Leahy's Truth Commission Hits the Skids

Those of you following the prosecution trail will be interested to know that Patrick Leahy’s Truth Commission is a no-go. I was in a meeting with Leahy and 4 other Vermonters on Monday when he broke the news to us. We had asked for the meeting to learn why he supported a Truth Commission over Read More

Comforting the Comfortable

Every so often, mainstream journalists indulge us with stunning self-revelatory comments about themselves and their cohort. Consider Evan Thomas’s profile of Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in the latest Newsweek. Thomas writes: If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am), reading Krugman makes you uneasy. You hope he’s wrong, Read More

Extracting the Truth

In an era when the public is demanding accountability, how accountable is the intelligence sphere? Employing hundreds of thousands and spending hundreds of billions each year, it essentially answers to no one. Even the people’s representatives tasked with riding herd, the congressional intelligence committees, have nearly always been kept in the dark, sworn to silence, Read More

More Leaks

In Not So Secret After All? (March 18), I pondered the spate of leaks on seemingly sensitive military and foreign policy matters. Well, here comes more. In the New York Times of March 28, we have in the lead story a full-blown leak-a-thon: President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after Read More

Of Bonuses and Shelters

Stories about homelessness and the spread of tent cities abound. It has always been difficult to get an accurate number on how many people are without shelter, but homelessness groups have estimated that on a given night in one of the worst months of a typical recent year, that figure might near 800,000. Say it Read More

Meet Lloyd Blankfein

The Wall Street Journal has disclosed that Lloyd Blankfein was present at the meetings with Tim Geithner and Hank Paulson when the decision was made to bail out AIG, which had sold credit default swaps to Goldman Sachs on which AIG was unable to make good.  Goldman’s stock had plummeted to 35, wiping out vast Read More

Etymology as Journalism

Phraseology is fundamental to today’s political battles. Lobbyists, political strategists, corporate PR reps, and even academics expend an extraordinary amount of thought and money on framing issues with just the right label. Expressions like “bridge to nowhere” simply don’t arise from ordinary discourse. Consequently, journalists have to become etymologists to cover politics adequately.  Anytime they hear Read More

Truth or Reconciliation?

They are really coming. Official investigations of the George W. Bush administration are on the way. Karl Rove and Harriet Miers have just agreed to limited testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking into the seemingly politically-motivated firings of seven U.S. Attorneys. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Patrick Leahy, his senate counterpart, Read More

It's the Culture, Stupid

Character is fate, the Romans learned, and biography is history. They’re also the essence of today’s headlines. As serious journalists tackle our Great Crash, they should begin by digging deep beneath the perfunctory clip-file profiles of the major players — from White House, Treasury and Fed to Congress to counting-house suites — to connect the dots of lives lived Read More

Railroading Good Government

The panic over government getting directly involved in running companies that can’t survive without federal support may be misguided. New York Times business reporter Louis Uchitelle makes this point, noting that As General Motors and Chrysler struggle to remain solvent, the railroad bailout of a generation ago could offer a template to the Obama administration Read More

By What Name Shall Ye Know Them?

Journalists tend to lean on simplified words and phrases to explain complex topics to a general audience.  Too often, though, they don’t consider whether their language is ideologically loaded or favors certain interests over others. Consider, for example, the ways used to describe the mortgage-backed securities at the root of the financial crisis.  The most Read More

Preventive Reporting

Because I spend most of my waking hours reporting and writing about wrongful convictions across the United States, I am acutely aware when another one becomes public knowledge. Almost every day, I learn about yet another instance of an individual convicted of a crime he or she did not commit, and an eventual exoneration. Frequently, Read More

A News Drought

USA Today reports that The first two months of 2009 are the driest start of any year since the USA began keeping records over a century ago, leading to severe drought in Texas, dipping reservoir levels in Florida and a surge in wildfires across the nation. With the risk to human survival that climate change Read More

Autocritique?

I was reading a profile in the New York Times arts pages, about the novelist Zoe Heller: The idea for the novel came from a news article about scientists who thought they had found a gene that might be responsible for people’s beliefs, Ms. Heller explained. Regardless of whether it exists, she saw “the belief Read More

Where Did the Money Go?

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has resisted calls from Congress that he release the names of the banks that were recipients of the bailout money the Fed gave to AIG to prevent it from collapsing. AIG insured its counterparties against losses from mortgage backed derivatives. The Fed poured $85 billion into AIG, which paid out $37.3 Read More

Windows on Morality

What makes good people do bad things? That is the topic of a New York Times article about trials of former officials of the savage Cambodian regime, the Khmer Rouge. “We were victims, too,” said Him Huy, the head of the guard detail at the Tuol Sleng torture house, who took part in the executions Read More

Eyewitness News

An article in the New York Times about unrest in Tibet and a Chinese crackdown, features an atypical self-reference by a journalist: This reporter got a rare look at the clampdown because he was recently driven through the Tibetan areas of arid Gansu Province while being detained by the police for 20 hours. I was Read More

End Times?

NYT to launch two citizen journalism websites The sites will focus on three New Jersey communities and two Brooklyn neighborhoods, with most contributions coming from local residents. A Times staffer will oversee each site; they debut Monday. “It is a grassroots effort, to see if there is a new kind of journalism we can be Read More