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Thursday, November 3, 2005
Hard-Hitting Reporting at WaPo
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:15 pm

Via WaPo we have the following piece on Alito, The Life of the Party? Only in the ‘Grand Old’ Sense, that includes this photo and caption:

That there is some extra-special analysis!

This in a piece whose general thesis is:

Washington is a town of geeks and misfits who, for the most part, suppress their inner dorks much of the time. But Alito wears this status on his sleeve: Leaving the cloistered courtroom, he emerges, blinking, into the sunlight.

To be honest, the whole thing is harmless and amusing, but does strike one as an odd story in a major paper less than a week after the nomination. It strikes me more as a fluff piece a month into the process after “real” stories had been exhausted. Although when Milbank became the Post fashion reporter, I don’t know:

And President Bush, a frat boy himself, has acquired a taste for the nerdy: His nominee for Federal Reserve Board chairman, Ben Bernanke, is known for wearing tan socks with dark suits.

The horror!

And, pray tell, what’s wrong with this?

Alito looks as if he were in town for a “Star Trek” convention.

In some ways it is a rather positive PR piece-the fellow hardly comes off as a hard-core extremist in this piece. Further, one could hardly see a piece like this written about Scalia…

And, as a side note, the following may help Matthew Shugart make up his mind about Alito:

In recent years, Alito insisted on wearing a baseball uniform while coaching Little League. As an appellate judge, he hung in his chambers a large poster of former Philadelphia Phillies baseball star Mike Schmidt. He went to baseball fantasy camp and had a baseball card made of himself.

Filed under: Courts/the Judiciary, MSM | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Blogs and Politics
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:58 am

The CSM has an interesting piece on the topic: Their clout rising, blogs are courted by Washington’s elite.

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Friday, October 21, 2005
Line of the Day
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:32 am

“The big irony to savor at the center of the Valerie Plame case is that everything everyone thinks they know about Patrick Fitzgerald’s leak investigation has been leaked.” — Eli Lake writing in the New York Sun

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Thursday, October 20, 2005
Rove Fingers Libby (sorta)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:37 am

Via WaPo: Rove Told Jury Libby May Have Been His Source In Leak Case

White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove’s account said yesterday.


Rove has also testified that he also heard about Plame from someone else outside the White House, but could not recall who.

Of course, all of this is consistent with the nepotism/Keystone Kops thesis-insofar as it still doesn’t get to the covert operative issue:

But it leaves unanswered the central question of the more than two-year-old case: Did anyone commit a crime in leaking information about Plame to the media?

The story also details some other issues in the case, including references some other persons who might be implicated.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Fitgerald “Not Expected to Take Any Action” This Week
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:04 am

Via the NYT: No Final Report Seen in Inquiry on C.I.A. Leak

The special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case has told associates he has no plans to issue a final report about the results of the investigation, heightening the expectation that he intends to bring indictments, lawyers in the case and law enforcement officials said yesterday.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said. A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

A final report had long been considered an option for Mr. Fitzgerald if he decided not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing, although Justice Department officials have been dubious about his legal authority to issue such a report.

By signaling that he had no plans to issue the grand jury’s findings in such detail, Mr. Fitzgerald appeared to narrow his options either to indictments or closing his investigation with no public disclosure of his findings, a choice that would set off a political firestorm.


It is not clear whether Mr. Fitzgerald has learned who first identified the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, to the syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003.

Some of the lawyers in the case say Mr. Fitzgerald seems to be wrestling with decisions about how to proceed, leaning toward indictments but continuing to weigh thousands of pages of documents and testimony he has compiled during the nearly two-year inquiry.

In recent days, Mr. Fitzgerald has repeatedly told lawyers in the case that he has not made up his mind about criminal charges.

And the wait continues.

Meanwhile, the story speculates as to Rove’s replacements, just in case:

Among the names being discussed to take some of Mr. Rove’s responsibilities should he have to step aside, an outside adviser to the White House said, are Dan Bartlett, currently Mr. Bush’s counselor; Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee; and Robert M. Kimmitt, the deputy Treasury secretary.

More: Meanwhile, James Joyner notes rumors that Cheney will resign and Rice will be appointed VP. However, I have to concur with James’ basic conclusion:

This thing has dragged on for years now and it seems that all we have is two senior White House advisors telling reporters that Joe Wilson got the job because his wife, a CIA officer, suggested he be hired. And for that we’ll have a political shakeup of a level not seen since Watergate?

I don’t think so.


Quite honestly, this has never looked like anything more than typical politics unless it can be proven that Libby, Rove or somebody knew that Plame was covert and they outed her for political reasons anyway. And in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t as if she had been undercover infiltrating the Kremlin when Novak published her name. That the outing may have damaged her career is a possibility (although being married to Wilson has to have cut down on exactly how much deep cover work she would likely be doing in the future), but the exact dire consequences of these events have never been fully spelled out to me.

Interpreting these events has been very difficult, as it has been almost impossible to get good information. Further, given that the press is salivating over the possibility of a serious indictment (partially because many of them don’t like this White House, but mainly because the press loves a scandal), it is difficult to know how much wishful thinking goes into the reporting.

It is clear that when obviously partisan sources are discussing the matter that those predisposed to be allied with the administration downplay the whole thing, while those opposed to the administration see a scandal of monumental proportions.

I wish the Fitzgerald would issue his report or indictments so that we can move on beyond the speculation.

Filed under: US Politics, Criminal Justice, MSM | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, October 16, 2005
A Wild and Crazy Defense
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:29 am


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Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Miller to go Back to the Grand Jury
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:08 am

Via Reuters: New York Times reporter summoned to testify again

In a memo to New York Times staff on Tuesday, Executive Editor Bill Keller said Miller would return to the grand jury to “supplement” her initial testimony after handing over to federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald notes from her June 23, 2003, conversation with Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Either the man is building quite a case here, or he is mightily trying to find something to justify all this time and effort.

It seems like we either get a massive conspiracy to purposefully out a CIA agent, or we get nothing. Given that the revelation has to be a knowing one, intent and state of mind come into play. Now granted, indictment and conviction are two wholly different things here, but still, establishing evidence of the commission of a crime can’t be easy in this situation.

Still, since no one knows what has been said in the grand jury, it is hard to really know what in the world is going on.

Beyond all the speculation, it occurs to me that an indictment, which would have always been a big deal (especially if it were to be Rove), will be even bigger now in the current context, as at the moment the President and the administration has lost an awful lot of the benefit of the doubt that it might have had a year or so ago. In the context of low job approval and especially in the context of charges of incompetence and cronyism first with FEMA and Mike Brown and now with the Harriet Miers brouhaha, it isn’t as if the President and his appointees are currently seen as deserving of being cut any slack. Many of the President’s natural defenders may be less inclined to jump to a vigorous defense and adopt more of a wait-and-see attitude, as the Miers situation in particular has clearly shaken the confidence of many of the administration’s allies.

Filed under: US Politics, Criminal Justice, MSM | Comments (11) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Friday, October 7, 2005
Frost to al Jazeerza
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:36 am

Via the BBC: David Frost joins al-Jazeera TV

Veteran UK broadcaster Sir David Frost is to join Arab-language TV station al-Jazeera, the network has confirmed.

Sir David is to appear on al-Jazeera International, the pan-Arab news network’s new English-language channel, due to be launched next spring.

The Qatar-based channel said Sir David, who broadcast his final Breakfast with Frost programme for the BBC in May, would be among the “key on-air talent”.

Sir David was quoted as saying he felt “excitement” about his new role.

“Most of the television I have done over the years has been aimed at British and American audiences,” he said.

How someone with Frost’s pedigree could join up with an organization that has been so clearly a propoganda machine is beyond me.

It is clear that al Jazeera is trying to become more ainstream, so perhaps these kinds of moves will ultimately be a net positive. Still, it strikes me as quite odd.

Filed under: Global Politics, Cable News | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Saturday, October 1, 2005
Back to the Waiver
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:04 am

Via the NYT (Phone Call With Source and Deal Led Reporter to Testify) comes more information that continues to bolster my view of the Miller jailing: that at the heart of the matter is the waiver that Libby gave her to testify. Allegedly Miller preferred a jailing on contempt because she believe that the waiver that Libby initially gave was coerced. As such, she appears to have decided that testifying about her conversations wil him violated the confidentiality of her source. (I use tentative language on purpose, given that there may be more information that may be unrevealed at this time).

It is wholly possible that this was a giant misunderstanding for the beginning, which is why I listed as one of the possibilities to explain her prolonged incarceration as “misguided journalistic ethics,” i.e., she thought she was living up to specific ethical standard when she didn’t really have to do so. Allegedly, the lynchpin of her release is that she is now convinced that the waiver given by Libby was wholly voluntary.

Mr. Libby’s side says he gave Ms. Miller unequivocal permission to testify about her conversations with Mr. Libby concerning his role, if any, in the disclosure of the identify of the officer, Valerie Wilson, also known as Valerie Plame.

In a letter from Mr. Libby to Ms. Miller this month, he expressed surprise that her lawyers had asked him to “repeat for you the waiver of confidentiality that I specifically gave to your counsel over a year ago.” He added that he expected her testimony to help him.

Part of why I hold out the real possibility that there is some important piece of missing information here, is that the back-and-forth over the waiver doesn’t fully make sense to me. Especially when one reads the story and see that it seems like Libby/his representatives had made similar attempts at clarification more than once during Miller’s sojourn in jail-indeed, did so before it came to the point of contempt.

Clearly the offer to limit the questions directed at Miller are part of all of this as well:

The second factor in Ms. Miller’s decision to go before the grand jury was a change in the position of the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, concerning the scope of the questions she would be asked, according to Mr. Abrams. Mr. Fitzgerald only recently agreed to confine his questions to Ms. Miller’s conversations with Mr. Libby concerning the identification of Ms. Wilson, Mr. Abrams said.

However, since other reporters had the same deal (the ones who already testified) it would seem as though this provision would have been available to Miller at the time as well.

None of this either proves the guilt of administration officials, nor exonerates them. Indeed, I would argue we, the public, know no more today than we knew Thursday. Presummably the Grand Jury now does, but exactly how much and what remains to be seen.

Despite the assertions of some, I simply do not see that we can now assume the Libby, Rove or someone else in the administration is about to be indicted or that they are guilty of purposefully outing an undercover agent.

Indeed, if there was a vast conspiracy aimed at providing illegal information to the press about Plame, one would think that Fitzegerald would already have gathered enough evidence for an indictment form the other testimony that he has obtained.

I still think that that Occam’s Razor dictates that the best explanation, based on known facts, is that the administration noted that Plame worked for the CIA to explain why Wilson would have been sent on the mission in the first place. Obviously it was evident that Wilson opposed administration policy. As such, his public pronouncements (which were at odds with what he said to Congress, btw, casting doubts on the motivations of more than just the administration) were considered to be questionable by the administration. No doubt, people within the administration were displeased that an opponent of the administration was put on this task, and hence pointing out potential nepotism does cast Wilson’s statements in a particular light that was more advantageous to the administration.

In other words, if Wilson was a loyal agent of the administration, one might read his report one way, just as one would read the report differently if he had been an unbiased observer who got the job solely on merit. Further, if he was predisposed to oppose the administration and got the job due to his wife’s recommendation, this created yet a different lens through which to view the situation. This is all about spin, something that politicians and political operatives practically breath. It is second nature. I am not saying I like it, but I am saying it is standard operating procedure for all politicians of all political stripes. One has to therefore view their actions with that in mind.

So, it is possible that this entire affair was not about ruining Plame’s cover as revenge (which is the standard Democratic interpretation). It is entirely possible that it was all about spinning why Wilson did what he did.

This raises problems for those who insist that there was a crime here-as to meet the standard of the law, there are certain thresholds that must be met, including the fact that the person mentioning Plame knew that they were compromising an undercover agent. For the “spin scenario” outlined above to be true, it is wholly possible that this was not the case. However, it is also possible that it was. We simply don’t know yet.

I certainly see the real possibility that there were criminal acts here. However, the evidence at hand makes this unlikely (indeed, the nature of the law in question is such that a crime is unlikely). However, if Libby really was facing criminal charges, and Miller’s contempt jailing was keeping him out of jail, it seems unlikely to me he would have issued the waiver in the first place (even before she went to jail, btw), or have clarified it now. If we assume he was willing to commit a crime in the first place, then I would think he would be willing to let Miller rot in jail.

Again, this analysis changes if new data are brought to fore. However, we analyze with the data we have, not the data we would like to have.

Filed under: US Politics, MSM, The Press | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Friday, September 30, 2005
It’s About the Waiver
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:59 am

Via Reuters: Reporter breaks silence in CIA leak case

Miller agreed to break her silence and testify after receiving what she described as a voluntary and personal waiver of confidentiality from her source, identified as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby.

This bolster my point made below, especially in the comments. Her stay is jail is linked to this waiver business, for reasons I don’t totally understand. It is why I mentioned “misguided journalistic ethics”-she allegedly stayed in jail because she thought the Libby waiver was coerced. Now, supposedly, she is willing to accept that it was freely given.

As such, I am not certian that anyone can assume they know how this will play out:

With Miller’s testimony, lawyers said, Fitzgerald could move quickly to bring indictments in the case. Or he may conclude that no crime was committed and end his investigation and possibly issue a report on his findings.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005
More Katrina and the Press
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:48 am

Following the LAT, the NYT (Fear Exceeded Crime’s Reality in New Orleans) is joining the chorus of stories noting that the reporting of utter chaos in post-Katrina New Orleans was over the top and misleading (if not mythical). I would note that the tone of this story strikes me a a bit more cautious in terms of criticizing the media-driven hyperbole than the LAT story.

After the storm came the siege. In the days after Hurricane Katrina, terror from crimes seen and unseen, real and rumored, gripped New Orleans. The fears changed troop deployments, delayed medical evacuations, drove police officers to quit, grounded helicopters. Edwin P. Compass III, the police superintendent, said that tourists - the core of the city’s economy - were being robbed and raped on streets that had slid into anarchy.

The mass misery in the city’s two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children.

A month later, a review of the available evidence now shows that some, though not all, of the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations, the product of chaotic circumstances that included no reliable communications, and perhaps the residue of the longstanding raw relations between some police officers and members of the public.


What became clear is that the rumor of crime, as much as the reality of the public disorder, often played a powerful role in the emergency response. A team of paramedics was barred from entering Slidell, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, for nearly 10 hours based on a state trooper’s report that a mob of armed, marauding people had commandeered boats. It turned out to be two men escaping from their flooded streets, said Farol Champlin, a paramedic with the Acadian Ambulance Company.

On another occasion, the company’s ambulances were locked down after word came that a firehouse in Covington had been looted by armed robbers of all its water - a report that proved totally untrue, said Aaron Labatt, another paramedic.

What strikes me is that this all comports with some comments I made in the midst of the coverage (here) wherein I noted that reporting stories of extreme violence, often without adequate evidence, was hindering the relief effort. Some commenters disputed my assessment, but it would appear I had a point:

Faced with reports that 400 to 500 armed looters were advancing on the town of Westwego, two police officers quit on the spot. The looters never appeared, said the Westwego police chief, Dwayne Munch.

“Rumors could tear down an entire army,” Chief Munch said.

During six days when the Superdome was used as a shelter, the head of the New Orleans Police Department’s sex crimes unit, Lt. David Benelli, said he and his officers lived inside the dome and ran down every rumor of rape or atrocity. In the end, they made two arrests for attempted sexual assault, and concluded that the other attacks had not happened.

Specifically, I was especially struck at the time that the cable coverage was rife with reports of a Hobbesesque state of nature within New Orleans while simultaneously criticizing relief workers for not rushing into the city. At the time I maintained that the press coverage was actually contributing to the slow response that they were also vehemently criticizing.

As with assessments of the responses by government and private organizations, I think that the magnitude of the events have to be taken into consideration in criticizing media coverage. Still, I do think that some self-assessment needs to be undertaken here-especially by cable news. The coverage underscored the current manner in which 24/7 cable coverage (especially when covering a live event) weakens or entirely tosses rules of evidence. I like getting information as quickly as possible more than most people (it’s my bloggin’ nature) but gee whiz, rumor should not be presented as news-especially when such rumors can lead to serious real world consequences.

Filed under: Hurricanes, MSM, The Press | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Katrina and the Media
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:06 pm

Via the LAT: Katrina Takes a Toll on Truth, News Accuracy

The New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday described inflated body counts, unverified “rapes,” and unconfirmed sniper attacks as among examples of “scores of myths about the dome and Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans’ top officials.”


Follow-up reporting has discredited reports of a 7-year-old being raped and murdered at the Superdome, roving bands of armed gang members attacking the helpless, and dozens of bodies being shoved into a freezer at the Convention Center.

The whole thing is worth reading.

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» Oh, how the winds have changed » Arguing with signposts… » Blog Archive linked with [...] and what is just hearsay based on the reporting of allegedly reputable news sources. h/t Poliblog | RSS | Inlinks | Blogging | Hurricane Katrina • Time publish [...]
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Can You Say “Marketing”? Yes, I Think you Can
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:54 am

Hmm, the three most prominent NYT columnists just happen to be on MTP this week, and Tim makes the comment about how we’re getting them all free today, instead of paying to read them online.

Coincidence? I think not. Indeed, I predict seeing more of this kind of thing-getting groups of NYT columnist on TV rather than seeing them as individuals who also happen to write for a specific paper. The message will be: see what you are missing? Surely you to pay to read these luminaries now!

However, I will state for the record that I moved no closer to paying for NYT’s select than I was before see the NYT Three on TV.

Filed under: Hurricanes, The Press | Comments (5) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
A Good Question
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:47 am

“I’ve never watch this. Why are they taking me here?”-Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard on MTP to someone off camera, upon the hearing the replay of his emotional breakdown on MTP a few weeks prior.

I wholly see the need to talk about Broussard’s accusations (which Russert notes have been seriouly questioned). Still, they should have told Broussard what was coming. Even if Broussard’s story was wrong, he was at a very emotional place when he broke down-having just lived through one of the worst weeks in American history. I am willing to give him some slack on the emotional level.

That having been said, it is a legitimate question to deal with the facts of Broussard’s tale. However, it seems to me that it would have been more useful for Russert to have dealt with the facts and not the emotion. By having Broussard hear his breakdown and infusing emotion into the discussion, the odds that Broussard was going to do anything other than get recalcitrance and defensiveness were quite low.

It would seem that the facts clearly at odds with Broussard’s initial tale, but the truth was not going to be served by ambushing a guest, which is how it looked to me.

Update: The transcript can be found here and Crooks and Liars has video.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005
The JetBlue Drama and Media Coverage
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:00 am

I just happened to turn on MSNBC last night to see the end of this drama. In the age of TiVo I rarely surf the channels any more, and had flipped the TV to see if there was any new news on Rita, and the Weather Channel was talking about something else, so I flipped the channel.

I must confess, on one level, watching the event unfold seemed a bit morbid, as there was a real chance that the front landing gear would collapse and the nose of the plane would be driven into the runway. That would have been horrible and while the situation was certainly legitimate news, on the other hand one always has this terrible feeling that the news people are secretly hoping that the worst will happen so that they can capture it on TV.

It was quite appropriate that the event took place in LA, as LA news loves to show this kind of stuff, for hours on end if possible. LA is the land of the most dramatic presentation of the evening news of anywhere I have ever lived or visited. This event reminded me of time one Christmas where we were back visiting family and a bank had been robbed, and the robbers were holding hostages and reportedly had explosives. At least one station kept live cameras on the bank the whole time, while another station, where we were watching a movie, kept breaking in to show us all that yep, the bank hadn’t exploded yet. One got the distinct impression that they were just waiting for the bank to explode.

At any rate, I can’t imagine watching the TV commentary, which, of course, would deal with worst case scenarios, of the event while I was in the plane, yet that is what the JetBlue passengers were able to do: JetBlue Passengers Watched News of Drama

While satellite TV sets aboard JetBlue Flight 292 were tuned to news broadcasts, some passengers cried. Others tried to telephone relatives and one woman sent a text message to her mother in Florida attempting to comfort her in the event she died.

“It was very weird. It would’ve been so much calmer without” the televisions, Pia Varma of Los Angeles said after the plane skidded to a safe landing Wednesday evening in a stream of sparks and burning tires. No one was hurt.

Varma, 23, and other passengers said the plane’s monitors carried live DirectTV broadcasts on the plane’s problems until just a few minutes before landing at Los Angeles International Airport.

The landing gear trouble-the front wheels were stuck in a sideways position-was discovered almost immediately after the plane departed Bob Hope Airport in Burbank at 3:17 p.m., en route to New York City.

On the one hand, more information would be good in that kind of situation, I suppose (certainly I am one who always want more information). On the other, the hand the hyperbolic coverage of your typical able news anchor would hardly be comforting in such a situation.

I will say, the pilots landed that plane in impressive fashion.

Update: More here with photos, commentary from during the event and links to other related items.

Filed under: Not politics, The Press, Cable News | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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