Just Above Sunset
January 29, 2006 - They Call It Stormy Monday, But Tuesday's Just The Same













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Monday, January 23rd opened with this - "A British scientist says he has proven January 23 to be the year's lowest emotional point."

This fellow's name is Clifford Arnall and he's got this special formula - personal and seasonal factors all weighed against each other - bleak weather, debt versus monthly salary, the elapsed time since Christmas, the elapsed time since failure to quit a bad habit (think about your New Year resolutions), winter-time low motivational levels bumping up against the actual need to take some sort of action about this or that. And there are no holidays scheduled any time soon. (The next is Valentine's Day, which is the cause of tremendous anxiety and subsequent depression, self-reproach and guilt, of course.) He says his formula is valid for both the UK and most of the United States. He may not have "proved" anything, but he's clearly on to something. Some of us would argue Groundhog Day might be a better fit here, unless you live in Punxsutawney and own a concession stand.

But his day was the day Ford announced the plan to shed thirty-thousand workers in the next year or two, and close fourteen major assembly and parts plants. The idea is to make twenty-five percent fewer cars and trucks, and make car and trucks people might actually want to own. It is a matter of survival. The Windstar minivan wasn't going to save the company, and only the police and strange old men in baseball caps drive the Crown Victoria, which tends to blow up in a large fireball when tapped from behind, unless you buy the dealer-installed upgrade they've not publicized. Time to rethink all this.

This is bad news, made even more depressing with the note that only one thousand of the thirty-thousand jobs that will disappear will be Canadian Ford jobs, which might have something to do with labor costs there - the government picks up all the healthcare costs. It might have something to do with Ontario having the highest percentage of workers with college degrees in the industrialized world, or not. Both are advantages that have been pointed out in the pages before (see this last July). Still, the Ford announcement was a Clifford Arnall moment. Lou Dobbs on CNN was fuming.

But note this point-counterpoint -

White House Begins New Effort to Defend Surveillance Program

 

President Bush today opened what amounts to a weeklong media blitz against criticism of the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program, calling it a "terrorist surveillance program" that had saved lives.

Mr. Bush hotly denied charges that he had done anything illegal by authorizing the warrantless eavesdropping program. "If I wanted to break the law," he told an audience at Kansas State University, "why was I briefing Congress?"

Earlier in the day, in Washington, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who led the National Security Agency when it began the warrantless wiretaps, vigorously defended the program , though he acknowledged that it depended on a lower standard of evidence than required by courts.

"The trigger is quicker and a bit softer," said General Hayden, an Air Force officer who is now the principal deputy director of the new national intelligence agency, "but the intrusion into privacy is also limited: only international calls and only those we have a reasonable basis to believe involve Al Qaeda or one of its affiliates."

The standard laid out by General Hayden - a "reasonable basis to believe" - is lower than "probable cause," the standard used by the special court created by Congress to handle surveillance involving foreign intelligence.

 

Killing Me Softly

 

... I'm down in the dumps, mostly because I am watching George W. Bush repeat his patented mantra for the 514,346th time. It's filled with lies, mischaracterizations and simple-minded gibberish, as always, and I'm watching it go out unfiltered, in its entirety, unchallenged by the media, no Democrats in sight, on every cable channel. I think they are personally trying to drive me crazy.

There is one new wrinkle. Regarding the illegal wiretapping, he just said, "it's amazing to me when people say I just wanted to break the law. If I wanted to break the law why would I brief congress?"

His masterful sound guy is there, compressing the sound, building the audience response to statements like that from a distant chuckle to a soft moan of appreciation, slowly ratcheting it up to a low roar until it reaches a crescendo of ecstatic, sustained hysteria. I think I even saw some rending of garments in the fourth row.

They are going to the 9/11 well again. They say that Democrats are sending talking points to Osama and giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Rove says we don't believe that the government should monitor al Qaeda's telephone calls. The next several months will be spent fending off accusations that if we don't let the president do anything he damned well pleases we are all going to die.

I don't know if it will work again. But I also don't know if I can take this campaign one more time. Five years of hearing the same thing over and over again and watching American sheeple fall for it over and over again is just too depressing. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to January 20, 2009 (and I'm of an age where rushing the future is no longer wise.) The day I no longer have to listen to one more word from this immoral, dishonest, incompetent, delusional prick will be the best day of my life.

 

That's the kind of day it was, and indeed, the news media dutifully repeated the Karl Rove talking point from his speech last Friday, where he said the Democrats simply don't want to monitor the bad guys making plans. The day was filled with Democrats, even the useless John Kerry, saying of course we do - but we want to do is sensibly, carefully, and methodically - not with a wholesale spying on everyone - and within the law and constitutionally.

This of course is a major miscalculation on the part of the Democrats. They seem to think people value their privacy, but they clearly don't - if the NSA wants to put a camera in their shower or record every telephone call and email and file it all, that's fine. Anything to get the bad guys. On the Fox News panel shows with "real Americans," on all the call-in radio shows, it's the same. If you have nothing to hide (and good people don't) then there's no problem. These people just wonder what the Democrats have to hide. Privacy is a loser of an issue.

And of course in the question-and-answer with General Hayden he said the constitution said searches just had to be reasonable - there was nothing in the Fourth Amendment about "probable cause" - those two words just aren't there and everyone knew it. He scolded the reporters. The administration was just being reasonable. He knew his stuff. The news media reported all this dutifully, and didn't note that those two words - "probable cause" - actually are there in the Fourth Amendment, in every copy. But you don't want to embarrass the guy, and if you catch him out and expose him saying something that just isn't so, well, then you're giving comfort to the enemy and the Fox guys - O'Reilly and Hannity - will be on your case, and America will turn away from you, and you'll lose even more advertising revenue. So that passed.

For many of this, this was another Clifford Arnall moment.

But then there is the refreshing new openness from the administration, as in this

 

Move over, Oprah. President Bush is making himself into television's newest talk show host by featuring audience participation in his appearances.

Bush has been taking questions from audience members in recent speeches, and the White House says none has been prescreened even though the sessions are limited to invited groups. It's a throwback to the folksy style on the campaign trail that helped him win re-election and a departure from the heavily scripted speeches that were the norm last year.

 

So the startling news of the day was that the president, starting with this appearance at Kansas State University in Manhattan (Kansas), was going to talk unscripted questions. He was going to dazzle them with his openness and willingness to respond to anything they put to him. He'd show all the doubters he was quick on his feet (with his mouth) and in command of all issue.

Yeah, yeah, the audience was carefully screened and all his worshipers, but for once he didn't know the questions coming and hadn't memorized the answers. This was not exactly Question Time in the House of Commons, but you have to start somewhere.

How did that go? As a general rule, see Crooks and Liars for video. They have him here (Windows Media) and here (QuickTime), looking really bamboozled when someone asked him about the big hit movie about the two gay cowboys, "Brokeback Mountain" –

 

Q: You're a rancher, a lot of us here in Kansas are ranchers - I just wanted to get your opinion on Brokeback Mountain, if you'd seen it yet?

Bush: I hadn't seen it - I hope you go back to the ranch and the farms...

 

And what? Get out of his face? Maybe this unscripted thing wasn't such a good idea.

 

Those of us who caught a bit of this noticed the woman who asked about the 12.7 billion dollars cut from education funding, particularly from the student loan program - how was this going to make anything better for the country? The answer? The funding wasn't really "cut." Things were "restructured." No one in the room was buying it. You can imagine the "Note to Staff" - do better audience screening, and no more university appearances.

Ah well. That wasn't nearly as odd as some other recent questions to the opposition.

You may recall that two weeks ago the singer and activist Harry Belafonte, almost eighty now, was in Chile and called George Bush was the "greatest terrorist in the world" (see this). Belafonte has been saying that a lot. He's not happy. And Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press," this came up. Tim Russert, the host and "owner" of the show, had as his guest the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, a rising star in the Democratic Party - the man who gave that amazing speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston.

Well, Russert put two and two together. Harry Belafonte is black. Barack Obama is black. Neither supports Bush. Ask Barack Obama about Harry. Yes, Harry Belafonte is a private citizen with no connection to the Democratic Party, but, well, they're both black folk aren't they? Russert saw an opening (see the video here).

It was one of those all-you-black-folk-are-alike moments. Barack Obama was, pretty much, being asked to explain what's wrong with the black folks. Why don't they like George? Note here the only other time Russert questioned anyone about Harry Belafonte before was when he asked Colin Powell. Tim wants to find out what black folks are up to?

He might ask what Navy folks are up to - see the Wikipedia entry on Harry Belafonte (here). Harry Belafonte is a WWII veteran - Navy. He enlisted, voluntarily. And James Webb, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, a Marine platoon and company commander in Vietnam, on January 18th in the New York Times here, was all over the administration for personally attacking decorated veterans who disagreed with current policy. Maybe it's a Navy thing, Tim.

Peter Daou here

 

My question is, why? Why did Russert ask Obama in particular about the statements of someone who isn't an elected official, who doesn't speak for Democrats, who doesn't represent Obama, who doesn't represent the Democratic Party, who is entitled to his own opinion.

Why?

Since when does an elected Democrat have to answer for the words of a citizen, however outrageous those words, even if that citizen has a public profile? And what's the real motive behind bringing the Belafonte quote into a discussion with Obama? The guilt-by-association game between terrorists and Democrats has been in hyper-drive this past week...

 

Yeah, well, scroll down to one of the comments and you get an explanation –

 

People objecting to Russert's question are apparently not aware that all prominent black people get together at a meeting in Secaucus, New Jersey, every Wednesday afternoon to share fried chicken and watermelon and decide what all black people think that week. Russert, being the perceptive newsman that he is, knows about these meetings. That is why he asked the question.

 

That must be it.

Steve Gilliard here

 

Obama, like too many liberals, try to play nice when asked stupid questions, which implies weakness.

All he had to do was ask: "Did you ask me that question because I was black? Because as I understand it, Mr. Belafonte is entitled to his opinion, and is alone accountable for it. When was the last time you asked a white Senator to account for the ravings of Pat Robertson, who unlike Mr. Belafonte, has the ear of the President and the national media."

 

That would have been cool.

Well, see this - a screen capture of Secretary Of State Rice, a black woman, being asked her reaction to Hally Berry, a black woman, winning the Oscar way back when. Tim just doesn't "get" black folk. (Rice did say film awards wasn't her area of expertise, but was polite about it. Tim didn't get it.)

It all pretty comical.

Ah well, race issues aside, the rules of political discourse have changed, as Glenn Greenwald explains here.

Read the whole thing but see the end –

 

It is a despicable act of deranged hatred to call George Bush a "terrorist." But it is perfectly acceptable, even common, to accuse Bush's political opponents of being traitors, committing treason, being on "the other side" (i.e., with the terrorists), and pronouncing that they should hang. And there's one last rule you don't want to forget about. It's from Newt Gingrich, announced on Hannity & Colmes:

"I think it's quite clear as you point out, Sean, that from this tape, that bin Laden and his lieutenants are monitoring the American news media, they're monitoring public opinion polling, and I suspect they take a great deal of comfort when they see people attacking United States policies."

So, according to Newt, anyone who is "attacking United States policies" - what we in the United States used to call "criticizing the Government" - is now guilty of giving "a great deal of comfort" to Al Qaeda.

These rules seem very fair and evenly applied and I think we owe it to the country to be a little more diligent in complying with them. After all, if we don't stop with all of this criticism of the Commander-in-Chief, we might lose our freedoms.

 

But Glenn is not bitter, is he?

It's the day.































 
 
 
 

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