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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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Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Topic: The Media

"If you make the headline big enough…"

Charles Foster Kane's famous journalism advice comes to mind when a columnist is assigned to write up a report about a Los Angeles softball game for a colleague in Paris, when the event turns out to be less than insignificant. If we dash off a story and post it, then it will be a part of the continuing unfolding saga of the growth of Internet journalism, just because it appears.

It all started a few days previously when one of the Paris based Just Above Sunset correspondents, Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, received an e-mail invitation to participate in a softball game being held by in Venice California. He, in turn, forwarded the information to the Los Angeles office, so that either or both of the LA based JAS staff members could act as Ric's proxy at the event for industry insiders.

Journalists are more prone to act as observers than as participants, so the writer and photographer considered the event more of an assignment than an opportunity to display softball talent. Perhaps that personality trait among those who toil as journalists also explains why many of the folks who expressed an interest in the event failed to show up at the listed start time.

After some confusion as to which of the baseball fields was the one for this particular group was resolved, a MediaBistro representative began to get waivers signed and encourage some warm up batting practice and tossing the ball around the infield.

Covering the event as if it were a legitimate story was an absurd prospect, so while the JAS lensman snapped some images, the writer chatted with members of the slowly growing group. A columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a fellow with a New York Times baseball shirt, and a young man who had covered the recent Big Lebowski event in Downey for Giant magazine were among the dozen or so folks who showed up.

Drinks at a location in Santa Monica were an added incentive and perhaps if the JAS news team had not been under intense deadline pressure (yeah, right!) and stayed longer, there would be a much longer and more detailed roster of the various folks who shared their story with the inquiring Internet writer.

Dividing the ten participants into two competing teams seemed to be a logistics challenge of insurmountable proportions. The temperature was falling and a wind was sending the audience scurrying for their jackets, when the JAS photographer, who also happens to be the publication's beloved editor and publisher, noted that the hour was getting late and that he wanted to get back to our respective cubicles so that the story could be pumped out and the back shop could have ample time to prepare it without going into overtime pay.

Recent Just Above Sunset assignments have included a ride in a restored B-17 (photos here, here and here), a tour of a top notch auto museum (photos here), and a walking tour of the Venice (California) canals (see this and this), but a seasoned journalism veteran knows that not every assignment can be one that will get mentioned in the writer's autobiography, so we followed our leader's signal and wrapped it up and headed for the computer.

In the old days when many journalists were part scalawags, we would have spiced up the report by adding fictional embellishments (everyone who missed the event will be hoping that some world famous media mogul in the LA area didn't show up and hand out assignments like candy) but in the current atmosphere of scrupulously factual reporting, the editor will not sanction any such disingenuous creative endeavors.

Our Paris based colleague will be glad to know that in a week where the Hollywood press covered the premieres of Batman and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, no stars turned up at the Venice ballpark and no opportunities to string the story to Time or Le Monde were missed.

The constant patrolling of Los Angeles, by the JAS news team, searching for fascinating and amusing facets of life in Hollywood, will continue.

- Bob Patterson ? Venice, California - Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Journalists? Do you know these people?

Posted by Alan at 22:02 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 22:11 PDT home

Topic: The Media

A Shift in the Wind? - How is the press doing these days?

Seymour Hersh in the current New Yorker in Watergate Days notes way back in "those days" Woodward and Bernstein "were operating in a democracy in which they were accountable to a Constitution and to a citizenry that held its leaders to a high standard of morality and integrity. That is the legacy of Watergate."

So how is the press doing these days? Does this "legacy of Watergate" live on?

Well, someone finally asked Bush about the Downing Street memo – at Tuesday's Press conference. And Bush publicly said: "The facts were not being fixed, in any shape or form at all." As you recall, the memo was the British government's notes on how to deal with what was happening in Washington in July of 2003 and contained the line - "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, though military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." At the time, we were saying we didn't want war, that we were working on a diplomatic resolution. Ah, the Brits misunderstood.

But at least someone finally asked, on June 7 – even if memo was made public on the first day in May. A bit of a gap – but there was the runaway bride and Michael Jackson to deal with.

Paul McLeary in the Columbia Journalism Review provides a review of the delay in Downing Street Memo - a Slow Fire Shows Flickers of Life -
Given the number of fluff pieces running in major newspapers and on television news, it's exasperating to watch a story that might actually be important (and there aren't many) slowly wind its way aimlessly through the media, never quite building up the head of steam necessary to burst onto front pages.

? coverage of the memo in the American media had been almost non-existent, as opposed to the British media, which was battering Tony Blair about the head with it pretty handily in the run-up to elections there.

Since then, coverage of the memo and the questions about the cooking of intelligence it raises have stayed off the front pages, despite the fact that liberal bloggers have been throwing fits on a daily basis over the lack of major media coverage.

But now something seems to have changed, however slightly, in the story of the story.
What changed? Tim Russert, interviewed Republican National Committee chief Ken Mehlman on "Meet the Press." (Discussed previously here.) And on Sunday, the new public editor of the New York Times, Byron Calame, made reference to the paper's lack of coverage of the issue. And McLeary notes that starting Tuesday -
? we've seen a relative explosion of coverage of the memo, with the New York Times and Washington Post throwing their hat into the ring. The Times ran a piece looking at Tony Blair's visit to Washington, noting that yesterday's meeting between Bush and Blair would be their first since "the disclosure last month of a memo written by a foreign policy aide to Mr. Blair in 2002 that reported ... that the White House was fixing its 'intelligence and facts' about the threat from Saddam Hussein 'around the policy' of removing him from power through military action."

Not exactly in-depth coverage, but it captures the essence of the memo well enough, and we'll take what we can get.
It will do. And if you got to McLeary's item you'll find kinks to new coverage all over the place. Not a Watergate flood of stories, but it will do.

And the jury is still considering whether Michael Jackson is or is not a pervert, so it's something to report. Filler? One newsreader's filler is another's top story.

Eric Alterman over at MSNBC notes other stirrings of a press reporting what a hunkered-down administration doesn't want reported. His list?

Bush's Unofficial Official Secrets Act: How the Justice Department Has Pushed to Criminalize The Disclosure of Non-Security Related Government Information - this is John Dean in Find Law explaining the new rules that keep information from citizens. Stuff that should be kept secret? Not exactly. Yes, that is the same John Dean from Watergate days, Nixon's personal attorney who blew the whistle (or one of the whistles) ? and he's now out here in Los Angeles doing the same sort of thing.

And the Washington Post still breaks stories ?

Details on Boeing Deal Sought
Senators Raise Questions About White House Involvement
Mike Allen - Wednesday, June 8, 2005; Page A19
Senators urged the Pentagon's inspector general yesterday to release more information about the involvement of White House officials and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in an aborted $30 billion air-tanker deal that exposed gaping holes in the government's controls on large purchases. ?
Yeah, the White House is bailing out Boeing ? whose new tanker design doesn't even meet specs - while bitching about European subsidies to Airbus. The senators ask ? and the Post has dug up embarrassing memos. Not exactly Watergate stuff, but something. Page A19 may be appropriate.

And the Post is also on this ?

New Worlds To Censor
Adam Thierer - Tuesday, June 7, 2005; Page A23
A troubling shift is underway in how lawmakers censor media in this country. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chairmen of the Senate and House commerce committees, as well as Kevin Martin, the new head of the Federal Communications Commission, are proposing to broaden federal broadcast "indecency" regulations to cover cable and satellite television. And a separate measure recently introduced in the Senate would regulate "excessively violent" programming, not just in broadcasting but on cable and satellite service as well.
Oh, not a big issue outside the blogs ? but these guys like to shut things down. Limiting what folks can watch, or listen to, even if they pay for it, seems to part of a hard Jones these Republican right guys have. The Post is troubled. The impulse to shut down disturbing things is hard to resist, when you can.

And in USA TODAY of all places you'll find a long item on the tradition of low-level grunts being punished for military policies implemented by higher-ups who get promoted. It used to be such articles were the standard stuff of the left, and such contentions denounced as treason by the hard right. It the whole "a few bad apples" business. But when USA TODAY starts up with such stuff? Oh my!

And the New York Times offers a bit of its own investigative reporting ?

Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming
Andrew C. Revkin - June 8, 2005
A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports. ?
Yeah, so what else is new? But they dug it up.

Even the conservative John Cole is upset - "Sometimes I wake up and read the papers and just want to scream."

Ah. Good. His reaction? ? "Do they think this is a school project, and all they have to do is fool the teacher and climate change won't be an issue? I don't want junk science or unfounded claims going forward, either, but it is becoming pretty clear to me that faith-based governance simply means that anything you don't like or anything that might require a change in your policy position should be ignored or labeled 'junk science.'"

Maybe the press is doing its job.

Hey, even in Albany, New York the press is doing its job, as Steve Lovelady notes here -
Our attention has been called to a substantive Albany Times-Union piece by reporter Brendan Lyons, in which retired FBI agent Paul Daly reveals that, in a sense, Deep Throat was a clandestine group of four baritones -- not just W. Mark Felt, but also three of his deputies: Richard Long, chief of the FBI's white-collar crimes section during Watergate; Robert G. Kunkel, agent-in-charge of the Washington field office, which led the Watergate investigation; and Charles Bates, who was assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division.

The four saw themselves, the Times-Union notes, not as disgruntled mavericks, but as a clandestine group in a high-stakes fight to the death with a White House that was itself trying desperately to rein in the FBI's Watergate investigation. The four met regularly to compare notes and to decide what new tidbits to feed out to the public -- with Bob Woodward and the Washington Post selected as their weapon of choice -- so as to illustrate just how deep the rot ran.

Looked at this way, the enterprise takes on a new light, one neither noble nor venal. What it was, was office politics at a very high level, employed by powerful bureaucrats intent upon preserving not just their ongoing investigation but also their agency's very independence.

? Kudos to Lyons and the Times-Union for a nuanced piece of reporting that goes well beyond just rehashing everyone's favorite movie. And for finding a local source who puts a new perspective on one of the biggest national stories of the past half-century.
Yep ? and cool on two levels. Felt wasn't alone ? there were more like him, whatever their motivations, and even in Albany you get good reporting. Of course Steve Lovelady adds that Harry Rosenfeld, editor-at-large and columnist for the Times-Union, was city editor of the Washington Post in the early 1970's and was in charge of its day-to-day Watergate coverage. Not only the legacy lives on, so do the players.

So what is the administration to do if the press does its job?

Here's an idea.

Torture's Part of the Territory
Naomi Klein, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2005

She sets the scene -
Brace yourself for a flood of gruesome new torture snapshots. Last week, a federal judge ordered the Defense Department to release dozens of additional photographs and videotapes depicting prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

The photographs will elicit what has become a predictable response: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will claim to be shocked and will assure us that action is already being taken to prevent such abuses from happening again. But imagine, for a moment, if events followed a different script. Imagine if Rumsfeld responded like Col. Mathieu in "Battle of Algiers," Gillo Pontecorvo's famed 1965 film about the National Liberation Front's attempt to liberate Algeria from French colonial rule. In one of the film's key scenes, Mathieu finds himself in a situation familiar to top officials in the Bush administration: He is being grilled by a room filled with journalists about allegations that French paratroopers are torturing Algerian prisoners.

Based on real-life French commander Gen. Jacques Massus, Mathieu neither denies the abuse nor claims that those responsible will be punished. Instead, he flips the tables on the scandalized reporters, most of whom work for newspapers that overwhelmingly support France's continued occupation of Algeria. Torture "isn't the problem," he says calmly. "The problem is the FLN wants to throw us out of Algeria and we want to stay?. It's my turn to ask a question. Should France stay in Algeria? If your answer is still yes, then you must accept all the consequences."

His point, as relevant in Iraq today as it was in Algeria in 1957, is that there is no nice, humanitarian way to occupy a nation against the will of its people. Those who support such an occupation don't have the right to morally separate themselves from the brutality it requires. ?
Her suggestion? Well, you could tell it like it is.
When the next batch of photographs from Abu Ghraib appear, many Americans will be morally outraged, and rightly so. But perhaps some brave official will take a lesson from Col. Mathieu and dare to turn the tables: Should the United States stay in Iraq? If your answer is still yes, then you must accept all the consequences.
Now there's an idea. Don't do the whole "a few bad apples" tap dance. Just say, "Yeah, well, this is what we're doing, and if you have a problem with it write your damned congressman, or vote in an election now and then."

Oh, we'll get the tap dance.

And we will too get the old "the press is evil" number as Tom Tomorrow, the political cartoonist with the funny pseudonym, explains here -
? one of the major debate strategies of the right is to find any inconsistency in a story and use it to discredit the entire story. Given the inherent fallibility of human beings, this is a pretty easy task - there's always going to be some detail that somebody got wrong, some mistaken detail in an otherwise true story. Or, at the very least, there will be an inexact turn of phrase or metaphor (a word like "gulag", say) which can be seized upon to channel attention away from the issue itself.
Go read his example of the current debate over how many "detainees" in our chain of hold-'em-without-charges facilities died under our very focused questioning. Was it two, thirty-seven, one hundred? Is the press accurate? The number one hundred is floating around.
? but since the Army itself "only" officially acknowledges 37 deaths, then, well, clearly the entire thing is just 'nother fiction promulgated by the Lying Liberal Media. And the righties can go back to pretending that the worst allegation of abuse anyone anywhere has made was about Korans in toilets. Oh, and that one night at Abu Ghraib when everyone took those photos, but the guilty have been punished and we've put all that behind us now. Next subject please.
Heck, it works. Or it has worked so far.

But maybe there is a change in the air.

Posted by Alan at 15:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 15:48 PDT home

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Topic: Selling the War

Clueless –

Some of us old folks remember the when we were young we played a board game named "Clue." Is that still around? Are board games still around? The game was a murder-mystery thing, and you got to say things like "it was it Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick." Then you found out you were wrong. There was a movie based on the game - a bit of fluff, although maybe the last time Leslie Ann Warren ever looked sexy.

Anyway, that’s the gimmick of this summary of how we got to where we are in this Iraq business -

President Bush, With the Candlestick...
Robert Parry, Consortium News, June 7, 2005

The contention: "The clues are falling into place, pointing to the incontrovertible judgment that George W. Bush willfully misled the United States into invading Iraq, in part, by eliminating the possibility of the peaceful solution that he pretended to want."

Yeah. So?

Well, sometimes pulling all the clues together in one place helps solve some mysteries. So the following might be useful in that sort of way.

And what should we consider?

Clue One:
The latest piece of the puzzle was reported by Charles J. Hanley of the Associated Press in an article on June 4 describing how Bush’s Undersecretary of State John Bolton orchestrated the ouster of global arms control official Jose Bustani in early 2002 because Bustani’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] was making progress toward getting arms inspectors back into Iraq. If Bustani had succeeded in gaining Iraq’s compliance with international inspection demands, Bush would have been denied his chief rationale for war, even before U.S. military divisions were deployed to the Persian Gulf. Bustani had made himself an obstacle to war, so he had to go.
The Hanley item is here - and the whole thing was Bolton’s employment for a bit. We said Bustani had to go because he was corrupt – some of us remember that. Some of us were puzzled at the time. And Hanley notes that if Bustani’s Iraq plan had worked out in 2002, "Bustani’s inspectors would have found nothing, because Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed in the early 1990s. That would have undercut the U.S. rationale for war." Ah, a back-story.

Clue Two: The Downing Street memo – discussed in the press in the UK and a bit on this side of the pond. Covered in these pages many times, bit mainly here on 8 May and here on 29 May. Enough said.

Clues Three and Four: War Hysteria and Blind Journalists
In November 2002, Hussein let UN inspectors back into Iraq where they searched dozens of sites ? including some suggested by U.S. intelligence ? but found no WMD. The Bush administration reacted to the negative WMD findings by instigating war hysteria inside the United States. The UN inspectors were ridiculed as incompetent; Bush?s domestic critics were called traitors; European allies urging patience were denounced as the "axis of weasels"; French wine was poured into gutters; and "French fries" were renamed "Freedom fries" in flag-waving diners across America.

As Bush?s followers were lusting for war in March 2003, however, UN inspectors were citing good cooperation from the Iraqis as the search for WMD continued. The inspectors? greater obstacle soon became Bush?s insistence on an invasion.

? Despite the UN inspectors? negative WMD findings and Bush?s failure to win a war resolution from the UN Security Council, Bush launched the invasion on March 19, 2003. After three weeks of fighting, U.S.-led forces toppled Hussein?s government and Bush?s popularity ratings soared.
Yep. We remember that. But then things went sour and there were no WMD and so on ? and the explaining got even stranger. As discussed before here, on July 14, 2003 Bush said this about Hussein, "we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn?t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power."

What? He wouldn?t let them in? He did. Oh well.

Parry reminds us too that on Jan. 27, 2004, Bush said, "We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution ? 1441 ? unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in."

But, but, but?.

Journalists played along. Bush got the facts wrong -to put it bluntly either he lied or he was on another planet - but it was unpatriotic to point that out, or something ?
? ABC?s veteran newsman Ted Koppel fell for the administration?s spin, using it to explain why he ? Koppel ? thought the invasion was justified. "It did not make logical sense that Saddam Hussein, whose armies had been defeated once before by the United States and the Coalition, would be prepared to lose control over his country if all he had to do was say, ?All right, UN, come on in, check it out," Koppel said in a July 2004 interview with Amy Goodman, host of "Democracy Now."

As Koppel obviously was aware, Hussein had told the UN to "come on in, check it out," but even prominent journalists were ready to put on blinders.

Not even disclosures by administration insiders seemed to matter. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O?Neill and ex-counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke described Bush?s early obsession with invading Iraq, Bush?s defenders fended off the accounts by questioning the motives of the witnesses. O?Neill and Clarke must be bitter or jealous or delusional or simply liars, the Bush defenders said.
Ah, those were the days! Now its only Fox News and a few others.

Clue Five: The Presidential Debates

What?s to say? "I went there [the United Nations] hoping that once and for all the free world would act in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands. They [the Security Council] passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. I believe when an international body speaks, it must mean what it says. But Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact, my opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that he [Hussein] was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn?t going to work. That?s kind of a pre-Sept. 10 mentality, the hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful place." How could Kerry respond?

Back to the game of "Clue" ? Parry?s conceit -
Observing the behavior of the national news media over the past three years has been like watching incompetent players in the mystery game "Clue" as they visit all the rooms and ask about all the suspects and weapons, but still insist on guessing at combinations that are transparently incorrect.

Indeed, the major U.S. news outlets appeared to have been so cowed by the Bush White House that they only grudgingly reported on the Downing Street Memo last month ? and then only after the leaked document had become a cause celebre in Great Britain and on the Internet.

So far, there?s also been next to no bounce on the AP?s reporting about the real motive behind Bustani?s ouster in April 2002. That story would seem to be the final clue ? if one were needed ? to prove that Bush has consistently lied about how and why the United States went to war in Iraq.

At this point, a trickier question might be why the mainstream U.S. news media has performed so badly for so long.

To some extent, the news media?s reluctance to solve the Mystery of Bush?s Iraq War Lies may be explained by a well-founded fear of retaliation from Bush?s powerful defense apparatus ? from the Wall Street Journal?s editorial page to the screamers on Fox News and right-wing talk radio.
Oh, more press bashing. They we just reporting what Bush was saying. It is not their job to say what he is saying does not match any known facts. That?s our job, or something.

But Parry suggests another motive, other than fear of retaliation - a fear of the logical consequence that would follow a conclusion that Bush willfully deceived the American people into this war. He says if that conclusion were to be accepted as true, it would force mainstream editors into a tough decision about whether they should join the supposedly fringe position advocating Bush?s impeachment.

Impeachment? He says that?s the only logical remedy for "a leader who so grievously violated the public trust and sent so many American soldiers to unnecessary deaths."

Oh, really?

Well, out the mainstream you get this -
The Downing Street Minutes are deserving, in the words of constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz, of an official "Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its constitutional power to impeach George W. Bush, President of the United States."

Bonifaz, who two years ago took the Bush Administration to court on behalf of a coalition of US soldiers, parents of soldiers and twelve Members of Congress (including John Conyers Jr., Dennis Kucinich, Jesse Jackson Jr., Jim McDermott, Jose Serrano, Sheila Jackson Lee) to challenge the constitutionality of the Iraq war, adds:

"The question must now be asked, with the release of the Downing Street Memo, whether the President has committed impeachable offenses. Is it a High Crime to engage in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for taking the nation into a war? Is it a High Crime to manipulate intelligence so as to allege falsely a national security threat posed to the United States as a means of trying to justify a war against another nation based on 'preemptive' purposes? Is it a High Crime to commit a felony via the submission of an official report to the United States Congress falsifying the reasons for launching military action?"

As in previous investigations of "High Crimes and Misdemeanors," such a "Resolution of Inquiry is the appropriate first step in launching this investigation." ?
John Bonifaz? Not a household name.

Also note that on the June 5 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, moderator Tim Russert questioned Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman about the Downing Street memo, and Russert was told the "findings" of this Downing Street Memo "have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it," including the 9-11 Commission and the Senate. Not true unless time sometimes runs backward and there's an alternative universe (details here) - but what are you going to do? Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday afternoon publicly said: "The facts were not being fixed, in any shape or form at all."

Who are you going to trust?

And here's a useful list of Bush saying we didn't want to go to war at all. You can read the memo or trust what they said, side by side outside the White House.

After the Downing Street Memo: The Case for Impeachment Builds.

No. Impeachment is a non-starter.

Keith Olbermann over at MSNBC on "Countdown" explains why -
Last Wednesday, Senator John Kerry told the editorial board of the newspaper in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the "Standard-Times," that he was amazed at the lack of American media coverage of the so-called "Downing Street Memo" - notes of a July, 2002 British cabinet meeting that suggested the U.S. was making all the evidence fit a pre-planned invasion of Iraq.

The words of the Democrats' 2004 standard-bearer?: "When I go back (to Washington) on Monday, I am going to raise the issue. I think (the memo) is a stunning, unbelievably simple and understandable statement of the truth..."

Now, let's play Blogosphere-Telephone with that statement.

By Saturday, those quotes, and the original New Bedford story, had been transmuted by a series of foreign and conservative websites into an article that included the line: "Failed presidential candidate Kerry advised that he will begin the presentation of his case for President Bush's impeachment to Congress, on Monday."
Kerry never said that but it was all over the web - Kerry was going to call for the impeachment of President Bush! Olbermann reports getting lots from the right - "You're covering up Kerry's traitorous comment!" ? and lots from the left ? "Corporate lapdog! Why didn't you cover this? Do your job!"

Yeah, well, Olbermann called Kerry's office -
The Senator's office told "Countdown" last night that he never said anything about impeachment and asked our reporter where he'd read that line. The answer was: the websites of NewsMax and Al-Jazeera.

The story originated - on Al-Jazeera.

The New Bedford newspaper story, exactly 746 words long, literally does not include the words impeach, or impeachment.

If this detail is still relevant in these super-heated political times, the story is not true. But at places as disparate as Al-Jazeera and NewsMax, they wanted it to be.
Well, you can't always get what you want.

NewsMax, of course, is the conservative news service funded by Richard Mellon Scaife (Mellon Bank was founded in Pittsburgh by his family), and mentioned in this commentary from May 26, 2003 ? the first item in the first issue of Just Above Sunset. Those guys have their agenda. So does Al-Jazeera.

So all the "clues" lead up to impeachment. And Kerry won't go there, but for good reason.

Why? With the president's party in firm control both houses of congress and most of the judiciary, well, what's the point? You'd ruin yourself, and achieve nothing.

Fight the battles where you, maybe, could win. Winning a game of "Clue" is winning nothing.

Posted by Alan at 19:32 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005 09:08 PDT home

Topic: In these times...

Dispatches from Cincinnati –

Remind me to ask my brother in Cincinnati to come visit me out here. I’m not going there, considering this -
On May 10, the Sheriff of Hamilton County, Ohio - which includes Cincinnati - delivered a fascistic tirade against “the forces of moral corruption,” at a public rally in the heart of the city’s downtown district. According to Sheriff Simon Leis, Jr., Cincinnati and police departments across the US are engaged in a battle against Satan and his minions - i.e., “liberal judges,” “atheists,” homosexuals, “feminists” and “liberals.”

Delivering the keynote address at the annual Police Memorial Day ceremony and parade at Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, Sheriff Leis denounced “proselytizing parasitic groups” like “gay and lesbian coalitions, rabid feminist groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union.” Leis’s backward, Christian fundamentalist-laced speech called on the return of “God and the Ten Commandments back [into] our schools and the workplace” to address America’s social problems.

Casting Christians as a beleaguered and persecuted minority, Sheriff Leis preached, “Our country is in great peril, not from an approaching army, but from a satanic pestilence that has already invaded our nation.” In fundamentalist Sheriff Leis’s xenophobic and patriarchal worldview, “our nation” consists primarily of “god fearing people...paying taxes and trusting public officials to run the daily business of their government in their best interest.” Excluded from “our nation” are the “deviates” and “depraved” that he feels it is his duty to protect “true Americans” from—i.e., homosexuals, “liberals,” non-Christians and atheists, etc….
A careful reading of the whole item at the link will let you know he actually cribbed the speech from another fundamentalist sheriff. But his heart is in the same place.

Details? As for the youth, the working class, African-Americans and the poor? These are “the criminal element.” It seems we have “a drug-infested culture [that is] littering our country and neighborhoods with untold corpses.”

Why are things so bad? The Supreme Court. All those rulings! Those led to an epidemic of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, juvenile crime, teen suicide and depression among children. “We stood by silently and watched atheists abolish school prayer and replace it with the all-too-familiar yellow crime scene tape, metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs.”

Other contentions? “Depression among children is up 1,000 percent.” Supreme Court decisions “made in the 60s” are the reason for spread of AIDS.

And this - “Daily we learn of the mass killing of students in our schools, shootings taking place in day-care centers and places of worship. Is there any wonder why so many young people are committing such horrible crimes against innocent victims, when we protect the rights of atheists, and abolish the recognition of Almighty God in our classrooms?”

I hadn’t heard of these mass killings. As Rick Blaine would say, “I was misinformed.” (One of Bogart’s best lines.)

The item mentioned Leis gained national attention for his prosecution of Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt on obscenity charges. And this - appointed as Sheriff of Hamilton County in 1987, Leis gained national notoriety in 1990 when he brought obscenity charges against the Contemporary Arts Center museum in Cincinnati for its exhibition of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s artwork.

Ah, been there. See October 5, 2003 Photography - The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art - for photographic evidence.

And this web log is published from the very center of evil – a few blocks from the Larry Flynt building. The evidence is here.

If I do visit Cincinnati I should interview this guy for Just Above Sunset.

Posted by Alan at 13:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005 14:07 PDT home

Monday, 6 June 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

Over the weekend in this - Who Cares? Irony is all we have left these days. - it seemed we were done with the Watergate business - Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, and I, and others, said what needed to be said. But some trailing comments are necessary.

Many have been commenting on what Ben Stein, one of the Nixon guys from long ago, said here in the American Spectator -
Re: The "news" that former FBI agent Mark Felt broke the law, broke his code of ethics, broke his oath and was the main source for Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's articles that helped depose Richard Nixon, a few thoughts.

Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible? He ended the war in Vietnam, brought home the POW's, ended the war in the Mideast, opened relations with China, started the first nuclear weapons reduction treaty, saved Eretz Israel's life, started the Environmental Protection Administration. Does anyone remember what he did that was bad?
Oh, some of us do.

He had this idea it would be a good idea to no some nasty things at the Brookings Institute.

John Dean here -
"Even by the standards of the Nixon White House, the plan to blow up Washington’s pre-eminent think tank seemed crazy" presidential counselor John W. Dean III recalled here Monday.

But there was White House aide John Ehrlichman on the phone one day in 1971, telling Dean that "Chuck Colson wants me to firebomb the Brookings (Institution)." Describing the incident Monday to several hundred presidential history junkies at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, Dean said he was dumbfounded.

"I said, ‘John, this is absolute insanity,’ " he remembered. "People could die. This is absurd."

… It seemed incredible, but now that he has listened to earlier tapes, Dean said he has heard Nixon "literally pounding on his desk, saying ‘I want that break-in at the Brookings (Institution).’"
Well, maybe he was just venting, as they say. What we have on the Nixon tapes is this - "Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? No? Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute's safe cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that it makes somebody else responsible."

See, that’s not as bad. He was just kidding about the firebombing business, one supposes. Venting, as it were.

Did his staff take him seriously when he vented?

See William F. Buckley here - "On January 5, 1973, Howard Hunt, an old friend and my sometime boss in the CIA, came to see me, accompanied by one of his daughters (my goddaughter, as it happened). He told me the appalling, inside story of Watergate, including the riveting news that one of the plumbers was ready and disposed to kill Jack Anderson, the journalist-commentator, if word came down to proceed to that lurid extreme."

But the word didn?t come down. Jack Anderson lived. Not so bad.

Ben Stein is angry that this all is blown out of proportion ? the man had a temper and he lied a little -
Oh, now I remember. He lied. He was a politician who lied. How remarkable. He lied to protect his subordinates who were covering up a ridiculous burglary that no one to this date has any clue about its purpose. He lied so he could stay in office and keep his agenda of peace going. That was his crime. He was a peacemaker and he wanted to make a world where there was a generation of peace. And he succeeded.

That is his legacy. He was a peacemaker. He was a lying, conniving, covering up peacemaker. He was not a lying, conniving drug addict like JFK, a lying, conniving war starter like LBJ, a lying, conniving seducer like Clinton -- a lying, conniving peacemaker. That is Nixon's kharma.

When his enemies brought him down, and they had been laying for him since he proved that Alger Hiss was a traitor, since Alger Hiss was their fair-haired boy, this is what they bought for themselves in the Kharma Supermarket that is life:

1.) The defeat of the South Vietnamese government with decades of death and hardship for the people of Vietnam.

2.) The assumption of power in Cambodia by the bloodiest government of all time, the Khmer Rouge, who killed a third of their own people, often by making children beat their own parents to death. No one doubts RN would never have let this happen.

So, this is the great boast of the enemies of Richard Nixon, including Mark Felt: they made the conditions necessary for the Cambodian genocide. If there is such a thing as kharma, if there is such a thing as justice in this life of the next, Mark Felt has bought himself the worst future of any man on this earth. And Bob Woodward is right behind him, with Ben Bradlee bringing up the rear. Out of their smug arrogance and contempt, they hatched the worst nightmare imaginable: genocide. I hope they are happy now -- because their future looks pretty bleak to me.
So Mark Felt and Ben Bradlee are responsible for the killing fields in Cambodia. Got it.

And Nixon saved Israel? Would that be the guy who said this? - "Please get me the names of the Jews. You know, the big Jewish contributors of the Democrats. Could we please investigate some of those cocksuckers?" That is on the tapes.

This all summarized here with the comment - This is not just "what all politicians do." This was different: a completely lawless White House whose corruption went way beyond normal.

Maybe so.

Anyway, Ben Stein was one of Nixon?s speechwriters, and it loyal still. And he?s knows Mark Felt was just a bad Jew. Stein elsewhere says this (my emphases) -
Now, we read that Mark Felt's family and Mark Felt put out their story solely to make money off it. So, this makes the family's karma even more unnerving. The father, patriarch, Mark, took out his anger and frustration for being passed over at the FBI, by ruining the career of the peacemaker, Richard Nixon. So, he condemned a whole subcontinent to genocide and slavery and poverty to please his own wounded vanity. (Maybe his nickname should be "sour grapes" and not "deep throat" because he has as much in common with that fox as with a porn star.) And, blood will tell, as the old saying goes: his posterity is now dragging out his old body and putting it on display to make money. (Have you noticed how Mark Felt looks like one of those old Nazi war criminals they find in Bolivia or Paraguay? That same, haunted, hunted look combined with a glee at what he has managed to get away with so far? )

And it gets worse: it's been reported that Mark Felt is at least part Jewish. The reason this isworse is that at the same time that Mark Felt was betraying Richard Nixon, Nixon was saving Eretz Israel. It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.

? But there was and is a bigger story here. Frankly, Nixon is no longer alive. If he was a hero, he is a deceased hero. Bob Woodward is no one's idea of a hero. A super businessman and accomplished writer, but no hero. Mark Felt is only Richard Ben-Veniste's hero. But there are major heroes out there every day. There are 140,000 of them in Iraq and about 15,000 in Afghanistan, at lethal risk every minute of every day. There are a million more ready to go. There are millions of family members of these heroes. Can we possibly, possibly, conceivably forget them? Somehow, I think we have. The lead news stories are almost never about them. The story is about Michael Jackson or about Mark Felt. This is desperately wrong, and I do mean desperately.

? let's remember there's a war on, and the best and bravest of our nation are dying every day - to protect a great nation, but one which seems lately to have forgotten even what the nation is all about.
So, there?s a war on, Nixon was heroic, and Felt is one bad Jew. Got it.

There are a million more ready to go? To Iraq? Look at the current Army recruiting figures. That part doesn?t seem so. But you see his argument.

And what is the nation all about? See Lawrence Eagleburger, former Secretary of State, on Nixon and Felt here - "You know, President Nixon once suspected Mark Felt. I'm surprised he didn't end up dead somewhere because of that."

Well, heroes have tempers.

I?m an old guy. All the Watergate stuff was breaking when I was in my early twenties in graduate school. Those who don?t remember all this breaking in odd story after odd story now see the ex-cons who went to jail over these things - G. Gordon Liddy and the rest - on Fox News, and the other Nixon speechwriter Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, saying Nixon was a hero and Felt some evil self-hating Jew betrayer, and this all was no big deal until Felt went over to the dark side. I guess they believe that must be so.

History is different for those of us who were there. But the ex-con plumbers and burglars, who plotted fire bombings and murders, have seized the narrative. Can anyone even remember now what Nixon did that was so terrible?

And I did not see this on television back in 1973 ? even though I thought I did ? Senator Herman Talmadge asks John Ehrlichman during the Watergate hearings, "If the president could authorize a covert break-in and you don?t exactly know where that power would be limited, you don?t think it could include murder or other crimes beyond covert break-ins, do you?" Ehrlichman - "I don?t know where the line is, Senator."

I could have sworn I saw that. Oh well, Fox News and Ben Stein tell me I didn?t.


Peter Rodino was a fairly obscure Democratic member of Congress from Newark, New Jersey who became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee early in 1973. Once the demand to impeach Nixon grew, it was that committee's responsibility to open up an impeachment inquiry, which it did in October of 1973. Rodino chaired that committee. Peter Rodino passed away a few weeks ago. Our friend, the Wall Street attorney, knew Rodino well; in fact, they were friends. Rodino was his advisor at law school, at Seaton Hall. And the comments above do get to our friend in Manhattan -
There is just so much to comment on here during the work day.

As you all know, I try to keep my comments to myself, but on what would have been Peter Rodino's 96th birthday, I have to respond to Ben Stein's new show - "Ben Stein's Dementia."

So our friend Ben writes, "If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it."

How Israel is secure and safe escapes me. As far as I can tell the entire Middle East is still a powder keg ready for the right spark. As for one Jew calling another Jew bad, evil, and all the rest, this serves no purpose except for the hate mongers. As a Jew I find Ben Stein's comments truly offensive. Of course, I'm also not crazy about that constant stupid expression of boredom on Ben Stein's face, but that is getting too personal.

Now, about Watergate, I was a few years younger than Alan, but I did spend that summer in front of the television and have many scary memories. I suspect that what was truly scary was the lack of remorse of the perpetrators. However, it was during Watergate that I became interested in constitutional law and theory. It would, however, be 25 years before I found myself in Peter Rodino's advanced constitutional theory class in law school. I remember his leadership, and to a lesser extent the showmanship of Sam Irvin on the Senate side. What is amazing is to have heard Rodino speak of his first hearing the Watergate Tapes. He didn't like Nixon's reference to dagos, wops, and kikes. It literally made him sick. If Nixon did do anything positive for the country, it was far outweighed for his reckless disregard of the truth and more importantly the Constitution. (As I wrote that last sentence I realized how easily one could substitute Bush for Nixon without losing context.)

What we need is another "bad Jew" or anyone else out there with the information and knowledge to expose our present administration for what it is and what it has done to the United States. In speaking to a mutual friend at Rodino's wake, I was told that in the weeks before his death he had a tough time deciding who posed a greater hazard to the Constitution, Nixon or Bush. In the end he started thinking that Bush had really surpassed Nixon in this area.

At some point, several of Rodino's mentees, colleagues, and others who knew him will start comparing stories that Rodino told to each of us at various times. In fact, Rodino was in the middle of writing a biography that would have covered many of the areas that we discuss in these pages. I kept telling him to wrap up the book over the past few years but it was never completed. Perhaps his students will finish it for him sometime.

One last thought. I worry that we all have such negative opinions of politics and politicians. While I understand how politics can bring out the worst in people, I was lucky enough to know someone who really exemplified what a politician could and should be.

Unfortunately, I have to get back to work now.
So our friend returns to the day?s issues with corporate regulations and SEC filings and the like ? but when he?s clear of that, will he be the one to compile what Rodino thought of all this?

Monday, 6 June, the New York Times reported on what one current political figure had to say about things right now. Is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the junior senator from New York, channeling Peter Rodino?
There has never been an administration, I don't believe in our history, more intent upon consolidating and abusing power to further their own agenda. I know it's frustrating for many of you, it's frustrating for me. Why can't the Democrats do more to stop them? I can tell you this: It's very hard to stop people who have no shame about what they're doing. It is very hard to tell people that they are making decisions that will undermine our checks and balances and constitutional system of government who don't care. It is very hard to stop people who have never been acquainted with the truth.
Strong words, but she spoke them at a Democratic fundraiser, after all. Bush surpassed Nixon, as our friend says Rodino was thinking.

Clinton on her fellow colleagues in Congress, the Republicans across the aisle ? they "honestly believe they are motivated by the truth, they are motivated by a higher calling, they are motivated by, I guess, a direct line to the heavens."

On the media today? "It's shocking when you see how easily they fold in the media today. They don't stand their ground. If they're criticized by the White House, they just fall apart. I mean, c'mon, toughen up, guys, it's only our Constitution and country at stake."

Is she running for president? New polling shows she has a shot - her current numbers are 55 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable, seven points better than Bush.

We could do worse. Rodino is gone. And our attorney friend in New York hasn?t decided to run for office ? yet.



For more perspective on this all you might to catch what Seymour Hersh recalls in the current New Yorker in Watergate Days. He was with the New York Times back then.

On this Jewish business -
I had called Kissinger to get his comment on a report, which the Times was planning to run, that he had been involved in wiretapping reporters, fellow Administration officials, and even his own aides on the National Security Council. At first, he had indignantly denied the story. When I told him that I had information from sources in the Justice Department that he had personally forwarded the wiretap requests to the F.B.I., he was silent, and then said that he might have to resign. The implicit message was that this would be bad for the country, and that the Times would be blamed. A few minutes later, the columnist James Reston, who was a friend of Kissinger?s, padded up to my desk and asked, gently, if I understood that ?Henry? was serious about resigning. I did understand, but Watergate was more important than Kissinger.

Alexander Haig, Kissinger?s sometimes loyal deputy, had called a few times during the day to beat back the story. At around seven o?clock, there was a final call. ?You?re Jewish, aren?t you, Seymour?? In all our previous conversations, I?d been ?Sy.? I said yes. ?Let me ask you one question, then,? Haig said. ?Do you honestly believe that Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee from Germany who lost thirteen members of his family to the Nazis, could engage in such police-state tactics as wiretapping his own aides? If there is any doubt, you owe it to yourself, your beliefs, and your nation to give us one day to prove that your story is wrong.? That was Watergate, circa 1973. The Times printed the story the next day, and Kissinger did not resign.
Bad Jew?

But what it was all about?
By May of 1973, the White House cover-up was unraveling, and the stalking of Richard Nixon by the wider press corps had begun. Woodward and Bernstein had been more than vindicated. The Nixon Administration, mired in a losing war in Vietnam, was also losing the battle against the truth at home. Throughout the two-year crisis, Watergate was perceived as a domestic issue, but its impact on foreign policy was profound. As memoirs by both Nixon and Kissinger show, neither man understood why the White House could not do what it wanted, at home or in Vietnam. The reason it couldn?t is, one hopes, just as valid today: they were operating in a democracy in which they were accountable to a Constitution and to a citizenry that held its leaders to a high standard of morality and integrity. That is the legacy of Watergate.


A comment from someone else who remembers things differently than Ben Stein - Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
Something that seems to be missing in all this current discussion of Mark Felt being Jewish is what I heard last week in one of the White House tape transcripts, in which Haldeman, I think it was, was heard informing Nixon that most of the information being leaked seemed to be coming from Mark Felt -- to which Nixon immediately asked something like, "He's a Jew, isn't he?"

(I'm pretty sure I heard this version on NBC Nightly News, although I think ABC played that same segment, but dropped out before the Jewish part.)

None of this may have any real meaning beyond historical curiosity, but coupled with other examples (especially those taped conversations between Nixon and Billy Graham, in which Nixon really lets loose), one would think Ben Stein might want to reconsider nominating his old boss for posthumous induction into any Anti-Defamation League "Hall of Heroes".

I can't recall if there others than Chuck Colson from that Watergate crowd who went to prison and found Jesus, but I speculate from Ben Stein's apparent obsession with "kharma" that if you worked for Nixon and didn't go to prison, you found Buddha. In any event, to paraphrase some bumper stickers I've seen out there, I think Ben's Dogma is chasing Ben's own Kharma.

But prime among his many memories that need retooling is whether Nixon ever really brought peace to anyone, much less Vietnam. In my own recollection, Nixon had supported that war waged by the "lying, conniving war starter," LBJ, but realized when the election came around that he didn't need no weathermen to show him which way the wind was blowing, so he campaigned in 1968 saying he had a "secret plan" to end it.

(This "secret" election strategy was reprised years later by Pat Robertson, who claimed to lead an "invisible army" of voters. Nobody ever could be sure his army ever showed up at the polls; maybe they did, but since they were invisible, nobody saw them. And maybe Nixon did have a real "secret plan," but maybe the "secret" part was that it didn't actually exist.)

Anyway, sure enough, four years later - and just in time for the 1972 election - Nixon and Kissinger finally talked the Vietnamese into letting us out of the conflict, leaving the south to fight on without us. Three years later, we were seen hastily boarding choppers from the roofs of Saigon buildings, and Nixon's famous "peace, with honor" was finally realized.

So as for Stein's claim that Nixon "was a lying, conniving, covering up peacemaker," I, for one, really must beg to differ.

PS: By the way, how can anyone these days speak of Ben Stein without mentioning his gig as a game show host?
Our Wall Street friend mentioned that. And as for the source of Nixon?s comments? See this - one of about three hundred citations of the item on Google -
The infamous Nixon tapes revealed that when the president was told that Felt might be the Post's source, he wondered aloud if Felt was a Catholic.

No, he was told by his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, he's a Jew.

And Nixon replied: "[Expletive], [the bureau] put a Jew in there?"

And Haldeman responded "Well, that could explain it."
Nixon. A hero. Yeah, right.

Posted by Alan at 19:35 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005 14:38 PDT home

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