Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More war on reporters; scare tactics

So much of import has taken place since your blogstress left Our Nation's Capital (to which she has thankfully returned) for the wilds of ruburban Massachusetts, to which she traveled for the celebration of the college graduation of her delightfully Webwench-like niece, Megan.

Among the week's notable occurrences was the publication by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post (among others) of reports on the Bush Administration's unprecedented spying on the banking records of thousands of American citizens. This revelation was followed, within hours, by an ostensible foiling of an ostensible terrorist plot, whose ostensible plotters were, conveniently, poor black men with long hair -- just the sort of folks whose mug shots strike fear into the hearts of middle-class white people.

graphic: 1010 WINS

Yesterday, President George W. Bush and his vice president, Darth Vader Cheney, used their scheduled public appearances to condemn the media -- The New York Times in particular -- for having published the report of the bank-record surveillance. Never mind that the spy program's legality seems a little shaky. As Peter Baker reports in today's Washington Post:

"Some of the press, in particular the New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs," Cheney said at a Republican fundraiser in Nebraska.
According to Baker, Bush called the revelation "disgraceful."

Not to be outdone, Rep. Peter KIng (R-N.Y.) upped the ante, according to Baker, by calling the Times's reporting a capital offense:
Neither Bush nor Cheney raised the prospect of investigating journalists, as proposed by Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who called on the Justice Department to prosecute the New York Times for "treasonous" action.
The uproar over the Times's apparently shocking decision to report actual news led the paper's executive editor, Bill Keller, to issue a letter to Times readers, explaining the paper's actions in the matter.
It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.
Meanwhile, the alleged terrorist bust of seven men -- who had neither weapons, explosives or ties to al Qaeda -- was treated as a Very Big Deal by CNN, which would do well to take a page out of The New York Times, if only to express solidarity, and report actual news.

The most insightful analysis of the alleged terrorist plot and its derailment came from The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, who took on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (otherwise known as the torture fan) for stating that the seven weaponless alleged conspirators were planning to launch "a full ground war" on the United States. Stewart suggested that the execution of a full ground war would require the fielding of at least as many men as a softball team.

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Assisted suicide

Another gem from your blogstress's pal, Geoff Harper (a.k.a, The Bassman):

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