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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, 6 December 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

The Passing Parade and the Big Stuff

So, it seems, in terms of things that spark the national dialog, about who we are and what we're doing and just why were doing this or that, Sunday is the big news day - you get your scoops from the Washington Post and the other major media. And by Tuesday you find out what "sticks to the wall" or "has legs" - choose your cliché.

Tuesday, December 6th, was a "small news" day. There was none of that big news, just attempts to come to terms with what had been put in motion.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in the middle of her diplomatic mission to Europe to lay down the law to them, and defend whatever the heck it is we're doing with "disappearing" people to secret prisons and practicing what some call torture, and we call "enhanced interrogation." Everyone had something to say, like this -
Human rights lawyers said some of the cases which have come to light amounted to "disappearing people," a practice recognized as illegal for decades since its widespread use by Latin American governments in the 1970s. "If we're actually taking people, abducting them and then placing them in incommunicado detention, which appears to be the case, we would be actually guilty then of a disappearance under international law, in addition to a rendition," said Meg Satterthwaite of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law.
NYU? They don’t count. So Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights outlaws arbitrary arrest or detention and says an arrested person has the right to be told why he or she is being held and brought before a judge. Like we care?

According to Human Rights Watch here, the we're holding twenty-six folks in foreign prisons, incommunicado, without legal rights or access to counsel. No one can prove anything.

And an interesting comment here -
... there have been many other innocent people who have been rendered to countries and tortured, sent to Guantanamo or were wrongly imprisoned in Iraq since we began this practice. And the practice has led to more innocent people being imprisoned and tortured because those who are tortured tend to say anything they think you want to hear to make it stop. It builds on itself.

Saddam used this practice to terrorize the population to keep it in line. That is the only rational (if evil) purpose for such practices. I can't figure out why in the hell we are doing it.
But Digby here answers his own question. Someone who knows nothing throws out a name to stop the pain, and that person may be his dentist for all we know, so we grab the dentist, who throws out another random name to stop the pain, so we grab that third person who throws out another random, fourth name. We grab him or her. And on and on it goes. Yeah, we get no useful information about bad things being planned, but this has its usefulness. Folks know no one messes with us. Such a cascade of random pain probably does keep people in line. Unless someone gets angry. This is no doubt what Rice is explaining. It's useful.

Another comment? Try this -
And if, perhaps, this was two years ago, Europe would have cowered under Rice's mighty buck teeth of justice. But it ain't. Now, thanks to Rice and her White House, facing the United States is like facing off against a pissed off rhino that's been shot with half a dozen tranquilizer darts. It staggers, falls, gets up, charges at you for a moment or two, but you know if you dodge enough, it's gonna collapse soon. So many Europeans kinda don't give a fuck what Rice has to say.
Of course that German fellow we admitted we held for five months by mistake, and seemed to have tortured (or something like it), is now suing. He's got the ACLU on his side - see ACLU Suing Over Detention of German Citizen. That dreaded ACLU, the same folks who funded Thurgood Marshall and his team in the Brown case in the mid-fifties that made us desegregate public schools, is at it again, messing things up - suing the CIA and the companies with the fancy small jets they hired for transportation. But at least the German fellow cannot testify. His name is still on the "no fly list" and he cannot enter the United States, just like Cat Stevens - a useful bureaucratic delay. Ha, ha. Case closed.

Not that it matters. Bush and Rice have already won the argument - "Most Americans and a majority of people in Britain, France and South Korea say torturing terrorism suspects is justified at least in rare instances, according to AP-Ipsos polling."

Canada, Mexico and Germany disagree, and this would appear to be a cultural thing. What does Canada matter? Mexico? The French remember that Battle of Algiers, where torture worked well enough, but the Germans haven't gotten over Hitler yet. He's still an embarrassment and hasn't been rehabilitated. The Brits have lightened up about him, as Prince Harry likes wearing a Nazi uniform, as you recall. So times have changed.

But what's a rare instance? The dispute will be over that. The consensus now it that torture is just fine.

Ah well, the issue will play out in the coming months.

The other passing news on Tuesday, December 5th, was this this - we kind of lied to the Italians way back when. They were looking for a terror suspect and we told them the dude "had fled to the Balkans" -
In fact, according to Italian court documents and interviews with investigators, the CIA's tip was a deliberate lie, part of a ruse designed to stymie efforts by the Italian anti-terrorism police to track down the cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Egyptian refugee known as Abu Omar.

The strategy worked for more than a year until Italian investigators learned that Nasr had not gone to the Balkans after all. Instead, prosecutors here have charged, he was abducted off a street in Milan by a team of CIA operatives who took him to two U.S. military bases in succession and then flew him to Egypt, where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured by Egyptian security agents before being released to house arrest.
Now they've issued warrants for twenty-two of our CIA guys. More work for Condi Rice. And a curious side note - the lead attorney defending Scooter Libby at the moment, was our ambassador to Italy at the time. Just a coincidence. Libby is charged with obstructing the investigating into who leaked the identity of a key CIA agent who husband debunked the forged Niger documents, which came from Italy at the same time. That's odd.

But this story has no legs. Everybody lies to the Italians and works around them. They may be a key partner in all this - but they're the Rodney Dangerfield of Europe. And we do what we want. Makes one wonder why Rice is explaining anything at all - to anyone.

Other ephemeral Tuesday news? The vice president gave the usual speech, this time up at Fort Drum (far upper right corner of New York, the state, and just south of Montreal, not far from Potsdam with its university). The idea? Cheney Urges Steadfast Approach to Iraq. The usual - we need to stay, and anyone who says differently is a traitor or fool or both, or some such thing.

But one should note this -
Watching these mini Nuremberg rallies with the president, and now the vice-president, using the troops to make political points I'm uncomfortably reminded that going back to Rome (and probably earlier) the point of having the troops assembled before the leadership was to make it clear that the military backed the leadership against all comers. Today this is slightly more subtly accomplished, but the motivation is the same. It is shamelessly done not just to convey the point that the military will follow the orders of the administration (which it is constitutionally required to do) but that it also politically backs the administration against its critics. These are political speeches done for the purpose of answering political critics.

If I didn't know better and were to watch the majority of speeches from afar for the last six months, I would assume that the United States is a military dictatorship, so many uniforms have been present. Even the speech that Bush gave the other day on the economy featured a bunch of people dressed in the same clothes in the standard tableau behind him.

This is becoming a bit disturbing. The administration is giving the appearance of having control of the military in an inappropriate political way and they are doing it more and more. My only consolation is that, if press reports are true, the military brass does not seem to be as enthralled by Republican leadership as they once were. A badly conceived and executed war by fanatics will do that to you.
That is odd.

But then Bush gives a speech that is not in front of the military at all, but to the Council on Foreign Relations. No uniforms. On the other hand, it is as tightly controlled -
In a sharp break with the council's own traditions, Bush is being allowed to speak - for 50 minutes - then leave without taking any questions.

"Obviously, we strongly suggested - certainly made the case - that it would be in the interest of the president and in the interest of our membership that the president take questions," council vice president for communications Lisa Shields told me this morning.

"But true to his format, they declined."
Well, these folks aren't military.

There was much other news - a bomb taking out forty-three police cadets in Baghdad, and the old 9/11 Commission crew giving those in charge failing grades for protecting America, all D's and F's on such things as transportation security and planning for the worst. But all the wags out there point out Bush got all D's and F's at Yale and became president, so what's the problem?

And there was the odd story of the day from Kansas, this - "A professor whose planned course on creationism and intelligent design was canceled after he sent e-mails deriding Christian conservatives was hospitalized Monday after what appeared to be a roadside beating." The oppressed minority Christians in America are fighting back. We have our own anti-Darwin insurgency for Jesus? Do we get roadside bombs next?

Ah well, how does one put this all in perspective?

At least in term of who leads us and how they think, and this war, and what could happen, there is some historical perspective from the old Kennedy folks.

Theodore "Ted" Sorensen was special counsel to Kennedy and Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was his special assistant. You know, old guys with lots of experience who write books.

They offer Iraq: What would JFK have done?

Now that's an interesting question. Idle, but interesting.

This appeared in the New York Times on the weekend of December 3-4 and was reprinted in the International Herald Tribune on the 5th - starting off with some notes on what was presented to us all in the big speech at Annapolis - the Plan for Victory in Iraq -
What did we Americans not hear from President George W. Bush when he spoke last week at the U.S. Naval Academy about his strategy for victory in Iraq?

We did not hear that the war in Iraq, already one of the costliest in American history, is a running sore. We did not hear that it has taken more than 2,000 precious American lives and countless - because we do not count them - Iraqi civilian lives.

America can't take that kind of endless and remorseless drain for a vaguely defined military and political mission. If we leave early, the president said, catastrophe might follow. But what of the catastrophe that we are prolonging and worsening by our continued presence, including our continued, unforgivable mistreatment of detainees?

The president says we should support our troops by staying the course; but who is truly willing to support our troops by bringing them safely home?
Kennedy would have done differently? These two say as they listened to Bush's speech, "our thoughts raced back four decades to another president, John F. Kennedy. In 1963, the last year of his life, we watched from front-row seats as Kennedy tried to figure out how best to extricate American military advisers and instructors from Vietnam."

That's curious. Is this like Vietnam, the early days? Could be.

These two say Kennedy would lean back in his rocking chair and "tick off all his options" and then critique them. Okay, some folks like to think there are alternatives. Our new gut doesn't, but assume some folks do.

What were Kennedy's choices?
Renege on the previous Eisenhower commitment, which Kennedy had initially reinforced, to help the beleaguered government of South Vietnam with American military instructors and advisers?

No, he knew that the American people would not permit him to do that.

Americanize the Vietnam civil war, as the military recommended and as his successor Lyndon Johnson sought ultimately to do, by sending in American combat units?

No, having learned from his experiences with Cuba and elsewhere that conflicts essentially political in nature did not lend themselves to a military solution, Kennedy knew that the United States could not prevail in a struggle against a Vietnamese people determined to oust, at last, all foreign troops from their country.

Declare "victory and get out," as George Aiken, the Republican senator from Vermont, would famously suggest years later?

No, in 1963 in Vietnam, despite assurances from field commanders, there was no more semblance of "victory" than there was in 2004 in Iraq when the president gave his "mission accomplished" speech on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

Explore, as was always his preference, a negotiated solution?

No, he was unable to identify in the ranks of the disorganized Vietcong a leader capable of negotiating enforceable and mutually agreeable terms of withdrawal.
So what was the solution? They say Kennedy knew withdrawal was the only real option, and, in the spring of 1963, he was working on that - a three-part exit strategy. But then he got shot, and the rest is history.

But these two say Bush could us the plan.

First, make it clear that we're going to get out. At a press conference on Nov. 14, 1963 - "That is our object, to bring Americans home."

Second, request an invitation to leave. And a May 1963 press conference, Kennedy declared that if the South Vietnamese government suggested it, "we would have some troops on their way home" the next day. (This could work. Any Iraqi leader who requested that would be a hero there. It's a win-win.)

Third, bring the troops home gradually.

These two offer this: "Kennedy had no guarantee that any of these three components would succeed; but an exit plan without guarantees is better than none at all."

And this: "Once American troops are out of Iraq, people around the world will rejoice that we have recovered our senses. What's more, the killing of Americans and the global loss of American credibility will diminish."

Yes, this is idle speculation. It's a bit hard to imagine this president sitting around with his advisors spinning out alternatives to a tight situation.

First you'd have to concede that things aren't going as planned, that the public has turned, and the generals are grumbling, and your few allies around the world are dismayed, and the rest of the world well beyond dismayed. And how would you know, when you whole staff is too habitually frightened to give you bad news? It was, after all, four days after Hurricane Katrina before anyone on the staff got up the nerve to burn you a CD of the news shows about what was happening down there. They know your temper. You don't want to hear bad news, much less news that what you thought was or is so just isn't so. You've got them trained. You don't tolerate dissent.

Then you'd have to assume, if you admit that all that just may be true, that you really care at all if any bit of it is so. So what? You're steadfast - solid as a rock. You don't flip-flop. God, perhaps, has given you your mandate. (Recent reporting is that the man feels this way.) So the whole idea of a change in course, based on a change in what's happening, is moot.

Sorensen and Schlesinger may be onto something here in terms of strategy, but they've got the wrong guy. And strategy is, it seems, a function of personality.

And that's the big news under the passing parade of small events, the news stories of this and that. Rice argues with the Europeans, folks weigh in on this and that, speeches are made, people die, folks are mugged in Kansas for not accepting Jesus as their personal savior and accepting Darwin in science class ? and nothing changes.



Sorensen and Schlesinger offer a curious comment to the Bush supporters demanding that the other side, if they're so damned smart, come up with some better plan for this war -
The responsibility for devising an exit plan rests primarily not with the war's opponents, but with the president who hastily mounted an invasion without enough troops to secure Iraq's borders and arsenals, without enough armor to protect our forces, without enough allied support and without adequate plans for either a secure occupation or a timely exit.
This seems to be a variation on the famous "Pottery Barn Rule."

Posted by Alan at 23:13 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005 23:16 PST home

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

This Day in History

Sunday, November 20, 2005, would have been Bobby Kennedy's eightieth birthday, or so I see here - a discussion of who he was and what he was doing, and what it all meant. I remember the sixties.

What stuck me was this excerpt from a speech the younger Kennedy made in Cleveland -
For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions, indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor; this poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look on our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers. Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what program to enact. The question is whether we can find in our midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled nor enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.
Well, he got shot, but be that as it may, one wonders who in the political realm is saying such things today.

Heck, with the most important leader of the Christian evangelicals, Pat Robertson, last month calling for our government to assassinate the elected leader of Venezuela, we have the State Church, so to speak, arguing disagreement should be met with force. They call themselves soldiers for Christ - some of them bomb abortion clinics and assassinate doctors, to save the "lives" of the yet-to-be-born.

But Robertson was not elected to any office. So he doesn't count.

As for the meeting this difficult world "not with cooperation but with conquest," and seeing others as those "to be subjugated and mastered," those we have elected to office say we are not doing that sort of thing at all. We just occupy Iraq - going on two and a half years now - telling them their oppressor is gone and they should run their place the way we say, because it's the best way to run things - secular and free-market and privatized for the maximum influence of large corporations. Everyone knows that, right? How can they be so dumb? Why are they resisting?

As for how the administration gets its way, well, "when you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family," well, that works. You stay in power.

I posted this on 28 May 2003 - and stand by it -
Do you remember the clear-headed, no-bullshit, let's-be-fair liberals of yesterday? Bobby Kennedy in that last run just laying it all out - hey, some stuff is wrong here and why don't we think it through, fix it and make things better? Well, Bobby got shot. Martin Luther King doing the same thing. Well, he got shot a few months earlier than Bobby. Of course, to be fair, George Wallace got shot too. Lots of people got shot.

But the point is that those optimistic "why don't we fix it and make things better" kinds of guys are nowhere to be found these days. What you'll see on Bush campaign stickers in the 2004 election? You know - variations on "Just Do It" or "Money Talks, Bullshit Walks" or "Get In, Sit Down, Shut Up, And Hold On" - and of course that quote from Marge Simpson - "We can stand here like the French, or we can do something about it." The other side, the Democrats, will have bumper stickers asking if we all can't just get along.

No Democrat will win anything by whining about the smirking frat boy or by fretting about some British essayist hating cheeseburgers and everything American. To win the Democrats would have to field an opponent with a sense of humor, some brains, and a lot of optimism, someone who listens to what is being said, and is willing to say - "Hey, some stuff is wrong here and why don't we think it through, fix it and make things better?"

It does not seem like that is going to happen. And if it did, he or she would get shot.
How are things different now?

Well, on the Kennedy birthday you could see Senator Joseph Biden on Fox News, talking about a possible filibuster of the Alito nomination, and Fox anchor Chris Wallace, Mike Wallace's son, wishing Joe a happy birthday. Same day? Same party? Yep. But we're living in diminished times.

Also I see here, oddly enough, that Sunday, November 20, 2005, is the sixtieth anniversary of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) trials staring up in Nürnberg, Germany. There are a few links there to jog your memory, and the comment that, although we helped create the International Military Tribunal, we now don't want anything to do with the International Criminal Court.

All these decades later... the world has changed. So have we.

Posted by Alan at 16:43 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

"Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." – Not Just for Muslims Anymore

Monday, June 13, the Senate voted to issue a formal apology for its repeated failures to pass anti-lynching legislation.

A Senate Apology for History on Lynching
Vote Condemns Past Failure to Act
Avis Thomas-Lester, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 14, 2005; Page A12
The U.S. Senate last night approved a resolution apologizing for its failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation decades ago, marking the first time the body has apologized for the nation's treatment of African Americans. …
Drawing on the assistance of Assistant Historian of the Senate Betty Koed, Historian of the House of Representatives Robert Remini, Garrison Nelson of the University of Vermont, and Julian Zelizer of Boston University, Daniel Engber here, in the "Explainer" column at SLATE.COM, gives background.

First, the resolution itself can be found here - noting congress ignored hundreds of proposed anti-lynching bills as thousands of African-Americans were killed between 1882 and the 1968. Oops.

Precedents? Engber notes these:
In 1987, the House passed a resolution to apologize for the internment and relocation of Japanese-Americans (and the relocation of Aleuts) during World War II. The Senate passed an equivalent bill the following year.

In 1992, the Senate voted to apologize for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The House followed suit in 1993, and Congress expressed its official regrets to Native Hawaiians.

The House, though, rejected a 1997 proposal to apologize for slavery, and the Senate failed to pass an anti-lynching apology last year. In 2004, some members of Congress also tried unsuccessfully to pass an official declaration of remorse for the treatment of American Indians. (Both houses are again considering an apology for the treatment of Indians.)
So this sort of thing is recent, and rare.


Engber speculates that "lawmakers might be afraid that an admission of guilt will lead to claims for government reparations, like those offered to the victims of wartime internment. Bills calling for an investigation of reparations for slavery have been introduced again and again over the last few decades. A formal apology for a single injustice done to a single group also might invite demands from other groups."

One must be careful. Engber does note that last Wednesday the Senate passed a bill to recognize the importance of sun safety. And a few months earlier, senators unanimously agreed to commend the men's gymnastics team from the University of Oklahoma for winning the NCAA championship.

Much safer.

As mentioned previously –

Bush urged: 'Never apologize' to Muslims
Administration officials reportedly inspired by classic John Wayne movie
Some members of the Bush administration have taken a cue from a classic John Wayne Western and are advising their boss to take the film's advice – "Never apologize" – when dealing with Muslims, reports geopolitical analyst Jack Wheeler.

In a column on his intelligence website, To the Point, Wheeler explains Wayne's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," made in 1948, though lesser known than many of the star's films, includes what's been called one of the top 100 movie quotes of all time.

Wayne's character, Capt. Nathan Brittles, who is facing an Indian attack, advises a junior officer: "Never apologize, son. It's a sign of weakness." …
That – and it can cost big bucks.

And what is the point? Tuesday morning this was in the local paper our here, the Los Angeles Times - one Deborah Crawford, whose great-grandfather was lynched in South Carolina in 1916 after arguing with a white farmer over the price of cottonseed, saying the whole thing was just odd - "I feel that there should be something else, something more than an apology, but I don't know what."

Oh, no one knows what.

By the way, this was a voice vote – so no one had to go on record. That way you don't lose the votes of the red-meat right.

Over at The Daily Kos you can find a list of the initial twenty who 1) refused to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution, and 2) refused a roll-call vote so they'd have to put their name on the resolution.

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Jim Bunning (R-KY)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Crapo (R-ID)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)
George Voinovich (R-OH)
Kent Conrad (D-ND) – but later changed his mind and joined as co-sponsor

What was Howard Dean saying about the Republicans being a monolithic party of white Christians? Everyone, Democrat and Republican alike, was aghast at that remark - except Wesley Clark (See this - "I'm proud of Howard Dean. I'm proud of the Democratic party. And we're going to stand together as a party.")

John Aravosis over at AMERICABlog checks what was coming from the offices of those who didn't want to apologize for anything – the usual "my boss was out of town" stuff. But he points out this -
The vote last night was a voice vote. That means all you need is one guy in the Senate chamber to have it pass (as I understand it, there were some 6 Senators or so there last night). That one guy says something about asking unanimous consent that SRes39 (the resolution) be agreed to. The presiding chair says "all those in favor say aye, all those opposed say no, the ayes appear to have it, the ayes do have it." And bam, it's done. All you need is one Senator sitting there saying aye and it's "unanimous."

A "roll call vote" is when they literally go through each Senator's name and he or she has to vote yes or no. They didn't do that last night, on purpose, so there would be no record of the "no" votes.

What we are talking about, and what we are angry about, is NOT who did or didn't vote for the resolution. In principle, NOBODY voted for the resolution and, at the same time, EVERYBODY did because it was passed "unanimously." What we are upset about is that you ALSO can "cosponsor" legislation before and AFTER it is voted on. Cosponsoring legislation is a way of showing your support the legislation, and usually your intention to vote for it. Apparently this resolution had 84 cosponsors, but 16 Senators refused to cosponsor it.

The question is therefore, why did Senator X refuse to cosponsor legislation, in essence, opposing lynching?

But it gets better. A senator can add themself as a cosponsor even AFTER a resolution is passed. That means the 16 hold-outs can STILL now add themselves as cosponsors of the resolution.

So why don't they?
Kent Conrad (D-ND) did. The others?

Of the nineteen left there are sixteen on the list as of Tuesday night - Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott among them. They know their constituencies. And they watch those John Wayne movies.

Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly points to something else happening Monday – the same day as the apology – "The Supreme Court, overturning the murder convictions of a black man in California and another in Texas by nearly all-white juries, warned judges and prosecutors Monday that they must put an end to racial discrimination in the selection of jurors." (Full story here.)

So? His comment -
It's about damn time. There's value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology, but there's a lot more value in recognizing the reality of how racism continues to work today and then doing something about it. Of course lawyers routinely consider race when they pick juries, and most judges know it when they see it. Giving them the authority to exercise their best judgment to put a stop to this helps prevent the modern day equivalent of lynching - which, for my money, is the best way there is to apologize for the actions of the past. …
A quibble – is there value in symbolic actions like the Senate apology? What would it be?

It seems like posturing. Yes, better to work on the nuts and bolts of jury selection.

Do something now.


Footnote -

La Shawn Barber, who happens to be black, says this:
"In light of the serious problems we face in the world and our own country, I think this apology is one of the dumbest, emptiest, most politically correct pile of rubbish I've heard in a long time.

... I'm sick of politicians wasting time and money pandering to blacks, treating us like empty-headed children, spoon-feeding us putrid pabulum, and prostrating themselves for every perceived slight. Don't apologize to 'Black People.' Apologize to individual blacks who actually care about this mess."
Hey! There's an idea.

Posted by Alan at 18:44 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 15 June 2005 18:39 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

Friday, 3 June 2005

Topic: Making Use of History

The Uses of The Past: Who Cares?

Wednesday in Paying Attention: What’s News and What Isn’t you would find this:

So now we know who Deep Throat was.



And nothing more was said. You can watch all the commentary on the cable news shows, and read the web logs and newspaper and magazine analyses, but really, does this matter?

Yes and no. You might drop by Whiskey Bar where Billmon offers us all this - Sore Throat - which is good.

Anonymous whistleblowers have become little more than curious anachronisms, as likely to turn out to be bumbling fools or cynical disinformation artists (paging Michael Isikoff) as dedicated civil servants wiling to risk their careers to save the Republic.

The Republic is rather obviously beyond saving now -- even George Lucas understands that. Which is why the self-outing of Mark Felt had about as much relevance to our current slow motion coup d'etat as a late-night cable rerun of All the President's Men.

But this cheered me up -
… reading all the liberal pundits and bloggers moaning and groaning about the death of investigative reporting, and the pusillanimity of the corporate media, and the pure Nixonian evil of the Bush administration, and the crying need for more hero-patriots like Mark Felt, made me feel like screaming Buster Keaton's anti-nostalgia line from Limelight: "If one more person tells me this is just like ol' times, I swear I'll jump out the window."

The truth is that we do have heroic whistleblowers such as Mark Felt today. Their names are Richard Clarke and Sibel Edmonds and Ray McGovern and Scott Ritter -- and even Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury Secretary.

You want well-placed anonymous sources? How about the military officers who fed CBS and Sy Hersh their Abu Ghraib scoops, or the lawyers in the Judge Advocate General's office who spilled the beans on the torture memos, or whoever leaked the Downing Street memo.

You want ordinary Joes and Janes willing to risk the wrath of the powers to do what's right? How about the enlisted man who walked into the Army IG's office in Baghdad and told them the Marquis de Sade was making house calls at Abu Ghraib prison, or the Pentagon auditors who refused to sign off on the Halliburton payola, or the former detainees and the families in Afghanistan who risked their lives -- not just their careers -- by talking to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

You say we need indefatigable investigators, willing to follow the truth no matter where it leads? How about General Taguba or the International Red Cross or the ACLU lawyers who've been using the Freedom of Information Act to pry out far more information than I thought we would ever know about the inner workings of the Guantanamo gulag. you could even throw in David Kay -- the WMD true believer who tried mightly to prove Bush's case, but finally accepted and admitted that the primary rationale for the Iraq invasion was completely false.
So, the age of heroes – or some people doing the right thing - is not over. It is nice to be reminded of that.

But Billmon – just to be clear - does say justice has not been done, and isn't likely to be done in our lifetimes. Why?
- Bush's crimes are more deeply embedded in his presidential war powers than Nixon's were (although heaven knows Nixon also tried to hide behind those same powers.)

-One party rule has choked off investigations armed with the subpoena power to go where journalists and the ACLU cannot tread.

- The administration's cunning use of extra-territoriality and military secrecy has made it vastly harder for any would-be Judge Siricas to pierce the veil of executive privilege.

- Last but hardly least, the weapons of information warfare in the Bush White House propaganda armory are infinitely more subtle, powerful and effective than the Nixon stonewall. Or, as Salon puts it: The Bush administration has developed so many ways of manipulating information that anonymous sourcing would now be of little use. Secret "military" tribunals, indefinite detention without charge, torture, kidnapping, dressing up official press releases as news stories for complicit publishers -- these all make the Watergate coverup seem quaint.
Well, all you can do is keep plugging away.

Go read the whole thing.

And consider this –

Federal Court Orders Government to Turn Over Videos and Photos Showing Detainee Abuse
ACLU Press Release, June 2, 2005
NEW YORK -- A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to turn over dozens of photographs and four movies depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as part of an ongoing lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"These images may be ugly and shocking, but they depict how the torture was more than the actions of a few rogue soldiers," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "The American public deserves to know what is being done in our name. Perhaps after these and other photos are forced into the light of day, the government will at long last appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the torture and abuse of detainees."

The court order came in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights to obtain documents and materials pertaining to the treatment of detainees held by American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Attorneys for the government had argued that turning over visual evidence of abuse would violate the United States’ obligations under the Geneva Conventions, but the ACLU said that obscuring the faces and identifiable features of the detainees would erase any potential privacy concerns. The court agreed.

"It is indeed ironic that the government invoked the Geneva Conventions as a basis for withholding these photographs," said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney at the ACLU. "Had the government genuinely adhered to its obligations under these Conventions, it could have prevented the widespread abuse of detainees held in its custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay." …
It is indeed ironic?

Irony is all we have left these days.


Late comment ?

From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
These times, I fear, will not be looked back upon as "the good old days."

What this country had going for it back in the Golden Age of Watergate was a pack of politicians inside the beltway who were -- probably through rampant naivete, I suspect -- afraid that if they got caught on the obviously wrong side of scandal, the public would "throw the bums out". Today, unfortunately for the rest of us, those who strut through those hallowed halls of power in Washington are much more sophisticated than that about what they can get away with.

Back then, if you had irony on your side, you also had hope. But nowadays, if all you got is irony, you ain't got jack.
Perhaps so.

Irony? a sense of the absurd?.

Note that Peggy Noonan here and Pat Buchanan here and Rush Limbaugh here and Ben Stein here each blame Mark Felt for the genocide in Cambodia - because he assisted those investigating Watergate.

Had Nixon remained president? No killing fields. That?s obvious, isn?t it?

I myself think if it were not for Mark Felt undermining Nixon, Roberto Clemente would still be alive today. Damn that "Deep Throat" guy!

The gods of irony are smiling.



Henry Porter is the London editor of Vanity Fair, the publication that revealed who this Deep Throat person actually was. In the June 4 issue of the Guardian (UK) you will find his comments on this business and on the press over here - A study in emasculation: In the US media, a mission to explain has been replaced by a mission to avoid. The title says it all.

? I visit the States three or four times a year, and watching the television news in hotel rooms in the last three years has been like witnessing a time-lapse study of emasculation. It's not just the unbearable lightness of purpose in most news shows; it's the sense that everyone is rather too mindful of the backstairs influence of the White House in companies such as Viacom and News Corporation that own the TV news. The anchorman Dan Rather, for example, was eased out by Viacom - CBS's owner - after he wrongly made allegations about the president's time in the Texas Air National Guard. It was not a mistake that required his head on a platter.

The result of this climate of fear and caution is that few Americans have any idea of the circumstances in which 1,600 of their countrymen have lost their lives in Iraq, the hideous injuries suffered by both Iraqi and American victims of suicide bombers, or even the profound responsibility that lies with Rumsfeld for mishandling practically every facet of the occupation. The mission to explain has been replaced by the mission to avoid. If today there was a whistleblower as well-placed, heroically brave and strategic as Mark Felt, one wonders whether he would now find the outlet that Felt did at the Washington Post between 1972 and 1974.
Of course, Porter is right, and the item contrasts what Felt and Woodward and Bernstein did with the new policy at Newsweek in the aftermath of the Koran-was-really-not-in-the-toilet scandal. Newsweek will now not use confidential sources - especially those "reliable" confidential sources that after you publish say that now they are no longer sure of the information they gave you ? except in extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of the managing editor and the corporation that owns the publication and is responsible for profit or loss - that is, responsible for shareholder value.

No more of this Deep Throat business.

Porter suggests no one now seems to possess "an elementary understanding of the sacred duty of the press, which, however dishonored and ignored, is to watch government and make it answerable when the processes of democracy are corrupted by politics and the self-interest of politicians."

Putting aside this "sacred duty" business ? the word "sacred" may be a stretch ? and whether or not Felt was "heroically brave and strategic" or merely ticked off at being passed over for promotion ? the point is investigative journalism has become bad business. It involves far too much risk to the shareholders.

So that?s where we are now.

Posted by Alan at 19:25 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 4 June 2005 08:00 PDT home

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