Friday, June 13, 2008

Rossputin's Report, Part 2: The Left's Innuendos Don't Stack Up to the Truth

Yesterday we highlighted the first of Rossputin's scheduled eight-part series going in-depth to investigate the allegations made concerning Bob Schaffer's 1999 trip to the Marianas Islands.

A well-known Lefty commenter here left a cryptic comment, saying we should look at Rocky Mountain News liberal columnist Jason Salzman's blog to demonstrate that we "protest too much about telling the truth." This is what was supposed to bowl us over:
In addition to ripping off Native Americans, Abramoff made big money defending the Marianas Islands’ exploitative immigration policies, which may even have resulted in forced abortions. Abramoff spearheaded a successful lobbying campaign to block immigration reform in the Marianas. Abramoff specifically targeted the House Resources Committee, which had jurisdiction over the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and on which Schaffer was a member. Only last month, after decades of oppositin [sic] from Abramoff and Congressmen like Schaffer, did Congress finally pass immigration reform for the Marianas.

As reported in The Post, Schaffer visited Marianas, courtesy of an organization with ties to Abramoff, and defended its immigration policies in Washington DC. Overall, Schaffer’s lobbying tactics aligned with Abramoff’s. [emphases added]
It makes a nicely packaged narrative, with a lot of innuendo and guilt by association, but its clever characterizations and omission of key facts adds up to missing the truth by a mile. When you read it carefully, what Salzman writes really doesn't say much at all, except that what Schaffer (and others) observed firsthand about CNMI doesn't match the rhetoric of Big Labor leaders.

To get a better picture, read Rossputin's second installment. First, there "may have been forced abortions," Salzman slyly writes, repeating one case of secondhand testimony. But how about the testimony of a Christian missionary who visited the island and had her eyes opened?:
And regarding “forced abortions”, Mrs. Lafferty says “I was not able to find anyone who had an abortion, whether forced or not, and nobody I met knew anybody who had had an abortion.” Lafferty went out of her way to try to ensure honest answers from the workers: “We made it abundantly clear that if anyone was being hurt, raped, or enslaved, I would see to it that the perpetrator would go to jail, and the victim would be taken care of. If anybody needed help, I would help them.” Still, with this sort of “witness protection program” offer (my characterization, not Lafferty’s), and with a Chinese missionary as a translator, none of the allegations which made Lafferty’s blood boil seemed to have any substance.
The organization that paid for the trip?:
As far as who paid for the trip that Schaffer was part of, Lafferty put it directly: “We paid for the trip and as far as I know we were not reimbursed for anything by [Abramoff lobbying firm] Preston-Gates.”
Rossputin goes on to show that the Post's sinister claims that Schaffer "met with clients of Preston-Gates" amount to nothing. He could not have conducted a thorough independent investigation otherwise.

Rossputin also debunks the Post's use of a photo to make it look like Bob Schaffer and his wife merely took a pleasure trip to the Marianas - something Lefty bloggers have seized on repeatedly to promote their distorted picture of reality:
After those several days of nearly non-stop investigation and meetings, Schaffer was scheduled to fly home the next morning when someone asked him how he had enjoyed the island, to which Schaffer responded, according to the source just mentioned, “It’s a shame it’s so beautiful and I never got a chance to see it”. That person then contacted someone he knew at the airline and arranged to get Schaffer’s return flight moved from the following morning to the following evening so that Schaffer and his wife (who had accompanied him to investigate garment factories and interview workers) could have a few hours of relaxation before flying home. Schaffer, his wife, and the staffer who accompanied them on the trip, enjoyed a few hours of recreation without hosts and without being accompanied by representatives of the government or any industry, after Schaffer’s mission on the island had been completed.
Should we expect to see anyone recant and/or apologize for perpetuating a distorted picture of reality?

Keep reading Rossputin's important investigative series.


DavidThi808 said...

First off, Rossputin has written enough stuff totally divorced from reality that I don't view him as a credible source.

Second, coming from Hawaii, and having talked to numerous political figures there who do understand how the Northern Marianias Islands work - it's incredibly corrupt there and the factories are noxious sweatshops.

Now Bob Schaffer may have been unable to determine what was actually going on there. He would not be the first politician to be fooled by a Potylmkin Village. But it does not speak well of him to say that, at best, his investigative skills suck. At least not if he wants to be a Senator.

Finally, the forced abortions occured by sending people back to China. By definition you're not going to find people in the Marianias who had this done to them.

You're also not going to find people in the environment there willing to trust someone who said they will protect anyone who testifies - many others were told that by other investigative teams - and they were then hung out to dry.

Ben DeGrow said...

If you think Rossputin disseminates information "totally divorced from reality," then you'll have to take it up with him. There are several areas in which we disagree, but he tends to be very rational and reality-based in his writing. If you could post links to one or two examples of Rossputin's work that you believe should be characterized this way, please feel free to share them.

I'm glad you trust your secondhand impressions of CNMI. We have different accounts of the place from which to filter out various biases, but so be it.

It's hard to have a Potemkin village-style visit unless virtually the whole island were a Potemkin village - since so many of Schaffer's visits were made unannounced.

I'm glad you agree the forced abortions issue has been a red herring at best - your more honest characterization (though I have yet to see anything approaching hard evidence as to the frequency of workers being sent off to China) belies what others have written. You say people would be unwilling to speak up because they had been burned too many times. Speculative on your part, but even if it were true, it scarcely can be a condemnation of Schaffer.

I'm also glad you see all the Abramoff talk was built on unsubstantiated innuendo to make Schaffer appear corrupt, and that at worst Schaffer may have missed something in his honest investigation. From all available evidence I've seen, what he found was what he reported, and what he reported aligned with his reasonably justified skepticism of federal intervention as a solution for what he saw as minor problems there. I've yet to see anything approaching an objective source roundly refute his observations.

If you have specific, constructive advice for how Schaffer could have conducted his investigation better, I'd be glad to see it. But that has hardly been the tone of the discussion - either in the Post or on most all the Lefty blogs.

Let's wait to read the last six parts of Rossputin's reporting...