Missed In Mainstream Media – The “Hidden Stories”


By Bernard Levy


Frogs, FEMA and threats against federal judges are the grist for this issue’s mill.  Let’s take frogs first.  I love the little amphibian critters; Mark Twain did, too, in his wonderful story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”  Apparently so does Condoleezza Rice and our government.  Secretary of State Rice developed and put into play what is known as “the frog strategy” with her French, German and British counterparts.  This could be considered an adaptation of “the camel putting his nose under the tent, and the next thing you know, he’s into the tent” approach.  To be more specific, the “frog strategy” refers to the methodology used if you want to boil a frog.  You put the poor, unsuspecting creature into a pot of cold water.  Then, you heat the water slowly but steadily and try to keep the frog inside.  Why did Secretary of State Rice and her counterparts conjure up the strategy and for whom?  For Iran, of course. 


Assume that the unsuspecting little critter is Iran, and the frog strategy is our nation’s attempt to get Iran to stop its nuclear-research activities.  The only time I have seen any media coverage of this frog strategy was a one-half page commentary in the January 30, 2006, Time Notebook section entitled “A Slow Iran Squeeze.”


Golly, what was Secretary of State Rice and her counterparts thinking, comparing Iran to an unsuspecting frog?  As we all know, it hasn’t worked.  As the article noted in part, “Step 3 would call for targeted sanctions, such as a freeze on government bank accounts – a possibility for which Iran began planning last week when it started to shift its foreign-currency reserves from E.U. banks.”


I haven’t seen any other commentary on this strategy.  Why would any person or nation believe that Iran would take the bait.  Maybe Ms. Rice got the idea while vacationing on Walden Pond.  How in tarnation do you get a nation like Iran to enter a strategy pot, let alone turn up the heat and put on a lid?  I hope this isn’t an example of the brain power currently residing in the Bush Administration.


In a recent Society of Professional Journalists’ email blurb entitled “FEMA Foolishness,” it appears that “the Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibit(ed) residents of agency-run housing from speaking to the media…”  Partially quoting a letter from SPJ National President David Carlson and Charles Davis Co-Chairman of SPJ’s national Freedom of Information Committee, “We are outraged by the arrogance and contempt for public discourse on display in Louisiana a year after FEMA’s performance in the wake of Katrina earned it wide-spread criticism.  Now FEMA is banning reporters from public property, even as the reporters try to provide scrutiny of the agency…”  The incompetency and obvious paranoia of a federal agency, accountable to citizens and Congress alike, continues.


Our major local paper did cover in its July 28, 2006, issue, the story: “Threats Rise Against Federal Judges, Could Break a Record.”  The approximately 12 ½ inch narrow column article by Mark Sherman of the Associated Press detailed the “record-setting pace this year of threats against federal judges.”  Let’s just wait one darn minute!  We keep telling the world that one of the basics that defines America and its democratic form of government is our respect for and adherence to the law.  True, judges sometimes are not the smartest persons in the courtroom, and even make mistakes, but they are a major part of the legal system and should not be threatened.  There are legal avenues for appeal and redress of bad decisions, and they should be used.  To quote the article minimally, “This year alone, the Marshals Services had 822 reports of inappropriate communications and threats… A threat typically includes a direct reference to harm, a weapon, or a violent act” and includes “rambling letters to accusations of bias to envelopes that contain feces.”


This is probably an indication of the continuing frustration that many citizens are experiencing during these trying times.  You may say that 822 threats is not a large number, but the nation, according to the article, has a total of 2,200 federal judges.  Perhaps the media could do a better job of enforcing our society’s commitment to the legal system, warts and all.