Friday, November 18, 2005

Running down the week

Shocking phone call Thursday.

It was Aunt Paulina. Dad had shown her what I posted here (from The Third Estate Sunday Review) about her fudge. She is so sweet. (And she's bringing the fudge to Thanskgiving dinner.) She guards the recipe with her life but she said I could pass on that one of her secrets was using real butter and another is white corn syrup.

If there are any cooks out there who can decode that, let me know.

So what a week's been. We've learned that despite denials, massive denials, the US military did use white phosphorous as a weapon in Falluja a year ago. If that's new to you, you're not watching Democracy Now!, are you?

Pentagon Admits White Phosphorus Use in Iraq
After initial denials, the Pentagon is now admitting it used white phosphorus as an offensive weapon in the attack on Fallujah last November. The allegations were made in an Italian documentary produced by the Italian state television network RAI. Democracy Now played an excerpt of the film last Tuesday, the day of its premiere. On the same program, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Steve Boylan denied the allegations, saying "I know of no cases where people were deliberately targeted by the use of white phosphorus." The Pentagon now says it used the weapon against insurgents. White phosphorus produces a dense white smoke that can cause serious burns to human flesh. The RAI documentary, entitled "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre", showed graphic footage of civilians with severe wounds and burns allegedly caused by phosphorus bombing.

(I'm swiping that from C.I. because C.I. included links to Democracy Now!'s earlier reports.)

What else were big stories this week? Well how about the ultimate nerd, suck up, embedded before the US provided beds, Bob Woodward?

Seems wooden Woodward knew about the outing of Valerie Plame before anyone else did. Seems he knew in June of 2003. And though he was quite the chatterbox on chat & chews, he was never forthcoming that he had inside information. He covered, he says, because he had a book to work on. Always got to save those "explosive bits" for the books. Without those bits, there's no "explosive diarrhea" to his books, just diarrhea.

Rebecca wrote a very apt description of Bob Woodward this week:

forget barney, he is the white house pooch. belly scratched, head petted and fed, he was neutered and white house broken long ago.

And of course C.I.'s been all over this. You should check out "Editorial: Someone explain to Bob Woodward that a reporter reports" first, then "NYT: Woody hits the fan," "Democracy Now: Falluja, white phosphorous, Michael Ratner; topic Woody: 'Dylan,' Danny Schechter, Arianna Huffington, Alexander Cockburn ...." and "NYT: Woody sees his shadow and goes back underground."

By the way where's that brave watchdog CJR Daily? Well they did one nothing blog report. And late today they offer two pieces. "The Phantom of the Operative" reads like an editorial without a point and Woodward is "addressed" in passing. The point that Woody didn't just hide a source but also took to the airwaves to denounce Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame is a point that's lost on the watchdog.

Here's another point that's lost as they whine about "sources." Woody didn't write about it, just like Judith Miller didn't. Can you read this and not wonder how it's different with Woody? Woodward didn't go to his editors (until October of this year as the investigation was winding down). Woody operated by different rules, just like Miller. Woody's pieces depend upon anonymice just like . . . Judy.

Another dopey ass piece at CJR Daily tosses out Woodward's name before going off into Walter Pincus land.

By Wednesday, this was a huge story. CJR Daily is supposed to be the journalistic watchdog. And it's filed how many stories that even mention Bob Woodward? Three. One blog report and two that mention Woody in passing (including the editorial that never finds its point).

So what is with CJR Daily? Are they too chicken to "grade" a journalistic "institution"? Or are they just more inclined to beat up on a woman? "Real-time media criticism" boasts their new slogan. Where is that real-time media criticism?

Nowhere to be found on the subject of Bob Woodward.

It's shameful.

CJR proper. In 2001 they were still praising Judith Miller.

As late as 2003, they were still sticking to the sidelines, afraid to make a call:

Judith Miller of The New York Times, for example, was attacked by Slate's Jack Shafer and other media critics for her credulous coverage of MET-Alpha, the weapons inspection team to which she was attached. When the team interviewed an Iraqi scientist who said that the Hussein regime had destroyed its weapons of mass destruction days before the war began, Miller, who never interviewed the scientist herself, described it as a "silver bullet" in the search. Shafer and others accused her of functioning, effectively, as a spokeswoman for the unit.

They can't make a call but on this section of their scorecard (entitled "Did the media get it right, or at least more right than wrong?") they give the media a grade of "B+" -- a grade of B+.

In fact, online, the only criticism of Miller before 2005 is to be found by a contribution from Harper's John R. MacArthur. Take that 2003 piece out of the mixture, and CJR doesn't have much to say until the pile up is underweigh. Note also that the piece takes Miller and Michael Gordon to task. Those late to the show, who only learned of Miller after the dog pile began have forgotten all about Michael Gordon's own involvement.

So CJR, the "watchdog", in all its forms has a lot to answer for.

Now, as a media storm rages, at their daily site, they once again sit on the sidelines, sit on their hands, and wait to see what sticks and what doesn't. These kind of "watchdogs" we don't need.

Cedric took them to task this week:

Is Bob Woodward an employee of the Washington Post or their chief client? That's the sort of question CJR Daily should be asking. (I haven't spoken to C.I. today. I did speak to Rebecca and I know from her some of what is going on at CJR but only a little.) So CJR Daily wants to cover the press in "real time" but can't find the "time" to cover what's going on with Bob Woodward.
Are they scared? Are they afraid of offending the biggest name in journalism? This all reminds me of the kid gloves treatment Doris Kearns Goodwin got when she was outed for plagiarism. It didn't stick to her. She can still go on Meet the Press and tubby Tim never will ask, "Is that your final answer? Are you sure that is your final answer or did you swipe it from someone else?"

Cedric also raised the issue of race, the issue we're not supposed to notice.

At The Third Estate Sunday Review, we did a parody of them recently "Watchdog Daily" (we is Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and Jim of The Third Estate Sunday Review, C.I. of The Common Ills and now, with Heather Locklear special guest star billing, part of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Wally of The Daily Jot, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, and myself). I thought it was a hilarious parody and very to the point. But these days, it seems like they're becoming a better parody of themselves than anyone could think up.

The week also saw a lot of grandstanding by the Republicans on Iraq. First they had their no peace "peace resolution" pass and by the end of the week, they were all in attack mode when a House Democrat dared to speak the obvious truth. They're running scared and I think Elaine said it best:

"Peace Quote" (from me):
Peace doesn't arrive on empty promises.

That's it for tonight. Sumner's jiggling the keys and Toni lost patience when she smoked her last cigarette.