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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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Friday, 9 July 2004

Topic: The Law

Way down Guant?namo Bay way...

Last week much of the discussion was on the Supreme Court rulings that seemed to require that those we are holding at Guant?namo Bay at least be allowed some sort of hearing to argue they were not "enemy combatants" at all. See The Discussion: Second Thoughts and the related articles for all that.

Yes, the Supreme Court ruled on June 28 that these Guant?namo detainees can challenge the legality of their detentions. And the Pentagon actually is complying - setting up a system of hearings for all of them. Each hearing will be presided over by three military officials. And Reuters is reporting that in these hearings the detainees can't consult with or be represented by counsel.

Rachel Meeropol, a human rights lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, called the new procedures inadequate and illegal, and said they fall far short of satisfying the Supreme Court's ruling. "The fact is they're coming up with these procedures on the fly," said Meeropol, whose group has filed cases in federal court seeking the release of several Guant?namo prisoners.

Arriaga said that while the government should be doing everything possible in light of the court ruling to facilitate judicial review of the lawfulness of the detentions, it instead appears to be trying to narrow the scope of the review. Arriaga noted that the new process remains entirely within the U.S. military, and that all sorts of evidence will be admissible, including from anonymous witnesses and statements that may have been coerced.
But close enough? This shows we're trying to be fair, but not getting bogged own in a lot of silly detail?

Well, it's a start.

Except the Los Angeles Times reports this - exceptions we seem to be taking to make sure things don't get out of hand with all this legal stuff.
Despite pledging yearly reviews for all prisoners held by the U.S. military at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba, Pentagon officials tentatively agreed during a high-level meeting last month to deny that process to some detainees and to keep their existence secret "for intelligence reasons," senior defense officials said Thursday.

Under the proposal, some prisoners would in effect be kept off public records and away from the scrutiny of lawyers and judges.

... It was unclear Thursday whether the Pentagon had followed through with the proposal, or how it would be affected by last month's Supreme Court ruling that granted detainees access to American courts. It also was not clear how many detainees the proposal would apply to. The Pentagon said there currently were 594 detainees at the camp...
The number of 594 is, of course, counting only those on the books at the moment. The real number? That is unclear at the moment.

So. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon give in. Everyone gets a hearing - they just don't get advice and counsel.

Does this fall short of what the Supreme Court ruled? One supposes that will take further adjudication - one of these detainees will have to sue over not being allowed to seek legal advice and then take it up through the courts and see if it rises to the top. Gee, how will a detainee get help suing if the detainee cannot seek legal advice? Whatever.

Heck, what is the Supreme Court going to do about this "no lawyers here" rule - hold Rumsfeld in contempt and fine him, or send him to jail? He has the Army.

But he did give in. Everyone gets a hearing - every detainee. Everyone - depending on how you define the term. There will always be some who just aren't there. And they cannot get hearings if they simply do not exist. The Supreme Court cannot require an existential impossibility.

Well, it's a start.

Posted by Alan at 15:03 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Music


If you have a high speed internet connection note this -
Having (relatively) recently obtained over 100 versions of "Body and Soul", I've decided to share the wealth. Herein you'll find the first volume of what is planned to be a 5 volume set of my picks of the litter. This can also serve as a beginner's guide to jazz, as it moves from the most famous version by Billie Holiday, to the most influential version by Coleman Hawkins, to versions by such post-bop luminaries as Eric Dolphy and Sun Ra, to the most impressive recent version by Jason Moran. I plan (i.e. might) add some of the appropriate history of the various versions, especially those of Hawkins and Holiday, if I can dig up the tomes in which those nuggets are buried.
Handy instructions are included.

Needless to say, at tip of the hat to the web site Body and Soul.

Posted by Alan at 10:00 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 9 July 2004 10:08 PDT home

Thursday, 8 July 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Yes, they're not even pretending to be serious anymore.

Two weeks ago here, and in Just Above Sunset, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and I kicked around ideas concerning the Associated Press' recent suit seeking access to all records of Bush's military service during the Vietnam War. You see, the AP sued the Pentagon - as The Air National Guard of the United States, a federal entity, has control of the microfilm in question, which the AP said should be disclosed in its entirety under the Freedom of Information Act, or so the lawsuit says. ( See June 27, 2004: The news media wakes up and starts doing its job? for the whole thing. )

Last week here, and in Just Above Sunset, Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and I kicked around ideas around about how the government now claims they cannot make copies of computer files for the public because it's just too tricky. Might lose the data forever. Yep. Sure. ( See Your government at work... hoping there are some things you won't notice for that exchange. )

Now this - from the New York Times, Friday, June 9th....

Pentagon Says Bush Records of Service Were Destroyed
Ralph Blumenthal, The New York Times, July 9, 2004
HOUSTON, July 8 - Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

It said the payroll records of "numerous service members," including former First Lt. Bush, had been ruined in 1996 and 1997 by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service during a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. No back-up paper copies could be found, it added in notices dated June 25.

The destroyed records cover three months of a period in 1972 and 1973 when Mr. Bush's claims of service in Alabama are in question.

The disclosure appeared to catch some experts, both pro-Bush and con, by surprise. Even the retired lieutenant colonel who studied Mr. Bush's records for the White House, Albert C. Lloyd of Austin, said it came as news to him.

The loss was announced by the Defense Department's Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review in letters to The New York Times and other news organizations that for nearly half a year have sought Mr. Bush's complete service file under the open-records law.
Interesting. They just found out? No one knew?

The Times quotes from the Pentagon letter -"The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has advised of the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll records. In 1996 and 1997, DFAS engaged with limited success in a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm. During this process the microfilm payroll records of numerous service members were damaged, including from the first quarter of 1969 (Jan. 1 to March 31) and the third quarter of 1972 (July 1 to Sept. 30). President Bush's payroll records for these two quarters were among the records destroyed. Searches for backup paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful."


But the best part of the letter seems to be where the Pentagon says they will answer no questions at all about this - because you'll only get answers to any questions you might have if you file another Freedom of Information application.

Go away. Don't ask. Just go away.

And these guys just remembered NOW that seven or eight years ago they'd lost this bunch of stuff?

The Times does mention that there was no mention at all of this "loss" when White House officials released hundreds of pages of the President's military records last February - and that was when the White House was in the middle of that big nasty scrum to deal with all those accusations that Bush was AWOL for a time during his commitment to fly the dangerous skies over Texas, Arkansas and Alabama in the Air National Guard as an alternative to flying over in Vietnam. He didn't even want to scoot around over Little Rock or Birmingham?

The Times called Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director about this "loss" of the microfilm that might have settled the matter, twice. Bartlett didn't return the calls.

Hey, why would he? What's to say?

Yes, these guys not even pretending to be serious anymore. They were trying to salvage the microfilm and something went wrong - Rosemary Wood was working on it that day?


Posted by Alan at 22:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Places I've always wanted to visit... sort of...

And that would be the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas that became Djibouti in 1977 as I see.

My Paris-born French friend out here, Liane, once told me she had a relative - her sister's husband I think, or a nephew - stationed there for some governmental task or another having to do with the numbers folks at the Bercy ministry. But I had to look it up. Djibouti. Great name.

Now it's all ours, according to this -
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is "a unit based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti - a sweltering 88-acre outpost by the Gulf of Aden once inhabited by the French Foreign Legion. Sitting at the end of a garbage-strewn dirt road leading out of the capital, the camp is where 1,800 U.S. troops, including hundreds of special operations forces, have since May [2003] based their missions covering seven countries in Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. And according to the plans being drawn up in unadorned cubicles back at the Pentagon, it is the U.S. military mission in the Horn of Africa - even more than the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq - that is a window into the next decade in the war on terrorism."

"In the Horn of Africa, much of the task force's focus is on humanitarian projects like building schools, wells, and roads. It is not done out of altruism: The aim is to project a better image of the United States and make the ground less fertile for the seeds of Islamic radicalism. During another era, it was known as 'winning hearts and minds.' In April, when their Marine brethren were dropping bombs on Iraqis, marines in the Horn of Africa delivered 15,000 pairs of shoes to children in Djibouti city.

"There are, of course, plenty of bullets to complement the bread. Hundreds of special operations forces and CIA operatives based at Camp Lemonier have the mission of capturing or killing the biggest stars in al Qaeda's constellation and have the authority to launch covert missions throughout much of the Horn of Africa. Last November, a missile fired from a CIA-operated Predator drone killed an al Qaeda operative on a desert highway in Yemen, and intelligence officials are monitoring African airspace and dhow traffic in coastal waters to set the stage for future operations."

"... Yet much of the work is already underway and has a momentum all its own. At dusty Camp Lemonier, Djiboutian contractors are constructing a new gymnasium for the U.S. troops; and soldiers and marines can escape the heat by ducking into a new air-conditioned dining facility, recently christened the Bob Hope Chow Hall. Standing inside the Joint Operations Center, a stark warehouse where Task Force Horn of Africa plans and executes its counterterrorism missions, Master Gunnery Sgt. Barry Walker looks around and sees the future. 'It's bare bones, but it's going to be what we need,' he says. 'The days of small-city U.S.A. are gone.'

"Which means troops based in Djibouti need to seek their entertainment off base. Some spend their free evenings wandering the markets of Djibouti city; others gamble at a local hotel. Some even break the monotony of base life by participating in joint training exercises on the Gulf of Aden with the French (yes, the French) military. In the end, most can recite the exact day and hour that their tour in the Horn of Africa ends, and one Marine officer is even writing a book about the experience of being deployed in Djibouti. The book's title: The Year of the Short Straw."

Source: US News & World Report (September 28, 2003).
Ah, so we're all looking at Baghdad and Basra, and the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and thinking CENTCOM near Tampa and in Yemen or Bahrain is where things are really happening.

Nope. It's in Djibouti. Isn't it always?

And now all over the wires is the New Republic (TRN) item from John Judis, Spencer Ackerman and Massoud Ansari - about the upcoming July Surprise. It seems that they've been chatting with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) folks -
A third source, an official who works under ISI's director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TRN that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs [i.e., high-value al Qaida targets] before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
No, no, no! Way too obvious!

Judis and Ackerman may claim to have multiple Pakistani intelligence sources confirming key details, but this doesn't smell right.

But who knows, with a little help from our guys in Djibouti....

It seems Pakistan has been wanting a good number of our F-16 fighters to even things up with their neighbors in India flying the last of the fancy MIG fighters. And the F-16 is manufactured in Dallas - Forth Worth. Jobs. American manufacturing jobs - and high-paying ones at that. Something could be worked out.

So no doubt there will be (or already is) some intense communications traffic between Islamabad in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and our folks in Djibouti.

This could work.

Djibouti. Dinner at the Bob Hope Chow Hall. Military exercises with our French friends. Sun and sand. Sounds intriguing.

Posted by Alan at 14:16 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Topic: Dissent

Just in from Paris: Who gets to tell the story? Narrative Theory.

Ric, our friend who publishes MetropoleParis sent this mid-week.

The Michael Moore Film Fahrenheit 9/11 has opened in France.
Paris, Wednesday, 7 July:

There is no doubt that Michael Moore has had more free publicity than anyone is entitled to, but the cause is just. Good folks have been eating shit long enough; now it's time to dump some on other plates and see how they fancy it.

Fahrenheit 9/11 opened on 220 screens in French cinemas today. This morning's Le Parisien gave Moore and the film a whole page, plus plugged his books - which are available here in French and are bestsellers - and mentioned the US box-office success. The paper also noted the campaign against the film, saying that this hasn't hurt ticket sales at all. The paper has rated the film with three stars - 'excellent.'

Tonight's national France2-TV news picked up the relay, showing scenes from the film and clips of film fans coming out of the cinemas. 'News' mentions for films are important because films are not allowed to advertise on TV.

The film has had a good launch here because other new films haven't been more than average, with only 'Folle Embellie' getting a rare four stars. It was at Cannes too, but only opened on 60 screens today. It's a French-type psychodrama. A comedy titled 'L'Am?rican' which was plastered on 400 screens has received a blackball from Le Parisien. Le Parisien's lowest rating is the dreaded blackball - 'sans interet.' Other comment, "On a d?test?."

'Folle Embellie' got a rave, but Fahrenheit 9/11 got a full page, and its subtitle is 'anti-Bush.'

My guess is that 'anti-Bush' has become popular without most people knowing very much about anything. Newspaper readership in France is not high even if papers are generally of high quality.

For about the last three months there has been a series of documentaries that are critical of US policy that have been shown on TV. But these have been shown at non-prime times, and the majority of them have been broadcast on the French-German channel, Arte. Compared to the mainstream channels, Arte does not get high ratings.

So, just how 'popular' is anti-Bush sentiment?

Not all papers are anti-Bush, so one is left with those that are reporting the news. Each time it's qualified a bit more, there are fewer readers and/or viewers to be anti-Bush. American commentators who have claimed that anti-Bush and anti-American sentiment is high have been snowing their readers and viewers. They are basing their claims on what they read themselves, not on what the French actually see and read. There is a tradition here, of protestors getting out on the streets, waving banners, being subjects for TV-clips. All in all, those who are visible are a tiny minority - but newsworthy. The silent majority is not and never will be.

Moore's film will do a lot to change what people here think about the regime in Washington, because movies are very popular. The same might happen in the United States too. If I can find eight euros I might see it too.

... from cinema paradise, ric
Eight euros? That's 9.91 dollars at the current exchange rate. Bummer.

If your French is up to it, here's a link to the lead items from Le Parisien.

Michael Moore a bien r?ussi son coup
? Fahrenheit 9/11 ?, percutant pamphlet anti-Bush, s'installe aujourd'hui sur 220 ?crans fran?ais. Pour le r?alisateur, la partie est gagn?e : apr?s avoir rafl? la Palme d'or ? Cannes, son documentaire triomphe aux Etats-Unis.
Pierre Vavasseur
Le Parisien , mercredi 07 juillet 2004

Rick's photo of a ? Fahrenheit 9/11 ? promotional poster MetropoleParis - Paris Posters II on the streets of Paris.

And the cover of everyone's favorite left-leaning French national newspaper. As I have mentioned elsewhere, Lib?ration is one of the major French dailies - actually one of the founders was Sartre, or was is Camus? I forget. Lib?ration is a bit to the left... well, it's a lot to the left. I think I first noticed the paper back in the sixties when I saw Claude Lelouch's film "A Man and A Woman" (Un Homme et Une Femme) - that was 1966 - and the gorgeous Anouk Aim?e was reading a copy of Lib?ration in bed and smiling.

Back home? One of the more interesting comments on the film in the America comes from Eric Alterman in his MSNBC column - suggesting the political issue with Moore's film is story telling.
The fact is that while Moore makes a few contentions that are arguable, most of them adhere pretty closely to the known facts. This is not the case of the Bush argument for war -the media by and large reporting those phony contentions with credulous admiration. I'm willing to bet that I could find more lies, phony statements and false accusations in just about any single episode of "Meet the Press," "This Week" or "Face the Nation" devoted to Iraq and the war on terror than can be found in Moore's entire film. I could probably find more in any single five-minute segment of an O'Reilly, Hannity or Scarborough show. Why are the media so furious at Moore? Because he is doing their job for them and taking away their narrative. If they did it better, he wouldn't have to. Perhaps those reporters attacking Moore should be good enough to publish some of their own comments on the war alongside it.
Not likely.

Back in June of last year this idea of news being a narrative form came up in Just Above Sunset (June 22, 2003), in The BBC versus We Report, You Decide, or "Tell Me A Story." - and that started out as a discussion of whether or not the rescue of Jessica Lynch was staged propaganda. The BBC was pumping of facts. Fox News was "on the story".

That seems to me to be the big difference in approach on each side of the pond. They, the BBC, seem to expect their viewers to make up their own stories from nuggets of news events. That's a lot of work. American audiences want to be told "the real story" - with a narrative already provided to make it all fit together from crisis to resolution. And of course we over here also require a denouement - to be told what the story means to the next election or whatever. And such a denouement is thus a teaser for the next episode. Stay tuned.
And this was tied back to how the Watergate "story" had been covered.
I suppose there is a reason we refer to some things on CNN and the rest as "news stories" a lot of the time. So the formula for this is a bit of illicit or at least interesting sex, or a lot of sex, and a narrative flow - teasers for the next installment in the series - stunning revelations and defensive denials, heroes and villains and dupes, interesting characters like a sly country lawyer from North Carolina (Sam Erwin) and an tall, odd Ivy League scholar in a bowtie (Cox), and the two dim-witted loyal royal daughters (think King Lear) and various colorful Cuban patriots and the two kind-of-Germanic henchmen with buzzcuts (Halderman and Erlichman). That works.

Everyone likes a good story.
Things are changing. Michael Moore is taking the same footage (and a lot that was discarded) and is writing a different story line. He doesn't "connect the dots" the way we've been told they are, really, connected.

This is a problem for Fox News, and for the other major purveyors of these familiar narratives - CNN and MSNBC and the broadcast networks. And for the print media too, of course. One might say they all, and each, have a commercial interest in keeping their viewers (and readers) coming back for more (not Moore) of this ongoing saga.

The narrative flow of conflict and resolution has been set, and expectations have been raised. Ratings depend on that. Tune in for the next episode!

And of course the sale of on-air advertising depends on those very ratings. And the return on stockholders' investment in News Corp or Time-Warner depends on those very advertising revenues. The ROI determines whether the organization can survive as a going concern. There is a whole lot riding on maintaining the accepted narrative.

And now this blow-hard from Flint, Michigan proposes an alternative narrative for the same events. Damn.

This is a real threat of the most basic kind - as economic survival is the issue.

Moore is attacking the media as much as he is attacking Bush. He keeps saying just that in all the interviews he's been doing.

On the June 21 NBC Today show, Katy Couric of course had to ask Moore, in her interview with him, why he didn't get the narrative right - the narrative that Saddam was a bad man and we were the good and noble liberators and it was a simple and plain and true as that - no more, no less. Didn't he have "the story" all wrong?

Moore doesn't dispute that Saddam was a bad guy. That's fact. He simply disputes the framework into which that one fits the particular fact - this "story" we are being told:
You guys did such a good job of telling us how tyrannical and horrible he was. You already did that. What--the question really should be posed to NBC News and all of the other news agencies: Why didn't you show us that the people that we're going to bomb in a few days are these people, human beings who are living normal lives, kids flying kites, people just trying to get by in their daily existence? And as the New York Times pointed out last week, out of the 50 air strikes in those initial days, the--we were zero for 50 hitting the target. We killed civilians and we don't know how many thousands of civilians that we killed. And nobody covered that. And so for two hours, I'm going to cover it. I'm going to--out of four years of all of this propaganda, I'm going to give you two hours that says here's the other side of the story.
There's another side? We were told there was GOOD and there was EVIL. Pick one or the other. Moore doesn't like the story that flows from those assumptions.

Yep, the current administration wants to simplify matters, to make it an easy story. And the news folks can sell that one easily - easy plot, recognizable black-hat and white-hat characters, lots of inspiration. Ratings and revenues will go up and stay up. It's a whole lot harder to sell a nuanced plot line with ambiguous characters. We know that well out here in Hollywood - an action hero flick will out-gross any art house "serious" psychologically detailed noir film in some odd foreign language, by ten thousand to one.

But people are going to Moore's film. For a change of pace? Perhaps.

And Bush is still reading "My Pet Goat" to those Florida schools kid, isn't he?

This is a fight for something very odd - for just who gets to tell the story.

Posted by Alan at 19:50 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 8 July 2004 10:27 PDT home

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