Thursday, December 16, 2004

Two more front page nominees (Plus the vanishing post)

For stories that should have made the front page of the New York Times today, Brad and Shondra both picked "Ex-Military Lawyers Object to Bush Cabinet Nominee" by Neil A. Lewis ( Both feel that with Alberto Gonzales being nominated to replace Ashcroft as the head of the Justice Dept., the fact that objections are being raised to his nomination is news.

Rachel Maddow & Lizz Winstead obviously do as well, they devoted a large segment to this on Unfiltered this morning. Lewis' has written a strong story so please check it out.

Mr. Gonzales, as White House counsel, oversaw the drafting of several confidential legal memorandums that critics said sanctioned the torture of terrorism suspects in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and opened the door to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A memorandum prepared under Mr. Gonzales's supervision by a legal task force concluded that Mr. Bush was not bound either by an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation.

The memorandum also said that executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons, including a belief by interrogators that they were acting on orders from superiors "except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful." Another memorandum said the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hutson, who is dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., said that Mr. Gonzales "was not thinking about the impact of his behavior on U.S. troops in this war and others to come."

"He was not thinking about the United States' history in abiding by international law, especially in the wartime context," he said. "For that reason, some of us think he is a poor choice to be attorney general."

. . .

Brig. Gen. James Cullen, retired from the Army, said on Wednesday that he believed that in supervising the memorandums, Mr. Gonzales had purposely ignored the advice of lawyers whose views did not accord with the conclusions he sought, which was that there was some legal justification for illegal behavior.

"He went forum-shopping," General Cullen said, saying Mr. Gonzales had ignored the advice of military lawyers adamantly opposed to some of the legal strategies adopted, including narrowly defining torture so as to make it difficult to prove it occurred. "When you create these kinds of policies that can eventually be used against your own soldiers, when we say 'only follow the Geneva Conventions as much as it suits us,' when we take steps that the common man would understand is torture, this undermines what we are supposed to be, and many of us find it appalling," he said.

The other one is via Keesha and it's Douglas Jehl's A30 story "It's Planes vs. Satellites in Debate on Spying: Critics of Secret Program Say Aircraft Will Be More Effective" (

This article opens with the following:

An alternative to a new, highly classified $9.5 billion stealth satellite program that is the subject of a Congressional dispute calls on the United States to rely much more heavily on high-flying unmanned aircraft to take pictures of critical targets around the world, former government officials and private experts say.

That alternative is part of a classified proposal endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has tried since September 2003 to kill the new satellite program, the officials and experts said. The Senate panel has portrayed the program as too expensive and unnecessary, but backing from the House, the Bush administration and Congressional appropriators has sustained the program, which is designed to create a new generation of reconnaissance satellites that could orbit undetected.

Three other things.

1) Naomi Klein will be co-hosting The Majority Report with Sam Seder tonight (Thursday) on Air America.

2) The Times runs a correction today that effects last night's blog entry [see].

According to the correction, the story did run in Weds. print edition. I've gone through Weds.' paper again and can't find it but I must be missing it. (Unless it didn't make all editions of yesterday's papers.) My apologies for that.

The Times corrects the way in which they billed an unnamed source -- an "executive" should have been identified as that and not as "a real estate executive." We typed -- last night --"(That person is unnamed and identified as "the person who spoke to Mr. Kerik about the matter.")" so there's no need for last night's post to be edited for correction.

3) On the subject of Alberto Gonzales. Is there a reason Diane Clemens is ommitted from the coverage on him? Billie e-mailed asking that. Clemens was Gonzales' first wife (they divorced). Billie wasn't sure anyone would know -- she says she just wanted to "put that out there."

[Note this post is being edited to add to it the blog entry that has apparently just vanished. This entry was originally posted between this post and the blog entry before. I'm adding it below. ]

Allawi Can't Leave the Green Zone Without Protection; Macaca munzala; In China, workers take on Wal-Mart supplier; Rumsfeld facing criticism from his own party

Four stories that could have easily replaced the two weaks ones that made the front page of this morning's New York Times.

With most groups acknowledging that the insurgency will make it largely impossible to hold Western-style rallies, campaigning is expected to consist mainly of television pitches. That arena may favor Dr. Allawi, with easier access to the country's two main broadcast television channels, one of them government-operated and the other American-financed.
Dr. Allawi's campaign started on an unpropitious note, when American and Iraqi forces closed off sections of central Baghdad so he could leave the Green Zone and cross the Tigris River to declare his candidacy at a sports club. But Western reporters judged the three-mile journey to be too hazardous in the bus provided by Allawi aides, and remained behind.
Five hours later, he stood before fewer than 60 people, about half of whom were his own aides. With American bodyguards in flak jackets and cradling automatic weapons patrolling the club's auditorium, Dr. Allawi read a brief statement and returned hastily to the Green Zone.

The above is from the A16 article "As Iraqi Campaign Begins, A Bomb Kills 9 in Karabala" ( by John F. Burns and Robert F. Worth. This is strong writing and the elections are supposed to happen next month despite the fact that Allawi can't leave the Green Zone without heavy protection. (And apparantly can't pack in a crowd to hear him speak when he does leave the Green Zone.)

Cornelia Dean's "Stocky Monkey in Himalayas Is a Shy Rarity: A New Species" ( details the sighting of Macaca munzala ("or Arunachal macaque") which is news because:

Though new species of insects and other tiny creatures turn up frequently, discoveries of primate species unknown to science are far more unusual. The last macaque monkey species to be identified, the Indonesia Pagai macaque, was discovered in 1903, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the parent organization of the Bronx Zoo. The society was a supporter of the expeditions, this year and last, in which the monkeys were observed.

Howard W. French's "Workers Demand Union at Wal-Mart Supplier in China" ( details the struggle of "12,000 workers" in China as they attempt to take on a Wal-Mart supplier. Strong writing, strong topic:

Asked if they were afraid of losing their jobs, they scoffed at the idea, saying workers were in short supply in Shenzhen's vast manufacturing zone.
"If we were men, there would have been a strike a long time ago," one woman said. "Women are easier to bully, but we have hearts of steel."

Fourth choice is Todd S. Purdum's "Grumbling Swells on Rumsfeld's Right Flank" (

"I think there are increasing concerns about the secretary's leadership of the war, the repeated failures to predict the strengths of the insurgency, the lack of essential safety equipment for our troops, the reluctance to expand the number of troops," Senator Susan Collins of Maine said Wednesday.
Ms. Collins, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a leader in the recent successful fight to pass a bill overhauling intelligence-gathering, over the objections of some in the Pentagon, added that "all of those are factors that are causing people to raise more questions to the secretary."
The sharp comments by Ms. Collins, together with other recent statements Senator John McCain of Arizona, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led American forces in the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and, after his retirement, twice campaigned for President Bush, suggested that the ground might well be shifting a bit under Mr. Rumsfeld.
Mr. Rumsfeld has been the subject of criticism and the butt of jokes on late-night television since he answered a complaint by Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard about a lack of armor on vehicles bound for Iraq by asserting, "You go to war with the Army you have." But several Republican aides on Capitol Hill, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was an op-ed article in The Washington Post on Wednesday by William Kristol that distilled the criticism. Mr. Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had long been one of the war's most ardent supporters among intellectuals, but he cast Mr. Rumsfeld's comments as part of a broader pattern of misjudgments and buck-passing and concluded that Mr. Rumsfeld was not up to winning the peace. "Surely Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have for the remainder of his second term," he wrote. American soldiers "deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have."

This is an important story and more than worthy of the front page. Possibly, due to it's reliance on op-ed writing that's already been published and public statements made on TV (MSNBC, CNN) and to the AP made the Times decide this wasn't a story to lead with on the front page? If so, I think the decision was a mistake. Iraq is news, criticism of Rumsfeld's performance is news. When it comes from his own party, one would think it would be even bigger news.

Rachel Maddow just mentioned Common Cause on Unfiltered. The web site is and they're addressing the issue of the sort of revolving doors that lead Billy Tauzin from Congress to becoming the president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
I'm not finding that issue but Comon Cause is worth checking out.