Archive for April 2007
At the Chicago Tribune blog, The Swamp (what is it with this name? TIME Mag’s blog is called Swampland, fairly revealing, not to mention unflattering, names for blogs staffed by professional journalists), Frank James writes of Bill Moyers “Buying the War” documentary:
Bill Moyers’s PBS program “Buying the War” which was broadcast this week was the latest in a line of examinations of the mainstream media’s complicity in spreading what amounted to Bush Administration propaganda.
Its thesis was that too many journalists at big news outlets uncritically bought the White House spin, communicating it to the American people who accepted it as truth.
It’s indisputably true, especially with hindsight’s clarity, that many journalists too readily accepted the White House’s version of the potential Iraqi threat, that there wasn’t enough skepticism. Journalists certainly should take responsibility for this, learn from it and vow not to repeat the same mistakes.
The problem with Moyers’s take and so many other criticisms of the media’s role in the run-up to war is that they excuse a major player in what happened–the American people.
After pointing to a few of the major media stories that expressed doubts and still made it to the front page – and he admits there weren’t that many – he concludes:
The stories that aired such skepticism about the administration’s case, however, were running against a very strong tide — the public’s desire to retaliate for 9/11 however. And as we all know, revenge often trumps reason.
Then, in a country where more people probably know who Sanjaya is than the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and who are untroubled by that fact, it isn’t surprising that more of an effort wasn’t made by many Americans to explore more deeply the arguments for and against going to war.
So, yes, while we in the media did make the mistakes Moyers pointed to, the fault also lies not just with our media stars but in ourselves as American citizens.
His point isn’t terribly clear (he doesn’t write all that well, actually) but I take him to mean that the papers didn’t do a better job of covering the deceptions that led us into war because a majority of us, bent on “revenge”, didn’t want to hear about it. In response, commenter perlewhite wrote:
Yes, Frank, most of the American public are compliant sheep, content to be led by the nose by those we believe have our best interests at heart – out elected officials and the news media we assume will do it’s job as a watchdog. Yes, we also dropped the ball on this one, according to your view. But tell me, Frank, short of storming the White House ala the French Revolution, just how was the American public supposed to stop this lie-based juggernaut???
What I think James is trying to say is that being an American means being a citizen and it’s a citizen’s duty to demand truth instead of pillow-talk. If we refuse, then we have to shoulder a share of the blame for whatever follows our dereliction of that duty. I’ve said the same thing many times.
But perlewhite has put his/her finger directly on the key question arising from James’ post: even assuming we, as citizens, had done the work, seen through the Bush Administration’s avalanche of lies and propaganda, resisted the drumbeat of justifications and cult-like sycophancy exuding like pus from 95% of the nation’s press, and reached the conclusion that the invasion was a mistake and shouldn’t happen, what could we then have done to stop it?
George Tenet’s new book has stirred up some supposed controversy, primarily by acknowledging and confirming a bunch of stuff we already knew. Why any of this should be “controversial” at this point is beyond me. Maybe because the Great American “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know” Public remains as inexcusably clueless as it was when almost half of it voted for the Emperor for the second – count ‘em, second – time and is determined to stay that way.
There’s no “news” here despite the “Today’s Circus” blanket coverage by the so-called “news” media except for two minor details. The first is the surprising – and disappointing – decision by “I’ll Fall on My Sword for You” Tenet to continue covering Junior’s ass. He’s still willing to take the rap for Bush on behalf of the CIA for “mistaken” intel when actually his agency got it right it -
Mr. Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programs, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.” He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.
- and he continues to praise Dear Leader’s cynical exploitation of 9/11.
Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr. Bush, who in 2004 awarded Mr. Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is portrayed personally in a largely positive light, with particular praise for the his leadership after the 2001 attacks. “He was absolutely in charge, determined, and directed,” Mr. Tenet writes of the president, whom he describes as a blunt-spoken kindred spirit.
He puts all the responsibility on Cheney, writing as if Junior, you know, didn’t realize the VP was up to all that shit.
David Halberstam died in a car accident yesterday. He was 73.
Given our current discussion on how the news media got that way, it’s particularly fitting that we honor Halberstam here. After all, he wrote two seminal books bearing closely on the subjects at hand – Viet Nam and the nation’s press establishment.
I used to have a first edition hardcover of Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest, and by the time circumstances forced me to sell most of my books, it was in pretty rocky shape. I took good care of my books, but when you read something 20 times and lug it around with you everywhere and lend it to anyone who shows the slightest interest and then have to hound them to get it back because they either don’t want to give it up or have passed it along to someone else, things happen.
ne*go*ti*ate (ne-go’-shee-ayt) n. 1. what Republicans call it when they stake out a position from which they then refuse to budge 2. what Republicans call it when they refuse to speak to anyone with whom they disagree
lie (lye) v. 1. any fact a Republican chooses not to believe 2. everything a Democrat says no matter how much evidence s/he has to back it up (the evidence is all lies, too) 3. anything from the MSM unless it originates on Fox, in the WSJ, the NR, the Weekly Standard, Pajamas Media, or WorldNetDaily, or with Rev Moon (see impartial)
truth (trooth) n. 1. anything Bush says no matter how divorced from reality 2. anything a Republican says no matter how divorced from reality 3. anything Rush Limbaugh says even if he admits he made it up
de*bate (duh-bait’) n. 1. a fair and honest exchange of views between Republicans
de*ba*ting so*ci*e*ty (duh-bait’-in so-sy’-i-tee) n. 1. a useless bunch of talk when action feels better 2. what Democrats turn any discussion into simply by insisting on joining it 3. any Congress in which Democrats have a majority 4. any group using diplomacy instead of military action to solve a foreign crisis, such as the UN
sub*stance (sub’-stuhns) n. 1. the core of any Republican issue 2. the critical importance of every statement by any right-wing crackpot 3. what Democrats never have
em*bol*den (em-bowl’-den) v. 1. what Democrats, merely by existing, do for terrorists 2. what Republicans do for each other when things go bump in the night
Having built a bond of trust between themselves and the American public that seemed to be made of iron and steel, how did the press ever come to the point where no one on either side of the political divide trusts much of anything they say, write, or show?
The answer is one of the 20th century’s greatest ironies: they lost our trust because they insisted on living up to it.
The two most important challenges of the post-WW II US were the Viet Nam War and Richard Nixon’s presidency. The first was based on lies, excused and explained by the sophomoric – not to say childish – Domino Theory, and kept going long after it was clear that it was a monumental bungle because neither Lyndon Johnson nor the people around him – chiefly McNamara – could admit that they’d made a mistake. The second was the nation’s first real experience with quasi-authoritarianism: an imperial president with no conscience and few scruples who was paranoid and semi-delusional. He was a drunk who thought he was above the law, a failure out for revenge on imaginary enemies, and an anal-retentive with an almost psychotic need for rigid controls put into office during a time when the foundations of society were in upheaval and flexibility and patience were what was desperately needed.
As voters, we blew that election Big Time. Instead of pitying Queeg and sending him to the showers, we put him in charge of the whole shebang.
In both cases, it was left to the American press to make it clear what a mess we’d made, and in both cases they did, coming through for us with flying colors.
For which we never forgave them.
Well, I watched some of the Gonzales hearing yesterday and what I saw was an unholy mess. This guy’s a lawyer? Really? He seemed to have no idea what he was doing there. After all, went his defense, he’s just keeping a seat warm:
- He had no idea what Sampson was doing, The “updates” he’s finally admitted to getting were, he now says, along these lines: “How’s it coming, Kyle?” “Fine. Still working on it.” End of discussion.
- He didn’t decide who went onto the list and he doesn’t know who did.
- He doesn’t know what criteria was used by whoever used it to decide who was going to be fired but he knows it wasn’t improper. Feingold: “If you don’t know what it was, how do you know it wasn’t improper?” Gonzo: “I know I didn’t do anything improper.”
- He doesn’t know who was in charge of the “process”. He thought it was Sampson. Told that everybody, including Sampson, said they weren’t, he was at a complete loss.
- He never evaluated the attorneys’ performance and he didn’t know who did or if anyone had.
- He didn’t know if a performance review had ever been done by anyone on any USA. If it had, nobody told him about it.
- He can’t remember making the decision. That is, he can remember making it but he can’t remember when or why or how.
He gave his favorite answer – “I don’t know, Senator” – more than 50 times in the morning session alone. Yet, despite insisting he knew nothing that was going on in the agency he’s supposed to be running, he claimed he was too busy in his supervisory role to supervise the firing process.
Yah gotta love these Bushies.
One came away from his testimony wondering just what the hell he did do? He seems to have delegated virtually every normal duty of the AG to inexperienced underlings and then walked away to play Pong on the computer. Or something. We don’t know what he was doing except whatever it was, it wasn’t his job.
(Cartoon by Jim Borgman)
Scott Horton, Harper’s worthy answer to Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald, quotes some of the European press on the VATech shooting. Unlike the coverage here, it ain’t about immigration or Cho’s anger or the school’s slow response or the heartbreaking stories of the victims’ lives. It’s about one thing: the guns. Excerpts:
Hamburg’s Der Spiegel runs a summary of press reactions across Europe and finds that Charlton Heston and the NRA are repeatedly singled out as responsible for the tragedy. “The shooting at Virginia Tech is the result of America’s woeful lack of serious gun control laws.
Madrid’s El País, puts the blame squarely on the National Rifle Association and reproduces a photograph of Charlton Heston brandishing a rifle. “[C]ontrol measures,“ writes that paper, ”are systematically challenged by an abusive interpretation of the Second Amendment….”
The conservative London Times writes “But why, we ask, do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?”
Horton, a lawyer, concludes:
Around the world, America is being portrayed as a land of wanton violence, obsessed with firearms—as the locus of a bizarre death cult. The grounds for this are not simply what happened at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, but the way the American public has reacted to these tragedies.
Or not reacted. Despite the furor after Columbine, absolutely NOTHING was done to control the sale of deadly weapons. The Pub Congress refused to extend the assault weapons ban, and even relatively painless strengthening of gun registration laws were rejected practically without discussion. In fact, gun laws have actually been loosened in the 12 years of Republican rule.
OK, so the field is already crowded with candidates and more are showing up every day. Trust me. This one is different. She’s what you might call a single-issue candidate. She’s running for one reason and one reason only: to help uninsured kids.
My name is Susie Flynn. I am running for President of the United States of America to help the nine million children who have no health insurance. This is a crisis. These children have been let down, yet the people accountable are doing too little to solve it. By running for President, I intend to make everyone in America aware of the issue so that it will no longer be ignored. Under your next President, every child in America must get the health insurance he or she deserves.
There’s a petition on her website, and you can sign up for a newsletter.
BTW, she’s ten.
I think I just found my favorite.
It was inevitable, I suppose. Expect a lot more of this for a few days.
That said, how much of this killers rage was indoctrinated at the very campus on which he took out his rage. When professors teach students to hate everything around them they are learning evil.
Just to clarify the killer was in the English program and liberal professors are known for teaching hate.
That’s the headline in today’s WaPo.
So this is what we’ve come to. It’s front-page news worthy of a headline in a major paper when Bush admits the Congress is Constitutional and nobody seems to think that’s a tad…odd.
“The Congress is exercising its legitimate authority as it sees fit right now,” Bush said. “I just disagree with their decisions. I think setting an artificial timetable for withdrawal is a significant mistake. It sends mixed signals and bad signals to the region, and to the Iraqi citizens.”
The reason this is news is that the “White House” – no attribution as to exactly who sent these things out – has been saying the opposite for weeks.
These answers seem to fly in the face of White House statements that the House and Senate war-funding bills — which include dates for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq — are both misguided and unconstitutional. On March 19, the White House threatened to veto the House bill, which would require U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by Aug. 31, 2008, and said it would “infringe on the President’s constitutional authority as Commander in Chief to manage the readiness and availability of the Armed Forces.”
The White House raised similar constitutional concerns about the Senate legislation, which sets a goal of withdrawing troops by March 31, 2008.
So the Emperor doesn’t even control his own WH’s public statements? Who does? Wouldn’t be the Dynamic Duo DC/KR, by any chance?
By the time David Stockman, Reagan’s budget czar, had become disillusioned with supply-side, “trickle-down” economics, the damage had already been done.
The magnitude of the fiscal wreckage and the severity of the economic dangers that resulted are too great to permit such an easy verdict. In the larger scheme of democratic fact and economic reality there lies a harsher judgment. In fact, it was the basic assumptions and fiscal architecture of the Reagan Revolution itself which first introduced the folly that now envelops our economic governance.
The Reagan Revolution was radical, imprudent, and arrogant. It defied the settled consensus of professional politicians and economists on its two central assumptions. It mistakenly presumed that a handful of ideologue were right and all the politicians were wrong about what the American people wanted from government.
File that under “No shit, Sherlock”. I could have told them that. In fact, I did. Anybody could have told them that who wasn’t blinded by the prospect of a trough of money they didn’t have to share with, say, their employees.
Trickle-down was a disaster for everyone in the country except the top 10% of “earners”, seeing as how they made damn sure “trickle” was the operative word. Although the 80′s were a productive and highly profitable time for Wall Street, the rest of us were struggling just to get by. The “trickle” was just that: a mean, tiny drip of the money-pot like a leak in your roof so small you might not notice it for years. The pool stayed at the top, so deep you could have set up a diving board.
The economy – for us ordinary folk, anyway – went so far into the tank after Reagan that Bush I lost his re-election bid due to so many people being out of work and him being so happy about it. They didn’t take kindly to his transparent joy in their financial misery. They threw him out and brought in a Democrat to clean up the mess because Poppy was so “out of touch” (the kindest possible interpretation they could have put on the way he protected the investor class at the expense of the rest of the country).
You’d think conservatives would have learned from all that but apparently not. Read the rest of this entry »
Overheard at bedtime:
“Help! Mommy! Help! There’s an Islamofascist under my bed!”
“Michelle! What is it? What’s wrong?”
“There’s a monster under my bed, Mommy! Get him away!”
“There’s nothing under your bed, Michelle.”
“Yes, there is! I saw him! He has a beard and he looks foreign. I think we should report him.”
“I’m looking right now, Michelle, and there’s nothing under here.”
“Look in the corner, in the back by the wall. He’s in the shape of a dustball.”
“He’s in the shape of what?”
“A dustball! We have to turn him in. He’s a terrorist!”
“That dustball is a terrorist?”
“Don’t be so stupid, Mommy. He’s disguised!”
“As a dustball.”
“They can look like anything. They can change their shape and stuff. They’re demons, you know. I saw them on Buffy.”
Kurt Vonnegut was one of a very few contemporary writers that I wanted to meet one day. That day will never come now, and I feel as sorry for myself at his passing as I do for his family.
Somebody gave me Player Piano around 1967. I liked it well enough to go looking for his other stuff. I was living in Hartford at the time, and in what I have always considered to be a moment of whimsical serendipity straight out of Vonnegut’s work, I bought Cat’s Cradle at the Mark Twain Bookstore opposite Twain’s Hartford home.
Reading it made my head explode, not in the cognitive-dissonance sense we use that phrase today but in the 60′s, Flower-Power sense of blowing apart the chains on your mind and forcibly releasing it from the constriction of conventional thought.
Via Benjamin Johnson at the Bush Library Blog comes the news that intellectual and ethically-challenged democracy bete-noir Karl Rove has been spending a bunch of his precious time dealing not with Gonzo or the DoJ Scandal or the Emperor’s abysmal poll numbers or the Republicans’ self-immolation or the Iraq mess but with the much-ballyhooed Bush Library.
Last weekend while at the ever-scintillating meeting of the Organization of American Historians I ran into a few friends in administrative positions at research libraries. The Bush people, they told me, have been scoping out research facilities, taking a look at how institutions try to set themselves up to house both archival records open to a wide range of researchers and provide a productive working environment for fellows. The person leading this effort was nobody other than Karl Rove, the President’s chief political strategist, and — whether you like him or not — undeniably one of the great political geniuses of American history. Rove is personally going around to these libraries, meeting with their directors and checking out their facilities. According to one colleague, he seems to know exactly what the square footage of the building will be and where it will be located on campus.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The picture conjured up of one of the nastiest, most unscrupulous political dirtbags since Lee Atwater running what is supposed to be a public institution for historical research is enough to make you either gag or dissolve into giggles.
I mean, Karl Rove? In charge of a presidential library? Good grief. Read the rest of this entry »