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Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Saturday, 4 March 2006
Dialog: Changing Things
Topic: NOW WHAT?

Dialog: Changing Things

The Just Above Sunset email "salon" (a virtual discussion group, not a gathering of folks in powdered wigs in an early eighteenth-century Paris drawing room), has some things to say.

This bit of satire started them off -
In other news, the United States has formally announced that it has absolutely no idea what to do when the leader of the country is both condescending and incurious.

John Rathskellar, spokesperson for "The Country Formerly Known As the Good Guys", said in a semi-official announcement (while standing in line for a Venti at Starbucks): "No legal remedy exists to remove from power a person (or persons) who is a failure on as many levels as the current President appears to be. Had he received oral pleasure from one of his interns we would run his ass through the ringer, but as it is he's free to destroy the nation as he sees fit to do so. We explained this to him on several occasions but he seemed to be baffled by our carefully chosen words, and we let him go back to his magazine reading."

Mr. Rathskellar further added, "He may indeed destroy everything we cherish in a pluralistic society, but he could do it without really understanding how he was doing it. Stumbling in the dark, really. Just fucking our lives up on the fly. An ad hoc Armageddonist if ever there was one."
Our man in Montreal, Quebec, Canada -
It's not the act that will get a leader removed, but the organization of the opposition.

Republicans were ready for any provocation, and Monica Lewinski was enough. They wanted Clinton out, and they succeeded. Who can say anything against that?

Democrats, and/or anyone not Republican are incapable and ineffectual, in the face of gross transgressions on the American way of life by the Dubya administration.

Ahead of any more 'evidence' against republicans, the real question in America is what is wrong with the non-republicans and their ability to balance power?
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
"... the real question in America is what is wrong with the non-republicans and their ability to balance power?"

And the answer is, a system of government in which any one party that holds the White House and both houses of congress is essentially untouchable.

This is especially true of Republicans, for whom the phrase "it matters not whether you win or lose but only how you play the game" is not so much a guiding principle as is "winning is not the most important thing, it's the only thing!"
Our Man in Rochester, New York -
That the Republicans hold all the cards did not just happen. They didn't just decide it on their own. The ineffectiveness of Democrats (and whomever else) gave them a blank check. They are untouchable because we have let them be untouchable.
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
"... they are untouchable because we have let them be untouchable."

Yeah, that, too.

But my point was that our system should not be such that the minority party gets totally frozen out of the process. I must admit, I'm not crazy about a parliamentary system, but at least there you have the possibility of building coalitions and having votes of confidence, both things our pretty-strictly-two-party, winner-take-all system lack.

There ought to be a provision for at least looking into impeachment, to be voted up or down, possibly with some sort of super-majority needed to shoot it down. This would allow American voters a chance to hold the ruling party's metaphorical feet to the flames, but without allowing frivolous minority attacks to gain solid footing.

But yeah, not even the Democrats -- even as they watch all this from total loser status -- would take to this idea, afraid of blow-back when or if they themselves ever get back in power. It's just possible that if Democratic leaders were to adopt a policy of first considering doing "the right thing" before "the politic thing," they might win the confidence of Americans again, and maybe regain power.

But we've let the Republicans be untouchable by, what, not voting hard enough for Democrats? Are you going to vote for Democrats this year? Me, too. Just like last time. Well, lotta good it did us! But still, you can't blame you and me, so it must be those damn Republicans, especially the ones who keep voting Republican!

That's not it? So maybe it's because the Democrats haven't yet learned to (a) "speak openly about their faith" in public, (b) stop pandering to the gay agenda of wanting gays to be treated like "normal" Americans, or maybe (c) stop talking about abortion all the time? Yeah, our troubles all started when the Democrats told all those Southerners they shouldn't run around lynching black people. And that's when the South walked out on us and never looked back.

Do you suppose if only we could turn back the clock, maybe we could make ourselves winners again? I don't think either one of us wants to do that, even if we could.
Our columnist, Bob Patterson (alias, The World's Laziest Journalist) -
Maybe the Democrats have found the Republicans' "Achilles Heel?" My friends who have been very pro-Bush, seem quite upset with the Dubai thing. Karl Rove has decreed that the 2006 election will be decided on "security."

Well, then, there, Karl, be careful what you wish for.

If the entire roll of the dice will be on security and if Bush insists on the Dubai deal. The Democrats could get a majority in both the House and Senate faster than you can say "Poof! Be gone!"

The Democrats will have to play by "bare knuckles" rules. Let the Republicans drag out all the dirty secrets and let the Democrats respond in kind and then insist that the election be based upon security and point out Bush's secret squirrel aspect to the Dubai deal.

If it takes a bar-room brawl style election, then the Democrats had best prepare to lose a few teeth and get a bloody nose, but win the fight.

Otherwise... Bush Wins Again! (and again, and again and again...)
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
I think I don't agree.

Harking back to what I said earlier, "It's just possible that if Democratic leaders were to adopt a policy of first considering doing 'the right thing' before 'the politic thing,' they might win the confidence of Americans again, and maybe regain power," I'd feel more comfortable finding out what the right thing is in this case before chasing the blood in the water.

I personally don't have enough information yet to form an opinion on this Dubai Ports thing, but so far, I find myself mostly agreeing with Bush!
The Hollywood host -
I was bitter about this in yesterday's blog post in the India section -

"Well, there is not a thing that can be done about this in this country, as his party controls the congress and his judges sit on the bench at all levels. And too, the club members can do nothing about this deal with India. What are the going to do, hold the breath until they turn blue, or issue "statements" or a reprimand? So what?

"It's a Texas thing. We elected him because he's a cowboy who slaps around wimps and does what he wants. The electorate seems to have felt that's what we need in this awful world full off swarthy people with odd religions who want to kill us all..."

As you know, I do a lot of reading of opinion and theory and all that wonk stuff. Rick is right about the turmoil with the Democrats now - what do we do to get back in power - get religion, preach war, drop the pro-life stuff, say the poor are poor because they choose to be, sponsor a team in NASCAR with a cool paint job and fancy logos? Friday, in particular, a number of the big-time middle-left blogs are in the middle of a discussion of standing for only one thing in 2008, universal healthcare - good for business, good for the country, and eminently decent. A good way to spend tax dollars. But Hillary Clinton tried that and people remember how she was excoriated for that - no government folks gonna ration my healthcare and limit me, and all the rest.

Of course there's a structural problem, and what Rick suggests makes sense. And yes, it'll never happen. This is the structure we've got.

The problem, aside from the structural issue, is that Rick and the rest of us hold positions and have values that are in the minority. Face the truth. Although the days of lynching black folks are gone, the majority wants gays to just go away, women to stay in their place and be modest, Bush to sneer at the world for us, and the rich to get the goodies, because that's just how it is.

We're out of step. We propose things that "make sense" for the country. The other side appeals to what people "feel" deep down - resentment and fear, and anger that others want something that's "wrong." We may get the majority to agree we're right on so many things, as it's a logical and common sense position we offer on this and that. But the other side always wins because they target what's underneath all the logical stuff - the thousand-times-more-powerful feelings of alienation and anger.

The logical mind versus the emotional id.

We're playing chess while they're playing football.

We don't even know what the game is.
Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta -
Hollywood -
Do I get a prize?
Ah well, feel free to join in by dropping a line to - or you could ask to join the group.

Posted by Alan at 13:09 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006 13:15 PST home

Thursday, 2 March 2006
Ups And Downs, But Mostly Down
Topic: NOW WHAT?

Ups And Downs, But Mostly Down

Thursday, March 2nd, the president got his diplomatic coup - Bush Ushers India Into Nuclear Club (AP). Yep, we give them advanced technology and they pretend they'll play by the rules of the nonproliferation treaty they never signed. As mentioned elsewhere, Fred Kaplan here discusses what this is all about, and how hard it will be to close this one. Congress has to approve, and transfer of our key technology to other countries these days is a hot issue. The Dubai Ports World deal has out people a bit on edge. And then too, the "club" - the key nations who have signed the nonproliferation treaty - may not be too happy about the United States cutting deals on the side without consulting them. and will oppose this without some discussion.

But like the business with Dubai Ports World, this is a done deal. The administration acted there unilaterally and ignored domestic law regarding review of such matters, and showed congress, even the members of the president's own party, they were political eunuchs - powerless and pathetic. They can look into it if they have time on their hands, but he's not budging. It's approved. He just told the major world powers the same thing regarding their silly nonproliferation treaty - he decides who's in and who's out of the club, and on what terms with what agreements. Yep, it's hard to get used to the Texan in the room.

But that's the way it is. There's no way to stop anything he chooses to do. The Attorney General and his crew of constitutional thinkers say their interpretation of "unitary executive power" makes his decisions plenary - that's what the constitution really says. Courts have no authority to stop anything he does (although their opinions are always pleasant to read in the john), and congress can pass any law they like, but when the president signs them he appends his "signing statements" say that, sure, he'll follow them, but he has the "unitary executive power" not to when he chooses.

Well, there is not a thing that can be done about this in this country, as his party controls the congress and his judges sit on the bench at all levels. And too, the club members can do nothing about this deal with India. What are the going to do, hold the breath until they turn blue, or issue "statements" or a reprimand? So what?

It's a Texas thing. We elected him because he's a cowboy who slaps around wimps and does what he wants. The electorate seems to have felt that's what we need in this awful world full off swarthy people with odd religions who want to kill us all.

And he plays to the frightened crowd. Two days before he visits Pakistan on this trip, one of our diplomats there is blown to smithereens when a car bomb tosses his armored Caddy into the next block, and blows out ten floors of windows at the hotel next door.

Our John Wayne? Bush To Proceed To Pakistan, Shrugs Off Deadly Bomb Blasts, just like the strong silent hero in the John Ford westerns. It's classic.

Of course, those who don't live inside the old movies have different views, like this -
I know a few people working in the Foreign Service, but I've lost track of postings for a couple of them in the last year. No names have yet been released, but I'm certain that family and friends of those posted in Pakistan are on pins and needles at the moment awaiting news. Thoughts and prayers for all of you - family, friends and coworkers - as you wait for the phone to ring.

Working for the United States in a posting as dangerous as Pakistan is a very tough job. Most of our personnel in difficult postings cannot bring their families with them, but they do a tough job - trying to sell this Administration's abysmal foreign policy pronouncements to an increasingly skeptical world, while still maintaining some semblance of long-term strategic diplomacy with the nation in question, all the while worrying about safety concerns and potential terrorist threats and kidnappings and other assorted threats - because the nation's interest requires it.

Ever since Valerie Plame Wilson was outed by her own government in an act of political vengeance and intel exposure, recruiting for these tough posts has been difficult indeed. Who wants to trust an Administration who outs its own personnel? The embassies are staffed not just with diplomatic personnel, but also security experts, analysts and others - and recruiting has suffered over the last few years under the Bush Administration, I am told by several sources in the diplomatic community despite an initial upsurge in applicants after 9/11. The brave men and women who work tirelessly for this nation in positions this dangerous are heroes, plain and simple - that we have lost at least one today is a tragedy.
The president shrugs. As his mirror Rumsfeld said, when Baghdad was being looted just after we tore down the Saddam statue and Chalabi's shills we flew in cheered, and there was murder and mayhem in the streets there, "Stuff Happens." It's still happening.

John Wayne types shrug and do what they must. No point in getting all upset and acting like a bunch of women. (Many a fifth-rate western has that very line in the dialog somewhere.)

Ah, maybe those "signing statements" - saying real men don't follow the law when they're being all manly - are just Texas bluster. It's a male-ego thing, just posturing.

Maybe not.

US Cites Exception in Torture Ban
McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison
Josh White and Carol D. Leonnig - Washington Post - Friday, March 3, 2006 - Page A04
Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions...
The commander-in-chief is in charge of the military. Look at the signing statement. The objections of McCain and the lower-level FBI folks and all the veterans of every war since WWII, and all the rest of the women folk, as they used to say in the old westerns, don't mean squat. There's this manly "unitary executive power" that is inherent in the position of the commander-in-chief.

We torture people, and say so, and, unlike every other country in the world, we allow what is screamed out in the torture sessions to be admitted as evidence (read the article).

What are you going to do about it, weep? Boo, hoo. Women. You want to be safe, or what?

So how is this going down? Are people grinning and getting all excited - men getting hard and women creaming their panties - when they read such news, or watch it on Fox?

In other items here there was mention of the week's CBS poll - the thirty-four percent approval rating for the president and the twenty-nine percent "favorability" rating, a sort of character thing.

We've moved on from westerns? There were hundreds of web item and more than a few appearances by supporters of the president on the talk shows, and of course Rush Limbaugh on talk radio, all saying CBS's methodology was "clearly flawed."

Maybe so.

But then, Thursday, March 2nd Fox News released their poll -
- 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing, only the second time Bush has fallen below 40 percent in Fox polling

- 81 percent believe Iraq is likely to end up in a civil war

- 69 percent oppose allowing Dubai Ports World to manage our ports
And then CNN - USA Today - Gallup had their results the same day -
- 38 percent approve of the job Bush is doing, a rating "mired near its record low" of 37 percent (Katrina time)

- 47 percent approve how he is handling terrorism, "down 7 points since early February and a record low"

- 64 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, a record high

- 52 percent do not find Bush "honest and trustworthy," tying November's worst-ever mark.
There's a lot of women folk out there.

Or something else is up.

Over at FireDogLake (here) there's a link to this, the subscription-only insider Stratfor Report - current conservative thinking. But you cannot get there. Of course, as usual on the web, we get an excerpt of what conservatives think of these numbers. Something there is that doesn't like a wall and all that. The conservatives are worried.

And just to tweak the conservative insiders, here's the full excerpt (with added emphases) -
The point here is not to argue the merits of the Dubai ports deal, but rather to place the business deal in the context of the U.S. grand strategy. That strategy is, again, to split the Islamic world into its component parts, induce divisions by manipulating differences, and to create coalitions based on particular needs. This is, currently, about the only strategy the United States has going for it - and if it can't use commercial relations as an inducement in the Muslim world, that is quite a weapon to lose.

The problem has become political, and stunningly so. One of the most recent opinion polls, by CBS, has placed Bush's approval rating at 34 percent - a fairly shocking decline, and clearly attributable to the port issue. As we have noted in the past, each party has a core constituency of about 35-37 percent. When support falls significantly below this level, a president loses his ability to govern.

The Republican coalition consists of three parts: social conservatives, economic conservatives and business interests, and national security conservatives. The port deal has apparently hit the national security conservatives in Bush's coalition hard. They were already shaky over the administration's personnel policies in the military and the question of whether he had a clear strategy in Iraq, even as they supported the invasion.

Another part of the national security faction consists of those who believe that the Muslim world as a whole is, in the end, united against the United States, and that it poses a clear and present danger. Bush used to own this faction, but the debate over the ports has generated serious doubts among this faction about Bush's general policy. In their eyes, he appears inconsistent and potentially hypocritical. Economic conservatives might love the ports deal, and so might conservatives of the "realpolitik" variety, but those who buy into the view that there is a general danger of terrorism emanating from all Muslim countries are appalled - and it is showing in the polls.

If Bush sinks much lower, he will breaks into territory from which it would be impossible for a presidency to recover. He is approaching this territory with three years left in his presidency. It is the second time that he has probed this region: The first was immediately after Hurricane Katrina. He is now down deeper in the polls, and it is cutting into his core constituency.

In effect, Bush's strategy and his domestic politics have intersected with potential fratricidal force. The fact is that the U.S. strategy of dividing the Muslim world and playing one part off against the other is a defensible and sophisticated strategy - even if does not, in the end, turn out to be successful (and who can tell about that?) This is not the strategy the United States started with; the strategy emerged out of the failures in Iraq in 2003. But whatever its origins, it is the strategy that is being used, and it is not a foolish strategy.

The problem is that the political coalition has eroded to the point that Bush needs all of his factions, and this policy - particularly because of the visceral nature of the ports issue - is cutting into the heart of his coalition. The general problem is this: The administration has provided no framework for understanding the connection between a destroyed mosque dome in As-Samarra, an attack against a crucial oil facility in Saudi Arabia, and the UAE buyout of a British ports-management firm. Rather than being discussed in the light of a single, integrated strategy, these appear to be random, disparate and uncoordinated events. The reality of the administration's strategy and the reality of its politics are colliding. Bush will backtrack on the ports issue, and the UAE will probably drop the matter. But what is not clear is whether the damage done to the strategy and the politics can be undone. The numbers are just getting very low.
Well, that happens when you don't explain things, and John Wayne types don't explain. Live with it.

Of course Jane at FireDogLake has her own explanation of the numbers, the AP release of the videotapes showing the administration really was warned about New Orleans going under even if they said they had no idea such a thing would happen, but much more -
Why are the Bush Administration poll numbers tanking? Well, in my opinion, it's all the lying. The American public can forgive mistakes, so long as they are not done with some malignant intent. Apparently they can also overlook some incompetence, so long as they believe the President is working hard at his job.

But when the public begins to think they have been lied to - repeatedly - that love goes sour. Very sour. And lately, for the Bush Administration, it's been all about the lying.

... Yesterday, Jack Cafferty was reading viewer e-mails on the subject on CNN's Situation Room. Someone wrote into the show with a quote that is particularly apt: "Only the Bush Administration could take a disaster of Biblical proportions, and make it worse."

If you are going to lie about not knowing how bad a disaster will be - then you should be certain that no video of you being told it will be a disaster exists. In this case, there have been so many preceding lies, the hope this Administration can hold onto at this point is that the American public will just chalk it up to the way things work in Washington.

Except, at the moment, the Republican party controls Congress and the White House. And when you add in all the Abramoff investigations and guilty pleas thus far and the entire GOP K Street operation, the Duck Cunningham bribery pleas and continuing investigations, the Tom DeLay indictment and investigations and all the rest of the mess, you get a very ugly picture of what the current party leadership of the Republican party has been doing. And it sure as hell doesn't look like the public's business from here, now does it?

It's all about the lying. No accountability, no taking responsibility, none. This President comes off as an irresponsible frat boy who is more than willing to blame anyone else to get his own ass out of trouble. That may work when you are 19 (although it wouldn't have worked with my parents, I can tell you that), but one would think that the President of the United States would hold himself to a higher ethical standard on this. Especially given a situation where people lost their lives...
Well, maybe the AP videotapes will be the last of the problems. This cannot go on and on.

But it goes on. Thursday, March 2nd, Murray Wass, in the National Review, with this - the White House had multiple reports from multiple intelligence agencies that Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the US unless we attacked him first. And before anything was said to the public, or leaked to Judy Miller at the New York Times for Rice and Cheney to chat about on television, there were the same sort of reports about those damned aluminum tubes - they had nothing to do with building nuclear weapons.

So the "honest mistake" - See, we went with the best intelligence we had, but unfortunately, it was wrong... - gets a tad more ambiguous. Like AP with the videotapes of the pre-hurricane briefings, here Wass, doing that reporter thing, digs up the actual documents, just to get things straight.

So, did the administration lie to us and to the UN and, privately, to leaders of nations around the world (and plant a false story in the Times with the willing and eager Judy Miller)? Or did the administration prefer to think all these documents shoved in front of them just had to be wrong because they'd heard different from Chalabi and the exiles, and, after all, they'd paid good money for that? Did they just assume the CIA and DIA and State and AEC were full of enemies trying to stop the noble cause? Or were they just not doing their jobs - they didn't feel like reading all this detailed and dense verbiage as it was boring or something? None of the explanations is very comforting. Your choice.

Well, we have what we have in Iraq.

Even the big-time conservatives are fed up - as mentioned, William F. Buckley here, and then, late in the week, George Will here -
After Iraqis voted in December for sectarian politics, an observer said Iraq had conducted not an election but a census. Now America's heroic ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, one of two indispensable men in Iraq, has warned the Iraqi political class that unless the defense and interior ministries are nonsectarian, meaning not run as instruments of the Shiites, the U.S. will have to reconsider its support for Iraq's military and police. But that threat is not credible: U.S. strategy in Iraq by now involves little more than making the Iraqi military and police competent.

... Almost three years after the invasion, it is still not certain whether, or in what sense, Iraq is a nation. And after two elections and a referendum on the constitution, Iraq barely has a government. A defining attribute of a government is that it has a monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence. That attribute is incompatible with the existence of private militias of the sort that maraud in Iraq.

Today, with all three components of the "axis of evil'' - Iraq, Iran, North Korea - more dangerous than they were when that phrase was coined in 2002, the country would welcome, and Iraq's political class needs to hear, as a glimpse into the abyss, presidential words as realistic as those Britain heard on June 4, 1940.
What Britain heard from Winston Churchill that day as every small boat in England had finally heroically managed to get the troops out Dunkirk and back to England? "We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.''

Buckley says we've lost, and now Will says if we get the troops home one day and leave what we've created there, a moderately well-policed theocratic mess, that's not victory. And then, over at the National Review, John Derbyshire piles on - "Well, I'm with Bill Buckley and George Will. This pig's ear is never going to be made into a silk purse, not by any methods or expenditures the American people are willing to countenance. The only questions worth asking about Iraq at this point are: How does GWB get out of this with the least damage to US interests, and to his party's future prospects? I wish I had some answers."

We all wish we had some answers.

But then, we did reach that deal with India. It may not fly. It may offend everyone. But doesn't that count for something? Surely it balances out some things here.

Posted by Alan at 23:10 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006 08:55 PST home

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

Under the News

Thursday is usually a day of away from politics, devoted to a photo shoot for the Sunday edition of Just Above Sunset, the weekly parent site to this daily web log. Last week it was an afternoon at a local place that's used in many films, Greystone Mansion (also here). This week it was another "on location" shoot - Santa Monica Pier, the absolute end of Route 66, like in the song, and a favorite with location directors. And there was filming there this Thursday, but nothing major - a McDonalds commercial. Those photos will be along shortly - it takes some time to get the photos from the Nikon onto the computer, review them all (there were a hundred and fifty this week), select the most interesting (or startling or whatever), and edit the "keepers" down to a format that works on the web (they start out in very large format that would crash most users' computers).

But the political discourse, the national dialog, spun on. Driving from Hollywood to Santa Monica and back, you could hear the radio buzzing with news and politics - more chat about the president's speech at the Naval Academy the day before (covered here) and the business with the military spending millions to plant fake news stories in the new Iraqi press. Whether we torture folks and whether we should we torture folks, and where, was old news. The "death squads" story (covered here) was old news. On the issue of us spending millions planting fake news stories in the Iraqi press, the left was saying we shouldn't be subverting a newly-born free press with propaganda disguised as news, that we bribe people to print as if it's real reporting, while on the right one heard the idea that of course we should - we need to get our message out and this is war. On the big war speech you got the same - it was either detailed platitudes not based in reality, or the most inspiring presidential speech since the Gettysburg Address. It all depends on your point of view.

Well, in the Mini Cooper the first button of the AM band is "all news" with CBS from Washington at the top of the hour - and "traffic on the eights" - the third button is Air America and the lefties, the fifth is Rush Limbaugh on the right, and the sixth is the "lounge" station (Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and such). Nat King Cole sounded just fine. He even sang "Route 66."

But one keeps coming back to the big questions, and the chatter on the radio. The questions were in there, somehow.

What are we, as a nation (but perhaps not a community any longer), doing? What have we become? We're all in this cooperatively - we pay our taxes and elect folks to get this or that done, and think this is a fine place. We have schools and road and armies and programs to keep things running smoothly, but the last five years, since that crazy close election, have everyone shouting "the other side" down.

All of us who think this war was a bone-headed idea that was, then, executed with stunningly incompetent decisions after we "won," take a lot of heat from friends and relatives for not being patriotic and not "supporting the troops" and not "simply trusting the president." We're the ones tearing down America and all that.

While one can understand the anger, and understand that such anger is inevitable, it may be misplaced, as Bob Harris puts it here -
I can speak for no one else, but it seems obvious to me that it is the war which disgraces America. It is the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people which disgraces America. It is torture which disgraces America. It is imprisonment without trial which disgraces America. It is the use of chemical weapons which disgraces America. It is disdain for international law, the use of military power as a first resort, the intentional confusion of the Iraqi people with terrorists thousands of miles away in Afghanistan, and the corruption of the very word “democracy” which all disgrace America.

As an opponent of the war, I am trying to stop my country from being disgraced any further.
That about sums it up. Of course Harris should have used "that" not "which" in each point in his brief statement here, but he captures what bothers so many on the left - what we have become in order to feel safe and feel we just had to do in response to the very real threat of those who have attacked us here and want a very different world in the Middle East, one we just cannot accept.

The argument from the right seems to be that those things that may seem to disgrace America in this list, or ones like it, while perhaps unfortunate, are necessary. Everything changed on September 11, 2001 - and if you think otherwise, you just don't "get it." They are the realists, and the grownups.

The argument here and in so many places has been, no, not much, if any of this, was necessary. There were alternatives, many of them (often discussed here) - and none of these things has worked out well. Iraq is in a low-grade civil war that could become an all-out civil war, or even a regional war. We have effectively isolated ourselves from the world community, and while their opinion may no matter a whit to those on the right, some argument might still be made that cooperation with other nations, even if grudging cooperation can get a lot done. But we walk away from treaties, from agreements on trade and agreed rules for treating others humanly, from this treaty or that. We claim we have to do this in our own self-interest, but to what end? We're safer, we're richer, we're getting what we need in the world? Not exactly.

Of course none of what Harris or those on the left think really matters. We have done what we have done, and it is clear that there will be no changes of direction for three more years, and maybe not for the four years following that. This is a democracy. The people have chosen the leaders who project the image they think the nation should project to the world - no one messes with us and we don't much care what anyone thinks of anything we do, and any "rules" are kind of beside the point. We'll follow them if we feel like it, or not. They call this strength.

There's not much point in opposing the whole thing. The votes have been counted. And, if the rest of the world can just go take a hike, perhaps those who have been outvoted ought to either accept things as they are, or leave. Changing things by some sort of persuasion - moral, logical, practical (or satiric) - is beyond unlikely.

Oh, you can do all sorts of analyses and exercises in practical and logical thinking.

In reaction to the big war speech at the Naval Academy you get things this like this from Jeanne over at Body and Soul, a mediation on an essential question. What are they fighting for? The "they" is the Iraqis. And she ends with this - "So, isn't it beside the point to talk about how Iraqis aren't ready to fight, and won't be for a long, long time? Isn't the real issue that there's nothing they would fight for that the Bush Leagues want them to fight for?"

You have to read the middle to see how she got there, and it's pretty convincing. And one doubts such subtle consideration actually takes place in the administration - of the implications of just what "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" means on the ground. Which Iraqis do we want to "stand up" what are they supposed to stand up for? She notes that Robert Dreyfuss argues that American forces are now "the Praetorian Guard for that radical-right theocracy" in Iraq. (See this.) In the complex internal power struggles there now, how do we get these guys to "stand up" for a new and somewhat abstract idea - a secular, inclusive Iraqi democracy? Is anyone mulling this over in Washington? It's in none of what they say. But it is kind of important.

What do they say?

We were basically told in the "big speech" to be patient and things will work out. And, by the way, no significant number of troops will be coming home this year - we'll stay until we achieve total victory, but we'll leave as the Iraqis get their act together.

What? Which is it?

Note this this -
Bush can play John Wayne - we'll fight 'til the last man dies - but if it becomes politically necessary to pull out significant numbers of troops next year, he can remind us that he's been saying all along that our only goal was to train Iraqi troops, and - what do you know, just in time for the election - they're trained. We are not about to send American boys thousands of miles from home to do what Iraqi boys ought to be doing for themselves.
And that's the plan.

There's not much to do but note "the plan" - that's what we have. Those who have other plans - Murtha, Biden, think tanks full of experts considering the complexities - are not the leaders we elected. We went for "simple and strong."

Get over it.



"Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion - and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion ... while Truth again reverts to a new minority."


On the Santa Monica Pier -

Posted by Alan at 21:09 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005 21:23 PST home

Thursday, 14 July 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

Regarding l'affaire Rove at Mid-Week

It's hard to come by a good outline of the real story, but this one will do:
In his op-ed on July 6th, 2003, Wilson gave a straightforward account of who he is and why he went on this fact-finding trip to Niger. He says, "I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report." He does not say that Cheney had sent him personally on the mission. He reports that he found no evidence that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

He says that he assumes from working in the government for many years that his report had been forwarded through channels. When he heard the president use the claim about African uranium in the SOTU [the State of the Union Address], he became alarmed and asked the State department about it. He accepted that the president might have been talking about a different African country than Niger until he later learned that Niger was specifically mentioned quite recently in official documents. He concludes at this time, based upon the fact that he had personally been involved in debunking this claim, that the administration had been "fixing" intelligence.

The administration was now for the first time explicitly and openly being accused of knowingly using false information to sell the war. And since Wilson had specifically named the vice president as having been the one to request additional information that led to his trip, the White House was involved at a very high level. The administration claims that this was not true, that in spite of a series of mishaps, there was no concerted or conscious effort to mislead the country about the intelligence. And whatever mistakes were made were the result of shoddy intelligence work, not the "fixing" or "sexing up" of the evidence. When the Niger episode became public, they decided that it was time for George Tenet to admit that he had screwed this particular case up and they arranged for him to make a public statement to that effect.

The White House response to Wilson's piece is that Cheney never asked for the information in the first place. And they said they had no idea about Wilson's evidence because his trip was a low level nepotistic boondoggle arranged by his wife, a CIA "employee." Karl Rove and others spoke to several reporters to that effect (They now claim, since Matthew Cooper's e-mail was leaked that it was only in order to "warn them off" taking Wilson seriously.) Robert Novak - an extremely unlikely columnist for the white house to feel they had to warn off Wilson - was the first to put this into print on July 13th.

When it came out, exposing Valerie Plame as an undercover operative, Wilson believed that it was an act of retaliation and a signal to anyone else who might be thinking of coming forward. Novak was quoted shortly after the column ran saying: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." (He has since said that he used the term "operative" inappropriately, although he has used that word very precisely throughout his career to mean "undercover.") In the days after the column appeared there were reports that the administration was actively pushing the column, claiming that Wilson's wife was "fair game."
The conclusion of Wilson's piece that started this whole thing:
I was convinced before the war that the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein required a vigorous and sustained international response to disarm him. Iraq possessed and had used chemical weapons; it had an active biological weapons program and quite possibly a nuclear research program - all of which were in violation of United Nations resolutions. Having encountered Mr. Hussein and his thugs in the run-up to the Persian Gulf War of 1991, I was only too aware of the dangers he posed.

But were these dangers the same ones the administration told us about? We have to find out. America's foreign policy depends on the sanctity of its information. For this reason, questioning the selective use of intelligence to justify the war in Iraq is neither idle sniping nor "revisionist history," as Mr. Bush has suggested. The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security. More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already. We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.
Source documents:

1.) Joe Wilson's op-ed of July 6, 2003
2.) Bob Novak's column of July 13, 2003

Clear enough?

Motive? See Howard Fineman from 2003 - the leak was really an attempt to smear Wilson and his wife as being part of a "pro-Saddam" CIA cabal.
I am told by what I regard as a very reliable source inside the White House that aides there did, in fact, try to peddle the identity of Joe Wilson's wife to several reporters. But the motive wasn't revenge or intimidation so much as a desire to explain why, in their view, Wilson wasn't a neutral investigator, but, a member of the CIA?s leave-Saddam-in-place team.
It was paranoia about those opposing them?

Here's one view of that, as seen by Digby over at Hullabaloo
Since they never adjust to changing circumstances or admit any new evidence that doesn't fit their preconceived notions, this was still the framework they were working from when bin Laden came on the scene. It's why the neocon nutcase Laurie Mylroie was able to convince people in the highest reaches of the Republican intelligentsia that Saddam had something to do with bin Laden, even though there was never a scintilla of evidence to back it up. They simply could not, and cannot to this day, come to grips with the fact that their view of how terrorism works - through "rogue states" and totalitarian sponsorship - is simply wrong.

When Clare Sterling's book came out CIA director William Casey was said to have told his people, "read Claire Sterling's book and forget this mush. I paid $13.95 for this and it told me more than you bastards who I pay $50,000 a year." Wolfowitz and Feith are said to have told their staff in the Pentagon to read Laurie Mylroie's book about Saddam and al Qaeda. Richard Clarke, in "Against All Enemies" quotes Wolfowitz as saying: "You give Bin Laden too much credit. He could not do all these things like the 1993 attack on New York, not without a state sponsor. Just because FBI and CIA have failed to find the linkages does not mean they don't exist."

This, then, is simply how they think. It's as Rob Cordry says, "the facts are biased." (That's the state of mind that led neocon Judith Miller to make her bizarre incomprehensible comment "I was proved fucking right!") They truly believe that even though they have been completely wrong about everything for the past thirty years that it just can't be so.

And no matter what, in their minds the CIA is always trying to screw them.

So the political environment in which Valeria Plame was outed was virtually hallucinogenic. There may have really been some part of certain members of the Bush administration's dysfunctional lizard brains that really thought in July of 2003 that the CIA had been trying to set them up and used Joe Wilson to do it.

But it's not July of 2003 now, is it? It's two years later and we know for a fact that the analysts, including Wilson, who said the Niger deal was bullshit were right and we know that the analysts who doubted the evidence about Saddam's WMD were right too.

Not that this will stop the Team B neocons from insisting that "they were proved fucking right." They really are delusional and they always have been.

Karl Rove, however, is a lot of things, but delusional isn't one of them. He just put out the hit on Plame and Wilson to shut down the questions Wilson was raising. He was taking care of business. But others in the administration may have made a good case, at least in their own beautiful minds, that they were the victims. God knows these people love to be victims.

I don't know if you saw Wilson on the Today show, but I thought he acquitted himself very well - mainly because he kept on the topic of the larger Iraq lies. I really think this is a key to making people understand this story.

There is a confluence of events right now with the bad news on the ground in Iraq, the Downing Street memos, the London bombings and Rovegate flaring up that are beginning to filter into the body politic. A new conventional wisdom is being written. I think that people are putting these things together - which is why you are seeing the precipitous dip in the president's approval ratings. It's not that people know, or even want to know, the details. Only junkies like me (and you) get this into it. But the ground has shifted and people are understanding that something went terribly wrong.

The president's right hand man exposing a covert CIA agent for political purposes perfectly symbolizes the entire fetid mess.
Pretty good, but as noted elsewhere, the idea now is that Rove is the hero for exposing Wilson's anti-war bias (see From the Other Side: Different Perspectives on Karl Rove, Harry Potter and Tom Cruise).

Mike O'Hare, who teaches public management at UCLA out here, is confused by saying exposing this undercover agent, working on stopping the spread of WMD, is thus okay -
How might this be OK?

Well, sometimes it's OK to do a bad thing to accomplish much better things. In this case, the better thing was to suppress a truth that might have interfered with a war against the wrong party, that hasn't come out as predicted by anyone who advocated it, that's ruined our military capacity to deal with anything else that might come up (like North Korean or Iranian nukes), that so far shows little sign of having helped the Iraqis, who are still dying at our and each others' hands by the thousands, and that put our fiscal national security in the hands of Asian creditors.

It does seem to have helped W with some psychological issues related to his dad.

I give up. I guess the utilitarian justification is sort of a bad joke.

Sometimes a bad thing has trivial consequences, like running a red light and not hitting anyone.

Perhaps Plame's assets were already dead, or maybe not very nice people anyway, or their secret police are of the redemptive/rehabilitative, rather than the thumbscrew, type (Putin's liberal democrats, Mr. Rove?) or Plame had already discovered all the WMD's in the world so she had nothing more useful to do in that line of work. It's true that no one has shown us a single hard fact that Plame would have turned up but now can't. Perhaps we have to believe this one, but why have Rove's defenders completely missed this line of argument?

The best I can do here is to see the Republican defense of Rove as part of a larger pattern redefining "good performance" in government and management to comprise "anything not (provably) criminal." The idea that just doing a lousy job is not grounds for dismissal, or even criticism, is quite novel and almost certainly a bad one, but there seems to be a lot of it around (though the sheriff down in Fulton County isn't buying). [See this.] If you can't indict, pin a medal? (That makes sense of Tenet's Medal of Freedom.) Bizarre, but maybe we'll like it when we get used to it.

What remains puzzling to me is that the boss is so paralyzed regarding his numbers 2, 3,...n that he needs Patrick Fitzgerald to find out if any of them did something. I've had many bosses, all of whom had no trouble asking me, "Hey, O'Hare, did you talk to Smith about this? What did you tell him?"

It must be some high-level phone thing: sometimes I've arranged to be away from my phone or busy when the boss called, and I guess when you're Karl Rove defending freedom and the American Way, that can happen for two years.

But Rove was right in the room yesterday, on TV, not busy with anything, when Bush was saying he just didn't know what to say until Fitzgerald told him. That would have been a great time to turn around and ask Rove.

It's too deep for me. All I can say is that I'm glad we have distinguished and highly trained patriotic grownups handling these things for us.
Of course, "anything not (provably) criminal" is the problem here. Rove may have committed a crime.

If he deliberately exposed an undercover agent, for whatever reason, he's dead meat. If he did so inadvertently, he's a dangerous fool. That he was messing around with such information may possibly expose him to charges of violating the espionage act and treason (argued convincingly here).

Oh crap. But Digby argues after looking at the two source documents Rove was defending someone else: "... it's so absurd that they tried to make these questions about Joe Wilson's wife so central to the story. The story is about Dick Cheney. And they knew it. If he hadn't defaulted to his patented South Carolina smear tactics, Karl would be in a much safer place today."

He was the man who really pushed for this war in all the agencies.

How this will all come out? Rove in trouble? Cheney in trouble? Did John Bolton set this all up? (Quite possible - see this.) Was Jeff Gannon, the gay male escort (ah, those full-frontal nude photos on the web) that the White House planted as a fake news reporter, involved? (Quite possible - see this.)

Events swirl on.

What of Bob Novak - still a big star on CNN and the subject of no investigations at all?

"The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." - James Joyce (1882-1941), "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," Chapter 5 (1916).

Posted by Alan at 23:29 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 14 July 2005 23:44 PDT home

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Topic: NOW WHAT?

Politics: If I want a farce I'll read Feydeau.

Maybe it was the Fourth of July thing, but, after Just Above Sunset was put to bed July 3rd, commenting on current events seemed somehow pointless. Not that raising questions and commenting on what is happening in the world of national and international politics is unpatriotic or anything - although some see questioning what's going on as giving aid and comfort to our enemies. The right to do that is what we're fight for, isn't it? Democracy and all that? But nothing seemed to be changing.

Of course the heat of what was being said left and right continued rise, but nothing much new was being added. But perhaps it is time to return to see what's up, as that New York Times reporter, that Judith Miller woman, is off to jail and that group of right-side radio and television hosts is off to Iraq soon to bring back the truth about how well things are going there (one of them said he's "a patriot before he's a reporter"). I'd feel bad for Miller but she was the one who convinced the New York Times to run all of what Chalabi was saying to her about how there really were WMD over there - and she convinced the Times that she, and they, didn't need any second sources as it just had to be true. The Times apologized publicly, but kept her on.

That's a mixed bag. And it is a continuation of a story that broke last Friday noted in these pages here Busted: Bush's Brain (Karl Rove) Suddenly Exposed - the direct allegation by Lawrence O'Donnell that Rove is the man who leaked the name of the CIA agent for purposes of revenge. But nothing much has come of that.

Our friend Dick in Rochester wondered what happened. – "I have not seen any follow up on this in local rag or evening news. Did I miss something or are they just ignoring it?"

Well, I have no brief for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle - the decade I lived in Rochester it seemed barely adequate for local news and everyone read the New York Times for real news (and the crossword). The mainstream national television and radio news? Miller gets a lot of play. Rove doesn't.

The direct allegation by Lawrence O'Donnell that Rove is the man who leaked the name of the CIA agent for purposes of revenge is mentioned in passing now and then in some news stories, but Judith Miller going to jail makes it seem a minor point. Commentary I read says O'Donnell may be right, or may be wrong, but no one knows, so there isn't a news story here. No one seems to know what the heck is going on. One theory is the press told Rove, not the other way around - mentioned here - and of course, it might have been Bill Clinton's fault somehow. No one knows just who the prosecutor (en français, le procureur) is going after or why.

If ever Rove is charged with this, or with only perjury or obstruction of justice, or let off the hook, then you might see a news story here and there. News is events - not allegations, as I think Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, would agree. For example, the news didn't say one single thing about the allegations of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth about John Kerry - alleging Kerry was a coward, a liar, and perhaps a war criminal - until the Swift Boat guys proved it was so - just like they said. Then it was a story. No, wait...

I think we have to understand that anyone running a news operation must account for the idea - that the president's top advisor and life-long friend perhaps committed a felony close to treason - is too hot to mess with casually. Best to wait. Too, most viewers are solidly conservative and pro-Bush, as seen in his overwhelming landslide presidential victory for this second term, and running with this story will have your audience running for Fox News, and your advertising revenue going along with them. Know your audience and what they will tolerate, and what they want to hear (missing attractive white women and abducted and abused children). Reporting this story, if it turns out to be true, and especially of it turns out to be untrue, is bad for business. Then too there are those - most patriotic Americas - who think that if Rove did this then Wilson and his wife probably deserved to be destroyed because they embarrassed the man we chose to lead us, no matter how it hurt out intelligence efforts and even if Wilson was right. It's a tribal thing.

But perhaps I'm too cynical.

And everyone hates the news folks anyway. That group of right-side radio and television hosts off to Iraq soon to bring back the truth, about how well things are going there, provides an example of that. As Fox News summarizes the effort -
A contingent of conservatives talk radio hosts is headed to Iraq this month on a mission to report "the truth" about the war: American troops are winning, despite headlines to the contrary.

The "Truth Tour" has been pulled together by the conservative Web cast radio group and Move America Forward, a non-profit conservative group backed by a Republican-linked public relations firm in California.

"The reason why we are doing it is we are sick and tired of seeing and hearing headlines by the mainstream media about our defeat in Iraq," Melanie Morgan, a talk radio host for KSFO Radio in San Francisco and co-chair of Move America Forward, said.

Morgan said the media is "imposing a Vietnam template on this war."

"This is not Vietnam," she said. "War is war, and it's dangerous, and the killing is taking place all of the time. At the same time, where there is danger, there is success and there is a mainstream media that is determined to shut out that success."
Whatever. As noted in Daily Kos -
Awesome for them. Let them see the truth.

But, for the record, the truth includes traveling out of the Green Zone.

And it includes foregoing armed bodyguards and security escorts.

If they want the truth, let them see it the way the average Iraqi sees it.
But that's not the point, is it?

Each side is saying "WE HAVE THE TRUTH!" The idea is you don't know you're being deceived. What's a reporter to do?

Let's take the Karl Rove story. Is it complicated? Maybe, but Kevin Drum two years ago suggested the simple narrative -
Top White officials blew the identity of an undercover CIA agent, potentially endangering both lives and intelligence operations, solely to gain political payback against a guy who had risen to the top of their enemies list.

That's not so complicated, is it?
Maybe not, but Digby over at Hullabaloo suggests things have changed since then -
... there is more to it now. It has become obvious to a majority of Americans that the Bush administration was lying when it made its case for war. The public is much more likely to see this Plame leak for what it was. A cover-up by smear and intimidation. And it looks much more serious in this new light.

Here's how I would update it:

The Bush administration lied about its reasons for the war in Iraq. When a critic stepped up to expose one of the lies the Whitehouse blew his wife's identity as an undercover CIA agent. They did this to exact revenge against what they saw as a political enemy and to intimidate those who would further expose the administration, potentially endangering both lives and intelligence operations around the world.

That's the story. And regardless of what comes out about who leaked what to whom first, the sick fucking thing is Rove has actually already admitted to being the biggest asshole on the planet regardless of his legal culpability. When they are apprised of this, in the context of the Iraq lies, people may not be as amenable to forgive or write off as some think. Even if Karl Rove didn't break the law, here is what we already know he did do:
President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.
Here's the thing, though. Let's not forget that Wilson was right. There was no yellowcake. Rove and his minions discredited Wilson and destroyed his wife's cover because he was telling the truth.

If Democrats start going on Matthews to talk about this, they need to hammer this point home over and over again. They can debate the Barbizon school of blond former prosecutors all they want, but every single time, their point must be that this was a very serious matter of national security, weapons of mass destruction, lying about war - life and death. There was no yellow cake and there were no WMD and Bush and Rove and the rest have been lying their asses off from the beginning. And when anyone in a position to know spoke up, they were subjected to what Karl Rove openly admits to believing is a "legitimate means to counter criticism" - leaking and disseminating derogatory information about Bush's critics. In common parlance that's called character assassination. And when you do it to discredit someone who is telling the truth it's a cover-up.

Democrats really need to rise to the occasion this time. There remains a serious danger of the whole thing getting purposefully muddied by GOP spin artists as it usually is and there is just no excuse for it. As David Corn said back in 2003:

The strategic point here - and there is one - is for the GOP'ers to make this scandal look like another one of those nasty partisan mud-wrestles that the public never likes. Turn it into a political controversy, not a criminal one. Then it all comes out blurry and muddy in the wash. (Bad metaphor, I know.) But that is the intent: to fuzzy up the picture and cause people to shrug their shoulders and say, "it's just politics."

That's why we have to be prepared with a story people can understand and be prepared to tie it in to what they are beginning to see happened with the Iraq war. In Hollywood, screewriters and readers are asked to distill the plot into a single sentence called a logline. Here's the logline for the Plame Scandal: Karl Rove and others in the White House exposed an undercover CIA agent in order to cover up their lies about Iraq.
Well, that's one way to tell the story.

Here's another way -
Could Judy Miller have been enough of a "true believer" in the cause of the administration's WMD scare campaign that she passed along Plame's name to one of her Bushite contacts, where it then was funneled along to Rove and others? Anyone who has read Miller's angry defense of her WMD propaganda journalism ("I was proved fucking right") might be inclined to say yes.
Wow. She isn't saying anything because she set it all up? Why? Because her whole reputation is based on being right about Chalabi and the WMD and all the rest an Wilson came back from Africa and published, in her own paper, that the whole thing about nuclear weapons was a crock? Yeah, maybe. But maybe not.

Wednesday the 6th Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times leads the anti-Miller charge with a long item that gives us this -
In the midst of the media's love-fest for Judith Miller, 1st Amendment Martyr, it's easy to forget that Miller's questionable journalistic ethics left her in the doghouse only a year ago. Indeed, when it came to leaks, the only people busier than White House staffers last year were the denizens of the New York Times' newsroom, who fell all over themselves to excoriate Miller to competing publications.

... It was Miller, more than any other reporter, who helped the White House sell its WMD-in-Iraq hokum to the American public. Relying on the repeatedly discredited Ahmad Chalabi and her carefully cultivated administration contacts, Miller wrote story after story on the supposedly imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

... I'm as big of fan of the 1st Amendment as anybody, but I don't buy the new Miller-as-heroine story. When Judge David Tatel concurred in the D.C. Circuit's refusal to find any absolute journalist privilege shielding Miller from testifying, he noted, sensibly, that "just as attorney-client communications 'made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime' serve no public interest and receive no privilege ? neither should courts protect sources whose leaks harm national security while providing minimal benefit to public debate." Few legal privileges are absolute, and it's appropriate for the courts to decide in cases such as this whether the harm of requiring a journalist to divulge confidential information is outweighed by the public interest in prosecuting a crime.

Reasonable people can disagree on the appropriate scope of journalistic privilege. But we should keep the legal question - when should journalists be compelled by law to divulge their sources? - distinct from the ethical question: Is a journalist ever ethically permitted to break a promise and divulge a source? However we answer the first question, the answer to the second must be a resounding yes.

Should Miller have refused to offer anonymity to all those "high-level" sources who sold us a bill of goods on Iraq? Yes.

If it becomes apparent to a journalist that a source lied to him on a matter crucial to the public good, should he be ethically permitted to expose the lie and the liar, despite any prior promises of confidentiality? Yes.

If a source with a clear political motivation passes along classified information that has no value for public debate but would endanger the career, and possibly the life, of a covert agent, is a journalist ethically permitted to "out" the no-good sneak? You bet. And if the knowledge that they can't always hide behind anonymity has a "chilling effect" on political hacks who are eager to manipulate the media in furtherance of their vested interests, that's OK with me.

But Miller still won't testify. Even though, ethically, there should be no obligation to go to jail to cover for a sleazeball.

It's possible (though not likely) that Miller is covering for a genuine whistle-blower who fears retaliation for fingering, gee, Karl Rove, for instance, as the real source of the leak.

But I have another theory. Miller's no fool; she understood the lesson of the Martha Stewart case: When you find yourself covered with mud, there's nothing like a brief stint in a minimum-security prison to restore your old luster.

And Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News piles on. -
We don't know what it's all about, except we do know that this isn't really journalism. It's about whether she continued her longtime pattern of aiding those in power and spreading their propaganda. What ever it is, we don't think it's protected by the shield laws that are on the books.

Nor do we think her jailing is the end of the world for a truly free press.
So much for a clear story about the press. As Cary Grant would say, shaking his head, "Judy, Judy, Judy..."

The bigger issues? That policy professor at UCLA, Mark Kleiman, comments, first quoting a letter from Steven Teles of Brandeis -
Re: the Plame affair and journalist-source privilege.

The legal basis of the journalists' claim is flimsy. The federal government doesn't have a shield for this, and the states that do require journalists to hand over information when all other approaches have been exhausted. All the courts that have looked at this have required them to hand the information over. End of story.

But more important is the fact that, in not handing over the information earlier, these journalists have, arguably, done a grave injury to the political process.

Had it been known during the campaign that the president's most important political advisor, the designer of this political strategy, had committed a felony and jeopardized the national security of the United States, this would have been a very significant issue in the campaign. It is, arguably, something the public really needed to know to make an intelligent decision about whom to vote for.

There is now NO real political consequence to the actions that administration officials engaged in (there is a legal consequence, perhaps, but no electoral consequence). So in that sense, these journalists not only flouted the law, they caused an election to occur without the full information the citizenry needed.

As such, in punishing them, the courts should come down as hard as possible.
The idea is you don't know you're being deceived. And Kleiman add this -
Note that it isn't just Cooper and Miller who withheld information the public ought to have known. Much of the Washington press corps apparently knew what the rest of us are just now learning, and kept their peace out of some sort of twisted professional courtesy, like the "blue wall of silence" that still protects brutal and crooked cops.

I can't agree with Steve on the question of political consequences, though. GWB won't run again, but there's always another election coming along, not just for the GOP but for the Bush clan.

Still, the journalists' decision to keep silent - backed with the full corporate resources of two of the biggest outlets in what the right wing still calls the "liberal media" - did lock us in to four more years of what Jefferson called "the reign of witches," and probably to twenty-five years of Mr. Justice Gonzales, or Mr. (or Ms.) Justice Somebody-even-worse.
Well, well, well - here we have the argument that if Rove did what Rove seems to have done, and we had known that before the election, we'd have thrown the bums out.

Doubtful. One could easily maintain the majority of citizens now want folks in our seat of power who destroy those who give them trouble - it provides a vicarious thrill to a citizenry feeling everyone hates us anyway and it's time to kick some ass. That too is a tribal thing - the powerless grooving on their proxy bully.

As for the vacancy on the Supreme Court covered last weekend in O'Connor Retires: The Game is Afoot? That's still playing out. It's a bit of a farce.

Bruce Reed was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser and is president of the Democratic Leadership Council, and he nails that here -
Conservatives don't know what's good for them, either. For the last four days, key Republicans have been insisting that nominees shouldn't have to reveal their views on divisive issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Republicans think a nominee who keeps quiet stands a better chance of confirmation than a Bork-like nominee with clearly articulated conservative views. Will they never learn? The right's greatest disappointments have been Republican nominees who failed to define their views up front: Warren, Souter, O'Connor, Kennedy. Conservatives, not Democrats, ought to be the ones demanding that nominees put their cards on the table. Remember Grover Norquist's rule: Always get it in writing.

... Another pillar of the Democrats' strategy is to make it harder for Bush to appoint an ultra-conservative by extolling O'Connor as an ultra-centrist. O'Connor has earned an important place in history as the first woman on the Supreme Court, and paved the way for more women on the bench. But let's not get carried away with her jurisprudence. Being a swing vote on this Court does not make her a principled centrist. Even her admirers concede that she was a high-class hack, joining conservatives when she thought the Court could get away with it, ducking when her political antennae sensed a losing issue.

Glowing tributes to O'Connor's sense of judicial restraint conveniently underplay her decisive role in perhaps the greatest judicial overreach of recent times: Bush v. Gore. If Bush is able to shift the balance of the Court enough to overturn Roe v. Wade, O'Connor's vote on the most important decision of her tenure will be the reason. My off-the-cuff declaration: Stop saying she was "not so bad."
Yep, it's all farce. There was a reason I took a break for a few days. If I want a farce I'll read Feydeau.

Posted by Alan at 22:05 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2005 22:21 PDT home

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