Iraq.

As one of the United States highest ranking and most important military commanders Mr. Pace should know how many of his soldiers have died in an ongoing war.

Nearly a year ago, when the number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan did surpass the 9/11 attack totals, Mr. Pace was more aware of the cost of the war. He made a strikingly similar statement while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
It's now almost five years since September 11, 2001, and the number of young men and women in our armed forces who have sacrificed their lives that we might live in freedom is approaching the number of Americans who were murdered on 9/11 in New York, in Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania.
Perhaps Mr. Pace simply failed to update his talking points, perhaps he is disconnected from the actual men and women who are fighting and dying in Iraq. Mr. Pace's trouble remembering how many soldiers, ostensibly in his care, have died in Iraq is inexcusable and serves to highlight the Bush Administration's disregard for the consequences of their actions.

Harry Smith, the reporter conducting the interview, completely ignored Mr. Pace's false statement. Such a lapse is sadly indicative of the manner in which the American media has abrogated their pursuit of the truth and exchanged that pursuit for a regurgitation of Administration talking points. Apparently Mr. Smith can't handle the truth either.

Raw Story has a follow up interview with a spokesman for Gen. Pace defending his statements.

They Won't Follow Us Home (2)

Jeff Greenfield reported recently for CBS News on President Bush's disingenuous and fear-mongering threat that we are fighting in Iraq so that we won't have to fight them here in America.

James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank told Mr Greenfield:

The President is using a primitive, inarticulate argument that leaves him open to criticism and caricature.
Mr. Greenfield also points out that the reasons given for the Iraq war have come a long long way from the pre-invasion claims of weapons of mass destruction and the good that the invasion would do for the region and the world. As Mr. Greenfield says "the argument now seems to be based on the dreadful things that would happen if America leaves."

Mr. Bush cannot come up with any positive results due to American soldiers remaining in Iraq, yet another of the reasons on the ever growing list of arguments for putting an end to this disasterous war.

Watch Mr. Greenfield's report.

Dan Froomkin highlighted this story last Friday.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Peter Baker and John Soloman Can't Handle The Truth

Washington Post staff writers Peter Baker and John Soloman have a front page report on two new books about Presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton; "A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton," by Carl Bernstein and "Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton," by Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.

Messrs Baker and Soloman title their piece "Books Paint Critical Portraits of Clinton" and assert that both books are written by reporters and as such are surely credible.

Unlike many harsh books about Clinton written by ideological enemies, the two new volumes come from long-established writers backed by major publishing houses and could be harder to dismiss. Bernstein won national fame with partner Bob Woodward at The Post for breaking open the Watergate scandal, while Gerth and Van Natta have spent years as investigative reporters for the New York Times.
This assertion completely overlooks the large body of criticism leveled against Mr. Gerth by his peers, much of it stemming from his dogged and ultimately untruthful pursuit of the so called Whitewater scandal during Bill Clinton's Presidency.

In addition to ignoring Mr. Gerth's reputation as a flawed reporter and poor journalist, Mr Baker and Mr. Soloman offer up racy and potentially damaging segments of the books while studiously avoiding any positive passages. Despite the fact that the only story the attempted to independently verify was denounced as preposterous.

Coffee Confessional

Hello, my name is Rebecca, and I drink Nescafé. Actually, hold the phone, I like Nescafé. I think it tastes better than normal coffee. Yes, that’s right, I like powdered instant coffee better than the real thing, and it's time I admitted it. I don’t know what it’s like in your family, but in mine, this is a grave confession. In fact I may never live it down. You see, we’re one of those gourmet local roasters shade-grown can’t drink it once it’s got cold types of families. And it smells fantastic in the morning doesn’t it? I just love the smell of fresh coffee, but it makes that first sip of scalding hot acrid water twice as nasty.

I like my coffee the consistency of sludge, which is easy to achieve with Nescafe, all you do is keep adding powder until the stuff makes your hair stand on end from five feet away. And don’t forget to add lots of powdered milk and sugar. The idea, really, is to make something that resembles a melted chocolate milkshake, only hot, coffee flavored, and way more caffeinated. Sometimes, if I'm really feeling mad at my degestive tract; I just make a plain cup and drink it that way, but it’s better with lots of milk and sugar.

I suppose I could turn this into a snobbish dissection of the inferiority of French-press coffee and the inevitable disappointment that results from most drip methods, but really, this is about the fact that I have come to not just abide Nescafe, but prefer its taste to most regular coffees. Also, I like Robusta better than Arabica, which may be a clue to why I like Nescafe, since it’s made with Robusta.

Now let me clarify for those of you who, like me before I got to Guinea, have no idea what the hell Robusta and Arabica mean; Almost all of the coffee imported into the US is of the variety Arabica, a milder and more picky family of coffee than Robusta, the stronger, more acidic variety grown primarily for local consumption. I learned about this as part of my agro-forestry training for the Peace Corps. That and one of my friends is an even bigger coffee snob than anyone in my family, he won’t touch Robusta with a stick. He considers Nescafe a sacrilege, and would rather drink tea in the morning than suffer through a cup. I think tea is for sissies.

Most of the coffee grown in Guinea is Robusta, and they make this dark nasty version of espresso called café noir that they cook for about twenty minutes and often tastes of burnt sugar and something vaguely sour. It’s served in a demitasse cup (that’s redundant isn’t it?) which your average Guinean will add two lumps of sugar to, spilling a third of the contents over the side. And if you’re in a hurry, you can get it to go in a little clear plastic baggy that you bite the corner off of later to suck down the contents.

I’ve never met another foreigner who actually likes café noir, which may be why I enjoy it so much. It’s pretty good as long as you don’t skimp on the sugar. I particularly like sitting in the coffee bars where they serve this stuff. In the states we have the horrible institution of coffee shops, which strike me as a commercial attempt to corner the market on places to meet and hang out. In Europe, you get your morning coffee in the local bar, the same place you go at night to drink and hang out, very convivial. Guinea, what with it being muslim and all, has two kind of bars: the kind you buy beer at and the kind you buy coffee at. They’re both equally shady, since even non-drinkers need somewhere to go sit and crack dirty jokes and escape the wife.

The kind of bar that serves alcohol is typically very dirty, and made of cement, and will have at least one resident drunk, plastered and weaving uncertainly at any hour of the day. Coffee bars are usually outdoors, my favorite style consisting of a three sided counter faced with corrugated tin roofing sheets tucked under an awning fringed with a curtain made of strings of folded bottle caps. The counter is topped with a tray of eggs, several really beat up thermoses, a can of sweetened condensed milk and a dirty jar of sugar. The shelves behind the barman are filled with various delights, such as canned sardines, corned beef, insecticide, tomato paste and fabric soap.

At a bar like this one, you can order your bread with margarine, mayonnaise or fried eggs, and you coffee options are the local café noir, Nescafe with sweetened condensed milk and sugar, or some sort of powdered chocolate drink with milk and sugar. If you’d like that black, good luck, your best chance is to order café noir but I think they add sugar to it before serving most of the time. And no, they don't serve that in a grande.

Now I don’t mean to say that Arabica is all bad, since I think it makes a damn good espresso, but there’s no real basis of comparison between coffee and espresso. Coffee doesn’t have that satisfying oily flavor that espresso does, and however good it may smell, once I start drinking it, it mostly tastes like brown water. Whatever weird additives they put in Nescafe more than make up for the usual gap in flavor. And I can make it so strong my teeth hurt with just an extra spoonful.

Now, I should point out that most of the world’s coffee drinkers disagree with me, including my family. It isn’t a question of the sophistication of my pallet, or a lack of choice, since people keep sending me ‘real’ coffee. The coffee I had from the states has been sitting on my shelf for six months while I drink Nescafe. I know Peace Corps volunteers who would kill me for such a waste, but really, I just like Nescafe better.

It's time I came clean about this to my friends and family. No more guilty excuses about running out of real coffee, no more settling for brown water when I can singe my taste buds with the delicious thick bitterness that is Nescafe. I'm coming out of the coffee closet. What I’m not sure of is how my family will take it when I lug home a huge can of instant coffee on my next vacation. Maybe they’ll let it slide if I promise not to get it out in front of company. I can already see my dad shaking his head in bewildered consternation as he wonders what happened to my good taste.

Dick Morris Can't Handle The Truth

Writing in the New York Post on May 24th Dick Morris attacked Senator Hillary Clinton over her extension for filing her financial disclosure statement as a Presidential candidate. Mr. Morris, who has a recent history of smearing Ms. Clinton, claimed falsely that Ms. Clinton had not offered a reason for the extension and further suggested that her motives were to 'cover-up' a connection between her husband and a telemarketing firm currently under investigation.

Last week, Hillary Clinton sought and obtained an extension of time to file her financial-disclosure statement for the presidential race. This will tell us more than her Senate statements - she's required to list not just the sources of Bill's income but exactly how much they paid him. While Sen. Clinton offered no reason for the postponement, we can't help suspecting that she hopes to conceal InfoUSA's payments to her husband while the company is under fire.
In fact Ms. Clinton has provided a reason for the extension, it would be impossible to receive the extension without a reason. Ms. Clinton was granted the extension for the same reason as Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romeny. As reported by the AP on May 18th all three candidates requested more time in order to open their blind trusts as ordered by the Office of Government Ethics.
The Office of Government Ethics won't comment publicly about their disclosure requirements. But the candidates' lawyers cited the demand to open the blind trusts as the reason for seeking extensions to file financial disclosures statements. Clinton, Romney and McCain all received a 45-day grace period to submit their paperwork.
Mr. Morris either enjoys lying to his readers or he was to lazy to perform a google search. Regardless of his motives, Mr. Morris' baseless and false attacks on Ms. Clinton coupled with his disregard of the exact same actions taken by Republican candidates are emblematic of the troubling and shoddy reporting that beleaguers Presidential candidates and obfuscates the truly important issues at hand.

The disturbing continuation of the war in Iraq, the failed pursuit of al Qaeda, and the myriad of domestic problems facing our nation are all topics on which the public needs to be informed of the candidates positions, we do not need to know how much they spent on a haircut or if it will take them a bit longer to complete their financial disclosures.

We live in serious times and we deserve serious journalism.

(Media Matters has more)

Iraq Funding Bill - Open Letter to Senator Mikulski

Ms. Mikulski,
I am writing to express my disgust and dismay with your vote in support of Mr. Bush's endless and needless war in Iraq.

I had come to expect much more from you. Unless I am quite mistaken you voted against the initial authorization of Mr. Bush's misbegotten invasion. Why, when the chips are once again on the table, did you chose to kowtow to a petulant and frustrated President?

Fearing smears and barbs from a Whitehouse that enjoys only a 33% approval rating is cowardly, this cowardice is exacerbated by the fact that your vote ignores the wishes of your constituents as well as the majority of the American Public.

While it is true that the Congress would be unable to override a veto of a funding bill that included timetables, it is equally true that Mr. Bush cannot sign into law a bill that is not sent to him by Congress.

This was an important vote and I believe that you have made the wrong decision. I am very disappointed in your choice and I will be forced to seriously reconsider my support of your candidacy in future elections.

Henry Coppola

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Impossible War

As the war in Iraq drags endlessly on and it becomes even more painstakingly clear that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and as such is an unnecessary and false front in the so-called 'war on terror'; that phrase and it's rhetorical and philosophical difficulties and impossibilities have come increasingly under well deserved criticism.

As many critics of the 'war on terror' phraseology have pointed out terror or terrorism is a tactic that can be employed, not an enemy that can be sought out and defeated. Mr. Bush has conflated this term with actual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and an actual enemies in the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Going against former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the House Armed Services Committee, the British Government, and even his own statements President Bush today dismissed criticism that "this isn't a war on terror" as naive.

We're fighting them. And this notion about how this isn't a war on terror, in my view, is naive. It doesn't -- it doesn't reflect the true nature of the world in which we live.
Mr. Bush's latest smear of his critics belied his poor grasp of both the English language and international relations. It also echoed the earlier attacks manifested by Vice President Cheney and the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Bush's remarks appear to have been prompted by criticism of the 'war on terror' terminology levied by John Edwards in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday. Mr. Edwards harshly denounced the 'war on terror':
The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world.
Mr. Bush and his supporters have used this bumper sticker to great effect as they lawlessly erode American freedoms and ideals while pursuing dangerous and unnecessary stratagems all under the useful guise of important pieces of 'the war on terror'.

Mr. Edwards and others are right to expose Mr. Bush's unfortunate and damming fear-mongering and to demand a change.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Mark Knoller Can't Handle Being Told The Truth

CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller continued to belittle his critics even after explicitly soliciting their opinions. After complaining about Bill Moyers' depiction of the Washington press corps in "Buying The War" Mr. Knoller proceeded to express shock and surprise when he received replies to his complaints that supported Mr. Moyers. Mr. Knoller followed up on his disingenuous and factually flawed complaints by issuing a hollow challenge to his critics. He then dismissed all criticisms against himself and the main stream media at large as angry partisan attacks. A brief perusal of the comments offered to Mr. Knoller would show that he is lying as to the nature of the criticisms as a whole.

Just as the Washington press corps has repeated President Bush's sound bites of fear and intimidation as the truth, Mr. Knoller cherrypicks bits and pieces of his critics' responses to portray them as poorly as possible. At the same time Mr. Knoller completely ignores the many well reasoned comments that did not revert to the "name calling" that he complains of.

Here, for example, is my own comment to Mr. Knoller:

Mr. Knoller,
To begin with your challenge is disingenuous at best. To suggest that anyone was called on during the March 6th press conference who was not already on Mr. Bush's scripted list flies in the face of the truth.

Putting aside the fact that no one would be called upon to ask a question for which the President was not already prepared, the questions that were asked that night were not the actual problem with the press corps coverage of the lead-up to the invasion. They were but a symptom of the disease that has crippled the national media.

As Mr. Moyers pointed out real questions were being asked, primarily by the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau. Unfortunately these questions were not asked by the media at large, and certainly never directly posed to Mr. Bush, nor would they have been allowed as such.

All of that aside I would have asked:

Mr. Bush why do you continue to allege a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda when there is no factual basis to support your allegation? All independent experts in the field agree that such a connection is ludicrous. Why do you choose to lie to the American public?

As a journalist I could then have presented Mr. Bush's refusal to answer my question with the facts that support it. An error that was committed by nearly all Washington reporters.
Mr. Knoller's final response makes it even more clear that he and his colleagues in the Washington media believe not only that they have done nothing wrong, but that they are above reproach. As such, Mr. Knoller dismisses his critics out of hand as mean and personal partisan attackers. While some respondents may have described Mr. Knoller and his colleagues in unflattering terms, the simple truth is that Mr. Knoller does not deserve to be flattered.

Mr. Knoller offered as examples of "positive" dialog the following:
“Hats off to Knoller for his willingness to participate in a dialogue.”

“Hey Knoller. Let me give you a bit of advice. Do not try to reason with this crowd. They have turned on you now. Your only way out is to grovel and say how wrong you and the entire media were. You can’t reason with them.”

“Those who are most angry at you, Mark, are the people who believe that the media’s job is to advance the agenda of the Liberal Democratic Party.”
Mr. Knoller is only receptive to those commenters who blindly support him as he has supported Mr. Bush by questioning the motivation of his detractors and blatantly distorting and falsifying the arguments of his critics.

Mr. Knoller continues to make it clear that he has completely missed the point. He is offended by the complaints as to his lack of journalistic integrity and in response he lashes out blindly at those who see his reporting for what it is; investigation free regurgitation of the Administration's talking points.

Mr. Knoller ends his posting by saying that "if the day comes when reporters substitute what they believe for what they know, we’ll all be poorer for it." Unfortunately the day has already come where reporters, Mr. Knoller among them, have substituted what the Administration tells them for the truth, and we are most assuredly the poorer for it.