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Posts Tagged ‘New York Times

Hamid Karzai: The NYT’s Faithful Client

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The New York Times has a rather fluffy article in today’s issue about how Abdullah Abdullah, the gentlemen from whom Hamid Karzai stole last year’s election in Afghanistan, was given a “cold shoulder” from the White House.  The United States, it seems, did not want to give an impression of “doubt” that Mr. Karzai, whose brother is Afghanistan’s biggest drug kingpin, is serious about “combating drugs and corruption”. A more clear and direct vote of confidence for our faithful client in Afghanistan, one can hardly envision.

The article stands as a tract to justify Karzai’s illegitimate rule in Afghanistan, but it does more than that. The most interesting quote comes halfway through the piece:

“There is no point in rolling out the red carpet for a guy who is wanting recognition for being himself,” said a senior European diplomat who is involved in Afghanistan. “The world doesn’t work that way. Karzai is the elected leader of Afghanistan.”

Forgive me, but why did this “senior European diplomat” need anonymity to state such a trite banality? Did they really need to hide his identity so that he could spout the US governnment’s “line” with an air of objectivity? And who is this mystery diplomat anyway?

A clue comes in his final statement: “Karzai is the elected leader of Afghanistan”. Now, it should be clear to anyone who has even loosely followed the debacle of Afghanistan’s election last August that Hamid Karzai is not the rightfully elected leader of Afghanistan, that he fabricated at least one-third of his votes, that he engaged in widespread voter intimidation and ballot-box stuffing, and that nearly every international monitoring agency declared the election in which Karzai won a sham.

The only “senior European diplomat” who has consistently apologized for Karzai’s election “engineering” is Kai Eide, who summarily fired his subordinate, Peter Galbraith, for breaking the story that one-third of Karzai’s votes were fraudulent last October. Kai Eide is one of the most odious UN officials working for Afghanistan, one who has consistently and repeatedly covered up for Hamid Karzai’s staggering corruption, his lawless reprisals against dissent, and his slavish devotion to the US occupation of Afghanistan. It would make perfect sense for him to lend his “expertise” to the New York Times for a hit-piece on his best buddy Karzai’s biggest rival.

But the article is even more insidious than that. Nowhere does it even mention that Karzai’s August 2009 victory was fradulent, save for a single mention that Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s vanquished rival, “accused the Karzai government of profound corruption and electoral fraud“, a sling which could be interpreted as mere sour grapes, if it didn’t happen to be true. An uninformed reader, after digesting this one-sided pap, would come away with the clear impression that Hamid Karzai legitimately won the August 2009 election, and that the United States is correct in giving his losing rival the “cold shoulder”. This is a falsehood and a fallacy. Karzai did not legitimately win the election, and the US is wrong and undemocratic to deny the rightful victor, Abdullah Abdullah, an audience with President Obama, who, after all, is leading a vicious occupation of his country.

A sad showing from the once-venerable Gray Lady.

Written by pavanvan

May 21, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Russian Journalists Pay For Their Craft in Blood

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Clifford J. Levy, The New York Times’ Moscow correspondent, has provided us excellent reporting over the years, and he really hit it out of the park today with an in-depth look at the violence and lawlessness muckraking reporters in Russia must contend with. We had heard for some time that Russia was a dangerous place in which to practice journalism (Reporters Without Borders just topped their list of worst media predators with Russia and China), and of course we knew the sad case of Anna Politkovskaya, a courageous reporter whom the Putin regime murdered in 2006 for her reports on Chechnya, but Mr. Levy’s report lays bare the pervasion of violence against reporters in Russia:

“Last spring, I called for the resignation of the city’s leadership,” Mr. Beketov said in one of his final editorials. “A few days later, my automobile was blown up. What is next for me?”

Not long after, he was savagely beaten outside his home and left to bleed in the snow. His fingers were bashed, and three later had to be amputated, as if his assailants had sought to make sure that he would never write another word. He lost a leg. Now 52, he is in a wheelchair, his brain so damaged that he cannot utter a simple sentence.


To the north on the M-10 highway from Khimki is a city called Solnechnogorsk, where a newspaper, Solnechnogorsk Forum, was publishing exposés about how local politicians were seeking to do away with elections to maintain power.

The newspaper’s editor, Yuri Grachev, is 73. In February 2009, several men assaulted him as he left his home, putting him in intensive care for a month with a severe concussion, a broken nose and other wounds.

Police officials first said he was drunk and fell down. Then they said he had been the victim of a random robbery, though all that was taken was a folder with material for the newspaper’s next issue. The muggers have not been found, and politicians from the governing party, United Russia, said the attack had nothing to do with Mr. Grachev’s work.

These are not isolated instances, and they serve as a grim reminder of the relative liberty journalists enjoy in America. Our media may be choked with propaganda, our reporters systemically lied to, our independent media ruthlessly crowded out of existence by the news-manufacturing combines, but to my knowledge, journalists in America, even decidedly inconvenient ones such as Glenn Greenwald or Naomi Klein, do not have to contend with car bombs and assassination attempts. This is something which I think we take for granted, and which I only think we will miss, if we do at all, once it has been taken away from us.

Written by pavanvan

May 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

‘Penny Pinching’ in Afghanistan

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The Times has a blatantly pro-war screed masquerading as unbiased news today, as they attempt to bully Britain into providing more money for Afghanistan. Just look at this lede:

Has a “penny pinching” approach to defense spending by Prime Minister Gordon Brown kept British troops in Afghanistan disastrously short of the helicopters and other equipment their commanders have long demanded, causing unnecessarily heavy combat losses to the Taliban’s most devastating weapon, roadside bombs?

“Disastrously short of helicopters”, “commanders have long demanded”, “unnecessarily heavy combat losses”, “most devastating weapon” – Gee, I wonder if the author thinks Britain ought to invest more money in this black hole of a war! (the answer is yes.)

Then it gets even worse. The author, John F. Burns, decides his best source for this matter is a retired British general – one who was Britain’s top military officer back in 2001:

Gen. Charles Guthrie, Britain’s top military officer until 2001, has spoken bitterly of Mr. Brown’s paring of budgets for helicopters and other defense priorities. “Gordon never cared” about defense, he said in an interview last summer with the Times of London. “It’s no good the prime minister one moment saying success is all important, and then for the sake of a few extra helicopters and 2,000 men allowing the mission in Afghanistan to fail.

You can’t go to war in a penny-pinching way,” he said.

What exactly is the “mission” I hear everyone talking about? What does “success” even mean in this context? And isn’t ‘penny-pinching’ a rational policy if your country is totally broke? I know we live in a culture that worships success, but this is going a little too far.

I guess the point of the article is that Conservative leader David Cameron is using this “issue” to score some quick points against Labour in the upcoming election. Mr. Burns writes:

Mr. Cameron quoted a former British paratroop commander in Afghanistan as saying that “repeated demands for more helicopters fell on deaf ears” with the Brown government, and that troops ended up “driving into combat when they should have been flying.

Why don’t they just leave? They would neither have to drive nor fly into combat in that case. The BBC and several other opinion polls all show the war to be deeply unpopular with the British public. But since all of America’s so-called ‘allies’ are shying away from this insane and endless conflict, we have to rely once again on our ‘oldest ally’ to fill the gap – and that often means having to bully them a bit on the front page of our leading newspaper.

Written by pavanvan

April 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

Majority of NYT Science Editors Disbelieve in Climate Change

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(via Fair Blog)

John Horgan over at Scientific American came out last week with the stunning revelation that a majority of the editors of the Science Times section of NYT do not believe in climate change:

Two sources at the Science Times section of the New York Times have told me that a majority of the section’s editorial staff doubts  that human-induced global warming represents a serious threat to humanity.

My brain just exploded.

Oh, also:

Written by pavanvan

March 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Posted in environment

Tagged with , ,

The Times and China: Pot, Meet Kettle

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The Times has the latest in a string of articles accusing China of “using global trade rules to its advantage” today. With their angry, disapproving tone and several vague references to trade imbalances, one gets the distinct impression that America (and the Times by extension) has a hard time swallowing its own medicine.

Just look at what China is being accused of:

China buys dollars and other foreign currencies — worth several hundred billion dollars a year — by selling more of its own currency, which then depresses its value. That intervention helped Chinese exports to surge 46 percent in February compared with a year earlier.


Beijing has worked to suppress a series of I.M.F. reports since 2007 documenting how the country has substantially undervalued its currency, the renminbi, said three people with detailed knowledge of China’s actions.

Horrific! Tell me, when was the last time China invaded a country for not selling its main resource in its own currency?

As for the Times’ description of the I.M.F – well, it must be read to be believed:

The International Monetary Fund acts as a kind of watchdog for global economic policy but has no power over countries like China that do not borrow money from it.

Astonishing. The IMF’s true role is that of an economic enforcer on behalf of the United States. It compels “poor” countries to take IMF loans, and when they can’t pay them back, forces the debtors to enact “structural” changes to their economy, changes usually geared towards a neo-liberal agenda. This has happened in Russia, Poland, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, and a raft of other countries. The IMF is not so much a “watchdog” as a “police dog”, on behalf of the United States and its “Washington Consensus” economic policies.

Then they accuse China’s “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies as being of the same sort that caused the Great Depression:

Two closely related scourges played a central role in the collapse of world trade in the 1930s: protectionism and beggar-thy-neighbor currency devaluations. World leaders set up two institutions after World War II, now known as the W.T.O. and the I.M.F., to reduce the risk of another Great Depression.

But they neglect to mention the role of US banks and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which the US congress enacted in 1930 and began the worldwide trend of “protectionism” during the Great Depression. I mean, this is high school level history here.

Now, there can be no doubt by this point that China is, indeed, keeping its currency devalued in order to boost its export sector. This is common knowledge. But for the Times to blame this whole situation on China belies a real bias on their part.

Remember, it would be impossible for China to keep its currency artificially devalued if the US had not run historic deficits in pursuit of tax cuts and murder in the Middle East. A very weak showing from our “newspaper of record”.

Written by pavanvan

March 15, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Iraq Shiite Showdown

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A relatively decent article out of The Times on today’s election in Iraq. I must commend the NYT on it’s coverage out of Iraq this election cycle. They remain unabashedly pro-Maliki, but have begun to allow a few dissenting voices space in its articles (albeit, small space), including one standout gem in the linked report.

Many of you remember the famed “Basra Offensive” in March 2009 (just as the Dow was hitting bottom), which “flushed out” the Shi’a Mahdi Army and made Basra safe. That’s the prevailing narrative, anyway, and the Times basically assumes its true.

But they do allow this gem from an opposition Shi’a candidate aligned with the “defeated” Mahdi army regarding the Basra Offensive, what the Iraqis call the “Knights operation”:

“They did arrest criminal groups, but the groups only came back later with different names,” he said. “What they refer to as the Knights operation was really the targeting of political groups. They killed many. It was a crime against the Iraqi people.”

They spend the rest of the article tacitly supporting the opposite claim (that the Basra Offensive was a success and not a crime), but at least they entertained the possibility of it being a political pogrom instead of a legitimate military action.

A rare forum for dissent from a paper whose job is basically to manufacture consent for US actions in Iraq.

Written by pavanvan

March 7, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Paywalls and Micropayments

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Ebert has a really good summary of the difficulties in making money on the web. The Columbia Journalism Review has a 10,000 word treatise on the subject if you’re interested, but Ebert’s article is almost as good at 1/10th the length.

The thing about the money is that he’s not making any. He observes that the only people who are able to reliably generate income from subscriptions are the purveyors of online pornography, quoting one of his friends as saying “if there’s one thing you can put behind a firewall, its porn.” True enough, but it does little to help those pursuing more chaste online ventures.

Roger Ebert is undoubtedly the most-read movie critic on the web. His pageviews probably make up half of those of the whole Chicago Sun-Times. He complains, in his post, that his advertisements don’t generate any kind of sustainable income, and he wonders what this betokens for art of newspapering.

The consensus among newspapers at this point is that it’s impossible to run a free, quality newspaper solely on online advertising revenue. Print circulations are dwindling, and they’re not coming back. Ebert outlines the two major proposed solutions: Paywalls – charging a monthly fee for unlimited access to the site – and Micropayments – a pay-per-article scheme.

Each has its success story; The Wall Street Journal has been behind a partial paywall for years, and it has more than a million subscribers. The Financial Times has exploited a micropayment scheme quite successfully. But those papers cover a very narrow niche, and one for which wealthy people are willing to pay a premium. Their business reporting simply cannot be got elsewhere. Would the same sort of demand exist for mainstream general papers like, say, The New York Times?

It would seem not. The Times, for its part, will institute a paywall next year. According to their official communiques, which have been contradictory and misleading, they plan to utilize a sort of “porous paywall”, wherein every IP address gets a few free articles and articles that they arrive at from other sites (following a link from this blog, for instance), will also be free. It remains to be seen how they will be able to prevent this system from being abused (I can think of a thousand ways), but assuming they set their programmers to devise some safeguard, and judging from their aborted TimesSelect project, I estimate they will net approximately 300,000-400,000 subscribers.

I am not in a position to state whether or not this will be enough. And as Ebert mentions in his article, the likelihood is that The Guardian will become the next online “newspaper of record” if the Times should disappear completely behind a paywall – a vast improvement, in my opinion. But if The Guardian goes? Well, then The Washington Post perhaps, though I shudder to think it, or maybe The London Times or The Los Angeles Times.

Can all these papers survive by online subscription? There is reason to think they cannot. And if they can’t, the logical conclusion betokens a further corporatization of the press. The only sites that will be able to staff full-time reporters are the ones who either find a benefactor, or are large and established enough to make a living from paywalls and micropayments. The problem of how a writer can earn an honest living remains unsolved.

Interestingly enough, George Orwell wrote of the same problem more than 60 years ago, in 1946. In his essay The Cost of Letters, he concludes that a “serious” writer must necessarily be a pauper – either that or resort to hackwork. I suppose it is comforting to know things have not changed very much since then.

Written by pavanvan

March 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm