May 13, 2008

Dana Priest on mentally ill immigrant detainees

Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein have a harrowing series in the Washington Post about the treatment of the mentally ill in immigrant detention centers -- lack of treatment might be a better way of putting it. I would put an excerpt here, but you should really check out the entire thing.

Dana Priest, of course, is the reporter who broke the story of the abysmal conditions at the Walter Reed army hospital, and also uncovered the CIA's use of "black sites" for suspected terrorists.
I really like the fact that the Post is letting Priest take the reportorial skills she used to ferret out ultra-classified secrets from the intelligence world, and deploy those skills on the world of immigration detention. These kinds of pieces are hard to do well, people find them depressing, and many reporters would consider this subject less prestigious than writing about the CIA. But this is an important story too, and putting your best reporters on it is one way to make it work.

May 8, 2008

If the primary is getting you down...

... it might be time for some Human Tetris.

Time for a change

Joe Klein has a really admirable column in Time magazine this week. It's not often--in fact, almost never--that you hear pundits from big news organizations acknowledging their own role in the political process. This role is usually damaging--an obsession with theatrics, ginned-up "scandals" and general inanity that rewards campaigns for doing inane things.

Before the Indiana and North Carolina primary, Klein watched Clinton's pandering on the gas tax with a mix of disapproval for the idiocy of the proposal but reflexive admiration for her audaciousness in suggesting it:

"It seemed like smart politics too. It was the kind of thing I have seen "work" throughout my nearly 40-year career as a journalist, an era that coincided neatly with the rise of consultant-driven flummery: you could fool most of the people most of the time."

But then Obama won North Carolina and came far closer than anyone excepted in Indiana. To his credit, Klein sees that this was not only a triumph of Obama's more adult style of campaign over Clinton's "reliance on the same-old"--but also a rebuke to the kind of campaign that the media is trying to give us, one that is all about flag pins and pastors instead of the war, the economy, etc:

"In the end, Obama's challenge to the media is as significant as his challenge to McCain. All the evidence — and especially the selection of these two apparent nominees — suggests the public not only is taking this election very seriously but is also extremely concerned about the state of the nation and tired of politics as usual. I suspect the public is also tired of media as usual, tired of journalists who put showmanship over substance ... as I found myself doing in the days before the May 6 primaries."

And then this:

"our knee-jerk reactions — our prejudice toward performance values over policy — could infect the campaign to come between Obama and John McCain, just as it has the primaries.... A general-election campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama doesn't need any hype. It won't be boring. The question is whether we, politicians and press alike, will grant this election — and electorate — the respect that it deserves."

More like this, please.

May 5, 2008

Grubby business

"Why don't we hold these Wall St money grubbers responsible for their role in this recession?" - Senator Hillary Clinton.

I presume she doesn't mean this Wall Street money grubber...

May 1, 2008

Sami Al Haj released

Al Jazeera cameraman freed after six years in Guantanamo. My profile of Al Haj is here.

MORE: One of the major themes of my CJR piece was the lack of interest in Al Haj on the part of major American news organizations (this was not the case in Britian and the Arab-speaking world, where Al Haj's case was regularly covered). The lone exception in the U.S. was Nicholas Kristof, who has an update to his previous columns here. William Glaberson of the NYT (who does great reporting on Guantanamo) has a news piece here. And here is Al Haj himself, in Sudan and already on YouTube. According to this report, he will not face any charges from the Sudanese government.

Confessions of a Sweatshop Inspector

A rare peek inside some of the world's worst factories.

Things that are more important than Jeremiah Wright, Part 1

From today's New York Times:

"At the hearing, a department official, John P. Elwood, disclosed a previously unpublicized method to cloak government activities. Mr. Elwood acknowledged that the administration believed that the president could ignore or modify existing executive orders that he or other presidents have issued without disclosing the new interpretation.

Mr. Elwood, citing a 1980s precedent, said there was nothing new or unusual about such a view.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, challenged Mr. Elwood, saying the administration’s legal stance would let it secretly operate programs that are at odds with public executive orders that to all appearance remain in force."

From the bottom of the story, DOJ spokesman Brian Roehrkasse (ed note: apply grain of salt) explains:

“With respect to classified programs, however,” Mr. Roehrkasse added, publicly changing an executive order might “not be in the interest of the country’s national security.” In such cases, he said, the Congressional Intelligence Committees or their leaders would be informed."

Sounds like it's time to ask everyone on the intelligence committees whether they've been told of any executive orders the Bush administration has put out of commission.