May
15
2009

Philly Paper Welcomes Home Native Torture Hero

Blogger and Philadelphia Inquirer writer Will Bunch has a review (Attytood, 5/11/09) of how, "by late last year, the world already knew a great deal about John Yoo, the Philadelphia native and conservative legal scholar whose tenure in the Bush administration as a top Justice Department lawyer lies at the root of the period of greatest peril to the U.S. Constitution in modern memory": It was widely known in 2008, for example, that Yoo had argued for presidential powers far beyond anything either real or implied in the Constitution–that the commander-in-chief could trample the powers of Congress or a free […]

May
15
2009

Impoverished Papers Can't Afford Truth

Hearing "the whining retreat of a whipped pup instead of the toothy growl of a watchdog," the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic (5/11/09) quotes Washington Post reporter Paul Kane answering an online question with a new excuse for refusing to "call waterboarding people and slamming them into walls torture"–"because [the Post] fears a lawsuit for libel": New York, N.Y.: What's the difference between the "harsh interrogations" I keep reading about in the Post and actual "torture"? If it's the same thing, then why not just call it "torture"? I don't get it. Aren't you guys continuing to catapult Bush-era propaganda when […]

May
12
2009

PBS's 'Washington Bubble' Invisible to Inhabitants

Noticing how PBS's Gwen Ifill has a penchant for "filling her Washington Week program with journalists who almost invariably agree with each other instead of actually debating the issues of the week," critic Charles Kaiser decided to contact her (CJR.org, 5/8/09) about a recent "discussion of torture in which the only issue the panelists identified was how the Obama administration should deal with the political fallout from the demands for a full-scale investigation and/or prosecution of the officials responsible for American torture." Kaiser's question of whether it would "ruin the discussion to have one person who believes that a full […]

May
09
2009

NYT Names 'Harsh Tactics' as 'Torture' — by Chinese

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald gets the site's lead story today (5/8/09, ad-viewing required) with an excerpt from the New York Times obituary for U.S. fighter pilot Harold E. Fischer Jr., who, as the Times headline puts it, was "Tortured in a Chinese Prison." Greenwald deems such naming of Fischer's ordeal–"kept in a dark, damp cell with no bed and no opening except a slot in the door…handcuffed. Hour after hour, a high-frequency whistle pierced the air"–to be "a major editorial breach" for the paper that so agilely dances around the T-word when reporting on U.S. actions: So that's torture now?… […]

May
08
2009

Press Corp 'Dean' Preaches 'Purposeful Ignorance'

Quoting John Dewey's warning about "the proper role of the press in a democracy"–"a class of experts is inevitably so removed from common interests as to become a class with private interests and private knowledge"–Eric Alterman finds it (Nation, 5/6/09) "difficult to imagine a more telling–and disturbing–manifestation of Dewey's prediction than the current torture debate in Washington": Even after the disgraceful performance of so many armchair warriors during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, who would have dared predict the willingness, nay, eagerness, of respected journalists and pundits to argue in favor of purposeful ignorance? Sadly, many of them […]

May
06
2009

NPR: 'Justifying and Sanitizing the U.S. Torture Regime'

Blogging on how May 4 and 5 broadcasts "feature NPR continuing its function of justifying and sanitizing the U.S. torture regime," dedicated public radio critic Mytwords (NPR Check, 5/5/09) plumbs the depths of NPR's aversion to "human rights or international law advocates or experts"–instead preferring "members or former members of various U.S. government agencies," even "the very ones implicated in formulating and carrying out torture": For a long time NPR news has minimized (June 2006), dismissed (February 2007), ignored (April 2007), covered over (October 2007) and collaborated with (December 2007) the use of torture by agencies and agents of the […]

May
05
2009

On 'Normalized Torture' and Prosecution as a 'Cop-Out'

Even though "James Risen, David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis first told the world about waterboarding in May 2004," Dan Froomkin (WashingtonPost.com, 5/4/09) is having to argue that "that doesn't mean that the rest of us are as guilty as the people who committed the crimes–or that those who ordered those crimes should avoid accountability." While Newsweek's Jacob Weisberg and the Post's own Michael Kinsley are among those "arguing that the nation's collective guilt for torture is so great that prosecution is a cop-out," Froomkin has some "big problems with this argument": While it's true that the public's outrage over […]

May
02
2009

And Now, From the 'Hard Left': Ronald Reagan

In his latest Salon blog entry (5/1/09, ad-viewing required), Glenn Greenwald displays his find of "a perfect illustration of how severely our political spectrum has shifted in the last two decades and how depraved and extremist our political and media classes have become"–one quote of the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer rebutting those who "believe you never torture. Ever": Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances. The first is the ticking time bomb. . . . The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to […]

Apr
29
2009

'Modifying Adjectives' Replace Torture Facts at NYT

Brad Jacobson has an incisive take (Media Bloodhound, 4/29/09) on the consequences of mealy-mouthed torture language at the New York Times, where public editor Clark Hoyt provides he said/she said examples to show how the public has reacted. But in doing so, in this context, he turns the very idea of news reporting–that it should be based on fact rather than opinion–on its head and, in effect, concedes that Times editors, on news stories as serious as torture, are allowing public sentiment to color their reports. Robert Ofsevit of Oakland, Calif., asked, "Why canâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t the New York Times call torture […]

Apr
29
2009

Pol 'Thugs' Think Twice in Age of Internet Media

Sure that Andrew Sullivan "would be horrified" by the idea that he and Cindy Sheehan agree on anything, Jonathan Schwarz nonetheless quotes (A Tiny Revolution, 4/25/09) the Atlantic.com blogger's declaration of "love" for the Internet, because "can you imagine what those thugs would have gotten away with without it?" Sheehan's similar 2005 statement–"Thank God for the Internet, or we wouldn't know anything, and we would already be a fascist state"–spurs Schwarz to celebrate the democratizing power of online media: I'm not sure we'd be a fascist state without the beautiful, beautiful tubes. But the difference they've made is gigantic. Recall […]

Apr
28
2009

The 'Important Historical Context' of Torture Punditry

Quoting Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter's strong words on the Keith Olbermann show about how "it's important, historically, to look at the context of" the "effort in these OLC memos to try to dress [torture] up as something else," Hullabaloo blogger digby takes issue (4/24/09) with his statement that "Dick Cheney stands almost alone" in still publicly defending the memos: Yes, Dick Cheney is forlorn and all alone. Many of the people who advocated taking the gloves off are leaving him out there hanging today. And one of them is Jonathan Alter. See, he forgot to mention–and Keith apparently didn't know–that […]

Apr
26
2009

Bush Lie Lives On as Pro-Torture Spin Point

David Swanson has noted (Consortium News, 4/23/09) that, as "much of elite U.S. punditry is backing away from torture," the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is bucking that trend with an April 22 column in which "he both opposes torture under all circumstances and excuses it given the current circumstances." Jacoby's main justification for U.S. torture tactics are "the successes with which they have been credited"–such as "the foiling of Al-Qaeda's planned 'Second Wave'–a 9/11-like plot to crash a hijacked airliner into a Los Angeles skyscraper." Swanson gives the lie to this zombie resurrected from the graveyard of Bush administration propaganda: […]

Apr
26
2009

Torture Memos Bring Out True Allegiances of MSM

Writing at Salon (4/23/09, ad-viewing required) of how the "sheer criminality" of George W. Bush-era torture, "really for the first time, has exploded into mainstream political debates," Glenn Greenwald is thoroughly unsurprised by their behavior as "media stars are forced to address it": Exactly as one would expect, they are closing ranks, demanding (as always) that their big powerful political-official-friends and their elite institutions not be subject to the dirty instruments that are meant only for the masses–things like the rule of law, investigations, prosecutions and accountability when they abuse their power. To Greenwald, This remains the single most notable […]