Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fears coming true and the importance of newspapers

President George W. Bush confirmed today that he did order the National Security Agency to spy on Americans and tap their phone calls without first needing to obtain warrants (which the Foreign Intelligence Service court handed out like candy -- Accoprding to Friday's NYTimes, which broke the story, the secret court has turned down only a small number of requests over the years. In 2004, according to the Justice Department, 1,754 warrants were approved.

And here's the kicker (please insert sarcastically prolonged drum roll here) ... he says he's gonna keep it up until we're safe. Yay! Maybe I should shut this blog down?

Embarrassed. Ashamed. I don't really even know what word describes how I felt when this information was disclosed on Friday. Following our ignoring the United Nations, abusing prisoners in ways that were especially offensive to Muslims at the Abu Ghraib prison, not allowing the Red Cross to inspect prisons and prisoners at Gitmo, and secret rendition of terrorist suspects to foreign prisons where anything could happen, I suppose nothing should surprise me anymore with this administration and this President. And yet, I guess because I still value the Constitution and the ideals of liberty our soldiers are defending and because I used to think that Bush was stupid but basically decent (it was Cheney who was dastardly), I was caught off-guard by this revelation.

This exchange from Friday though was not surprising:


The Journalist and the Politician. When Jim Lehrer interviewed President Bush yesterday, he tried to overcome the president's reluctance to talk about the NYT government-eavesdropping story:

JIM LEHRER: I mean, [the wiretapping story is] on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, every newspaper in America today, and it's going—it's the main story of the day. So—

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's not the main story of the day.

JIM LEHRER: Well, but I mean in terms of the way it's being covered—

PRESIDENT BUSH: The main story of the day is the Iraqi election.

JIM LEHRER: Right, and I'm going to get to that.

What interests TP about this exchange is that Jim Lehrer is not really saying what he means. President Bush is certainly right about the Iraq election being the biggest story of the day. The NYT, which broke the domestic-spying story, gave the election a four-column lead on the same day. Even Lehrer would probably admit that a 70-percent voter turnout in a country just emerging from 40 years of totalitarian rule means more, in historical terms, than a revelation of domestic civil-liberties abuses. What Lehrer really means is something akin to this: "The Iraqi election may be the biggest story of the day, but it's not my job as a journalist to let you bask in a policy victory. It's my job to hold your feet to the fire, so I'm going to hammer you on domestic wiretapping." This is a perfectly respectable position for a newsman to take, of course; TP might act the same if he were in Lehrer's shoes. But it's worth noting that journalists, like politicians, sometimes feel the need to rationalize their agenda.

Michael Brus, a former Slate assistant editor, is a writer and social worker in Seattle.

Once again, the media does some great work and folds in other ways. Ironically, the NYTimes has recently replaced the No. 2 person at its Washington Bureau b/c of perceptions that the NYTimes was losing to the other publications (the Post had the rendition of prisoners to foreign countries and the LATimes had the scoop about the Pentagon paying for positive articles about developments in Iraq), at least according to industry buzz. This story blows the roof off things. The President may well have broken the law. One of the most moderate and measured people I know when it comes to politics, said that he considered this an impeachable offense.

And to me on the spectrum of impeachable offenses this is much worse than Clinton lying and his shaming the Office with his sexual dalliances. His sleaziness about marital fidelity and general smarminess and loose sexual morals, cannot compare to Bush's completely impugning the decency of human rights.

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."
Fyodor Dostoevsky

While he says that we need to fight the soft racism of low expectations in schools, he seems totally fine with his expectation that Americans are up to bad things, especially Muslim Americans, b/c they don't believe in his Creationist God. How can someone be so arrogant as to think he knows alone how to run a country? Or be wise enough to entrust that most sacred of responsibilities to Dick Cheney?

I guess when you execute prisoners when you're Governor more often than you execute search warrants when spying on American citizens, that's your motherfucking answer.

What really bothers me is that NYTimes sat on this story for a year and didn't really explain why. Editor Bill Keller said that they wanted to do more reporting and learned that some within the government had a bigger problem with Bush and Co. going black-ops domestically and they learned more so they could report the story without compromising national security. I'm all about protecting national security, but still ... it seems like trusting this administration that everyone was OK with the checks and balances seems incredibly naive. This is the FUCKING BUSHADMINISTRATION FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!

OK, I need to go look into moving to Sweden.

A quick final political thought from Mohammed ElBaradei (Nobel Peace Prize Winner)

"With globalization bringing us ever closer together," he warned, "if we choose to ignore the insecurities of some, they will soon become the insecurities of all."


A couple quick items ...

The Squid and the Whale features amazing performances from everyone, including a character portrayed by Jeff Daniels that is exactly whom i hope never to become. he's the ultimate snob, dissing pretty much all forms of high and low culture that he arbitrarily doesn't like, according to his standards of cultural excellence. Please let that never be me. Please let that never be me.

The most recent celeb sightings ...

Was out Thursday night at a bar in Culver City and we saw Tim Robbins, who appeared to have checked out a play at a local theater. He seemed to enjoy hanging out with the cast, although when one woman waylaid him for a solid 15 minutes and kept touching him, he seemed put off. He kept his smile the whole time, but it was that smile that never moved to the muscles beyond his mouth. What made the Tim Robbins thing better was that my friend, D, broke a cardinal rule of living in Los Angeles and approached Tim Robbins to applaud him for his political stances. They had a brief moment, but it would have been funnier if D had taken my advice and called Robbins a "Limousine liberal." Disclosure, I dig Tim Robbins and share virtually all his political stances, but a chance to be an ass on this scale is pretty fucking rare.

Saw Andy Richter today. he was buying coffee at the new coffeeshop near my office.

Happy Holidays!

P.S. Watch George W. Bush tomorrow when he gives his first Oval Office address since we invaded Iraq to root out the Weapons of Mass Destruction.

1 comment:

krazybarrister said...

i've just stopped watching the news. current events are more tolerable that way. thank god bravo went on as regularly scheduled. james lipton interviewing barbara walters was infinitely more enlightening.