Condi on the Stand


They call her the Warrior Princess. This morning she went into battle once more in defense of Prince Charming of Crawford, Texas– who, as I have said, fell asleep and turned back into a frog, croaking “Iraq, Iraq.”

Even before he was anointed as our sovereign–he was warned by the departing administration about threats to our country from terrorists based in Afghanistan. That is, his courtiers were warned. –again and again. How much of it they relayed to the Prince remains in question.

In hours on the stand, the Princess refused to remember that she had ever talked to him about Al Qaeda until that day, or that even then he was still croaking, “Iraq, Iraq.” There was lots of hard evidence to that effect but she tried to cover it with a smokescreen of verbiage, much of it repetitive and beside the point. It did emerge, though, that he’d said going after al Qaeda for its known crimes against the U. S. was like swatting flies.

It was amusing to watch a former prosecutor, Richard Ben-Veniste, fighting to get a short, straight answer. It took several commissioners finally to get her to admit that a briefing paper titled Bin Laden planning something big in U.S. meant he was planning something big in the U.S. She did get in one poke at one of the commissioners, Bob Kerrey, the former Senator and former war criminal in Vietnam. She snapped that he too had once said we ought not bother with bin Laden but go after Saddam Hussein instead. It was useful to be reminded that this war has been a bipartisan catastrophe.


Rigging the Wheel

Dow Jones replaced three stocks on its index of leading industrials and presto–the market jumped a couple of hundred points — as measured by the Dow-Jones average. Don’t laugh— there’s a lot of money riding on those averages — including money from pension funds, invested without consulting the workers it belongs to

Pensions are being cut, so we need Social Security more than ever –but dear me, here comes the Times again, calling for a fix. For 25 years now it’s been warning that Social Security would go broke at a date certain– unless we plugged the deficit–and we kept plugging it — though there never was a deficit. The “great white lie,” they once called it.

On Sunday, the Times sounded as if it had finally become fond of Social Security. It told us not to worry, it just needs a couple of fixes. The ones it favors are to push retirement off to age 70, and to trim the cost-of-living adjustment. But they’ve been doing this all along. They got the retirement age up to 67. And they quietly rejiggered the consumer price index by half a point a couple of years ago,

That was after a propaganda campaign by the Times’s own Senator Moynihan and other enemies of social welfare They argued that inflation never hit the standard of living, because when steak goes up, people switch to chicken. And they got away with it — the consumers’ market basket was adjusted the way the Dow -Jones average was adjusted. Now the Times wants to give it another fix. Maybe put us on beans.

It’s all the more vile because like other rich companies, the Times is pushing employees to retire in their fifties and welshing on retirement benefits. But it tries to maintain an air of balance. Check out Bob Herbert, who shows how the bullish numbers on employment cover up a disaster for American workers. That is Op-Ed — opposite the editorial line.


Pulitzer Turnabout

American journalism crowned a new champion this week- the Los Angeles Times. With five Pulitzer prizes, it rather dimmed the luster of the seven that were heaped on the New York Times last year, largely as a tribute to 9-11 and all that. It got only one Pulitzer this year — well earned, for the series about the physical harm done to workers on the job. But the celebration on 43d Street had to be subdued by the absence of Howell Raines, the editor who was fired in the uproar over Jayson Blair.

In an article in the Atlantic that is, like my memoir, entitled My Times, Raines makes it clear that he was shafted by his friend the publisher, for a misjudgment that ad I pointed out harmed nobody but the Times. He overlooks other sins. The Pulitzer board underlined one of them. It gave a special prize to the Toledo Blade for its inquest into the crimes of a unit of Special Forces in Vietnam. It was terrific reporting and timely, in light of the enhanced role of such units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was picked up by the AP and a few other papers–but the Times ignored it . An editor explained that it was another paper’s story–not ours.

Talking about ethics, truth and the Times, check out the website Daily Howler. It reports that the conservative writer David Brooks was caught lying bodaciously in a political essay. First he denied it, then he said sure, he made up some facts. They appeared in a piece for the Atlantic monthly–small world. For the same offense, Jayson Blair was fired, and Howell Raines was fired. Brooks was hired by the Times, and continues to make up facts.

To be continued.

JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.


JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.