Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Doubts about the press 

Patrick Belton finds two major U.S. newspapers a little lacking in the getting-the-facts-right department.

My, with this degree of neglect for detail in just one small matter of British parliamentary history I happen to know something about, I must say I'm starting to have some doubts about these people. Or as a reader rather eloquently puts it: "Whenever I read anything in a newspaper about which I know something, I find they get it wrong. So why should I believe them on subjects about which I know very little?"
This realization came to me during the Bush National Guard service flap. Most of the media were asking the wrong questions, and then getting the wrong answers for the wrong questions. They didn't even know what the right questions were.

Josh Marshall continues that ignorance today. Right off the bat, he admits,

I've never quite understood all the arcana of the Bush Air National Guard story, so I never know quite what to make of new reports.
Then he goes on to say, in essence, I don't know how to analyze this story, but here's a really good article about it! I think. Maybe.

The Salon article which Marshall calls "straightforward" is anything but.

The mandatory written report about Bush's grounding is mysteriously not in the released file, nor is any other disciplinary evidence. A document showing a "roll-up," or the accumulation of his total retirement points, is also absent, and so are his actual pay stubs. If the president truly wanted to end the conjecture about his time in the Guard, he would allow an examination of his pay stubs and any IRS W-2 forms from his Guard years.
Well, since I know a thing or two about official military records (there is one being kept on me right now), let me address a couple of false assumptions.

First, the "mandatory written report about Bush's grounding." Guess what... I've been grounded. For medical reasons. Bush was also grounded for medical reasons, by way of letting his flight physical lapse. (When he knew his flying days were over anyway.) That would not be in his service record. It would be in his medical record.

Second, The "roll-up" (first time I've heard the term) of retirement points is also not (at least here in 2004 and in the Navy) part of the official military record. It's kept somewhere, sure, but it does not go into the official record of an officer. (At this point, some of you are saying "but how can that be?" Well, it is. If I knew how to redact pdf files, I could show you the sum total of everything in my official record. It's a fairly small record, even with 6 years of active service and one of reserve service. Everyone seems to think a military record is some huge stack of documents.)

Third, pay stubs and W-2 forms. This part is just silly. Those are definitely not part of the official service record. (In today's day and age, the only people who see them are the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the servicemember, and the process is completely electronic. No hard copy exists until the individual prints it out.) And let's have a show of hands here... how many of you still have your pay stubs and W-2s from 30 years ago? Anyone? What the hell for?

Anyway, enough ranting, 'cause I'm outta time. Gotta go provide military honors at the funeral of a retired Navy officer. Not looking forward to presenting the flag to the widow...
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