Friday, May 26, 2006



Some general observations about items in the news:

1: On Page 2 of Form1040 – your federal tax return – you’re asked to provide your daytime phone number; here in Maryland, you’re asked to provide your daytime AND home phone number. Walk into many government-sponsored libraries and you’ll find a collection of phone books offering access to the phone numbers of individuals across the country.

Apparently all that serves some acceptable public good because I’ve heard nothing about those government efforts to assemble phone number records that could compete with the righteous indignation surrounding the latest disclosure about an NSA program….a program, by the way, about which the government can neither confirm nor deny but about which several specifically-named phone companies have denied involvement. BellSouth Wants Story Retractions

I’m not crazy about governments collecting a lot of data about most things – mainly because I suspect it will be used to support establishing yet another government program. But if there is an NSA program as reported – a database of non-identified phone numbers to be used to denote trends and patterns of calls that may correlate to some terrorist activity – I can’t honestly work up outrage over that; not while Cingular can detail every single call I’ve made over the past 5 years and numerous government agencies already know exactly where I live and how to get a hold of me.

2: The story about the VA employee who took home a database (there’s that word again) containing millions of non-scrambled records of veterans with important identifying information continues to be in the news…..although never to the extent the NSA story got. As a veteran, I’m certainly not crazy about the idea that some ne’er-do-wells are out there with my Social Security number et al. but I’ll resist panic mode for the time being. Worker Often Took Data Home

I think the fact that most of us (and, in particular, those in the media) aren’t veterans partly explains why the outrage about this matter isn’t more forcefully expressed in the news. More important though, I believe, is the status of the worker whose irresponsibility led to the database loss: he’s not a political appointee. Instead, he apparently has been toiling away at VA for over 30 years as a civil servant. I have no doubt that if instead this had been a Bush-appointee, this would be the lead evening news story for days.

3: The continued fascination among certain elements toward “getting” Karl Rove alternately amuses and amazes me. The latest is a May 13th claim by the increasingly ironically-named website t r u t h o u t that Karl Rove had finally been indicted: (Karl Rove Indicted on Charges of Perjury, Lying to Investigators). Denials were forceful and immediate. So, on May 19th, truthout clarified it a bit:

"The time has now come, however, to issue a partial apology to our readership for this story. While we paid very careful attention to the sourcing on this story, we erred in getting too far out in front of the news-cycle. In moving as quickly as we did, we caused more confusion than clarity. And that was a disservice to our readership and we regret it." (emphasis added) t r u t h o u t The Rove Indictment Story as of Right Now

Here it is, a week later and Karl Rove is still apparently indictment-free. And we’re left to wonder: what is a partial apology? Are they apologizing because they were wrong - either he was indicted or he wasn’t. Or are they apologizing because they got a many of their readers frothing at the mouth a bit too early. So far, no-one else has been able to match truthout’s sleuthing on this story…and there is no doubt that the NY Times or Washington Post would love to blare that headline a few times. I suspect that “getting too far out in front of the news-cycle” is a lot like being “fake but accurate” and that a successful Karl Rove indictment will just have to continue to be the loonies Holy Grail.

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