Now Cough

Saturday, October 29, 2005


I Don't Care What the Calendar Says

It is snowing. It is cold. That to me is the start of Winter. Damn.

Scooter Pie

Scooter Libby, described in today's NYT as 'Cheney's Cheney" has been charged with lying, obstructing justice and other things you should never do in the course of a criminal investigation.

Vice president Cheney has not been charged with playing any role in what sounds like---but the grand jury did not charge---a plan to seek revenge against an administration critic by outing his wife as a CIA agent.

But how can we believe otherwise? Libby lives and breathes life with Dick Cheney. And I am hoping that someone at Justice is looking at the Iraq Working Group (or White House Information Group -- WHIG), a small but key team in the White House that was charged with, for all practical purposes, selling the war to Congress and the American people.

WHIG Members * = appeared before Grand Jury
Andy Card -- President's Chief of Staff *
Karl Rove -- promoted, role expanded after election *
Karen Hughes -- promoted to State Department after election *
Mary Matalin -- communications advisor to Cheney *
James R. Wilkinson -- deputy director of communications for Cheney *
Nicholas E. Calio -- assistant to the President and legislative liaison
Condoleezza Rice -- made Secretary of State *
Stephen Hadley -- the guy who admitted to slipping the 'yellowcake' reference into the president's State of the Union speech. Promoted to National Security Advisor after the election *
I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby -- indicted *

WHIG Response to Yellowcake Forgery Issue

In response to the Yellowcake forgery issue, the White House Iraq Group devised this strategy to combat critics:

"There is a strategy now, devised by White House communications director Dan Bartlett, Mary Matalin, a former aide to Vice President Cheney, and former Bush aide Karen Hughes. Both advise the White House as a consultants to the Republican National Committee.

Feb, 2003 (NYT/USA Today): The plan: Release all relevant information. Try to shift attention back to Bush's leadership in the war on terrorism. Diminish the significance of that single piece of iffy intelligence by making the case that Saddam was a threat for many other reasons. Put Republican lawmakers and other Bush allies on TV to defend him.

Most important: Question the motives of Democrats who supported the war but now are criticizing the president."

From the DNC web site:

Rove Takes the Lead "There were grounds to challenge the former diplomat on the substance of his uranium findings...but it appears Rove was more focused on Wilson's background, politics and claims he ostensibly had made that his mission was initiated at the request of the vice president. Rove mentioned to reporters that Wilson's wife had suggested or arranged the trip. The idea apparently was to undermine its import by suggesting that the mission was really "a boondoggle set up by his wife," as an administration official described the trip to a reporter.…This approach depended largely on a falsehood: that Wilson had claimed Cheney sent him to Niger. Wilson never made such a claim.…In one White House conversation, investigators have learned, Rove was asked why he was focused so intently on discrediting the former diplomat. "He's a Democrat,' Rove said, citing Wilson's campaign contributions." [Los Angeles Times, 8/25/05]

And, what about the mysterious John Bolton, now the US ambassador to the UN who used to head up the State Department division overseeing nuclear profileration? He visited Judy Miller in jail. Why?

Again from the DNC web site:

Bolton Testified In Front of Grand Jury Investigating LeakPlame'sme's Name On June 10, 2003 the State Department's Office of Intelligence and Research compiled a memo for Marc Grossman, then the Under Secretary of State for political affairs, on Wilson's mission to Niger. The memo included the fact that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative working on WMD issues. According to lawyers, former Undersecretary of State John Bolton, gave testimony to the grand jury about the State Department memo. [MSNBC, 7/21/05]

When John Bolton replied to a questionairre before his Senate confirmation hearing he did not acknowledge ever appearing before a grand jury, so that clouds whether or not he actually did or not. The Democrats think he lied, but there is no independent confirmation whether he appeared before the grand jury examining the Plame leak.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Don't Let the Door Hit You

Hapless Harriet

Harriet Meirs has withdrawn her nomination to the Supreme Court.

The president 'reluctantly' accepts her decision. He just doesn't get 'it.'

It is only 9AM here; at this rate it'll be a good day for those tired of this reckless WH.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Black Wednesday?

Oh Please, oh please, oh please...

Indictments on Wednesday? Rove, Libby, others? Mr. X? Perjury, obstruction of justice...more?

Death of a thousand cuts

It must be hard to be Harriet Meirs. Good bowler. Presidential lawyer. Loves the Bushes. Embarrassment. How goes that Supreme Court nomination?

"I am uneasy about where we are," said Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican in the political middle of his party, said he needed "to get a better feel for her intellectual capacity and judicial philosophy, core competence issues."

Judiciary committee chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, has said Ms. Miers could benefit from a "crash course in constitutional law."

"She needs to step it up a notch," said South Carolina Senator Graham.

She needs to withdraw.

Monday, October 24, 2005

HEU for You?

Nuke 'em

Just came from a Kennedy School Forum on nuclear terrorism. How did you spend your evening? I'll be drinking for quite some time.

The panel--the respected Graham Allison--along with Congress members Jane Harman and Curt Weldon, plus former Florida Senator Bon Graham played off some ham-handed clips from an anti-proliferation movie called Last Best Chance. The film should be retitled 'Almost No Chance.'

Yes, all the panelists agreed, the US and its allies can prevent terrorists from using nuclear weapons. But everything the panelists said made it clear not much is being done to stop it.

The number of loose nukes in Russia alone--Congressman Weldon batted around a figure of over 100--makes the appeal of entrepreneurial nuke sales very high.

And the news from Asia was hardly reassuring.

"I predict North Korea will have an operational nuclear weapon within two years." -- Curt Weldon

As my Canadian friend Abby Carter would say, "Peachy."

There was very little confidence that the Bush administration is making the issue of nuclear proliferation or loose nukes much of a priority at all. Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania, painted a grim portrait of a small nuclear weapon detonating over the US and frying everything in the country that relies on electricity:

"If I am an adversary of the US and I want to take out the US, I won't use a smuggled nuclear weapon. We want to bring the US to its knees...I will fire a low yield missile over the US, and detonate it in the atmosphere. The magnetic pulse fries all the electronics. It shuts down the grid: communications, all vehicles, all power, everything. An EMP like that sends us back to the Dark Ages."

The panel that issued this sort of dire warning is called The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack. Many critics also make a strong argument that this commission is actually manufacturing a threat in order to bolster support for missile shield defense.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fit to Print

The Miller Morass

New York Times reporter Judith Miller is out of jail and talking about why she spent months in jail to protect vice presidential aide Scooter Libby, her confidential source.

There is a lot to the story and despite lengthy coverage, finally, in the paper (registration required), many questions remain.

  • Was her lengthy jail term the result of miscommunication between her lawyers and Scooter Libby? It sure seems that way. Libby and his attorney say they granted her a waiver from confidentiality as long as a year ago. For many reasons, Miller said how that was communicated and their words lead her to believe the waiver was coerced or, at the least, not genuine. She was there, I wasn't, but based on how this has been reported that conclusion seems strained.

  • Judy Miller's notes make two references to 'Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson," clearly referring incorrectly to Valerie Plame, nee Wilson. Did those names come from Libby? Miller is fuzzy on this and she believes she first heard her name from another unnamed source. But it seems definite that she and Libby discussed Valerie Plame, he identified her as a CIA employee but not, apparently, as an undercover CIA agent which she was. Columnist Robert Novak is the one who blew Plame's cover and that's what has set off this whole imbroglio.

  • Why did The New York Times give Miller such hands-off treatment as a reporter? Could this explain what is at the root of her admittedly wrong reporting ("W.M.D. - I got it totally wrong," she said. "The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them - we were all wrong. If your sources are wrong, you are wrong. I did the best job that I could.") I'm left with the distinct impression that the NYT has learned nothing from the Jason Blair case. I have worked in newsrooms with very aggressive and intimidating reporters and they are precisely the people who need strong editors because they tend to lose perspective. Executive editor Bill Keller sounds in the NYT coverage of the Miller case like a weak top editor; not able to be really tough even with star performers.

  • Why didn't the NYT report on a) the Valerie Plame issues and the possible ties to Scooter Libby and b) allegations from the administration that they felt the CIA was trying to paint itself as the good guy as it became obvious pre-war intelligence was all wrong? Yes, it seems clear that getting into these stories could put Miller's case in a bad light. Miller says she had argued for such coverage by an editor told her the paper would not pursue such stories. No editors at the NYT have owned up to that allegation. I still think that Miller has ties with the CIA worth examining. The stories in the NYT this weekend begin to show the complex interweaving of sources, the news media and conflicting interests at the highest levels of publishing and government. In those murky waters, loyalties and trust and self interest get all mixed up. Who was Judy loyal to? Why did now-UN ambassador John Bolton visit her in jail?

  • I am glad Judy Miller is out and glad the grand jury is moving toward a decision. I am thrilled Karl Rove, the master manipulator of people and innuendo and practitioner of personal destruction, is feeling the heat. But the NYT needs to stay on the Miller story and do more to explain the relationship of sources to reporters. What is at stake here is not just the credibility of the badly damaged is the credibility of all professional journalists. It is time to come clean about how Washington coverage works.

    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Nothing to Sneeze At

    Ready or Not. NOT

    This is just ducky.

    A soon-to-be-released Department of Health and Human Services report shows how ill prepared (no pun intended) we are for an outbreak of an avian flu-like pandemic on a global scale.

    This is the sort of stuff that makes me feverish.

    If such an outbreak occurred, hospitals would become overwhelmed; riots would engulf vaccination clinics; and even power and food would be in short supply, according to the plan, which was obtained by The New York Times.

    This reminds me of about you?

    Except, disease makes no distinction regarding race and class as the world discovered in the 1918 pandemic (which this week scientists traced back to an avian flu like disease that jumped from birdies to people...). More from the NYTimes grimness:

    The plan outlines a worst-case scenario in which more than 1.9 million Americans would die and 8.5 million would be hospitalized with costs exceeding $450 billion.

    Get your head around that: almost 2-million dead.

    Get your head around this: Bush is still in office.

    I'm staying home next week. I'm feeling sickly.

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    Novel Approach

    Hack, Hack

    Is there any doubt left that George Bush and his pals are hacks? How can anyone believe Bush knows what he is doing (I hate those B/W photo, 'insider' articles in Newsweek and Time that get rolled out every year where confidantes say 'The president hates people being late for meetings...' blah blah blah).

    Iraq. WMD. Global warming. The hate mongering against the role of the judiciary. Tax cuts 4-ever. Terrorism and 9/11. Rove, Bolton, Rice, Hughes, Hadley, Cheney, Meirs. New Orleans and 'Brownie.'

    The New York Times nails it today in an editorial about Bush's 'major speech' yesterday on terrorism, or whatever it was:

    Ever since the terrorist attacks, the main thing Americans have wanted from Washington is a sense of safety. That takes more than hyperalertness to suicide bombing threats, important as that is. No matter what the terrorists are up to, it is not possible to feel safe if the federal government does not appear to know what it is doing on so many different levels.

    Now, why did Bush want to give this non-speech so urgently? Again, from NYT:

    A senior White House official said Thursday evening that the president's 40-minute speech arose from Mr. Bush's desire to remind Americans, after "a lot of distractions" in recent months...

    Lot of distractions like New Orleans, falling poll numbers, etc.

    Can we note the cruel hand of fate in this week's news, where Karl Rove has to head back to a grand jury to face more questions about l'affaire Plame and the man (from the UN!) who the administration denegrated (I know, we lose track of how many people were 'Roved') for playing it straight and accurate about WMDs in Iraq today got the Nobel Peace Prize.

    That's gotta hurt.

    Unless you are a 'war president.'

    Bushie, you're doing a heck of a job...

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Long Time No Post


    Those few of you who keep track might -- or might NOT -- know that my absence from the blog is due in part to my recent move from NJ to Cambridge, MA.

    College Town on steroids. The conversations you overhear on the street or in stores can be laughably intellectual. The bestsellers that people browse on the discount shelves are the sort of tomes that were required reading in the advanced college classes.

    But there is darn good free stuff here to occupy one's time. Great coffee. Nice, friendly people. Cambridge, some of it, is clean and appears fairly well run for a city. Lots of visible homelessness and poverty near the MIT campus, though. Harvard owns everything or so it seems. Certainly the older residents across the Charles near Harvard stadium hate the advance of the Harvard real estate moguls. In 20 years, goodbye homes, hello advanced gene spicling center for the performing arts.

    Also, parking is impossible. Don't even think about it.

    Free at Last

    There is a fair amount of handwringing, fingerpointing and Judith Miller backlash now that a) she is out of jail and b) she has testified before the grand jury investigating the 'CIA leak case," as CNN has so adroitly summarized this character assassination plot.

    Look, a journalist's ethics were on trial here. She stood up for what she believed her contract was with anonymous sources. The NYTimes backed her up. Now that she has cut her own deal, and Scooter Libby has admitted to being her source (for all intents and purposes) it was HER decision then to decide if there was a source here to be further protected by refusing the testify.

    I for one am glad she is out. Not thrilled she has testified, but so be it. What I want is for this investigation to be over with and the leaker(s) to be identified and punished.

    Let's not forget that a journalist who never published a story about this case was jailed for about 3-months. Who will answer to that violation of the First Amendment?

    The other thing we are learning here is the close relationship between White House sources and top reporters. Given what sounds like pretty regular contact, why don't we know much, much more about what is going on and how this amateur WH operates?


    It isn't a high crime or a misdemeanor to be incompetent, stupid, oblivious, out of touch and not in charge...but can't we find another way to get President Bush and his team of hacks, lackeys, cruel charlatans and anti-democratic thugs out of power?

    Iraq is now more of a lost cause than ever: testimony this week reveals for all the bloodshed and investment in time and money, there are only 500 trained and ready Iraqi troops ready for duty. The NYC police force is much, much larger. Can't we all admit this Iraq adventure has been a failure built on a lie?

    The dollar is a weakling being kicked with sand in the currency markets. Thank you very much Mr. Bush: no way can we afford that trip to Europe now.

    Global warming is such a myth that the ice fields are shrinking to their lowest dimensions in years. Let's put Dick Cheney on an ice flow and see how long it takes to melt.

    New Orleans, to stretch that metaphor, is only the tip of the iceberg. Not only does this administration not know how to run the machinery of government (or democracy) but they don't get that the poverty so explicit on the TV news from Nawlins is all around us -- as people collapse from lack of medical care, the crushing burden of debt, the inability to survive without two full time jobs, the ennui from the dull ache of hopelessness.

    At least tax cuts for the rich are still in place.

    Any fool--well, except one--can see we're driving this Cadillac straight into the ditch.