Monday, October 31, 2005

"Clear Skies" Initiative: At Least It's Cheap

The EPA has finally presented a comparative analysis on President Sluggo's "Clear Skies" iniative and competing proposals. The result: "Clear Skies" is a bit cheaper. (It also has its own cheesy graphics, which can be found on the EPA's website.)
"Clear Skies" has been stuck in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for two years. Senator Tom Carper, who is so centrist it hurts, voted against the nomination of Stephen Johnson as EPA administrator to try to force the agency to analyze the competing proposals. According to the NYT, the analysis did not convince two critics of the administration's plan:
But Senator James M. Jeffords of Vermont, an independent who sponsored a competing measure, said the agency analysis failed to convince him that the administration plan was superior. He said it was "no better and in some respects worse," than current regulations under the Clean Air Act.
Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, who sponsored yet another bill, said: "We can do better than the president's Clear Skies plan. The administration's own analysis shows that Clear Skies doesn't clean the air any better than what we've already got on the books."
The News Journal reports that Carper's alternative proposal includes a relatively modest carbon emissions trading system:
"Despite all the grand pronouncements from this White House that carbon controls would ruin the economy, their analysis shows that quite the opposite is true," Carper said in a statement. "Our carbon-trading program would cost just a dollar per ton, yet it would jump-start our efforts to control carbon emissions and do something about global warming. If we can do that and do it cheaply, what are we waiting for?"
EPA's Johnson has suggested that he's open to negotiation. But what incentive is there for Carper, Jeffords and others to craft a compromise based on a proposal that accomplishes nothing in terms of cleaning up air pollution?

Fire Karl Rove

Harry Reid is right. Rove should be fired. Via the Washington Post:
"The president said anyone involved would be gone," Reid said. "And we now know that Official A is Karl Rove. He's still around. He should be let go." Reid added that if Bush "is a man of his word, Rove should be history."
Rove's defense? He forgot that he leaked Valerie Plame's name. As for Libby, another story looks at the question of what got into him:
"I've thought about this all night," said one acquaintance. "One possibility is that Scooter was just pushing back because Wilson was after them -- but it just went too far. And frankly he may have thought the reporters would never testify."
No kidding. Judith Miller went to jail and had to be reminded that Libby had mentioned Plame to her on June 23, 2003 before finding the words "Valerie Flame" in her notebook, which fortunately hadn't been eaten by the dog.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Dick Cheney has not credibly explained these activities.

Dick Cheney and his circle of the like-minded known as the WHIG (White House Iraq Group) were determined to lead us down the Yellowcake Road. This group of hardheaded realists were untroubled by inconvenient facts -- until those facts were brought to light. President Sluggo tried to scare us in his 2003 state of the union speech by claiming that Saddam Hussein was shopping for uranium in Africa. When Joseph Wilson revealed that the president's "16 words" in his state of the union speech had no basis in fact, the WHIG swung into action. As the Washington Post reports, Scooter Libby and his boss couldn't tolerate their use of bogus intelligence being exposed:
The threat Wilson posed was that his charges were equally simple and marketable. He charged that Cheney asked a question and then disregarded, as did the president and his staff, an answer he did not like.
The indictment clearly demonstrates the extent of Scooter Libby's persistence in going after Wilson. Libby had nine conversations about Wilson and his wife in June and July of 2003, including two with Judith Miller. The first of these conversations was with Cheney, who told him, "that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA in the Counterproliferation Division." By the way, the infamous "16 words" was followed by another bit of bogus intelligence:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.
Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
The aluminum tube claim was later shown to be equally spurious. Supporters of the war in Iraq argue that almost everyone believed that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Perhaps, but not everyone paraded phony evidence before the country and the world to bolster the case for war. Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA operative because her husband dared to show us that this evidence was forged. We have also learned, via the National Journal, that Cheney and Libby withheld documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee relating to this bogus intelligence:
Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.
Our vice president pushed that phony evidence and has sought to cover his tracks ever since. Dick Cheney has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Indictment

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is nothing if not through. The indictment of Scooter Libby left little doubt that Libby knew about Valerie Plame's identity:
# In or about early June 2003, LIBBY learned from the Vice President that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA in the Counterproliferation Division;
# On or about June 11, 2003, LIBBY was informed by a senior CIA officer that Wilson's wife was employed by the CIA and that the idea of sending him to Niger originated with her;
# On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was informed by the Under Secretary of State that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA;
# On or about June 14, 2003, LIBBY discussed "Joe Wilson" and "Valerie Wilson" with his CIA briefer, in the context of Wilson's trip to Niger;
# On or about June 23, 2003, LIBBY informed reporter Judith Miller that Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the CIA;
# On or about July 7, 2003, LIBBY advised the White House Press Secretary that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA;
# In or about June or July 2003, and in no case later than on or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Assistant to the Vice President for Public Affairs that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA;
# On or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY advised reporter Judith Miller of his belief that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA; and
# On or about July 8, 2003, LIBBY had a discussion with the Counsel to the Office of the Vice President concerning the paperwork that would exist if a person who was sent on an overseas trip by the CIA had a spouse who worked at the CIA;
Libby's testimony, excerpted in the indictment, is at variance with the facts outlined above:
"Basically, we didn't know anything about him [Wilson] until this stuff came out in June. And among the other things, I didn't know he had a wife. That was one of the things I said to Mr. Cooper. I don't know if he's married."
Libby is going to have a hard time claiming he doesn't remember nine seperate conversations involving Wilson and his wife.
In his press conference yesterday, Fitzgerald was asked about the assertion that perjury and lying were not as serious as the underlying crime. In response, Fitzgerald spoke of the significance of the charges:
If these facts are true, if we were to walk away from this and not charge obstruction of justice and perjury, we might as well just hand in our jobs. Because our jobs, the criminal justice system, is to make sure people tell us the truth. And when it's a high-level official and a very sensitive investigation, it is a very, very serious matter that no one should take lightly.
Fitzgerald offered his reason for seeking testimony from reporters:
I understand why it is that newspapers want sources. And I read newspapers and I'm glad you have sources.
This is different. This was a situation where the conversations between the official and the reporter may have been a crime itself.
It wasn't someone saying, "Hey, so and so is doing something really, really awful down the hall, but I'm going to get fired if I tell you."
If you're transmitting classified information, it's the crime itself. But also the reporter is the eyewitness, and what I think people don't appreciate is we interviewed lots of people, very high officials, before we ever went to the reporters. And if it is apparent the grand jury was investigating to find out whether Mr. Libby lied under oath about his conversations with reporters, how could you ever resolve it without talking to the reporter?
This is a serious, sober prosecutor who does his homework.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lies on top of Lies

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby stands indicted of two counts of perjury, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case.
While the Bush apologists try to comfort themselves with the notion that perjury or lying to investigators isn't all that bad, let us keep in mind that the purpose of the lies perpetrated in this investigation was to keep the lies that got us into war from being exposed.
The NYT reports that a seperate FBI investigation is looking into the forged documents that were the basis for the charge that Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Niger. As Murray Waas reports in the National Journal, Cheney and Libby tried to cover their tracks with Congress as well:
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

"Which side were you on in the Miers fight?"

So said conservative activist Manuel Miranda in the Washington Post. Having forced President Bush to back down, conservatives want more:
Now conservatives are issuing demands: an experienced, brash, conservative nominee not afraid to openly debate judicial philosophies; a get-tough approach to illegal immigration; a renewed push to make Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent; and a new round of tax cuts on top.
Even after five years of largely unchallenged power, conservatives have a seemingly endless capacity for grievance. Uber-activist Grover Norquist spoke of being "betrayed" by Bush. The fight over the Miers nomination has galvanized conservatives and demonstrated that the movement can never be satisfied, even with the most right-leaning president in our lifetime. Former Senator John Danforth, who has been critical of the right wing, is quoted in the Times, lamenting the way conservatives turned on Bush:
"There's all this talk about the Republican base and the conservative base of the Republican Party, and the conservative base of the president and how it's important to play to the base and please the base and fawn over the base," said former Senator John C. Danforth, the Missouri Republican who was Mr. Bush's ambassador to the United Nations.
"And look what it gets President Bush," Mr. Danforth continued. "It just gets him a kick in the rear."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Valerie Plame Backstory

The story didn't begin with the outing of Valerie Plame, and it won't end with the indictments expected tomorrow. Meanwhile, the mystery conntinues, as the Washington Post reports:
Still, the penultimate day of the 22-month probe ended with the same mystery that has kept much of Washington, including some of the possible targets and lawyers in the case, on edge about Fitzgerald's plans.
The backstory, of course, is the "evidence" that President Sluggo cited that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium ore in Africa. In his account, published in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, Joseph Wilson turned from the lack of evidence for Bush's claim to the question of how the claim was raised in the first place:
As for the actual memorandum, I never saw it. But news accounts have pointed out that the documents had glaring errors — they were signed, for example, by officials who were no longer in government — and were probably forged.
Those forged documents came from Italian intelligence sources. So guess who's coming for lunch on October 31? That's right, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Josh Marshall is on top of the story.
So how does the investigation extend back to before the outing of Valerie Plame? Murray Waas of the
National Journal has the story that the Vice President's office withheld documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Harriet Miers Withdraws; Bush Blames the Senate

President Sluggo blamed the Senate for Harriet Miers withdrawal as his nominee for the Supreme Court:
I understand and share her concern, however, about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. It is clear that Senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a President's ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers -- and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Steve Clemons

The Washington Post has a headline about D.C. being in suspended animation waiting to hear from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Not Steve Clemons of The Washington Note. Steve gets hit by a car and he's still running circles around the Washington press corps. He's posted news that the Office of Special Counsel has signed a lease for new office space across the street from its current office. He even has a photo of the building.
UPDATE: Steve Clemons has retracted the story, saying his two sources were mistaken.

Oh No! Mr. Bill! Google Found You at TommyWonk!

For those who have ever wondered about the mysterious ways of Google's algorithm, here's a data point to ponder: If you enter "Mr. Bill and Sluggo" you find the first page to appear is from TommyWonk!
Here's what you get if you push the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button: This, of course, is what passes for notoriety in blogging's minor leagues.

The Moral Relativism of Senator Hutchison

Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has attracted some richly deserved derision for her inane comment about a possible "perjury technicality" from Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. As Howard Kurtz recounts in the Washington Post, Hutchinson went on to compare this investigation to that of Martha Stewart:
Hutchison likened the senior administration officials who might or might not be indicted to Martha Stewart, who was only charged with a cover-up (lying about insider trading is okay as long as you're not convicted of insider trading?)
There's a reason that it's a crime to lie to federal investigators, including the SEC. Laws like those prohibiting insider trading -- or revealing the identity of a CIA operative -- require truthfulness on the part of at least some of those involved if they are to be enforced. Martha Stewart stubbornly chose to lie to the SEC in the face of contrary evidence. What's a civil servant to do?
By the way, this line of defense can be found under "2. Argue the law" in my breakdown of what to expect from administration apologists.
Amid the lawyers' leaks and speculation running rampant in Washington, Steve Clemons reports in The Washington Note that "an uber-insider source" expects 1 to 5 indictments today.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Plame Investigation: What to Expect

We have no idea what to expect from Patrick Fitzgerald. But we have a fairly good idea of what to expect from the administration's apologists:
1. Argue the facts.
For instance, claim that Joe Wilson lied. Larry Johnson at Crooks and Liars has a good rebutal for that one. Another argument is that everyone knew Valerie Plame worked for the CIA already. If so, then why were White House officals giving her name out?
Ronald Reagan once said that fact are stubborn things. One of the most stubborn facts in this case is that the so called documentary evidence that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was forged. Were administration officials trying to keep that from the public?
2. Argue the law.
As the NYT reports, White House allies are "seeking to help them make the case that bringing charges like perjury mean the prosecutor does not have a strong case." A basic problem with this argument is that the public is so used to the notion that scandals often involve the coverup more than the crime. Also, we should keep in mind that perjury to cover for previous lies is less likely to be seen as trivial.
A related argument is that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is "criminalizing a political disagreement." That will be hard to do, given the almost universal protrayal of Fitzgerald as a hard-working straight arrow who runs a tight ship and doesn't leak a thing to reporters, for instance this from a Washington Post profile:
Yet in a case with huge political stakes for the White House, a portrait is emerging of a special counsel with no discernible political bent who prepared the ground with painstaking sleuthing and cold-eyed lawyering.
3. Pound on the table.
The NYT reports that Republicans are arguing that this is inside politics that people don't care about:
Congressional Republicans have also been signaling that they want to put some distance between their agenda and the White House's potential legal and political woes, seeking to cast the leak case as an inside-the-Beltway phenomenon of little interest to most voters."
I think we just need to stick to our knitting on the topics and the subjects the American people care about," Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, said on "Fox News Sunday."
The difficulty with this argument is that people do care, which is why the White House went after Joe Wilson in the first place. There are two necessary conditions for a scandal to take hold in the public imagination: The first is that the crime has to be understandable. Screwing a critic is something people can relate to. The second is that the crime has to be something people care about. War in Iraq is not inside baseball; it affects people deeply.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Growing weary of rumors and lawyers' leaks in the Valerie Plame case? Now you can go straight to the source. Via Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post, comes news that the Office of Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has launched its own website. Caution: Staring at the site will not hasten the shifting of the earth in its orbit. Relax.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Where Is this Fugitive?

OK, Saddam Hussein is on trial.
Now how about the guy who attacked us four years, one month and nine days ago?

In Need of Adult Supervision: our National Government

Colonel Larry Wilkerson was Colin Powell's right hand man in the State Department. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post writes, "he was often described by colleagues as the man who would say what Powell was thinking but was too discreet to say." Now Colonel Wilkerson is speaking out loud and clear:
He said the vice president and the secretary of defense created a "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" that hijacked U.S. foreign policy. He said of former defense undersecretary Douglas Feith: "Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man." Addressing scholars, journalists and others at the New America Foundation, Wilkerson accused Bush of "cowboyism" and said he had viewed Condoleezza Rice as "extremely weak." Of American diplomacy, he fretted, "I'm not sure the State Department even exists anymore."
As a friend emailed me refering to this piece, "The wheels are finally coming off the cart -- or cabal." (Question: Did Yogi Berra ever comment on the wheels coming off the horse? If not, he should have.) Here's more from Milbank on the fracturing of the Bush coalition:
David Frum, a former White House speechwriter, is campaigning against confirmation of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Bruce Bartlett, who worked for the president's father, was fired by his think tank this week because he is publishing a book titled "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."
Beyond responding with barely disguised glee, how do we, the loyal opposition, offer a meaningful alternative to the current mismanagement of our national government? Here's a start: Campaign as the party of adult supervision. (The notion goes back to Josh Marshall, who wrote of "embracing our destiny as the party of grown-ups back in April.) A common thread running through the disasters brought on by the current Republican regime is the lack of accountability: Deficits don't matter. Open up the treasury to corporate interests. Damn the facts; on to Iraq. Hire the hapless. I could go on...
The enablers in this debacle have been the Republican moderates, who still believe that government should be well-run, instead of being run into the ground. Where were Colin Powell and Colonel Wilkerson when the bogus intelligence was being spread around like so much manure? Powell, good soldier that he is, carried out his orders instead of carring out his duty to keep our country safe and strong. His acquiesence left our foreign policy in the hands of faith-based ideologues, whose refrain of "stay the course" is wearing thin.
UPDATE: The Washington Note has the transcript of Wilkerson's speech.

"Inadequate," "insufficient," "insulting"

So said Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy yesterday as reported in the NYT:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - The Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers suffered another setback on Wednesday when the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked her to resubmit parts of her judicial questionnaire, saying various members had found her responses "inadequate," "insufficient" and "insulting."
Oh, and "chaotic" as well, as per the Washington Post:
"I think it's been a chaotic process, very candidly, as to what has happened, because of all of the conference calls and all of the discussions, which are alleged in the back room," Specter said. "We're looking into them."
At first it was just James Dobson. But it appears that Mier and her inept handlers in the White House have been more forthcoming with the right wing than with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Behind the political chaos and the perfunctory responses to the Judiciary Committee, lies a more fundamental question: Does Harriet Miers have a working understanding of Constitutional law?
In describing one matter on the Dallas City Council, Miers referred to "the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection Clause" as it relates to the Voting Rights Act.
"There is no proportional representation requirement in the Equal Protection Clause," said Cass R. Sunstein, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. He and several other scholars said it appeared that Miers was confusing proportional representation -- which typically deals with ethnic groups having members on elected bodies -- with the one-man, one-vote Supreme Court ruling that requires, for example, legislative districts to have equal populations.
I'm certainly no legal scholar, but even I know that the Constitution does not include anything close to proportional representation. Is it possible that behind the nominee's murky and imprecise prose style lies an equally murky and imprecise thought process?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Half of Montana Hates America

Did you know that so many Montanans hate America?
49% approve, 49% disapprove
And hey, what's the matter with Kansas?
43% approve, 54% disapprove
Who's messin' with Texas?
42% approve, 54% disapprove
And wasn't Delaware once a swing state?
33% approve, 65% disapprove
The SUSA 50 state Bush approval poll has the numbers.

Producer Prices Up Sharply

It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The energy shock to the U.S. economy is coming, and will hit us all hard.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics today announced that its PPI (Producer Price Index) shot up 1.9 percent last month due to climbing energy costs. This is the sharpest one month increase in the PPI in fifteen years. The energy portion of the index climbed 7.1 percent.
While the effects of climbing energy prices are seen instantaneously at the gas pump and in home heating bills, the effects will reverberate throughout the economy for months to come: in transportation expenses and in higher raw material costs.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Miss Run Amok"

Finally, we are hearing from New York Times reporter Judith Miller on her involvement with the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
In untangling this case, it is useful to keep in mind that reporters do not operate in a vacuum.
The First Amendment does not guarantee access to the pages of the
New York Times. Nor does it give reporters the right to protect their sources from prosecutors and judges.
A byline on the front page of the
NYT is provided by the editors and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. as part of an employment contract. In return, the editors and publisher have an obligation to protect the paper's integrity and reputation that have been built up over more than a century. Today's story in the Times describes a paper that had ceded much of its oversight to a strong-willed reporter:
Interviews show that the paper's leaders, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control.
"This car had her hand on the wheel because she was the one at risk," Mr. Sulzberger said.
No, Mr. Sulzberger, there were many others besides Judith Miller who were at risk: you and your paper's reputation not the least. Even in an age of electronic journalism, the Times enjoys an authority that in the end is built or lost based on the conduct of the paper's reporters, editors and publisher. Miller made free use of the paper's reputational capital:
In the year after [Miller's previous editor Stephen] Engelberg left the paper in 2002, though, Ms. Miller operated with a degree of autonomy rare at The Times.
Douglas Frantz, who succeeded Mr. Engelberg as the investigative editor, said that Ms. Miller once called herself "Miss Run Amok."
"I said, 'What does that mean?' " said Mr. Frantz, who was recently appointed managing editor at The Los Angeles Times. "And she said, 'I can do whatever I want.' "
Ms. Miller said she remembered the remark only vaguely but must have meant it as a joke, adding, "I have strong elbows, but I'm not a dope."
The confidentiality of reporters' sources is not protected by the First Amendment, even though many would wish it were so. Instead, this confidentiality is protected by a common understanding of the value of access to information that would otherwise be kept from the public. To the extent that confidentiality is used by those in power to cover their tracks, public support for reporters and their sources is likely to suffer. We should not forget that it was Joseph Wilson who spoke up and that Valerie Plame's name was revealed as an act of official retribution.
Judith Miller's byline was used to report the government's version of why we should go to war with Iraq, and her silence was used to keep us from knowing who in our government had sought retribution against an informed critic. She can cite the principles of a free press and protecting the confidentiality of her sources, but her conduct has served the government's desire to control information more than the public's need to know.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Last Chance to Visit the Artists' Studios at 314 Brown Street

Tomorrow, Sunday, will be your last chance to visit the artists' studios at 314 Brown Street in Northern Liberties. The building, which has provided studio space for some of Philadelphia's best artists, will be converted to condos as soon as the requested zoning adjustment is approved.
Painter Charlotte Schatz (above) has painted many of the most memorable landmarks in Northern Liberties and Fishtown, including the "Flatiron Building" shown behind her. Her painted hardhat comes from the Domino Sugar factory, the subject of some of her most iconic works. Printmaker Rebecca Gilbert (below) creates more personal works dealing with our human longings and desires.
Both have made arrangements to relocate their studios, but it is sad to see artists forced from Northern Liberties, Philly's hippest and most diverse neighborhood. Having done so much to make Northern Liberties such an attractive place to live, one can only hope that not all of the artists will be driven away by the real estate boom that is rolling over the neighborhood. You can find Charlotte's paintings at Rebecca's work can be sampled at (Disclosure: I have bought pieces from both.)
To keep up with events in Northern Liberties, check out and the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association at (Disclosure: I used to work there.) The NLNA, led by Matt Ruben, has been particularly courageous and effective in protecting the community's interests through the zoning and planning process.

Litmus Test? How about the Writing Test?

In the Washington Post today, we read that Harriet Miers "may be at risk of flunking the writing portion of the Supreme Court confirmation test" and has passed the feared tipping point of no return:
"The tipping point in Washington is when you go from being a subject of caricature to the subject of laughter," said Bruce Fein, a Miers critic who served in the Reagan administration's Justice Department and who often speaks on constitutional law. "She's in danger of becoming the subject of laughter."
Actually, she has already found herself in the comedic crosshairs:
Fair or not, late-night comics have picked up the Miers thread. NBC's Jay Leno suggested the court may need "a woman who's had more courtroom experience, like Courtney Love."
These kinds of jokes reflect a narrative that is catching hold in the public imagination, that of President Sluggo's promotion of clueless cronies to positions of national importance. If clear prose is the sign of clear thinking, then Miers' reasoning must be muddled indeed. Try parsing this sample from her tenure as president of the Texas Bar Association:
"More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems."
Followers of the Strunk & White dictum, "Omit needless words," will want to strike the entire sentence and urge her to start over. So much for sending up a nominee with no paper trail.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Energy Prices Driving Inflation Higher

Here it comes, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.2 percent in September, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. The September level of 198.8 (1982-84=100) was 4.7 percent higher than in September 2004.
This is just the begining of what will be a long, cold winter. Heating costs are expected to go up as much as 30% in Delaware. But we can breathe dirtier air as we freeze. The Washington Post reports that BushCo is proposing new regulations to make it easier for old power plants to continue or even increase emissions:

The Environmental Protection Agency issued draft regulations yesterday that would ease long-standing pollution controls on older, dirtier power plants by judging these plants by the hourly rate of emissions rather than the total annual output.
EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson said the administration is confident its recent efforts to curb harmful nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution by establishing a separate cap-and-trade system will do more to clean the air than the New Source Review rule the agency seeks to modify.

Of course, the recently passed energy monstrosity was supposed to increase supply, but we aren't hearing much about how that's supposed to work. Instead, we can expect more efforts to ease environmental regulations to benefit power companies.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Richard Cohen on Judith Miller and Choice Restaurant Tables

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post, writing about the Valerie Plame case, conflates the value of a free press with the price of a free lunch.
If anything good comes out of the Iraq war, it has to be a realization that bad things can happen to good people when the administration -- any administration -- is in sole control of knowledge and those who know the truth are afraid to speak up. This -- this creepy silence -- will be the consequence of dusting off rarely used statutes to still the tongues of leakers and intimidate the press in its pursuit of truth, fame and choice restaurant tables. Apres Miller comes moi.
This is why I want Fitzgerald to leave now. Do not bring trivial charges -- nothing about conspiracies, please -- and nothing about official secrets, most of which are known to hairdressers, mistresses and dog walkers all over town.
Cohen has it exactly backwards. He forgets that it was Joseph Wilson who spoke up and that Valerie Plame's name was revealed as an act of official retribution. Cohen wants to be free to enjoy expense account meals and inside access while trivializing the notion of secrecy itself. His head is so firmly encased in the Beltway bubble that he can't see past his next power lunch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Disdain for Governing

Purposeful penquins on the march? Or stranded whales on the beach?
The leviathans of the GOP have boldly swum themselves onto this patch of dry sand, and it won't be easy for them to get back to open ocean.
So says David Ignatius in the Washington Post, who offers this analysis of the ruling party's current woes:
What's interesting is that most of these wounds are self-inflicted. They draw a picture of a party that, for all its seeming dominance, isn't prepared to be the nation's governing party. The hard right, which is the soul of the modern GOP, would rather be ideologically pure than successful. Governing requires making compromises and getting your hands dirty, but the conservative purists disdain those qualities. They swim for that beach with a fiercely misguided determination, and they demand that the other whales accompany them.
This same disdain for governing has informed many of the GOP's decisions over the last five years: Tax cuts will create a deficit? They either argue that the opposite is true (in the face of historical evidence) or simply accept deficits as confirmation of their prejudice that government is too large. Giveaways to corporate interests? Hey, the private sector is more efficient than government. Cronyism in federal appointments? Well, the job isn't that important anyway. State Department professionals cite a lack of evidence for WMDs or ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq? Just show resolve and stay the course.

Monday, October 10, 2005

GOP Getting Nervous about 2006

You think the White House is feeling the political jitters? The Washington Post reports that the GOP is having trouble recruiting candidates for next year's congressional elections:
With an unpopular war in Iraq, ethical controversies shadowing top Republicans in the House and Senate, and President Bush suffering the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, the waters look less inviting to politicians deciding whether to plunge into an election bid. Additionally, some Capitol Hill operatives complain that preoccupied senior White House officials have been less engaged in candidate recruitment than they were for the 2002 and 2004 elections. These sources would speak only on background because of the sensitivity of partisan strategies.
The current uprising among the party's right wing is likely to add fuel to the fire in the next two elections. In Florida, where right wing darling Katherine Harris is trailing first-term Senator Bill Nelson some GOP party leaders had hoped to recruit a less polarizing figure, but Harris and her supporters feel it's her turn, given her pivotal role in the 2000 recount mess. It is easy to imagine right wing Republicans, disappointed by the Miers nomination, pushing for the most conservative candidates and feeling left behind when they don't get their way.
Looking ahead to 2008, I would expect that the right wing will push hard for an acceptable candidate. Speaking in code will not work the way it has for Bush. This will make it evn tougher for someone like mainstream favorite John McCain, who is considering a run. Among conservative leaders like uber-fundraiser Richard Viquerie, the motto will be "anyone but McCain."

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Karl Rove, Jack Abramoff and Timothy E. Flanigan, Part 2

One reason that Alberto Gonzales didn't get the nod for the Supreme Court is that Timothy E. Flanigan, the man nominated to serve as his deputy in the Justice Department, was facing a difficult confirmation process that would have brought unwelcome attention to the ties between uber-sleazeball lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove.
Flanigan, who served with Gonzales as deputy counsel in the White House, is senior vice president and general counsel to Tyco International. While at Tyco, Flanigan hired Abramoff (now under indictment) to lobby the federal government to allow Tyco to compete for government contracts even though the company is domiciled in Bermuda to avoid paying taxes. In a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Flanigan described how Abramoff traded on his claims of access to the White House:
Abramoff later said "he had contact with Mr. Karl Rove" about the issue, according to the statement by Flanigan, who oversaw Tyco's dealings with Abramoff and his firm and received reports from Abramoff about progress in the lobbying campaign. Flanigan's statement is the latest indication that Abramoff promoted himself as having ready access to senior officials in the Bush administration.
Having served in the White House, Flanigan could hardly have claimed that he was duped by Abramoff's claims of access. Presumably he didn't want to discuss his hiring of Abramoff on C-SPAN and decided to bail out before next week's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But as the Washington Post reports, Flanigan may yet get his moment in the spotlight:
"While Mr. Flanigan's nomination has been withdrawn, troubling questions remain about the Bush administration's torture policies and Abramoff's dealings with the administration and the Republican leadership of Congress," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

Friday, October 07, 2005

Karl Rove to Grand Jury: I Can Explain

If President Sluggo was wondering if things could get any worse, well the answer is yes. The NYT reports on the right wing revolt over his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:
Republicans said that White House officials had not anticipated the intensity of the criticism and that conservative groups felt they had not been given adequate warning that Ms. Miers was the president's pick.
Meanwhile, Bush's political mastermind is otherwise engaged. According to the Washington Post, Karl Rove was invited back before the grand jury in the case of outing CIA operative Valerie Plame:
Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald contacted Rove last week to seek his fourth appearance before the grand jury -- but warned Rove's lawyer that he could not assure that Rove would not be indicted, according to the source.
A fourth appearance would have to be especially tricky:
It is highly unusual for a person who has any risk of being indicted in a white-collar case to offer to go before the grand jury, say veteran defense lawyers and former prosecutors. But the rare exceptions, they say, are almost always high-profile figures and politicians. Public figures can expect that an indictment will end their careers, and that refusing to cooperate in an investigation could do the same, criminal lawyers said.
A witness who has already appeared several times may be recalled to explain why earlier answers appear to conflict with accounts of other witnesses, said two former prosecutors. Or the prosecutor may simply want to inquire about new topics that have arisen in the investigation.
Lost in the shuffle was Bush's most recent major speech on Iraq and TWoT, which remarkably included mention of what's his name, you know, Osama bin Laden. Two year, six months and seven days after declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq, Bush is still trying to explain what the war in Iraq has to do with the terrorists who attacked us four yeas ago.
Ironically for Bush and the world, it was anounced this morning that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Atomic Energy Agency and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who has won international support from everywhere but Washington for his peaceful approach to preventing he spread of nuclear weapons:
He faced intense pressure from Washington in the days before the 2003 American.-led invasion of Iraq, demanding more time for weapons inspectors to search the country for weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons were never found.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Judith Miller and the Dangerous Business of Becoming a Player

Even now that I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby has been identified as Judith Miller's source in the investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the whole affair seems murkier than ever. Miller, in an interview this morning with Barbara Walters on ABC, said that the waiver from Libby was inadequate because, as a blanket waiver requested by his employer, it was "inherently coercive."
Adding to the air of mystery is the friendly tone of Libby's letter to Miller:
"Your reporting, and you, are missed," began Vice President Cheney's chief of staff in his Sept. 15 letter releasing Miller from any pledge of confidentiality and urging her to testify in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. "You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life."
It's hard to imagine that Libby required confidentiality to protect him from repercussions if his employer found out he was on such friendly terms with a New York Times reporter who was writing stories helpful to the administration. By offering confidentiality to Libby and others, Miller gave the dubious evidence of WMDs an air of objectivity that served the administration's purpose of leading us into war.
Confidentiality is not a sovereign right, but instead needs to be balanced with other compelling interests. David Ignatius in the
Washington Post points out that reporters are not free agents in granting confidentiality:
The big lesson of the Miller affair, for me, is that editors are crucial in mediating the relationships between reporters and sources. Almost by definition, those relationships become incestuous -- with journalists and their sources chasing the same facts and often seeking to right the same wrongs. It's the job of editors to intervene in this process -- and demand to know, on behalf of readers, whether a story is really true. In Miller's case, she filed stories about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction based on what her sources had told her, but the crucial judgment lay in the hands of her editors.
This process of editorial intervention is even more important when it comes to making promises to sources about confidentiality. Reporters shouldn't be able to decide unilaterally to whom they will attach their newspaper's reputation.
Even with the proliferation of electronic media, the Times is a uniquely powerful institution. Its reporters, editors and columnists have from time to time succumbed to the pull of powerful people and become "players" as described by Russell Baker in his memoir The Good Times:
I felt no temptation to become a player, to be in with the winning crowd at the White House, have gaudy names to drop, play touch on the lawn at Hyannisport. I was temperamentally disinclined to such pleasures. More and more, my interest in politicians was confined to the study of the species...
What's more, I had just had a sobering talk with [managing editor] Turner Catledge in New York. From this I learned that becoming a player had harmed Bill Lawrence worse than most people suspected. Turner had called me in to tell me that I was to cover all of the forthcoming network television debates between Kennedy and Nixon.
Arriving on the Kennedy campaign, I was on notice that becoming a player was now dangerous business. (p. 325)
Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. and the paper's editors allowed Judith Miller to become a player. The history of the Times offers another instructive footnote to the Miller case. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy quietly told the aforementioned Turner Catledge, "Maybe if you had printed more about the operation, you would have saved us from a colossal mistake." (Quoted in The Trust, Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones, p. 315)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Paul Hackett Is Running for the Senate

Paul Hackett (shown here with a thermometer in Iraq) is running for the Senate. The Akron Beacon Journal has the story:
WASHINGTON - A Democrat who nearly pulled a stunning upset this summer in a heavily Republican House district has decided to challenge Ohio's senior U.S. senator next year.
Paul Hackett, an Iraq War veteran hailed by national Democrats for his showing in southern Ohio's 2nd District, will run against Sen. Mike DeWine, a Republican in his second six-year term.
Hackett met yesterday with Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. He has to be encouraged by a recent Zogby/WSJ poll that shows him up 8 percentage points against incumbent Mike DeWine. Rep. Sherrod Brown, who decided against a run for the Senate, is apparently reconsidering. (Memo to Brown: He who hesitates...) Hackett's official announcement is scheduled for October 24.

She Returns Harry Reid's Phone Calls

With observers in Washington and beyond scratching their heads, this headline from the SF Chronicle neatly sums up the conventional wisdom on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:
Bush turns to a loyalist -- dodges fight with Dems
Peter Baker in the Washington Post leads with this anecdote:
About two weeks ago, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. told presidential counsel Harriet Miers to add another name to the Supreme Court selection process she was leading. The new candidate: Harriet Miers.
"What do you mean me?" she asked, according to a colleague.You may recall that when Bush was considering candidates for vice president in 2000, he ended up picking the guy, Cheney, who led the selection process.
Dan Balz in the Washington Post highlights the president's weakness:
If President Bush's goal is to shift the Supreme Court in a more conservative direction, his nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers yesterday signaled a desire to do so as quietly as possible.
In his appearance with Miers yesterday (available on C-SPAN), Harry Reid seemed to be reaching for compliments:
I haven't known Harriet Myers a real long time, but I found her to be very personable, genuine, somebody who answers her phone calls immediately, and um, I think...
I can picture the conversation in Andy Card's office, "Who do have that's on speaking terms with Harry Reid?" If returning Reid's phone calls was a consideration, then Bush must be feeling weaker than we imagined.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Why Harriet Miers?
This underwhelming nomination seems to reflect (1) Bush's current political weakness and (2) his propensity to reward loyalty. As Atrios points out, she is not a nominee who will lead any triumphalist parades. Her's is not what one would call a legacy nomination meant to put Bush's stamp on the Court.
No spicy wingnuts here: Miers has all the excitement of a chicken casserole at a potluck supper.

What I'd Like to Know

Bush has nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. The Washington Post paints a picture of Miers as a loyal functionary:
Miers's low-key but high-precision style has been particularly valued in a White House where discipline in publicly articulating policy and loyalty to the president are highly valued.
Miers came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general.
As Bush's personal attorney in Texas, Miers is in a position to be familar with Bush's personal background. What I'd like to know is what role, if any, she played in scrubbing the public record on problems like Bush's service (or non-service) in the Texas Air National Guard and any possible (and long rumored) DUI or drug use. Of course, attorney-client privilege would hold, but still...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

BushCo's Energy Fiasco

Our leader thought we could fight a War on Terror without asking for any shared sacrifice. Nevertheless sacrifice is coming, and it won't be evenly shared. Home heating costs are soaring. Families that grumbled at the cost of filling up their SUVs, will be buying kerosene heaters (remember them?) to warm their homes this winter.
Wasn't the Iraq war supposed to open up the flow of oil and pay for the invasion and occupation? It has been 30 months since President Flightsuit declared "an end to major combat operations" on May 1, 2003. But the LA Times reports that mismanagement has kept production below pre-war levels:
Despite the United States' spending more than $1.3 billion, oil production remains below the estimated prewar level of 2.5 million barrels per day and well below a December 2004 goal of up to 3 million barrels per day.
The biggest problems: failure to connect a water pipeline to oil fields from the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, failure to repair pipelines to the Al Fathah oil field and a cancelled contract to repair Southern oil wells. The company involved: Kellog Brown & Root, a subsidary of Halliburton.
We're in the fifth year of an administration run by two oil executives. Energy prices are sky-high. Even Bush has called for conservation. (Older readers will remember the slogan, "Is this trip necessary?" from WW II.) Maybe it's time we took another look at energy policy.
CEOs including Jim Rogers of Cinergy, Jeff Immelt of GE and Jeremy Bentham of Shell Hydrogen have spoken out for the need to look beyond oil and gas to meet the world's energy needs. The News Journal reports that Representative Mike Castle (R-DE) yesterday visited a GE solar cell factory and a University of Delaware solar energy research facility:
"To a great degree, I think, in Washington too many decisions are being based on the economy of a certain industry," Castle said. "I think we need to spend a lot more time, energy and resources on conservation and alternatives."
Castle was one of 31 House Republicans who voted against the BushCo energy monstrosity passed only two months ago. (How bad is the Energy Policy Act of 2005? Take a look.) Even though the ink is hardly dry on that mess of porkage, our president is busy relaxing environmental standards and talking about opening even more public lands for oil and gas drilling, an idea Castle is not inclined to favor.
Middle class familes with soaring heating bills will not be helped a bit by provisions in the energy monstrosity such as this one giving more than $1 billion to an oil company institute in Tom DeLay's district. Our national government has handed over public lands, billions of dollars and no-bid contracts to the oil companies, and all we got are record energy prices. Perhaps it's time to hold Bush, Cheney, DeLay and their cronies accountable for the mess they've created.