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The [Friday] Papers

The Chicago Tribune's account of Gen. Michael Hayden's testimony to a Senate committee considering his nomination to be the next CIA director is startling.

From the top:

"Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated to be the next director of the CIA, told a Senate committee Thursday that he initially doubted the legality of a Bush administration program to expand domestic wiretaps on U.S. citizens after the Sept. 11 attacks, but that White House officials convinced him the program was lawful."

White House officials convinced him the program was lawful? Does that sound like a legitimate legal opinion? What did the Constitutional experts at the NSA say?

"Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is considering his CIA nomination, he at first told then-CIA Director George Tenet that the NSA was doing all that the law allowed on surveillance."

You would think that would be the case. Why would the NSA hold back?

"Director Tenet came back to me and said, 'Is there anything more you can do?' Hayden testified. "And I said, 'Not within my current authorities.' And he invited me to come down and talk to the administration about what more could be done."

So the White House had to talk him into it. And it did. Questions about Hayden's ability to act independently of politics and presidential power become clearer.

"After that talk, Hayden said, he was convinced the NSA could go further. Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft provided the NSA with a memo giving a basis for that eavesdropping authority, he said.

"Hayden said he did not read the memo, but on Oct. 6, 2001, the NSA launched what the Bush administration has called a terrorist surveillance program. That program - along with the reported NSA collection of millions of domestic phone records from telephone companies for analysis - has complicated Hayden's confirmation."

Hayden did not read the memo.

Does this make you feel more secure? Or do you get the sense that this is an Administration making things up as they go - including the law?

Bell Toll: "As lawsuits mount against BellSouth Corp., the phone company faxed a letter to USA Today demanding the newspaper retract 'the faults and unsubstantiated statements' outlined in an article naming the company as having provided domestic calling records to the National Security Agency."


That letter is probably still sitting in a basket next to the broken copy machine by the college interns.

Krazy Koran
I haven't read the Koran in its entirety, but I'm pretty sure what Neil Steinberg wrote about it today isn't true: "If you read the Quran, all of Christianity is dismissed as one big blasphemy - as saying something dirty about God, because suggesting Jesus is the son of God implies He's having procreative sex and siring sons."

Code Breakers
* Maybe Steinberg meant to say, "If you read The Da Vinci Code . . . "

* Maybe the hype around The Da Vinci Code has misled critics into thinking it's an important film rather than just another piece of Hollywood trifle like RV, resulting in overthought critical analyses that nevertheless serve to buy wholly into the studio's PR campaign.

* Roger Ebert seems to think so. "On second thought, maybe it was not such a great idea to hold the world premiere of The Da Vinci Code at the Cannes Film Festival.The critical reception here was negative, but what would you expect? As someone who enjoyed the film (good, not great; better than the book), I am possibly typical of many of the people who will pay to see it. But when you open at Cannes, those people are not your target audience," Ebert writes today.

"As for the critics who saw the film here even before the festival began, they are very serious, never more serious than on opening night, when they suspect they are witnessing the death of the cinema. . . . I suppose it takes a certain perversity to say, hey, it's not that bad; it's more or less precisely what you would imagine a movie made from The Da Vinci Code to be like."

* The official opening dinner after the Da Vinci Code screening was at the Palais Du Festival. So maybe that's where the blood in the water did not belong to Jesus.

Are Cubs players dumb?

This became a brief topic of debate on The Score yesterday, and that was before Neifi Perez tried to bunt his way on with two outs and two runners on in the bottom of the 9th, down by two runs.

Perez said later that he was trying to load the bases for . . . John Mabry.

"Manager Dusty Baker defended Perez's decision as the proper one," the Sun-Times reported.

The Cubs continuing glaring lack of fundamentals does not speak well for Baker. True enough, he wasn't the one at the plate in the bottom of the 9th. But on a well-managed team, Perez would have known what the proper hitting strategy was in that situation, and that it wasn't to bunt.

Baker should have made sure that Perez knew. On a team like this, as much as you would like to show trust in your players, you can't take a laissez-faire approach.

But we've seen it over and over again with Baker.

Perhaps an even better example of how Baker's management style does not fit this team is the fact that the Cubs are last in the National League in on-base percentage and walks.

Blame Jim Hendry for this roster, sure. And blame Andy MacPhail for a still-sucky minor league organization that does not produce finished players. But blame Baker too for not insisting his players learn how to take smarter at-bats - or else.

Illinois Has To Go, Too
"The Senate agreed on Thursday to make English the national language of the United States and moments later also adopted a milder alternative calling English the country's 'unifying language.'" (Reuters, 5/18).

"City of Skunk Cabbage" has a nice ring to it, but restenciling all those garbage trucks is going to cost a fortune.

- Tim Willette

The Beachwood Tip Line: In any language you like, as long as it's not an official one.


Posted on May 19, 2006

MUSIC - Who's Next In Chicago Rap.
TV - Tribune-Nexstar Deal Is Bad News.
POLITICS - Big Soda Hates You.
SPORTS - Harold vs. the Haters.

BOOKS - Wright Brothers, Wrong Story!

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Go Ahead, Eat Raw Cookie Dough!

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