Hypocrisy Alert

White House Visitors: A public privilege


Well, well. It looks like what's good for the Democrats is not so good for the Republicans. Remember how President Clinton's opponents used the White House's visitor logs to learn about a bunch of stuff Clinton would much rather have kept on the down-low (a list of donors, Monica Lewinsky's visits, fundraisers, etc.)?

Now, the Bush administration is seeking to keep the visitor logs under wraps, even as a federal appeals court seems to question the legitimacy of the argument that the visitor records being protected under executive privilege (as White House documents) and out of the public's hands for about a decade. In December, another federal judge ordered that the records, kept by the Secret Service, be released. The Associated Press reports that, "If released, the documents would show how often prominent religious conservatives visited the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's residence, allowing a glimpse into how much influence they exerted on government policy."

Gosh. What, specifically, is the Bush administration trying to hide? One judge on the panel tried to get to the bottom of it when he asked, "What in the documents are so quintessentially presidential?" He didn't seem to accept that the name of a visitor was to be protected.

"That's a public building. You can stand out on 17th Street and watch who goes in and out," said the judge. We hope that the courts ultimately see that citizen groups have a right to know who is glad-handing the president and why.

I cannot wait for the new administration to start looking into this. The members of the current administration took an oath to uphold the United States Constitution; instead, they have treated it like it was an American Flag at a rally led by Islamic Rage Boy. Bring on the special investigations; bring on articles of impeachment; bring on aggressive interrogation techniques: the country is a war and extreme measures are called for. I'm sure Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Ashcroft, et al., wouldn't mind a little fun, frat-boy prank style.


Another Saturday at the Friends of the Library

Another glorious day in Southern California, just perfect for a trip to the Friends of the Library bookstore at our friendly neighborhood public library. Little did we know that a local history buff had recently unloaded his heavily laden shelves of near perfect tomes on WW2 and related issues. We really outdid ourselves today, and have laden our own shelves with the following gems:

"Stalingrad - The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943" by Antony Beevor

"The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912" by Thomas Pakenham

"The Pity of War: Explaining World War I" by Niall Ferguson

"Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

"The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War" by Martin Gilbert

"Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew" by Richard Breitman

"The Arms of Krupp: The Rise and Fall of the Industrial Dynasty That Armed Germany at War" by William Manchester

This is heavy stuff indeed, but (after we plow through the many other unopened books sitting on our shelves) we are anxious to dig in. Last year, we read "Les Bienveillantes" by Jonathan Littell. It is a book written in French by an American, recounting WWII from the perspective of one man on the "inside". It is probably the first book written in French by an American to win the prestigious "Grand Prix du Roman" of the Académie Française. In it, Jonathan Littell lets us relive the horrors of the Second World War from the point of view of an SS officer: the epic of a man propelled by the struggle within himself and by events beyond his control. Among the challenges he faces is the Russian Front in winter 1942-1943, struggling to survive and to come to terms with his conscience.

The same period is the subject of "Stalingrad - The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943". The jacket cover gives us a glimpse of what awaits us inside:

"On August 23, 1942, Hitler's 16th Panzer Division halted on the banks of the Volga. To their [sic] right, the city of Stalingrad blazed from the first of General von Richthofen's air raids, which ultimately killed 40,000 civilians. Many German soldiers thought the war against Russia was won. But in Stalin's namesake city on the Volga, Hitler had chosen the wrong target. The battle of Stalingrad would be the most pitiless, and perhaps the most important, battle in history. When the fighting was over, the world would begin to believe for the first time that Hitler could be defeated. The story of Stalingrad is extraordinary in every way. Hitler had told General Paulus that with his Sixth Army, the most powerful in the Wehrmacht, he could 'storm the heavens.' But then, in a sudden encirclement, over a quarter of a million of Paulus's men were trapped. Far from home, the attackers were subjected to a terrible siege in a cruel Russian winter, as Goering's boasts that the Luftwaffe could maintain supplies proved empty. Hitler, unable to face the truth of his own disaster, refused his starved and frozen army permission to surrender. Goebbels ordered that their last letters home be destroyed".

We have many pages to go before can begin cracking these, but have much to look forward to. Much to which to look forward? Argghh!


Gosh - we forgot we also picked up "Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang (Author), Jon Halliday in hardcover. We're reading "Monsieur Le Consul" by Lucien Bodard right now. It is a fictionalized account of the author's actual youth in China, as the son of the French Consul General to China in the early 20th Century, before the Cultural Revolution. The China depicted is filthy, violent, almost feudal, with warring factions led by "Seigneurs de la Guerre" (war lords) abusing their power for personal and political gain. Our interest has been so piqued by Bodard's stories, that we are feeling pulled in the direction of reading "Mao: The Unknown Story" by Jung Chang (Author), Jon Halliday before we jump back into Europe. Merveilleux!


Quote(s) of the Day

"Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace." Dwight D. Eisenhower

"A leader is a dealer in hope." Napoleon Bonaparte

"Duty, honour, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn." Douglas MacArthur

"We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes." John F. Kennedy

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." Martin Luther King Jr.

"Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions." Ronald Reagan

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." Abraham Lincoln

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." Dwight Eisenhower