Judy Miller “Retires”

MSNBC just announced that Judy Miller has “retired” from the New York Times. Reuters has a slightly different take:

New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a journalist at the center of the CIA leak controversy that led to the indictment of a White House aide, will leave the paper, the New York Times said on Wednesday.

Miller’s lawyers and the paper negotiated a severance package, terms of which were not disclosed. As part of the agreement, the paper will publish a letter from Miller explaining her position, The Times said on its Web site.

That doesn’t sound like “retired.” It sounds like “terminated.”

Miller, 57, who covered national security for The Times, had faced criticism for stories she wrote on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that turned out to be based on faulty information supplied by Iraqi exiles.

According to The Times’ web site, Miller wrote in her letter, to be published in The Times on Thursday, that she had become a “lightning rod for public fury over the intelligence failures that helped lead our country to war” and wanted to leave the paper because she had “become the news.”

Executive Editor Bill Keller was quoted in The Times as saying the paper had been hurt by delays in “coming clean” over lapses in its reporting that supported U.S. allegations of Iraqi weapons programs, much of which was written by Miller.

Katharine Q. Seelye writes for the New York Times

Lawyers for Ms. Miller and the paper negotiated a severance package, the details of which they would not disclose. Under the agreement, Ms. Miller will retire from the newspaper, and The Times will print a letter she wrote to the editor explaining her position. Ms. Miller originally demanded that she be able to write an essay for the paper’s Op-Ed page challenging the allegations against her. The Times refused that demand – Gail Collins, editor of the editorial page, said, “We don’t use the Op-Ed page for back and forth between one part of the paper and another” – but agreed to let her write the letter.

In that letter, to be published in The New York Times on Thursday under the heading, “Judith Miller’s Farewell,” Ms. Miller said she was leaving partly because some of her colleagues disagreed with her decision to testify in the C.I.A. leak case.

“But mainly,” she wrote, “I have chosen to resign because over the last few months, I have become the news, something a New York Times reporter never wants to be.”

She noted that even before going to jail, she had “become a lightning rod for public fury over the intelligence failures that helped lead our country to war.” She said she regretted “that I was not permitted to pursue answers” to questions about those intelligence failures.

I suspect she was not permitted to pursue “answers” because she had lost all “credibility.” Anyway, I hope she “enjoys” her “retirement.”

The critical question: Will her book advance reach six figures? That would have been possible a few years ago, but the book publishing biz is not all that flush these days.

Texas–It’s Like a Whole ‘Nother Planet

CNN just reported that Texas’s highest criminal court let stand a lower court ruling that threw out Andrea Yates’s murder conviction for drowning her children in June 2001.

With no qualms about wasting taxpayer money, Harris County Assistant District Attorney Alan Curry said the case would be retried if Yates’s attorney won’t settle for a plea bargain.

Andrea Yates has remained in prison since the lower court overturned her conviction in January. Essentially, Yates’s attorney figured that since the massively psychotic Yates is receiving psychiatric medical treatment in prison, she might as well be there as anywhere else.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband and attorney agree to a plea bargain, in fact, because it is unlikely Yates will ever be well enough to be set free, and a trial would just be unnecessary stress as well as cost. Also, they have good reason to want her to stay in prison, explained at the end of this post. But a humane justice system would not have tried her in the first place.

I’ve written about Yates before; this is a repeat from May 2003:

I followed the Andrea Yates trial closely, and came to the conclusion that Texas is not only like a whole ‘nother country. It’s also stuck in a whole ‘nother century, sometime in the Dark Ages. The Texas justice system does not recognize brain disease; to them, insanity is a character flaw, or maybe devil possession.

The early news stories about Andrea Yates called her illness “postpartum depression,” but the truth is that she was a five-alarm schizophrenic. She had been sinking deeper and deeper into psychosis for several years, had attempted suicide, and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. In the months before the killings, one of her friends was so alarmed at her behavior she was keeping notes.

Two weeks before she killed her children, a bleeping incompetent psychiatrist took her off the antipsychotic meds — cold turkey — that had propped her up and kept her functional. A couple of days before she killed her children, her husband Randy took her back to this psychiatrist and begged him to put her back on her meds; the doc refused.

Once in county jail, the psychiatric staff proclaimed she was the most psychotic inmate they had ever seen. Several of the prison psychologists and psychiatrists — people who worked with her for many weeks — testified at trial that Yates was massively delusional. A prominent neuropsychiatrist tested her and diagnosed severe schizophrenia, noting major frontal lobe impairment. During her trial, Yates had to be drugged into catatonia so she could sit in her seat and not try to catch flies with her tongue.

The jury was told, over and over, that Yates had a disease of the brain. They were not told that, if found not guilty by reason of insanity, Yates would not have gone free. The court would have ordered her to be hospitalized, not to be released without another court order.

The prosecutors trotted out two primary witnesses. One was the psychiatrist who had taken her off her meds and who would have been charged with murder if I’d had anything to say about it. He said he saw no sign of psychosis in Yates. One suspects this guy couldn’t find shit in an outhouse.

The other witness was a paid expert psychiatrist who is also a consultant for “Law and Order.” He said that Yates had gotten the idea for killing her children from a “Law and Order” episode. Later it was determined that there was no such episode; it had been scripted but never produced.

After several weeks of testimony, the jury took all of four hours to find Yates guilty of murder. They decided she couldn’t have been crazy because she had called 911 to report the childrens’ deaths. Yes, this makes sense. A crazy person would have made up some story about intruders to avoid punishment.

Since the Yates trial, another Texas killer mother, Deanna Laney, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the stoning deaths of two of her children. Laney lacked Yates’s long and well documented history of psychiatric illness, but the “witness for hire” hack psychiatrist, Dr. Park Dietz, who testified for the prosecution at the Yates trial testified for the defense at the Laney trial, which should prove what an absolute whore the man is. Anyway, Laney was committed to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital, and the state of Texas expected her husband to pay the bills. I undersand Mr. Laney didn’t waste much time filing for divorce.

Many Happy Returns

Congratulations to the voters of Dover, Pennsylvania, for booting their entire anti-evolution school board yesterday! Laurie Goodstein writes in today’s New York Times:

All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday by a slate of challengers who campaigned against the intelligent design policy.

Among the losing incumbents on the Dover, Pa., board were two members who testified in favor of the intelligent design policy at a recently concluded federal trial on the Dover policy: the chairwoman, Sheila Harkins, and Alan Bonsell.

The election results were a repudiation of the first school district in the nation to order the introduction of intelligent design in a science class curriculum. The policy was the subject of a trial in Federal District Court that ended last Friday. A verdict by Judge John E. Jones III is expected by early January. …

… The vote counts were close, but of the 16 candidates the one with the fewest votes was Mr. Bonsell, the driving force behind the intelligent design policy. Testimony at the trial revealed that Mr. Bonsell had initially insisted that creationism get equal time in the classroom with evolution.

(Singing) Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, GOOD BYE.

More good news: Yesterday California voters rejected all of Governor Schwarzenegger’s ballot proposals. Michael Finnegan and Robert Salladay write in the Los Angeles Times,

In a sharp repudiation of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Californians rejected all four of his ballot proposals Tuesday in an election that shattered his image as an agent of the popular will.

Voters turned down his plans to curb state spending, redraw California’s political map, restrain union politics and lengthen the time it takes teachers to get tenure.

I liked this part:

Dogging the governor, as it has for months, was the California Nurses Assn., which organized a luau at the Trader Vic’s in the same hotel. As Schwarzenegger’s defeats mounted, giddy nurses formed a conga line and danced around the room, singing, “We’re the mighty, mighty nurses.”

I love it. Don’t ever mess with nurses.

Also in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Nicholas and Mark Z. Barabak explain why the sequel failed at the ballot box:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday met the limits of his celebrity: Even a campaign built around his action-star persona could not persuade voters to embrace his “year of reform” agenda.

Worse for Schwarzenegger, the special election he called to cement his power may have diminished it instead. All four measures he brought to the ballot — Propositions 74, 75, 76 and 77 — were rejected.

Schwarzenegger staged a campaign intended to capitalize on his once-robust box-office appeal. He largely shunned unscripted encounters with voters and face-to-face debates with political opponents, sticking instead to friendly exchanges in venues packed with admiring supporters.

His campaign echoed the strategy he employed in the 2003 recall campaign, when the product he was selling was “Arnold,” the outsider determined to “clean up” Sacramento with the same wit and resolve he showed in his movies. …

… The problem, however, was that Schwarzenegger never seemed to make the transition from celebrity to chief executive. The obvious comparison is to another actor-turned-California governor, Ronald Reagan.

Ken Khachigian, a longtime Republican strategist who was a speechwriter in the Reagan White House, said of Schwarzenegger’s rhetorical habits: “It was like, ‘OK, we’ve heard that stuff.’ This is different now. This is policy and substance, and the speeches should have used a little different rhetoric.”

While Schwarzenegger’s approach “worked well in the recall,” Khachigian said, “The problem is that it didn’t wear very well over a period of time. After a while he was a governor, not an actor, and it’s quite a different role.”

A Republican strategist and occasional Schwarzenegger advisor put it more bluntly Tuesday, saying privately: “The act is getting stale.”

I guess the Republicans aren’t talking about amending the Constitution so that immigrants can be president any more.

Here’s the good news roundup:

Democrat Jon Corzine beat Republican Doug Forrester in the New Jersey governor’s race.

Democrat Tim Kaine beat Republican Jerry Kilgore in the Virginia governor’s race.

Schwarzenegger was clobbered; see links above.

“Intelligent design” gets the boot in Dover, Pennsylvania; see links above.

Maine voters defeated an attempt to repeal a law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. In other words, gay rights, yes; gay hate, no.

In Minnesota, an anti-Bush Democrat will replace a pro-Bush Democrat as mayor of St. Paul.

San Francisco Chronicle: “San Francisco voters took a stand Tuesday against military recruitment on public school campuses, voted to keep firehouses open and approved the nation’s toughest ban on handguns by making it illegal for city residents to possess them.”

Not all voters turned away from the Dark Side. Texas voters approved a ban on gay marriage, and Ohio voters rejected four constitutional amendments intended to reform their corrupt election processes.

The re-election of Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City is a wash; Bloomberg is a through-and-through RINO. A “real” Republican couldn’t get elected to squat in New York City.

Today the bobbleheads on the cable TV news shows will be explaining that yesterday’s elections don’t mean the 2006 elections will swing to Democrats. And they may be right. But they’re often wrong, aren’t they?

About Those Results …

An editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times:

A year ago, George W. Bush said the voters of America had given him political capital that he intended to spend pursuing his agenda. While it’s always dangerous to read national lessons into local elections, everyone from political consultants to the leaders of countries in the remote corners of Asia and Africa are going to assume the same thing from the results of yesterday’s balloting: Mr. Bush’s political capital has turned into a deficit.

The election of Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine in Virginia was a surprise. Virginia has a Democratic governor now, but in national politics it is a safe Republican state. President Bush made a much-publicized last-minute campaign stop there to stump for the Republican, Jerry Kilgore. Everyone who has to make a decision about next year’s Congressional elections – from promising candidates who are mulling whether to listen to their party’s pleas to run to campaign donors – are reading bad omens for the Republicans into what happened after Mr. Bush left.

Can Bush turn it around and save his presidency?

All that could easily change. Mr. Bush could be the catalyst for change, if he had the flexibility and imagination to read the nation’s mood. Whenever this president has gotten into trouble in the past, he has reflexively turned to his right-wing base, or his trump issue of antiterrorism and homeland security. That isn’t working now. In Mr. Bush’s last crisis, over Hurricane Katrina, he made a desperate grab for popularity in the form of sweeping promises of enormous spending to rebuild New Orleans – promises that frightened his party. He is already in the process of backtracking on them.

Big surprise. Not.

William Branigin writes in Wednesday’s Washington Post:

With President Bush buffeted by low job-approval ratings, declining public support for his Iraq war policy and a federal CIA leak investigation that has reached into the White House, the Virginia governor’s race was being watched for any signs that the Republican administration’s difficulties were rubbing off at the local level. Long considered a reliable Republican state in national politics, Virginia has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in more than 40 years, and Bush won handily in last year’s presidential election with 54 percent of the vote.

It would be a mistake to look at today’s elections only as a referendum on Bush. I don’t know how much anti-Bush sentiment factored into the New Jersey election, although Corzine did run ads linking Forrester to Bush (ouch!). Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election in New York City certainly doesn’t mean New Yorkers are tilting Republican. Bloomberg is a true RINO and more liberal than a lot of Democrats. New Yorkers understand the party affiliation has more to do with political expediency than ideology.

But I’d hate to be a Republican campaign strategist tonight, huh?