Politics: February 2004 Archives

Our friend Jay Blotcher, a freelance writer, has been sacked as a stringer for the New York Times because he was involved with ACT UP over ten years ago.

Blotcher, who has been involved with gay and AIDS groups in the past, joined the newspaper as a stringer––a freelance reporter––in 2001 after he left New York City for the Hudson Valley. For much of his employment he contributed stories or reporting without ever getting a byline in the paper.

In late 2003, Blotcher published two stories and, under a new Times policy, his name appeared on those pieces. One story dealt with the trial of a woman who was accused of killing her three children. The second concerned some vandalism on a college campus.

“I never dealt with gay issues or AIDS issues,” Blotcher said.

Someone, an editor, another reporter, or a reader noted Blotcher’s name and recalled that he was once a member of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP.

“There was no complaint,” wrote Susan Edgerley, the Times metropolitan editor, in response to a Gay City News e-mail query. “We recognized the name from his work with ACT UP.”

That was it for Blotcher. On January 12, Lew Serviss, a Times editor, told him the paper would no longer use him in any section. When he appealed to Edgerley she responded, “I am setting the bar high to protect against any appearance of conflict of interest that might result through the hiring of stringers and leg-people. My motivation is expediency as well as ethics––we simply do not spend as much time checking into the backgrounds of independent contractors as we do of fulltime staff people.”


The real problem here is that The Times isn’t committed to its own ethics policy. Let’s look at just two Times reporters.

Lawrence K. Altman is a former employee of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and he regularly reports on that agency. Altman also sits on an advisory board that administers a CDC fellowship program. In other words, his relationship with the CDC continues. That would be an actual conflict of interest.

Bernard Weinraub covers the film industry in Los Angeles and his wife heads Columbia Pictures. A portion of their household income, probably the majority, comes from a major player in the industry Weinraub covers. That would also be an actual conflict of interest.

If The Times believed in its ethics policy then it would defend a Jay Blotcher when he follows that policy, but then the newspaper would have to do something about Weinraub and Altman. Neither man returned a phone call seeking comment.

The Times isn’t serious about ethics. The paper, to use Edgerley’s word, is concerned with “expediency.”

Updated: Atrios has more information on The Times's idea of ethics. Also, I see that this was mentioned in the Washington Post last week in Howard Kurtz's column.

The last time I posted about the Education Secretary, he was praising "Christian Values" in the schools. Now he says the teachers union is a terrorist organization:

Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation’s largest teachers union a "terrorist organization" during a private White House meeting with governors on Monday.

Democratic and Republican governors confirmed the education’s secretary’s remarks about the National Education Association.

"These were the words, 'The NEA is a terrorist organization,'" said Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.

We all have our own ideas about what constitutes obscenity.

Congress, FCC Focus on Pay Television Indecency

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain urged cable and satellite companies to offer parents the ability to pick and choose what channels they get so they can protect their children from violence, sex and profanity, an idea that resonated with other lawmakers and regulators.


But lawmakers also heard that federal power to enforce decency standards on subscription cable and satellite service was limited compared to material on the public broadcast airwaves.

"It seems interesting that we say ... if it's on just a higher channel number, which you can get just by clicking your channel changer, we're going to ignore it and not pay attention to it," Sen. John Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, said.

"We ought to look at the whole spectrum of what we get over our televisions," he said.

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 47 at Iraqi Army Center [Rumsfeld says it's just human nature.]

A suicide car bomb killed 47 people at an army recruitment center in Baghdad Wednesday, taking the death toll to about 100 in two attacks on Iraqis working with the U.S. occupation forces within 24 hours.

9/11 Panel to Access to Edited Memos [emphasis mine]

The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks will get greater access to classified intelligence briefings prepared for President Bush under an agreement announced Tuesday with the White House.

The 10-member, bipartisan panel had been barred from reviewing notes taken by three commissioners and the commission's executive director, Philip Zelikow, who reviewed the data in December but couldn't take the summaries with them. Under the agreement, the entire commission were allowed to read versions of the summaries that were edited by the White House.

White House lied about Al Quaeda Nuclear Plant Threat

The White House stepped back from a high-profile assertion by President Bush, in his January 2002 State of the Union Address, that U.S. forces had uncovered evidence of a potential attack against an American nuclear facility.

In the speech, Mr. Bush warned of a terrorist threat to the nation, saying that the U.S. had found "diagrams of American nuclear power plants" in Afghanistan.

Coming just months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- and as U.S. forces were on the hunt for al Qaeda in Afghanistan -- the statement was offered as evidence of the depth of antipathy among Islamic extremists, and of "the madness of the destruction they design."

"Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears," Mr. Bush told Congress and the nation in the televised speech. He said "we have found" diagrams of public water facilities, instructions on how to make chemical arms, maps of U.S. cities and descriptions of U.S. landmarks, in addition to the nuclear-plant plans.

Monday night, the White House defended the warnings about Islamic extremist intentions, but said the concerns highlighted by Mr. Bush were based on intelligence developed before and after the Sept. 11 attacks, and that no plant diagrams were actually found in Afghanistan. "There's no additional basis for the language in the speech that we have found," a senior administration official said.

Several Cuban musicians were nominated for Grammies (Grammys?) Most of them couldn't attend the ceremony because the USA denied them visas.

US authorities have refused to let five Cuban Grammy Awards nominees travel to Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles.

Musicians up for best tropical Latin album award - including veteran star Ibrahim Ferrer - have not got visas.

Ferrer, 77, told press in the capital Havana: "I am not a terrorist. I couldn't be one. I am a musician."

A US diplomat in Havana said the US administration could suspend the entry of people deemed to be "detrimental to the interest of the United States".


Ferrer is the best-known of the nominees after appearing in 1999's Buena Vista Social Club film. He recently won BBC Radio 3's world music award for best artist from the Americas.

The other artists to be refused visas are Guillermo Rubalcaba, Amadito Valdes, Barbarito Torres and the group Septeto Nacional Ignacio Pineiro.

But pianist Chucho Valdes, nominated for best Latin jazz album, has been granted a visa.

Land of the Free?


An American Airlines pilot flying passengers to New York asked Christians on board to identify themselves and suggested the non-Christians discuss the faith with them.

Flight 34 was headed from Los Angeles to John F. Kennedy Airport on Friday afternoon. During the pilot's routine announcements, he asked Christians on board to raise their hands. He then suggested the other passengers use the flight time to talk to the identified Christians about their faith. And, lastly, told them he would be available at the end of the flight to talk about his announcement.

Airline officials are investigating the incident, and they say the company has guidelines about appropriate behavior. The pilot whose name has not been released had just returned to work from a week-long mission trip to Costa Rica.

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from February 2004.

previous archive: Politics: January 2004

next archivePolitics: March 2004



3 latest

3 random