Looks like police in Ferguson, Missouri, took it upon themselves to suspend the First Amendment Wednesday night.
It seems two reporters, Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, were working at a McDonald’s, which has been used as a staging ground by reporters covering the ongoing unrest following the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed African-American man. According to their accounts, the two were accosted by police, some in militaristic riot gear, demanding identification and ordering them out. These officers refused to provide their badge numbers or names or a reason for the order and grew angry when one of the men attempted to take a video.
Both reporters were arrested. Reilly says a cop intentionally banged his head against the glass on the way out of the restaurant, then gave him a facetious “apology.”
The two were transported to a lockup. No mugshots were taken, no fingerprints collected, no paperwork done. After some minutes, they were released. The men were told they’d been arrested for “trespassing.”
At a McDonald’s. Where they were customers.
“Apparently, in America, in 2014,” tweeted Lowery, “police can manhandle you, take you into custody, put you in cell and then open the door like it didn’t happen.”
Actually, both men had been treated with a heavy-handedness and official contempt that are apparently all too familiar to black people in Ferguson — and to black and poor people of whatever tribe all over America. In arresting reporters for reporting, Ferguson police raise a pressing question: Just what are they trying to hide?
The same night Reilly and Lowery were handcuffed, after all, a local alderman who had posted video of the protests to social media was arrested. All last week we had reports of news photographers being ordered to stop taking pictures and reporters being tear-gassed. One officer reportedly took a TV camera and pointed it to the ground. Add to this police refusal until six days after the incident to name the officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the picture that emerges is not one of transparency.
At least three witnesses have now disputed the official version of what happened, the tale of how Brown inexplicably shoved a police officer back inside the officer’s car, and they wrestled for the officer’s gun. One witness, Dorian Johnson, says he was walking in the street with Brown toward Brown’s grandmother’s apartment when the officer, who was in his car, commanded them to “get the eff” out of the street. The street in question, to judge from television images, is a quiet one. We’re not talking Broadway at rush hour.
Johnson says the officer reached out of the car and grabbed Brown and the struggle ensued, the two men wrestling through the car window as a shot was fired. Then the officer got out. Another witness, Tiffany Mitchell, says Brown had broken away and was facing the officer with hands up when he was shot.
Let us hope that between the time of this writing and the time of your reading, the fighting in the streets of Ferguson is done. It makes no sense to compound tragedy with tragedy.
But let us also understand: The mere restoration of order is not the same as peace. If events in Ferguson prove nothing else, they prove the status quo of police harassment and no accountability is untenable and intolerable. And what happened to these two reporters should be instructive to those whose reflex in such matters is to accord police the benefit of even overwhelming doubt.
Such people might want to reconsider. If this is how some cops behave when the whole world is watching, can you imagine what they’re like when the whole world is not?
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, August 18, 2014
With the word that NBC correspondent Chuck Todd will replace David Gregory as the host of the withered carcass that is Meet the Press, the chattering classes left and right are offering their advice on reanimating the corpse of the once-proud Sunday talk show. Ultimately, though, there is only piece of guidance for the Beltway’s new goateed gatekeeper. Simply seek the truth. Unfortunately, that is precisely the task Chuck Todd has argued is not part of his job description as a journalist.
Todd’s acknowledgement that the media’s role is to merely amplify the sound bites of political partisans came during a discussion of the Affordable Care Act last September. Almost four years after Politifact named “death panels” its 2009 Lie of the Year and three years since “government takeover of health care” won its 2010 crown, the future Meet the Press talking point purveyor explained to viewers that unearthing and communicating objective truth is not the media’s job. When Ed Rendell lamented that Americans were misinformed about Obamacare, Todd protested:
“But more importantly, it’s stuff that Republicans successfully messaged against it and they wouldn’t have heard…they don’t repeat other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say ‘it’s your fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”
That same day, Todd took to Twitter to repeat his point:
Somebody decided to troll w/mislding headline: point I actually made was folks shouldn’t expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA
But after eight hours of absorbing a pounding online, he returned to Twitter to clarify his clarification:
I was NOT saying it isn’t job of journos to call out lies, I said it was not job of media to sell WH’s health care message, it is WH’s job
Despite that embarrassing episode, Chuck Todd hasn’t always represented a net subtraction from the sum of human knowledge. He has, in fact, committed acts of journalism. As the GOP’s “Defund Obamacare” campaign ramped up over the summer of 2013, Todd used his NBC “First Read” column to actively illuminate rather than passively mislead. As he put it on July 9:
Here’s a thought exercise on this summer morning: Imagine that after the controversial Medicare prescription-drug legislation was passed into law in 2003, Democrats did everything they could to thwart one of George W. Bush’s top domestic achievements. They launched Senate filibusters to block essential HHS appointees from administering the law; they warned the sports and entertainment industries from participating in any public service announcements to help seniors understand how the law works; and, after taking control of the House of Representatives in 2007, they used the power of the purse to prohibit any more federal funds from being used to implement the law. As it turns out, none of that happened.
That’s exactly right. Despite their opposition to the Part D legislation, Democrats didn’t just refuse to obstruct Bush’s wildly unpopular and completely unfunded $400 billion windfall for insurers and pharmaceutical firms. In Washington and in the states, Democrats helped ensure the successful implementation of a Republican program whose 2006 launch even John Boehner acknowledged was “horrendous.”
Todd was right to highlight the polar opposite partisan responses to President Bush’s Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 and President Obama’s Affordable Care Act of 2010 to provide Americans with context for the unprecedented Republican obstruction of Obamacare. The truth, it turns out, will set you free.
And seeking the truth– not fluffing John McCain’s pillow–is exactly what “junkie” Chuck Todd the “virtual vacuum sweeper when it comes to political facts, figures and analysis” should do every Sunday morning.
By: Jon Perr, Crooks and Liars, August 16, 2014
“The Inevitability Of Republican Reactions”: Opposition Is A Republican Action, Not A Republican Reaction
Ron Fournier of the National Journal has become (to liberal bloggers anyway) the embodiment of multiple sins of the Washington press corps. Most notably, there’s the High Broderism, in which the blame for every problem is apportioned in precisely equal measure to both parties, and the embrace of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency, in which anything can be accomplished, including winning over a recalcitrant opposition, by a simple act of will from the Oval Office. The latter’s most comical manifestation is Fournier’s frequent pleas for President Obama to “lead,” with the content of said “leadership” almost always left undetailed (though one suspects it might involve giving a great speech, after which Republicans would decide to come together with Democrats to solve the nation’s problems).
Though lately I’ve been trying to limit my pundit-bashing to once or twice a month, I couldn’t overlook this passage in Fournier’s latest column expressing his dismay that Obama might take some executive actions in areas where Congress hasn’t done anything, like immigration or corporate inversions. While I’ll give Fournier credit for acknowledging that to know whether such actions are good or bad we’d have to look at each one individually (a remarkable concession), I can’t stomach this:
For argument’s sake, let’s say Obama is right on the issue and has legal authority to act. The big question is …
Would it be wrong to end-run Congress? Another way to put it might be, “Would more polarization in Washington and throughout the country be wrong?” How about exponentially more polarization, gridlock, and incivility? If the president goes too far, he owns that disaster.
Fournier is saying that even if Obama is right on the merits of an issue and has legal authority to take a particular executive action, to go ahead and do so is the same thing as creating “exponentially more polarization, gridlock, and incivility.” But it takes two to tango, or to create polarization. (Gridlock and incivility, one party can do on its own, as we well know.) In other words, Fournier is saying that when Republicans react to an executive action by remaining firm in their obstructionism and being uncivil about it to boot, it’s one person’s fault: Barack Obama.
Isn’t it long past the time when we were able to put aside the quaint notion that Republican actions are determined in any meaningful way by what Democrats do or don’t do?
It isn’t only journalists who have believed this; for some time; Democrats believed it, too. Many Democrats voted for Obama in the 2008 primaries because they were worried about the ferocious opposition Hillary Clinton would engender from the GOP. As they quickly found out, that opposition is a Republican action, not a Republican reaction. I remind you (for the umpteenth time) that on the very day Barack Obama was inaugurated, Republican leaders met for dinner and decided to oppose anything and everything he tried to do. Politically, it was a pretty smart move. But it wasn’t because Obama hadn’t reached out to them and they were mad—he had only been president for a couple of hours. Within weeks, they responded to the fact that Obama hired people to work in the White House by accusing him of appointing a group of unaccountable “czars” who were wielding tyrannical power.
On this subject, there are basically two kinds of Republicans. There are those who understand that maximal opposition will yield lots of political benefit for them, and there are those who genuinely believe that Obama is an evil Kenyan Marxist tyrant trying to destroy America. When it comes to things like how they react to the administration’s policy initiatives, the distinction doesn’t matter. They both arrive at the same place, whether through clear-eyed political calculation or wild-eyed hatred. And nothing—nothing—President Obama does or doesn’t do makes a bit of difference.
To read Fournier, you might think that if Obama came out and said, “Fixing immigration is really Congress’ responsibility, so I’m not going to do a thing until they put a bill on my desk,” Republicans would respond, “We appreciate the trust the President is putting in Congress, so we’re going to get right to work passing comprehensive immigration reform.” But of course they won’t.
If we know anything about the way today’s Republicans react to this president, it’s that nothing he does really matters. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. There will be gridlock and incivility if he does things they don’t like, and there’ll be gridlock and incivility if he does nothing at all. To think otherwise you have to ignore everything that’s happened for the last five years.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 7, 2014
Edward Snowden, leaker extraordinaire of classified NSA documents, is said to be seeking an extension of his political asylum in Russia, where he has resided, beyond the reach of US jurisdiction and under legal protection granted by Vladimir Putin personally, for a little over one year. Snowden seems to be settling in for the long haul as a fugitive expatriate.
He is making a mistake. At some point Snowden must return to the US and face the criminal charges pending against him. By postponing this reckoning, he adds to skepticism about his motives. More important, he diminishes his legitimacy as a whistleblower who broke the law to expose government overreaching, change official policy, and vindicate principles of government transparency and individual privacy.
Snowden has portrayed his accessing, copying and distribution (to selected journalists) of NSA records as acts of conscience-and so they may have been. Civil disobedience is a time-honored form of protest, particularly in a democracy. But civil disobedience is not painless; it is not a get-out-of-jail free card.
Civil disobedience assumes-in fact, requires-submission to legal processes: to trial and possible punishment. This, the painful part of civil disobedience, is what distinguishes morally-just protest, on one hand, from mere law-breaking, on the other. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Think also of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who faces sanctions, including jail, for his civil disobedience in defying a court order. Risen has been waging a legal battle to protect his confidential sources for a book revealing classified information on US intelligence operations in Iran. Having appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, to no avail, Risen has run out of legal options (although the Justice Department has hinted that it might back off of enforcing its subpoena demanding Risen’s testimony about confidential sources).
Snowden’s situation and Risen’s are very similar. Both Snowden and Risen are in trouble for disclosing classified information. Snowden has been indicted, while Risen is subject to a court order (that remains intact after multiple appeals). Snowden has fled the country, escaping (at least for now) any legal consequences for his actions. The morally equivalent choice for Risen would be to renege on his promise of confidentiality and to provide sworn testimony to government prosecutors.
The likelihood of Risen, a principled and professional journalist, betraying his source to avoid jail–is zero. For Snowden, too, the moral choice is clear. To legitimize his violations of federal law as acts of conscience, he needs to face the consequences, not run away from them.
If Snowden, instead of going public with his information, had decided to leak his NSA documents on a confidential basis to journalists at The Guardian and the Washington Post, those journalists would today be in the same boat as the New York Times’ Risen-under subpoena and facing prison or other serious sanctions for refusing to comply. Why, then, should the expectations be so different for Snowden?
Snowden no doubt fears going to prison. Who wouldn’t? But Snowden, if he returned to the US, would receive a trial that is not only fair, but a model of due process. Media interest would be off the charts. That would maximize transparency in all court proceedings–which, in turn, would pressure prosecutors to exercise restraint.
Snowden would have the very best criminal defense lawyers in the country (regardless of his ability to pay them). And those lawyers would make the most of the government’s dilemma: having to prove harm to national security, but without revealing sensitive information that could cause still more harm to national security.
Snowden’s lawyers will also insist that he cease all public comments. No more press conferences via Skype, no Twitter or email, no calls with reporters. Total silence, giving his lawyers control over his message and image. For Snowden, who clearly loves the sound of his own voice and delights in dealings with the media, such muzzling may be hard to abide. Still, it’s not a reason for staying on the lam.
Snowden’s unfinished business is in a US courtroom, not a Moscow suburb.
By: Peter Scheer, Executive Director, First Amendment Coalition, The Huffington Post Blog, July 16, 2014
American pundits have an unusual profession; it is one of the only careers in which repeated, catastrophic, and humiliating failures seem to do nothing to prevent one from continuing to find work. Just ask Dick Morris.
The media’s tendency to forgive blown predictions and provide airtime and column inches to guests with little to no remaining credibility has become particularly offensive since the Iraq situation rapidly devolved into crisis. Despite the fact that those who made the case for the war helped end thousands of lives and waste trillions of dollars, many of those who have been proven to understand nothing of the country have been welcomed back as “experts” on the disaster.
Here are five of the worst offenders:
On Friday, Fox News contributor Judith Miller took it upon herself to criticize the media’s coverage of the situation in Iraq.
“There have been a couple of reporters who have stayed in Iraq, who have been covering the growing power of ISIS…but the American media are so busy playing the blame game, ‘who’s responsible for this debacle,’ that they don’t even pay attention to a story that was there, and available for all to cover,” Miller complained.
“Did the media buy the line from the administration?” host Eric Shawn later asked Miller.
“It’s really a failure — another, yet another — failure of reporting,” Miller said.
This is, as The Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson deftly put it, “a turn of events that could signal the departure of all irony from the world.” After all, through her catastrophically flawed reporting in the buildup to the war, Miller arguably did more than anyone alive to advance the myth that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. It would be almost impossible to find someone less qualified to criticize journalists for their Iraq reporting.
Douglas Feith, who served as the undersecretary of defense for policy during the Bush administration, ripped President Obama’s approach to Iraq in comments to Politico on Thursday:
“This is the education of Barack Obama, but it’s coming at a very high cost to the Syrian people, to the Iraqi people [and] to the American national interest,” said Doug Feith, a top Pentagon official during the George W. Bush administration.
“They were pretty blasé,” Feith said of the Obama team. “The president didn’t take seriously the warnings of what would happen if we withdrew and he liked the political benefits of being able to say that we’re completely out.”
While credulously quoting Feith’s opinion on the situation in Iraq, Politico declined to note that Feith was in charge of postwar planning after President Bush declared the fiasco to be “Mission Accomplished.” It did not go well.
Rather than being presented as an expert on how the president should manage the crisis in Iraq, Feith may be better remembered as he was once described by retired general Tommy Franks: “The dumbest fucking guy on the planet.”
On Sunday, NBC’s Meet The Press invited former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz to argue, essentially, that we should have stayed in Iraq for decades.
“We stuck with the Kurds through 20 years. Northern Iraq, Kurdistan’s a success story. We stuck with South Korea for 60 years. South Korea is a miracle story. But if we had walked away from South Korea in 1953, that country was a basketcase,” he said.
Wolfowitz is another odd choice for an Iraq expert, considering that — like most of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration’s Pentagon — he has a remarkable record of being wrong about almost everything related to the war.
It’s not like Wolfowitz doesn’t know that it was a catastrophe; when MSNBC’s Chuck Todd introduced him as the “architect” of the 2003 invasion during yet another talking-head appearance on Tuesday, Wolfowitz immediately pushed back.
“If I had been the architect, things would have been run very differently,” he insisted. “So, that’s not a correct label.”
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol has a long and well-earned reputation for being America’s least accurate pundit (non-Dick Morris division). But the nadir of his busted analysis centered around the Iraq War, for which he fully embraced the flawed case. Kristol claimed at various points that “American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators” and that “there’s almost no evidence” that the country’s Sunni and Shia populations might clash, among many, many other false assertions.
That still didn’t stop ABC’s This Week from inviting Kristol to analyze the current situation in Iraq. Unsurprisingly, he blamed President Obama:
“It’s a disaster made possible by our ridiculous and total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011,” he argued. Kristol added that President Obama was wrong when he declared the war was over.
“President Obama said two days before election day, in 2012, Iraq is on the path of defeat, the war in Iraq is over. That was enough to get him re-elected. Iraq is on the path of defeat. Neither is true. It’s a disaster for our country,” Kristol said.
Perhaps no supporter of the Iraq War has been more shameless in his criticism of President Obama than his opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain (R-AZ).
“Lindsey Graham and John McCain were right,” the Arizona senator boasted of himself and his South Carolina colleague on the Senate floor. “Our failure to leave forces on Iraq is why Sen. Graham and I predicted this would happen.”
“We had it won,” McCain later said during one of his many cable news appearances. “General Petraeus had the conflict won, thanks to the surge. If we had left a residual force behind, we would not be facing the crisis we are today. Those are fundamental facts … The fact is, we had the conflict won. We had a stable government … But the president wanted out, and now, we are paying a very heavy price. And I predicted it in 2011.”
As MSNBC’s All In with Chis Hayes recently illustrated, McCain doesn’t exactly have the best record on the topic. Much like Kristol, McCain was certain that Iraq had WMD, that Americans would be greeted as liberators, that the war would essentially pay for itself, and that sectarian violence in the country would never ignite: http://player.theplatform.com/p/2E2eJC/EmbeddedOffSite?guid=n_hayes_montage_140612
Don’t expect the Arizona Republican to evolve on the issue, by the way; he’s too busy knocking the president to bother attending Senate hearings on the crisis.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, June 18, 2014