Friday, October 28, 2005

Fitzgerald Refuses to Set Timetable for Withdrawal of Investigators

Special Prosecutor Vows to 'Stay the Course Until the Job is Done'

Special to the Associated Press

28 October 2005

WASHINGTON, DC -- Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald declined to announce a deadline for the removal of a team investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity, declaring that such a move would only encourage the insurgents currently occupying the nation's capital.

Earlier today, White House official Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted on five charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame affair. The vice president's former top aide resigned shortly after the indictments were announced. He was last seen stuffing his briefcase with office supplies before climbing into a rented U-Haul truck.

In a press conference earlier today, Fitzgerald acknowledged that though the term of this grand jury has expired, his investigation has not. It is widely anticipated he will pursue further indictments against Ayatollah Karl al-Rovani, leader of the radical Bushite terror group.

If the prosecutor were to bring new charges, he would have to impanel a second grand jury. Fitzgerald refused to comment on whether a new jury had been selected. However, he said his team has made excellent progress in training Congressional Democrats to defend their own territory.

"As they stand up, we will stand down," he said.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

From Watergate to Plamegate in One Easy Step

Will the circle be unbroken?

We're less than 24 hours away from what many of us hope will be a very Merry Fitzmas, as indictments are handed down in the Valerie Plame CIA leak case. Speculation ranges from at least one to as many as five indictments. I'm betting on the high end. Here's my bingo card:

I've got Rove down for perjury, while Libby gets the trifecta - perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy.

I've got Cheney lieutenants John Hannah and David Wurmser for conspiracy and violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Since that's only four, let's toss National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley in there for conspiracy as well.

Just for fun, I've got Cheney as an unindicted co-conspirator, and Fitzgerald asking the judge to impanel a new grand jury to investigate the phony Niger Yellowcake memo and the activities of the White House Iraq Group.

(Also: Colonel Mustard in the library with the candlestick.)

Trolling Wikipedia last night, I was stunned to discover that Karl Rove was a student of Donald Segretti, one of the many Watergate conspirators. To wit:

On August 10, 1973, as a protege of Donald Segretti, Rove was the subject of a Washington Post article titled "Republican Party Probes Official as Teacher of Tricks." The article, which was sourced to tape-recorded conversations, reported that the 22-year-old Rove and a colleague had been touring the country giving young Republicans "dirty tricks" training.... Former White House counsel John Dean said in 2004, "Based on my review of the files, it appears the Watergate prosecutors were interested in Rove's activities in 1972, but because they had bigger fish to fry they did not aggressively investigate him."

That sound you hear is chickens coming home to roost.

I also thought it would be fun to see which Watergate conspirators ultimately did time. Here's just a partial list:

G. Gordon Liddy - Sentenced to 20 years for burglary, illegal wiretapping, and conspiracy; served 4.5 years until sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter. Currently a best-selling author, speaker, actor, and a popular radio talk show host. Famous for dining on rats and self-immolation at cocktail parties.

E. Howard Hunt - Served 33 months for burglary, illegal wiretapping, and conspiracy. Ex-CIA agent and spy novelist, thought to have been involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion and the assassination of JFK.

Fred LaRue - Served 4.5 months for obstruction of justice. Known as the 'bagman' who carried sacks of hush money for potential Watergate witnesses.

Charles Colson - Served 7 months for obstruction of justice. Once nicknamed "the evil genius," Colson is now a leading Christian author and talk show pundit.

H.R. "Bob" Haldeman - Served 18 months for conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Now dead, though his trademark flat-top haircut lives on.

John Mitchell - Served 19 months for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. The first US Attorney General to be convicted of any crime, Mitchell was so evil he makes John Ashcroft look like the Tooth Fairy.

John Erlichman - Served 18 months for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury, and assorted other offenses. Apparently he was always bitter that Nixon never pardoned him, despite the fact he was sentenced in 1975, well after Nixon had boarded Marine One for the last time.

It's instructive to note how many of these guys went to jail for perjury, obstruction, and conspiracy - charges currently being pooh-poohed by GOP spinmeisters as tangential to the "real" investigation and the work of an "overzealous" prosecutor. Also interesting to note that while many Watergaters were sentenced for 20 to 30 years, most served just a fraction of that time.

Oh yeah: Rove's Jedi Master Segretti ended up serving 4 months for distributing illegal campaign literature, including forged letters and phony press releases. Let's hope his student enjoys a similar fate.

Chimps Off the Old Block

Researchers Find Striking Similarities Between Simians, GOP

Associated Press
27 October 2005

LOS ANGELES, CA -- Researchers at UCLA have discovered that chimpanzees, man’s closest primate cousin, do not experience empathy for their fellow chimps.

As reported in the journal Nature, the experiment featured chimpanzees in adjoining cages. When the chimp in cage #1 pulled one rope, it received a small piece of fruit. When it pulled a second rope, both the chimp in cage #1 and the chimp next door received a piece of fruit.

Researchers found that the chimps in cage #1 pulled the ropes indiscriminately, without regard for the welfare of their neighboring chimps. In fact, chimp #1 failed to pull the second rope even when its neighbor was pleading for food.

In a subsequent experiment, researchers replaced the fruit with images of animals. Pulling the first rope exposed a picture of a donkey, while the second rope revealed the image of an elephant. Nearly 95 percent of the chimps consistently pulled the second rope.

White House officials expressed keen interest in the findings.

“We’re expecting to have some openings here very soon,” said an administration official who requested anonymity. “These chimps could make excellent senior staffers.”

In a survey conducted after the experiment, the chimps said they opposed judicial activism, favored more tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, and did not put much stock in the theory of evolution.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Dreams of NostroDanus

I’ve been so obsessed with the Plamegate investigation that it’s wreaking havoc on my sleep patterns. I’ve been having wild dreams of a prophetic nature. Here’s what the future will look like:

... After a long sabbatical finishing her book (titled “It’s Not My Fault”) former New York Times reporter Judith Miller will land her own show on the Fox News Channel. In preparation for her new role she will undergo plastic surgery and end up looking exactly like Greta van Susteren.

... While in prison Scooter Libby will complete his second book, a science fiction novel titled “When Dicks Collide,” based loosely on his work for VP Richard Cheney.

... Karl Rove will be accidentally killed by fellow prisoners fighting over who got to make him their bitch. Citizens in his hometown of Denver will erect a bronze statue of him in the city center, which will be immediately swallowed up by a sinkhole. Subsequent monuments will suffer a similar fate.

... Demonstrating his innate leadership qualities, Tom Delay will organize the inmates at his medium security prison into caucuses, who will then elect him Warden. He will later inspire a key character in a feature-length version of HBO’s prison drama, “Oz.”

... Harriet Miers will not be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. She will leave government and take a job as chief counsel for a chain of Indian casinos.

... The Rev. James C. Dobson will announce that after long and careful consideration he’s decided to become gay. He will then move in with former White House call boy Jeff Gannon. However, he will still urge his followers to hate homosexuals, himself included.

... Dick Cheney will retire early to his Wyoming hideaway, where he will clone a miniature version of himself and complete work on a device that can channel the sun’s energy into a superweapon capable of destroying entire cities.

... Bereft of counsel and all alone, George W. Bush will experience a personal awakening. He will apologize to the American people for his many mistakes, vow to pass laws that benefit more than just a select few, pledge to save the environment, roll back trillions in tax cuts for his rich pals, and secure a just and lasting peace in Iraq. He will enter history as one of the nation’s most revered presidents.

OK, I’m kidding about the last one. But the rest will all come true. And remember, you read it here first.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pardon Me, Mr. Rove, But Your Shoe Phone Is Ringing

If Plamegate, the Niger forgeries, the Downing Street Memos and all the rest prove anything, it’s that the Bush administration has a conflicted relationship with intelligence, and I mean that in both the personal and institutional sense.

In the movies, intelligence agencies are typically portrayed as shadowy, sophisticated, ruthlessly efficient organizations. But when you speak of spies and the Bush administration, forget about James Bond. Think: Maxwell Smart. Or perhaps more accurately, his equally bumbling evil nemesis, Siegfried.

Consider the evidence. Over the last five years, the Bush Administration has

  • Created a network of phony spies to generate fake evidence of WMDs

  • Exposed the identity of a real spy working to find real evidence of WMDs

  • Been infiltrated by networks of foreign operatives who are spying on us

(Who knew there was that much irony left in the universe?)

Let’s start with that last point. Here’s a short list of the known spies in the Bush foreign policy cabal:

Larry Franklin. This (former) defense department analyst pleaded guilty to passing classified information to Israel earlier this month. Franklin is a close friend of Neconista Michael Ledeen; both are suspected of having a hand in creating the cartoonishly faked documents claiming Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger.

Ahmed Chalabi. The man who would be Saddam, or at least hoped to get the keys to his hot tub, was not only the Bushies’ main source for bogus WMD info, he’s also been accused of spying for Iran. I believe that’s one of those ‘axis of evil’ countries W used to talk about. Now, of course, he’s assistant prime minister of Iraq—just a heartbeat away from that hot tub.

Leandro Aragoncillo. This former US Marine worked in Dick Cheney’s office for three years before somebody figured out he was a spy for the Philippine government. He was arrested in October, on the same day Franklin copped his plea. To quote ABC news:

“ABC said Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, worked undetected at the White House for almost three years before leaving to take a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was arrested last month and accused of downloading more than 100 classified documents from FBI Computers....The FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage at the White House in modern history.”

So now even the fucking Philippines is spying on us. Can Liechtenstein be next?

You might ask yourself how this could possibly happen. Well, imagine a government made up almost entirely of Michael Browns. That’s the Bush administration. Jim Hightower famously said of George Herbert Walker Bush that “he was born on third base but he thinks he hit a triple.” Well, W was born six feet from home plate, and even then it took Karl Rove and wholesale election fraud to drag him across the line.

It’s like we’re being ruled by the Omegas—the evil fraternity from Animal House. As with W, the only qualification needed for a job in this White House is to be born with a silver spoon up your nose.

They never thought things would go this badly in Iraq. They never thought they’d get caught in the lie. And when they did, they served up George Tenet as the fall guy, tossed a Medal of Freedom at him, and figured that was that.

But we aren’t falling for that old trick. They missed it by a lot. And this time Agent 99 isn’t coming to anyone’s rescue.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The GOP’s Top 10 Talking Points in the Plame Affair

Editor’s Note: As the White House braces for likely indictments in the Valerie Plame affair, Republicans have begun circulating talking points to be used in response to potential charges. The WitList has obtained a copy of these talking points from an anonymous Capitol Hill staffer, who found them stuck to the shoe of Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL). For reasons of clarity, we’ve corrected errors found in the original document*. Here are the top 10 things Republicans will be saying this week.

Plame Affair Talking Points

10. Perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy are all just legal technicalities. Felonies, yes, but only in a purely technical sense.

9. Americans don’t care about what happens inside the Beltway. The president has a solid base of support from residents of trailer parks and mental institutions, and that’s not going away any time soon.

8. Jesus never indicted anyone. We should all be more like Jesus.

7. It’s prejudice, pure and simple. More than ¾ of Plame grand jury members are African American, and everyone knows black jurors don’t care about Bush people.

6. This is just politics as usual. Ruthlessness, corruption, and a Machiavellian sense of entitlement are usual GOP tactics. How else could we all become so filthy rich?

5. No semen, no cigar, no story.

4. Patrick Fitzgerald is out of control and doing grave damage to the country. America deserves a special prosecutor who’s a uniter, not an indicter.

3. If Cheney gets indicted Bush plans to replace him with former FEMA director Michael Brown. Do you want that on your conscience?

2. We lied our way into a war that’s cost us thousands of lives, $300 billion+, and the respect of the civilized world, and this is the worst Fitzgerald can come up with? Sweet!

And the GOP’s number one talking point in the Plame affair is...

1. Have we invaded Syria yet?

* In the original document the name of former CIA agent Plame is spelled variously as Flame, Blame, or Shame. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is referred to erroneously as Edmund Fitzgerald (see Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Crime and Politics

It’s like Christmas in October. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, all I can do is wait to see what kind of indictments Santa Fitz will leave under the tree. At this point my appetite has been so whetted by rumors that nothing short of a coup will satisfy.

But we’ve already begun to hear the conservative spin that will likely turn into a tornado: The investigation into a possible White House conspiracy to expose the identity of a covert agent is merely “the criminalization of politics.”

The Repugs are desperate to show that despite controlling the presidency, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, two-thirds of the Federal bench, 95% of corporate America and huge chunks of the media, they’re still just helpless victims – puppies, really -- trapped in the jaws of a vicious partisan attack.

They’re also hoping everyone will forget that this is an investigation demanded by the CIA and run by a Republican prosecutor.

Unfortunately for the GOP, they’ve got it backwards. What we’ve been witnessing over the past five years is not the criminalization of politics but the politicalization of crime.

The Bushies are hardly the first politicians to use criminal tactics for political ends, but no one’s ever used them quite so recklessly or on such a broad scale. The Mafia only wishes it were as good at money laundering, bribery, extortion, and revenge. (For a long but fascinating look at how the Repugs launder money, check out Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi’s Washington Post report on how Jack Abramoff funneled gambling money to the RNC through Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist. Tom Delay's pals did essentially the same thing in Texas.)

The Mafia metaphor is apt. Cheney is Tony Soprano without the charm. Bush is Little Carmine, the idiot son of Carmine Lupertazzi, who inherits the title of capo di capo without a clue on how to run the family business. Then there are the enforcers – Karl Rove (Pussy Bonpensiero) and Lewis Libby (Paulie Walnuts). I could go on.

Exposing Valerie Plame was not merely an attempt to smear Joe Wilson (‘You know his wife hired him, he must have a very small penis’). It was retribution. They couldn’t fire Wilson, so they did the next best thing and fired his wife by exposing her covert status. No cover, no job.

But it was also more than that. Outing Valerie Plame was the horse’s head on the pillow. It was a message to other would-be whistleblowers: ‘Do business our way or you’ll be sleeping with da fishes.’ To be a member of this administration, you must accept the code of Omerta – silence unto death.

Trouble is, this time these not-so-wise guys left their prints all over the mattress. If you believe the latest rumors, perhaps two of the Veep’s lieutenants have flipped and are cooperating with the prosecutor. (You know Cheney would have their heads inside a bowling ball bag, if he thought he could get away with it.)

Like many mobsters, Cheney & his crew may soon become long-term guests of the Federal government--only this time they’ll be staying at the Big House, not the White House. And then the marriage of crime and politics will be complete.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

You May Already Be Indicted!

I’m on a few GOP mailing lists, just to keep an eye on what the bastards are up to. Here’s what landed in my mailbox yesterday.

Dear DAN:

You may already be indicted!

Yes, that’s right. If you’re an elected Republican official, there may be a sealed subpoena with your name on it – and you wouldn’t even know it.

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* money laundering
* insider trading
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* perjury and/or obstruction of justice
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Republican Defense Services believes in deciding a case long before you ever see the inside of a courtroom. Using select television, radio and print outlets, we’ll stage your trial in the media, while launching a vicious smear campaign against your detractors. Our publicity blitz will make it virtually impossible for any court to select an unbiased jury.

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This offer is available only to registered members of the GOP. Residents of Massachusetts or New York need not apply. Void where prohibited by personal ethics.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Judy! Judy! Judy!

The New York Times has finally published its long-awaited 5900-word investigative study into the Judy Miller affair, and Ms. Miller herself has served up an equally fascinating 3500-word personal account of her martyrdom. Now we know everything: Who told whom what, and for which reasons, and why Jude the Nonobscure spent 85 days carving a laptop out of soap at the Alexandria Woman’s Detention Center.

Glad we finally got that cleared up.

Oops, sorry, I was residing in an alternate universe. Let me return to this planet, where Plamegate is more muddled than ever, and the only thing that seems certain is Scooter Libby and Turdblossom Rove being fitted for matching electronic ankle bracelets.

Depending on which version you believe, Miller...

a) never spoke with anyone about Valerie Plame or her husband, Joe Wilson;

b) spoke about the two, but only with VP aide Lewis Libby;

c) first heard Valerie Plame’s name from someone other than Libby whose name she cannot remember.

This last bit may even be true. After all, Miller cannot get Valerie Plame’s name right from one day to the next – writing it in her notebook as “Valerie Flame” one day, “Victoria Wilson” on another. (Does Miller think Plame is member of The Fantastic Four, or the Beach Boys? It’s unclear.)

Miller’s account of her behavior abounds with the kind of errors and ethical gaps that would make any self-respecting editor want to swill Drano. She apparently records information in her notebook without recording the identity of the person who gives her the information. She agrees to falsify Libby’s already anonymous identity, calling him a “former Hill staffer” instead of a “senior administration official,” and justifying it because he once worked on Capitol Hill. (As Arriana Huffington has pointed out, it would be equally accurate to call Libby a “former high schooler”, or even a “frustrated novelist.”) She obtains a security clearance from the Pentagon that essentially allows the government to vet what she can and cannot write about in Iraq (and we all know how well that turned out).

Her bosses fare no better in these accounts. Despite committing millions of dollars in legal fees (and the once hallowed, now hollowed, reputation of the Times), Editor Bill Keller never asked to see Miller’s notes, never asked about her source, never even found out what it was the Times was actually defending. Keller would be copyediting his resume right now if publisher Arthur Sulzberger were not just as deeply coated in shit.

It’s not like any of this should come as a great surprise. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, not the deepest thinker or most intrepid reporter on the planet, uncovers this chestnut – a memo written in 2000 by freelancer Craig Pyes to the NY Times editors:

"I'm not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller," wrote Pyes, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times. He added: "I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her. . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies," and "tried to stampede it into the paper."

What’s most troubling is that Miller’s account has an eerily familiar ring. She professes ignorance – she can’t remember who told her about “Valerie Flame.” Her fallback defense is incompetence – she’s just a lousy reporter (in Miller’s case this may not be an act). But beneath it all lurks a deep malfeasance. Miller is hiding something. She’s protecting someone, or multiple someones. She’s either the world’s biggest schlemiel, or she knows much more than she’s letting on about the White House effort to generate fake evidence for a real war.

This is the Bush administration trifecta: ignorance, incompetence, malfeasance. It’s what they do when caught with their Missions Unaccomplished, their cronyism exposed, and Halliburton’s’ hand down their pants.

Judith Miller should have stayed in prison. She’s likely to have a lot of friends there, before long.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rove Testifies Before Grand Jury

White House Aide Gets Boost from Talk Show Host

15 October 2005

WASHINGTON, DC -- White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove testified for more than four hours on Friday about his involvement in the Valerie Plame case. It was Mr. Rove’s fourth appearance before the grand jury, which is weighing a possible indictment against Rove and other White House officials for revealing the name of the formerly covert CIA agent to reporters in July 2003.

Afterward Rove refused to talk with reporters, leaving the courthouse in a town car with the Reverend James Dobson and former White House fluffer Jeff Gannon.

Eyewitnesses say Mr. Rove appeared calm but somewhat disoriented. A spectator standing outside the courtroom claims to have seen Rove emerging from a stretch limo with conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. He was later overheard telling an aide, “Rush gave me a little something before I went on the stand, said it would relax me.”

Attorneys familiar with the testimony said that as Rove took the stand he blurted out, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!” When the clearly puzzled special prosecutor asked “what woman?” Rove volunteered that he’s never had sex with any woman, but he might be willing to do Judy Miller.

According to witnesses, the top aide repeatedly denied being part of a conspiracy to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had published an opinion piece charging the administration of falsifying evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq. Rove explained that when he spoke to reporters of “Wilson,” he was actually referring to the volleyball named “Wilson in the Tom Hanks movie “Castaway.”

When asked whether he actually named Plame, also known as Valerie Wilson, Rove instead went on at great length about the origins of his nickname, Turdblossom, causing several members of the grand jury to request an immediate recess.

Rove also denied the commonly made accusation that he is “Bush’s brain,” but admitted to being in possession of the President’s left testicle, which he carries in a Scooby-Doo thermos inside his briefcase.

“He gave it to me after the governor's race in 1994,” Rove is said to have said. “I will treasure it always.”

Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, expressed confidence the grand jury will exonerate his client. However, he has advised Mr. Rove to carry a false passport, a fake beard, and $100,000 in cash, just in case.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I Blink, Therefore I Am

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, watching videotape of President Bush’s interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer on Tuesday, had this to say about the president’s body language:

“The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts.... When Lauer asked if Bush, after a slow response to Katrina, was "trying to get a second chance to make a good first impression," Bush blinked 24 times in his answer. When asked why Gulf Coast residents would have to pay back funds but Iraqis would not, Bush blinked 23 times and hitched his trousers up by the belt.

When the questioning turned to Miers, Bush blinked 37 times in a single answer -- along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling. Laura Bush, by contrast, delivered only three blinks and stood still through her entire answer about encouraging volunteerism.”

I’ve figured out why Bush was such a mass of ticks and blinks. He was sending Morse code to his alien overlords. He was saying “Beam me up – NOW! And bring my robotic helpmate along, too.”

I admit to a certain vindictive pleasure in watching the man and his presidency implode after promising to steamroll us all less than a year ago. I am reminded of Nixon in “Last Days,” wandering around the White House talking to the paintings, forcing Kissinger to kneel in front of Lincoln’s portrait and pray with him.

Then I remember that this is the guy with his finger on “the football” (as Nixon called it), the briefcase containing the codes necessary to launch a nuclear attack. There’s nothing like dropping a few megatons on Tehran to clear out the synapses.

Remember also: Bush spent the better part of his post-college years inside a bottle of scotch. If he’s not already hitting the juice, I’ll bet a stiff drink is looking mighty good right about now.

But I don’t think the Bush presidency is done. As any fan of horror movies can tell you, just when you think the monster is dead it leaps up off the floor and sinks its teeth into your trachea.

Karl Rove has yet to be indicted. And if he is, I’d expect the nastiest take-no-prisoners counterattack we have ever seen. If there’s a way to Swift Boat Fitzgerald, he’ll find it. Cheney is still lurking in the shadows, though he’s been stitched up and put back together so many times he could be called the Frankenpresident. DeLay could figure out a way to have the Texas judiciary declared unconstitutional. Frist could get off by paying a stiff fine—too damaged to run for president, but still on top of the Senate. The Abramoff scandal is too convoluted for most Americans to understand. Iraq may eventually become a country instead of a war zone.

And, of course, we could get attacked again. Wouldn’t that just fill the Bushies’ coal-black hearts with glee.

So let’s not celebrate too soon. We’ve got a long way to go before the burial.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Cheney Signs Order to Prolong Life of Bush Administration

‘Heroic Measures’ Required to Save Presidency on the Brink, VP says

Special to the Associated Press
12 October 2005 17:44 GMT

WASHINGTON, DC -- In a dramatic last-minute operation, Vice President Richard Cheney returned to Washington late last night to sign an executive order urging the use of “heroic measures” to preserve the life of the ailing Bush administration.

The executive branch has recently been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state due to a series of scandals that show no sign of abating. Insiders admit the White House has been in a coma for months, but had been kept artificially alive through periodic infusions of cash and friendly media coverage.

Among other measures, the order calls for the president to veto a bill that would forbid US soldiers from torturing detainees, which recently passed the Senate by a vote of 90 to 9. The veto – which would be the first issued by the president during nearly five years in office – would at least show signs of minimal brain activity, supporters say.

The document outlined other measures, such as initiating a series of fake terrorist attacks and staging the capture of Osama Bin Laden during the popular Fox News program, Hannity & Colmes.

Administration spin doctors are also contemplating a credibility bypass operation, a complex procedure that would route key policy decisions away from the office of Karl Rove, which is thought to be riddled with disease. However, White House officials warn that such a procedure could be life threatening.

The vice president, who sported a monocle and stroked a fluffy white cat as he signed the document, returned immediately to his secret mountain lair, located inside an abandoned missile silo in the Badlands of Wyoming.

Through a spokesperson, the vice president said he was confident the administration could hang on long enough for him to complete his master plan for world domination. He then laughed ominously.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Harriet Miers & the Divine Right of Corporations

I admit it. I’m enjoying the Right fight over the nomination of Harriet Miers. There’s nothing more entertaining than watching Neoconazis and Christian wingnuts hiss and claw like two wet cats in a burlap bag.

But the question that keeps rolling around inside my skull is, Are we being snookered?

In other words: Does the Right really dislike Miers that much, or do they just want us to think they do?

Think about it. If you wanted to cut the legs out from under the Democrats (not terribly difficult when your opponent has two wooden legs), could you do any better than have the loony brigade publicly doubting her stand on Roe v. Wade?

Is this Karl Rove’s last dirty trick before he heads off to a tastefully decorated 8-by-10 cell in Yazoo City, Mississippi?

There are only two possible outcomes to this fight. The Dobson whispering campaign will work (“Psst, Miers supports the death penalty for abortionists, pass it on”) and the Right will grudgingly solidify behind Miers. Barring some shocking new revelations about Miers’ past (“She’s really a man!”), this will leave the Demos with nothing to fight over. They’ll be reduced to grandstanding on C-Span because they don’t have the votes to do anything more meaningful.

Or Miers will find some excuse to withdraw, forcing the White House to nominate another woman with a resume more to the wingnuts’ liking. The Demos would filibuster and the Right would come roaring to her defense, helping solidify the Bush base in time for the midterm elections.

That’s because when the Republicans are under attack, they invariably move to their right. (When the Democrats are under attack, they also move to their right. This is why the Demos are such pansies.) Either way, Rove wins.

But at the risk of offending the six people who actually read this blog, Roe v. Wade is a sideshow. In the grand scheme of things it’s not that important. Women’s rights? Important. Privacy? Also important. But abortions? We’ve got a pill for that now, and if the war on drugs is any indication, there will be no way to keep it out of the hands of those who want it.

The bigger issue – far more important to the Bushies, though they’d never admit it publicly – is how Miers feels about the rights of corporations. Miers is a former corporate attorney. So is John Roberts. These are their real qualifications for the job.

So the important question is not ‘Do women have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies?’ It’s ‘Is Congress empowered to regulate the activities of multinationals, or can they do as they please? Can they fill the air with carbons, dump dioxin in the drinking water, avoid paying US taxes, ignore labor laws, build third-world sweatshops, escape liability for faulty products and, of course, rob their shareholders and US taxpayers blind?’

This is the Enron presidency, after all. Bush is just a corporate proxy – an ex-CEO being manipulated by another ex-CEO, who’s spent the last five years funneling taxpayer money into the pockets of his cronies.

Corporations have purchased the presidency the same way they bought up all the baseball teams. In a few years they’ll obtain branding rights, and we’ll have the Wal-Mart White House, the General Motors Capitol, the Glaxo Smith Kline Supreme Court. This war has been brought to you by Exxon, makers of fine petroleum products for over 50 years.

More than half of the world's 100 largest economic entities are corporations. CEOs who already control budgets bigger than two-thirds of the world’s economies will become even more powerful. They will answer to no one. And we will answer to them.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Plame

Perhaps the oddest thing about the whole Valerie Plame affair occurred a month ago, when top Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby sent a personal note to his prison pen pal, Judith Miller. In the note Libby gave Miller explicit permission to testify about their conversations in July 2003, but ended it with this exceedingly strange and now semi-famous paragraph:

“You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. 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. Until then, you will remain in my thoughts and prayers.”

There are two prevailing theories about this graph: a) Lewis was warming up for entry into the Bulwer-Lytton contest for wretched writing, or 2) it was a coded message instructing Judy what she should and shouldn’t tell the grand jury. In any case, it reveals a relationship far more intimate than anyone was previously aware of.

I can now confidently state #2 is the correct theory, and that I’ve cracked the code. The answer? It’s an anagram.

It’s not commonly known, but Miller is crazy for anagrams—in fact, her pet name for Lewis Libby is “Wily Bibles.” So it’s only natural that he’d choose this form to communicate in secret.

Take the phrase that appears in the middle of the paragraph. “The aspens will already be turning” anagrams into repugnantly brainiest swellhead” – a clear reference to Karl Rove.

“They turn in clusters” anagrams into “truth incenses truly” or “truth n’ rusty silence” – both referring to Miller’s refusal to testify before the grand jury without Scooter's approval. (An alternate anagram is “nuts! the surly cretin,” which may be a veiled reference to President Bush.)

Finally, “because their roots connect them” translates into “the erotic obscurement aches not” as well as “bitch the concrete, treasonous me.” These of course, may be Libby’s way of saying “our love will survive as long as you keep my role obscure,” or possibly “drop a dime on me and I’ll punk yo ass, bitch.”

The bottom line: Lewis was telling Miller to offer them anything, but give them Karl Rove.

Miller’s relationship with Libby has become more clear following the ‘discovery’ of a notebook she had neglected to mention in her grand jury testimony, which details a meeting she had with Libby on June 25, 2003. That’s 11 days before Joe Wilson’s OpEd appeared in the Times detailing White House lies about Iraq’s nuclear program, and three weeks before Robert Novak outed Wilson’s wife, CIA agent Valerie Plame, thanks at least in part to information supplied by Libby and Karl Rove.

According to highly placed sources, the phrase “Mrs. Lewis Scooter Libby” was written all over the outside of the notebook in a variety of elaborate scripts. Experts have identified the handwriting as belonging to Miller, in part because the i’s in “Lewis” and “Libby” were dotted with tiny hearts.

Inside the back cover investigators found a crude drawing of Karl Rove wearing devil’s horns with the words “fat boy” beneath it. They also found this poem written in the margins:

“Scooter-n-Judy’s WMDs
First comes war
Then comes Hell
Then comes Karl in a prison cell.”

One can only imagine what went on during Judy and Scooter’s afternoon meetings at the St. Regis Hotel. (“This time I’ll play the relentless investigative reporter and you play the reluctant anonymous source.”) But one thing is finally clear: Judy Miller did not endure 85 days in jail to preserve the sanctity of the First Amendment, protect her sources, atone for her egregiously inaccurate WMD coverage, or bump up the advance for her upcoming book.

She did it for love.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Scandalous Thoughts

Is Turdblossom about to be flushed?

Each time a reporter testifies before the grand jury in the Plame investigation, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerarld puts Karl Rove’s plump rump back on the stand. It happened after Matt Cooper outed Karl as the source for his Plame info in July, and it’s happening again now that Judy “Stoolie” Miller has sung for her supper. To my mind that can only mean one thing, and it smells like perjury.

Fitzgerald must be hearing something from these reporters that contradicts information Rove has provided in the past, and he’s asking King Karl to come back and “clarify” his previous statements. For example, Rove may have claimed that he learned about Valerie Plame from Judy Miller, who did not tell him the information was classified (thus getting him off the hook). Miller may have testified that she never spoke to Rove because she was too busy giving a hand job to John Bolton. And so on. That’s perjury, obstruction of justice, and possibly conspiracy right there.

Meanwhile, Fitz wants to meet privately with Miller later this week. Somehow, I don’t think he wants to swap prison shower stories. My completely uninformed and wildly speculative guess? He wants Miller to agree to talk about sources other than Libby. Otherwise, why meet in private? Why not simply have her testify again?

The tension is killing me. This is way better than any episode of Desperate Housewives. I don’t think I can wait until October 28 for Fitz to make up his mind about the indictments. All I can do is distract myself by re-reading the Tom DeLay emails.

I always assumed Texas DA Ronnie Earle’s case against DeLay had to rest on the testimony of a co-conspirator who had flipped. I didn’t see any other way DeLay could get fingered. And then all his attorneys had to do was attack the credibility of that witness and turn it into a he said/he said thing. DeLay slithers out of the trap, damaged but not undone, loudly declaiming his innocence.

But now Blogging for President has posted a series of leaked documents that are producing so much smoke FEMA has sent in choppers to put out the fire.

Among other things, these emails and faxes indicate that

  • Members of DeLay’s Texas PAC actively solicited contributions from corporations like Dow Chemical, Halliburton, and Reliant

  • They personally handed these checks to DeLay, along with checks made out to DeLay’s national PAC

  • DeLay’s fingers were in every dish, down to approving the list of invitees to a benefit banquet
My favorite bit of evidence: a fax with handwriting showing the amounts paid out to various Texas legislative candidates -- Eddie Schauberger, Holt Getterman, and Brian Hughes, to name three. It seems the price of a Texas legislator’s vote is $8,000 on the high end and just $1,083.34 on the low end. A bargain at twice the price.

It’s such a good document it might have to be fake. I’m sure the folks at Powerline blog are cooking up a conspiracy theory as I type this.

As one of the conspirators noted in an email, “I am confident we’ll be successful in this history making endeavor.” They’ll be making history, all right. Possibly from the cozy confines of a minimum security cell. I'm sure Judy Miller would be happy to offer some prison survival tips.

Even if Plamegate and DeLaygate fizzle, the Abramoff scandal may bring Tommy Boy and Turdblossom crashing down. No matter. Bush won’t fire anyone until they’ve been dragged away in chains. But they might end up resigning “for the good of the country,” a la Mike Brown and George Tenet.

Then the Bushies' biggest problem will be finding enough medals to pin on these clowns.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Bush Readies Major Address on Terror

White House Seeks to Scare the Poop Out of the American People

Special to CNN
October 6, 2005 – 17:12 GMT

WASHINGTON, DC -- White House press secretary Scott McClelland announced that President Bush will address the nation on the issue of terrorism this evening. He says the president will speak about the threat to our nation’s security in a level of detail never before revealed.

The White House did not release details of the president’s hastily scheduled speech. However, according to several highly placed anonymous sources, the president will reveal the following:

  • Members of Al Queda are stealing white babies and bringing them to secret preschool terrorist training camps.

  • The avian flu epidemic is really the work of fundamentalist Shiite chickens intent on destroying our freedoms.

  • Terrorist cells in the United States are behind the teaching of evolution in our nation’s schools.

McClelland emphasized that the president would not be addressing the insurgency in Iraq, the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the illegal use of taxpayer money to fund pro-Bush propaganda, the indictment of Tom DeLay, the indictment of former White House official David Safavian, the SEC investigation of Senator Bill Frist, the massive federal deficit, the conservative backlash against Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, the use of forged evidence to support the case for war in Iraq, or any indictments that may be coming in the Valerie Plame scandal.

“We want to keep the focus on vague threats of terrorism, an issue where the President still polls relatively well,” he said.

McClelland also announced that the Department of Homeland Security will be introducing a new color-coded alert system based on the president’s poll numbers. He described them as follows:

Scarlet = Severe. This will be invoked when the president’s approval numbers dip below 36%. A US attack on a largely defenseless foreign target is imminent. Americans are urged to stay indoors with their heads tucked between their legs.

Persimmon = High. The president polls at or near 40% for two consecutive months. A series of “town halls” and photo opportunities will be conducted in friendly venues. Non-Bush supporters are urged to stay indoors; anyone who cannot affirmatively demonstrate loyalty to the president will be shot.

Chartreuse = Elevated. The president polls at under 50% for two consecutive months. A series of paid propaganda pieces will placed in the Wall Street Journal and other influential publications. Dick Cheney will appear on television; viewers with poor health conditions are urged to turn off their sets.

Eggplant = Guarded. The president climbs back above 50% for the first time since his re-election. A series of self-congratulatory Texas barbecues will be held around the country. Free “Bush Cheney 2004” and “W – The President” bumper stickers will be issued to anyone who has scraped theirs off.

Mustard = Low. It’s morning in America. George Bush’s popularity is approaching its post 9/11 levels. The president once again mentions the words “Social Security” in public and begins talking about a new round of tax cuts for the insanely wealthy. Poor people are urged to stay indoors, lest Republicans take the shirts off their backs.

Mr. McClelland did not take questions from reporters.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Poll Axed

I have always been simultaneously fascinated and appalled by public opinion polls. How could 40% of this country support George Bush? How could even 4%? Are there really that many people who are unable to tie their shoes or open their mouths without drooling?

All my life I’ve longed to have my opinions culled on the state of the economy or the president’s haircut. Gallup, Harris, Zogby, CNN, the Washington Post – it didn’t matter who. But do they call? Noooo.

In fact, I’ve never met anyone who has been called by one of these pollsters. I thought it must all be a game, a grand hoax, like Orson Welles pretending New Jersey had been invaded by Martians.

Then, a couple of hours ago, I got a call from someone saying they were conducting a poll for the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer. That’s how he said it. Every time he mentioned where he was calling from he said the whole name, like the primary purpose of the call was to get me to remember this one fact. The guy sounded old but had a TV voice. In fact, he sounded a hell of a lot like Bob Schieffer. I said sure, I’d be happy to help.

First he gathered some demographic information – whether it was a home or a business line, how many adults were in the household, how many men and women, and so on. When he said I’d qualified (on this call he was instructed to find an adult male) I felt a small tingle of excitement. I was being polled! My opinions would finally count for something! Unlike say, my vote.

He began with a passel of questions about W, all of which landed in the “disapprove” bin. He asked about the economy, tax cuts, who was most to blame for high oil prices, immigration and the minute men, what I thought of Bush’s picks for the Supreme Court, the quality of Bush’s appointments, and the Medicare prescription plan. He asked whether we should endure greater deficits to pay for Hurricane Katrina (no) or whether we should pay for it by raising taxes, spending less in Iraq, and delaying the Medicare prescription plan or the recently passed highway bill (yes to all).

He asked if we should get out of Iraq now or stay til the country’s stable. I said get out now, but I’m not 100% sure I believe it. He asked if I thought Saddam was responsible for 9/11 or in league with Al Queda, and whether invading Iraq had made us safer. I was 100% sure about those things. He did not ask how I felt about how our government had lied its way into this war, or if I’d heard of the Downing Street Memos.

He asked if I considered myself Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Other, and who I voted for in 2004. I passed on that one. There’s a reason they put curtains on voting booths. Did I consider myself conservative, moderate, or liberal? None of those are words I’d use to describe myself, but there was no fourth choice.

He asked if I believe in an afterlife, but not if I believe in God. He asked if I attend church (No), and what religion if any I subscribe to (Our Lady of Perpetual Sarcasm). He asked if I believe in evolution, intelligent design, or creationism (though he didn’t use any of those terms). He asked if I thought God and evolution could co-exist (I said yes).

He asked if I believed in ghosts and if I’d ever seen one (yes to both). At this point I began to wonder whether the loony van was about to pull up to my front door.

He asked me how many phones I had, how much money I made (I declined that one), my age, my first name, and if it was ok if a reporter contacted me later. He asked if used the Internet and if I read blogs (but not, sadly, if I wrote one). I volunteered that I wrote one. He didn’t care.

He thanked me for taking part in the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer poll, and that if I wanted to hear the results, I could tune in tomorrow night to the CBS News with Bob Schieffer, or log onto the Web site shortly after the CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer was broadcast. What was the name of that program again? I said. He didn’t laugh. He didn’t laugh or even react to anything I said. I imagined his job must be like a lingering slide into death, asking the same damned questions hour after hour, day after day.

Twenty-six minutes and 35 seconds later, we were through. I don’t think I’ve ever been so thoroughly surveyed, and that includes my last visit to the urologist. I needed a cigarette and a drink.

As Mr. Privacy, I was a bit perturbed at the intrusiveness of the questions. A clever scam artist would have gleaned enough information to figure out exactly who I am (having a public phone number doesn’t help), where I live, and whether I was a tasty chicken ripe for plucking.

But I perservered, because, well, .... I was being polled, dammit. I was going to have an impact on national policy. I was going to drive Bush’s approval ratings into subzero, where they belong. Or at least, nudge them below 40.

And I figured out who responds to polls like this: people who have 26:35 to spare in the heart of the evening, with the dinner dishes sprawled across the kitchen and the kids setting fire to the cat. People with nothing better to do. People with more opinions than brains.

And now, fittingly, I’m one of them. God, it’s great to finally have influence.

ADDENDUM: CBS has now published the results of the poll. On almost every question, what I answered turned out to be the majority answer among the 807 other putative adults surveyed. I guess I'm not such a pinko after all. (Nothing in the results about ghosts, though.)

The incomparable MC Hammer. Feel free to sing along.

Hammer Time!

U Can’t Touch Me
(with apologies to MC Hammer and the late Rick James)

They call me The Hammer
and that’s no lie
I beat on their heads until all they cry
I’m known
as the king of this House
they love my beats all the way to K Street
Them Donkeys
Looking for a way
To leave this motherfuckin’ House without DeLay
But soon
I’ll be set free
On a legal tech-ni-cal-it-y

I told you homeboy
U can’t touch me

oh-oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh
U can’t touch me
oh-oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh
U can’t touch me

Money here, money there
Y’ain’t got no money y’ain’t going nowhere
My green
It’s nice and clean
I run it all through my laundry machine
Indicted? I’m excited
It’s a Republican party and you’re all invited
As expected
I got more laywers than Arnold got pecs

I told my MC Abramoff
You can’t do time just for playing golf

Yo, that’s word. Break it down

oh-oh-oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh
U can’t touch me
oh-oh-oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh
U can’t touch me

Stop. Hammer Time.

I comandeer a plane
The Democrats complain
They say I’ve gone insane
But then they know I’ve got them gamed
I’ve got absolute authority
To build a permanent majority
Fuck the ethics rules they pass
They all can kiss my ass

U can’t touch me

[ chorus]

Wife and daughter on the payroll
Makes it all so nice
Daddy’s in a coma
Pull the plug and don’t think twice
Everybody moanin’
‘Bout rule of law and justice
They just don’t be knowin'
We’ll keep stealing ‘til they bust us

We’re the GOP – just trust us
U can’t touch me

(He’s a supercrook, supercrook, he’s supercrooked.....)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Taking Leave of Our (Republican) Census

The Republican Party Census Document landed in my mailbox the other day. According to the cover letter, I am “among a select group of Republicans” who’ve been chosen to take part in the official census, and my job is to “represent the views and opinions of all Republican voters living in my voting district.”

It’s an awesome responsibility – determining the fate of the GOP agenda for the next four years – and it’s quite a document. Everything you ever wanted to know about the GOP is wrapped up in a tidy two-page form. (You can find a copy online at the Freepers site).

Here’s my favorite question:

“Do you support the use of air strikes against any country that offers safe harbor or aid to individuals or organizations committed to further attacks on America?”

Or, to put it another way, Can the president bomb the shit out of anyone he damn well feels like? And the answer, of course, is “fuckin-a, Bubba.”

But still, the survey could use some improvements. Nothing major, just a few nips and tucks. So I’ve created my own, somewhat altered version. Please feel free to print it out and mail it to the Republican National Committee (310 First St., SE, Washington, DC 20003). Sorry, you'll have to buy your own stamps.


1. The ideal Republican candidate for president in 2008 would be...

__ living in a persistent vegetative state
__ close personal friends with lobbyist Jack Abramoff
__ capable of performing complex neurological diagnoses via videotape
__ able to spell “FEMA”

2. Should federal contracts worth billions of dollars be doled out on a no-bid basis to companies whose former top executives occupy positions of power in our government?

__ Yes
__ Hell Yes

3. Do you support the assassination of other country’s leaders when they say mean or hurtful things about us?

__ Yes
__ Yes, and also the French

4. To paraphrase Bill Bennett, do you believe the best way to halt the culture of corruption in Washington, DC, would be to abort every Republican baby in this country?

__ Yes, but that would be impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible
__ No, they should be brought to term and adopted by poor Democratic families
__ I believe in abstinence for Republicans before and after marriage

5. Do you believe the President of the United States should be free to smiteth our enemies and bringeth down God’s unholy wrath upon terrorists who trespath against uth?

__ Yeth
__ Yeth, and altho the French

6. Please complete the following statement. “I believe nominees for the Supreme Court should pass...

__ an abortion litmus test
__ a law school admissions test
__ the Myers-Briggs Personality Test
__ the “Is that a pubic hair on my Coke can?” test

7. Karl Rove is to President Bush as ...

__ Kissinger was to Nixon
__ Rasputin was to Czar Nicholas II
__ Geppetto was to Pinocchio
__ Timothy Q. Mouse was to Dumbo

8. Doesn’t all the world’s oil already belong to us anyway?

__ Yes
__ Not yet, but wait a few years
__ Why do you hate internal combustion?

9. From what source do you receive most of your news and political information (check all that apply):

__ Fox News
__ Fox News
__ Fox News
__ Fox News
__ Fox News
__ Fox News
__ Fox News

11. Did you vote in the presidential election in 2004?

__ Yes
__ No

12. How many times?

__ Once
__ Twice
__ Thrice
__ I lost count, but it was a lot

13. Will you join the Republican National Committee by making a contribution today?

__ YES, I will support the RNC and am enclosing a check to the Republican National Party in the amount of:

__ $10,000
__ $100,000
__ $1,000,000
__ Here’s a blank check, just take as much as you’d like

Thanks for taking our survey. Please remember that contributions from corporations and foreign nationals are prohibited, but we will happily accept kickbacks in the form of free golfing trips and/or contributions to political action committees employing members of our immediate families.

Thank you, and God Bless The Republican Party.

The Paperless President

So now we have Harriet Miers, a lawyer with less judicial experience than Judge Judy, nominated for the highest court in the land. Why? There are two reasons (well, three, if you include the fact she has the right pair of chromosomes).

One is that she’s an old pal of Georgie’s, and those are getting harder to come by. He likes and trusts her. Maybe they pray together, or spend long evenings discussing the Dredd Scott case.

But the more important reason is that she’s got no papers. She has no record of judicial opinions—nothing by which anyone can gauge how she views the world. Nothing for the Democrats to hang her with. Her record is as thin as a pubic hair on the edge of a Coke can.

This is deliberate. John Roberts seems like a decent man (great teeth) and yet.... what does he think? We don’t really know. And by the time we find out, it will be too fucking late. That’s just the way the Bush administration likes it. Why else would they refuse to release the memos he wrote while working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Now we have someone with even less of a paper trail than Roberts. But no one should be surprised. This is, after all, the Paperless Presidency.

It began by rejecting paper ballots in Florida. A Supreme Court split 5-4 in W’s favor didn’t hurt, but it started with hanging chads. When the ballots were examined later by an independent committee and all votes were counted, Gore won. But as they say in the burlesque biz, tough titties.

The 2004 elections hinged on electronic machines that deliberately left no paper trail. Thousands of federal documents have disappeared from public archives since 2001, and there’s an unprecedented backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests that are simply being ignored. The public’s right to know has become the public’s right to eat shit.

Oh yeah: Then there are the billions of paper dollars that have gone missing in Iraq and will no doubt disappear in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

No paper, no proof.

When historians look back at this train wreck of a presidency, they will find precious little evidence on which to base an opinion. W’s presidential library will be able fit inside a Filofax. His legacy will be as ephemeral as one of his speeches, as elusive as those weapons of mass destruction.

Ironically, the only thing that will survive Bush is a Supreme Court dominated by his pro-corporate cronies. That will be W's great legacy, and our great loss.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

When it Says Libby Libby Libby on the Label Label Label

As I type this, Valerie Miller is singing her heart out to a grand jury hearing the Valerie Plame case. For the past 85 days, the New York Times reporter has been doing the Martha Stewart shuffle at the Alexandria Detention Center in Virginia, a martyr to the cause of the First Amendment (or so it would seem).

Prison officials must be relieved. Over that time Miller had turned the minimum security facility into a kind of media salon, playing hostess to such celebrity visitors as John Bolton, Bob Dole, Tom Brokaw, and Arlen Specter. After all that they’re probably happy to get back to shoplifters and wayward moms.

Miller agreed to testify before the grand jury investigating the Plame Affair, saying she finally received ‘explicit uncoerced consent’ from her source to reveal his identity. Who is, as everyone who’s followed this case closely has known for months, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, top aide to VP Dick Cheney. So why the veil of secrecy?

It gets weirder. Through his attorney, Libby says he gave Miller permission to squeal over a year ago. “We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration,” says attorney Joseph Tate. (Apparently the Vice President’s staff doesn’t get cable or read newspapers either.) Perhaps they forgot to say “mother may I?”

At first, I was sympathetic to Miller. As a journalist, I respect the tradition of protecting your sources (thus ensuring a free and unfettered press). At the time, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald seemed to be on a witch hunt for journalists; his appointment smelled like yet another form of retribution for exposing Bush administration falsehoods. But the more we’ve learned about the case, the more it seems clear that Fitzgerald is the real deal, and the Bush administration is in real trouble.

It also began to appear that Miller was not protecting her sources so much as protecting her friends -- that her silence was an effort to keep her neocon buddies from being fitted for orange jumpsuits.

Miller is the Matt Drudge of mainstream reporters – a kind of filtration system for conservative sludge. The WMD propaganda team played her like a $2 fiddle, maybe in part because she let herself be played. She is reputedly a neocon herself and a supporter of the war. Her sources for WMD ‘intel’ are rumored to be Ahmed Chalabi and John Bolton, neither of whom has a sparkling reputation for veracity.

But her incarceration – in fact, the whole Plame Affair – highlights a disturbing trend in the manipulation of the press: the use of anonymous sources for character assassination or deliberate disinformation. It has been a favorite tool of this administration in particular.

Do such sources deserve anonymity? I don’t think so. I think reporters need to apply a stronger sniff test when they get “anonymous” information that obviously benefits the source or his/her employer. All sources have some ulterior motive—there are few saints among us—but there’s a difference between whistleblowers who fear for their jobs (or worse), and those who want to push their agendas without being held accountable. It’s not that hard to figure out the difference.

Miller should know that. And maybe, after nearly three months in the pokey, she’ll be more careful about what anonymous sources she trusts and whose lies get published on page one of the Times. But I’m not hopeful.

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