THE PSEUDOJOURNALISM RULES: Peter, Paul and Mary and Bill!


Part 4—The facts, they may be a-changin’:
What kind of journalism has the New York Times been performing?

Before we compare the paper to Rolling Stone, let’s review its recent “bombshell report” about that scary Cold War deal.

Back in 2010, the Obama administration did in fact reach a uranium deal with Vladimir Putin, a well-known evildoer. If you read the Times’ lengthy report, you may find yourself asking these questions:

Question One: Did the uranium deal with Dr. Evil turn out to be a bad deal?

We have no idea. Journalistically speaking, Becker and McIntire work at times to suggest that the deal turned out to bad. But on a journalistic basis, their presentation seems rather slick. They haven’t established the point.

Question Two: Did anyone think the uranium deal was a bad deal at the time?

We have no idea. Journalistically speaking, Becker and McIntire make no real attempt to examine or answer that question. They never report that anyone actually opposed this deal. But on a journalistic basis, they largely avoid this point.

Question Three: How many different federal agencies were involved in approving the uranium deal?

We have no idea. Becker and McIntire’s bombshell report was crammed with irrelevant filler material, often of a scary nature. But despite the length of their bombshell report, they never give a specific answer to that basic question.

In paragraph 38, they did explain that at least seven cabinet departments were involved in approving the deal. Despite the massive length of their report, they never got around to reporting the actual number.

Question Four: Did Hillary Clinton play any role in approving the bad, scary deal?

We have no idea. Certainly, Becker and McIntire never report that she did. If you read all the way to paragraph 67, they even quote an assistant secretary of state, Jose Fernandez, who seems to say that she didn’t.

They don’t establish the point either way. Plainly, they never found anyone in any of those cabinet-level departments who actually said that she was involved. Journalistically speaking, we’d say they largely avoid this point. On a journalistic basis, we’d call it slippery work.

On a journalistic basis, the withholding of Fernandez’s statement until paragraph 67 strikes us as an offense. As a matter of basic fairness, this statement should have appeared nearer the start of the piece, in the one paragraph (paragraph 11!) where the Times let the Clinton campaign say that the coming insinuations were a big pile of crap.

That said, it would have queered the bombshell report to put Fernandez’s statement up front. Here’s why we say that:

On a journalistic basis, Becker and McIntire have composed a novelized “tale” (their word). As a literary genre, it’s a scary Cold War tale, complete with frightening moves by the Russians and Chinese and an array of villains.

By insinuation, Hillary Clinton is the chief villain of the piece. By insinuation, she approved a scary uranium deal in return for big piles of cash. It would be hard to sustain that tale if readers were told, right up front, that the Times reporters don’t even know if Clinton took part in approving the deal at all. Or if readers were told that no one at any other agency thought it was a bad deal.

Presumably, this explains why Becker and McIntire slither past these basic issues in their endless “report.” Journalistically, their conduct strikes us as slippery. At times, it has made us think of Rolling Stone, the pseudo-journalistic magazine which provided a recent service.

What service did Rolling Stone provide in its recent astoundingly bungled report? It helped us see that our “journalists,” at the highest levels, will engage in ludicrous kinds of behavior—behavior which bordered on crazy in the case of the Stone.

They didn’t check even the most basic facts in their pursuit of a ripping good story. This brings us to one of the ways the Times’ latest piece made us think of the Stone.

We refer to the Times’ attempt to establish Frank Giustra as one of the villains of their tale. In particular, we refer to their claim about the jet plane.

Who the heck is Frank Giustra? According to the leading authority on his life, he’s a “Canadian business executive who has been particularly successful in the mining and filmmaking industries and is a noted philanthropist.”

Giustra is quite rich. At the same time, is it possible that he’s a genuine philanthropist with genuine progressive values?

Last week, Giustra issued a statement in response to the bombshell report. He criticized various aspects of the Times’ reporting. He also seemed to describe his own values.

We found his statement rather convincing, almost refreshing. This is part of what the international villain said:
GIUSTRA (4/23/15): I hope that the U.S. media can start to focus on the real challenges of the world and U.S. society. Focus on poverty, homelessness, infrastructure, health care, education, or fractious world politics. You are a great country. Don’t ruin it by letting those with political agendas take over your newspapers and your airwaves.

I am extremely proud of the work that we have done at the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership. Thousands of people, all over the world, have been helped by this initiative. I plan to continue that work long after the harsh glare of this week’s media stories has faded.
Frankly, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. media focusing on “the real challenges of the world,” especially those listed by Giustra. That said, Giustra has pledged to donate half his income to his philanthropic work around the world.

Is it possible that his interests are genuine? Not in the New York Times! In the paper’s bombshell report, Giustra was cast as a slippery international magnate working slippery international deals. And the whole thing started with that ride to Almaty on his corrupted jet plane!

As Peter, Paul and Mary sang, Jo and Mike typed this novelized passage. It appeared right at the start of their convoluted, selective and scary frightening Cold War tale:
BECKER AND MCINTIRE (4/24/15): The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.

The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.

Within days of the visit, Mr. Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.
Can we talk? It isn’t clear what this has to do with the scary uranium deal of 2010. If you read the Times report with great care, you might have noticed this a few paragraphs later, where it was offered in passing:

“Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Giustra...said he sold his stake [in Uranium One] in 2007.”

He said he sold his stake! Apparently, our intrepid reporters didn’t quite fact-check this claim. At any rate, if Giustra left Uranium One in 2007, it isn’t clear how his earlier activities, or his later donations to Clinton Foundation affiliates, played a role in the approval of that deal in 2010.

In 2010, did Hillary Clinton approve a bad uranium deal to help Giustra, her benefactor and briber? Since Giustra had left the company in question three years before, that makes no apparent sense. But this is the kind of confusing piddle that floats by, under the radar, as Jo and Mike join Peter and Paul to sing about that jet plane ride, the one on which Frank and Bill left the land of the decent and flew off to darkest Almaty.

Did Hillary Clinton approve that deal in 2010? As noted, we have no idea. We read the New York Times! But the scary uranium deal in question didn’t benefit Giustra! As a basic (re)reading assignment, try to make sense of the bombshell report as you keep that fact in mind.

That said, another problem seems to lurk in the passage we’ve quoted above. It involves the Times’ repeated claim that Frank and Bill flew to Almaty on that corrupt jet plane.

The Times has made that claim before, in January 2008.
It made the claim more dramatically then. It came right at the start of an equally villainous tale.

Except uh-oh! It seems that Frank and Bill didn’t fly to Kazakhstan on that jet plane! Or so Giustra has now declared two separate times, including in last week’s statement.

In 2009, Forbes magazine reported that Giustra was right. For ourselves, we still have no idea, as is routinely the case when one reads the Times.

Does the New York Times check any facts? Certainly, Rolling Stone didn’t.

Does anyone care if the Times bungles facts? The evidence of the past seven days says that no one does!

In 2009, the Times original claim about the jet plane was debunked. But last week, there it was again—and in the week which has passed, the rest of the American press has politely averted its gaze.

This morning, as we read the Times, the facts, it seemed they may be a-changin’! But no one cares about actual facts, as we have told you for years.

What kind of person is Frank Giustra? Is it possible that he’s sincere in his description of his values and his intentions?

Is he doing good things all over the world? If so, would anyone at the New York Times know how to notice or care?

The Times doesn’t deal with such questions! Much more often, the Times presents selective novelized tales peopled with prearranged very bad villains.

They told quite a tale in 2008.
Tomorrow, we’ll jet back to that.

Tomorrow: The exact same kind of “reporting”

Still coming: Chris Hayes pimps the bombshell report


  1. TDH continues its stirring defense of one faction of the 1% vs another faction of the 1%. And one wonders why most people don't vote or think the political system works for them.

    1. TDH talks today about a faction of the 1% that is committed to helping the unfortunate of the world, aided by another faction of the 1% trying to do the same, and getting flak for it. One wonders why very wealthy people would continue to help the less fortunate given the criticism they get for doing so. TDH wrote a good column today and you just carp.

  2. jackass, please define these two separate but equal "factions of the 1%" who are at war with each other.

    1. Talk about running off an napping in the woods....

    2. That is all very interesting and exciting. Let's have a seminar some day on whether the US is an actual democracy. Get your soap box, I'll meet you on 42nd street.

      In the meanwhile, we're heading to a presidential election in which the Democratic leading candidate is being smeared by innuendo and hammered unfairly by the Rupert Murdoch media Empire, and if it's all the same to you, I would much rather have a Democrat win the presidency than any of the monkeys sucking off Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas, and the Koch Brothers.

    3. From your link (Chomskyzinn):

      "The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month's ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse."

      Raising the concern about rule by the elite now, when we have our first female candidate for president, when the trend has been going on for decades, suggests the motive has little to do with democracy and much more to do with defeating the current Democratic Party candidate.

      Conservatives are not going to be concerned about whether the decisions of government are better for the elite than for the average person. They think it should be that way. This issue is being raised here with the hope of peeling away Clinton votes by portraying her as a greedy money-grubber who doesn't really care about the middle class, despite having devoted her entire public life to helping others, especially women and children (who tend to be more affected by poverty). Even the current scandal involves a CHARITY that she and her husband and daughter have devoted their lives to, when they could be relaxing and learning to paint like the Republican elite do after leaving office.

      Our country was founded on the principle that only property owners should run the country because they have a vested interest in how things turn out. We have slowly evolved into more of a democracy, largely influenced by immigration and unionization. Clinton has always supported that evolution. Blaming her for trying to use her personal wealth and waking hours to help other people strikes me as majorly napping in whatever woods you inhabit.

    4. Appropriate you use a blow job reference in an post about Clinton rules.

  3. D'Leisha D. FactcheckerApril 30, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    Somerby writes:

    "Except uh-oh! It seems that Frank and Bill didn’t fly to Kazakhstan on that jet plane! Or so Giustra has now declared two separate times, including in last week’s statement.

    In 2009, Forbes magazine reported that Giustra was right. For ourselves, we still have no idea, as is routinely the case when one reads the Times.

    Does the New York Times check any facts?

    Well Bob, apparently not only do they check their facts, they got it in writing. From Both Clinton and Giustra:

    From the January 2008 article:

    "Mr. Giustra was invited to accompany the former president to Almaty just as the financier was trying to seal a deal he had been negotiating for months.

    In separate written responses, both men said Mr. Giustra traveled with Mr. Clinton to Kazakhstan, India and China to see first-hand the philanthropic work done by his foundation."

    Of course we learn from Forbes in January 2009, during the run up to Hillary's confirmation, that Clinton may have actually arrived on another billionaire's plane. Giustra just had Clinton's advance man on board. They only left Kazakhstan together aboard Giustra's plane.

    If Forbes is right. Like Bob Somerby, I don't have any idea either.

    1. What exactly is wrong with them going to those places to see first-hand the results of their philanthropic work?

      Sounds like Somerby is right and the NY Times was wrong and Forbes got it right. Facts can be confirmed. Somerby is willing to say he doesn't know mostly because, being a philosopher, he knows that certainty depends on his having been on that plane with them. The rest of us don't need that level of confirmation to say what happened. The NY Times can look up the Forbes article as easily as Somerby and they didn't bother to fact check the story. They are selling a book excerpt and they don't feel responsible for the content of any story based on that book -- the author is responsible and he has been proven before to be a partisan hack who doesn't care about truth or facts as long as he hits an opponent.

      You take the same attitude toward Somerby. You don't care about any issue here except hurting Somerby. It is very tiresome. It must suck to hate someone so much that you have to write comment after comment attacking him -- your soul is a dark piece of crap that shrivels every time you write one of these idiocies. No one wants you here and you should do yourself and all others a favor by going away.

    2. "The NY Times can look up the Forbes article as easily as Somerby and they didn't bother to fact check the story."

      New York Times article January 2008. Giustra and Clinton travelling together confirmed in writing. By Giustra and Clinton.

      Forbes article January 2009. Giustra supplies copy of passenger manifest from his private plane for denial one year later.

      Are you really that stupid?

      "your soul is a dark piece of crap"

      Do I have a soul? Being a philosopher I know certainty means I will never see, hear, smell, or feel my soul as long as I am living.

      In your tribe they may believe in such things. According to your Somerby, you tribe is dumb. lazy, and disliked.

    3. ********************
      Clinton arrived in Kazakhstan late in the afternoon Sept. 6, 2005, on billionaire Ron Burkle’s plane, four days after Giustra. By then Giustra was well on the road to finalizing a memorandum of understanding to acquire a 30% interest in the Kharassan project for $75 million; the state owned the other 70%.

    4. Yes, and within hours, mm, they were dining with the President of Khazakhstan, whose government Giustra was negotiating to go into partnership with, Clinton was praising that President, and they then hopped onto Giustras plane and headed to India where they did more good work for mankind.

      Oh, and lest we forget, Clinton's longtime advance man, Ahmed Khan was on Giustra's plane, making arrangements once on ground for a trip by the former President which was described this way by Becker in the Times:

      "Mr. Clinton’s Kazakhstan visit, the only one of his post-presidency, appears to have been arranged hastily. The United States Embassy got last-minute notice that the president would be making “a private visit,” said a State Department official, who said he was not authorized to speak on the record."

    5. What was wrong about visiting Kazakhstan, India and China to inspect the activities of the foundation there?

      The Times had the facts wrong because they don't care about getting details right. But what exactly is the criticism?

    6. "What exactly is the criticism?"

      It's the Clintons - it doesn't matter what they do. [Clinton Rule #67].

  4. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such attacks are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

  5. Da Plane...Da Plane

    From the NYTimes January 2008 article immediately following description of Clinton and Giustra acknowledging in writing they were travelling together:

    "As Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign has intensified, Mr. Clinton has begun severing financial ties with Ronald W. Burkle, the supermarket magnate, and Vinod Gupta, the chairman of InfoUSA, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Those two men have harnessed the former president’s clout to expand their businesses while making the Clintons rich through partnership and consulting arrangements.

    From the Forbes article in January, 2009 which Somerby says "debunks" the NY Times:

    "Clinton arrived in Kazakhstan late in the afternoon Sept. 6, 2005, on billionaire Ron Burkle’s plane four days after Giustra.,,,,Clinton and Giustra took off for India on Giustra’s plane."

    I am sure Bill wanted to tell the Times they had the wrong billionaire's plane but it slipped his mind until Giustra stepped up to the plate and did the denying a year later while conflict stories were brewing following Hillary's selection for State.

    1. How can there be a conflict of interest BEFORE Hillary became Secretary of State, and before she started her presidential campaign (note that she was not elected)?

      What you have quoted is entirely consistent with what Somerby said -- that the Times was incorrect when it said Clinton flew to Kazakhstan with Giustra. He didn't.

      It seems odd that you think hanging around with billionaires is somehow a bad thing for someone with a charitable foundation to do. How else do you think they get big donations?

      You also seem to be implying that it is wrong for the Clintons to make money, to support themselves using the contacts and knowledge developed while in office. What else do you think any past president does?

  6. I look forward to Bob jetting back to 2008 and the Jo Becker article.

    While in flight I hope he pens a paragraph on Robert Lenzner, the author of the Forbes article which, in January 2009 "debunked" the article written in January 2008 in the NYTimes by Jo Becker.

    He will surely tell us the connection between Robert Lezner and Terry Lezner, super sleuth and former private investigator for, among many others, President Bill Clinton.

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