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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist Fatigue: The Thrill of the Chase Fades at it’s not 1973

In any analysis of the current political and cultural situation in the United States, at any given time, one is always faced with too much partial information. Does anyone remember 1973?

Things were clear:
January 8: Five defendants plead guilty as the burglary trial begins. Liddy and McCort - security Director for the Committee for the Re-election of the president - are convicted following the trial.

February 7: The Senate Watergate Committee is established.

March 19: McCord writes a letter to Judge John J. Sirica saying the defendants had pleaded guilty under pressure. McCord also writes that perjury was committed, and that others are involved in the Watergate break-in.

April 6: White House counsel John Dean begins cooperating with federal Watergate prosecutors.

April 30: The resignations of Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and Nixon aides John Ehrlichman and H.R.Haldeman are announced by the White House. John Dean is fired. The new Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, appointed a special prosecutor, Harvard Law School professor Archibald Cox, to conduct a full-scale investigation of the Watergate break-in.

June 25: In testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee, Dean outlines a political espionage program conducted by the White House, and says Nixon was participating in the Watergate cover-up within a few days of the burglary.

July 16: The tape recording system in Nixon's office is revealed by former White House aide Alexander P. Butterfield.

July 26: Following Nixon's refusal to turn over the White House tapes, the Senate Watergate Committee subpoenas several of them.

August 29: Sirica orders Nixon to give up nine taps for the judge's private review. It is the first loss in Nixon's fight to maintain control of the tapes.

October 20: The "Saturday Night Massacre." Cox is fired as special Watergate prosecutor. For their refusal to dismiss Cox, Elliot Richardson resigns as Attorney General and William Ruckelshaus is fired as deputy Attorney General.

November 1: Nixon appoints Leon Jaworski as the new special prosecutor.
Ah, those were the days. I recall that October 20th my first wife and I were driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, somewhere north of Asheville, listening to the news of this "Saturday Night Massacre." Momentous events, at least politically, and as our rural Hillsboro friends used to say back in those days, "We just about fell out." That was metaphorical. We continued just fine in the car.

Elliot Richardson, the Attorney General, and William Ruckelshaus, his second in command, refused to fire Cox. They quit on the spot. Nixon found the third in command, Robert Bork, the Solicitor General, more amenable, and, as Bork rationalized, someone had to stick around and run the Justice Department. He did the deed - and in 1987 Ronald Reagan nominated Bork for a seat on the Supreme Court, and the senate rejected him, 58-42, and his last name became a verb, and now he is not supporting Harriet Miers in her confirmation difficulties. Like many people born in Pittsburgh - Gene Kelly, Oscar Levant, Gertrude Stein, Andy Warhol - Bork is a strange fellow.

Are those days returning?

Tuesday, October 11th, From Arianna Huffington, late in the day, this: "The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are working on stories that point to Vice President Dick Cheney as the target of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name."

This couldn't be true. Fitzgerald's a bit of a bulldog, and whoever recommended him as special prosecutor - what harm could he do? - is probably long gone from the White House. But the rules have changed. He cannot be fired like Cox was - he is "not serving as an 'outside Special Counsel' pursuant to 28 USA § 600, so the provisions of that code are not applicable in this matter nor do they have any legal effect over Fitzgerald's investigation and/or prosecution."

Too bad. That would have been cool.

As for Cheney's chief of staff, from Bloomberg, earlier, this -
Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, didn't disclose to a grand jury a key conversation he had with New York Times reporter Judith Miller in June 2003, the National Journal reported, citing unidentified people with firsthand knowledge of his testimony.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald may have learned about the June 23 conversation for the first time days ago, after attorneys for Miller and the Times told prosecutors that Miller discovered notes on the conversation, the magazine said.

Libby is one of the Bush administration officials who have been questioned in the investigation into who leaked Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame's identity to reporters in 2003. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly accused President George W. Bush's aides of twisting intelligence reports to justify the war in Iraq.

During two interviews with FBI agents and in two subsequent grand jury appearances, Libby discussed a July 8, 2003, conversation about Plame that he and Miller had at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, as well a July 12 telephone conversation on the same subject, the National Journal reported. He never disclosed the June 23 conversation with Miller, the magazine said.

Libby's lawyer Joseph Tate and representatives of Cheney's office didn't respond to a request for comment.
Oops. As partial information goes, this is interesting. Libby has been called back to chat with the grand jury, as has Karl Rove, as has Judy Miller of the New York Times.

And that puts the Times in a tough spot. From Editor and Publisher, this -
After meeting again with the federal prosecutor in the Plame leak case, New York Times reporter Judith Miller must testify again before the grand jury on Wednesday.

The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, had summoned her for the meeting today after she reportedly remembered her previously unknown June 23, 2003, meeting with I. Lewis Libby, and sent the prosecutor the notes of the meeting. But it was not known if he would actually ask her to testify again.

The news emerged in an e-mail sent by the Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, to staff this afternoon, which was obtained by E&P. Keller hit back at "armchair critics" in the memo.
How does one "hit back at armchair critics?" Whatever does that mean? The Times is reporting nothing. How does Miller fit in?

And how does the male prostitute, the ex-marine from Talon News who was planted in the White House press corps to lob softball questions, fit in? Does he have something nasty going with Scooter and Dick? Is it more than sexual?

Joe Conason in SALON.COM gives us more to consider:
Another intriguing possibility in the leaks case brings back the baroque personality of right-wing pressroom denizen Jeff Gannon, born James Guckert.

The New York Times reported Friday that in addition to possible charges directly involving the revelation of Valerie Wilson's identity and related perjury or conspiracy charges, Fitzgerald is exploring other possible crimes. Specifically, according to the Times, the special counsel is seeking to determine whether anyone transmitted classified material or information to persons who were not cleared to receive it - which could be a felony under the 1917 Espionage Act.

One such classified item might be the still-classified State Department document, written by an official of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, concerning the CIA's decision to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to look into allegations that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Someone leaked that INR document - which inaccurately indicated that Wilson's assignment was the result of lobbying within CIA by his wife, Valerie - to right-wing media outlets, notably including Gannon's former employers at Talon News. On Oct. 28, 2003, Gannon posted an interview with Joseph Wilson on the Talon Web site, in which he posed the following question: "An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?"

Gannon later hinted, rather coyly, that he had learned about the INR memo from an article in the Wall Street Journal. He also told reporters last February that FBI agents working for Fitzgerald had questioned him about where he got the memo.
The problem is he interviewed Wilson before the Wall Street Journal article was published.

This isn't baroque. This is Byzantine.

But note this - Poll: Karl Rove Leak Story 'Boring,' 'Hard to Follow' -
A recent poll reveals that most Americans aren't paying attention to 'Rove-gate' because the story is boring and hard to follow, and say that they would be more interested in the CIA leak probe if it involved celebrities. As to the relationship between Karl Rove and President Bush, a majority of Americans says that the long-time companions should not be allowed to marry but should enjoy many of the rights afforded to married couples.
Yes, that's satire.

Monday, on MSNBC's "Hardball" discussion, Howard Fineman of the Washington Post suggested that there's a war taking place inside the White House. On one side are all the folks who are about to be indicted for one thing or another, and on the other side are the folks who aren't. (Noted both in AmericaBlog and in the Washington Monthly.)

A war in the White House? Maybe the Watergate days are back.

But this time around we get more than White House stuff. Over in the senate, thing are getting even more dicey for the majority leader. From Associated Press, this -
Outside the blind trusts he created to avoid a conflict of interest, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist earned tens of thousands of dollars from stock in a family-founded hospital chain largely controlled by his brother, documents show.

The Tennessee Republican, whose sale this summer of HCA Inc. stock is under federal investigation, has long maintained he could own HCA shares and still vote on health care legislation without a conflict because he had placed the stock in blind trusts approved by the Senate.

However, ethics experts say a partnership arrangement shown in documents obtained by The Associated Press raises serious doubts about whether the senator truly avoided a conflict.
What's this? Insider pump-and-dump trading? A misunderstanding of what conflict of interest means? The man is unclear of the concept of just what a blind trust is?

Well, he's a heart surgeon with a degree from Harvard Medical School, not a securities attorney, after all.

Is the man dumb, or careless, or clueless, or what?

Maybe he's just like Dick Cheney.

Note this: "A year ago Halliburton stock was trading at about $35. Today it's trading at about $60. If you're the vice president of the United States, this means your stock options have increased in value by about $8 million. Sweet!"

Some people know how to run their lives.

And over in the house the majority leader already has been indicted, several times, for money laundering and criminal conspiracy. But this is a Texas matter. We get a shoot-out. As in DeLay's Lawyer Tries To Turn Tables; Subpoenas Prosecutors and DeLay's lawyers subpoena Texas prosecutor - not an Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton duel in New Jersey, but it will do for these times.

And note this. Someone ("Think Progress") has been watching "Fox News Sunday" so you don't have to, and notes William Kristol, editor of the definitive neoconservative Weekly Standard, saying this:
Criminal defense lawyers I've spoken to who are friendly to the administration are very worried that there will be one or more indictments in the next three weeks of senior administration officials, just looking at what Fitzgerald is doing and taking him at his word, you know, being a serious prosecutor here. And I think it's going to be bad for the Bush administration.
No kidding. And it seems Kristol ended with - "I hate the criminalization of politics."

Don't we all. Whitewater. Travelgate. The Clinton impeachment over that woman and everything else Kenneth Star was up to. (Local Note: "Kenneth Starr Named Dean Of Pepperdine Law School. April 6, 2004" - PU is up the road, overlooking Malibu. Some people know how to run their lives.)

It seem Kristol doesn't like it when his side is the target. Nothing came of what his side tried on Clinton.

This time?

Ah well, there's plenty else in the news. Odd things out this way, in Montclair, out east just over the Los Angeles County line - Man With Bow & Arrow Takes Over Train. What was he thinking? Was he going to crash the train into a skyscraper? The police shot him, but not fatally, so maybe in court he will explain what he intended.

April 24, 2005 in these pages - Who is YOUR Copilot? - regarding complaints by Air Force cadets of religious intolerance at our Air Force Academy out in Colorado. Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, October 11, 2005, Documents Show Air Force May Have Pushed Christianity. It seems a Jewish cadet there, now graduated, resented being told he had to accept Jesus as his personal savior, and sued. The Air Force just changed its guideline for chaplains. Oops.

But some news is good, or bad, or just in the "oops" category - NY Threat May Have Been a Hoax. Just kidding. Sorry about the disruption.

Posted by Alan at 22:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005 22:41 PDT home

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