The Oregonian’s Premature Ejaculation For Gordon Smith

ejac·u·la·tion: a short sudden emotional utterance

Friday’s Oregonian editorial page ran an unsigned piece titled “Oregon’s senators take the high ground on legal rights”, which noted that both Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Gordon Smith voted for Sen. Arlen Specter’s hebeas corpus amendment to the detainee treatment bill on Thursday. The amendment was defeated 48-51.

“Oregonians are entitled to feel a somber sense of pride in their two U.S. senators”, according to the editorial, which went on to note the importance and history of the right of a prisoner to challenge the basis for their detention. By voting for the amendment, according to the editorial, “Smith and Wyden showed faith in the strength and nobility of the American system.”

The writer saved special praise for Smith, however, citing his vote as “a particularly principled stand for Smith, who was bucking the president and the GOP leadership”.

Of course, once the amendment failed, Smith’s principles seem to have flown out the window. By the time the editorial arrived on doorsteps in the morning edition, Smith, all but one of the Republican Senators, and thirteen Democrats voted to pass the unamended bill which essentially strips an 800-year-old right of law from anyone accused of terrorism.

Perhaps someone at the Oregonian could have asked Sen. Smith how he was planning to vote on the final bill before laving him with praise for his “particularly principled stand”, which was in fact doing no more than what his oath of office as a Senator required of him, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If they’d asked me, I could have told them that there wasn’t a chance in hell that Smith was going to break ranks and vote against the bill — amendment, principles, or no — and that they should have pulled their editorial before they showered him with praise for his ass-covering political trick.

Lack of Disclosure at NPR’s ‘Day to Day’

It was just over a month ago that NPR “Day to Day” host Madeleine Brand showed a startling lack of preparation when a Kurdish interviewee blamed the US in part for providing Saddam Hussein with the tools he needed to execute the Anfal genocide campaign.

On today’s show, Brand and guest co-host Mike Pesca started off with a discussion of last week’s FOX News appearance by President Bill Clinton. They were joined by senior correspondent Juan Williams to provide commentary on Clinton’s interview with Chris Wallace.

Just one problem. Williams is not only a correspondent for NPR, he’s also an employee of FOX News, where he’s been a regular panelist and anchor for nearly a decade. Nowhere in the “Day to Day” segment was the fact that Williams was commenting on an employer (FOX News) or a co-worker (Wallace) mentioned.

This is how Williams was introduced, just after a short piece of Clinton’s first response to Wallace was played.

MIKE PESCA: Joining us now to talk about the week in politics is NPR senior correspondent and regular “Day to Day” contributor Juan Williams. Hi, Juan.

JUAN WILLIAMS: Hi, Mike. Hi, Madeleine.


This was how Williams characterized Clinton’s answer to Wallace in his first response to Pesca’s question about the incident (emphasis added).

WILLIAMS: Well, uh, the inside discussion, Mike, all week among the political class in Washington has been whether or not this was a set-up; and not a set-up by FOX News and the conservatives, the right wingers, and those who have been laying in wait for Clinton, but the question is whether Clinton himself was making a strategic move.

Yes, according to Williams it’s Bill Clinton’s fault that Williams’s co-worker Chris Wallace was stupid enough to ask Clinton a question he was able to answer forcefully and at great length. Clinton put a gun to Roger Ailes’s head and forced him to put an interview with Clinton on the air on his network.

Williams said Clinton “silenced” the left wing of the party and rallied it around him and therefore Hillary Clinton. I’m not too sure about that one. Williams, Brand, and Pesca discussed the comments entirely in terms of how they would affect the 2006 and 2008 elections, without addressing any of the facts Clinton asserted in his answer to Wallace.

Here’s how the end of the segment went. Still no mention of Williams’s other employer.

BRAND: NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams. Thanks, Juan.

Thanks, indeedy.

Chavez Minute-By-Minute

The American press was all over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s characterization of President Bush as the devil on Wednesday at the United Nations. And, just as you would expect, Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi had no problem roundly denouncing his words, even as they meekly assented to the wonderful new provisions for torture about to be enacted as a part of the intra-Republican “compromise” this week.

But for all of the fire and brimstone about his Bush comments, was a diabolical comparison all that Chavez had to say? He spoke for twenty-four minutes. And while the UN’s site has not made the text of his speech available (almost everything else from Wednesday has already been posted in at least one language), the Washington Post has an almost-complete transcript of the English translation.


The transcript skips over the first couple of minutes of Chavez’s address. In the first minute, he greeted the assembly and recommended Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival.


Chavez summarized Chomsky’s argument saying (in translation) that the “hegemonistic pretensions of the American empire are placing at risk the very survival of the human species.” That threat is like a “sword hanging over our heads”. That point is where the WP transcript begins, at 1:45 into the address.


Chavez used the word “devil” (or, in one case “Devil’s”) eight times in the speech. All but one usage came within six short paragraphs, just after the Chomsky promo. Those six paragraphs were over by the fourth minute of the speech. In the third minute, Chavez also called Bush a threat, and someone who talked “as if he owned the world.”


Chavez implied Bush is crazy and called him “the spokesman of imperialism” who came to the UN to preserve the status quo of power in the world. He made a lame reference to Hitchcock that contained his next-to-last diabolic reference.


The theme of US domination of the world continued. Chavez said that democracy spread by military force is hypocritical.


Building on the hypocrisy of externally-imposed democracy, Chavez claimed Bush sees people of color as extremists.


Chavez said President Evo Morales of Bolivia is seen as an extremist by Bush, that “imperialists see extremists everywhere”. Chavez said that people around the world are waking up and “shouting for equality, for respect, for the sovereignty of nations”.


Chavez quoted Bush saying the US wants peace and claimed while the people of the US want peace, the US government does not. He said the government wants “to exploit its system of exploitation, of pillage, of hegemony through war”. He began to ask about peace in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and Latin America.


Chavez mentioned US threats against Venezuela and Iran. He talked about Bush’s words to the “people of Lebanon” and said it was cynical to claim the bombing of Beirut was “crossfire” as Bush characterized it. He said Bush must be “thinking of a western”. Chavez juxtaposed the paraphrase “We’re suffering because we see homes destroyed” with what he called the “imperialist, fascist, assassin, genocidal” attacks on Palestine and Lebanon by “the empire and Israel”.


Chavez mentioned the people of the world and the specific nationalities Bush addressed during his speech and wonders what those people might say back “if they were given the floor”.


Chavez suggested the answer to his question might be “Yankee imperialist, go home”. He then returned to a point he had made at a previous assembly, that the UN system has “collapsed”.


Chavez said the UN was good so far as it brought everyone together to make speeches and produce documents. He praised two in particular: “Abel’s (ph)” in the transcript is a reference to Evo Morales Aima of Bolivia; “President Mullah’s (ph)” is Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva of Brazil (listen to the Spanish version). He said the UN needs to be re-established.


Chavez mentioned four proposals made last year. Both Chavez and da Silva have proposed expansion of the Security Council, including the permanent membership (da Silva mentioned this in his 19 September speech). Second, Chavez says he wants transparent decisionmaking and “effective methods to address and resolve world conflicts”. Third, he called for an end to the Security Council veto mechanism.


The veto, in Chavez’s opinion, allowed the US to prevent a resolution against Israel for their attack on Lebanon. The final proposal was for a strengthening of the powers of the UN Secretary General. He said that Kofi Annan’s opening speech had recognized that “hunger, poverty, violence, human rights violations have just worsened” over the past decade, and blamed that on a collapse of the UN system and “American hegemonistic pretensions”.


Venezuela is attempting to work within the UN system, Chavez said. He claimed Venezuela is looking to reform international relations and fight hegemony. He mentioned that Venezuela sought a nonpermanent seat on the Security Council and that the US has worked to prevent other nations from freely casting their vote for Venezuela.


Chavez said the US was afraid of the truth and independent voices. He gave his thanks to countries that had openly supported the Security Council bid, even though it is a secret ballot. He thanked the Latin American trade organization Mercosur and its member nations, other Latin American countries, and the Arab League.


The accolades continued, for Arab countries, Caribbean countries, most of Africa, Russia, and China. Venezuela will defend dignity and truth on the Security Council, according to Chavez. He claimed to be optimistic that a new era is dawning.


Chavez derided “the end of history” as a “false assumption” and said the Pax Americana and a “capitalist neo-liberal world” were failed ideas that “generate mere poverty”. He repeated his optimism about the dawn of a new world.


Chavez claimed that the US was behind the 2002 Venezuelan coup attempt and that it “continues to support coup attempts in Venezuela and elsewhere.” He referred to an earlier speech by President Michelle Bachelet of Chile who had mentioned the 30th anniversary of the assassination in Washington, DC of Orlando Letelier.


The killers of Letelier and and American citizen are not only still free, they were “CIA killers, terrorists” according to Chavez. He brought up another 30-year-old incident — the Cubana de Aviacion airliner bombing that killed 73 — in which the convicted terrorist was sprung from Venezuelan jail by former government officials and the CIA and now lives in the US. He condemned the US for double standards on terrorism and said Venezuela is “fully committed to combating terrorism and violence” and is “fighting for peace”.


Chavez named Luis Posada Carriles, the man convicted for the Cubana bombing and said others who “bombed various embassies, that assassinated people during the coup” were living in the US “under protection”. He accused them of kidnapping him, saying that they were going to kill him but that he was saved by God, the people, and the army. The leaders of the coup are in the US, he said. He went on to mention Cuba.


The Summit of the Nonaligned in Havana was touted by Chavez as a bulwark against hegemony and imperialism. He mentioned that Fidel Castro was the president of the organization for the next three years (we’ll just have to see about that) and encouraged support for him and the organization.


Chavez gave an upbeat health report on Castro. He said that “a new, strong movement has been born, a movement of the south” (I don’t think he means that in the same way, say, George Allen might). He recommended Chomsky’s book one last time and started off on the “new era” again.


Chavez called for a “world of peace” based on a “renewed United Nations”. He proposed moving the UN somewhere in the south; maybe Venezuela. He closed by remarking that his doctor and chief of security had to stay in his locked plane and weren’t allowed to “arrive” or attend the meeting. With one more reference to the Devil and sulpher, he was done.

Tet, Ah Tet

Despite the overwhelming tactical losses suffered by the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive, the months of attacks they mounted on South Vietnam in early 1968 are considered by many historians to be the point where many people began to realize the US and the government they backed weren’t going to win. President Lyndon Johnson announced his decision not to seek re-election in March, during the middle of primary operations.

The attacks began during the Lunar New Year — on 30 January 1968 — some 1,274 days after Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing military retaliation for two attacks (one of which didn’t actually occur) on American destroyers providing intelligence to the South Vietnamese government.

As Daily Kos diarist occams hatchet pointed out at length last week, “Iraq is NOT Vietnam”, but if it was Vietnam, today would be the day that Tet started: day 1,274 since the invasion of Iraq began.

Billmon, Kornbluth, and The Marching Morons

In a post about Mike Judge’s film-in-purgatory Idiocracy (which sounds hilarious), Billmon at The Whisky Bar mentions that it “appears to be loosely based” on the classic SF story “The Marching Morons” by Cyril Kornbluth.

I haven’t read anything of Kornbluth’s for probably twenty years; he died young a few years before I was even born, so there hasn’t exactly been a lot of new material I’ve had to catch up on. I do remember avidly reading collections of his short stories as well as his collaborations with Frederic Pohl, most particularly The Space Merchants, a great anti-corporatist novel that’s now more than fifty years old.

So I was a little surprised when — in the discussion of the plot of “Morons” (a con man who wakes from suspended animation suggests to the elite running an overpopulated world of idiots that they trick the idiots into getting onto spaceships that dump them in space) — that Billmon says:

If his genetic theories make Kornbluth sound like an out-and-out Nazi, he certainly never went to any great lengths to dispel the impression.

I have to wonder, though, is Billmon confusing the “genetic theories” of the people in Kornbluth’s story with those of Kornbluth himself? Would a World War II veteran who was writing in the McCarthy era about the persecution of conservatists and the opressiveness of consumerism actually be “a natural for a slot on the Pioneer Fund’s board of directors, or a co-author for Charles Murray’s next book” as Billmon puts it?


And would someone who himself advocated the mass extermination of the “Morons” have concluded the story by having the protagonist who advocated using Hitler’s policies himself tricked into sharing the fate of the people he condemned by the people he though he was tight with? Maybe Billmon’s got some other source of information on Kornbluth that I don’t have, but Cyril the Nazi wasn’t exactly the image I got from reading his work all those years ago.

Those Wacky, Uninformed Muslims

In an “All Things Considered” piece on 11 September, Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press talked to Robert Siegel about surveys that show Muslims around the world don’t believe the official story about the events of 9/11 and see some sort of conspiracy by the US government, the Jews, or some other actors. That was the view of majorities in five Muslim countries and a majority of Muslims in four European countries, with figures as high as 65% in Indonesia.

Those wacky Muslims!

Of course, a Harris Interactive poll from July showed that:

Despite being widely reported in the media that the U.S. and other countries have not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, surprisingly; more U.S. adults (50%) think that Iraq had such weapons when the U.S. invaded Iraq.

That was actually an increase of nearly 15% over the previous year. The same report says that 64% of U.S. adults also believe Saddam Hussein had “strong links to Al Qaeda”.

This I Believe: A Miller Little Pieces

NPR’s “This I Believe” series aired a piece for the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by comic book writer and artist Frank Miller. He begins his story thus:

I was just a boy in the 1960s. My adolescence wasn’t infused with the civil rights struggle or the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War, but with their aftermath.

My high school teachers were ex-hippies and Vietnam vets. People who protested the war and people who served as soldiers. I was taught more about John Lennon than I was about Thomas Jefferson.

Miller goes on with a story about how he rebelled against his teachers and WWII veteran parents, didn’t swallow the “flower-child twaddle” and thought patriotism was just “some quaint relic” (wow, didn’t he read Captain America?) Now, though, he knows “how it feels to face an existential menace” and he waves his flag. Oh, and buy the new Batman graphic novel when it comes out! Batman fights the enemy! That’s original.

There was just one little problem for me. Miller’s Dark Knight version of Batman applied the CPR to the franchise that made it viable for a series of movies. Tim Burton’s movie came out in 1989. And Miller had made his name at Marvel with Daredevil prior to his work on Batman. The first issue he did for that series came out in 1980. Which would seem to make Miller at least as old as I was, since I used to sell those comics at the bookstore I worked at starting my senior year in high school. Something didn’t seem like it was adding up.

According to Miller’s Wikipedia entry, he was born in January 1957. Now, typically, adolescence is considered to be the years between puberty and majority: roughly 13 to 18. For Miller, that would have been the period between early 1970 and early 1975. While that is after the major civil rights upheavals of the 1960s and one would hope that he was a bit young to have to worry about the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War was still in full force throughout that period. The fall of Cambodia, the My Lai massacre, and the Kent State shootings all took place within a couple months after Miller’s 13th birthday. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on Miller’s 16th birthday. Later that year, the draft — which Miller would have been eligible for in 1975 — was abolished. Miller was already 18 when Saigon fell.

Depending on when he entered school and how he progressed, Miller may have graduated at 17 in the spring of 1974, 18 in 1975, or 19 in 1976. He would have entered high school in the fall of 1970, 1971, or 1972. Now, it’s possible that “ex-hippies” and vets who’d been involved in their respective scenes at early points might have jumped right into college, got their teaching certificates, and found jobs at Miller’s high school, but you do have to wonder what happened to the rest of the faculty. Even by Miller’s senior year of high school, certainly some of the old guard should have been around to teach him about Jefferson.

In any case, Miller’s not being entirely truthful when he says that his adolescence was shaped by the aftermath of Vietnam, because that didn’t even start until Miller was an adult. Unless, of course, reading comic books stretches adolescence past the age of 18. I certainly know I was still immature at that point.

Then again, the segment’s called “This I Believe”, not “This Bears Some Resemblance to Reality”. As we’ve seen with ABC, belief may be all that’s needed these days.

Huey Long Died 71 Years Ago Today

Almost lost in the aftermath of the drowning of New Orleans last year was a milestone anniversary of another significant event in Louisiana history: the 70th observance of the death of Senator Huey Pierce Long, Jr..

Given that this 71st anniversary of Long’s death (he was shot on 8 September 1935 but died two days later) brings us another version of All the King’s Men — an adaptation of a book with aABC’s Path to 9/11 sort of resemblance to actual history — I feel it’s all the more important to encourage people to look at the actual accomplishments of the man Black Panther Huey P.Newton was named for, and not what people who were threatened by his agenda accused him of.

To that end, I humbly submit my 1992 review of T. Harry Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Long (the review’s been on the web so long it’s still on the first Google page of searches for “huey long”). If you can find a copy, one of Ken Burns’s earliest projects was on Long. While it’s hardly a detailed study of Long’s policies or actions, it’s particularly interesting for the interviews in which members of the state’s ruling class express their hatred for Long and his intrusion into their turf, which puts one in mind of the Washington elite’s attitude toward Clinton.

There’s much more out there, but, as always, I like to close with words from Huey Long himself, from his autobiography Every Man a King:



The increasing fury with which I have been and am to be, assailed by reason of the fight and growth of support for limiting the size of fortunes can only be explained by the madness which human nature attaches to the holders of accumulated wealth.

What I have proposed is:—


1. A capital levy tax on the property owned by any one person of 1% of all over $1,000,000 [dp: $14,275,000 in 2005 dollars]; 2% of all over $2,000,000 [$28,550,000] etc., until, when it reaches fortunes of over $10,000,000 [$145,750,000], the government takes all above that figure; which means a limit on the size of any one man’s fortune to something like $50,000,000 [$728,750,000]—the balance to go to the government to spread out in its work among all the people.

2. An inheritance tax which does not allow one man to make more than $5,000,000 [$71,375,000] in a lifetime without working for it, all over that amount to go to the government to be spread among the people for its work.

3. An income tax which does not allow any one man to make more than $1,000,000 [$14,275,000] in one year, exclusive of taxes, the balance to go to the United States for general work among the people.

The forgoing program means all taxes paid by the fortune holders at the top and none by the people at the bottom; the spreading of wealth among all the people and the breaking up of a system of Lords and Slaves in our economic life. It allows the millionaires to have, however, more than they can use for any luxury they can enjoy on earth. But, with such limits, all else can survive.

That the public press should regard my plan and effort as a calamity and me as a menace is no more than should be expected, gauged in the light of past events. According to Ridpath, the eminent historian:

“The ruling classes always possess the means of information and the processes by which it is distributed. The newspaper of modern times belongs to the upper man. The under man has no voice; or if, having a voice, his cry is lost like a shout in the desert. Capital, in the places of power, seizes upon the organs of public utterance, and howls the humble down the wind. Lying and misrepresentation are the natural weapons of those who maintain an existing vice and gather the usufruct of crime.”

—Ridpath’s History of the World, Page 410.

In 1932, the vote for my resolution showed possibly a half dozen other Senators back of it. It grew in the last Congress to nearly twenty Senators. Such growth through one other year will mean the success of a venture, the completion of everything I have undertaken,—the time when I can and will retire from the stress and fury of public life, maybe as my forties begin,—a contemplation so serene as to appear impossible.

That day will reflect credit on the States whose Senators took the early lead to spread the wealth of the land among all the people.

Then no tear dimmed eyes of a small child will be lifted into the saddened face of a father or mother unable to give it the necessities required by its soul and body for life; then the powerful will be rebuked in the sight of man for holding what they cannot consume, but which is craved to sustain humanity; the food of the land will feed, the raiment clothe, and the houses shelter all the people; the powerful will be elated by the well being of all, rather than through their greed.

Then those of us who have pursued that phantom of Jefferson, Jackson, Webster, Theodore Roosevelt and Bryan may hear wafted from their lips in Valhalla:



Air America Bait and Switch

Back in February when Marc Maron began broadcasting in LA after “Morning Sedition” was ignominiously dumped from the national Air America lineup, I immediately signed up for his podcasts through their Premium service. I signed up for six months, at about $5/month, although it seemed likely to me that the whole thing would die an early death. The new show suffered from the lack of Mark Riley — the touchstone with reality for “Morning Sedition” — as well as the larger writing and production staff, but it was still a better fit for me than the rest of the AAR lineup.

“The Marc Maron Show” only lasted until July. With its end (about two months before the end of my subscription), I assumed that the limited AAR Premium service I’d subscribed to would also end. Au contraire! In fact, a charge for $49.95 — the cost of full Premium service for six months — was on my latest VISA statement. Not only did the only show I really cared about listening to get cancelled before the subscription I bought to podcast the show ran out, but AAR decided to change the terms of my subscription and charge me 40% more than I’d ever agreed to pay them in the first place.

That’s progressive! (And yes, I’m already disputing it with my credit card company and AAR, I just think it’s an incredibly bone-headed way to run a company.)