Lies, Leaks and the Press

Posted July 26, 2010 on 10:54 pm | In the category Afghanistan, Pakistan, Press | by Jeff

The press has moved on from its lamentable performance in the Shirley Sherrod – Andrew Breitbart fiasco in which much of the TV, radio and print press helped get an innocent black woman fired by jumping to believe and promote a heavily-edited video from a thoroughly discredited scumbag posing as a real journalist.  After a certain amount of “omigod we should have checked our facts” breast beating, general opinion moved to blaming the NAACP and the Obama administration for believing what they had helped promote. Go figure.

But now, with the leak of some 90,000 documents describing the United States’ lack of success in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s double-crossing behavior in Afghanistan, the press has something to sink its teeth into. But are they chewing on the vagaries of our Afghanistan policy and its apparent failure? Well, their first issue is whether the information should be leaked. Used to be that we counted on the press to tell us what was going on and whether it was working in our favor; now the issue is whether essential state secrets might have slipped through the government’s net of secrecy. But much of what was leaked simply reinforces already existing knowledge with no clear evidence of anyone publishing anything that damages national security. What are damaged are the reputations of those who have planned and implemented and voted for a losing war effort.

The press itself was guilty in the past of passing on secrets leaked by self-serving members of the government – e.g. Valerie Plame’s identity as a high level spy, or the totally discredited “intelligence” claiming Iraq was purchasing large quantities of uranium from Africa. These were pure and simple political leaks used to foment political and public opinion to start a war that we now know was unnecessary, unaffordable, wasteful and – in the end – damaging to America’s interests. But the current leaks are not supportive of another war and the issue has become whether the press should report on legitimate, authenticated documents describing the ugly realities of what looks increasingly like a lost cause war. As in, why should the American people be trusted to deal intelligently with the truth when we (the press) can help the nation by hiding the truth and promoting a fantasy?

Early in John Kennedy’s presidency, the New York Times learned of the upcoming Bay of Pigs invasion being organized by the CIA. Times editor Scotty Reston refused to publish it, believing to do so would be against the national interest. We know how that all worked out and that Kennedy and the nation would have been better served with publication of the story perhaps leading to an avoided disaster. The great Times reporter Tom Wicker believed at the time that the Times should have published the story and were he alive today he would be proud of the Times’ reporting on the latest “leak”.

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World Cup – Giving credit where it is due

Posted July 6, 2010 on 1:10 pm | In the category Germany, Sports | by Mackenzie Brothers

The World Cup deserves its title – unlike the World Series – because every four years populations everywhere in the world watch it carefully and draw perhps dubious conclusions about the state of nations everywhere in the world. This is no doubt a bizarre way of drawing conclusions about international developments, and yet… This World Cup has been even more interesting than usual in this regard. First of all, the beautiful country of South Africa, despite the economic and social problems it still must negotiate, has defied many sceptics, and pulled off this great organizational accomplishment, with virtually none of the feared problems arising. With only the semi-finals and final to go, it is easy to predict that South Africa will have shown that it can produce a world event with quality. Even its soccer team did better than expected.
Europe, on the other hand, presented teams that in a remarkable way tended to reflect the names the teams wore on their shirts. England, Italy and particularly France, looked old and tired and were quickly dispatched. The Netherlands remains well in the mix with a skilled veteran team that is steady as a rock. But it is Germany, of all places, that has come up with a group that almost too easily reflects a young, aggressive, skilled, hard-working multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual society. When you look at the German teams of the past and compare it with this one, you see the difference between a country completely dominated by veteran German-born, German-named Caucasian players, often of the highest level, and a very young team, with a talented group of somewhat older players with names like Lahm, Mertesacker, Schweinsteiger, Friedrichs as well as Klose and Pudolski (both from the old German parts of Poland) and the very youngest named Müller, and a crop of young players in the starting lineup named Ozeil, Khedira, Boetang, Gomez and Cacao (who could have played for Turkey, Tunesia Ghana, Spain and Brazil). It would be too naive to draw too many social and political implications from this. Nevertheless my brother will do that. He thinks that it is a sign of the European times that Germany, 65 years after the end of a war that they started to show their racial superiority should field a team that has the feel of a skilled, hard-working and multicultural unit that reflects the qualities of the new Germany that the rest of Europe has to look to for in leadership if it is going to pull out of its increasingly senile-feeling doldrums.


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