Thursday, December 18, 2008

The New York Times, and Walter Duranty: America Sleeps

The Madoff affair has triggered an “autopsy” in which the Security and Exchange Commission is reviewing its lengthy list of regulatory failures dating back to 1999.

According to Bloomberg News, “Chairman Christopher Cox said yesterday that his agency failed to act on “credible, specific” allegations about Madoff dating back to 1999. The Madoff affair will be at the center of planned congressional hearings on the reform of the SEC, said a senior Senate official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The allegations “were repeatedly brought to the attention of SEC staff, but were never recommended to the commission for action,”

It is strange that almost ten years elapsed before Bernard Madoff was ever investigated. Even then, it was only his own confession to his sons that sparked investigatory action. For almost ten years, the SEC relied upon information provided voluntarily, rather than the use of warrants or subpoenas. As a result, charitable foundations that relied upon Madoff are shutting down and formerly wealthy individuals are facing ruin.

One would think that certain patterns in financial transactions would trigger an automatic audit. Instead it seems as though the investigators decided that Madoff looked like a nice man and gave him a pass.

In looking at our news media, there seems to be a pattern similar to the SEC with Bernard Madoff in which favoured individuals are given only the most cursory scrutiny, receiving instead “powder puff” treatment instead from fawning reporters.

How are we to view today’s New York Times story? It was written during the week in which the Governor of Obama’s home state and political party was arrested on corruption charges. Shudders are going down many a Chicago spine, but nothing sticks to Obama.

What was the story?

“Obama Pledge Stirs Hope in Early Education”

The story features photography of Obama, his Education Secretary and Joe Biden in a photo that looks like it was posed and produced by the Obama campaign. The story was clearly written from the Democrat’s point of view, with no attempt to present the Bush administration’s defense of its own record.

What is a far more central problem is the financial crisis that affects our ability to pay for social programs or anything else. There is plenty of investigative work available checking out the Senate Finance Committee, headed by Democrat Barney Frank. Probing questions would certainly be in order but no one is asking questions that could provide helpful insights into costly failures.

Seventy Five years ago, Walter Duranty, while reporting for the New York Times filed Pulitzer Prize winning reports about the collective farm campaign in the early 1930’s in Stalin’s USSR. He wrote glowing reports of its success that were later proven to be totally false. In truth, there was mass starvation, millions of deaths and even cannibalism. Today, Duranty is regarded as Stalin’s accomplice in the man made massive famine. Those who give him the benefit of the doubt regard him as a useful idiot.

The New York Times has had 75 years to atone for its complicity in the “holdomor” or Ukrainian genocide by refusing to rubber stamp governments of which it approves, to look for the uncomfortable truths that it needs to uncover for the common good.

It seems that the New York Times is busy not on a new path but making new mistakes. What is even worse is that it is dancing down the road to its own oblivion with a pack of imitators following it.

A sick person needs a doctor who will ask questions and run tests. We have a sick economy and no one in the main stream media is asking the right questions.

Walter Duranty is dead. The New York Times might well soon follow him. But don’t worry, the spirit of Walter Duranty lives on in the work of thousands of reporters all across America

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