Patterico's Pontifications

9/6/2009

My E-Mail to Carol Williams

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 5:53 pm

One of my very favorite readers, who shall go unnamed, writes:

Patrick–

Whenever you do these [overly effusive adjectives removed by editor] critiques of LATimes articles, I suggest you e-mail them as well to both the offending reporter and his/her editor, respectfully asking for their response, and that you then routinely blog those responses (or lack thereof).

I cannot possibly refuse this reader’s request. And so, I have sent this e-mail to Carol Williams, with a copy to national editor Roger Smith:

Ms. Williams:

A recent article of yours asserts that a federal court found that John Ashcroft had violated the rights of U.S. citizens by crafting an unconstitutional detention policy:

Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft violated the rights of U.S. citizens in the fevered wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by ordering arrests on material witness warrants when the government lacked probable cause, a federal appeals court said in a scathing opinion Friday.

But the court said no such thing. Instead, the court carefully explained that it was required to assume the plaintiff’s facts to be true for purposes of reviewing a motion to dismiss:

[B]ecause Ashcroft chose to exercise his right to appeal before a fuller record could be developed, we proceed as we must in a review of all Rule 12(b)(6) motions, accepting as true all facts alleged in the complaint, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.

The court added that the plaintiff’s allegations might not even be enough to get past summary judgment:

Were this case before us on summary judgment, and were the facts pled in the complaint the only ones in the record, our decision might well be different. In the district court, moving forward, [plaintiff] al-Kidd will bear a significant burden to show that the Attorney General himself was personally involved in a policy or practice of alleged violations of § 3144.

The court clearly said that it had not made the factual findings that you claimed it had made.

Similarly misleading was your suggestion that the panel unanimously condemned Ashcroft:

Members of the panel, all appointees of Republican presidents, characterized Ashcroft’s detention policy as “repugnant to the Constitution, and a painful reminder of some of the most ignominious chapters of our national history.”

You here imply that all three members of the panel signed on to that quote. But a dissenting judge said precisely the opposite:

The majority opinion closes with a quote from Blackstone. [The Blackstone quote immediately precedes the language you quote in your article.] What Blackstone describes and condemns therein—the indefinite and secret detention of individuals accused of no crime in harsh conditions—is simply not a description of this case.

This judge explicitly says that the plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that Ashcroft was doing anything illegal:

[N]one of the allegations contain facts that plausibly establish Ashcroft’s knowledge that his subordinates were obtaining material witness warrants on the basis of deliberately or recklessly false evidence or on facially invalid warrants. Some of al-Kidd’s allegations suggest precisely the opposite—that Justice Department officials were careful to ensure they had probable cause to believe that the targeted witness had information material to a criminal proceeding and was likely to flee before seeking a material witness warrant. . . . [N]othing in al-Kidd’s allegations plausibly suggests Ashcroft instructed, encouraged, or tolerated his subordinates to detain individuals as to whom there was no objective probable cause to arrest.

While you do tell readers, at the tail end of the article, that one judge concurred in part and dissented in part, you did not communicate to readers that this judge fully agreed with Ashcroft’s position — and indeed, concurred only in that portion of the majority opinion that ruled in favor of Ashcroft.

I believe that the article was substantially misleading to readers, and I would like to know the reaction of you or your editor to my points.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey

http://patterico.com

In accordance with my reader’s request, I will blog any response I receive.

23 Responses to “My E-Mail to Carol Williams”

  1. Be prepared for a Rain of Trolls, and an awful lot of hair splitting.

    It would be simpler for the author to simply write: I was wrong. But they can never ever do that.

    Eric Blair (0b61b2)

  2. I think you should also cc the three judges so they realize how their opinion is being used for propaganda.

    I don’t know why it seems like it’s assumed that these judge people for some reason can’t come out and say to Carol Williams hey look you dirty socialist dinky hoo propagandist you should shut you face cause our opinion didn’t say anything like what you’re saying it did.

    If I were a judge and this happened to one of my opinions that’s what I’d say that I think. It would be only right I think since if someone is using your words for dirty socialist propaganda you have a responsibility to correct the record.

    You can’t let dirty socialist dinky hoo reporters like Carol Williams have the conch the whole time if they’re gonna be stupid and irresponsible. You have to step up, like Mr. P is stepping up.

    You would think a judge person would understand that.

    happyfeet (6b707a)

  3. oh. that’s what I’d say *I* think …

    happyfeet (6b707a)

  4. I agree with the unnamed reader: rule of thumb should be to always email the writer and the editor because from what I’ve seen over the years, the LAT Readers Rep is irrelevant and tends to mostly serve up pap. There is rarely (I can’t remember anything specific) a time where an issue of bias, dishonesty, or misrepresentation is squarely confronted by the Readers Rep, and acknowledged without attempting to justify it with the company line.

    An editor and writer are the heart of the article. These individuals should have an opportunity to explain themselves, clarify or -gasp!- even retract a misstatement. I would think they would be chomping at the bit for an opportunity to communicate directly to their readers and clear up any discrepancies. Wouldn’t they? :)

    Dana (863a65)

  5. “A rogue LA ADA has written me a scathing email. In the interest of decency, I won’t be reprinting the email, but Mr ADA, I have hired security guards and will be sending you the bill. And I won’t be scared into giving up the cause of printing the facts in the LA Times.”

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  6. John Hitchcock, shouldn’t the quote be “A rogue LA ADA has written me a scathing email. In the interest of decency, I won’t be reprinting the email, but Mr ADA, I have hired security guards and will be sending you the bill. And I won’t be scared into giving up the cause of printing the facts in the LA Times.”

    Ira (28a423)

  7. The last post had a plague of clueless, illiterate trolls.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  8. Hey, the “strike” command did not work the way I thought it would!!!

    My comment is supposed to be this:

    John Hitchcock, shouldn’t the quote be “A rogue LA ADA has written me a scathing email. In the interest of decency, I won’t be reprinting the email, but Mr ADA, I have hired security guards and will be sending you the bill. And I won’t be scared into giving up the cause of printing the facts in the LA Times.”

    Ira (28a423)

  9. Damn!! One more time:

    John Hitchcock, shouldn’t the quote be “A rogue LA ADA has written me a scathing email. In the interest of decency, I won’t be reprinting the email, but Mr ADA, I have hired security guards and will be sending you the bill. And I won’t be scared into giving up the cause of printing the facts in the LA Times.”

    Ira (28a423)

  10. Patterico – You should send this post to 24Aheaddotcom and tell him to get off his ass and do something using this as an example.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  11. Forget the attempt to use the strike command:

    John Hitchcock, shouldn’t the quote be “A rogue LA ADA has written me a scathing email. In the interest of decency, I won’t be reprinting the email, but Mr ADA, I have hired security guards and will be sending you the bill. And I won’t be scared into   printing the facts in the LA Times.”

    Ira (28a423)

  12. Ira, spell out “strike” and “/strike” when attempting to strikethru.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  13. “A rogue LA ADA has written me a scathing email. In the interest of decency, I won’t be reprinting the email, but Mr ADA, I have hired security guards and will be sending you the bill. And I won’t be scared into giving up the cause of printing the facts in the LA Times.”

    Ira (28a423)

  14. Thanks, John.

    Ira (28a423)

  15. When the LAT sets aside the narrative, and reports the unvarnished truth (on any subject), is the day after the day that Roger Ailes is named the Publisher by the new owner, Rupert Murdoch.

    AD - RtR/OS! (fad78f)

  16. The last post had a plague of clueless, illiterate trolls.

    And you can bet, SPQR, there will be yet another locust-type infestation on this one.

    Paul (creator of "Staunch Brayer") (784fd8)

  17. I didn’t read the comments on the earlier thread, so it may have already been pointed out, but this article made the Yahoo front page headlines, which means that it got a lot of eyeballs.

    I wonder whether Ms. Williams congratulates herself for that – and whether factual accuracy is to her a price worth paying in exchange for such success.

    Nathan Wagner (c137f8)

  18. 1. Not holding your breath, I hope.
    2. I will cut off my left nut with a spork the day a reporter for the Times understands the standard for a demurrer (state)/ motion to dismiss (federal).

    Ken (aaf7b2)

  19. Too bad subscribers can’t sue the paper for selling them fraudulent inaccuracy posing as news.

    PCD (8b5951)

  20. isn’t sending critical comments to the LASlimes like going we-wee in the wind? You get all we-weed up and no beer with Obama.

    PCD (8b5951)

  21. Patterico,

    It was a splendid suggestion. You should do this even before you post the initial critique on your blog. I imagine that you will occasionally find an honest reported who is willing to fess up to errors (occasionally being the operative word).

    This is the stand-up approach and you are a stand-up guy.

    Yours truly,

    Neobuzz

    Neobuzz (c40c92)

  22. Waiting….waiting….waiting…

    [sound of crickets chirping...]

    Bill M (c5889b)


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