Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: October 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bush Caves

He's desperate, and what's more, he knows it. I called this one wrong. I thought Bush would do something to show he was still his own man, and if I was putting down money, it would've been on Alberto Gonzales. But no, he went straight to the conservative brain trust to give the right-wingers everything they ever hoped for. I've had discussions recently with others who've thought he's been in their back pockets for quite some time (bordering on always), but I've maintained that, although he may sometimes look like it, he wouldn't follow anyone blindly. But it appears that I've been giving him too much credit.

My current theory, for what it's worth, is that this is still quite a new development. He thought he could control the religious right until they completely rebelled on Harriet Miers. Bush thought he could charm them back into the fold, but when it became clear that this wasn't going to work, he flashed back to his father's experience with "Read my lips." He saw his own presidency flushing down the same toilet, and he couldn't have that, so he went crawling back. Of course, with approval ratings at 39 percent and lower across the board, there's no guarantee that he'll be able to climb out of the toilet, but at least his fall from grace won't follow the same path as that of his father.

Alito is a choice designed to provoke a fight, and actually, this might work well for everybody involved. The Prez looks like he's willing to go to the mat for his base, so he gets what he wants, I suppose, but the price of it may finally be scaring away everyone who's not in the religious right for good. Let's see how Arlen Specter responds. It could also work well for the Democrats, who've been horribly sluggish in responding to the crashing and burning of the Bushies. Theoretically, the Dems provide some sort of alternative to the Repubs, but that's been restricted to the ethereal world of theory for far too long. If you're one of those who likes to see their evidence manifested in the real world, you've been going through an extended dry spell. But Alito might finally rouse the Dems from their slumber. If they've been afraid to take Bush on up to now (and I'm not saying they have been, but they've offered very little to suggest they haven't), perhaps they'll gather some courage from the fact that his presidency is at its weakest point so far. If this brings the Democratic Party back to life, then I'm all for Alito's nomination (though not, let me hasten to point out, his confirmation).

It'll be interesting to see how this develops, particularly since it won't be developing in a vacuum. Scooter goes to court on Thursday for his arraignment, and Fitzgerald can conceivably drop another shoe at any time. Will Dems in the Senate filibuster? They might. Will the Repubs try the nuclear option? With Frist under investigation for insider trading and Bush popularity at all-time lows, they can certainly try. Can they get their 51 votes? I guess we'll have to wait and see. The political landscape is considerably different than it was earlier this year when we faced these questions before. Republican success was questionably then, and it's only grown less likely since. This administration has been off its game for quite a while these days, so I'm hyped to see what'll happen now that the Prez has declared, "Game on!"

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wishful Thinking

I'm on deadline for a book at work, so I'll have to keep it short tonight. I found it interesting on this morning's talking heads shows that the overriding opinion was that this week's developments from the special counsel were unfortunate for Scooter Libby but could potentially blow over for the rest of the Bush Administration. And if anybody's resting easy today, it's Karl Rove. I'll have to get a pair of those rose-colored glasses. It's too bad that they don't populate those shows with a broader range of political views so that we don't just have to listen to administration shills and right-leaning moderates. I'm already on the record with my opinion that Fitzgerald's just beginning, but if you don't want to take my word for it, there's a whole lot of other bloggers making the same argument. (I don't have time to look up the links at the moment, but you can find many of them in the blogroll over there on the right).

And since it's Sunday, here's the requisite Frank Rich link, in which he touches on that idea, as well. Here's the first paragraph of "One Step Closer to the Big Enchilada":

To believe that the Bush-Cheney scandals will be behind us anytime soon you'd have to believe that the Nixon-Agnew scandals peaked when G. Gordon Liddy and his bumbling band were nailed for the Watergate break-in. But Watergate played out for nearly two years after the gang that burglarized Democratic headquarters was indicted by a federal grand jury; it even dragged on for more than a year after Nixon took "responsibility" for the scandal, sacrificed his two top aides and weathered the indictments of two first-term cabinet members. In those ensuing months, America would come to see that the original petty crime was merely the leading edge of thematically related but wildly disparate abuses of power that Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, would name "the White House horrors."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

What Happened to Halloween?

We were out this evening and barely saw any people in costume. There was one guy in a pretty good Fat Elvis costume, and then a few people as we got closer to home, but there were lots and lots of people dressed as they'd be any other Saturday night. What's the deal?

Okay, I know tonight isn't really Halloween--Monday is the 31st. But as the Saturday closest to the date, tonight should have been the night with all the parties and festivities. Were we just in the wrong areas? (Although, as it happens, we were both in the suburbs and in a downtown restaurant and club area.) Is Chicago still in such a daze from the White Sox win that we've lost track of time? Will costumed people be out in force tomorrow or Monday night?

Since we didn't see much of anything tonight, I have no idea myself, but what are/were the popular costumes this year? Did any of you dress up for a party?

By the way, enjoy your extra hour of sleep tonight.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fitzgerald's Not Finished

Now that Scooter's been indicted for lying to the grand jury and covering up what was going on in the White House as it prepared for war, you don't have to look very far to find disappointment that Karl Rove wasn't somehow involved in today's activities, as well. While we can't know what might be coming down the pike, it's far too early to start feeling whatever final emotion we'll get out of this. In case it isn't yet obvious, Patrick Fitzgerald holds his cards extremely close to the chest, and nobody's identified any obvious tells. But if he were finished, he'd've told us he was finished. We're back to speculation for anybody other than Scooter, but I think it's fair to assume that everything that was once on the table is still on the table. Common sense suggests that he's made some plea agreements, and we'll probably find out about a few of them in the days ahead. Any lawyers out there can clarify this point, but I wonder if formal indictments are necessary in such cases. Fitzgerald said that there are ongoing investigations, so we don't know who else remains in (or will soon enter) his cross hairs.

In bringing indictments and closing this grand jury, Fitzgerald has established that he's running a serious investigation here. Anyone who was hoping the whole thing might blow over now knows that it won't. Judy Miller can tell us how prison or the threat of prison might clarify one's thinking, but Scooter Libby (as well as a number of others, I have no doubt) now has the opportunity to discover that on his own. What deals might he soon be willing to make? What information might he now be happy to provide?

The big announcement today also potentially takes the spotlight off this investigation, and the shadows is where Fitzgerald seems to like to operate. Until recently, Fitzgerald has kept a very low profile, and that's in keeping with how he's been working in Chicago. Via AMERICAblog, ArchPundit provides some examples of the kind of press coverage he's gotten here as he's investigated government corruption and issued indictments. In going after former Illinois governor George Ryan, he moved very, very slowly, putting pieces together, leaning on smaller fish to roll over on larger fish, and building his case. The assumption locally was that Ryan would skate--surely he'd insulated himself, a case would be too hard to make, a trial wouldn't be viable. If Fitzgerald had anything substantial, the thinking went, why hadn't he already indicted Ryan? Although Ryan's reputation was ruined, no one expected Ryan to be drawn into the legal proceedings--at least, not until Fitzgerald announced his indictment. He's currently on trial for racketeering and fraud.

Fitzgerald isn't a guy who provides extravagant warnings about what he's going to do--he just goes ahead and does it. That's what he's going to do now that he's made his announcement and the grand jury has packed up and gone home. He'll return to slowly, methodically building whatever cases he's working on, and when he's ready he'll let us know.


Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has issued a five-count indictment against Scooter Libby, who's resigned his post as the vice president's chief of staff. A PDF of the indictment is here, and a PDF of Fitzgerald's press release is here. Reaction is coming quickly, and any Web pages I link to will be quickly out of date, so I'll trust that you know where to find the news. I did find Dick Cheney's short statement accepting Scooter's resignation interesting, though, so I'll quote a sentence:

In our system of government an accused person is presumed innocent until a contrary finding is made by a jury after an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts.

He just can't bring himself to say that G word.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Another "Maybe Tomorrow"

The latest reports tell us that there'll be no indictments today, either. Tomorrow's the day that we find out what happens next, regardless of which way this all turns. Jane Hamsher describes some concern among sources with whom she's spoken that Fitzgerald come up with something by tomorrow, even if it's a press conference without indictments, to fill the vacuum that's developed around all the speculation. It may well be the lefty bloggers' own doing, but if all the raised expectations are not met with something, they could come crashing down into anger and disappointment that could undermine support for and viability of whatever charges or information might finally come out of the investigation. Although Fitzgerald is playing a legal game, he's also got to be aware of the influence PR has on the ultimate success of his efforts. But, again, all of this is idle speculation until we find out what's going to happen tomorrow.

Na Na Na Na

I'm tempted to quote more of "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" because the White Sox have made it omnipresent here in Chicago, but Harriet Miers's withdrawal of her nomination wasn't a victory for progressives. Sure, we all benefit from keeping cronyism and mediocrity off the Court, but this fight belonged fully and completely to the far right wing. They fought it, they won it, so they get to gloat.

It'll be interesting to see what ramifications this will have. Will the Prez cave and give the far right the ideologue it wants? (And what does it want, exactly? If the next nominee falls short of declaring an intention to overturn Roe v. Wade at the first opportunity and loudly come out against other conservative bugaboos such as affirmative action, will the 18th-century conservatives be satisfied?) Giving in to conservatives would seem to guarantee a candidate who is emminently filibusterable, and even the Joe Liebermans of the party would have a hard time breaking ranks, no matter what Republicans argue about not having litmus tests and providing "up or down votes." But this isn't a president who likes to cave (or at least give the appearance of caving). Would he come back with someone like Alberto Gonzales, who he clearly would like to nominate but has already been written off as persona non grata among rigid conservatives? The question really comes down to who is the Prez willing to piss off? Another factor, of course, is all the indictment fever currently embroiling the beltway. Will that weaken the White House and force the administration to secure its base? Or will it goad all the President's men into devising a dramatic diversion?

George W. Bush likes a good fight, and as the White House gets pushed further and further into a corner, I have no doubt that this is just what he's going to provide. My only question comes in wondering who's going to be his target.

Sox Win

The Sox swept Houston tonight in a 1-0 victory. This was the game the personified what the entire series was supposed to be: low scoring pitcher's duels. The pitching was good but not amazing, but the hitting just wasn't up to it. It wasn't as exciting as it might've been, but it was an appropriate way for this team to win the World Series.

Way back in May, I wrote about how this team, despite having the best record in baseball at that point (they ended with the best record in the American League and second best --after the Cardinals--in baseball), was underrated and largely ignored in its city, inspiring little more than apathy among its potential fan base. I don't know how long it will last, but that's not the case anymore.

Congratulations, White Sox!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Strange Series

With all the bad calls from the umps and last night's longest game in World Series history, this series is quickly turning into a strange sports story, but not as amazing as this:

I was planning on spreading these couple of covers out a little bit, but at the rate the series is going, I may not get the chance. I wonder if the 'Stros would do better with a gorilla on the team.

Maybe, Maybe Not

The AP is reporting that the grand jury has adjourned for the day after meeting for three hours this morning. What did they do? Well, we don't know. When will we know? Well, we don't know that, either. But, via Digby and Daily Kos, UPI's Richard Sale is reporting that Fitzgerald has asked to empanel a new grand jury when this one expires on Friday. That gives him loads more time to look into loads more crime.

In a separate post, Sale also reports that indictments will be announced this afternoon, with a full press conference to follow tomorrow. The afternoon is quickly dwindling away, but I guess we can be sure indictments are coming soon one way or another.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Indictments Tomorrow? Really??

Sorry this is so late, but I've been watching the World Series (currently in the 11th inning). The scuttlebutt all over East Blogistan is that sealed indictments are coming tomorrow. I'll join the crowd and link to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note, whose "uber-insider source" (confirmed by a second source) is predicting one to five sealed indictments tomorrow, which led the whole groundswell off. This report was followed by a post from Think Progress highlighting a CBS report from John Roberts, which also predicted indictments tomorrow and said Rove and Libby were still at risk, but that it was "an unidentified Mr. X who actually gave the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to reporters." Mr. X's identity is known to Fitzgerald, according to Roberts.

But then an odd little story trickled out of The LA Times reporting that Fitzgerald was still questioning witnesses today, interviewing a "former West Wing colleague" of Rove and sending FBI agents to talk to Joe and Valerie Wilson's neighbors. The Times acknowledged that "Fitzgerald was thought to be readying indictments in the long-running inquiry into the leak of Plame's identity." Consensus among the blogs I was looking at is that this is just Fitzgerald being thorough, although there was some intrigue raised by this statement:

Some of the questioning indicated that Fitzgerald may still be considering indictments on charges that some have viewed as too difficult to pursue, including a prosecution under a federal law that makes it a felony to reveal the name of a covert agent.

All we can do now is wait for Wednesday to see what happens next.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Will Scooter Take the Fall for Cheney?

There were no indictments issued today, as we all well know by now, so I was just going to give this story a rest for a little while. But then I saw this story in Wednesday's New York Times. "Lawyers involved in the case" leak that Fitzgerald has some of Scooter's notes from a meeting that reveal he learned Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA from Dick Cheney. So much for shielding the guys at the top. Who's leaking this and why? Who knows. It doesn't appear to come from Scooter or his camp, because it spells out his legal jeopardy and implies that Scooter himself did not provide the notes to the special prosecutor (and possibly never once mentioned them in his testimony to the grand jury). Does the leak come from Rove, desperate to sidestep the spotlight himself? Maybe we'll get to see some indictments in the next day or two and start to get some answers. Or maybe we won't.

Two Decades of Spin

Despite the title, this is not a post about politics. But boy, am I running late on this one. As I was browsing the newsstand today, I realized that I haven't been haunting it like I have at other times. I saw the twentieth anniversary edition of Spin, and only after looking at it for a while did I realize that another new issue was due very soon, maybe even tomorrow. Nonetheless, as untimely as it may be, I can't help myself from commenting on what I saw. There's probably several hundred other rants like this one, but you'll have to find them yourself, because I'm not Googling for them now.

As part of Spin's fabulous celebration, they interviewed twenty "innovators" of the last twenty years. Unfortunately, they seem to have a different definition of innovator than I've gotten used to. A few people they featured made sense to me. I don't know if anybody would argue with Chuck D or Bjork, for example. But Billy Joe Armstrong? Fine, I've come around to liking Green Day O.K., particularly after they went political with American Idiot, so I won't argue that the band doesn't have some significance, but innovative? About the only thing they did that hadn't been done before was hit the Top 10 with a Jam-inspired formula. Yes, not even the Jam was able to do that in this country, so I'll give them their due, but innovator? Billy Joe's about as innovative as Noel Gallagher, who's also on the list. Now, the Beatles did hit the Top 10 with Beatles-influenced material almost thirty years before Oasis ever did, so he doesn't even have that going for him. I won't deny his or his band's popularity (although I find it hard to follow--are they big again, or is it just hype this time?), and, although I don't think I'd ever want to get a beer and hang with them, I do enjoy the music (even if I'm odd man out in thinking (What's the Story) Morning Glory? is a better record than Definitely Maybe), but what innovations have they offered?

Still, I won't even begin to complain about Noel or Billy Joe if somebody (anybody) can convince me that Brandon Flowers belongs anywhere on the list. Perhaps Brandon and the Killers' innovation is that they come out of Vegas--lots of entertainers and entertainment concepts go to Vegas, but I'm not sure I know of any that emerge from the city. Is that the innovation? I'll admit that the music's kind of catchy, but since when is catchy a synonym of innovation? I'm even at a loss to make jokes about this--I can't think of anything particularly distinctive enough about the Killers to pull out as a lame excuse for innovation. (Borrow New Order riffs? What else is there?) Surely Spin could've come up with twenty people (and they don't even have to be musicians--Tim Burton, Trey Parker, and Matt Stone [the latter each counting as a half, apparently] all made the list, so anywhere in entertainment would be possible) who actually innovated something.

Another not particularly innovative person on the list is Chris Martin. I'm not going to continue this riff of "how is he innovative," but I will mention one of the comments he makes in his interview. In talking about music from twenty years ago, he said, "For me, 20 years ago was crucial--1985 was Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure and Joy Division and a-ha and U2 and Kate Bush." What's wrong with that picture?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rich Looks at the Big Questions

Frank Rich was on Meet the Press this morning, but his column is still behind the subscriber wall at The New York Times, so we have to find an alternate version at In "Karl and Scooter's Excellent Adventure," Rich adds his voice to the growing chorus pointing out that although Fitzgerald is investigating the question of who exposed the identity of a CIA operative (and whether that exposure was legal or illegal), the subtext concerns the reasons (and by extension, their validity) for going to war in Iraq in the first place.

I'm not sure why this seems to be hitting the mainstream media as some sort of revelation. It's never been any secret that Valerie Plame Wilson's position with the CIA was made public to get back at her husband for calling the Bush Administration out on its evidence for the war. Although Wilson focused on the White House's claim about Saddam and uranium from Niger, there should never have been any question that he was really attacking this detail as a major building block (though not the only one, of course) in the justification to war. The White House certainly recognized that. Wilson undermined the reason why the smoking gun might take the form of a mushroom cloud. Although he was specifically disputing the stated facts of the uranium, by extension he was questioning the legitimacy of the very war itself.

Any indictments the Fitzgerald grand jury may hand down this week obviously won't address those broader questions, but any trials that result won't be able to avoid them. If the trials don't explore the larger reasons for war directly, those reasons will be implicit throughout the proceedings. Why this seems to come as a surprise to the mainstream media is beyond me--you'd almost have to wonder if they just haven't been paying attention.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

They've Run Out of Names

Not that it exactly comes as a surprise at this point, but the twenty-second named storm of the 2005 hurricane season has formed near Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The National Hurricane Center sets aside twenty-one names for storms before the season, so for the first time we've used them all up and had to go for more. We last saw twenty-one storms in 1933. The new storm is Tropical Storm Alpha, as the National Hurricane Center falls back on Greek letters. You may wonder why we've run out of names after only twenty-one--they skip the letters q, u, x, y, and z.

At this point they're predicting that Alpha won't make it up to hurricane strength and will remain in the Atlantic, moving over Haiti and the Dominican Republic before going north/northeast and passing near Bermuda. We can't forget that Wilma remains a problem, though, as it looks now to be crossing the south Florida peninsula starting on Monday. And the hurricane season isn't over yet. It officially lasts until November 30, so we've got more than a month still to go.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Fitzgerald Joins the Cyber Age

The special prosecutor has staked his claim to the Internet and put up a Web site. Dan Froomkin asks the questions we're all thinking about:

Could it be that he's getting ready to release some new legal documents? Like, maybe, some indictments? It's certainly not the action of an office about to fold up its tents and go home.

Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn minimized the significance of the Web launch in an interview this morning.

"I would strongly caution, Dan, against reading anything into it substantive, one way or the other," he said. "It's really a long overdue effort to get something on the Internet to answer a lot of questions that we get . . . and to put up some of the documents that we have had ongoing and continued interest in having the public be able to access."

OK, OK. But will the Web site be used for future documents as well?

"The possibility exists," Samborn said.

As of this writing, there not too much there, only links to PDFs of six documents. But over at the Whiskey Bar, Billmon explains why, in fact, those six documents are plenty.

How to Do a Heck of a Job Without Really Trying

As we wait for Wilma to do her dirty work in Mexico and then recross the Gulf to take on Florida, the Senate has been continuing its hearings into the official response to FEMA. Yesterday, Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA public relations officer and the only FEMA representative in New Orleans before Katrina hit, told the Senate committee that everything we’ve heard up to now has been wrong. Former FEMA Director Michael Brown has previously said that he’d sent a medical team and several other FEMA personnel to the city before disaster struck, but Bahamonde claims he was there alone. You can read a PDF of his opening statement, but as far as I can find, a transcript of his back and forth with senators is not yet online.

Bahamonde got to New Orleans on Saturday night, more than twenty-four hours before Katrina hit, and quickly saw that trouble lay ahead. Despite the fact that he’d only just arrived, FEMA told him that he should evacuate Sunday morning, but as for thousands of others stuck in the city, traffic was too heavy and there was no way out. His attention turned to the Superdome, and he could see it would soon get ugly there.

By noon, thousands began arriving and by midday, lines wrapped around the building. It was also at that time that I realized that the size of the crowd was a big concern at [the city’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC)]. Terry Ebbert, the city’s Homeland Security Director, made an announcement in the EOC that struck me. He asked the maintenance staff to gather up all of the toilet paper in city hall and any other commodities they could find and immediately take them over to the Superdome. I specifically note this because it told me that supplies at the dome might be a serious issue.

Supplies seemed under control, as the National Guard told him 360,000 ready-to-eat meals (MREs), fifteen trucks of water, and a FEMA Disaster Medical Assistance Team were all due soon. As we all know by now, much of that never arrived--just over a tenth of the meals, a third of the water trucks, and no medical team showed up. By Sunday evening, Bahamonde was already sending e-mails of concern about the Superdome (I’m combining two separate e-mails sent seventeen minutes apart):

Everyone is soaked, This is going to get ugly real fast . Everyone here at the EOC is very concerned with what might happen over there

It really is the only shelter and as the winds pick up more and more people will be going there.

At 11:00 Monday morning, Bahamonde heard about the first levee break and passed that on. You may recall that the Prez, Chertoff, and various others claimed they never knew about the flooding until Tuesday. We can’t know whether they’re telling the truth or not, but even if they are, there’s no excuse when we now know FEMA’s only representative on the scene was getting the word out. Again we can only blame massive indifference or massive incompetence (or both, I suppose), and you can decide which is worse. He told the Senate committee:

I believed at the time and still do today, that I was confirming the worst case scenario that everyone had always talked about regarding New Orleans.

One detail that everybody’s picking up on (because it’s just so, I don’t know, Marie Antoinette or something) is an e-mail exchange concerning Brownie’s dinner on the Wednesday after Katrina. First, Brownie’s press secretary, forwarded to Bahamonde (I copied and pasted, so all typos are in the original):

Also, it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that 20 or 30 minutes. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choice, followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc. Thank you.

And Bahamonde’s response (again, copied and pasted, so this is as originally written):

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! NO won't go any further, too easy of a target. Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along wirh 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy retaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move the pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don't stab me in the back while I try to sleep, but instaed I will hope her wait at Ruth Christ is short.

PDFs of these and other e-mails graciously provided by The New York Times here and here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Special Prosecutor Update

Nah, there's not much new of substance. Lots of speculation, though. As we're waiting to see what Fitzgerald does, it seems many of the news reports are consolidating their information, getting everything in one place so they're ready to pounce when (and still if, keep in mind) Fitzgerald announces any indictments.

Today's Washington Post had an interesting tidbit about Rove testifying that his source "may have been" Scooter. (Someone else told him, as well, but he can't quite bring to mind who it might've been.) If even the White House is turning on Scooter now, it's safe to assume that he's pretty much done. The Post also pointed out that Fitzgerald has interviewed a couple of dozen or more administration staffers, so it's hard to tell who might end up in trouble.

THIS JUST IN: Friday's New York Times has a bit more clarification about Fitzgerald's process as he finishes up. As many have speculated, "lawyers involved in the case" claim the prosecutor's office is looking at criminal charges over whether Rove and Scooter "sought to conceal their actions and mislead prosecutors." Wow. I can't believe we have to go over this again. One more time, everybody: It's not the crime, it's the cover up!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Is Watchmen the Greatest Graphic Novel Since 1923?

Time magazine says it is. The Time list of the Top 100 Novels in English since 1923 (which in a clever, clever play on words is called "100 All-Time Novels"--1923 is in the fine print) is actually made up of 102 novels and one graphic novel. I don't know why they toss an apple into the mix with all the oranges and then count three oranges as just one, but I guess it's their list and they can do what they want. If they felt they needed a graphic novel, why Watchmen? From Hell is better. Maus is better and probably more culturally important (plus, since it was published in two volumes, they could do the same "multi-volume work counts as one novel" thing they pulled with Lord of the Rings). The real strengths of Watchmen are in its graphic formalism rather than whatever literary merits it might claim as a work of fiction. But Richard Lacayo, who devised the list with Lev Grossman, claimed their twin purposes in naming their 100 were to instruct and enrage, so far be it from me to play into their hands by continuing to complain. I already wrote about aspects of this over at Howling Curmudgeons, so I won't get into it too much here. But I will say congratulations to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, who deserve the attention, even if it does come off smelling like a stunt.

Time for That Watergate Question Again

What did the President know and when did he know it? According to the New York Daily News, the answer in regards to the leak of Valerie Plame's name to the press is pretty much everything awfully damn quickly. Following up yesterday's story about Fitzgerald's "secret snitch," today's report states: "An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair." But what specifically set him off? Was it Rove's treasonous act of betraying a CIA agent during a time of war? Was he concerned about those whose work and lives were at risk due to the revelation? Maybe not.

The President felt Rove and other members of the White House damage-control team did a clumsy job in their campaign to discredit Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, the ex-diplomat who criticized Bush's claim that Saddam Hussen tried to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger.

. . .

"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.

Bush-league, indeed.

The story further informs us that recent reports of Rove having lied to the President about his involvement in the affair are not correct but were leaked by the White House to distant the President from his beleaguered deputy chief of staff. Not exactly the vote of confidence Rove would like to hear as Fitzgerald prepares possible indictments.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Dick Cheney, Man of Mystery

We got a little bit of information about how Dick Cheney figures into the Fitzgerald investigation was released today, which in turn led to an awful lot of speculation. Cheney, or his office, anyway, now appears to be one focus of the investigation, but we don't know precisely what that means. The New York Daily News had a pretty impressive charge today: "Cheney's name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge - with help from a secret snitch." Josh Marshall and Raw Story each say it's John Hannah, who Raw Story identified as a senior national security aide on loan to Vice President Dick Cheney from the offices of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton. In expanding on Fitzgerald's interest in Cheney, The Washington Post wrote:

In the course of the investigation, Fitzgerald has been exposed to the intense, behind-the-scenes fight between Cheney's office and the CIA over prewar intelligence and the vice president's central role in compiling and then defending the intelligence used to justify the war.

Although there was some buzz that indictments (if they come at all, which isn't definite at this point) could come as early as tomorrow, The New York Times reports in Wednesday's edition that, at least according to unnamed government officials, no indictments are expected this week. Fitzgerald was also reported to have decided against releasing a final report on his investigation, which means indictments or nothing. It seems to me that he's gone to an awful lot of trouble to come up with nothing at the end, but I guess we'll all just wait and see.

White Sox Series

So the White Sox are in. I've been busy (deadline for IRS extensions--don't ask), so I haven't had a chance to make note of it here. I spent 45 minutes earlier today clicking on Ticketmaster to see if I could come up with some World Series tickets (of the dozen or so that are still available after those with various ins get their dibs out of the way), but it was not to be.

The Sox ended up with the best record in the American League and the second best in baseball. They got their four AL championship victories on complete games from their starting pitchers (when's the last time that happened?). And they're still considered underdogs to some extent. I just don't get where the common wisdom comes from sometimes.

The Cards sure pulled a win out of nowhere last night. I saw some of the game but not the very end, so I got up this morning assuming that the Astros were set for the Series. A White Sox/Cards match up would be interesting, not least for what it might drive Cubs fans to do. There's a major split in Chicago that manifests itself in various ways, but one of the most noticeable is between Cubs fans and Sox fans. Fans of one invariably hate the other team. What with the other matter I mentioned above, I've been somewhat cloistered over the last couple of days, but it doesn't seem to me that there's a huge rush of excitement over the north side of the city. The White Sox are the south side team, so I'm sure it's much more electric down there, and the north might even warm up to the idea, as we're still several days from Game 1. The Cards are in the Cubs' division and are probably their main rivals in the National League. If they rally and win the NL pennant (for those who haven't been following, they're down 3-2--they need to win the next two in St. Louis to advance, but the Astros only need to win one more), it seems like an absolute worst-case scenario for Cubs fans. What will they do? Ignore the World Series on the other side of town and pretend that nothing's happening? Be good sports and cheer on the home team? Support the National League over whoever that American League team might be? I'm curious to find out.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Zod for President

Although it seems a mite early yet, the general has tossed his hat into the ring. I guess an independent candidate needs a little extra time to get a buzz going. On his campaign Website, he seems to be positioning himself as the straight-talk candidate:

When I first came to your planet and demanded your homes, property and very lives, I didn't know you were already doing so, willingly, with your own government. I can win no tribute from a bankrupted nation populated by feeble flag-waving plebians. In 2008 I shall restore your dignity and make you servants worthy of my rule. This new government shall become a tool of my oppression. Instead of hidden agendas and waffling policies, I offer you direct candor and brutal certainty.

(via Atrios)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Happy Dictionary Day!

Looks like I jumped the gun with my vocabulary post from a couple of days ago. I should've held it until today. In honor of Noah Webster's 247th birthday, today is Dictionary Day. Feel free to join in the gala Dictionary Day festivities by leaving your favorite word in comments.

Rich on WHIG

Frank Rich, once again available through truthout, writes this week about the White House Iraq Group. Made up of Rove, Rice, Libby, Matalin, Hughes, and various others, WHIG was exactly what it sounds like: a group charged with marketing and selling the war against Saddam Hussein. In "It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby," Rich adds his voice to those asking about the methods and intentions of this group. Here's one meme that's been going around but which Rich expresses well:

It's long been my hunch that the WHIG-ites were at their most brazen (and, in legal terms, reckless) during the many months that preceded the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald as special counsel. When Mr. Rove was asked on camera by ABC News in September 2003 if he had any knowledge of the Valerie Wilson leak and said no, it was only hours before the Justice Department would open its first leak investigation. When Scott McClellan later declared that he had been personally assured by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby that they were "not involved" with the leak, the case was still in the safe hands of the attorney general then, John Ashcroft, himself a three-time Rove client in past political campaigns. Though Mr. Rove may be known as "Bush's brain," he wasn't smart enough to anticipate that Justice Department career employees would eventually pressure Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest, clearing the way for an outside prosecutor as independent as Mr. Fitzgerald.

Since he only gets into print once a week these days, Rich also has to make the most of his space. He can't help reflecting on the Prez's stellar performance hammering nails on the Today show earlier this week:

Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in "Psycho." Like Norman and [Martha] Stewart, he stonewalled.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Straight Scoop?

So, it seems at long last we've arrived at Judy Comes Clean Day. The New York Times prints two stories in their Sunday edition, one objective, straight-ahead, third-person piece by other reporters about Judith Miller, her sources, and her time in jail and one first-person account by Judy herself. And let me tell you, they're pretty boring.

Throughout this story, The Times has had trouble getting scooped by other sources. That's not exactly what's happened here, but there's not much we haven't heard already. Some of the new tidbits include the fact that publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., and executive editor Bill Keller knew who Judy was protecting but didn't know why. They felt it was important to stand behind their reporter, but Keller admits to misgivings: "I wish it had been a clear-cut whistle-blower case. I wish it had been a reporter who came with less public baggage." We also discover that Judy understood Scooter Libby's lawyer to indicate to her that, although he had signed the presidentially decreed waiver, Libby didn't really want her to testify, a charge the lawyer vehemently denies.

Despite her newfound status as a First Amendment icon, Judy doesn't seem to want to be very forthcoming. According to the third-person story, "In two interviews, Ms. Miller generally would not discuss her interactions with editors, elaborate on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allow reporters to review her notes." (So then, what did she talk about?) And it's a good thing that she's got some notes, because her memory doesn't seem particularly strong, either. In her own story, Judy wrote: "Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I could recall discussing the Wilson-Plame connection with other sources. I said I had, though I could not recall any by name or when those conversations occurred." A regular brain like a sieve, she has.

There are references, though not with a lot of detail, to tension at The Times itself over the situation. Judy's return to the newsroom after her jailtime is awkward, to say the least:

At a gathering in the newsroom, she made a speech claiming victories for press freedom. Her colleagues responded with restrained applause, seemingly as mystified by the outcome of her case as the public.

"You could see it in people's faces," Ms. Miller said later. "I'm a reporter. People were confused and perplexed, and I realized then that The Times and I hadn't done a very good job of making people understand what has been accomplished."

And here are two more opportunities to do just that slipping right through their fingers.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Lessons from the Past

I've been doing some reading lately about spying during the Cold War, so it's not surprising that I might come across some references to the fall of the Soviet Union. In fact, I read the following in The New York Review of Books about The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin (emphasis mine):

The real importance of Andrew's book is not to be found in the three-day wonder of uncovered spies, however, but in the sheer weight of accumulated detail which reveals a madly compulsive Soviet overreliance on clandestine means for conducting its foreign policy, maintaining social and ideological control at home, and acquiring the technological infrastructure of a modern state. For decades it all seemed to work, until Mikhail Gorbachev began to tinker with the system, hoping to breathe the pink back into the wheezing body of communism. He might have addressed his efforts to the waxen cadaver of Lenin with greater success. The anti-Soviet hostility of client states in Eastern Europe, the alienation of ordinary Russians from the Communist regime, a position in the world based entirely on military might, and the reality of a barely functioning economy helpless to compete in world trade were the reverse of the coin—an illusion of monolithic control and legitimacy on one side, police and mirrors on the other.

Hostility from allies, alienation of common citizens, overreliance on military strength--this sounds like it relates to more than just the Soviet Union. The "barely functioning economy" may not ring completely true, but the Bushies are working on it. Here's some of what Bob Herbert (subscription to TimesSelect or nonsubscription) had to say yesterday:

A Page 1 article in The Times on Tuesday carried the following headline: "Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate."

I might have started laughing if the subject weren't so serious. Who in their right mind - liberal, moderate, Rotarian, contrarian - could have possibly thought that George W. Bush and his GOP Wild Bunch (Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay et al.) had suddenly seen the light ("Eureka! We've been wrong!") and become serious about engaging the problem of poverty in America?
. . .

Poverty has steadily increased under President Bush, even as breathtaking riches (think tax cuts, cronyism, war profiteering, you name it) have been heaped upon those who were already wealthy. Class divisions are hardening, and economic inequality continues to increase dramatically.

Over in The Washington Post, E. J. Dionne weighed in, as well:

It has long been said that Americans have short attention spans, but this is ridiculous: Our bold, urgent, far-reaching, post-Katrina war on poverty lasted maybe a month.
. . .

I was naive enough to hope that after Katrina the left and the right might have useful things to say to each other about how to help the poorest among us. I guess we've moved on. You can lay a lot of the blame for this indifference on conservatives. But it will be a default on the part of liberals if the poor disappear again from public view without a fight.

Poverty has been on the rise since 2001, and I'm sure most of us don't feel as secure in our "growing economy" as we're told we should. The price of gas is going up, and we still have the shock of home heating costs to come this winter. Those are the kinds of expenses that go across all levels of society and reverberate into the prices of a wide variety of goods and services. We haven't even begun to see the economy-choking inflation that's in store for us. We can go back to the USSR and other failed regimes for cautionary tales, but if we don't recognize them when we find them, we make it more difficult to avoid falling into the same traps that brought them down.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Getting the Led Out

Indulge me in a little shop talk for a few minutes, if you don't mind. One of the editorial annoyances I've been noticing lately is rampant misspelling of the past tense of lead. You can come up with some reasonable justifications for it, I guess, but I blame Led Zeppelin. Kicking off a long line of heavy metal bands intentionally misspelling their names, I think Led Zep subliminally trained us to think that the word led is misspelled. Which it is, if you're talking about the metal that shields you from x-rays or makes up pipes in Clue (which Led Zeppelin was). But it's not misspelled if you're using it as the past tense of lead.

Admittedly, spelling the past tense of lead as lead makes a bit of sense. The metal is spelled that way and pronounced led. The past tense of read is spelled read, yet it's pronounced red. So what reason would you have to think lead and its past tense aren't spelled the same way? Well, no reason, really, except that it's WRONG!

So the next time you have ocassion to use lead and its past tense ("The pep squad led the crowd in cheering"; "David Ortiz led the league in RBIs"; George W. Bush led the country into an unnecessary preemptive war"), remember to drop the a. I'd appreciate it.

In Lieu of Flowers

From the wilds of Nashville, our pal Don (via Boing Boing) came across this obituary in our own back yard of the Chicago Tribune. Check out the comments about the deceased's service record and what mourners should in lieu of sending flowers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Heavy-Handed in Putnam County

This is a silly story. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is coming to Chicago, and the producers had a big kick-off news conference to announce it on Monday. Most everybody you'd expect to attend such an event was there--reporters, critics, etc. Most everybody, but not everybody. Hedy Weiss is theater critic for the Sun-Times, and she's got a reasonably high profile. According to a report in the Sun-Times, Hedy was told that she would not be welcome at the event. When she showed up anyway, she was prevented from entering. Producer David Stone later issued a statement claiming that several months ago at a similar announcement for the Chicago production of Wicked, "Ms. Weiss behaved erratically and unprofessionally." (Hedy responded that she'd been unhappy producers had leaked Wicked info to the Trib and, in a thoroughly professional manner, told them so.)

Other media people--including others from the Sun-Times--were at the Spelling Bee news conference with no problem. The show features audience participation as viewers are called onstage and given words to spell, and this aspect was a highlight of the news conference, as well. Trib critic Chris Jones, former Trib critic Richard Christiansen, and Sun-Times marketing columnist Lewis Lazare were all brought onstage, and even Hedy's name was called (Stone said she couldn't participate because she was in detention). The newspeople didn't realize they'd be called upon to participate, and the Trib even lodged a complaint after the fact. Given Hedy's outspokenness at the Wicked event, Lynn Becker at ArchitectureChicago PLUS suggests that she was excluded from this news conference because she would've quickly pointed out the inappropriateness of drawing the journalists into a publicity stunt, and in the process reminded the journalists that they didn't need to mindlessly go along with the show. That makes sense to me.

Leaks Have Consequences

We've all been paying attention to the ins and outs of the CIA leak case and the Fitzgerald grand jury, almost making it something of a game as to who'll get indicted, who'll get implicated, and who'll walk away smelling like a rose. It's easy to overlook the fact that, whatever happened and whoever was involved, this was a serious, possibly treasonous act. If you think about it for a few minutes, it becomes obvious that much more is at stake here than the inconvenience to Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame. Anyone she dealt with, especially if they were still in the field, was put at risk. Anyone associated with Brewster Jennings & Associates, Plame's cover company, was suddenly out in the open.

Although I've considered this from time to time, I'm writing about it now because ReddHedd at firedoglake has brought it back to our attention in an extremely thoughtful and powerful post at firedoglake. The contributors to firedoglake have produced particularly sharp commentary on this case and have made the site a must-see daily stop for new developments and informed speculation. Add it to your blog routine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Plamegate Heats Up

There's an awful lot of speculation going around Blogsville tonight about Rove, Scooter, and Judy Miller. But here are a few facts first. Rove is going (or has gone--the timing isn't clear) back before Fitzgerald's grand jury for the fourth time, and that can't possibly be good. Judy Miller met with Fitzgerald this morning to discuss notes she "found" of a meeting she had with Scooter that was earlier than anyone had previously admitted, and now she's got another date with the whole grand jury on Wednesday. Murray Waas points out that Scooter's had two opportunities to mention this meeting to the grand jury, but somehow it slipped his mind both times.

There's a lot that this can mean. Editor & Publisher and Raw Story both discuss a Wednesday Wall Street Journal story reporting that Fitzgerald isn't just looking at the Plame leak itself but has broadened his investigation to look into a wider White House conspiracy. Josh Marshall talks about the implications of all this. If these links aren't enough, John Aravosis noticed on Hardball that Howard Fineman told Chris Matthews there's a civil war in the White House between Rove and Andy Card. That would certainly explain why the White House seems to have lost its mojo.

Although it's my understanding that Fitzgerald could request an extension, as things now stand the grand jury's term is done in just over two weeks. Fitzgerald's going to have to show whatever hand he has soon. While we shouldn't raise our expectations too high, get comfortable. Keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. It looks to be quite a ride coming up.

The Harriet and George Mutual Admiration Society

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has released some of Harriet Miers's correspondence, and while it does little to illuminate her ideas about the Constitution, law, or other matters of weight, it does shed some light on her relationship with the Prez. In a card for W's 51st birthday, she wrote, "You are the best governor ever--deserving of great respect." He responded, "I appreciate your friendship and candor." No kidding. If that's what he takes as candor, no wonder he thinks she'll be a brilliant jurist.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Who, The Kinks, The Jam, and . . .

You may have seen this, but I had to mention it, as well. Scientists have taught dolphins to vocalize sounds in rhythm. Some might even call it singing. And what was the song that was chosen? Yes, it's one of the greats: Neil Hefti's "Batman Theme." We've all sung it, and the bands in this post's title (as well as a few others) have all covered it. But now dolphins can sing along when Adam West and Burt Ward spring into action, as well. If you have better luck than I did, you may be able to take a listen here or here. (I spent 45 minutes downloading an updated Windows Media Player and couldn't get enough sound to tell what I was hearing.)

It never hurts to expand your circle of friends. Especially if, while swimming in the ocean, you come under attack. If you're temporarily out of Shark Repellent Bat Spray, it's good to be down with the dolphins.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Where's Rich Today?

This is turning into a trend. Today's Frank Rich column, "The Faith-Based President Defrocked," is available--for the time being, at least--at Here's his main point: "The Miers nomination, whatever its fate, will be remembered as the flashpoint when the faith-based Bush base finally started to lose faith in our propaganda president and join the apostate American majority." He also has some nice things to say about Bush's press conference earlier this week.

"The president's 'argument' for her amounts to: Trust me," George Will wrote in the op-ed column that last week galvanized conservative opposition to the nomination. He then went on to list several reasons why he doesn't trust Mr. Bush. As if to prove the point, the president went out to the Rose Garden and let loose with one whopper after another in his first press conference in four months.

"Of all the people in the United States you had to choose from, is Harriet Miers the most qualified to serve on the Supreme Court?" Mr. Bush was asked. "Yes," he answered. Has he ever discussed abortion with her? "Not to my recollection." How much political capital does he have left? "Plenty." With a straight face he promised that Ms. Miers was "not going to change" and that "20 years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today." Even were that a praiseworthy attribute, it would still contradict the history of a woman who abandoned her Roman Catholic faith for evangelical Christianity and the Democratic Party for the Republicans.

But Mr. Bush's dissembling wasn't limited to his Supreme Court nominee. Asked how he was going to pay for Katrina recovery, the president twice said he'd proposed $187 billion in budget cuts over 10 years - but failed to factor in his tax proposals and other budget increases. The real net total for proposed Bush cuts is $103 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and even less according to some independent number crunchers. Turning to Iraq, Mr. Bush once again fudged our "progress" there with a numerical bait-and-switch, bragging about "30 Iraqi battalions in the lead." (Translation: in the lead with American military support.) Less than a week earlier his own commanders had told Congress that the number of Iraqi battalions capable of fighting unaided had dropped from 3 to 1 since June. (Translation: 750 soldiers are now ready to stand up on their own should America's 140,000 troops stand down.) For good measure, Mr. Bush then flouted credibility one more time to set the stage for the next administration fiasco. In the event of a bird flu epidemic, he said, one option for effecting a quarantine would be to use the military. What military? Last week The Army Times reported that the Pentagon, its resources already overstretched by Iraq, would try to bolster sagging recruitment by tapping "a demographic long deemed off limits: high school dropouts who don't have a General Educational Development credential."

While you're at, take a look at the main page. It features links to a number of news and opinion pieces by people such as Maureen Dowd, Harold Meyerson, Sidney Blumenthal, and Daniel Schorr, as well as a number of others. Go take a look.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Ebert & Roeper

We've all gotten used to the idea of thumbs up or thumbs down for a movie, first with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and now with Ebert and Richard Roeper. Thumbs up, of course, means it's good and you should go see it. Thumbs down means it's not and you shouldn't.

But moviegoing habits have changed in the quarter century since Siskel and Ebert first took to their balcony. And I've noticed over the past few weeks (although he's probably been doing it longer) that at least Roeper's standards have changed, too. A thumb's down from Roeper doesn't mean you shouldn't see a movie--it just means you shouldn't see it at the theater. He'll give thumbs down to a movie he'd recommend you see on video in a couple of months. That "maybe" kind of answer doesn't work so well in the binary arena of thumbs up and thumbs down. How do I know which movies aren't worth my money under any circumstances whatsoever and which maybe aren't worth my $9.50 now but could be worth 3 bucks in a little while?

I guess we no longer live in a black-and-white world. Could he maybe add a new category? Thumbs up, thumbs down, and thumbs betwixt and between? They could get a trademark on that with no trouble at all.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Red Sox Haven't Let World Series Go to Their Heads

Just to make sure no one thought last year's World Series championship had changed anything for Red Sox fans, the Sox folded this week and allowed Chicago to sweep them in the first round of the ALCS. I wasn't prepared to predict that Boston could come back to take the remaining three games in the series to go up against the Angels or the Yankees in the next round, but I did think they'd win at least one at Fenway. These guys played like they'd lost their hope. Did Wednesday's through-the-legs error by Graffanino bring back too many echoes of Bill Buckner and just cast a pall over the whole team?

This is not to take anything away from the White Sox. As I've mentioned from time to time on this blog throughout the year, the White Sox have been mostly playing well, so they deserve their shot. Their blowout win on Tuesday was their first post-season win at home since 1959 (which was back in the day before playoffs when league champions went straight to the World Series). Despite having the best record in baseball throughout most of the year, the White Sox were largely ignored, even by Chicagoans. Now people are paying attention, and if they go all the way to win everything, I won't be too upset about it.

But when it comes down to it, though, I'm a fan of those Boston Sox, and I can't help but feel let down tonight. Yeah, yeah, maybe next year and all that.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More & More Reasons to Confirm Miers

There's been so much written about why Harriet Miers is not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, but, aside from her being Bush's friend and we should trust him, we haven't seen a lot about why she might be qualified. Fortunately, David Kuo provides some reasons that never would've occurred to me (hat tip to Kevin Drum):

White House staffers used to refer to getting documents past Harriet Miers to the President as attempting to "run the gauntlet." She was staff secretary during her first three years at the White House. Her job was to ensure the absolute accuracy and consistency of every memo, every event, everything that was to go to President Bush.

. . .

There was another gauntlet, however, that was easier to run. Harriet used to keep a humidor full of M&Ms in her West Wing office. It wasn't a huge secret. She'd stash some boxes of the coveted red, white, and blue M&Ms in specially made boxes bearing George W. Bush's reprinted signature. Her door was always open and the M&Ms were always available. I dared ask one time why they were there. Her answer: "I like M&Ms and I like sharing."

Do these things matter at all when it comes to her qualifications for being an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court? Yes. They speak to her character. And in matters of justice, matters of character count.

Most every office in the country has somebody who keeps a candy dish where coworkers can help themselves. Who knew that made them worthy of sitting on the Supreme Court?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

O'Connor Flashbacks

Atrios has wandered down memory lane and come back with some twenty-four-year-old news blurbs from when Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated to be the first woman on the Supreme Court. They trigger quite the sense of deja vu. One of the blurbs in particular features Richard Viguerie entering the fray to keep O'Connor off the Court. Sounds a bit like his threat this time around, doesn't it? I don't remember if conservatives came around as a result of O'Connor's Senate hearings or remained unhappy, but it's pretty clear that things didn't work out the way Viguerie intended. I think he's more powerful now than he was then. At that point, the conservative movement was just feeling itself out, seeing what muscles it could flex. It was still an open question as to how much of the first Reagan victory was a mandate for his right-wing policies and how much was just an anti-Carter vote. Now the conservative machinery is well-honed and practiced. Viguerie may still have a lot of bluster in his talk, but he's got a lot more to back it up with now.

George Will Has Gone Off the Reservation

Will has seemed to have a few misgivings about the President from time to time in the past, but his column today features the strongest anti-Bush statement I've seen so far (and he gives us a number to choose from): "The president's 'argument' for [Harriet Miers] amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons." Read the column yourself if you want his reasons.

This follows a Monday-night statement from Richard Viguerie, one of the original gurus of the grass-roots conservative movement. He sent a message to his extensive e-mail list of conservative operatives entitled, "Conservatives Feel Betrayed: 'President Bush Blinks on Supreme Court Nominees.'" He's mad at Bush, but he's apparently got no love lost on the Republican Congress, either. Viguerie's press release has a list of things conservatives don't like, but here are just a couple:

"President Bush has presided over the largest growth in government since Lyndon Johnson, and now he appears willing to lose all credibility with conservative voters by failing to fulfill his campaign vow to nominate an openly Scalia- or Thomas-like justice," Viguerie concluded.

. . .

Conservatives will now begin to seriously consider why they should continue to give their support--money, labor, and votes--to Republican politicians who take their conservative base for granted by continually lying to them.

Yes, that's exactly the threat it sounds like, and Viguerie has the organization to pull it off. The Supreme Court has always been the big hope of the conservative movement, so we'll see if there's anything short of replacing Miers's name with a real fire-breather that Bush can do to pacify them. As the President's poll numbers have shrunk and shrunk and shrunk, there has always been the assumption that they could only go down so far because he had an unshakable base. This is the sound of that base shaking.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Dismal, Absolutely Dismal

So, it was the big playoff game between the Red and White Sox. Yep, that was me, taking the day off work to go cheer my Red Sox, and did they even bother to show up, ready to play? Apparently not. I would have been just as happy to have shaken my head in disbelief as I watched the highlight reel on the late news and saved myself the trouble of actually going out to the ballpark. Final score, of course, was 14-2, but for me the most telling (and damning) detail was that the White Sox got their 14 runs on only 11 hits. Matt Clement hit the first and third players he faced, both of whom scored as the White Sox actually started hitting the ball later in the inning. Very dispiriting, but admittedly all a part of being a Red Sox fan.

Still, it's the first game of a best-of-five series, and there's another tomorrow. If the Red Sox can win that one, they return to Boston Friday with a tie series. And probably tomorrow I'll feel like blogging about something more substantial. For tonight, though, it's off to bed to mope.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A Fun Time to Be in the Peanut Gallery

The big news today is obviously the Prez's nomination of pal Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. She's a crony who seems to bring nothing to the table except her devotion to W. She doesn't seem like a strong candidate under any circumstances, but it's especially entertaining to watch the far right flail against her. They wanted a flame-throwing, nail-spitting conservative who would promise to overturn Roe v. Wade at the first opportunity. Virtually nothing is known about Miers's views, but they’re assuming the worst. For a bit of a primer (although admittedly not a terribly illuminating one), you can browse through some online question-and-answer sessions she hosted last year when she was the President's Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. There are four, here, here, here, and here, and here's her White House bio.

Posting late in the day, I have the luxury of looking over some of the other blogs for juicy tidbits. When Miers's name came up last week, David Frum at The National Review Online wrote:

I believe I was the first to float the name of Harriet Miers, White House counsel, as a possible Supreme Court. Today her name is all over the news. I have to confess that at the time, I was mostly joking.

. . .

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met. She served Bush well, but she is not the person to lead the court in new directions--or to stand up under the criticism that a conservative justice must expect.

And Atrios kindly points us to John Podhoretz writing about Miers in the NRO blog, also on Thursday:

I am going to assume that this is a classic Bush head-fake gambit. If I'm wrong, I will spend the weekend banging my head against a concrete wall. This is the Supreme Court we're talking about! It's not a job for a political functionary!

Not surprisingly, Frum had more to say this morning, but someone at the blog for The Al Franken Show found something Frum said but wished he hadn't.

AMERICAblog has a quote from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol:

It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that President Bush flinched from a fight on constitutional philosophy. Miers is undoubtedly a decent and competent person. But her selection will unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and capitulation on the part of the president.

And it may be a good thing that the Senate never followed through with the nuclear option earlier this year. Billmon tells us that some conservative Repubs might want to filibuster Miers themselves.

Given all that, I guess it's up to each of us to decide just how disingenuous Harry Reid was being when he announced: "I like Harriet Miers."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Plame Game Speculation

Judith Miller's testimony to the grand jury is secret, and she so far hasn't been willing to reveal what she told them, so there hasn't been much to report on whatever new details have developed. Therefore, we get more analysis, instead. Here's what The Washington Post had to say this morning:

What remains a central mystery in the case is whether special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has accumulated evidence during his two-year investigation that any crime was committed. His investigation has White House aides and congressional Republicans on edge as they await Fitzgerald's announcement of an indictment or the conclusion of the probe with no charges. The grand jury is scheduled to expire Oct. 28, and lawyers in the case expect Fitzgerald to signal his intentions as early as this week.

. . .

Many lawyers in the case have been skeptical that Fitzgerald has the evidence to prove a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which is the complicated crime he first set out to investigate, and which requires showing that government officials knew an operative had covert status and intentionally leaked the operative's identity.

But a new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.

As we always hear, "It's not the crime, it's the coverup."

And speaking of coverups, George Stephanopoulos mentioned a little something this morning on his Sunday blabfest:

Definitely a political problem but I wonder, George Will, do you think it’s a manageable one for the White House especially if we don’t know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments but if he is able to show as a source close to this told me this week, that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions.

If he's really got something substantial, it seems odd for George to just sort of drop it into the conversation like that. But if he doesn't, it's even weirder for him to mention it at all. I didn't see the show this morning, and unfortunately, no one has mentioned what George Will offered in response. As usual, Crooks and Liars has the video.

Rich's Overview of Washington Scandal

Last week I posted a link to Frank Rich's NYTimes column that now lives behind the subscriber curtain. It garnered a number of hits, so there are a lot of people looking for what he has to say. (I actually think this is an unintended consequence of The Times's action of putting its columnists off limits. Back when they were freely available, although I'd generally read Rich every week, I'd drop in on Dowd, Krugman, Friedman, or Herbert only every now and again, particularly if there seemed to be some buzz around a particular column. Now, that I'm actively prevented from reading them, my interest in finding a way to get them every day is much higher. I'm sure I'm not alone.)

This week, Rich takes a wide-angle look at the various investigations and incriminations of leading Republicans. Here's his lead:

"Terri Schiavo is not brain-dead; she talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and discomfort. Terri Schiavo is not on life support."
- Tom DeLay, March 20, 2005

If you believed Tom DeLay then, you no doubt believe now that the deposed House majority leader is only on "temporary" leave from his powerful perch in Washington and that he’ll soon bounce back, laughing all the way, from a partisan witch hunt that unjustly requires his brief discomfort in a Texas courtroom.

Those who still live in the reality-based community, however, may sense they’re watching the beginning of the end of something big. It’s not just Mr. DeLay, a k a the Hammer, who is on life support, but a Washington establishment whose infatuation with power and money has contaminated nearly every limb of government and turned off a public that by two to one finds the country on the wrong track.

And one more snippet:

Mr. DeLay's latest plight is only a tiny detail within this vast Boschian canvas of depravity. If this were Watergate - and Watergate itself increasingly looks like a relatively contained epidemic of corruption - the Texas grand jury's indictment of the congressman and his associates would be a sideshow tantamount to the initial 1973 California grand jury indictment of the Nixon aide John Ehrlichman and his pals in the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office; Watergate's real legal fireworks were still in the wings. So forget about all those details down in Texas that make your teeth hurt; don't bother to learn the difference between Trmpac and Armpac. Fasten your seat belt instead for the roller coaster of other revelations and possible indictments that's about to roar through the Beltway.

I've found the full column from another couple of bloggers, Cyphering and The Political Puzzle, so click over there if you want to read the whole thing. (Or, you could go to the column itself at TimesSelect and buy a sub or start their 14-day free trial.)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Overheard on the El Today

According to a group of teenage girls of whom I couldn't get out of earshot, slide shows set to Green Day songs, particularly "Good Riddance" (which they referred to by its parenthetical title, "Time of Your Life"), are boring. Just a helpful pointer to anyone planning a slide show in the near future.

Blogger's Back to Normal

It appears that Blogger is operating correctly again. First, it had erased two entries I posted late Thursday night/Friday morning. Then, three times when I posted something new on Friday night/Saturday morning, the post would sit in the blog's top slot only to be replaced by the next new one as soon as it was posted. I ended up losing five posts in all, I think. This evening, when I posted my test to see what was going on, the original two Thursday night/Friday morning entries were back, and everything from last night had disappeared. I'd captured everything that seemed to be missing, and I've since reinstated them, marking them with their original time stamps.

I still don't know why Blogger went weird, but let's just hope that whatever it was, the program got it out of its system. I also don't know whether this was just something happening to me, or if other blogs powered by Blogger experienced similar problems. As long as it doesn't go wonky again, though, I'll be satisfied.


Testing, 1, 2, 3, 4. Check, check.

Blogger's Deleting My Posts--[UPDATED]

I don't know what will happen when I try to post this, but at this writing, Blogger has devoured three posts that were sitting happily on this blog--one or two of them had even generated comments. It's flashed back to Wednesday, September 28. I've posted four entries since then (this would be number 5). The second post currently showing on the page is the Ronnie Earle post. If that's still number two as you read this (if you read this), then Blogger has taken yet another post. I believe I've recaptured the missing posts, so if I figure out what's going on, I'll repost them. Or maybe Blogger will sort itself out and show them again. The comments, alas, may be gone forever, though. Wish me luck.

UPDATE--The problem seems to have gone away, and I've reinstated the devoured posts.

My Favorite Line of the Week

Thursday's hearing of the Senate Armed Forces Committee produced the best line of the week (beating out Tom DeLay's claim that he had no idea what he'd been indicted for). General George Casey, head of forces in Iraq, revealed that the number of Iraqi battalions capable of operating without any help from U.S. troops had fallen from three to just one. Susan Collins had a fabulous comeback: "That contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going. It doesn't feel like progress when we hear today that there is only one Iraqi battalion fully capable."

No, Sen. Collins, it doesn't feel like progress at all.