Hog is dead--long live Hog!


Monday, October 31, 2005

[Supreme Court]

Evolving Response

I spent most of the day in the Kremlin, purty-uppin the new house. This meant I listened to an entire day's cycle on NPR (all the while not being able to blog--not an altogether delightful situation). Normally this means hearing essentially the same news repeated by different reporters throughout the day. The battle lines for today's news having been drawn, I really expected more of the same. (Example: Bush nominated Alito. Republicans thinkhe's dandy, Dems are cautious but appear displeased. Abortion. Etc.)

Again today, though, the Dems were the party on-message, the team whose coordination drove the cycle and changed the conversation. At first the discussion seemed to be about abortion, but the Dems weren't going there. They kept to the point about Bush running scared and this nomination representing a massive capitulation to extemists. They emphasized that Americans don't want a fanatic. Rather than focus on the issue as offered by the MSM, the Dems seem to have been similarly taken by the Chittister case (as I was). They were describing Alito as a judicial activist.

All the while, the GOP waffled and wandered. They were in a natural quandry: it's hard to paint the Dems as obstructionist when you torpedoed the last nominee. It's hard to paint the Dems as extremists when the reason you torpedoed the last nominee was because she wasn't extreme enough. The MSM, in their continual he-said, she-said formulation, tried to get the Dems to play their role (as defined by the GOP), but the Dems seemed to be off on their own thing.

By the time All Things Considered came on, the Dems had successfully shifted to the Chittister case as the Bone of Contention. Rather than target Alito, they were going after Bush for being a slave to the right wing and--shock of shocks--NPR was then querying the GOP on that point. Further, they were pointing out that Bush was clearly just trying to cover up for the war and Libby, and that this nomination was about saving Presidential heinie, not serving the public good. All in all--on NPR, anyway--the Dems seem to have the upper hand on the spin cycle.

Let's see if it means anything.
[Supreme Court]

A Scary Halloween Nomination


Well, that didn't take long. Bush spent exactly four minutes deciding how to respond to his Miers debacle. Go with the radical base. Bush's new Supreme Court nominee, Samuel A. Alito is, by all accounts, a radical to warm the cockles of radical hearts. He appears rigorously anti-abortion, but that doesn't seem to be his most extreme position. He looks to fit the bill for activist Christians, and will almost certainly make rulings that will enhance Christianity's place as the religion of state. He is, it barely bears mentioning, a friend of big business--as all Bush nominees must be.

Most disturbingly, Alito's judicial philosophy is activisit in the extreme. In Chittister v. Department of Community & Economic Development (2000), he ruled that Congress could not compel states to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act. It was overturned in the Supreme Court, where Rehnquist wrote the opinion for the majority.

As a Bushy screw-you to everyone who's not a blueblood white male, Alito has made a number of rulings hostile to minorities, people with disabilities, workers, and elders. Bush, for his part, should get extra credit for cackling evil--he nominated Alito not just on Halloween (should Dobson be mildly put off?), but on the day following Rosa Parks' funeral. It is more than an incidental juxtaposition; with Alito, Bush is actively attempting to thwart the will of Parks and others who spent the past half century making the US a fairer, more equal, more democratic, and more just place.

Okay Dems, the ball is finally, uncomfortably in your court. Now's the time to go to war.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

[Media]

Revisiting the Reporters

I'm off to the Kremlin for painting today, but one thing occurred to me I thought I'd share. An outcome of Libby's indictment is the very clear relationship he had with the subpeonaed reporters in the case (Miller, Cooper et. al.): they were tools in his effort to use classified CIA intelligence to punish a poltical foe. Unless Libby is dumber than Michael Brown (and he's not), he took a gamble when he went into the grand jury. He bet that he could lie about the crime he'd committed and that the only people who could expose the lie--those reporters--would refuse to reveal their sources.

In other words, his status to those reporters was anything but a confidential source. He was feeding them lies, committing a felony, and depending on them to commit yet another felony. That the reporters even considered protecting him seems, now that the indictment has come out, shockingly naive. It is one thing to protect the sources so they don't suffer political or legal backlash for reporting on the misdeeds of people in power. It is quite another to abet the powerful in committing crimes and political assassination against citizens and CIA agents.

If Judy Miller wanted to rehabilitate her reputation, and admission that she was used by the White House in the commission of a crime would be a great place to start.

Friday, October 28, 2005

[Plame Indictments]

Libby is Huge

The conservative reaction, as even Fitzgerald predicted, is minimization. Here's Glenn Reynolds:
Lying to a grand jury is serious, if true. The rest is Martha Stewart stuff. But this isn't the Libby-Rove-Cheney takedown that the lefties have been hoping for -- there's not even a charge of "outing" a covert agent -- and the very extravagance of their hopes will make this seem much less significant. If there's no more, this will probably do Bush little harm.
This is patent BS. Three things bear mentioning, and then I'll shut up on this for the near term. Scooter Libby is one of the inner circle--he's not a fringe character. A year ago, the suggestion that the Plame investigation might turn up a player of this stature would have been too much to hope for. The second point is that we've watched the classic game by the right--set the bar very high (or low) and then declare victory when something fails to meet the false expectations. Claiming that the failure to indict Rove (now) as a victory is a perverse way to look at things.

Finally, appropos of Reynolds' claim that Bush will be little hurt by this, I think we're beginning to see the pretty dramatic deviation between the echo chamber and reality. This is huge; the WH was caught using classified information to punish a political foe. For the man who would bring honor to the White House, this is a pretty damning indictment. It is quite likely that apologists like Reynolds will skip down the road, unimpressed by the moral lapse this represents. Whether that's the same for the family of four in Ames, Iowa remains to be seen.

Oh, one final prediction: Libby will plead guilty. There's no way the WH lets this thing go to trial.
[Plame Affair]

Libby Indicted.

The pdf is up at Fitzgerald's website:

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Holding a Criminal Term

Grand Jury Sworn in on October 31, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. I. LEWIS LIBBY, also known as “SCOOTER LIBBY”

Criminal No.
GRAND JURY ORIGINAL
Count 1: Obstruction of Justice (18 U.S.C. § 1503)
Counts 2-3: False Statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2)
Counts 4-5: Perjury (18 U.S.C. § 1623)

[Daily Brief]

A Fitzmas Delayed?

A special edition daily brief this morning, as we go around the horn on the rumors and guesses and general breathlessness surrounding Patrick Fitzgerald's announcement today (11 am Pac, 2 pm Eastern).

The NY Times set the stage this morning with the news that it looks like Libby's getting indicted, but Rove is not--at least not yet. Why the delay on Rove? Josh and Kevin both speculate. And Tom Maguire, I can't emphasize enough, is really the place to start if you have any Plame-related interest.

The news that Rove may be spared has sent the righties into frenzies of joy. Or, in some cases, gives them grave concerns. At the National Review, Andy McCarthy sees rays of sunlight in the sparing of Rove, and the Captain declares it the Fitzmas that Fizzled. (Does that make him the Grinch?) Powerline (Hindrocket) goes a step further--not only is it good news for the Rovarians, but it's bad news for Dems. Wait, maybe he's the Grinch ("Watch them cry 'boo hoo!'). Offering a heterodox view, also at the NRO, Mark Levin--another righty who is irony-averse--feels that "continuing to hang on" to the investigation is "highly inappropriate." You think? Tell Ken Starr.

The forces of good are, as usual, a little more balanced. Billmon parses Fitzgerald: "...as far as I can tell this is the first time he's ever referred to this investigation as a criminal one, AND the first time he's ever used the plural noun instead of the singular."

Firedoglake has running commentary, but I'll link this post:
Jeff Toobin on CNN just brought up a very good point.... The way that Fitz will prove that Libby was lying will require that the VP be called as a witness in any trial that will occur, pulling the VP right into the center of the case, whether or not an indictment may be issued for Cheney.
TalkLeft suggests Rove may have a secret deal. Having just read Toobin's observation, one's beady little mind begins to think: why would Rove be offered a deal, unless he was offering a bigger fish? No, surely not that fish.

Susie reminds us of the only bad indictment.

Since this could go on forever, I'll stop with Mark Kleiman, who sounds a strangely compassionate note. He thinks the waiting, painful for liberals, must be killing Libby and Rove. I hate to say it, but I think that's going to be a lonely view today.
[Personal]

New Address: The Kremlin.

We closed on our house yesterday afternoon, signing our name to the 927 forms no one understands. (There is a new one called something like "Patriot Act Disclosure Form," which allows the Feds to pore through your personal records and scrutinize your dealings, presumably to see if they can track expenditures that might indicate you're hiding Osama in your basement--or more likely, given the rank incompetence of this administration, to see if you name is "Muhammad." I actually asked what would happen if I didn't sign the form, a question the title woman had never considered. But she assured me it was all right--the Feds actually already had the information, this form was just my acknowledgement that I understood that.) Today we get the keys.

We now live in the 97214 ZIP code--in Portland, wonky types refer to this as "The Kremlin" due to its thick concentration of leftists. Muster an anti-war rally, and half the people will be from the 214. This I regard as auspicious. We don't actually move in until next Saturday, however, so for a few more days Hog HQ remains in (only marginally less lefty) Northeast Portland.

A new house and an indictment in the White House? Shaping up to be a decent day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

[Supreme Court]

Miers Withdrawal: Reading the Tea Leaves

Let us recap: a GOP president nominates a GOP nominee to the Supreme Court who is ... opposed by the GOP. Delightfully fascinating stuff. Listening to the cast of characters discuss the withdrawal on the radio this morning, I started to see clear motivations and strategies emerge from the thicket of spin and misdirection.

What it means for Bush
Weirdly enough, there is good and bad here for the President. The downside is that Bush has lost all his political capital, and we now see the predictable swing of power from the executive branch to the legislative as congressmen jockey for position in front of the next two elections. But that was already a downside. Had the Miers fiasco continued, it would only have damaged Bush more and further riven his disintigrating support. The good news is that he can now come back with a nominee that will take the attention off himself. Whether he goes for an idealogue or a Roberts type, he sets himself up as the winner of this battle with at least one constituency. With Miers he was losing with everyone.

Denouement as setup
This morning, the Republicans were busy describing this as a healing moment and a triumph of sensibility. They are trying to position themselves to a) push Bush toward a wingnut like Priscilla Owens, and b) describe this as a triumph of reasonableness and a blow against judicial activism. Still, despite the pleasant talk of reuniting the party, they can't help but acknowledge what a catastrophe Miers was, and how this edition of the GOP is anything but coordinated and in agreement.

The Democrats, meanwhile, were obviously prepared for this. Every one, to a person, was on message (I'll use Harry Reid's sound bite): "The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination." That's the storyline and that's what they're planning to hammer every day until Bush makes a new nomination. The motivation is obvious: to try to make it politically untenable for Bush to nominate a radical.

Call it advantage Dems. No Republican senator had come out against Miers, and the activist base led the charge against her. So Dems can very plausibly argue that Bush was hijacked by the radical fringe. That GOP senators couldn't come out against the nomination and had to let the base kill it is revealing, however, and should be worrying for Dems in the event that Bush nominates a radical. The power in the party is in the unelected base, and Dems probably won't be able to count on the spines of moderates in a battle against a radical.

Truth and Spin
Dems and Dem activists were wise to keep their powder dry. Although Miers would have been a disastrous choice, Dems had no real way to oppose her early on. Bush out-clevered himself by selecting a candidate with no record, so Dems could point to that and take a wait-and-see. The truth is that they would have hated to have to vote on her. When they say now, in rueful, wistful tones, that she might have been a decent choice if only they had gotten to hear her in the confirmation hearings, they're actually just trying to gather public support in the lead-up to Bush's new nominee. (Though I'm sure they are rueful about not being able to grill Miers mercilessly in the hearings.)

The Republicans had to play the qualifications card. No way they could tell the truth, which was that Miers didn't pass initial ideological purity tests, and skittish Republicans weren't going to risk the slot on a woman with no record. I listened as conservatives tried to maneuver themselves into victim status--Sam Brownback whined that it should be all right for a self-professed conservative to be voted on, because after all, didn't that radical leftist Ruth Bader Ginsberg sail right through? (Psst, Sam, GOP presidents have placed 7 of 9 justices, including Scalia and Thomas.) Of course, Ginsberg was selected by Orrin Hatch and isn't particularly liberal, but hey...

What's Next
So the next phase will be defined by a race to reasonableness, with both parties calling the other radical and in the service of activist bases, all the while presenting themselves as the rational alternative. Bush didn't do the GOP any favors by nominating Miers, but he, and they, still hold all the cards. Score a victory in the political battle for the Dems. The larger war, though, still remains the GOP's to lose.
[Supreme Court]

On the Miers Nomination

A couple hours ago, the White House announced that Harriet Miers had withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court. As mostly expected. There is a lot to be said about the politics of this nomination, but my first reaction is: good. She was the worst kind of nominee. You always hope for a justice chosen for his or her stellar mind and qualifications, a person who can rise above political considerations, and in whose hands you're delighted to entrust the constitution. Worse are those candidates like Scalia who are clearly stellar but ideological. Worst of all are the nominees with no qualifications save that they are loyal soldiers in a political machine. These nominees are the sign of an unhealthy government that has degenerated into partisan feuds and is no longer competent to uphold the Constitution. I've no idea whether Miers would have proven to be disastrous, but that's not at issue. Her selection was an example, like so many decisions George Bush has made, of the ill health of the country. It would have been a terrible lowpoint for the Supreme Court.

At the moment, not having any idea who Bush will choose next, I feel like we've dodged a pretty big bullet.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

[Prediction]

Who Will Be Indicted?

Who will Patrick Fitzgerald indict? This is emerging as the favorite parlor game among (delighted) liberal and (despairing) conservative wonkie types. So, despite my woeful record in past predictions (Dean winning Iowa, Kerry winning the general election), I will nevertheless charge bravely forth and play the parlor game du jour. I will say I haven't a clue about what people will be indicted for--though it seems more likely that Fitzgerald has uncovered a nest of perjury and justice obstruction, rather than illegal leaking. Based on that, here we go...

Definitely Indicted
Rove and Libby. No matter what happens on the direct leaking business, the evidence that these guys lied to the grand jury seems pretty bulletproof.

Maybe Indicted
John Hannah.

Unlikely Dark Horses
Ari Fleischer and Scotty Boy McClellan (though I don't think McClellan's clever enough to have lied).

Jackpot Motherload
Big Time.

It seems likely that smaller fish, about whom we know little--functionaries in the Veep's office and so on--will also get caught in Fitzgerald's net. The prediction I feel most confident about now is this: the likelihood that no one gets indicted now seems vanishingly small.

Care to guess?
[Polls]

Yes, Dave, They Have Heard of Karl

I've managed to stay away from the polls for a few days, but this is irresistable. First, a bit of context. In reaction to the political firestorm that is the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation, conservatives have floated a number of red herrings. They've played the game of legalese (depends on what the meaning of "undercover" is), they've minimized (come on, perjury--that's not much of a crime), they've blamed (it's the criminalization of politics!). On Sunday, David Brooks floated a new one:
You know, I think this is actually a story that is not a politically important story. You know, when I've talked to a lot of House members this week about what people are asking about, it's never this. The amount of American people who have heard about Karl Rove is small, let alone Scooter Libby
You got that? Sort of the old "if Karl Rove commits a crime in the White House, but no one knows who he is, was a crime committed" defense. Ah, but right on cue, we have this deadly piece of news for Dave: 88% of those polled believed the White House acted either illegally or unethically by leaking Valerie Plame's name. I'd say that's a pretty politically important number. Next excuse?
[Iraq]

2,000 64,021 Dead

A sampling of the headlines: "2,000 Dead: As Iraq Tours Stretch On, a Grim Mark" (NY Times), "Number of Troops Killed in Iraq Passes 2,000" (LA Times), "2,000th Death Marked by Silence and a Vow" (Washington Post).

Actually, the death toll is unknown. While we have very nice records on our own soldiers, those they killed are less documented. There are the civilians, which Iraq Body Count places between 26 and 30k. Of course, those are just the reported deaths. There are Saddam's soldiers and the insurgents, which few have bothered to guess--though Tommy Franks puts the initial invasion's total at 30k. There are the 3,400 Iraqi security forces killed trying to mop up our mess (nearly twice our own total, wouldn't you think they'd warrant a mention?). Add the 300 civilian contractors, 73 journalists, and you can come up with rough, probably seriously underestimated, numbers.

But today the headlines read 2,000--a high enough number to cause the majority of Americans to get cold feet, but a number that vastly underestimates the human cost. I listened on NPR this morning as two families tearfully described losing their children to this war. They were US families talking about their sons in the US Army. But what about the families of the thirty thousand Iraqi troops who died during the "shock and awe?" We don't hear much about their suffering. But all right, war is hell. We're the good guys, so we reserve the right to avoid thinking about the families of the bad guys.

Okay, but what about the civilians who also died amid shock and awe?--those killed by missiles not quite as precise as FOX News described. Shouldn't we hear their tearful descriptions of losing their children to war? On NPR, Steve Inskeep asked whether the families felt their sons' lives were lost in a futile war. Do we care to ask the civilians whom we freed from Saddam's evil grip the same question? Should we ask if their sacrifice was worth the beautiful democracy we've delivered unto them? Do we have the stomach to hear the answer?

The dead have been piling up in Iraq for over two years. Our selective count makes a lot of things easy. We've chosen 2,000 of those dead to honor because it accords with old notions we have of the US as the "good" guys. We see a US serviceman and we think of Normandy.

Start counting US civilians killed there, and we must uncomfortably ask questions about no-bid contracts given to the Vice President's former employer. Start counting civilians and you have to compare the number of graves we've made with Saddam's total. A morally uncomfortable count. Even the Iraqis on our team, the police and security forces who will carry this country forward after we've abandoned it--even those dead we don't count, because then we might start to wonder if the country they carry forward will be a democracy. If not, there then arises a number of very uncomfortable questions about this grand neocon experiment of "spreading peace throughout the Middle East."

You notice how "coalition" force deaths are no longer much mentioned? You don't suppose that's because there never was a coalition, and mentioning these troops only highlights what an arrogant, singular folly our "Leader of the Free World" mounted. Start reporting those dead, and you've begun pulling on a thread that goes back to the UN, where the free nations said they refused to follow the US into this war. You keep tugging that thread, and pretty soon you ask the question about why we fought this war in the first place, and--oh right, Weapons of Mass Destruction, well never mind.

There is a great deal of blood on American hands. It comes from a great deal more than 2,000 bodies. If we are going to choose an arbitrary number to look back and measure the cost of this war--as the papers did today, as the US Senate obscenely did yesterday--let's do it right. Let's pick a number that comes closer to the truth. Thanks to our invasion, 64,021 people have died.

Were their lives worth it?
[Meta]

Posting Later This Morning

Harriet Miers, Patrick Fitzgerald, tens of thousands of Iraqi dead--the Hog interns are scuttling around prepping me data even as we speak....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

[Plame Affair]

"Or Not" Category

The whole blogosphere speculating about Fitzgerald's findings? Not exactly. While Rove burns, this is what the Corner's been discussing:
  • Number of posts as of 7:04 pm for 10/25: 84.
  • Number speculating about Bill Clinton's perjury: 1.
  • Number speculating about the perjury of anyone in the Bush White House: 0.
  • Number relating to anything having to do with Fitzgerald's investigation: 0.
  • Number mentioning Trotsky: 5.
Denial, anyone?
[Plame Affair]

What Did I Just Say About Speculation?

Rumor one (to which I alluded below): The indictments are coming out tomorrow.

Rumor two: "target letters" were received today. (Target letters are, you may recall, the letters Rove's lawyer has claimed all along that he has not received--i.e., letters identifying targets of the investigation. Looks like Rove may have been upgraded.)

Rumor three: of the people who are getting serious attention by the special prosecutor are these unexpected names--Stephen Hadley, Dick Cheney, Mary Matalin, among the usual suspects.

More as it flows down the gutter...
[Plame Affair]

The Italian Connection

The story of the Italian Connection, to which I earlier alluded, is really starting to explode. My co-worker has been whispering about it for weeks, but, like the Plame affair it spawned, the whole thing has seemed murky and obscure. Well, the upshot is this: in the run-up to war, the White House had a series of ongoing, secret meetings with Italian intelligence over what later turned out to be forged documents claiming Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger. The CIA knew the documents were fake, and so the WH was working directly with the Italians. This led to the famous 16-word claim in the State of the Union address citing the Niger uranium, which then led to Joe Wilson's trip to Africa to find out the truth of the forgeries, which finally led to the WH leak campaign to smear Wilson by outing his wife, Valerie Plame.

The question, then, is why the WH has been so keen to destroy any fingerprints on those Niger forgeries. Why was this effort, as Laura Rozen puts it, of "an excessive and almost hysterical quality?" What do they know that they don't want anyone else--Patrick Fitzgerald, in particular--to find out about? These are exactly the questions cruising the blogosphere this afternoon.

Fitzgerald is supposed to hand out indictments tomorrow. Until then, expect speculation to run high.
[Culture Wars]

The Oppressed Christians

I am a member of a small Buddhist group in Portland, Oregon. This past week, we received a package from DreamWorks that was on its way into the recycling bin when I intercepted it. Addressed to "Church Officiant," it turned out to be a promotion for the new Dakota Fanning vehicle "Dreamer."

Now, aside from the fact that my Buddhist group is called Kagyu Changchub Chuling, I didn't find this particularly out of the ordinary. We get a lot of yellow-page generated mass mailers. And after all, we're pretty ecumenical, so it wasn't even particularly off-target. Even the enclosed Bible study seemed reasonable enough. Until I thought about it a little more and it occurred to me:

This was a Hollywood movie.

Remember Hollywood, that demonic cesspool from which sprang Michael Medved's career? From a religious point of view, I have nary a quarrel with the mailer. But from a political point of view, this springs to mind: isn't it the Christians who, several times a year, create a huge stink about being oppressed in the country they dominate? Off-hand, I recall the huge stink last year (led by Bill O'Reilly) about how secular society wouldn't let Christian's say "Merry Christmas"; the charge that anything less than a full-size statue of God handing Moses the Ten Commandments in various state capitols was tantamount to religious exclusion; and that ever-popular pique about how kids get brainwashed in bio class by that unreliable theory of evolution, when it's demonstrable that, biologically speaking, intelligent design is irrefutable.

Well. For a non-Christian, it highlights why the Christian conservative political agenda is so frustrating. They want it both ways--to be the martyr and to have full penetration throughout the culture. Yet methinks that any religion dominant enough to be targeted by direct mailers (and to have those direct mailers target every other religious organization, just for good measure) to try to sell movie tickets ought not feel overly threatened.
[Plame Affair]

The Big Article

The Times today reports that Libby's source for the name of Joe Wilson's wife was ... (drum roll) ... Dick Cheney. Her name came to Cheney from former CIA director George Tenet, but--and this is a big but--there's no indication that either knew she was an undercover agent or that her identity was classified. Libby, however, is not out of hot water:
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.
Whoops. Again, it ain't the crime that gets you, it's the lying about the crime. Proving the former is hard, the latter not so much so. You'd think that with the White House's obsession with Bill Clinton, they'd have learned this lesson.

This is easily the hottest article in weeks, and everyone in the blogosphere's discussing it. My commentary thus redundant, I will--well, I'll give it anyway:
  • The article demonstrates one powerful point: Cheney was investigating Wilson for the smear campaign that predictably ensued. I have no doubt that this is legal, but it could be a big political problem for the White House.
  • Remember the WH spin a few weeks (months?) ago that the leak might have come from a reporter? Another of the catalogue of lies. (Question: Did Libby hang the WH out to dry with this story first, or was it generated by the WH?)
  • Although there's no indication that Cheney's in trouble, we have no idea what he told Fitzgerald under oath. If he was trying to keep his story straight with Libby's, he may well face perjury and/or obstruction of justice charges.
  • A sitting Veep can be indicted.
  • The New York Times badly needed to be the paper to break this story.
When, oh when, will Patrick Fitzgerald tell us what he knows? We're dyin' ovah heah.
[Okay, let's update the conversation with some of the pithier commentary on this revelation. Oliver Willis: "Even if no specific law was broken, shouldn’t it be cause for removal or resignation if the vice president used the power of his office to uncover classified data as fuel for a political vendetta?" He has more.

Kevin Drum reports that Fitzgerald "asked for, and obtained, the full version of an Italian parliamentary inquiry into the forgery of the pre-war documents that claimed Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium yellowcake from Niger." He has a good deal more, including a timeline.

Andrew Sullivan: Okay, so Cheney was the source of the leak, but who was the source of Plame's status as an undercover agent?

Digby catches Cheney in a lie on national television (sounds a lot like Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations" lie: "I did not screw that man, I don't know that man.")

Laura Rozen, reporting at TAPPED, has more info on the Italian Connection, which should eventually become a thriller starring Matt Damon.

Tom Maguire has--as you would expect--exhaustive analysis, and finds potential wiggle room for Libby and the Veep (see if you find it as implausible as I).

It goes on and on, so I'll leave you with Mark Kleiman, who offers a nice speculative counterpoint to Tom.

Fin.]
[Supreme Court]

Bush's Political Games

Yesterday, President Bush committed a pretty grave crime--but one likely to be overlooked by Dems and ignored by Republicans. Having nominated his personal lawyer, a woman whose most relevant body of work (such as it is) was serving the President, Bush now says he won't release any of the documents related to her tenure in the White House:
"Recently, requests, however, have been made by Democrats and Republicans about paperwork out of this White House that would make it impossible for me and other presidents to be able to make sound decisions," Bush said. "In other words, they've asked for paperwork about the decision-making process -- what her recommendations were -- and that would breach very important confidentiality. And it's a red line I'm not willing to cross."

[Also see official documents]
This is going to be ignored or put off by Dems who are hoping never to have to consider Miers. And yet it is one of the most eggregious efforts to extend executive authority I can recall him making--and he's made some whoppers. He knows she doesn't have the resume to justify a nomination. He knows that her record is so thin, in fact, that the only worthwhile information about her at all is the work she's done while serving him. That's why he nominated her. If the Democrats don't create a huge stink about not receiving these documents, they may as well not bother voting no on her nomination--they will already have sold out the process. And they need to make the stink now--nevermind that Miers is out of the news or that Rove, Libby, and Cheney are in.

[Update: Taegan Goddard suggests that this may be Bush's way of laying the groundwork for pulling Miers, knowing that even GOP senators will balk if he doesn't give them something.]

Monday, October 24, 2005

[Supreme Court]

The Right-Wing Borking of Harriet

Guess who is among the Borkers? (Is it just the Republicans, or does having the reigns make you tone-deaf to irony?)

Odds that she'll withdraw? Getting better all the time.
[Sports]

Back by Popular Request ...

Due to a little caterwalling of one commenter who shall remain nameless Absent Mindful, a brief interlude on baseball and more. First, we have the delightful World Series underway, which despite the 2-0 White Sox lead is actually delightful. A bottom-of-the-ninth dinger to win last night? How sweet it is. As a random aside--is there any correlation between baseball clubs and politics? I ask because in my mind, the great Boston/Yankees rivalry seems so clearly the battle of the light vs. the dark. Boston, classic liberal bastion, home to the last of the real liberals and pointy headed intellectuals; NY, that great capitalist cesspool, home to Donald Trump.

(You don't want to dig too deeply, though, because it turns out the BoSox are Bush-backing Christian Evangelicals, and New York gave Bush only 24% of the vote.)

So what about Houston v. Chicago? Surely the city of broad shoulders is a blue team, while the 'Stros are classic oil money red, right? Well, I'm pulling for the White Sox -- and right on cue...

In other sports news, Kellon Clemons, mighty Duck QB has broken his ankle and is out for the rest of the year. What was shaping up to be a pretty 9-2/10-1 season now looks like it could train wreck on us. Hey, 7-4 ain't bad, right?

The Badgers keep up their winning ways, dumping hapless Purdue. And that embarrassment against Northwestern they suffered earlier? Maybe it wasn't so embarrassing after all: the Wildcats absolutely thrashed #22 Michigan State over the weekend. Of course, they're not #22 anymore...
[Media]

The Last Ever Judy Post

Here at Hog, I just can't stop returning to the Judy trough. I know, I know, we have the first new fed chairmen since 1943, but I can't look away. Forgive me!

Item One: From within the Times comes the most wicked right cross yet: from Maureen Dowd.

Item Two: Howard Kurtz has a round-up of the response to the Times' recent reporting.

But by far the most interesting tidbit--item three--comes from Judy herself, this time an email to Byron Calame, the Public Editor:
"While you posted Bill Keller’s sanitized, post-lawyered version of the ugly, inaccurate memo to the staff he circulated Friday, which accused me of “misleading” an editor and being “entangled” with I. Lewis Libby, you declined to post the answers I sent you to six questions that we touched on during our interview Thursday. Had you done so, readers could have made their own assessment of my conduct in what you headlined as 'the Miller mess.'"
It is WELL worth the read to hear "Ms. Run Amok" describe her process of assiduous reporting. Another fascinating tidbit: Judy bites the hand that defended her, drawing them in to the web of complicity (and rather damagingly at that):
I fail to see why I am responsible for my editors’ alleged failure to do some “digging” into my confidential sources and the notebooks. From the start, the legal team that the Times provided me knew who my source was and had access to my notes. I never refused to answer questions or provide any information they requested. No one indicated they had doubts about the stand I took to go to jail.
See, how could I have failed to blog that?
[GOP Corruption]

That Other Scandal

Bill Frist, remember him? He has had, if you'll recall, a little of the old Martha trouble--stock dumping at rather fortunate moments. Even more provacative, they were stocks in the family business--healthcare, a subject on which Frist has taken a lawmaking leadership role. His stock was supposedly placed in a blind trust to eliminate a conflict of interest. Well, what with Rove and Libby about to get the perp walk (and maybe Dick, too!), with Abramoff and Norquist on the line for fleecing Indians, with DeLay getting indicted, with Georgie and Brownie, it's hard to recall this little problem. But it's starting to look like more than a little problem. From today's WaPo:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was given considerable information about his stake in his family's hospital company, according to records that are at odds with his past statements that he did not know what was in his stock holdings....

Since 2001, the trustees have written to Frist and the Senate 15 times detailing the sale of assets from or the contribution of assets to trusts of Frist and his family.
If we rewind the tape, the evidence gets even more damning:
  • In 1995, Frist first put his assets in a "blind trust" to allay worries that he had a conflict of interest while shaping federal drug law.
  • Yet in 2000, he put the assets in a new "blinder" trust (and during changeover periods, trusts cease to be blind).
  • Following a transfer of stock from his late parents, between 2001 and 2002 Frist's trustee, sold off millions of the stock.
  • In January 2003, Frist told the Washington Post that he "no longer knows how much the (HCA) stock is worth." Today's WaPo further quotes Frist from that same month:"[I]t should be understood that I put this into a blind trust," Frist replied. "So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock." He added that the trust was "totally blind. I have no control."
The Post goes on to quote a law professor who wondered how Frist knew to sell his stocks if he didn't know he even had any. I haven't a clue whether his "misstatements" are a legal problem, but I'll tell you this: they're a devastating political problem. Frist's career is over. We can quit referring to him as "contemplating a bid for the White House." He's done.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

[Media]

On Blogs.

A cross-post from commentary on BlueOregon. It's aimed at Oregon readers, but you'll get the point.

Since its new redesign--which seems in part a response to the popularity of blogs--the Oregonian has run commentary about blogs by Regina Lawrence, a PSU professor of political science. In today's issue, Lawrence discusses the function and use of blogs--and she completely misses the boat. She argues that blogs are now dominated by a few main sites (she identifies Drudge and the Free Republic, neither of which are blogs) which dominate all discourse. These dominant blogs are guilty of the same crime they accuse the mainstream media of committing--focusing too narrowly on a few stories--which further skews reality. Finally, blogs, acting in reaction to the "failures" they identify in the MSM, are hopelessly partisan.

Lawrence, as a political scientist, may be measuring the effect of blogs on the political process. Based on the success of the liberal blogs, candidates like Howard Dean and Paul Hackett have managed to mount surprising dark-horse campaigns, buoyed by support and dollars from a previously-disconnected base. In this regard, her analysis of the effect of blogs may be accurate. But as an analysis of blogs as emergent media, she misses the actual function of the blogosphere and patterns of consumption. Worse, by addressing content at the expense of delivery, she misses blogs' most potent function.

Let's take function first. Blogs don't exist, like mainstream outlets, as stand-alone media. Blogs would surely wither and die if they didn't exist as a neural net. Because bloggers don't have vast newsrooms, they depend on other bloggers to cover the entire newscape. To argue that they all cover the same thing is willful blindness: Juan Cole, an expert on the Middle East, almost never expresses an opinion on domestic political races, but is the blogosphere's go-to guy on Iraq. Look at the top fifty leftist blogs, and you'll find just the opposite of what Lawrence describes: a sorting out of the best bloggers by subject area. Kos, which she eventually does cite, is the go-to guy for political strategies, while Josh Marshall is the inside man on Washington scuttlebutt, and Brad DeLong and Max Sawicky (professors both) cover economics. Other blogs cover the environment, law, labor, and media.

In terms of consumption, I'm wary of her reading of the numbers. Blog readers do tend to select a few central players (she identifies aggregate stats to support this). But then readers also add a few other sites that have more focused content or smaller readership. BlueOregon is a perfect example (as was, alas, the now-defunct Communique). No one that I know of has done an in-depth survey of blog readership, but the existence and traffic of blogs like this one demonstrate that while the bigs pull in the lion's share of readers, other blogs can find their own robust readership.

But the biggest mistake Lawrence makes is confusing blogs as just another content-delivery medium. This is a mistake the MSM has made from the start, and they do it at their peril. The reality is that blogs are the first organic, interactive medium. They are focal points for ongoing conversations. When I booted up BlueOregon this morning, I saw that Jack Roberts had joined the discussion on a post about an interview he'd done on another blog. This kind of conversation has never existed before--and can't, within the confines of a daily print newspaper or TV broadcast.

While the MSM is busy panicking about the fragmentation of media, bloggers are seizing on it. Not everyone can join in a conversation about whether Jack Roberts should run for the Supreme Court--but as newspapers know, very few would even want to. The O has recently shifted its local content away from politics precisely because there aren't enough readers interested in it. The O has a daily circulation of 350,000 readers. BlueOregon's is less than 1% of that figure--though at 2,000 hits, it's one of the "bigger" blogs. We capitalize on the interest of the readers that the Oregonian can no longer well serve--exactly the reverse of the trend Lawrence sees.

Blogs are a poor substitute for newspapers. Few of them are hosted by professional journalists, and most of them depend on newspaper reportage to craft their posts. (This post is an example.) But blogs aren't trying to deliver the news. They're trying to make sense of the news. Had Lawrence pondered their efficacy on that score, she might have come away with a different conclusion. I'd love to see the O continue to look at the effect blogs are having--but they must be critiques based on someone who actually understands the medium.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

[Commerce]

Nine Grand and It's Yours

There's a site that bloggers are linking to that calculates the value of blogs (hat tips to Jeralyn and C&L) . It's calculated in some cockamamie way so that links have a particular value. From this an aggregate is derived and voila! your blog is assigned a theoretic value. So Josh's site comes in at $2.3 mil, Brad DeLong $1.2 mil, and Atrios $2.1 mil. Based on that, what would you guess Low on the Hog would come in at? Yup, $9,600.

But I'd go as low as nine.

Friday, October 21, 2005

[Media]

Bill Keller Memo

Crooks and Liars has just posted a memo purportively sent from the Times' managing editor Bill Keller to the staff. It is carefully worded, but makes no bones about how Keller feels he blundered in the Judy Miller case. Quoting an email he received, he believes
"the paper will go to the mat to back [reporters] up institutionally -- but only to the degree that the reporter has lived up to his or her end of the bargain, specifically to have conducted him or herself in a way consistent with our legal, ethical and journalistic standards, to have been open and candid with the paper about sources, mistakes, conflicts and the like, and generally to deserve having the reputations of all of us put behind him or her."
Reading between the lines, Keller seems clearly to be saying that Miller was unethical, compromised, and untruthful to the paper, and this in turn compromised everything the Times has done in the past couple years. He's right--the paper has been compromised, and I think the lesson is now clear.

Is this the signal things are about to change?
[Politics]

A Cranky Comment

Andrew Sullivan quotes John Derbyshire today, as Derbyshire, in his unhinged manner, fears the end of his little plutocratic heyday. "The windsocks" says he, "are now pointing in the direction of more socialism." That's bad enough, but Sullivan, generally more careful with his language, piles on. In his retort, he trashes Bush, whom he calls a practitioner of "Christianist socialism."

Is everyone on the right this stupid? Do they genuinely not know what socialism is? Has rhetoric completely eaten their brains? We are so far from socialism that even the suggestion that the poor not die in the streets and the elderly not gnaw on old dog food becomes radical doctrine. A social safety is not socialism. Your plutocracy is safe even with the existence of social security.

It's talk like that that inclines me to think we're due for a REAL revolution. My muse, Emma Goldman (note the newly-added pic to the right), once scared the pants off the rich by suggesting that the poor just start seizing wealth. She held it as a moral position. It's a democracy, after all--why should the rich feast off the bones (and labor) of the poor? We might reasonably ask why the rich--by which we mean Halliburton and other Bush sponsors--should today feast off our tax money. It's not exactly socialism, folks. And Andy Sullivan oughta know better.
Ask for work. If they do not give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, take bread.
[Plame Affair]

It's Always the Cover-up That Gets You

You'd think, after so many examples, that people would realize that it ain't the crime for which you do time--it's the cover-up. So appears to be Fitzgerald's interest in Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, according to this provocative article:
Among the charges that Mr. Fitzgerald is considering are perjury, obstruction of justice and false statement - counts that suggest the prosecutor may believe the evidence presented in a 22-month grand jury inquiry shows that the two White House aides sought to cover up their actions, the lawyers said.

Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said, but only this week has Mr. Fitzgerald begun to narrow the possible charges. The prosecutor has said he will not make up his mind about any charges until next week, government officials say.
And so the noose tightens...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

[Race]

Stern, Cosby, and Race in America

One is a Jewish lawyer, one is a black entertainer, and they've both pissed off a number of black Americans. Bill Cosby is back in the news after touring the country and speaking in lower-income black neighborhoods about crime, education, and pride. Last year, at a NAACP celebration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Cosby went on a rant:
These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we have these knuckleheads running around.... I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth."
The reaction, predictably, was outrage. Earlier this week, NBA Commissioner David Stern ignited a similar furor when he instituted a dress code:

Players will no longer be able to wear: sleeveless shirts; shorts; t-shirts; chains, pendants, or medallions worn over the player's clothes; sunglasses while indoors; headphones (other than on the team bus or plane, or in the team locker room).

Both Stern and Cosby were charged with racism--though in Cosby's case it was often characterized as "elitism." I bring this up mainly because I think we have far too few discussions about race in America. Cosby is concerned with problems the demographics reveal: blacks trail in income, education, and opportunity. In attacking black slang, he apparently was trying to highlight these issues, though he fell into the trap of pitting black culture against the dominant culture (by which we mean white).

Stern is less concerned with race in America--he is trying to sell a product, and if the players begin to deviate too sharply from the mores of the dominant culture, then whites across the country will drift away and watch more football and car racing. Stern made the same mistake Cosby did--he targeted culture.

Imagine if NASCAR issued a decree similar to Stern's: business casual outside the racetrack. No cowboy boots or Stetsons, no big belt buckles, no jeans or handlebar mustaches. It would be not only stupid, but bizarre. But then, demographics are with NASCAR--more Americans wear cowboy hats than 'do rags.

The time when America is dominated by a single cultural expression--men with hats and jackets, women in skirts--are long gone. Now we have many cultures, and they align occassionally with race. In the case of racial tension between blacks and whites, we most often see the battle rage over cultural lines rather than racial ones.

Yet for people like Bill Cosby--who may be unskillful and impolitic, but obviously not a racist--the cultural wars mask a deadly serious problem. Blacks are still disadvantaged relative to whites. Not only do they (and we're talking the aggregate here) have fewer opportunities and fewer inroads to success, but they are still actively oppressed by various state institutions--the criminal justice system among the most obvious. The question is, how do we rectify the problem? We spend a lot of time assigning blame and fighting proxy wars over culture. But this seems mainly to be a way of avoiding a real discussion.

(As to Stern's action, I think Tim Duncan gets closest to the truth. It's not that it's racist per se, he said, but "I think it's basically retarded.")
[White House]

The Blame Game.

Two articles caught my--and many bloggers'--eye this morning. They involve the Veep, scapegoating, and the further implosion of the White House (if not the GOP), but are in detail rather markedly different.

First with the fluff. According to this WaPo piece, it looks like Lewis Libby may have to change his nickname from Scooter to Scape:
White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.
There is nothing much more new here, except that writers Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig speculate about fellow WaPo reporter Walter Pincus's source on the Plame affair. This seems to be a kind of mainstream media parlor game: speculating about in-house writers. I expect Time is preparing a speculative piece about Matthew Cooper right now. (Tom has more, as always.)

More interestingly, the Financial Times has a bomb-and-tell story from Colin Powell's chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He argues, among other things, that Dick Cheney hijacked foreign policy:
"What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences."
This is interesting not because of its obvious plausibility, but because for the first time a person with access to the inner circle has fingered the decision makers (he also implicates Condi but, surprisingly, not Wolfowitz). It is unlikely to raise more than the eyebrow of the random blogger, though, given the Miers-Baghdad-Rove/Plame-DeLay-Frist-Abramoff axis of corruption and incompetence currently swamping the GOP.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

[Environment]

Drilling in ANWR

By tucking a provision for drilling in ANWR into a large budget bill, the Senate Energy Committee has prevented a Democratic filibuster on the item:
The energy panel approved the ANWR drilling provision, 13-9. All Republicans on the committee, except Gordon Smith of Oregon, voted in favor of the plan. Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii also voted for drilling.
It could become law before the end of the year.
[Economy]

This Is Not My Beautiful Economy

This morning, as I listened to news that inflation is on the rise, I had a flashback. I recalled Dubya's many claims of post-tax-cut prosperity. We would pull ourselves out of the tech malaise with tax cuts. We would create jobs, we would end the recession. Of course, even at the time we knew it was faith-based economics--particularly without spending cuts. When the GOP started delivering sacks of federal money to their wealthy patrons, that was pretty much out the window.

But let's revisit the tax cuts for a second because there's a fundamental principle that caused some economists to promote them. The notion, if I understand it, was that tax cuts would free up money for investment on the top end and put change in pockets for spending on the bottom end. That it would be a panacea to all our economic ills seemed worse than naive, but hey, you gotta polish the apple. Still, shouldn't it have had its basic intended effect? For five years now, we've listened to Bush describe how this thing works, and for five years now, it hasn't worked that way.

Has Bush inadvertently proven--through a massive, multi-trillion dollar experiment--that tax cuts have only the mildest effects if they work at all? Perhaps an economist will straighten me out, but what we've sacrificed to fund this experiment in future debt seems to have produced damn near no benefit. Let us all recall this experiment when the next wave of tax-cutters come to town with their snake oil.
[Supreme Court]

On Consenting.

On last night's Newshour, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer discussed the bizarre waltz to which judicial nominees and Senators dance at nomination time. Judicial nominees claim they've never considered particular issues--abortion key among them. Senators know they're lying, and use every technique at their disposal--private interviews, public questioning, deep research--to ascertain whether or not the nominee has ever made a definitive statement. If, through this process, the nominee makes the fatal error of honest disclosure, half the Senators then contemplate filibuster. Yesterday we learned that Harriet Miers had indeed made such a definitive statement.

But Graham made the key point. So what if you have a personal opinion on abortion. That's not really the issue:
There's the politics of abortion; then there's the job of the judge. The question is, would she overturn Roe v. Wade based on a personal agenda, or would she look at the facts, understand as a standing precedent of the court, and have an analytical view of whether it should stand or fall?
I oppose capital punishment--quite strongly, in fact. But does that mean I don't consider it a matter of settled law? Absurd. Miers is staunchly anti-abortion. So what? She appears to be incompetent, and that's really the issue.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

[Plame Affair]

Cheney Out?

Okay, this is just getting wacky. Now the rumors (from those wonderfully reliable "government officials and advisers") hold that Cheney is on the brink of resignation and that Condi--Condi!--will be elevated to Veep.
Said another Bush associate of the rumor, "Yes. This is not good." The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn't get the job or run for president in 2008.
I smell further opportunities for rumor-mongering: "Psst, 'key officials' report that Paul Wolfowitz is getting the nod to replaces Condi. Pass it on."

I will say, however, that if Dick Cheney offers his resignation, I'm going on a three-day bender.
[Daily Brief]

If You Brief It, They Will Click.

So my grand scheme to post the news of the day seems to have fallen on hard times. I'm lucky to get one round-up a week done. Perhaps this represents me turning over a new leaf. Time will tell.

Let's start with the headline that's screaming from every website this morning: Miers Backed Abortion Ban in 1989. And by that they mean a constitutional amendment. So that's that, expect the left to be enraged, the right to be mollified (sort of), and the natural order to be restored. And in case liberals are still waffling, here's her judgment in action: "Time and time again, it seemed, the president was able to zero in on the most difficult aspect of an issue and provide exactly the direction needed.... He works so constantly."

Let's next move on to more interesting news: is Dick Cheney gonna get indicted? What did he know, and what does Patrick Fitzgerald think he knew? These are the topics circling like buzzards around the Veep's office. (So many of you were chagrined to see me curtail my Judy Miers analysis that I'll tuck in this Howie Kurtz link. Happy? No wait, here's one more!)

Tom DeLay was offered a misdemeanor plea on his fraud charges, it turns out. This would have allowed him to keep his leadership position and pretty much shoots down DeLay's unhinged rant about partisan persecution. He turned them down.

I'll close with a twofer of Republican dischord. In the first, Bruce Bartlett gets the ax from the National Center for Policy Analysis for penning the forthcoming The Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. Oh dissent! Conservatives don't know how to handle ye. Meanwhile, Andy Card faces the ax for different misdemeanors.

Around the Blogosphere
Billmon points us to a new poll about Bush (same as the old polls). David Corn is blogging madly about the Fitgerald probe. Will Bunch on Judy's embeddation. Jesse Taylor, one of the boy-wonders of blogging, is leaving Pandagon. Barbara on the Times. Some suggest that Fitzgerald has a secret source inside the White House. Laura Rozen names him. Finally, a good one from Josh.
[Random]

Homeless.

Yesterday we signed away our house. This is a minor cause for celebration, because we sold it quickly and for slightly more than full price, and so our anxiety surrounding that transaction appears to have been unfounded. It would be a cause for major celebration had we managed to simultaneously erase all doubts about where we're landing next, but there may be trouble with the loan we arranged for a new home. Ah well, one celebration at a time.

Monday, October 17, 2005

[Iraq]

Ninety-Nine Percent Sure This Isn't Democracy

I know many people have been keenly interested in this Iraqi constitution and whether or not it will pass. As with all other US-brokered deals, I have considered it only slightly more interesting than Dubya's latest report of "progress" in the region. Everything about this bespeaks back-room maneuvering rather than real democracy led by the public will.

Well, it appears we can chalk up the vote on the Constitution as more of the same (itals mine):
Iraqi election officials said today that they were investigating what they described as "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces, where as many 99 percent of the voters were reported to have cast ballots in favor of Iraq's new constitution, raising the possibility that the results of Saturday's referendum could be called into question.
Yes, I'd say there is a possibility, however remote. Maybe someone ought to check in to see if they used Diebold machines there.
[Media]

The Times on Judy Miller

If the Times were honest about their own malfeasance in the Plame/Miller debacle, they were brutally honest about Miller's. The Miller they describe was cavalier, sloppy, arrogant, evasive, and ultimately, not perfectly truthful about her activities--a far cry from Miller's own account. More significantly, it's a pretty strong indictment that Miller is hiding something.

A quick recap: we know that Miller was one of the Times' main foreign correspondent, and that she operated with almost complete autonomy. She became very close to the administration's inner circle, and used them (and their sources like Ahmed Chalabi) to forward the case for war. When Joe Wilson began poking holes in that case, the White House mounted a campaign to discredit him and went to their go-to gal at the Times.

We don't really know what happened next, because Judy's not saying. She refused to let the Times see her notes in preparing their article. What we have to go by is the evidence of a coverup.

Valerie Flame
One of the biggest questions is how the name "Valerie Flame" got in Miller's notebook. She claims its in a section different from her notes on Libby--but of course no one can verify that--and that Libby was not her source for the name. She further contends that she had been pursuing a story on Wilson (one was never published) that was killed by her editors. Yet, when
she "made a strong recommendation to my editor" that an article be pursued. "I was told no," she said. She would not identify the editor. Ms. Abramson, the Washington bureau chief at the time, said Ms. Miller never made any such recommendation.
Later, when the WaPo reported that the leaks had been made to six journalists, an editor at the Times asked Miller if she were one of those (she was), and she denied it. So: if she didn't get the name Valerie Flame from Libby, where did she get it? And was she scooped by Bob Novak in doing the administration's dirty work by leaking her name?

Protecting Whom?
After subpoenas were handed down to reporters in the leak case, Miller's met with Libby's. What resulted was a bizarre scene where Miller's lawyers appear to be arguing against Libby's for her right not to testify. In Miller's account, she claims to have detected reservation on the part of Libby, but there's no evidence there ever was any.
"I never once suggested that she should not testify," Mr. Tate [Libby's lawyer] wrote. "It was just the opposite. I told Mr. Abrams that the waiver was voluntary."

Ms. Miller said in an interview that she was waiting for Mr. Libby to call her, but he never did. "I interpreted the silence as, 'Don't testify,' " Ms. Miller said.

She and her lawyers have also said it was inappropriate for them to hound a source for permission to testify.

Mr. Tate, for his part, said the silence of the Miller side was mystifying.

"You never told me," Mr. Tate wrote to Mr. Abrams recently, "that your client did not accept my representation of voluntariness or that she wanted to speak personally to my client." Mr. Abrams [Miller's lawyer] does not dispute that.

Given this situation, when Miller's case came up before the judges, they of course did not find in her favor: "She has the keys to release herself," the judge said. "She has a waiver she chooses not to recognize." So again: why did Miller work so hard to avoid Libby's permission to testify? Why did she sit in jail when she had his dispensation? Who exactly was she protecting?

It was a fairly happy ending for Miller. Upon being released from jail, she was taken by the Times' publisher to the Ritz-Carlton " for a massage, a manicure, a martini and a steak dinner." Tomorrow she will recieve a First Amendment award from the Society of Professional Journalists. And she's likely to get a book deal out of the events. Don't hold your breath on that one, though--her reportage thus far hasn't been particularly reliable.

______________________
Blogosphere commentary: Wonkette | Fishbowl DC | Firedoglake | American Leftist |
Also: Cheney may be involved in leak inquiry (Bloomberg)
[Media]

Confessions at the Times - Times Edition.

As a companion piece, the New York Times also offers its own confessional--a more honest, less conflicted account of what happened during the aftermath of the paper's shoddy Iraq reporting and subsequent trouble with the Plame Affair. In it, writers Don Vann Natta, Adam Liptak, and Clifford Levy offer an entirely different Judith Miller than Judith herself offered (see post below).

The portrait the article paints of the paper is one twice compromised--first by the poor reporting of a reporter who was so beyond accountability that she named herself "Miss Run Amok," and second by its own conflicted stance in trying to simultaneously protect her and still cover the stories she was increasingly at the center of. The article lays out, in perhaps a more comprehensive account than any other paper could give, how the various threads played out over the past three years.

In a wistful postlude to the entire debacle (which even the Times now must admit it was), the paper's managing editor Bill Keller submits:
"It's too early to judge it, and it's probably for other people to judge," said Mr. Keller, the executive editor. "I hope that people will remember that this institution stood behind a reporter, and the principle, when it wasn't easy to do that, or popular to do that."
There is an irony to the piece: in it, the Times seems to finally wash its hands of Judy Miller--or at least offer her the honest investigation rather than kneejerk support she deserves--much as Miller seemed to wash her hands of Scooter Libby in her piece. The main criticism they level at themselves is the failure to provide serious journalism because of the compromises Miller put them in position to make. Miller was never accountable to her editors, her editors didn't know what she was doing, and even until just recently, even the ardent support at the top was blind support. In backing Miller, the Times seems to have recognized that it abandoned its own mission. They gussied it up as a grand moral battle--the First Amendment vs. government power--but it looks like they knew this was wishful thinking. And for that, it will be difficult for people to "remember" that the principle came before everything else. But this article is a decent first step toward rectifying things.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

[Media]

Confessions at the Times - Judy Miller Edition.

Both Judith Miller* and the New York Times have long promised that they would write detailed, post-game wrap-ups of their involvement in the great Plame fiasco once the grand jury had concluded. They both make good on that promise today--though "good" isn't exactly the right adjective. (Verbose is closer--they weigh in collectively at 9,500 words.)

Let's deal first with Miller, whose story is fairly straightforward, if elusive. Miller uses language bordering on comic it's so neutral: "During my testimony on Sept. 30 and Oct. 12, the special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, asked me whether Mr. Libby had shared classified information with me during our several encounters before Mr. Novak's article." She's in just-the-facts-ma'am mode, posing as the courageous journalist who may be telling all, but not gossiping. Yet there's something decidedly evasive in the prose.

One of the critical questions was why Judy was rotting in jail to protect Scooter Libby when Libby had already given her permission to reveal his name. Her response?

At the behest of President Bush and Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Libby had signed a blanket form waiver, which his lawyer signaled to my counsel was not really voluntary, even though Mr. Libby's lawyer also said it had enabled other reporters to cooperate with the grand jury. But I believed that nothing short of a personal letter and a telephone call would allow me to assess whether Mr. Libby truly wished to free me from the pledge of confidentiality I had given him. The letter and the telephone call came last month.

Equally central to my decision was Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor. He had declined to confine his questioning to the subject of Mr. Libby. This meant I would have been unable to protect other confidential sources who had provided information - unrelated to Mr. Wilson or his wife - for articles published in The Times. Last month, Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questioning.

The first excuse--which she's previously hinted at--strains credulity. If Libby wasn't giving voluntary permission via his lawyer, why would she trust a personal letter? As to why she continued to sit in jail weeks after she'd gotten his permission; well, on that point she's mum. If the first claim strains credulity, the second--that she's trying to protect other, unnamed sources--breaks it. Why would Fitzgerald give her assurances later? Perhaps because, while protecting Libby, she never asked the first time around. Again, the Miller we see in Miller's description has high and virtuous motives, but they don't quite reconcile with the Miller we see.

And that's really the sense you get as you read through the article--we see one Miller, above the law and a paragon of jounalistic ethics and industry. Yet we have reasons to believe that that Miller may be as much a figment of her imagination as were the WMD she helped hype in the run-up to the war.

As an "embedded" reporter covering the search for what she calls "unconventional weapons," Miller received intelligence clearances that other reporters and her bosses at the Times didn't get. She was on a first-name basis with the powerful players in the military and the White House. There seems, thoughout her account, evidence that she had become too close to the stories and subjects to which she had unique access.

Listen to this strange exchange between Libby and Miller:

My recollection, I told him, was that Mr. Libby wanted to modify our prior understanding that I would attribute information from him to a "senior administration official." When the subject turned to Mr. Wilson, Mr. Libby requested that he be identified only as a "former Hill staffer." I agreed to the new ground rules because I knew that Mr. Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.

Did Mr. Libby explain this request? Mr. Fitzgerald asked. No, I don't recall, I replied. But I said I assumed Mr. Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson.

Miller agreed to misname Libby in order to protect him so he could more effectively attack Wilson in Miller's article. How can that be anything but advocacy? Miller seems to have shifted her allegiance from telling her readers the truth to telling her informants' story.

The result is that this piece, like her previous reports, feels compromised. She was "embedded" in Iraq, but her account makes her seem like a White House reporter embedded in the New York Times. I don't have any opinion on whether this advocacy was willful partisanism or the result of a system badly out of whack. Whatever the case, it looks like she's done protecting the White House (85 days in the pokey gave her time to reconsider her position). Listen to her characterization of the letter Libby wrote releasing her to testify:

Mr. Fitzgerald asked me to read the final three paragraphs aloud to the grand jury. "The public report of every other reporter's testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame's name or identity with me," Mr. Libby wrote.

The prosecutor asked my reaction to those words. I replied that this portion of the letter had surprised me because it might be perceived as an effort by Mr. Libby to suggest that I, too, would say we had not discussed Ms. Plame's identity. Yet my notes suggested that we had discussed her job.

I think Judy Miller is still interested in protecting her own reputation. Libby, however, is on his own.

Update: Other sources: Howard Kurtz | Editor and Publisher on the security clearance Judy received ("This is as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists and the New York Times (if it knew) should never have allowed her to become so compromised.") | Press Think | CJR Daily
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*Background on the Plame Affair here. Judith Miller is a writer for the New York Times who wrote several articles in the build-up to the Iraq war that were favorable to the administration's case--and ultimately proven false. She was one of several journalists caught up in a probe, about whether the White House had illegally leaked the name of a CIA operative, conducted by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. She went to prison to protect her contact with the White House, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.