Just Above Sunset
April 23, 2006 - No One Now Gives an Inch













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If you read these pages you should know who you have for company. Note these two logons early in the day, Tuesday, April 18, 2006, the first from Washington DC and the second from Fort Monmouth in New Jersey -

IP Address 198.81.129.# (Central Intelligence Agency)
IP Address 192.172.8.# (USAISC-CECOM) ... the US Army Information Systems Command-Communications and Electronics Command

Perhaps they were just clicking through to the photographs of famous places in Hollywood, planning a summer vacation.

That noted, the big national issue at hand on that same day was who's in charge and what you can say about them. The feds can make of it what they will.

But first there was, on the one hundredth anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake, some news of things going right in the world.

There was this from Reuters –

 

More than half a century after U.S. civil rights icon Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, the Alabama legislature on Tuesday voted to pardon her and others convicted for breaking segregation-era race laws.

The "Rosa Parks Act," approved unanimously by the state House of Representatives but opposed by three senators in the Senate, also clears the way for hundreds of other activists to wipe out their arrest records for acts of civil disobedience in the struggle for black civil rights...

 

Now that she's dead she's no longer a threat? No, it's just fixing thing, even if a bit late.

And there was this from the AFP wire - "A US contractor pleaded guilty to bribing American officials in charge of Iraq reconstruction to ensure contracts worth 8.6 million dollars were granted to his building companies, US authorities said."

What? Someone caught and admitting guilt and not getting another big contract? It wasn't Halliburton or Flour or Parsons, but it's something.

Something is in the air, a change.

In fact, out here, opening at the Geffen Playhouse the next day - All My Sons ("a father's revelation of what he did during World War II shatters two families in Arthur Miller's Tony-winning classic"). That's the play about the father whose company made defective aircraft parts in WWII and how his son in the military deal swith it, given his dead friends. It's a bit plodding and obvious, but it has its moments - the kind of thing you teach in high school English classes. The kids "get" it. Of course this is the time to revive the thing, and the guilty plea above is a bit of neat but amusing coincidence for the producers.

But the big news in Hollywood, on the one hundredth anniversary of the San Francisco earthquake up north, was this: Katie Holmes Gives Birth To Tom Cruise's Baby. It's a girl, named Suri - seven pounds, seven ounces. Fine. That will swamp the news cycles for days.

And everyone will no doubt wonder about this in the Daily Mirror (UK), two days before the blessed event –

 

Tom Cruise yesterday revealed his latest bizarre mission... to eat his new baby's placenta.

Cruise vowed he would tuck in straight after girlfriend Katie Holmes gives birth, saying he thought it would be "very nutritious".

 

Oh. It must be a Scientology thing, like silent birth (the woman is not permitted to make any sounds). Of course, the founder of, Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, bases the whole business on aliens, the Thetans, who came to earth seventy-five million years ago. Their spirits are in all our brains. It's obvious. And the woman should be silent in labor, and maybe they have something to do with the proposed meal.

Ah well, it's not just the benign and thoughtful and wise aliens spirits in the brains of the Scientologists, as the Mirror helpfully adds this –

 

Rod Stewart and girlfriend Penny Lancaster took home their baby's placenta, sprinkled it with tee tree oil and buried it in the garden.

In 1998, Channel 4 chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fried a placenta with shallots and garlic and served it up to 20 guests, including the baby's mum and dad.

TV watchdogs later criticised the show, branding it "disagreeable".

But placenta-eating is considered normal in some cultures. Various recipes include one for placenta lasagna. Some say eating it helps avoid post-natal depression.

 

Whatever. The Scientologists should merge with the "Pastafarians" - the folks who worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Bring a nice Chianti. That'd work.

But this particular day wasn't all good news. Late in the afternoon the Reuters wire carried this - "The United States on Tuesday failed to secure international support for targeted sanctions against Iran and President George W. Bush refused to rule out nuclear strikes if diplomacy failed to curb the Islamic Republic's atomic ambitions."

It was already the next morning in Paris and the International Herald Tribune there opened with this

 

As diplomats meeting in Moscow failed to reach agreement Tuesday on how best to increase the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, the American and Iranian presidents, both using tough language, staked out unyielding positions.

President George W. Bush, in response to a reporter's question, declined to rule out a nuclear attack to stop Iran from building atomic weapons if diplomacy fails, saying that "all options are on the table." But he added, "We want to solve this issue diplomatically, and we're working hard to do so."

During an Army Day parade in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the military that it had to be "constantly ready," and he warned that Iran would "cut off the hand of any aggressor," The Associated Press reported.

 

This is not much like the lead-up to Iraq war, where Saddam Hussein said he was cooperating with inspections, and sort of was, and said he had no weapons of mass destruction, and it turned out he actually didn't. There only one side was unyieldingly bullheaded and refused to back down.

Here? Both sides are making big time threats. And we're saying, just like last time, we'd prefer a diplomatic resolution to this whole mess, but we may have to do what we have to do, this time with nukes, and this time even without the Brits, a few Aussies, and the troops from Fiji. And when the fallout drifts over our allies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, they may gripe as their people glow and die, but we'll have done the right thing.

We stand firm. Iran may be surrounded by hostile powers, many with nukes, but they will not have them. This time the other side is just as firm. That's the new element.

This standing firm on our part was also on full display on Tuesday, April 18th on another matter. (Standing firm of course is a loaded linguistic construction. As the sociolinguistics guy - and later whacky senator from California - S. I. Hayakawa once pointed out, just as you can conjugate verbs, you can conjugate adjectives in each person - "I am firm and resolute, you are stubborn, and he is a bullheaded fool." So choose your adjective as you wish.)

The matter was the revolt of the generals against Donald Rumsfeld. That came to a head the same day.

It should be noted that a Republican senator, Chuck Hagel, Vietnam veteran and a bit of a maverick, came out and said Rumsfeld "does not command the respect and confidence of our men an women in uniform." It's time for him to go. (That's here if you want details.)

The senate minority leader, Harry Reid said so too (of course), but pointed out the problem wasn't so much Rumsfeld as Bush, as it was "more a question of leadership from the president." (That's here if you want details.) And Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois suggested on Tuesday that Rumsfeld should face what would be a symbolic "vote of confidence" in the Senate. (That's here if you want details.)

David Broder, sometimes called the dean of Washington journalists (probably because he has a gift for the obvious and has no firm opinion until everyone else has agreed on one), in the Washington Post said Rumsfeld needed to resign - "Even in Vietnam we saw no such open defiance." (That's here if you want details.)

Of course, the day before, Rumsfeld gave an exclusive interview to explain himself, on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. He said the media in the United States was just being manipulated by al Qaeda, specifically by that Osama fellow, and by the other guy, Zarqawi, so he didn't take it all very seriously. (That's here if you want details.) The Post carried his comments that "this too shall pass" and how there were over six thousand retired generals and if six of them don't like him it doesn't mean much, statistically. And he told the world, "I won't quit."

All this came to a head in a Tuesday press conference where the president got angry. CNN has the transcript posted here, and the relevant part is this, where CNN's Ed Henry has the closing question –

 

HENRY: Mr. President, you make it a practice of not commenting on potential personnel move.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, I did.

HENRY: Calling it speculation.

BUSH: And you can understand why. Because we've got people's reputations at stake. And on Friday I stood up and said I don't appreciate the speculation about Don Rumsfeld. He's doing a fine job. I strongly support him.

HENRY: But what do you say to critics who believe that you're ignoring the advice of retired generals, military commanders, who say that there needs to be a change?
BUSH: I say I listen to all voices, but mine's the final decision and Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation, but I'm the decider and I decide what is best and what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense. I want to thank you all very much.

 

And he turned on his heel and walked off. There's a video of the exchange here. He was ticked. He's in charge.

There was an explosion of comment on this, and perhaps the most pointed comes from Digby at Hullabaloo here.

Digby points back to an item in the current American Prospect (here) on how things work in the White House, with Vice President Cheney pretty much in charge –

 

Says one insider deeply involved in U.S. policy toward North Korea: "The president is given only the most basic notions about the Korea issue. They tell him, 'Above South Korea is a country called North Korea. It is an evil regime.' ... So that translates into a presidential decision: Why enter into any agreement with an evil regime?"

 

Digby –

 

I'm the decider! I yam, I yam! Evil, evil, evil.

Once again, I am stunned that the Republicans had the gall to foist this manchild on the United States of America - and that so many Americans accepted it for so long. There's a lot of talk in the wingnutsphere about "Bush Derangement Syndrome" which says that we are all suffering form irrational hatred of Dear Leader. But it's not accurate. Bush is just a spoiled, deluded little boy, pushed into a job that was obvious to any sentient being would be too much for him. My righteous anger is for the big money Pooh-Bahs like Dick Cheney who would gamble with this country's future by choosing a brand name in an empty suit for president. They proved that they can sell anything, I'll give them that. But as with their other colossal marketing success and business failure, Enron, the sales job couldn't cover the corruption and poor planning forever. Therefore, I blame the Republican Party more than little Junior. He's just a pathetic loser who believed his own hype -responsible for his actions, of course, but not the mastermind.

From his little tirade today, it appears that he's feeling like his authority is being questioned. That's just funny. It took his this long to figure out that he's not really in charge?

 

A bit harsh, but you could see what happened that way - a temper tantrum by a pathetic guy who thinks he's in charge when he's just out of the loop.

And what of this "wingnutsphere" (the pro-Bush universe of online magazines, news sites and web logs)? They say Bush's critics are just unhinged by hatred of the man, and envy of his manliness and whatnot.

But then they say things like this, one of the most often quoted defenses of the president - "It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile."

Take your choice, one or the other. It can't be both.

But everyone is hardening their positions.

Note this, from Editor and Publisher the same day –

 

On his national radio program today, William Bennett, the former Reagan and George H.W. Bush administration official and now a CNN commentator, said that three reporters who won Pulitzer Prizes yesterday were not "worthy of an award" but rather "worthy of jail."

He identified them as Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who wrote about the CIA's "secret prisons" in Europe, and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times, who exposed the National Security Agency's domestic (a.k.a. terrorist) spy program.

Scott Johnson of the popular Powerline blog also weighed in today, under the heading "The Pulitzer Prize for Treason," declaring "Today's Pulitzer Prize award to the Times brings a new shame to the Pulitzer Prize committee."

 

The outrage Bennett sees is this (emphasis added) –

 

[These reporters] took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it - they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us.

How do we know it damaged us? Well, it revealed the existence of the surveillance program, so people are going to stop making calls. Since they are now aware of this, they're going to adjust their behavior. ...on the secret sites, the CIA sites, we embarrassed our allies. So it hurt us there.

As a result, are they punished, are they in shame, are they embarrassed, are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer prizes - they win Pulitzer prizes. I don't think what they did was worthy of an award - I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this investigation needs to go forward.

 

It seems the wishes of the president matter. The press should respect them.

It that what the press is supposed to do, what the president wishes? Listen to the audio clip here and see if you agree.

The first amendment attorney, Glenn Greenwald, is not surprised by all this, and here he points back to this, an op-ed piece in the Post that Bennett wrote Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor who has long argued we should legalize torture (see CNN from 2003 here). In the Post opinion piece they argue the press has "capitulated to Islamists." A free press would have published those Mohammed cartoons, and we don't have a free press, just a bunch of cowards.

The irony is obvious. The idea of a free press is one that publishes everything that's true and important, but not what the president asks them not to publish.

Greenwald - "Remember - these are the people who think that they are elevated and pure enough to invade other countries in order to teach the repressed masses about democracy and freedom. They endlessly tout their own patriotism and crusades for freedom while agitating for the imprisonment of journalists who publish stories which reflect poorly on their leader. On countless fronts, they are on the precipice of dismantling every defining value and principle of liberty we have."

And he throws Bennett's words back at him, as Bennett in the Post has said this - "[O]ur general agreement and understanding of the First Amendment and a free press is informed by the fact - not opinion but fact - that without broad freedom, without responsibility for the right to know carried out by courageous writers, editors, political cartoonists and publishers, our democracy would be weaker, if not nonexistent."

Yeah, right.

Greenwald –

 

It is difficult, and I think foolish, to ignore these ugly impulses which are always pulsating immediately beneath the veneer of so many Bush followers. These are not random, fringe commentators whose extremist views are being held up to make a point. Rather, these are among the most representative and, in Bennett's case, influential Bush followers who have been incessantly and indignantly calling for the imprisonment of journalists. And as the drumbeat for war against Iran grows more intense, so, too, will the perceived justification for these types of distinctly un-American measures. The more "times of war" we have, the less room we have for marginal liberties, such as the luxury of a free press.

 

But positions are hardening. The imprisonment of journalists may be necessary. How else will we bring freedom to the world?

The matching minor story is here with a follow-up here. The short version, military recruiters show up at the university up in Santa Cruz. There's a big student protest. The recruiters decide to bag it and leave (the campus at Santa Cruz is very hippie-left and it was a dumb idea, really). The right-side "wingnutsphere" is outraged and says this is outrageous, and unpatriotic, an abridgment of free speech, and un-American and all the rest. One of the most widely-read commentators on the right, Michelle Malkin, gets a document with the home phone numbers of the leaders of the student protest. She publishes their home phone numbers on her site. The kids get a lot of obscene calls, angry calls, and of course they get many, many death threats. They complain. Seems they're scared or something. Malkin refuses to take down the phone numbers - people should be responsible for their actions. They brought it on themselves. They should grow up. The lefties all over the media are pissed, and talk about the responsibility of the press. You don't publish people's private phone numbers and such. On the right there's more of the personal responsibility thing - but Malkin asks her readers to tone it down a bit, but she is not responsible if anything happens. These student leaders brought this on themselves, and, if some properly angry patriot does what he or she shouldn't and bumps one of them off, it wouldn't be her fault.

Yes, this is reminiscent of the pro-life anti-abortion folks publishing the home address of doctors who perform abortions. A few of them were gunned down. And now and then someone examines the addresses on the lists of registered sex offenders and bumps one of them off. The defense is always the same - the person bumped off was doing something evil, or would do something evil, and there was a greater good to be served.

Positions are hardening.

The only counter indication seem to be the much discussed Carl Bernstein item in the new Vanity Fair, where the somewhat less self-enamored of the two ace reporters who broke the Watergate story and brought down Richard Nixon (although not single-handedly), says positions are really shifting, and it's now time for Watergate-level Senate hearings. On what? On the conduct of the Bush administration in leading the country into war with Iraq and misleading the American public.

The item is long, detailed, tightly-argued and here. You might have seen Bernstein explaining his idea on Tuesday, April 18, on MSNBC's Countdown, in the opening segment, but the nub of it is this –

 

After Nixon's resignation, it was often said that the system had worked. Confronted by an aberrant president, the checks and balances on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches of government, and by a free press, had functioned as the founders had envisioned.

The system has thus far failed during the presidency of George W. Bush - at incalculable cost in human lives, to the American political system, to undertaking an intelligent and effective war against terror, and to the standing of the United States in parts of the world where it previously had been held in the highest regard.

"There was understandable reluctance in the Congress to begin a serious investigation of the Nixon presidency. Then there came a time when it was unavoidable. That time in the Bush presidency has arrived.

 

Has Carl Bernstein stopped following the news?

Everything has hardened. No one now gives an inch.































 
 
 
 
Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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