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saturday, august 13, 2005

Parting Shots
Hello, I must be going--but not until this afternoon--
Having criticized NARAL yesterday, now I'm going to defend it. In today's New York Times, Safire replacement John Tierney writes of  O'Connor replacement-presumptive John Roberts:
The ad, which featured footage of a bombed abortion clinic and a victim in a wheelchair, accused Judge John Roberts Jr. of siding with clinic bombers and having an ideology that would "excuse" their attacks.

What Mr. Roberts actually did, on behalf of the administration of the first President George Bush, was to write a brief supporting the right of people to protest at abortion clinics, not bomb them. His argument was not only reasonable, but also exposed a fundamental problem in the way Naral Pro-Choice America has framed the abortion issue.

The case involved a law forbidding conspiracies against a "class of persons," which was enacted during Reconstruction to protect blacks from the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Roberts argued (and the Supreme Court agreed) that the law didn't apply to the protesters at abortion clinics because they weren't discriminating against all women, just the women seeking abortions.

Isn't that a bit like saying that redlining didn't discriminate against African Americans, just African Americans who wanted to buy homes in white neighborhoods? Or that the old poll tax laws only discriminated against African Americans who tried to vote?

If that argument sounds reactionary, it's only because Naral and other groups have worked so long to make abortion a civil rights issue, presenting it as women's fight for freedom against an oppressive patriarchy.

thepatriachs.jpgUm, that's pretty much how it is, even though there are numerous Vichywomen working with the Man. Patriarchy is a social construct, not a biological construct.

The abortion debate, unlike the civil rights debate, can't be resolved by appealing to any widely held moral or legal principles. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court discovered a right in the Constitution for pregnant women to be left alone by the government. But that just ducked the question - what about the fetus's right to be left alone? - and angered huge numbers of Americans.

Actually, the Constitution recognizes all kinds of rights to be "left alone by the government." Roe v. Wade argues that the  First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments put together protect a right to personal privacy, and that this right had already been recognized by many prior decisions. I'll paste a part of the Roe decision explaining this at the end of this post. 

But for the moment let's step away from examining clauses under a microscope and look at the bigger issue of political liberty. The whole point of it, and the raison d'etre of the Bill of Rights, is the notion (revolutionary in the 18th century) that citizens of the U.S. were not subjects whose lives and property could be messed with on the capricious whims of the sovereign. The underlying philosophy of our government is that citizens are to be free of interference by government unless government has a compelling reason to countermand the free will of citizens. And even then, government must jump through various hoops--the due process of law thing--before requiring a citizen to do something he or she does not want to do.

For example, the "people to be secure in their persons" business in the Fourth Amendment requires prosecutors to get a court order to compel a suspect to so much as hand over a few cells of his body tissue for a DNA test. This is, in effect, a "right to privacy," is it not? Righties like Tierney swear the word privacy doesn't apply. I say righties like Tierney are just being anal.

If you really want to be anal, you could argue that the Fourteenth Amendment, which defines citizens as  "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,"  means that fetii are not citizens. Thus, they are not obligated to equal protection under the law. Why it is that all these "strict construction" types don't notice this is beyond me.

The argument that women are required to surrender their autonomy upon impregnation is based on the fuzzy-headed notion that the product of pregnancy is a person from the moment of conception. Anti-privacy philosophy sanctifies human DNA instead of human sentience and autonomy. This is something I've discussed before; here and here, for example.

Tierney lumbers along in his usual muddle-headed way, calling himself "pro-choice" but planting his discussion entirely around supposed rights of a fetus while implying that "rights of women" is a rad-fem socialist-academic theory rejected by sensible folk.

But enough Tierney. I said I was going to defend NARAL, so here goes--some readers of my previous NARAL post seemed to think I was arguing that Roberts's prior record on abortion was off limits or that we lefties should pull punches for fear of offending people. Hardly.

My point was that we on the Left have something powerful on our side--the truth--and we're fools not to use it. The Right has to deceive, and smear, because that's all they can do. Why get into the mud and play on their terms? That's counterproductive, to say the least.

See also Media Girl:

[The NARAL ad flap] got me thinking (again) about a problem I have with political ads in general:

They totally suck.

These Beltway agencies just crank these pieces of rhetorical shit out their pipelines like Twinkies. All the same. All seeming to have a solid shape on the outside. All full of mushy garbage of no value on the inside.

I'd like to see some liberal/progressive politicians and causes to hire someone else to do their ads. Look at the ads for The Island or The Constant Gardener. A lot more fucking interesting than the same old melodramatic music, the same urgent voice, the same on-screen graphics.... Who's getting paid to make this crap, anyway?

As far as the factuality of the ad is concerned--and here's the "defending NARAL" part--please see Bitch, Ph.D.

Other business: Our own Julie O. will take over Haloscan Queen monitor duties in my absence. Thank you to all who volunteered! And please don't overlook Dave Evad's pen pal request, as explained here.

Here's the promised snip of Roe v. Wade:

The Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy. In a line of decisions, however, going back perhaps as far as Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250, 251 (1891), the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. In varying contexts, the Court or individual Justices have, indeed, found at least the roots of that right in the First Amendment, Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969); in the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 8 -9 (1968), Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967), Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S. 616 (1886), see Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting); in the penumbras of the Bill of Rights, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S., at 484 -485; in the Ninth Amendment, id., at 486 (Goldberg, J., concurring); or in the concept of liberty guaranteed by the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 399 (1923). These decisions make it clear that only personal rights that can be deemed "fundamental" or "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty," Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 325 (1937), are included in this guarantee of personal privacy. They also make it clear that the right has some extension to activities relating to marriage, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967); procreation, Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 -542 (1942); contraception, Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S., at 453 -454; id., at 460, 463-465 [410 U.S. 113, 153]   (WHITE, J., concurring in result); family relationships, Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 166 (1944); and child rearing and education, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925), Meyer v. Nebraska, supra.

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.

On the basis of elements such as these, appellant and some amici argue that the woman's right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree. Appellant's arguments that Texas either has no valid interest at all in regulating the abortion decision, or no interest strong enough to support any limitation upon the woman's sole determination, are unpersuasive. The [410 U.S. 113, 154]   Court's decisions recognizing a right of privacy also acknowledge that some state regulation in areas protected by that right is appropriate. As noted above, a State may properly assert important interests in safeguarding health, in maintaining medical standards, and in protecting potential life. At some point in pregnancy, these respective interests become sufficiently compelling to sustain regulation of the factors that govern the abortion decision. The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot be said to be absolute. In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court's decisions. The Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905) (vaccination); Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927) (sterilization).

We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.

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6:51 am | link

friday, august 12, 2005

Some loose ends to tie up before I leave tomorrow ... via Altercation, you've got to see this It's a great Traitorgate info resource provided by Think Progress.
I recommend "A US Paratrooper Is Disgusted w/ Right Smears of Sheehan" at Iddybud. Essentially, the paratrooper was shocked at some of the "gentle" comments left by righties to Iddybud's "Call off the Dogs on Cindy Sheehan" post at Blogcritics.
Speaking of righties--I catch a lot of flack on the Right because I don't permit troll posts here. But I realized at one point that I can't stand to leave troll posts unanswered, but answering them takes a lot of time and energy. So, the hell with it. They aren't interested in what I think, anyway. Many of you have said that you appreciate being able to converse with the group without the taunts and insults, and believe me, I'm with you.
But there's one fellow, a Mr. Dave Evad, who has refused to be discouraged and has turned his gentle attention to this blogger. He's one of the "nyah nyah nyah you were wrong about Air America" types I've mentioned before. A sample:
Just wondering where your update is on the Air America
scandal.  You know the one where you compared those looking
into it to as "gathering like flies to a carcass"."
You might want to just keep opening your mouth so the flys
have something more appealing to buzz off to than a rotting

You lefties just don't understand that there are some times
that the high road is available and should be taken instead of
your deflection, denials, and ludicrous attempts at moral

And speaking of...Ya think if a story broke that had say
that charities money being filtered to the say Rush Limbaugh show
that you lefties (and your Exempt Media) would not only be
chewing on that carcass but raising your young there????  Ya think.
buzz buzz buzz wiggle wiggle

And by the way your blog format sucks...especially the archiving
without an archive search.

And you wrote a book on blogging???  Hope its better in concept
than you show in actuality.  I suggest you get a day job.
I had planned to write more about Air America Radio this week but ran out of time. There were news stories that NY attorney general Eliot Spitzer was investigating, and I want to get some clarification on this from his office. No response so far, though, and I haven't had time to pursue it as vigorously as it needs to be pursued.
There is an appearance of new news on AAR, but in fact not much has happened ... AAR continues to say they didn't know about the loan arranged by Evan Cohen until recently and don't believe they are legally responsible, but plan to pay it  anyway just to do the right thing. Righties continue to claim the current staff of Air America Radio are hypocrites who talk about progressivism but steal money from poor children and Alzheimer's patients. There appears to be contention as to exactly how and when this money will be paid, but this amounts to "he said, she said." Eventually, courts will sort that out. Most of the old Gloria Wise programs have been handed out to other organizations and agencies, anyway, so I don't believe they are being deprived. The righties continue to consider any new allegations of fiscal impropriety at Gloria Wise as proof that Al Franken personally stuffed his pockets with money stolen from widows and orphans. Al Franken says Evan Cohen ripped him off, too. Yada yada yada.
As I have said from the beginning, I never set out to prove whether the allegations are true or not, just to look at how the allegations were being reported. This is a subtlety lost on such cognitively challenged persons as Mr. Evad, of course.
I explained to Mr. Evad that if he continued to harrass me I'd post his name and email address and let you regulars explain things to him. In his most recent email, he expressed interest in receiving such correspondence.
So, here we go: Write to Dave Evad at He appears to respond well to robust rhetoric. I hope he won't be disappointed.
Also related to trolls, I haven't decided yet whether to leave comments moderated or unmoderated. I'd love to be able to leave an open thread to let people talk while I'm away. If one of you regulars will have time to look in on the blog frequently next week and wants to volunteer to take over Haloscan Queen monitor duties, email me and I'll share the Secrets of the Maha Haloscan Account.
More later, I'm sure.

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5:14 pm | link

NARAL and Double Standards
I haven't yet said anything about NARAL's infamous John Roberts "bombing" ad because I hadn't had time to check it out for myself. I knew the Right was worked up into a froth about it, but this means little. The Right works itself into a froth every time a liberal so much as clears his throat. The mere mention of the name "Hillary" sends them into violent paroxysms of indignation that are the chief cause of crop circles and may contribute to global warming. Rightie outrage is no measure of outrageousness.
But I don't give NARAL a pass, either. Although I agree with their goals, NARAL is capable of strategic blunders. For example, years ago (in the 1970s, I think, although it might have been later) I signed on as a member, and I loyally paid dues and sent an occasional donation. But southern Ohio, where I lived at the time, was swimming in anti-privacy propaganda. The Fetus People not only had taken over radio, television, and most of local print media; they'd also bought up most of the billboard space. All over the land, giant talking fetii begged their mommies not to kill them.
So where was NARAL? What were they doing with my dues money? I was paying them to fight the Fetus People, and NARAL was nowhere to be found. Turns out they had adopted a strategy of putting all their money and energy into lobbying. While the Fetus People waged a national propaganda war unopposed, my dues money paid for K Street dinners and the mortgages on Georgetown brownstones. Grrr. I dropped out of NARAL. I understand NARAL dropped this strategy sometime later, but by then I wasn't paying much attention.
But advocates of choice and privacy are handicapped in another, significant, way. They are held to far higher standards of veracity than are the Fetus People. Opponents of reproductive rights can say anything and generally get away with it. Over the years they've floated a number of howlers--rape can't cause pregnancy; abortion causes breast cancer; abortion causes mental illness; doctors routinely destroy healthy, viable babies because mom couldn't fit into a party dress, etc.--and rarely do they suffer repurcussions even when they are proven wrong. In fact, they tend to continue to repeat their little fictions even after they are proven wrong. Instead of correcting themselves, they throw violent indignation fits when data doesn't support their beliefs. How dare there be data! Outrageous!
But abortion rights advocates get no slack at all. I remember some years back that someone on the reproductive rights side misstated the number of "partial birth" abortions being performed annually. As I remember, the number given was for third trimester procedures only (a few hundred, give or take, and all for serious medical cause as far as anyone knows). But the enormous majority of D&X procedures are performed in the late second trimester, so the total number of procedures was much higher. Whoever provided the third-trimester data didn't make that clear.
Whereupon the Fetus People threw a nuclear indignation fit, and every newspaper in the land promptly published editorials chiding the entire abortion rights movement for lying to the public.
Since then, the Fetus People have done a bang-up job persuading the public and most journalists that the terms "late-term abortion" and "partial-birth abortion" should be synonyms, even though (as I said) D&X is primarily a second-trimester procedure.
I haven't seen the NARAL "bomb Roberts" ad--just a snip of it on last night's "Daily Show"--but from what I've heard the ad is deceptive. By taking facts out of context (something the Right does all the time, but IOKIYAR), the ad suggested that Roberts was OK with bombing abortion clinics. Facing a firestorm of indignation from across the political spectrum, NARAL has withdrawn the ad. And today editorial writers across the nation are on a finger-wagging binge.
Thus, I've concluded the ad was a stupid blunder on NARAL's part. Stunts like that not only backfire, they can have the effect of innoculating righties from factual charges. (Just as, for example, claims the Killian memos were forged somehow made the tons of other evidence of Bush's slacking off his National Guard service disappear.)
Of course, in the case of righties, even when your argument is factual they'll twist it around to make it appear you said something other than what you said, so they can bash you for it. I'm still getting hate mail jeering at me about the Air America post from people who think I was defending Air America's innocence, even though I explicitly and repeatedly said I wasn't. For moderates and liberals to attempt political discourse at all is to attract packs of snarling hyenas who will attack you no matter how careful and truthful you are. That's just how it is.
I believe there are many reasons liberals are held to a different standard. A big chunk of "mainstream media" is in the Right's pocket, for example, deny it though they will. I also postulate that the kind of lying, smearing, simplistic Willie Horton-esque attacks that are the standard operating procedure of the Right just plain work better on people with right-leaning views. If you're trying to win over normal people, you need to use different methods.
Second, I believe this episode shows us that we on the Left still need to work on message coordination and discipline. Much of the Left (including, entre nous, a bunch of us bloggers) in behind-the-scenes discussions adopted a strategy of responding cooly to the Roberts nomination; to "hold our fire," as somebody said. Not everyone agreed with this strategy, but I do; I believe it was smart.
Now the White House is stonewalling release of documents regarding, among other things, Roberts's activities as deputy solicitor general during the Bush I administration. This is a legitimate issue that Democrats can, legitimately, use to put the Bushies on the defensive. Now is the time for the Left to discipline itself and focus like a laser beam on one issue, and bring it to public attention, instead of dissipating our efforts by firing in several directions at once.  
We on the Left need to be clear about our goals. What are our goals vis a vis Bush's Supreme Court picks? Frankly, he's in the Oval Office, and he's not going to nominate anyone we like. That's how it is. And somebody is going to take Sandra Day O'Connor's place. Do we believe we can force him to nominate a moderate justice now? Or are we conceding (to ourselves) we probably can't stop the Roberts nomination, but we can force Bush to spend some of his dwindling political capital in the process? Whatever strategy is adopted, it would be nice if progressives with money to spend on ads would not work against it.
Finally, because I believe means are ends, I think it's vital for liberals to maintain our integrity and not allow ourselves to be pulled down to the righties' level. I believe--or, at least, fondly hope--that the sins of the Right will eventually be the Right's undoing. But if we get in the toilet with them, we'll also go down with the flush.

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7:45 am | link

thursday, august 11, 2005

Giving you a head's up: Saturday I'm leaving for Wales (Cymru am byth!) and am likely to be offline for a few days, until August 22. I plan to drag the laptop along with me, but I don't know how much luck I'll have finding hotspots. And, anyway, I plan to spend most of my time being a tourist. Maybe I'll branch out to travel blogging.
I also will have a few loose hours to spend in London, although I haven't decided what I'm going to do there. I'll be happy to hear suggestions.
But, never fear--I'll be back. Call me the Mahabloginator.
While I'm gone, the Maha Technical Team will be preparing a new, improved Mahablog site. I'm just mentioning this in case somebody flips the wrong switch, or the hamsters get loose, and the current site goes down before the new site is ready. Be assured, this will be a temporary situation.
Today Miss Lucy finished her fourth and last chemotherapy treatment. She handled it pretty well except for loss of appetite, so she's lost a lot of weight. But she's got pills to stimulate her appetite, so now maybe she'll fatten up again. No sign of recurring tumors, so far.
Today's Cindy Sheehan commentary: After seeing what Drudge, Michelle Malkin (Malkin whines that David Brock's Media Matters, among others, "attacked" her for smearing Cindy Sheehan. Malkin says this isn't so, and then without skipping a beat plunges into new smears.), Mark in Mexico, the Anchoress, Bill O'Reilly (and more Malkin), L. Brent Bozell, and countless others, said today, I am nearly speechless with disgust.
I keep thinking of the words spoken by Joseph Welch to Joe McCarthy: "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"
I guess not.
The latest "news" is that (from Drudge) the "family of American soldier Casey Sheehan" has spoken out against Cindy Sheehan's vigil. Like his mother isn't his family. The "real" family is an aunt and a godmother who emailed Drudge, according to Drudge. Whether Drudge or any of the bloggers linking to Drudge verified the identities of the emailers is not clear, and what the hell difference does it make, anyway?
(Note: a few months ago, Terri Schiavo's husband was no longer her "family"; but some evil interloper. And now a mother isn't "family," either. The Right has spoke.)
It's one thing to say nasty things about the Democrats, or an organization like Moveon, or even a Senator or President. But why was it necessary for the Anchoress, for example, to make catty remarks about Cindy Sheehan's marriage? Why can't they discuss the issues, instead of resorting to personal smears? Why do these people have such a pathological compulsion to destroy anyone who disagrees with them?
I think they must be especially furious with Sheehan for claiming a piece of the Moral High Ground, which they consider to be their personal property. Not that many of 'em have occurpied that ground much ...
Last but not least, read this. I haven't gotten to it yet, but I understand it's da bomb. (Thanks to frequent reader anonymous.)
One more--thanks to Bruce H. for this--Ann Coulter says New Yorkers are cowards.
As Republicans were saying repeatedly – captured on Lexis-Nexis for a year before it showed up in a Frank Luntz talking-points memo in 2004 – the savages have declared war, and it's far preferable to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than in the streets of New York (where the residents would immediately surrender). That strategy appears to be working. Then again, maybe it's just that it's so damnably hard to find parking in New York ...
I truly would like to see Coulter come to Manhattan and say that, especially near Ground Zero.

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5:37 pm | link

Memo Written to Be Leaked?

Walter Pincus adds a little more to the mystery that is Traitorgate in today's Washington Post. Specifically, Pincus investigates the origins of the fiction that Joe Wilson's Niger trip was arranged by his wife.

Pincus writes,

...the CIA has maintained that Wilson was chosen for the trip by senior officials in the Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division (CPD) -- not by his wife -- largely because he had handled a similar agency inquiry in Niger in 1999. ...

... Senior Bush administration officials told a different story about the trip's origin in the days between July 8 and July 12, 2003. They said that Wilson's wife was working at the CIA dealing with weapons of mass destruction and that she suggested him for the Niger trip, according to three reporters.

The Bush officials passing on this version were apparently attempting to undercut the credibility of Wilson, who on Sunday, July 6, 2003, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" and in The Washington Post and the New York Times that he had checked out the allegation in Niger and found it to be wrong. ...

... Two other sources [other than 'senior administration officials"] appear to support the view that Wilson's wife suggested her husband's trip. One is a June 2003 memo by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). The other, which depends in good part on the INR document, is a statement of the views of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and two other Republican members. That statement was attached to the full committee report on its 2004 inquiry into the intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The INR document's reference to the Wilson trip is contained in two sentences in a three-page memo on why the State Department disagreed with the idea that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa -- a view that would ultimately be endorsed after the Iraq invasion by the U.S. weapons hunter David Kay. The notes supporting those two sentences in the INR document say that the Feb. 19, 2002, meeting at the CIA was "apparently convened by [the former ambassador's] wife who had the idea to dispatch [him] to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue," according to the Senate intelligence committee report. But one Senate Democratic staff member said, "That was speculation, that was not true."

The full Senate committee report says that CPD officials "could not recall how the office decided to contact" Wilson but that "interviews and documents indicate his wife suggested his name for the trip." The three Republican senators wrote that they were more certain: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."

The significance of this documentation (other than the fact that the entire Right Blogosphere still believes the "Valerie sent him" story), IMO, is that it provides forensic evidence of a leak conspiracy. This is not to say that everyone who believed and repeated the "Valerie sent him" talking point is guilty of knowingly betraying a CIA operative. It's possible, for example, that Senator Roberts was played by "senior administration officials" and believed the story was true. But since "Valerie sent him" is an obvious fabrication, it's important to pay attention to who originally knew about and passed along the fabrication.

Think of it as finding pollution in a river and tracing it back to its source. In this case, according to Pincus, all the tributaries can be traced back to one source-- the June 10 State Department memo.

And as Attaturk says, "The [Pincus] article notes that the only people claiming Wilson went to Niger primarily because of his wife are all connected to the Bush Administration or Republicans carrying water."

This makes me wonder, as a commenter at Talk Left suggested--was the memo written to be leaked? Was the memo part of a conspiracy to deliberately falsify the record and create a "fact" that could make its way to the public? When the story was attached (by Republican Senators) to the Senate intelligence report on WMDs in Iraq, for a time there was a perception (still maintained on the Right Blogosphere) that Joe Wilson was utterly discredited.  

It's also possible the "Valerie sent him" story was a honest mistake on someone's part, and the "senior administration officials" just decided to exploit the mistake to their advantage.

To help keep the sequence of events straight, I'm adding to my timeline (special thanks to Maha commenter Tom Maguire and hat tip to Laura Rozen).

May 2003, possibly after the May 6 Kristof column: As reported in Newsweek, the State Department intelligence unit prepared a secret memo about Wilson's trip to Niger. I'm assuming this is an early draft of the memo dated June 10, 2003 (see below). From Newsweek:

In May, the State Department's intelligence unit had prepared a secret memorandum about the provenance of Wilson's journey and its classified results—including the curious fact that Wilson's wife, a CIA agent then working on weapons of mass destruction issues, had been involved in planning the mission, and had even suggested that her husband undertake it. Still, there had been no cause to criticize Wilson—let alone mention his wife.

But then Wilson went public...

May 6, 2003. Nicholas Kristof column repeating Wilson’s concerns (without Wilson’s name) published.

May 19, 2003.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announces resignation. (Maybe unrelated, but let's make a note of it anyway.)

First week of June, 2003. CIA Public Affairs office receives inquiry about Wilson trip from Walter Pincus of the Washington Post.

June 8, 2003. Condi Rice, asked about allegations in Kristof's May 6 column on "Meet the Press," denies knowledge.

June 10, 2003. Date on State Department memo about Wilson, hence to be called the "INR memo" (for State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research). According to Richard Stevenson of the New York Times (July 16, 2005),

Prosecutors in the C.I.A. leak case have shown intense interest in a 2003 State Department memorandum that explained how a former diplomat came to be dispatched on an intelligence-gathering mission and the role of his wife, a C.I.A. officer, in the trip, people who have been officially briefed on the case said. …

… The memorandum was dated June 10, 2003, nearly four weeks before Mr. Wilson wrote an Op-Ed article for The New York Times in which he recounted his mission and accused the administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat from Iraq. The memorandum was written for Marc Grossman, then the under secretary of state for political affairs, and it referred explicitly to Valerie Wilson as Mr. Wilson’s wife, according to a government official who reread the document on Friday.

June 12, 2003. Walter Pincus article containing Wilson’s allegations published in Washington Post. Does not mention Wilson by name; calls him "CIA envoy."

June 13, 2003: Nicholas Kristof column detailing Wilson's allegations (follow up to earlier column) published in the New York Times. Also calls Wilson an "envoy," does not give his name.

July 6, 2003: Wilson’s New York Times op-ed is published.

July 7, 2003: VandeHei and Allen wrote on June 17, 2005,

The next day, July 7, Bush took off for a trip to Africa. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who was on the trip, carried with him a memo containing information about Plame, as well as other intelligence on the yellowcake claim. It is on this trip that, prosecutors believe, some White House aides might have learned about Plame.

July 8, 2003: In a famous phone call, Rove and Novak exchange information on Plame and Wilson.

After that, of course, is more Novak and Who's Who and Matt Cooper, etc. etc., and we still don't know exactly where Judy Miller and the New York Times fits into this. Hmmm.

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7:27 am | link

wednesday, august 10, 2005

Blame Deflection 101
The newest anti-terrorism maneuver on the rightie front is an attempt to lay the blame for 9/11 intelligence failures on the Pentagon staff during the Clinton Administration. Philip Shenon and Douglas Jehl write in today's New York Times:
Members of the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks called on Congress to determine whether the Pentagon withheld intelligence information showing that a secret American military unit had identified Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers as potential threats more than a year before the attacks....
...Detailed accounts about the findings of the secret operation, known as Able Danger, were offered this week by Representative Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who is vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and by a former defense intelligence official.

Their comments are the first assertion by current or former officials that Mr. Atta, an Egyptian who was the lead hijacker, had been identified as a potential terrorist before the attacks....

...Mr. Weldon went public with his information after having talked with members of the unit in his research for a new book on terrorism. He said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that he had spoken with three team members, all still working in the government, including two in the military, and that they were consistent in asserting that Mr. Atta's affiliation with a Qaeda terrorism cell in the United States was known in the Defense Department by mid-2000 and was not acted on.

Reporters Shenon and Jehl collected "no comments" from most of the population of the District of Columbia. At the moment, the only persons on record about allegation are Congressman Weldon and his anonymous "former military intelligence official." Captain Ed says the AP found independent corroboration, but if you follow his link and read the AP story, it still seems the only one talking about Mohammed Atta specifically is Congressman Weldon. And the fact that American intelligence was watching al Qaeda in 2000 is not exactly news.
On last night's Countdown, Keith Olbermann questioned  MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann (a man who bears a distressing resemblance to Ken Burns) on this matter. This is from the transcript: 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s begin with “The Times”‘ report. 

Between the dubious, nebulous sourcing, the fact that the 9/11 Commission says it looked into this program and didn‘t find anything, and that the story has been around for a couple months, but no news organization really had been willing to touch it until today, is there reason to be skeptical about this account in “The New York Times”? 

KOHLMANN:  Well, even if we were sure this account was actually true, it doesn‘t tell us anything really that earth-shattering.  While we didn‘t know necessarily about any involvement or knowledge by U.S. agencies of Mohamed Atta‘s presence here in the U.S., we know that the CIA knew at least about two of the individuals mentioned here, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hamzi, before 9/11. 

So, if the issue is whether or not U.S. government agencies knew about 9/11 hijackers as potential al Qaeda terrorists here in the U.S. before 9/11, we already knew the answer was yes.  And the larger issue, of course, is, any time you have a story like this, you have to go back to the source.  And the only named source is Representative Curt Weldon.

And, with all due respect, Representative Weldon does not have a particularly good history in terms of reporting information about terrorism.  His latest book, which accuses Iran of being behind virtually everything terrorism-related since the World Trade Center bombing, is based upon material that is absolute propaganda and is 100 percent wrong.  It is based upon sources that we relied upon for the Iran-Contra affair that have been discredited over a decade ago. 

And I think, really, the most telling comment was from a CIA official, who took the unprecedented step, really, of coming out and directly saying that he had reviewed the accusations that Mr. Weldon made in his book and determined that they were not worth his time, that they were a waste of his time.  And, unfortunately, I‘m concerned that this report may again be a waste of our time, the time of the American public, the time of 9/11 Commission investigators, and the time of FBI and CIA agents. 

Once again: Smoke, no fire. I recommend goint to the transcript and reading the rest of Kohlman's remarks, about Iraq. Mr. Kohlman also runs a web site called Global Terror Alert.
Speaking of Keith Olbermann, I was pleased to read what Bob Cesca wrote about Olbermann at Huffington Post:  "'Countdown' is one of -- scratch that -- the only prime time cable news show that doesn't make me throw up in my mouth." I was going to say that "Countdown" is the only television news program I can stand to watch without having to fight an urge to throw furniture at my television.  Same thing, I guess.
I don't know what to make of this gossip column about a fight between Olbermann and MSNBC President Rick Kaplan. I watched the program in question and didn't find it offensive. This, I find offensive. But if MSNBC cans Olbermann, I'm marching on Rockefeller Plaza and throwing a fit. Machine gun cops or no machine gun cops.

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2:04 pm | link

Taking Stands
Mo Dowd is back, and I'm happy to say it's the good Mo Dowd. She asks the same question I've been asking--why won't President Bush meet with Cindy Sheehan? 

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

Refusing to take simple measures to stop a public relations hemorrhage like Cindy Sheehan is just, well, dumbAlthough I've found only one historical precedent so far--Abraham Lincoln met with at least one grieving mother twice--I can't imagine anyone who's been president in my lifetime (start with Truman) behaving this way. Well, maybe Nixon or GHWB I. But I have no doubt Ronald Reagan would have taken charge of the Cindy Sheehan situation in no time and charmed the lady out of her socks.  And the White House would have released photographs of the Gipper and the Gold Star Mother together, smiling and happy, and that would have been the end of Cindy Sheehan as a newsworthy item.

Dowd continues,

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to. Mr. Bush hails Texas as a place where he can return to his roots. But is he mixing it up there with anyone besides Vulcans, Pioneers and Rangers?

I've believed since before the 2000 election that there is something fundamentally wrong with Dubya's emotional wiring. A man who is amused by executions was absent the day God handed out humanity.

Dowd says that Bush's refusal to meet with anyone who doesn't already agree with him is "cognitively injurious," and I agree. It also reveals how he sees the relationship between himself and the people he allegedly governs. Instead of serving the people and the nation, Dubya seems to think the people and the nation exist to serve and glorify him.

So instead of humbling himself to speak to Cindy Sheehan, Bush and his minions handle the problem the way they handle most problems--through smears. "The Bush team tried to discredit 'Mom' by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W," Down writes. "If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth."

Funny she should mention our old pals, the Swifties. Through creative editing of an old news item, Matt Drudge made Cindy Sheehan sound like a former Iraq War and Bush supporter, providing the Right Blogosphere with "proof" that Sheehan is a flip flopper. In that vein, I call your attention to a New York Times article from August 20, 2004--"The 2004 Campaign: Advertising, Friendly Fire, and the Birth of an Attack on Kerry,"  by Kate Zernike and Jim Rutenberg. (This is a not-free archive story.)

The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the ''baby killer'' and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.

Several of those now declaring Mr. Kerry ''unfit'' had lavished praise on him, some as recently as last year.

In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, ''I am not going to say anything negative about him.'' He added, ''He's a good man.''

In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: ''It took guts, and I admire that.''

George Elliott, one of the Vietnam veterans in the group, flew from his home in Delaware to Boston in 1996 to stand up for Mr. Kerry during a tough re-election fight, declaring at a news conference that the action that won Mr. Kerry a Silver Star was ''an act of courage.'' At that same event, Adrian L. Lonsdale, another Vietnam veteran now speaking out against Mr. Kerry, supported him with a statement about the ''bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats.''

''Senator Kerry was no exception,'' Mr. Lonsdale told the reporters and cameras assembled at the Charlestown Navy Yard. ''He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers.''

Those comments echoed the official record. In an evaluation of Mr. Kerry in 1969, Mr. Elliott, who was one of his commanders, ranked him as ''not exceeded'' in 11 categories, including moral courage, judgment and decisiveness, and ''one of the top few'' -- the second-highest distinction -- in the remaining five. In written comments, he called Mr. Kerry ''unsurpassed,'' ''beyond reproach'' and ''the acknowledged leader in his peer group.''

Yet in 2004, after some political operatives with long-standing ties to the Bush familiy got involved, these same men suddenly decided Kerry was "unfit for duty." And the same righties who today smear Cindy Sheehan were okay with that. Funny how that works.

Over at Salon, Eric Boehlert says the righties are missing a bigger picture.

Taking peculiar pleasure in trying to discredit the small-town mother, right-wingers have been in a tizzy over what they perceive as a flip-flop by Sheehan on Iraq. They excitedly reassure themselves that her alleged inconsistency about the war ought to disqualify her from being a legitimate war critic. Problem is, the oddly playful bloggers, busy mocking Sheehan as a "crazy," "exploited," "left-wing moonbat," aren't really staring down a lone mother who may or may not have shifted her opinion about Bush and the war since 2004.

If the Republican National Committee-fed bloggers looked up from their monitors for a few seconds, they might realize that when they're done with Sheehan they're going to have to discredit a few million other Americans -- because, as recent polls indicate, they, like Sheehan, have turned on the war and place the blame for the mess squarely on Bush's shoulders.

IMO the Left has absolutely nothing to lose by standing with Cindy Sheehan, but the Right can lose much by opposing her.

The Importance of Being Mainstream. One of the many symptoms of Rightie Syndrome is a firm belief that rightiness is mainstream. When argumentatively cornered, the standard rightie will nearly always pull the "yeah, well, most people think like me" card. Even when a whopping majority of the population clearly doesn't think "like me," the rightie will tell himself most people really do think like him/her but lack the courage to say so. You see this especially in white racists, who commonly believe that all other whites are as racist as they are but won't admit it for fear of being un-PC.

In recent weeks many commentators have noted that, according to polls, most voters agree with Democrats on major bread-and-butter issues, yet vote with Republicans. Eric Alterman wrote about this yesterday. People agree with liberals on most issues--

According to a May 2005 survey published by the Pew Research Center for People and Policy poll, 65 percent of Americans questioned favor providing health insurance to all Americans, even if it means increasing taxes, and a full 86 percent say that they favor raising the minimum wage.  77 percent of those polled believe the country "should do whatever it takes to protect the environment," while 63 percent subscribe to that view "strongly."  With regard to foreign policy, a May 2005 Rasmussen poll found that 49 percent of Americans say that President Bush is more responsible for starting the War with Iraq than Saddam Hussein, compared to only 44 percent who believe that it was Saddam Hussein’s fault.  During 2005, strong majorities of Americans polled have consistently expressed disapproval of the war and told pollsters they believe the Bush Administration had deliberately misled the nation into it.  From USA Today, today, “An unprecedented 57% majority say the war has made the USA more vulnerable to terrorism.  A new low, 34%, say it has made the country safer, here.

Yet, Alterman continues, only 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as liberals. They agree with us, but they don't like us. To win elections, he says, liberals need to be nicer and more respectful toward those with whom we disagree. He cites Hillary Clinton, a "lightning rod" of rightie wrath, who recently has been trying to modify her rhetoric to broaden her appeal.

I nearly always agree with Mr. Alterman, but that's nonsense. Hillary Clinton didn't become a "lightning rod" because she strongly stated liberal opinions. She became a "lighting rod" because she exists. I don't want to spend the morning writing about the extensive social pathologies of the Right regarding strong women; I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about.

As I see it, the real problem is that righties are certain they represent the majority, and behave accordingly. And somehow, we lefties are certain we represent a minority, and behave accordingly. Thus, we marginalize ourselves.

We humans are wired to be social animals, and unless something happens to shake us out of the sleepwalking state in which most of us go through our lives, we allow social pressure to condition our opinions.

Whatever is perceived to be the majority opinion will be the default opinion. And a political faction that can convince itself (and others) that it represents a majority will be able to claim the default position. The Right has done this through aggression, careful planning, and discipline.  

I don't want the Left to become as aggressively nasty as the Right tends to  be, but neither do I think we have to grovel. We're the majority, dammit! Let's act like it! Let's be self-assured! Let's stop being afraid to stake out bold policy positions! Let's look our fellow citizens in the eye and speak truth--that the Bush Administration and its extremist rightie followers are not representative of America and its people.

Just don't forget to smile.

Update: See related--and beautiful--essay by Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon.

Update update: Great commentary from Jeanne d'Arc: 

It would be so simple to make this story disappear. Sure, after the meeting, Sheehan would come out and tell the press it was a bad joke, but once she'd had her meeting, would they pay attention to her any more? Her fifteen minutes would be up.

Dowd sees the failure to do the simple and political useful thing as a sign of Bush's childishness. The poor, spoiled baby just can't stand to hear a word of disagreement, or to face the consequences of his actions.

I'm sure that's part of it, but doesn't it look like Bush himself is only semi-relevant? The prime mover is a machine that has been running on slime for a long time. It doesn't know how to do anything but slime. And now, when it could get what it wants easily, by faking a little humanity, it just continues, mindlessly, and -- one can only hope -- self-destructively, to pour out slime.

Sad, too, that it seems far easier to talk about personal foibles than systemic corruption.

See also: The Big Brass Blogswarm.

Also: I meant earlier to link to this Yellow Dog Blog post by Bob Geiger, but somehow screwed it up. I'll try to fix the earlier link if I can find it. But please head on over to the Yellow Dog Blog and see the weasle meter, plus the skinny on how Katherine Harris smashed the speed-lying record.

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7:13 am | link

tuesday, august 9, 2005

The Freak Show
I don't usually pay attention to Christopher Hitchens, because I believe him to be brain damaged. I think Slate and other media outlets continue to publish him simply for the freak factor--look, ma, it's a three-headed toad!
To be fair, Snitch is still capable of stringing words together in an entertaining manner. But so are most schizophrenics, I'm told. These days a standard Snitch column is a well structured word salad, void of intellectual cohesion.
He can compose a sentence without too much trouble, but when you put the sentences together, the center does not hold.
It never seemed to me that there was any alternative to confronting the reality of Iraq, which was already on the verge of implosion and might, if left to rot and crash, have become to the region what the Congo is to Central Africa: a vortex of chaos and misery that would draw in opportunistic interventions from Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Bad as Iraq may look now, it is nothing to what it would have become without the steadying influence of coalition forces. None of the many blunders in postwar planning make any essential difference to that conclusion. Indeed, by drawing attention to the ruined condition of the Iraqi society and its infrastructure, they serve to reinforce the point.
Translation: We must confront the reality that Iraq is in danger of becoming a failed state. If this happens, Iraq would become a breeding ground of terrorism, crime, and political instability. This would be bad. However, were it not for the U.S.-British army of occupation this would have happened a lot sooner, even though it was the "coalition" invasion of Iraq that caused it to be unstable in the first place. That's a reality we need to ignore. But it's a good thing we decided to hang around after we invaded and messed it all up, huh? And it wouldn't have mattered had we planned the post-war occupation better; Iraq would still be the same mess, planning or no planning, although I cannot explain why this is true. But you know it's true, because "They" keeping telling me that it is true. "They" scream at me night and day about bananas and storm drains, reinforcing the point.
(As the pronoun "they" in the last sentence seems untethered to any persons named elsewhere in the paragraph, I take it "they" are the voices in Snitch's head. And if the ponoun "they" is meant to stand in for "blunders in postwar planning," the sentence makes even less sense--"Our blunders in postwar planning made a huge mess of Iraq, reinforcing the fact that Iraq was a wobbly place capable of being made a mess of"?)
Anyway, Snitch goes on to accuse people opposed to the war in Iraq as hoping it will fail. He asks,
Question: Why have several large American cities not already announced that they are going to become sister cities with Baghdad and help raise money and awareness to aid [Baghdad mayor] Dr. Tamimi?
Because Dr. Tamini hasn't asked? And if lack of such declaration is evidence of ill will toward Iraq, why is this ill will not being attributed to, oh, city governments? Many of which are Republican? Why is this the fault of people opposed to the war? Who, btw, anticipated many of the problems Snitch notes--
How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of "missing" Iraqis, to support Iraqi women's battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians?
Oh, believe me, Snitch, all of those items are of great concern to many of us. That's why we are working so hard to reign in the Bush Regime, the chief author of the chaos, to at least slow the Bushies proclivity for making things worse. And maybe, once we accomplish regime change in this country, we can begin to take steps to work with the world instead of against it and clean up the mess we made. But first things first.
Being opposed to the war and caring about the well-being of Iraq and the Iraqi people are not mutually exclusive. However, being a Bush apologist and caring about the well-being of Iraq and the Iraqi people, is.
See also: Steve M; Brad Plumer 
Another freak: I want to talk to this little creep's mother. You made this mess, lady. You clean it up.  Seriously. At the very least he needs to be stamped with a warning label. (And, child, you ain't foolin' nobody. Can we say conflicted about our sexuality? I believe we can.)

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1:05 pm | link

L'état n'est pas lui
In today's Boston Globe, Joan Vennochi reveals why President Bush enjoys his August vacations in Texas.
He is currently immersed in a five-week stay away from Washington, the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years, according to The Washington Post.

A presidential spokesman said the time in Crawford is a time for Bush to ''shed his coat and tie and meet with folks in the heartland and hear what's on their minds."

And I bet that spokesman delivered that line with a straight face. Where do the Republicans find these people? (Morticia Addams: "It has to be damp.")

Among the "folks" President Bush is scheduled to meet this week are his economic and foreign policy advisers, and of course there's a barbeque on Friday for wealthy contributors to the Republican Party. He also scheduled a photo op at a Little League Championship game. (Vennochi doesn't call it a "photo op," but do you think His Uppitiness is actually going to sit in the stands and watch the game?)

But he hasn't managed to fit Cindy Sheehan into his schedule. Vennochi writes,

According to press reports, Sheehan said she decided to come to Crawford after Bush said once again that US troops are dying for a noble cause and the mission must be completed. Now, she says, she wants to ask the president, ''What did my son die for?"

Sheehan told the AP that the Bush advisers dispatched to talk to her told her ''we are in Iraq because they believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that the world's a better place with Saddam gone, and that we're making the world a safer place with what we're doing over there."

She said that one of the advisers said that Bush ''really does care." Her reply: ''If he does care, why doesn't he come out and talk to me?"

We know why he doesn't come out to speak to her in public, because it's likely he would be caught on video being the asshole he is. But under the circumstances I think it's astonishing he hasn't invited her in to speak to her privately. That would, I believe, take the wind out of Sheehan's publicity sails. Yet he doesn't do it.

Susie of Suburban Guerrilla writes that military families are traveling to Crawford to stand with Cindy Sheehan. "I’m confident that BushCo will handle this impending PR disaster with the same restraint and graciousness that have marked the Boy King’s ascent to the throne," Susie says. 

Cindy Sheehan herself is blogging about her vigil on Kos diaries. Yesterday afternoon, she says, she got word that if she hadn't left by Thursday, she'd be declared a "security threat" to President Bush. So why would she be a "security threat" on Thursday but not now? she asks. Later, a sherriff appeared and told her she was on private property (she doesn't believe so) and would have to leave. She is not leaving. And people from all over the country are now coming to her side.

People are heading here from all over the country. I have some more Gold Star Families for Peace members coming tomorrow. We are amazed by the outpouring of love and support we are getting. If you can come, then come. 62% of the American public are against this war and want our troops home. We need to show the media that we are in the majority. We need to show George Bush and his evil cabal of neocons that when we say "bring the troops home, now" we mean "bring the troops home, now!!!"

Most of us aren't in a position to drop everything and join Cindy in Crawford (I'm not, at the moment), but please go, if you can. If you can't, you can help by donating to Crawford Peace House. At the very least, make Bush sorry he didn't speak to Cindy last week.

The all-too-predictable smears of Cindy Sheehan from the Right are now under way. Yesterday Stephen Elliott wrote at Huffington Post:

The situation is incredibly tense. The administration wants to be polite to a mother who has lost her son in Iraq. But what I'm waiting for is the backlash. At what point will the smear campaign launch against Cindy Sheehan the way it did against Joe Wilson.

And I guess that point is right now. They didn't even have the decency to let me finish my blog post. You can always count on Matt Drudge to trot out the White House talking points.

- Stephen Elliott

update - I just read that Eric Boehlert actually beat me to this post. But still, it's interesting that this kind of reaction from the administration could be predicted. It was so obvious that this poor woman was going to be swift-boated. It's just sad.

See also "Drudge Report takes anti-war mom out of context" at Raw Story. Essentially, through what we might call "creative editing" of an old news story, Drudge made it seem Cindy had once been an enthusiastic supporter of the war who had enjoyed her first meeting with the President. At Kos, Sheehan says,

For you all I would like to clarify a few things. First of all, I did meet with George, and that is not a secret. I have written about it and been interviewed about it. I will stand by my recounting of the meeting. His behavior was rude and inappropriate. My behavior in June of 2004 and is irrelevant to what is going on in 2005. I was in deep shock and deep grief. The grief is still there, but the shock has worn off and the deep anger has set in. And to remind everybody, a few things have happened since June of 2004: The 9/11 commission report; the Senate Intelligence report; the Duelfer WMD report; and most damaging and criminal: the Downing Street Memos. The VERY LAST THING I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS IS: Why do the right wing media so assiduously scrutinize the words of a grief filled mother and ignore the words of a lying president?

Because they are hyenas, that's why. They don't think. You can't reason with them. You can't talk to them. They don't understand anything you say to them, either because they won't listen, or because they can't. Hyenas travel in packs, looking for flesh, living or dead, they can rip apart and devour. That's all they do, beside sleeping and making baby hyenas. There is no point expecting them to do otherwise.

Hyenas are famously nasty; so nasty that a pack of them can drive leopards and lions--much bigger beasts--away from a fresh carcass. But what if the hyenas are way outnumbered?

A New York Times editorial says Cindy Sheehan is "tapping into a growing popular feeling that the Bush administration is out of touch with the realities, and the costs, of the Iraq war." 

Even many Americans who do not share her views about the president - she arrived in a bus bearing the slogan "Impeachment Tour" - share her concerns about his war leadership. President Bush has refused to ask the nation to sacrifice in any way, so the sacrifice gap has never been greater. A few families, like Ms. Sheehan's, have paid the ultimate price. Many more, including National Guard families, are bearing enormous burdens, struggling to get by while a parent, a child or a spouse serves in Iraq. But the rest of the nation is spending its tax cuts and guzzling gas as if there were no war....

...Perhaps most troubling, Mr. Bush is not leveling about where things stand with the war. He continues to stay on message, as he did with the platitude he offered last week: "We will stay the course; we will complete the job in Iraq." The public knows that things in Iraq are not going well on any number of levels, and deserves a fuller, more honest discussion led by the commander in chief.

Just 38 percent of the respondents in a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll, a new low, approved of Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq. That does not mean the remaining 62 percent agree with Ms. Sheehan that the troops should come home immediately. But it does mean that many Americans are with her, at least figuratively, at that dusty roadside in Crawford, expecting better answers.

We're the majority; the hyenas are the minority. And George W. Bush is not the king.

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8:33 am | link

monday, august 8, 2005

Then and Now
As you probably know, right now Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, is camped out a few miles from President Bush's Crawford "ranch," determined to remain until she can speak to the President. Richard Stevenson writes more about Cindy Sheehan in today's New York Times.

Ms. Sheehan has vowed to camp out on the spot until Mr. Bush agrees to meet with her, even if it means spending all of August under a broiling sun by the dusty road. Early on Sunday afternoon, 25 hours after she was turned back as she approached Mr. Bush's ranch, Prairie Chapel, Ms. Sheehan stood red-faced from the heat at the makeshift campsite that she says will be her home until the president relents or leaves to go back to Washington. A reporter from The Associated Press had just finished interviewing her. CBS was taping a segment on her. She had already appeared on CNN, and was scheduled to appear live on ABC on Monday morning. Reporters from across the country were calling her cellphone. ...

...Seeking to head off exactly the situation that now seems to be unfolding, the administration sent two senior officials out from the ranch on Saturday afternoon to meet with her. But Ms. Sheehan said after talking to the officials - Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and Joe Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff - that she would not back down in her demand to see the president.

Stevenson goes on to say that mounting casualties in Iraq, the deterioration of support for the war, and the fact that the White House press corps is hanging around Crawford, Texas, with nothing else to report on has created a very delicate public relations problem for the President. Yet he will not invite her into his home and speak to her, even though this would be an easy "fix" for the problem.

Other news sources say that Bush won't meet with Sheehan because he already met with her once before, last year. In other words, he's standing on some weird "principle" that there is a limit on how much time he owes the mother of a soldier.

Yet Bush might want to think about doing damage control for the first meeting. Stevenson writes,

As the mother of an Army specialist who was killed at age 24 in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on April 4, 2004, Ms. Sheehan's story is certainly compelling. She is also articulate, aggressive in delivering her message and has information that most White House reporters have not heard before: how Mr. Bush handles himself when he meets behind closed doors with the families of soldiers killed in Iraq.

The White House has released few details of such sessions, which Mr. Bush holds regularly as he travels the country, but generally portrays them as emotional and an opportunity for the president to share the grief of the families. In Ms. Sheehan's telling, though, Mr. Bush did not know her son's name when she and her family met with him in June 2004 at Fort Lewis. Mr. Bush, she said, acted as if he were at a party and behaved disrespectfully toward her by referring to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting.

By Ms. Sheehan's account, Mr. Bush said to her that he could not imagine losing a loved one like an aunt or uncle or cousin. Ms. Sheehan said she broke in and told Mr. Bush that Casey was her son, and that she thought he could imagine what it would be like since he has two daughters and that he should think about what it would be like sending them off to war.

"I said, 'Trust me, you don't want to go there'," Ms. Sheehan said, recounting her exchange with the president. "He said, 'You're right, I don't.' I said, 'Well, thanks for putting me there.' "

What a guy. I can see how experiences like this would be a terrible emotional drain on the President (she wrote, snarkily).
But it turns out there is historical precedent for a President to speak to a soldier's mother more than once.
Shortly after the battle of Gettysburg, Edward, the elderly White House usher, showed a careworn, tearful woman into Lincoln’s office. Her husband and both of her sons were in the Army, she explained, and she was finding it hard to survive. Could she have one of her sons back?
The way she told her story moved him. He stood by the fire, his head low, keeping a grip on his emotions. ‘I have two [sons] and you have none,” he murmured. He stepped over to his desk and composed an order that would secure her youngest son’s discharge.
A few days later, Edward came to tell him, “That woman, Mr. President, is here again and still crying.”
“Let her in.”
The grief-stricken mother confronted him. She had found her son’s regiment, she told Lincoln, only to be informed that he had just died of wounds suffered in the battle of Gettysburg. Could she not have her surviving son.
Again he said softly, “I have two and you have none.” He sat down to write out another order. She stood beside him, and as he wrote, she stroked his wild mane, shooting in all directions and showing gray tints, as a mother might stroke a child’s. He stood up and thrust the order into her hands. He did not trust himself to say more than “There!” Then he hurried out of the room before he gave way to tears. [Geoffrey Perret, Lincoln’s War (Random House, 2004), pp. 346-347; from Michael Burlingame, ed., An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln (Carbondale IL, 1996), pp. 81-82]

I realize Bush needs to rest up for this week's barbeque, but maybe he could find a few moments to speak to Cindy Sheehan.

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9:23 am | link

sunday, august 7, 2005

Why We Blog
Carolyn Kay of Make Them Accountable reminds us how much President Bush enjoys his August vacations.
 “[T]here's no need to learn what was in that top-secret briefing that the president received as he settled down for his monthlong vacation at his Texas ranch on Aug. 6 [2001]. Reports at the time show that Mr. Bush broke off from work early and spent most of that day fishing. [Emphasis added.] If he had received foreknowledge of an attack that morning, he would have acted upon it, and no Democratic leader has said otherwise (despite Dick Cheney's smears to the contrary).” [Frank Rich, “Thanks for the Heads-Up”, The New York Times, May 25, 2002]
Since this is Rich, I suspect the quote above was in a tongue-in-cheek context. Although we wouldn't learn for a couple of years that the memo Bush glanced at that morning was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States," in the spring of 2002 Time and Newsweek both ran long investigative stories about how the Bush White House failed to take terrorism seriously before 9/11 in spite of copious warnings that something significant was about to happen.
The Center for American Progress, reporting on last year's 9/11 Commission hearings:
Two and a half years after 9/11, the American public learned today that President Bush received explicit warnings that Osama bin Laden was planning to attack the United States – including activities "consistent with preparations for hijacking." Yet, there was no domestic follow-up by the Bush administration. No high level meetings. No sense of urgency. No warnings to FBI agents across the country.
  • We now know why the Bush administration has been hiding the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing for the president, called "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States." All of the 9/11 Commission members – Republicans and Democrats – have asked the Bush administration to declassify this document. There are precedents for releasing presidential daily briefings and the American public deserves to know what President Bush knew and when.
  • We also learned that there appears to have been no response to explicit and repeated warnings about al Qaeda attacks. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's claim that the FBI sent warnings to field offices was directly disputed by commissioners who said they had conducted thousands of interviews and reviewed thousands of documents. Their conclusion: no one at the FBI can recall such orders.
  • Today's hearing also confirmed evidence that the administration had done little or nothing to combat the terrorist threat between Jan. 20, 2001, and Sept. 10, 2001. Rice repeatedly used the claim that the administration was developing a "strategic approach" as an excuse for not acting. There was no response to the bombing of the USS Cole that claimed 17 American lives and the administration tried to cut counterterrorism funding.

Little that the Center for American Progress reported above was not known, or strongly suspected, in the spring of 2002. And even now no one in the Bush Administration has been held accountable.

That's why I blog. The 2002 revelation on Bush's remarkable inattention to terrorism was the inspiration for the original Mahablog, which went online July 3, 2002. Because Lycos Tripod dumped my original site without giving me notice the archives from July 2002 to August 2003 were mostly lost, but most of the focus of the early months were on Bush's antiterrorism failures. That, plus the fact that he's not really doing the job of President of the United States; he just plays the role on TV.

Example: Some admire Bush's response to 9/11 and his pledge that Osama bin Laden would "hear from all of us soon." Today Newsweek reports that a CIA field commander says Osama bin Laden was allowed to get away at Tora Bora. a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora—intelligence operatives had tracked him—and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. ...

...In his book—titled "Jawbreaker"—the decorated career CIA officer criticizes Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon's own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora, says Berntsen's lawyer, Roy Krieger. (Berntsen would not divulge the book's specifics, saying he's awaiting CIA clearance.) That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a "strategic disaster" because the Pentagon refused to deploy a cordon of conventional forces to cut off escaping Qaeda and Taliban members. Maj. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman, says the problem at Tora Bora "was not necessarily just the number of troops."

Still, Bush does love to strut about in his quasi-military costumes and call himself a "war president." And, beside strutting, he has shown a talent for bluster--"smoke 'em out"; "bring it on." But the most revealing portrait of Bush I've seen today is from Bob Geiger at Yellow Dog Blog.  He quotes Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq last year. Last summer she met President Bush:

"We wanted to use the time for him to know that he killed an indispensable part of our family and humanity and we wanted him to look at the pictures of Casey -- he wouldn't look at the pictures of Casey, he didn't even know Casey's name. He came into the room and the very first thing he said was 'so, who are we honoring here?'

"He didn't even know Casey's name, he didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to hear anything about Casey, he wouldn't even call him 'him' or 'he.' He called him 'your loved one' and every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject.

"He acted like it was a party... he came in very jovial, like we should be happy that our son died for his misguided policies"

I'm not qualified to make a medical diagnosis, but that is not psychologically healthy behavior. The boy ain't right. Digby says we have a man with a child's mind running this country. Except I wonder how much Bush actually "runs" anything. He's too detatched, too incurious, too self-absorbed to turn his attention to the needs of the American people. The "Bush Administration" we see in news media is, IMO, just a facade; a pageant put on for public display. The real work of the Bush White House is corruption.

Next week President Bush will treat prominent Republican fund raisers to barbeque while others pay for his policies with pain and blood--a Bush tradition. And here I am, still blogging.

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9:16 pm | link

UPI is reporting that a change in the Attorney General's office may impact Patrick Fitzgerald's traitorgate investigation.

Deputy Attorney General James Comey's move to Lockheed Martin this week leaves a void in who will officially oversee the CIA leak case

Independent Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald -- who has been investigating the leak of the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame -- had reported to Comey because Attorney General Albert Gonzales was recused from the case. As the case nears conclusion, Comey's replacement could be an important decision.

Comey had granted Fitzgerald virtual carte blanche to conduct the investigation.

Newsweek reports Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum is "likely" to fill in for Comey. McCallum is a close friend and "Skull and Bones" brother of President George W. Bush from their days as students at Yale.

Fitzgerald's office has called Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, to testify before a federal grand jury at least three times.

This bears watching.

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8:48 pm | link

Catching Up
My technical problems seem to have disappeared this morning--possibly the glitches are taking Sunday off--so I am using this brief window of opportunity to let you know The Mahablog will be getting a makeover sometime this month. If I can I will let you know when the change will occur. But one of these days when you click on the ol' Maha URL the site will look very different. Be assured the content will remain just as snarky as it's always been.
Now, on to Da Nooz.
The go-to link this morning is to an article in The American Prospect by Murray Waas. According to Waas, Dick the Dick's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, met with Our Gal Judy Miller on July 8, 2003. At this meeting, Waas's sources say, Libby and Miller discussed Valerie Plame.
The new disclosure that Miller and Libby met on July 8, 2003, raises questions regarding claims by President Bush that he and everyone in his administration have done everything possible to assist Fitzgerald's grand-jury probe. Sources close to the investigation, and private attorneys representing clients embroiled in the federal probe, said that Libby's failure to produce a personal waiver may have played a significant role in Miller’s decision not to testify about her conversations with Libby, including the one on July 8, 2003.

Libby signed a more generalized waiver during the early course of the investigation granting journalists the right to testify about their conversations with him if they wished to do so. At least two reporters -- Walter Pincus of The Washington Post and Tim Russert of NBC -- have testified about their conversations with Libby.

But Miller has said she would not consider providing any information to investigators about conversations with Libby or anyone else without a more specific, or personal, waiver. She said she considers general waivers to be inherently coercive. Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, has previously said Miller had not been granted "any kind of a waiver … that she finds persuasive or believes was freely given."

Libby has never offered to provide such a personalized waiver for Miller, according to three legal sources with first-hand knowledge of the matter. Joseph A. Tate, an attorney for Libby, declined to comment for this story.

So what's up with this? After all this time, why hasn't Libby given Judy Miller a personal waiver? Surely Scooter reads a newspaper now and then and knows Judy is in jail, allegedly for protecting him as a source.
Waas continues,
... numerous people involved in the case said in interviews for this story that a personalized waiver for Miller by Libby could potentially pave the way for Miller's release.
Isn't Scooter being a five-alarm jerk for letting a lady sit in jail? But maybe this is why ...
Miller's testimony, in turn, might be crucial to a determination as to whether anyone might be criminally charged, and even to a potential end to the criminal investigation.
Hmm, wonder why the Bush Administration isn't doing everything possible to end the investigation ....
At least two attorneys representing private clients who are embroiled in the Plame probe also privately questioned whether or not President Bush had encouraged Libby to provide a personalized waiver for Miller in an effort to obtain her cooperation.

In a memorandum distributed to White House staff members shortly after the investigation became known, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who at the time was White House counsel, wrote, "The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation." Bush himself said: "[I]f there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

leakers.jpgActually, I suspect the person or persons who leaked are already being taken care of. That's the whole problem.
Like Digby says, "it's time for the press to go to the mattresses and demand an explanation from the White House." Digby continues,
There really is no good reason why Libby hasn't provided a specific waiver for Judy if he told Fitzgerald he talked to her.

Unless he lied to the prosecutor about what was said, that is.

And if Judy gets a specific waiver she has no more excuse to play Jeanne d'Arc. If she still won't squawk, the NY Times will have to finally admit that they have employed a neocon operative as a reporter.
For further evidence that poor reading comprehension skills are symptomatic of Rightism, note conclusions drawn by Mr. Judd.

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6:48 am | link

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Regarding the RSS Feed: My web host insists it works. Cendron J. at Tech Support wrote me the following:
"I was able to subscribe to the using rss/xml blog reader from
as the blog reader by entering the url
The blog link should work as long as your blog reader can read xml."

Good luck.


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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

Terror Alert Level






"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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