For anyone who cares about accurate reporting, the past week was truly disastrous.
Since democracy depends on transparency and some measure of justified trust in our basic institutions, these journalistic failures are damaging to the country.
The misreporting comes on top of well-documented sexual harassment and abuse allegations that led to Matt Lauer’s firing and raise questions about how much his bosses knew and covered up over the years. One, Andrew Lack, is still at NBC. The other, Jeff Zucker, runs CNN.
We also heard Cokie Roberts, long-time reporter for ABC News, say on the air that female reporters knew not to get into elevators alone with some Congressmen and Senators. She didn’t seem to notice that neither she nor anyone else considered that worthy of investigating or reporting.
As for last week’s errors, Glenn Greenwald cites chapter and verse here:
CNN also illustrates how these organizations offered only lame apologies for BIG errors:
Misreporting the date, which both CNN and ABC did, was not a minor matter. It went to the heart of charges that candidate Trump worked with Russia and Russian-backed organizations to win the election. In fact, the accurate dates were after Trump was elected.
Some people have attributed the errors to sloppy reporting, others to deliberate efforts (presumably by the leakers) to harm either Trump or the networks that reported.
There is no doubt the reporting was sloppy, the retractions mealy-mouthed.
But I have an additional observation, albeit purely speculative. First, note that the leaks came from classified settings, such as the House Intel Committee. Second, we know that the Department of Justice has established a high-priority task force to identify the sources of classified leaks. So, I speculate, could DOJ (working with US intel agencies) given specific people some documents seeded with misinformation to see if that identifiable info was leaked? If it was, then the source would be obvious to DOJ or the CIA.
That technique is a familiar one. Intelligence agencies sometimes alter each document slightly for each individual recipient. That way, if some portion ends up in the newspaper, it might be possible to identify which recipient leaked it. I wonder if that’s what happened here? The fact that two sources confirmed CNN’s erroneous story makes me wonder if a Congressman or two received a deliberately altered document.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
He was a low-level aide in the Trump Campaign and never met the boss. He did, however, have connections with Russia, though he has repeatedly denied he did their bidding.
A former naval-officer-turned-energy consultant, Page came under fire last year after reports emerged that he had met with high-level associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in 2016. While Page denied those meetings occurred, the Trump campaign distanced itself from the adviser not long after, with former officials saying that Page and Trump had never met. –Politico
Comment: It is unclear if his refusal is related to the Mueller investigation, but it could well be. Page, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort are all in the crosshairs, according to media reports.
Anybody facing potential indictments would be advised by lawyers not to say anything.
Page is a small fish. Presumably, Mueller’s team would want information from him, but it is not clear if he has any or knows about others approached by the Russians.
In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm: hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.
Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government.
Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab, the global anti-virus firm under a spotlight in the United States because of suspicions that its products facilitate Russian espionage –Washington Post
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Why Trump fired Tom Price and what it means, going forward
Comment: He was only appointed because he was the most knowledgeable Republican Congressman on healthcare.
So, he was a good choice as point man to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill. When that didn’t succeed, he was expendable.
We’ll never know if he would have survived another year or two if he had simply behaved himself. But he didn’t.
Flying private jets on the public dime is justifiable if and only if the trips are vital to the senior official’s time and the private plane saves a lot of otherwise wasted time.
Flying them in other cases and asking the public to pay is simply an unjustified perk and a perfect example of the Washington Swamp. Trump was right to fire Price for that reason alone.
Comment #2: Trump’s cabinet is not the first to misuse these privileges. I’m impressed that Chief of Staff John Kelly learned from this mess and immediately set up new procedures, requiring Cabinet officials to go through his office whenever they want to fly private jets at government expense.
With a lot of details about their publicly-stated falsehoods, plus plenty on Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and others.
Rarely has an intelligence apparatus engaged in systematic lying—and chronic deceit about its lying—both during and even after its tenure. Yet the Obama Administration’s four top security and intelligence officials time and again engaged in untruth, as if peddling lies was part of their job descriptions.
So far none have been held accountable. –Victor Davis Hanson
Comment: Kaepernick started something big politically when he knelt. That brings scrutiny–and he has not fared well under that microscope.
Comment #2: Cuba really needed American recognition when Obama handed it to them. As usual, he got nothing in return, not even the return of convicted US criminals who were given asylum by Castro’s government.
Hat Tip to
◆ Tom Eliafor the Kaepernick story
◆ Clarice Feldman for the Victor Davis Hanson op-ed
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela
It combined two main elements:
A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order
The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.
He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.” He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).
He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.
His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.
Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.
As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.
◆ Two natural disasters:
Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.
Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.
Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.
Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.
The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.
Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.
Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.
He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.
◆Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week
They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)
This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.
NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.
When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum
Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:
President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes
“If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].
“The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.
The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters
Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.
Controversy enveloped the Kennedy School of Government this weekend as critics on campus and around the country castigated the school for rescinding Chelsea Manning’s appointment as a visiting fellow this fall.
Facing criticism on-campus and nationwide, Dean of the Kennedy School Douglas W. Elmendorf rescinded Manning’s invitation in a statement issued in the early hours of Friday, calling her selection a “mistake.”
Now the school faces a fresh wave of controversy as commentators lambast Harvard’s decision to disinvite Manning, a transgender activist whose prison sentence former President Barack Obama commuted in 2017. –The Crimson
The Aggrieved Left Pushes Back
They and Chelsea Manning are “Victims”
The pushback from the campus left, which now sees itself in its preferred position of “blameless victim,” includes a letter condemning the university for dropping the Manning offer:
In light of her selfless sacrifices as a whistleblower, her dedication to the truth, and her commitment to human rights, we call upon the Harvard Kennedy School to reinstate Chelsea Manning’s designation as a fellow at the Institute of Politics,” read the letter, signed by the Trans Task Force, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and the Anti-Islamophobia Network, among several other groups. –Letter from student organizations supporting Chelsea Manning appointment at Harvard, quoted in The Crimson
The Crimson’s Reporting: Fair and Competent
The Crimson article, it should be noted, is fair-minded and includes on-the-record quotes from university members on both sides of the controversy.
Its reporting on a disputed left-right issue is actually superior to that of the NYT, Washington Post, and other media.
Framing This Issue is Contentious
Comment:This dispute is framed in quite different ways by the opposing sides–and that framing matters.
The left sees it as primarily a snub to Manning because of her gender reassignment.
The right sees it as a reasonable decision about someone who leaked classified information.
The leftsees the leaking as a valuable public service.
The right sees it as a crime that was properly punished by a court-martial.
Both sides see the designation as a “Fellow” of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics as an honor. One sees it as well deserved, the other as an endorsement of espionage.
FYI: The headline of this post, “Chelsea Mourning,” is a nod to Joni Mitchell:
Thanks to the wonderful Belladonna Rogers for this story
Comment: World leaders use the gathering for break-out meetings, one on one. There are several dangerous issues on the agenda, beginning with North Korea, but also including Iran, Russia, and, as the fighting in Syria ebbs, the return of many battle-hardened Islamic fighters to Europe.
The arrests are part of a major manhunt for the perpetrators of Friday’s attack. Police had previously arrested an 18-year-old suspect in the departure area of the port of Dover on Saturday. Dover is major port town about 80 miles southeast of London. –CNN
Comment: One particularly sad part of this attack is that some of the suspects are Syrian refugees who were taken in by a well-meaning elderly couple in the London area, a couple honored by Queen for their humanitarian work. Their kindness appears to have been repaid by a vicious attack on the country that welcomed them.
The protest became violent when demonstrators blocked roads and resisted efforts to disperse them by riot police, mounted officers and water cannon.
“Eight rioters who used violence against police were arrested,” a police statement said in Hebrew. –Daily Mail
Basic background: The ultra-orthodox were originally a tiny fraction of the Israeli population and were given a special exemption from serving in the military (so they could study full-time). That exemption became increasingly controversial as the percentage of ultra-orthodox increased, mainly because of their higher birthrate.
The Trump administration has already reversed crucial pieces of what President Trump has called a “terrible and misguided deal” with Cuba that was struck during the Obama administration, but closing the embassy would be the most dramatic action yet to return the relationship to its Cold War deep freeze. –New York Times
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ Let us now praise a great baseball record: Cleveland Indians win 22 straight games
How hard is that? Well, one indication is that no one has ever done it before.
Another is to look at the law of averages.
If you are playing .600 ball (as the Indians are, roughly), then the chances you don’t lose any game out of 5 are a little less than 8% (1 in 12).
The chances you don’t lose any game out of 10 are .006 (about 1/2 of 1%)
The chances that, as a ,600 ball club, you don’t lose 1 game out of 22 are .000013 (that’s 4 zeroes, or 1 chance in 100,000).
That number turns out to be remarkably close to what the law of averages suggest.
In 140 years of major league ball, there have been about 210k games. Roughly half the teams are above .500, and maybe 30% are above .600. That would mean .600 ball clubs played about 70,000 major league games. And this is the first team to go 22 straight, not far off from 1 in 100,000.
Comment: Does someone want to check my calculations here and make sure I have it right?
It was the longest demonstrated flight test of a ballistic missile ever conducted by North Korea and the second instance of the country overflying Japan with a system designed to deliver nuclear warheads. …
According to data released by the South Korean military, the missile flew to a range of approximately 3,700 kilometers while reaching an apogee of 770 kilometers over a flight time of 17 minutes. Japan warned civilians on Hokkaido of a missile overflight, activating sirens and issuing electronic alerts. –Japan Times
Comment: The Trump Administration will almost certainly respond with more sanctions and perhaps begin shooting down North Korean missiles or firing missiles over North Korea, just as it has fired them over Japan.
Since both China and Russia voted for the latest round of UN sanctions, this test has to be a finger aimed at them, too.
Rep. Ellison (D-MN) is the #2 person in the Democratic National Committee.
His press secretary, Isaiah Breen, said that a prominent Jewish reporter looks like “an anti-Semitic caricature” and then doubled down on his vile language. He was not fired, at least not yet; he merely joked about it. (That is an update, thanks to a question from Zakary Taylor and some followup.)
The flack later said he had not been fired because of his noxious Tweets.
Comment: The problem goes beyond Ellison and Breen. It has become pervasive on the far left.
Noah R. Wagner ’18, a member of the Harvard Trans Task Force, speaking in a personal capacity, praised the IOP for appointing Manning.
“Whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are exactly the people that we need, shedding light on the atrocities and injustices for which the U.S. military is responsible, and for which there is rarely transparency or accountability. She’s also a personal hero of mine and a hero for many members of the trans community,” Wagner said. –Harvard Crimson
Comment: Manning, then known as Private Bradley Manning, was court martialed and convicted under the Espionage Act for leaking 750k sensitive or classified documents to Wikileaks. She changed gender identities in prison, where she served 7 years before Pres. Obama commuted her sentence.
A French native who spoke flawless German, she was
an amateur spy who passed a wealth of information to the British about the development of the V-1 and V-2 rockets during World War II and survived stays in three concentration camps for her activities. –New York Times obituary
She used skill and charm, hiding her sharp mind and photographic memory as she interacted with German officers in Paris.
She was a favorite with the German officers, who were completely unaware that the woman they knew as Madeleine Chauffour had been reporting to a French intelligence network, the Druids, organized by the Resistance.
Getting wind of a secret weapons project, she made it her mission to be on hand when the topic was discussed by the Germans, coaxing information through charm and guile.
“I teased them, taunted them, looked at them wide-eyed, insisted that they must be mad when they spoke of the astounding new weapon that flew over vast distances, much faster than any airplane,” she told The Washington Post in 1998. “I kept saying, ‘What you are telling me cannot be true!’ I must have said that 100 times.”
One officer, eager to convince her, let her look at drawings of the rockets. –New York Times
She gave her information to the French resistance, who passed it to London. That information included
precise details about operations at the testing plant in Peenemünde, on the Baltic coast in Pomerania; and showed planned launch locations along the coast from Brittany to the Netherlands.
Relying on this information, the British organized several bombing raids against the plant, which delayed development of the V-2 and spared untold thousands of lives in London. –NYT
The Times obituary includes stories of her escapes from German imprisonment and more.
It’s a helluva tale.
Rest in Peace, Jeannie Rousseau de Clarens, a hero of the French Resistance.