Saturday, October 10, 2009

Journalists like Evan Thomas now admit the Clinton scandals were bogus

Time for the media to fess up

Journalists like Evan Thomas now admit the Clinton scandals were bogus. When will they admit they played along?
By Joe Conason
Oct. 9, 2009

"Better late than never" isn't always true, but public candor from people and institutions that have misled us for many years can be refreshing -- and sometimes even liberating.

Prodded by recent events -- including publication of "The Clinton Tapes," historian Taylor Branch's fascinating account of his contemporaneous private conversations with President Bill Clinton; the unwholesome reappearance of healthcare reform nemesis Betsy McCaughey; and perhaps even the death of retired New York Times Op-Ed columnist William Safire -- certain media myth-makers of the Clinton era have suddenly uttered startling acknowledgments and even a grudging confession or two.

At this late date, it is scarcely radical to suggest that Whitewater and all the other "scandals" deployed by the Washington press corps to besiege the Clinton White House (before the Lewinsky affair) were without substance. In the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, which created and promoted those stories, even such media mandarins as Thomas Friedman and Evan Thomas now casually assure us that they were overblown, even "bogus." And former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan today admits that the famous takedown of the Clinton healthcare reforms he published in 1994, Betsy McCaughey's "No Exit," was essentially a fake too.

Belated as those affirmations are, by more than a decade, they may still matter -- if only because they arrive at a time when the mainstream media is just beginning to descend into some of the same bad habits that plagued us during the last Democratic presidency and the far right is already talking impeachment...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The rise of Iran's citizen journalists
Digital Planet
Dave Lee
BBC World Service
30 July 2009

It has been 40 days since Neda Agha-Soltan, a young Iranian woman, was killed during an anti-government protest in Tehran.

Within hours, graphic scenes showing her final seconds of life dominated newspapers and bulletins over the world.

Yet this moment wasn't recorded by a professional journalist working for a big news organisation. Instead, a regular bystander captured the powerful footage and uploaded it online.

The clip of Agha-Soltan's death is just one of hundreds of pieces of citizen journalism to come from Iran in the past few months.

With journalists forced to stay in their hotel rooms, or even leave the country, these amateur recordings quickly became the only means of getting uncensored news out of Tehran.

No entry

With no correspondents allowed on the ground, the BBC, like almost all major news organisations, is forced to rely on the honesty of citizen journalists to provide details from the protests.

Inevitably, with valuable information comes deceptive mis-information and programme makers have to make difficult decisions about how to harness social networks.

We look at what's going on on Twitter, and then we follow it up in order to verify
Azi Khatiri

Download the podcast

"On Twitter you see people tweeting on various protests that have happened," Dr Azi Khatiri, an interactive producer for the BBC's Persian TV service, said.

"But, as a news organisation we have to make sure what we report is accurate and correct.

"We look at what's going on on Twitter, and then we follow it up in order to verify," she told the organisation's Digital Planet programme.

"We have various contacts inside of Iran that we call up so they can tell us that, for example, a protest has actually happened."

Flood of information

Since the disputed election results, BBC Persian has been inundated with content sent in by viewers.

Far from being a hindrance, Khatiri says the great flood of information helped the team decipher content and identify reliable information.
Protest in Iran
Protests have continued since the 12 June presidential election

"We literally get hundreds on days that massive protests happen inside Iran," said Dr Khatiri .

"When somebody tells us that something has happened, and then we get 10 or 20 pieces of film coming in from mobile phone footage, it shows the same thing: it actually did happen."

However, Bill Thompson, a technology journalist, said the move to citizen journalism didn't necessarily spell the end of the professional.

"Anybody can now have access to these sources," he said.

"But of course there's no validation or verification of the stuff coming out. The role of the journalist is not just to be the person who gets the information, but the person who puts it in context and makes sense of it."

"When it comes to complex political situations, where people's lives are at risk, the mainstream news organisations come into their own because they have done this before. We know how to check something, we know how to get the balance right," he added.

He said that he was also concerned that citizen journalism was only representing the young, web-savvy community of Iran, and that the older generation, with perhaps different views, are being drowned out.

However Dr Khatiri is adamant this isn't the case.

"A lot of the older generation have also been out in the street.

"This is not just the one-sided, young and youthful and funky sort of a protest. You would think, 'OK, do people in the provinces really give a damn? Is it really their cause as well?' I say that yes, it is."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Judith Miller seemed like a hero protecting sources, but turned out to be a mouthpiece for the Bush administration

Karl Rove had asserted in an interview with the FBI that he had learned the identity of Plame from a reporter. That reporter turned out to be Judith Miller.

Judith Miller (journalist)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Judith Miller (born January 2, 1948), is an American journalist. Miller, based in Washington D.C., was a prominent New York Times reporter with access to top U.S. government officials. Her coverage of these officials, especially regarding the Bush administration’s conclusions about Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Program in 2003 and her involvement in the Plame Affair, made her a high-profile media personality. The work that Miller and Michael Gordon did in presenting the case for WMDs has been questioned. Miller eventually lost her job over these reporting issues though Mr. Gordon has remained a reporter for the New York Times. Miller announced her retirement from The New York Times on November 9, 2005.

Miller was a mouthpiece for the Bush administration
New York Times career: 2002-2005

Miller was criticized for her reporting on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). On September 7, 2002, Miller and Times reporter Michael R. Gordon reported the interception of metal tubes bound for Iraq. Her front-page story quoted unnamed "American officials" and "American intelligence experts" who said the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material, and cited unnamed "Bush administration officials" who claimed that in recent months, Iraq had "stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb."

Miller added that "Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war."

Shortly after Miller's article was published, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld all appeared on television and pointed to Miller's story as a partial basis for going to war. Subsequent analyses by various agencies all concluded that there was no way the tubes could have been used for uranium-enrichment centrifuges.

Miller would later claim, based only on second-hand statements from the military unit she was embedded with, that WMDs had been found in Iraq. "Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun," Miller said on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. "What they've found is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we've called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them, firsthand, and who has led MET Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions." This story also turned out to be false.

On May 26, 2004 a Times editorial acknowledged that some of that newspaper's coverage in the run-up to the war had relied too heavily on Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles bent on regime change. It also regretted that "information that was controversial [was] allowed to stand unchallenged." While the editorial rejected "blame on individual reporters," others noted that ten of the twelve flawed stories discussed had been written or co-written by Miller.

Contempt of court
Further information: CIA leak grand jury investigation and CIA leak scandal timeline

On October 1, 2004, federal Judge Thomas F. Hogan found Miller in contempt of court for refusing to appear before a federal grand jury, which was investigating who had leaked to reporters the fact that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA operative. Miller did not write an article about the subject at the time of the leak, but others did (most notably, Robert Novak), spurring the investigation. Judge Hogan sentenced her to 18 months in jail, but stayed the sentence while her appeal proceeded. On February 15, 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld Judge Hogan's ruling. On June 27, 2005 the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

According to sources reported to have firsthand knowledge, Karl Rove had asserted in an interview with the FBI that he had learned the identity of Plame from a reporter.

On July 6, Judge Hogan ordered Miller to serve her sentence at "a suitable jail within the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia." She was taken to Alexandria City Jail on July 7, 2005.[19][20]Testimony at the Libby Trial

On Tuesday January 30th 2007, Miller took the stand as a witness for the prosecution against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff. Miller discussed three conversations she had had with Libby in June and July 2003, including the meeting on June 23, 2003 Miller said she could not remember during her first appearance in front of the Grand Jury. According to the New York Times when asked if Libby discussed Valerie Plame, Miller responded in the affirmative, "adding that Libby had said Wilson worked at the agency’s (C.I.A.) division that dealt with limiting the proliferation of unconventional weapons."[38]

The trial resulted in guilty verdicts for Libby.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marsha Sutton exposes cheating students, but keeps mum on interesting antics at SDCOE

Below is an interesting story by Marsha Sutton. I'd like to ask Martha: why are you reluctant to expose dishonesty among adults in schools? Don't you think there might be a connection between the behavior of kids and the behavior of their role models? Years ago I asked you to look at what was going on at SDCOE. You ran a big story that appeared to account for SDCOE's entire budget, but you left out legal expenses and liability insurance. Haven't you been apathetic regarding the moral lapses of officials at SDCOE and in the schools?

Marsha Sutton: Scandal exposes district problem
San Diego News Network
By Marsha Sutton, SDNN
May 26, 2009

I don’t know which is worse - the fact that dozens of kids were caught cheating at Canyon Crest Academy or the apathetic way parents and administrators regard the moral lapse.

Under pressure to bury the story, which was brought to my attention because of the wide scope of the sordid affair, I’ve had to sort out what it is about this issue that’s causing so many people to exhibit a jaded attitude tinged with resentment at my inquiries.

[Maura Larkins: It appears that you weren't under as much pressure to bury this story as to bury the SDCOE JPA story and the school legal fees and liability insurance story.]

“What’s the big deal?” is the most common refrain I’ve heard. “It goes on everywhere.” “Why are you picking on our school?” “What are you trying to prove?” “It doesn’t help to write about bad news.”

Well, golly. I was under the impression that journalism’s job was to expose corruption (and cheating certainly falls into that category, by my lights), hold government agencies accountable, inform the public, and increase awareness of trends and concerns.

[Maura Larkins comment: Your impression was correct. May we expect a story on Diane Crosier? And all the money taxpayers pay to help school officials cover up wrongdoing?]

A single incident of cheating involving 50 to 60 kids at one of San Diego County’s highest performing high schools is news, but bigger news is that apparently many feel it’s not news at all...

Once, this was just a story about a single incident. But it has broader implications. How is it that cheating is now so common that many consider it “no big deal?” And why are so many people not just puzzled, but perturbed, that this is being aired publicly?

[Maura Larkins' comment: Maybe the kids saw the adults getting away with it, and figured that's how business is done nowadays. And they're right, Marsha, aren't they?]

...Cheating by students - almost all of them juniors and seniors - was discovered in CCA’s two Advanced Placement psychology classes. Combined enrollment for the two classes exceeds 80 students, more than half of whom have been charged with a form of cheating....

There were those students who were said to have cheated on homework assignments and those who cheated on tests - an important distinction that appears not to matter when applying consequences...

Friday, May 22, 2009

The SDUT confidentiality agreement for employees asks for confidentiality and a whole lot more

Apparently SDUT reporters have to go to their graves with any and all knowledge they dug up while working at the SDUT that the editors decided shouldn't be printed. My question is: what if the reporter starts from scratch and interviews people all over again, and tracks down documents again? Can the reporter then write the stories that were covered up by the SDUT?

Click HERE to see the confidentiality agreement and more information about SDUT secrets.

U-T Clamps Down on Potential Rivals
Voice of San Diego
May 22, 2009

In an unusual move for a newspaper, the recently sold San Diego Union-Tribune is requiring employees to sign a confidentiality agreement forbidding them from wooing current or former co-workers to a competitor.

The agreement appears to put a crimp in any employee's plans to create or join a rival company -- such as an online news site -- and bring recent colleagues on board, even those without jobs.

The president of the newspaper industry's leading labor union said he's never seen such an "outrageous" restriction before, and a local professor said it will have a "chilling effect" on those who want to start competing businesses.

A U-T spokesman declined to comment.

Unlike other states, California doesn't allow companies to prevent their employees from working for competitors. But the state does permit "non-solicitation" clauses like the one in the U-T agreement, said Ruben Garcia, an associate professor at California Western School of Law.

The two-page confidentiality agreement states: "I shall not solicit directly or indirectly, any person who is a SDUT employee or who has been employed by SDUT within the prior six (6) months for employment by, or any business relationship with, a competitor."

The agreement says the restriction will be in place for two years after a worker's employment ends.

The U-T is "asking a lot, especially in this climate," said Bernie Lunzer, president of the Newspaper Guild. "I would expect it would make people very upset."

The Newspaper Guild represented hundreds of employees at the U-T until 1998, when workers voted to kick out the union.

Garcia said the wording of the agreement is unusual because it forbids indirect solicitation. "I don’t know what it means to 'indirectly' solicit someone," he said.

He added that non-solicitation clauses generally require that employees be given something in return for agreeing to them. The U-T confidentiality agreement states that the newspaper provides employment in return for signing the contract.

If the U-T asks an employee to sign the agreement while already working at the paper, the agreement states that "additional consideration, to be determined by the SDUT" will be provided...

The confidentiality agreement apparently applies to both current employees and those who are being laid off.

Today is the last day of work for many of the 192 employees laid off by the U-T earlier this month, although they will be paid through July 6.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Newspaper Guild at Sacramento Bee: a union that makes us proud

Sacramento Bee union staffers vote on pay cuts
March 6, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Union members at The Sacramento Bee are deciding whether to accept pay cuts of up to 6 percent.

Approval of the cuts by the Newspaper Guild would save 19 union-covered jobs in the newsroom and advertising departments, at least for now.

The paper plans to cut 34 of the union's 268 positions regardless of the vote results. Rejection of pay cuts could put those 19 additional jobs in jeopardy, too.

Results are expected to be announced after 5 p.m. Friday, Pacific time.

If approved, the proposal would allow the newspaper's management to require employees to take a week of unpaid leave.

The Bee is owned by the McClatchy Co., based in Sacramento.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sri Lanka (Ceylon for boomers) is sealed off from reporters and the Internet

Image: The southern tip of India and Sri Lanka

Invisible Boundary in the Internet Age
By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
February 12, 2009
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka

The men looked sleepy as they slumped in their chairs in the afternoon heat, watching the Scooby Doo cartoon. Their boss, Kusal Perera, the head of a Web site that has been critical of the Sri Lankan government's war, sighed.

His news site,, had to be closed down, one of many media outlets that has been made to censor itself, especially after the death of Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga, 52, a critic of his country's government.

Wickramatunga's murder was seen as part of a growing pattern of intimidation by the government, according to Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists. It all happened during a recent push to wipe out the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, in a war that has persisted for more than two decades, one of the world's longest-running conflicts.

"There were immediate threats to us," Perera told me. He shook my hand for a long time and later tried to hug several visiting journalists in a show of solidarity. "In this modern world, we thought there could no longer be an island with the Internet and text messages. But in Sri Lanka it has really happened. And it's such a pity for those civilians who are suffering."

I knew that coming to this beautiful, palm-fringed Indian Ocean nation to cover what has been characterized as the end of the war would actually be tough: how much information would we have access to? The war zone had been sealed. Would we be able to interview the civilians?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Two bricks for Leslie Devaney and the San Diego Union Tribune for hypocrisy and secrecy

I'm concerned that attorney Leslie Devaney's demands for openness at Tri-City Healthcare are actually an attempt to STOP OR SABOTAGE THE FORENSIC AUDIT. Which does the public need more: an effective audit of financial shenanigans, or a long fight at a board meeting at which the final outcome was predetermined since the majority had all the votes they needed no matter who showed up? I think that the shortness of the meeting was merely an effort to protect the psyches of the board members, who apparently don't have much of a taste for being yelled at. I think they need to toughen up and summon up some courage. They're way too afraid of Leslie Devaney and Ray Artiano and the bigshots who hired them. The board needs to do some homework, to make sure it really understands the situation, and then stand up and go to bat for what it believes in. Too many board members across the spectrum of public entities simply do what their lawyers tell them to do.

This blog has awarded a big brick to attorney Leslie Devaney for hypocrisy and secrecy. Since 2001 Leslie Devaney's law firm Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz has been paid $100,000s of tax dollars by Chula Vista Elementary School District to cover up crimes and other violations of law.

Yet Devaney has the temerity to denounce the new Tri-City Healthcare board majority for lack of openness. Why is she doing this? Apparently to stop the board's investigation into possible criminal activity by her clients Art Gonzalez and seven of his fellow administrators.

But it gets worse. At the same time that Devaney is denouncing board members for putting administrators on leave during a forensic audit, she and her partners at Stutz law firm are suing this blogger (Maura Larkins) for defamation, and REFUSING TO PRODUCE DOCUMENTS RELATED TO THE CRIMINAL ACTIONS AT CVESD.

How do I know these documents exist? Because I have over half the pages from the 87-page set of Bate-stamped documents--the ones that were cherry-picked by CVESD because they were less incriminating. The documents were collected by Daniel Shinoff at Chula Vista Elementary School District during the fall of 2001, and Bate-stamped with the number “1” (not “01” or “001”) through 87, inclusive.

In order to make it impossible for Stutz law firm to claim that they couldn't identify the documents, I sent them copies of many of the documents from the set. Still, Stutz says it can't find the documents, and blames a paralegal.

Here's where the story gets humorous: Stutz is suing me for saying that "Daniel Shinoff keeps documents locked up in his office."

* * *

And here's a brick to the San Diego Union Tribune for hypocrisy and secrecy on behalf of Stutz law firm, for publishing tirades against CVESD for transferring the "Castle Park Five" while at the same time keeping secret the $100,000s of tax dollars the district had paid to defend many of those same teachers.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Don Sevrens goes to bat against new Tri-City Hospital board, and once again supports Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz

It's Leslie Devaney, not Dan Shinoff, this time, but San Diego Union Tribune editor Don Sevrens has once again gone out on a limb for his pals at Stutz law firm.

[Note: Don Sevrens does not make these decisions alone. He got full approval from editor Karin Winner for the cover-up of Stutz law firm's involvement in the Castle Park fiasco discussed below, and I'm sure Winner approved of all the protection the paper has given Stutz law firm over the years.]

Sevrens told a caller today that he will publish corrections to his December 7, 2008 editorial about Monday's Tri-City Healthcare board meeting. Apparently quite a few people called to complain about inaccuracies in his writing.

Here is my response regarding the inaccuracies.

Currently Sevrens is supporting Leslie Devaney, attorney for Tri-City CEO Art Gonzalez. She's the lawyer who helped Laurie Madigan fleece the City of Chula Vista.

But Sevrens and the SDUT seem more strongly connected to Devaney's partner, Dan Shinoff. The San Diego Union-Tribune has never told the full truth about one of Mr. Sevrens' favorite stories, the "Castle Park Five." Mr. Sevrens championed the teachers in story after story. Many letters of support were printed. But Mr. Sevrens never mentioned that the district was paying $100,000s to cover up illegal actions by teachers, with most of that money going to Daniel Shinoff. The SDUT supported the school board candidacy of Felicia Starr, a parent who was deeply involved with the teachers who had initiated illegal actions at the school. Of course, this may have been designed to split the anti-incumbent vote and ensure the election of board member Pamela Smith, who was authorizing the expenditure of taxpayer dollars on the cover-up.

The SDUT and Sevrens got help in the coverup from Linda Rosas Townson, publisher of the Chula Vista Star-News. Townson published the rants of a couple of former PTA presidents from Castle Park School, including Kim Simmons, who was later arrested for embezzling $20,000 from the PTA. The Star-News didn't bother to present the true story, though it had possessed documentation of wrongdoing at the school long before anyone decided to transfer the "Castle Park Five."

Both Sevrens and Star-News reporter Kelley Dupuis pretended that Castle Park teachers were perfectly ordinary teachers and that nothing out of the usual had been going on in the teachers lounge.