Wednesday, October 26

I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

The Mayor's News Service:
Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- A New York jury said the owner of the World Trade Center was legally responsible in the 1993 terrorist bombing that killed six people and injured 1,000. The civil trial jury today found the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey 68 percent liable for the attack, in which terrorists detonated explosives in a rented van in the 400-car garage under the former twin towers. The terrorists were 32 percent liable, the jury said. The trial consolidated more than 400 cases, including suits filed by people injured by the blast, the families of the dead and businesses. There will now be separate trials to determine damages for the various parties affected by the attack. "This was an extraordinary victory, and we're deeply grateful to the jurors,'' said David Dean, a lawyer for survivors and relatives of those who died. "This case was never about blaming the terrorists. It was always about the failure of the Port Authority to respond to their own reports and to the advice of others. The garage should have been closed.'' The liability finding of greater than 50 percent allows the plaintiffs to seek full payment of damages from the Port Authority, Dean said. A lawyer for the Port Authority said it will appeal.
I guess I can understand that. Man, when I first came to New York, I worked in both the WTC and the WFC on the midnight shifts. We used to wander around that part of town in the middle of the night in search of the 24-hour delis in the vicinity. In those days, downtown was totally dead after 6:00 p.m., as though the morning crowd was the mass of fans attending a daily NFL game. Stop me if I've told this story before, but when I was working at 60 Wall Street on the same schedule, I remember going out to smoke one night and seeing a U-Haul sitting out front for hours, not a conscious security guard in sight. And who could blame 'em? $4.50 an hour guys. My mind immediately went to Timothy McVeigh, of course. Turned out to be nothing. But nobody seemed to really worried about protecting the prime real estate from the rest of the world. Hopefully, I'll soon be be working in Chelsea or elsewhere on the Wesside. Someplace too decrepit to dirty-bomb. Well, never mind. I'm still hanging around the apt. waiting for the job offers to ripen while the old lady schleps around walking yuppie dogs. She's very good at it, presents quite the responsible, likable face to the yuppie dog consumer. I blog a little, send off resumes, check out the Daily Heights, watch the necon cabal getting eaten by its own mindless noise machine. It's the life of Reilly, except for this freaking arthritis and the odd random shooting and the festering corpses. Gotta wait another couple of weeks before the COBRA kicks in. Portability, my ass.

Monday, October 17

SPJ: Judy Miller's AOK

Editor & Publisher: SPJ Reaffirms Decision to Give Judith Miller Its First Amendment Award:

NEW YORK The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) has reaffirmed its plans to honor embattled New York Times reporter Judith Miller with its First Amendment Award on Tuesday, amid new revelations concerning the reporter's involvement in the CIA leak investigation and her recent grand jury testimony. Mac McKerral, a board member, told E&P today that the SPJ board, which has more than 20 members, met again on Saturday and reiterated its desire to give her the award. "We have had members who have e-mailed us that this is a bad idea, and that is why we revisited the issue at the convention and reaffirmed it," he said, noting that he knew of no board members who had voted against the decision this weekend. Reached Monday, SPJ board members stressed that the honor is not meant to be an assessment of her entire career.
I'm an SPJ member, but I am going to have to consider resigning in a huff. If the SPJ board had asked me, I would have voted to wait until we had debated the import of a newly revealed fact: Miller signed a secrecy agreement with the Dept. of Defense in relation to the traveling circus into which she transformed the hunt for nonexistent Iraqi WMDs. As a former CBS reporter argues in a letter to Poynter, that's just totally unethical, in my view. Me, I'm sitting here looking through the SPJ Code of Ethics and trying to see whether the naive boobs who wrote the thing up maybe wouldn't have thought so, too. Some tenets of professional practice that may apply:
Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection. Balance a criminal suspect?s fair trial rights with the public?s right to be informed. Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility. Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity. Disclose unavoidable conflicts. Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
If the SPJ were to uphold those principles, they'd be trying Miller in a moot court instead of handing her a plaque at a flashbulb-illuminated industry grip-and-grin. The woman secretly agreed, on pain of prosecution, not to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about whatever the military found out about WMDs, then went to jail to protect a suspect widely known to have been involved in disseminating the WMD claims--and possibly also in operations to undermine the credibility of persons seeking to debunk them. How can her actions be unambiguously interpreted as admirable and ethical under those circumstances? I'm writing the President of the SPJ Board right now demanding an explanation.

Friday, October 14

MTV: Shocked! Shocked!

MTV is shocked! shocked! to learn that the White House stages propaganda events ... but takes a balanced approach to the issue in its lede ....
It was billed as a candid chat between President Bush and American troops in Iraq about the upcoming constitutional referendum and the progress of the war. But critics are calling it a carefully scripted media play that was preceded by a dress rehearsal. The teleconference took place on Thursday when 10 hand-picked soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry Division were assembled in class-photo-style seating in a building in Tikrit ? the birthplace of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ? to speak to the president, who was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. According to The Associated Press, the questions asked during the call were carefully choreographed to match the president's goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's crucial vote on the nation's new constitution. "This is an important time," deputy assistant defense secretary Allison Barber told the troops before Bush arrived, according to the AP. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you." Barber said the president wanted to cover three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops (see "U.S. Sending 1,500 More Troops To Iraq This Fall"). After asking for some water bottles to be removed from the shot, Barber then staged what was described as a brief rehearsal, in which she asked the soldiers to act out the order of their answers and which topics each would cover. "If the question comes up about partnering ? how often do we train with the Iraqi military ? who does he go to?" Barber asked. "That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said. "And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit ? the hometown ? and how they're handling the political process, who are we going to give that to?" she asked. Barber later said the soldiers were coached on general themes the president wanted to discuss, not specific questions. Once Bush got on the line, he thanked the soldiers and told them that the American people were behind them. "You've got tremendous support here at home," Bush said. A recent AP-Ipsos poll showed less than 40 percent of Americans approved of the way the president is handling the war in Iraq and that just over 50 percent now believe the war was a mistake. White House press secretary Scott McClellan denied that the event was staged and said the troops were expressing their own feelings. He explained that "coordination" is often needed to overcome such technological challenges as delays in transmission in the satellite feed. "I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect," McClellan said, explaining that the president wanted to talk with troops on the ground who have firsthand knowledge about the situation.
I can near the noise machine now: "We've been holding staged propaganda events ever since Firdaus Square, and they're just paying attention to it NOW? Cleary a liberal media conspiracy!"

Friday, October 7

Ode to Indian Summer

Ode to Indian Summer
Originally uploaded by Colin Brayton.
On a calmer note, a random snap from the Bicho lounging around the apartment in his underwear and slippers one fine afternoon a week or so ago. Neuza left a beer in the freezer to quick-chill, then forgot it. Glorious fall color, but the golden Corona flavor proved bruised post-thaw. I like living on the fourth floor, it's conducive to contemplation, and I like the easy roof access ...

75 Cents' Worth of Civic Irresponsibility

Originally uploaded by Colin Brayton.
Riding the 2-3-4-5 and N-R lines today was not made any easier by these bullshit screamer headlines on the covers of the local tabloid bottom-feeders ... These bastards really, really piss me off. Both headlines suggest that the terror plot is an accomplished fact, though the Post's is ambigious: Does the phrase "Qaeda thugs" after the colon meant to indicate the source of the statement or to characterize the "19 attackers"?

Contrast with the Times' top-right story this morning:

Security in and around New York City's subways was sharply increased yesterday after city officials said they were notified by federal authorities in Washington of a terrorist threat that for the first time specifically named the city's transit system. Patrols were increased last night on New York's subway system. The measures were announced by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, along with Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and the head of the New York F.B.I. office, Mark J. Mershon, after an American military operation with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. in Iraq yesterday and Wednesday, according to law enforcement officials. The operation, the officials said, was aimed at disrupting the threat. Some officials in Washington, in interviews last night, played down the nature of the threat. While not entirely dismissing it, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security described it as "specific yet noncredible," adding that the intelligence community had concluded that the information was of "doubtful credibility." Several law enforcement officials said an investigation had yet to corroborate any of the details. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the operation in Iraq resulted in two people being taken into custody. They said a third was being sought. Information about the threat, the officials said, came to light last weekend from an intelligence source who told federal authorities that the three men in Iraq had planned to meet with other operatives in New York. One official said the group would number about a dozen. Another official said the total was closer to 20 people involved. The men planned to use strollers, briefcases and packages to hide a number of bombs that they planned to detonate on the subways. "It was a conspiracy involving more than a dozen people aimed at delivering a number of devices into the subway," one of the officials said. One official said the information suggested an attack could happen as early as today; another pointed to the middle of the month.

It's a "disse-disse" story, as the Brazilians say--"he said she said"--at best, and smells suspiciously like last year's "credible threat" against Prudential in Newark and Citi in midtown, with all the well-planned media events accompanying it--Remember how they kept the Pakistani agents who found that computer up til the wee hours so CNN could package their live interviews with the staged media events down on Wall St., all in prime time? This time it was Bush's "Islamofascist" speech and "we have foiled 10 plots" claim. What fucking bullshit. And here, according to good old New York One the Homeland Security folks are saying Bloomberg "made a mistake" calling out the Hercules cops, causing him to make a talking head appearance "defending" the decision. I'm not a big fan of Bloomberg's--him riding in the limo with Bush at the GOP convention here, but trying to hide it from the cameras, was unforgivable hypocrisy--but it was good to see him on the subway this morning. I sure as hell have a lot more confidence in him and Ray Kelly than I do in Bush's patronage appointments, just as I have a lot more faith in the integrity of Bloomberg News than I do in Rupert Murdoch's formula for circulation success: tits, terror, and cooked circ stats. Oddly, I saw just one cop all day, even though I passed right through Grand Central. And the cop I saw was standing by the exit of my home stop at the Brooklyn Museum, scrutinizing people LEAVING the subway. Duh. I did walk from one appointment in the West 20s to another in the East 40s mainly out of paranoia, though partly to do some Starbuck's hopping to kill time. What did give me pause was a guy dressed in military camouflage, without any insignia I could see, carrying two large duffels down the escalator at Grand Central. I'm thinking Travis Bickle and Timothy McVeigh. Not a cop in sight. Probably some poor slob of a guardsman called out from Hicksville, Lone Guy Land to stand around with his finger on the trigger of an empty M-16. But still. Gave me the creeps. The slimiest thing? The Daily News changed its headline, on its Web site, from the morning's screaming declaration to the properly interrogatory version below, without noting the change. At least the Post stuck with its cover the whole day. New York Daily News Revised Headline, Oct. 7, 2005
Notice how the headline revisionist goes too far in the other direction, rying to appease with the humorous reference to "rubber baby buggy bumpers," that famous old tongue-twister. I'm not laughing. Are you? I'm never reading the News or Post again. And I'm framing those covers to remind me forever who the enemies of our profession are: the smug and recklesss purveyors of exploitative infotainment.

Sunday, October 2

Neighborhood News from the Aeron Potato

Hey, I have to start paying attention to Eventful. Neuza loooooves Beck (because he groks Tropicalia, in part) and the dude is playing at the minor league stadium at Coney Island tomorrow with other South American favorites. I owe her a day out. Since I quit my job I've had a hard time letting go of the killer work routine. I just reproduce it in my home office, like my granddad did after he retired. He'd put on a tie and sit at his desk and monitor the radio and clip items out of the newspapers and file them away and write letters to football coaches and elected officials. The thing is, it actually is good, in general, to work, even when you grow to hate your job. At the job, I didn't have a cat to mess around with, of course, or slippers and a nice carpet and a semiclad wife running around; and I certainly could not smoke like a chimney at my desk. Point is, I'm pretty attached to my Ubuntu box. Maybe too much. So, I am learning Java in Eclipse and futzing around with XML, and blogging idly, and reading lots of Latin American books, like this history of the secret services in Brazil and Vargas Llosa's first novel and lots of Rubem Fonseca. This arthritis and bursitis in my shoulder gives me a good excuse to be an Aeron potato, I maintain. Hurts like a ... a ... ah, um. Of course, the so and sos at the old company say they are following the letter of the law on the COBRA benefits--taking the whole 30+15 days to process the transition from their account to mine--so that I have to pay out of pocket for my physical therapy this month, then get reimbursed when I get the COBRA going after that 15-day gap. Or else I have to wait. Hard to understand: they have stopped paying, so why not just send out the paperwork now? It's not going to cost them anything, right? Are they being petty or is it just the usual mindless corporate BS? I remember getting this memo once, by mistake, I guess, about how they were going to delay paying vendors, and asking them about it, and them swearing up and down that did not include my freelancers, even though that was not in the memo. Aw, who cares? One of my ETFs is up 30% in the last 6 months! Job market has been pretty good, though, I have had several interviews already. Maybe could be working on an IT security publication next (with a circulation literally 100x that of the last pub), or working on a daily news desk on loan securitization and derivatives, or following leveraged buyouts. It's a little nerve-wracking, but at least I have some quality operations calling me in; one is bound to make a decent offer. Right? Right? I am rooting for a job with more writing, one of the things that did not materialize in the last gig. Things are nice in the hood, it's Autumn in New York. Why does it seem so inviting? I like this new mural on our block, thinking of asking the same group to do one on our building. The grrrrls downstairs and the wife conspired to take over the management of the condo from the majority owner, so we got some beautification projects going on .... If you don't live in Brooklyn, I feel sorry for ya!