Times Watch for January 22, 2004
Gov. Pataki's High-Spending Love-In
James McKinley Jr. sends a valentine to New York Gov. George Pataki after his budget address called for more government spending, in "Pataki Proposes a Budget Even Lawmakers Can Love." The key point: "The plan has a healthy 3.5 percent increase in spending, despite a $5.1 billion shortfall between revenue and expenses."
McKinley finds this a welcome change from Pataki's former "hard-line" anti-tax and anti-spending stance: "His remarks on Tuesday were a far cry from last year, when he declared he would never allow increases in 'job-killing taxes' and proposed slashing the education budget by $2 billion. That plan led to a rebellion among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who passed tax increases over his veto. This year, the governor stressed togetherness and optimism in his 55-minute budget address. Gone was his hard-line stance against raising taxes or spending. He talked of striking a balance between fiscal restraint and the need to improve education and provide health care. He spoke rosily of how the state was 'beginning to emerge from a period of economic uncertainty to the dawn of a new era of hope and optimism.'"
For the rest of McKinley's story on Pataki, click here.
" James McKinley Jr. | New York | Gov. George Pataki | Spending | Taxes
Douglas Jehl's Dubious CIA Sources
A group of retired CIA agents and analysts are pressing Congress for an inquiry into the alleged White House outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, and Douglas Jehl finds it significant: "Their request, outlined in a letter on Tuesday to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and others, reflects discontent and unrest within the intelligence services about the affair, along with concern that a four-month-old Justice Department investigation into the matter may never identify who was behind the disclosure," Jehl writes in Thursday's Times.
Jehl pumps up the potential import: "It is unusual for former intelligence officers to petition Congress on a matter like this. The unmasking of Ms. Plame is viewed within spy circles as an unforgivable breach of secrecy that must be exhaustively investigated and prosecuted, current and former intelligence officials say. (No matter than Plame later unmasked herself in a photo spread for Vanity Fair magazine.)
Jehl continues: "The 10 former intelligence officers who signed the letter include respected intelligence analysts and retired case officers, including at least two, John McCavitt and William Wagner, who were C.I.A. station chiefs overseas. The former analysts include Larry C. Johnson, a former analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department's intelligence branch, and Ray Close and Ray McGovern, former C.I.A. analysts in the agency's Near East division."
Yet as Eric Umansky points out in Slate, the Times doesn't delve into the background of "respected analysts" McGovern and Close, part of an ad-hoc group calling itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). VIPS open letter to the president on the Niger-uranium flap was posted on the far-left website Counterpunch. (There's more about VIPS here.)
McGovern has made some interesting conspiratorial anti-war musings regarding the Iraq war. Last April, he suggested the U.S. would plant WMD if they failed to find it: "Some of my colleagues are virtually certain that there will be some weapons of mass destruction found, even though they might have to be planted. I'm just as sure that some few will be found, but not in an amount that by any stretch would justify the charge of a threat against the US or anyone else."
Jehl isn't the only one to ignore VIPS track record; columnist Nicholas Kristof treated them as a reliable source in a July column.
For the rest of Jehl's story, click here.
" CIA | Iraq War | Douglas Jehl | Niger | Valerie Plame | VIPS
"Tainted" by "Cold War Paranoia"
"A Puppet Fantasy Evokes the True Aftermath of Hiroshima," is the title for new theatre critic Margo Jefferson's review of an unusual theatre piece, Hiroshima Maiden, on the 1955 visit to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery by young Japanese women disfigured from the bombing. Jefferson takes a pro forma liberal shot at "cold war paranoia," writing: "Then, to dramatize America's willful naivete during those years, [playwright Dan Hurlin] contrasts the maiden's story with that of a sheltered, middle-class American boy. Sheltered yes, but tainted by the cold war paranoia of bomb drills in school and dire media warnings about the Soviet threat."
For the rest of Jefferson's review, click here.
" Cold War | Margo Jefferson | Soviet Union | Theatre