The Villagers are still nattering on about excepts from retired defense secretary Robert Gates’ new memoir Duty, which will be released on January 14.
The DC media is focused on Gates’ criticisms of President Obama and how they will embarrass the administration and negatively affect Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016. What has impressed me so far in the excepts I have read is that Obama was wary of the military and willing to stand up to them. Some examples from an e-mail I received from Foreign Policy Magazine yesterday:
Gates on what Biden did to poison the military well: “I thought Biden was subjecting Obama to Chinese water torture, every day saying, ‘the military can’t be trusted.'”
On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission.”
On Obama’s approach to Afghanistan: “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”
On Obama and Bush: “During my tenure as secretary, Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers on the wars, including the important divergence between the chiefs’ concern to reduce stress on the force and the presidents’ higher priority of success in Iraq. However, Bush never (at least to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.”
On Obama as an ice man: “I worked for Obama longer than Bush and I never saw his eyes well up. The only military matter, apart from leaks, about which I ever sensed deep passion on his part was ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the law prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military that Obama successfully pushed to repeal.”
On an oval office meeting that deeply pissed him off: “…Donilon was especially aggressive in questioning our commitment to speed and complaining about how long we were taking. Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a room full of people whether Gen. Fraser was competent to lead this effort. I’ve rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment; nor was I ever closer to walking out of that historic room in the middle of a meeting. My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn’t need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self discipline to stay seated on the sofa.
Every one of those quotes made me like and respect Obama and Biden more. I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction.
A couple more “criticisms” quoted in The Atlantic: Robert Gates: The Iraq War Undermined U.S. Efforts in Afghanistan.
President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.
Who doesn’t agree with that? Well, sure some right wing nut jobs, but the majority of Americans have completely soured on the Iraq war, according to many polls over the past few years.
Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents. Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort.
So Obama’s approach might have kept us out of Iraq, right? I don’t see that as a problem. I want my president to be wary of the military and hesitant to go to war. I want my president to get teary-eyed over granting rights to people who have been historically discriminated against and stay dry-eyed and rational when contemplating “military matters.”
So let Gates have his day in the sun. Today some in the media are already questioning whether his book may damage his reputation. From Foreign Policy again: Did Bob Gates’ New Book Just Trash His Golden Reputation?
Gates, 70, has unmasked himself as just another former Washington official writing just another kiss-and-tell in the soon-to-be-released Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, in which he takes shots at a sitting commander-in-chief, his top aides and Congress, an institution with which he often expressed frustration – but also respect. Gates was known for being discreet and sharp-minded, loyal to the office he occupied and careful about what he said in public. So deliberate were his public pronouncements about wars or national security policy or budgets that he became the E.F. Hutton of the Pentagon — everyone leaned in every time he had something to say.
But now his brand seems diminished by the scrappy, petty nature of many of his criticisms — even though some are substantive and legitimate — and a legacy he seemed quietly determined to protect may be permanently reduced to something less than what it once was.
We’ll have to wait and see. It’s also possible that the furor over Gates’ memoir will fade quickly, because another book is coming out on January 21, and it looks to be a lot more entertaining–the tell-all book about Fox News’ Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, by Gabriel Sherman. Excerpts started leaking out yesterday and they are wild! Check these “key revelations” from Gawker:
- During a salary negotiation in the 1980’s, Ailes offered producer Randi Harrison an additional $100 each week she would agree to have sex with him whenever he wanted.
- He also privately thinks of Bill O’Reilly as “a book salesman with a TV show” and Brian Kilmeade as “a soccer coach from Long Island.”
- During a 1990’s power struggle with NBC executive David Zaslav, Ailes was accused of making an anti-Semitic remark involving an obscenity and “the words ‘little’ and ‘Jew’.” NBC’s chairman and counsel believe “he probably said it.”
New York Magazine has published a lengthy except from Sherman’s book and it is the most fascinating and horrifying thing I’ve read in ages. Ailes is far weirder than I ever imagined. The article opens with a description of how Ailes moved into a rural town in upstate New York, hoping to return to his small-town roots, but instead bought the local newspaper and tried to transform it into a mini-Fox News. It’s a riot! Just a small except to whet your appetite for the bizarre:
As summer turned to fall, political issues began to arise. Alison Rooney, the copy editor, at first found reasons to be optimistic about the ownership change. She liked using the new computers to put out the paper and looked forward to the newsroom moving into a renovated two-story building on Main Street. But that honeymoon ended when Rooney laid out a press release from the Garrison Art Center that described a work invoking the “mythological story” of the Virgin Birth. After the release was published, the priest of Our Lady of Loretto wrote a letter to the editor, and Beth Ailes lit into Rooney. A few weeks later, Rooney got another dressing-down as she formatted a promotion of the high school’s upcoming production of Urinetown, this time from an editor who found the language offensive and removed the title of the show from the headline.
Another drama erupted after a reporter named Michael Turton was assigned to cover Haldane Middle School’s mock presidential election. After the event, Turton filed a report headlined “Mock Election Generated Excitement at Haldane; Obama Defeats McCain by 2–1 Margin.” He went on, “The 2008 U.S. presidential election is now history. And when the votes were tallied, Barack Obama had defeated John McCain by more than a two to one margin. The final vote count was 128 to 53.” Reading the published version a few days later, Turton was shocked. The headline had been changed: “Mock Presidential Election Held at Haldane; Middle School Students Vote to Learn Civic Responsibility.” So had the opening paragraph: “Haldane students in grades 6 through 8 were entitled to vote for president and they did so with great enthusiasm.” Obama’s margin of victory was struck from the article. His win was buried in the last paragraph.
Turton was upset, and wrote a questioning e-mail to Hunt, but never heard back. Instead, he received a series of accusatory e-mails from the Aileses. Turton had disregarded “specific instructions” for the piece, Beth wrote. “Do you anticipate this becoming an ongoing problem for you?” A short while later, Roger weighed in. Maureen Hunt’s instructions to focus on the school’s process for teaching about elections had been “very clear,” he wrote, and Turton’s “desire to change the story into a big Obama win” should have taken a backseat. Ailes described himself as “disappointed” by Turton’s failure “to follow the agreed upon direction.”
Soon afterward, Turton learned that Maureen Hunt had resigned, and Ailes continued his quest to bring “fair and balanced” to Philipstown.
Since I’ve been discussing new books so far, I guess I might as well continue. On Tuesday, The New York Times published interviews with some of the activists who broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971 and stole a massive number of files. They took the files to a remote location, studied them for ten days, and found evidence of the illegal FBI domestic spying program COINTELPRO. Unlike Edward Snowden, the burglars swore to keep their identities a secret so that the story itself would get all the public attention. From the Times article:
They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups….
The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.
“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”
That’s heroism in my book. They revealed real government abuses that had been almost unknown until they found the proof. Now one of the reporters who helped get the story out, Betty Medsger, has written a book called The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI. It came out this week, and I’m dying to read it.
By contrast Snowden and his PR man Glenn Greenwald have so far revealed very little that we didn’t already know or suspect about NSA domestic spying and have spent most of the seven months since they began rolling out their revelations 1) publishing articles about the NSA spying on foreign countries and their partnerships with foreign countries who have few espionage resources; 2) giving self-aggrandizing interviews and bragging about all the secrets they have; 3) Defending Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. At the same time Greenwald has sold book and movie rights and worked on a media start up funded by libertarian E-bay and Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. I haven’t heard anything about Greenwald sharing his earnings with Edward Snowden either.
Fortunately some in the media are beginning to point out inconsistencies in Snowden’s and Greenwald’s behavior. Here is an op-ed by Doyle McManus that lays out the case very well. Edward Snowden, in shades of gray I agree with just about everything he wrote.
Debate over the renegade computer technician who leaked thousands of secret National Security Agency documents is too often reduced to that deceptively simple choice.
But it’s the wrong way to pose the question, because Snowden is both of those things at the same time. Yes, he’s a whistle-blower, and if that were all he had done, he would deserve our thanks for forcing a debate over the NSA’s swollen powers.
But he’s also a scoundrel who deserves prosecution and public condemnation. That’s because his leaks no longer seem focused on protecting U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights or toughening safeguards on the NSA. Instead, Snowden’s disclosures have expanded far beyond those laudable aims to exposing U.S. intelligence-gathering operations that appear not only legal but legitimate in the eyes of most Americans.
McManus is referring to revelations about the NSA doing it’s job, which is gathering foreign intelligence to protect national security. A little more:
“…most of those disclosures, from Merkel to Al Qaeda, have nothing to do with Americans’ right to privacy. Snowden has acknowledged that his ambitions go far beyond limiting what the NSA can do at home. “I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European or Asian,” he told the Guardian in June.
Well, OK. But that makes him, by his own description, a global crusader against NSA spying anywhere, not merely a whistle-blower against potential abuses inside the United States. It means some of his disclosures have made Americans safer against government prying, but others have probably made us less safe.
And for a man who proclaims himself a fighter for universal rights, accepting asylum in Russia and praising his hosts for their devotion to freedom does not strengthen his claim to consistency, let alone nobility.
I’ll end there and turn the floor over to you. What stories are you following today. Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great Thursday!
We’re only a few days from the 50th anniversary of the day the President of the United States was shot down on a Dallas street. You’d think an event like that would lead to a serious investigation and efforts to bring those involved to justice.
Instead we were told within hours that President Kennedy had been murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald. Two days later Oswald was shot dead in the Dallas Police station by Jack Ruby, and the investigation, such as it was, ended.
At the time, even FBI director J. Edgar Hoover told newly sworn President Lyndon Johnson (in a recorded phone call) that the case against Oswald was too weak to get a conviction. Later, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry would say, “We don’t have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle, and never did. Nobody’s yet been able to put him in that building with a gun in his hand.”
Oswald supposedly shot Kennedy with a rifle at 12:30 from a window on the 6th floor of the Dallas Book Deposititory Building. Approximately 90 seconds after the shooting, Oswald was seen by Dallas police officer Marion Baker and Oswald’s boss Ray Truly in the lunch room on the 2nd floor of the building calmly drinking a coke. From Wikipedia:
According to Baker, Oswald did not appear to be nervous or out of breath. Truly said that Oswald appeared “startled” when Baker aimed his gun at him. Mrs. Robert Reid—clerical supervisor at the Depository, returning to her office within two minutes of the assassination—said that she saw Oswald who “was very calm” on the second floor with a Coke in his hands.
Meanwhile, a young woman named Victoria Adams was watching the presidential motorcade from a window on the 4th floor of the book depository building. From a review of the book The Girl on the Stairs, by Barry Ernest:
She was an employee who worked in the same building as one Lee Harvey Oswald. The problem caused by her presence is very simple and easily summarized. Adams, along with her friend Sandra Styles, stood on the fourth floor of the Texas School Book Depository at the moment of the murder. She testified to hearing three shots, which from her vantage point appeared to be coming from the right of the building (i.e., from the grassy knoll). She and Styles then ran to the stairs to head down. This was the only set of stairs that went all the way to the top of the building. Both she and her friend took them down to the ground floor. She did not see or hear Oswald. Yet, she should have if he were on the sixth floor traveling downwards. Which is what the Commission said he did after he shot Kennedy.
This is the first problem, in a nutshell. Why did Adams not see a scrambling Oswald, flying down the stairs in pursuit of his Coca-Cola? Because of the Warren Commission’s timeline, we know Oswald had to have gone down the stairs during this period in order to be accosted in time by a motorcycle policeman. In addition, as we are later to discover, Adams also reports seeing Jack Ruby on the corner of Houston and Elm, “questioning people as though he were a policeman.”
Adams soon learned that the government didn’t want to hear what she had to say about what she had observed–and not observed on the day of the assassination. She was repeatedly “badgered” to change her story. She was also pressured by the investigator for the Warren Commission when she was interviewed in Dallas. Adams eventually moved away from Dallas, married and changed her name. Author Barry Ernest found her and talked to her before she died, and her story remained the same.
Recently Adams’ friend Sandra Styles was interviewed on the Travel channel. Styles still says she saw no one on the stairs. She says she believes Oswald probably shot Kennedy, but perhaps there were others involved “pulling the strings.” Watch the interview at the link.
Along with the fact that no gunshot residue was found on Oswald’s hands (although he was accused of shooting Dallas police officer JD Tippit with a handgun) or on his cheek (where it would be if he had shot a rifle), that is enough reasonable doubt for me to believe that Oswald was what he claimed–a patsy.
Here’s a longer video with most of the statements Oswald made in custody before he was killed by Jack Ruby.
We were told that Oswald was a lunatic, a loser who wanted to be famous for killing the most powerful man in the country. But to me, he didn’t sound crazy, and if he wanted to be famous for the assassination of the president, why did he repeatedly say he hadn’t and ask for a lawyer to defend him?
Please, if you read any of the hundreds of articles that will appear in the corporate media over the next few days, think about these basic facts; because they probably will not appear in the news stories. After 50 years, there is so much information out there–and so many ridiculous theories as well–that it is extremely difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
But remember that a conspiracy is just cooperation between two or more people to commit a crime (or cover one up). A conspiracy doesn’t even require a second shooter. It just requires that someone besides the person who pulled the trigger knew something or did something. If no one else but Oswald was involved, why has there been a 50-year effort by the government and the media to keep information about the assassination and “investigation” secret from the American people?
Personally, I think Jefferson Morley’s website “JFK Facts” is the best place to get accurate information and avoid nonsense about the assassination of President Kennedy. Morley is a former Washington Post reporter who has spent years trying to get the CIA to release the last 1,100 JFK-assassination-related files they are keeping secret. The CIA (and the FBI) had extensive knowledge of Oswald before the shooting, and there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that he was an intelligence asset. Morley identifies the “top 7 JFK files the CIA still keeps secret.” These files involve CIA personnel who knew about Oswald and his history as well as Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko, who had access to KGB files on Oswald.
Yesterday someone actually asked White House press secretary Jay Carney about the embargoed files. It’s reported in a story by McClatchy DC on plans for the Obamas and Clintons to visit Kennedy’s grave.
Secretary of State John Kerry told Parade magazine this week that he had “serious doubts” that gunman Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing Kennedy, but the White House wouldn’t say Monday where Obama falls on the conspiracy theory.
“I haven’t had a discussion with the president about Kennedy’s assassination — President Kennedy’s assassination,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said. He said he’s also not talked with Obama about whether classified files that have not yet been released in the case should be released.
It’s time for Obama to order the release of the files. If the CIA has nothing to hide and Oswald was a lone assassin who acted alone, why not?
I still have room for a few more reads. This one is really interesting, and it asks a question that seems very relevant: “Do We Live in the Matrix?” From Discover Magazine:
In the 1999 sci-fi film classic The Matrix, the protagonist, Neo, is stunned to see people defying the laws of physics, running up walls and vanishing suddenly. These superhuman violations of the rules of the universe are possible because, unbeknownst to him, Neo’s consciousness is embedded in the Matrix, a virtual-reality simulation created by sentient machines.
The action really begins when Neo is given a fateful choice: Take the blue pill and return to his oblivious, virtual existence, or take the red pill to learn the truth about the Matrix and find out “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Physicists can now offer us the same choice, the ability to test whether we live in our own virtual Matrix, by studying radiation from space. As fanciful as it sounds, some philosophers have long argued that we’re actually more likely to be artificial intelligences trapped in a fake universe than we are organic minds in the “real” one.
But if that were true, the very laws of physics that allow us to devise such reality-checking technology may have little to do with the fundamental rules that govern the meta-universe inhabited by our simulators. To us, these programmers would be gods, able to twist reality on a whim.
So should we say yes to the offer to take the red pill and learn the truth — or are the implications too disturbing?
Go read it–it’s fascinating and disturbing.
It has been 150 years since President Abraham Lincoln got up in front of thousands of people in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at a turning point in the Civil War.
His words are some of the most memorable in American history, forever stamping our collective minds with “four score and seven years ago,” and “all men are created equal,” and of course a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
A few more links on the anniversary:
The Wichita Eagle: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address changed the American psyche, KU professor says
So . . . this post has mostly focused on history. I should include a few links to current news stories, but I can’t bring myself to do it; I’m going to end here, and post my news links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same.
Have a great day!
In less than two weeks, our nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently reading books and articles about the assassination and it’s aftermath. I have wanted to write a post about it, but I just haven’t been able to do it. For me, the JFK assassination is still a very painful issue–in fact, it has become more and more painful for me over the years as I’ve grown older and wiser and more knowledgeable about politics and history. Anyway, I thought I’d take a shot at writing about it this morning. I may have more to say, as we approach the anniversary. I’m going to focus on the role of the media in defending the conclusions of the Warren Commission.
I think most people who have read my posts in the past probably know that I think the JFK assassination was a coup, and that we haven’t really had more than a very limited form of democracy in this country since that day. We probably will never know who the men were who shot at Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, but anyone who has watched the Zapruder film with anything resembling an open mind, has to know that there was more than one shooter; because Kennedy was shot from both the front and back.
The reasons Kennedy died are varied and complex. He had angered a number of powerful groups inside as well as outside the government.
– Powerful members of the mafia had relationships with JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy, and at his behest had helped carry Illinois–and perhaps West Virginia–for his son. These mafia chiefs expected payback, but instead, they got Bobby Kennedy as Attorney General on a crusade to destroy organized crime. In the 1960s both the CIA and FBI had used the mafia to carry out operations.
– FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover hated Bobby Kennedy for “interfering” with the FBI by ordering Hoover to hire more minorities and generally undercutting Hoover’s absolute control of the organization.
– Elements within the CIA hated Kennedy for his refusal to provide air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion (which had been planned by Vice President Nixon well before the 1960 election), and for firing CIA head Allen Dulles.
– Texas oil men like H.L. Hunt and Clint Murchison hated Kennedy for pushing for repeal of the oil depletion allowance.
– The military hated Kennedy because of the Bay of Pigs, his decision to defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis by pulling U.S. missiles out of Turkey in return for removal of the missiles from Cuba instead of responding with a nuclear attack, his efforts to reach out to both the Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union and Fidel Castro of Cuba, his firing of General Edward Walker, and his decision to pull the military “advisers” out of Vietnam.
– Vice President Lyndon Johnson hated both Kennedys, and he knew he was on the verge of being dropped from the presidential ticket in 1964. In addition, scandals involving his corrupt financial dealings were coming to a head, and the Kennedys were pushing the stories about Johnson cronies Bobby Baker and Billy Sol Estes in the media.
What I know for sure is that after what happened to Kennedy (and to Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy), there is no way any president would dare to really challenge the military and intelligence infrastructure within the government. Richard Nixon found that out when a number of the same people who were involved in the Kennedy assassination helped to bring him down.
To long-term government bureaucracies, the POTUS is just passing through the government that they essentially control. Any POTUS who crosses them too often is asking for trouble. People who think President Obama should simply force the CIA, NSA, FBI and the military to respect the rights of American citizens should think about that for a minute. Can we as a nation survive the assassination of another president?
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