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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eugene McCarthy (3/29/16 - 12/10/05)

Eugene McCarthy died today at the age of 89. He was a gentleman to the end, a learned man, and one heck of a decent human being. The Washington Post has a lovely article up about his history and career, but I think this sums things up nicely in terms of who he was in everything he did:
A former college professor and novice in a Benedictine monastery, McCarthy had never marched in lockstep with the political chieftains of his day. He had a gentle demeanor, and it was often said that he had the heart and soul of a philosopher. He spoke with a cadence that sometimes made it seem as if he were quoting the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, and when he was at his best on the campaign hustings, he could stir the spirits and fire the imaginations of his audience.
The one thing that any of us can hope to have said about us when we pass is that we stood for something that mattered -- to us, and to those around us, and that we treated others with a gentle kindness and dignity. Eugene McCarthy was such a man, and he will be missed.


Bobo Spoils Munich

I've been dying to see Spielberg's Munich, and not just because I am shallow and Eric Bana is FUCKING HOT. Even though I was only a little kid at the time I well remember sitting in front of the television for hours on end watching the tragedy of the Israeli athletes take place in real-time, and the 1999 documentary recounting the events -- One Day In September -- is one of my favorite films. The Oscar it took that year was well deserved.

Leave it to Bobo Brooks to FUCK IT ALL UP. Even in his all-white mini van and pimento loaf fantasy world SOMEBODY must've heard of SPOILERS ALERTS, duh?
There is, above all, no evil. And that is the core of Spielberg's fable. In his depiction of reality there are no people so committed to a murderous ideology that they are impervious to the sort of compromise and dialogue Spielberg puts such great faith in.
And with that, we can safely infer that neither George Bush nor Dick Cheney appear in the film.

Asshole. There goes my Christmas Holiday season.


All the News That's Fit to...Plant

Psyops during a time of war can be an important part of any military operation. But after 9/11, the Bush Administration kicked the military psyops folks into a sort of hyper gear.

The NYTimes has a great piece on one unit in Fayetteville, NC, that does television and other journalistic reports for the US. And it makes for an unsettling, if not completely Orwellian, read.
"We call our stuff information and the enemy's propaganda," said Col. Jack N. Summe, then the commander of the Fourth Psychological Operations Group, during a tour in June. Even in the Pentagon, "some public affairs professionals see us unfavorably," and inaccurately, he said, as "lying, dirty tricksters."

The recent disclosures that a Pentagon contractor in Iraq paid newspapers to print "good news" articles written by American soldiers prompted an outcry in Washington, where members of Congress said the practice undermined American credibility and top military and White House officials disavowed any knowledge of it. President Bush was described by Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser, as "very troubled" about the matter. The Pentagon is investigating.

But the work of the contractor, the Lincoln Group, was not a rogue operation. Hoping to counter anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, the Bush administration has been conducting an information war that is extensive, costly and often hidden, according to documents and interviews with contractors, government officials and military personnel.

The campaign was begun by the White House, which set up a secret panel soon after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate information operations by the Pentagon, other government agencies and private contractors.
According to the NYTimes, Pentagon documents show that the Lincoln Group planted more than 1000 stories in Arab media outlets around the world. And it isn't just the Lincoln Group paying for stories -- the Army's psyops folks say they have issued payments as well to newspapers for running unattributed news pieces.

One has to wonder how much of this has WHIG and OSP fingerprints. Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if a light dusting showed a full complement of prints from all sides.

How much of this has Karen Hughes written all over it? How does this sit with her new position at State -- a job that requires her to have a working, trusting relationship with other nations? Nothing like a little propoganda machine to put the trust in a relationship, now is there?

Orwell wouldn't be shocked at all.

(Graphics love to Indiboi. And a big hat tip to reader Wilson for the link to the NYTimes article.)

UPDATE: Jeralyn has more.


Richard Pryor, 1940-2005

The great Richard Pryor died today:
There is an entire generation or two around today that don't really know Pryor in his prime, and it's hard to explain in retrospect. Sure, he brought the "N word" to vogue; but that doesn't even begin to touch upon the magic. He came off as a God child; angry and remorseful about the state of race relations, but at the same time amused and dismissive of it - he grasped the absurdity of it, and threw it back out there for people to see.

"Why they never have a hero - a black hero? I always wanted to go in the movies and see a black hero. I figured out maybe some day on television they'll have it, man - like you see on the television, they come out, 'Look- up in the sky! It's a crow! It's a bat! No - it's Supernigger! Yes, friends, Supernigger! Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound! Faster than a bowl of chitlins! We find Supernigger with his X-ray vision, that enables him to see through everything except whitey."

To say that Pryor's career skyrocketed would be an understatement. If all the researched dates are right, he would have reappeared in '72, went straight into "Lady Sings the Blues," for which he received an Oscar nomination, helped write Lily Tomlin's legendary TV special, was then up for the lead in "Blazing Saddles" but couldn't be used because of the controversial nature of his stand-up act, and instead co-wrote the film with Mel Brooks, then wrote for -and appeared on - "The Flip Wilson Show." Then he recorded his act and released "That Nigger's Crazy" in 1974, and busted the charts. The next year, he recorded live again and put out "Is It Something I Said?," and busted the charts. Again. The next year he felt patriotic and released "Bicentennial Nigger," and busted the charts yet again.

Then, in succession "Car Wash," "Silver Streak," "Which Way is Up?," "Blue Collar," "The Wiz," "Stir Crazy," "Bustin' Loose" and finally his amazing "Live on Sunset Strip" in 1982. Richard Pryor had done more than capture the attention of America; he had unlocked the door. The man who was "too controversial" to star in "Blazing Saddles" in 1974 had hosted the Oscars twice, appeared as a presenter twice more and guested on Johnny Carson three times. No matter what well-earned reputation he has in the pantheon of comedy, it has to be remembered how much he contributed towards the "normalization" of blacks in Hollywood.
Richard Pryor always knew better than to become too respectable, and maybe that was simply due to a massive self-destructive streak, I don't know. But one of the mistakes he never made was to become what he despised.

Sixty five years was just way too short.

Digby has more.


He-Men, Masters of the Universe

Of all the offensive vignettes about GWB I have read, TBogg reminds us of the one that just may be the worst. From -- of all people, Tucker Carlson, in 1999:
In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker's] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. "Did you meet with any of them?" I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. "No, I didn't meet with any of them," he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. "I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' "

"What was her answer?" I wonder.

"Please," Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, "don't kill me."

(When he sees Carlson's horrified reaction, Bush "immediately stops smirking": " 'It's tough stuff,' Bush says, suddenly somber, 'but my job is to enforce the law.'")
In California, Tookie Williams is scheduled to die on Monday night save for a decision made by another rich, entitled white man who is said to be concerned about the political ramifications of his actions. Meanwhile in LA they are worried about riots if Tookie is executed.

I wonder why.

(graphic by Monk at Inflatable Dartboard)


Culture of Corruption

Doesn't it seem lately that the Republican Party has issued some sort of directive asking its membership and people in leadership positions to skate as close to the line as possible, the hell with the consequences if they go over the line entirely so long as it benefits the party?

What happened to that grand "Contract with America," where Newt Gingrich and his merry band of dwarves were going to sweep out the "culture of corruption" in Washington and restore ethics and dignity? Well, that's been thrown into the mud while all the GOP hogs trample each other on the way to the trough, now, hasn't it?

-- Bloomberg is reporting this morning that the Abramoff case is about to split wide open. From my perspective, prosecutors have Abramoff in a good spot for negotiations, with his top deputies Scanlon and Kidan having already reached plea deals and rumors that a number of lawmakers, including Bob Ney of Ohio, also talking with the DoJ.

-- There is more on the DoJ Civil Rights division today as well -- and how the political appointees at Justice have been keeping their thumb on the career prosecutors. We've talked about this before here, but it is well worth keeping an eye on how this resolves -- and keeping the public pressure on Gonzales and company.

-- Oh, and we're still hiding prisoners from the Red Cross. Just call us the pinnacle of human rights...or not so much these days. Great way to win friends and influence people around the globe, by refusing to provide transparency and open justice.

-- And it isn't just those of us at FDL who have noticed. Take a peek at this from the Times UK online. Yep, well respected around the world.

(Photo courtesy of


Friday, December 09, 2005

Love Match

John Amato says Michael Isikoff and David Corn are collaborating on an upcoming book. Too bad Ladies of the Club is already taken.


The Curse of Celebrity Journalism

Jay Rosen has an excellent piece today on Bob Woodward and why his his much-vaunted "access" is more of a curse than a blessing, both for him and for us:
Woodward and Bernstein of 1972-74 didn'’t have such access, and this probably influenced -- —for the better -- —their view of what Nixon and his men were capable of. Watergate wasn'’t broken by reporters who had entree to the inner corridors of power. It was two guys on the Metro Desk. The more experienced White House reporters didn'’t think much of the story. Nor did they get wind of the extraordinary abuses of power that were going on at the time.


To say Woodward is where he always is (at the heart of things) denies that there's any price to access. It asserts -- falsely, I think -- —that if something as bad as Watergate were happening in Washington today Woodward would be the one uncovering it. I don'’t buy a word of what Powers is selling about his friend and benefactor, but then I didn'’t enjoy jock culture, either. That's what "Getting Bob" reminds me of: the twelth guy on the team bragging about the star player. And I don'’t think Bob Woodward is going to uncover what really happened during the two terms of George W. Bush.
He's right. Entering "the club" seems to come at the price of perspective. For Plan of Attack, Woodward conducted 75 interviews, all of them anonymously sourced except for two -- Bush and Rumsfeld. Nowhere in the book is mention made of, say, Richard Clarke. How are we supposed to evaluate the veracity of this information? Obviously the opinions of dissenters were not cultivated. I can't imagine historians are going to look back on this and view it as the valuable piece of insight Woody imagines it to be -- more like a sadly deluded hagiography by a purveyor of celebrity journalism who couldn't see the abject corruption of the worst administration in US history for his close proximity to it.


Monk: Straight, No Chaser

Our good friend Monk, the incredibly talented artist who creates many of the wonderful images we post here at FDL (including the one above) has taken some financial wallops of late. He's put a PayPal button up on his site, so if you appreciate his efforts please stop by and help him out with whatever you can afford.


What's In a Date?

I realize this may be arguing the fine points to the ultimate boredom of many readers, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Now that our earlier theory of conflicting stories for the conversation between Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin and Viveca Novak is apparently true, many fine minds in the blogosphere are advancing the notion that Luskin is the one arguing for an earlier January conversation (prior to Rove's first GJ testimony), and that this somehow serves Rove's purposes. Which would mean that Vivak is the one who is claiming that the conversation happened at a later time.

I just want to make sure I've got this straight. Robert Luskin walks into Patrick Fitzgerald's office and says "hey, I have this great defense. I had a conversation with this Time reporter in January, 2004 that will explain everything."

So Fitgerald says "great!," walks out the door and asks Vivac "to testify under oath about conversations she had with Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, starting in May 2004."

What am I missing?



Questions of the Day

Via today's Froomkin White House Briefing column, I'm pondering some questions. Just how far is this White House willing to go in using the public's money and bw willing to break it's own regs to promote its own political agenda? Does it matter to them that they may be pushing things past proper limits -- or is this even something that troubles anyone in this Adminitration?

I ask this, because Fox News has an intriguing article on its website regarding the use of the military as a political prop, and how this is a troubling development for some retired military personnel. (I know, I never thought I'd refer to a Fox article, either, but even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.)

Greg Kelly, the Fox writer, followed up his article with some questions for Scotty McClellan at yesterday's press briefing and, true to form, McClellan didn't really answer any of them. But that doesn't negate the question of how appropriate is it to use the nation's military personnel as a political prop -- over and over again -- when they are to serve ALL of the nation, and not just one party.
"This is a very bad sign," said retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, who led Central Command in the early 1990s and is an administration critic. "This is the sort of thing that you find in other countries where the military and political, certain political parties are aligned."....

"Where you have our uniformed members being put in a position where it looks like they're rooting for one side or another is very disconcerting," said Greg Noone, a former Navy lawyer.
When you add in the Social Security road trip, where the President held scripted "town hall" meetings with only the Kool-Aidiest of his supporters, hand screened by local GOP organizations, and using the Secret Service as his own personal bouncers (or at least people who pretended to be the Secret Service -- we still don't know the answers on the whole Denver mess, now do we?) you start seeing an odd pattern of staged propaganda appearances to shield either the public or the Preznit from any whiff of controversy or problems.

Political staging in this country is an art form. Since the advent of televised political shows, the sound bite has become the most sought after plum. But using substantial public money and military personnel who are required under orders to attend political events is at odds with military policy. Why does this particular Commander in Chief feel he is above the law, time and again -- on this issue and so many others?

Here's my response: this isn't a kingdom, it's a democracy. The laws apply to everyone, including King George. It's about damn time we started asking questions as to why he isn't following them.



This is exactly why the FBI and CIA agents who do interrogations argue that torture doesn't work. But worse, as Doug Jehl lays out in the NYTimes today, the Administration knew all along that the information was based on statements from a man who was fabricating information to make the torture stop -- and they made the case for war to the public using those very statements anyway.

Britain has rejected any testimony for any case that uses information obtained using torture techniques. Meanwhile, Condi Rice continues her "it's not torture, it's just really, really, really harsh interrogation" -- so much so, that we aren't allowing the Red Cross access to all of our prisoners. (And isn't that behavior going to come in mighty handy next time an American soldier or diplomat is held by some nasty foreign power?)

The Guardian UK has more. And now I have to take some migraine meds...this is giving me a massive headache.

UPDATE: Oh, and I heart Atrios.

UPDATE #2: CNN's Ed Henry is reporting that a deal has been reached between McCain, the WH (via Hadley) and the House on the Anti-Torture Amendment. And that McCain's initial version will be ratified as early as Monday. Interesting, and no word on any Cheney/Rumsfeld reaction to this development as yet. Sundays talking heads shows could get even more interesting...if there is actually some in-depth questioning and follow-up.


Casting a Wider Net?

Looks like the plea deal with Adam Kidan is closer to being finalized than we knew yesterday. That's good news for Federal investigators -- and very bad news for a number of members of Congress and their staffs.
Adam Kidan, a longtime confidant of Abramoff's, has agreed to testify against Abramoff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next month when he is to face trial on fraud and conspiracy charges in connection with their purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats. A Kidan plea would tie Abramoff's legal troubles in Florida more closely to the Washington investigation into his lobbying practices, pressuring Abramoff to reach a deal of his own that could implicate members of Congress and other government officials, lawyers involved in the case said.
Kidan is dealing with state murder charges on top of the Federal investigation, and likely wanted the Federal charges out of the way to concentrate on pinning the murder on Abramoff and his hired goons.

This makes two close Abramoff associates to cut deals in the last couple of weeks. With the Abramoff Florida trial set to begin on January 9, the window for deal cutting for Indian Money Jack is closing rapidly. Kidan has known Abramoff since their College Republican days (Wow, doesn't that group promote ethics and playing nice or what?), and has been involved in Abramoff's activities up to his eyeballs. Should make for some interesting cooperation, to say the least.

The WaPo article is well detailed, and an excellent overview of where things stand in this case at the moment. It makes clear that Rep. Bob Ney has been informed that a bribery indictment is hanging over his head, and that other members of Congress are under substantial scrutiny (along with current and former staffers) and other KStreet pals.

If you've missed this story up to now and are wondering how many tentacles reach into Congress and back out to KStreet:
Abramoff's SunCruz world frequently overlapped with his lobbying activities. For example, as the casino deal was closing, Abramoff introduced then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) to his lender in a private box at FedEx Field. DeLay's deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, was listed as a reference on loan papers, as was Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.). Kidan attended an exclusive party in DeLay's office on Inauguration Day 2001 in Washington. During the purchase negotiations, Boulis received from DeLay's office a flag that had flown over the Capitol.
And this is only a small glimpse. Josh Marshall has been on this story since day one, and has much more. Here's to the DoJ casting a fairly wide net.

UPDATE: For some more background on the Abramoff/Kidan connection and the issues surrounding the Boulis murder, take a peek at this.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Fear I've Lost the Plot

According to sources familiar with Rove's status, Luskin persuaded Fitzgerald in late October to postpone indicting Rove by alerting Fitzgerald to Luskin's previous conversation with Novak, among other things. Luskin argued that these private discussions helped show Rove did not intentionally conceal his conversation with Cooper from investigators. Rove has argued he forgot about the chat he had with Cooper on the phone in the summer of 2003.

Sources familiar with their conversations say Novak's and Luskin's accounts to Fitzgerald appear to conflict on when they spoke.
Ergo both Luskin and Vivac were deposed. But then it gets confusing:
A source familiar with Novak's account said she believes the conversation took place in March or May, and definitely took place after February 2004, when Rove first testified before the grand jury.

But one person close to the case said the conversation took place before Rove's first grand jury appearance in February. This person said the conversation was not the event that led Rove to change his testimony.
I thought I was doing pretty good last night to have sussed that Vivac's and Luskin's versions were quite different, but this one throws me. It makes absolutely no sense that Luskin would be the promulgator of the pre-February tale that is certainly in circulation. Hard to know what's truth, what's spin and what can be chalked up to the impenetrability of the moment. Hopefully NYT will have more details later on.

Update: NYT story is up but doesn't have anything new to add. Until further notice I'm sticking with my assessment of last night.


Some Great Overlooked Reads

There are several fantastic pieces out today, on fairly disparate topics, that I wanted to point out before the newswires start buzzing with more Traitorgate news and spin cycles. All of these are worthy of a thorough read and some serious discussion. Just the sort of evening fodder for this crowd.

-- Glenn Greenwald has a well-researched piece on the public commentary made by this Administration versus the public commentary made by government figures during the Vietnam War. It's an eerie read.

-- In the WaPo, William Arkin's Early Warning blog continues to be an exceptional and thought-provoking read. Today's topic on US torture policies, Condi's European trip and the non-oversight and non-discussion before the fact is intriguing and difficult -- and well worth some serious discussion.

-- Also in the WaPo, David Broder has a scorching op-ed regarding what passes as ethics in the House of Representatives these days.

-- For some insight on why those ethics issues may exist, take a peek at this TPM Cafe post.

-- A compromise on the Patriot Act may have been reached. Jeralyn has more.

-- Oh, and Tom Delay? He's having a very bad day according to the AP.

UPDATE: Missed this one, it's a heartbreaking report from All Things Considered (audio) via Roger Ailes blog.



Mr. Fitzgerald Goes To Town

Sounds like a very short chat. AP:
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald spent more than an hour Thursday morning at a law firm representing Viveca Novak, a Time magazine reporter whose testimony was being sought in the CIA leak case.

Fitzgerald and an associate emerged from the office of attorney Hank Schuelke at 11:30 a.m. EDT, declined to answer questions and rode away in a taxi cab. A short time later, a court stenographer left the building.

An hour later, Schuelke escorted Novak from the building and helped her flag a taxi. He declined comment when asked if she had provided sworn testimony in FitzgeraldÂ’s investigation of the leak of an undercover CIA agent’s identity.
I've heard that Vivac tried like hell to keep from having to testify under oath, but Fitzgerald was having none of it.

Meanwhile on MSNBC, David Schuster says that Rover indulged in something they are referring to as "rolling disclosure" -- each time he went before the grand jury he remembered a little bit more. Schuster also seems to indicate that Vivac's conversation with Luskin happened before Rove's first February, 2004 appearance before the grand jury, and that in this testimony Rove said the subject of Plame had come up briefly. This contradicts earlier reports by the WaPo that in his first GJ appearance "Rove testified that he did not recall talking to Cooper about Plame."

Boy we can only hope Team Rove presume the Special Counsel is the credulous bumpkin they clearly take the media and the public for.


It's a Jungle Out There

Can I just say it is absolutely crazy out there? Nobody involved in this little drama (except, we presume, Fitzgerald) has any clue what the hell is going on. I called around trying to nail down the CNN story about Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin being deposed last Friday and nobody else had even heard of it. My hunch is it's true, however, especially in light of what I suspect -- Vivac's and Luskin's recollection of when the conversation in question took place is quite different. Although the NYT originally reported that the conversation took place in "summer or early fall," sources there say that they now concur with the Dec. 3 WaPo story which reported the conversation took place prior to Rove's February grand jury appearance. Which blows Rover's defense all to shit.

Vivac's account will probably go up on Time's website this weekend. No news on the Woodward front. I'll give him this much, Woody seems to be as leak-proof as Fitzgerald.

Update: When I called NYT to ask what they'd heard about this CNN Luskin thing earlier in the day, they hadn't heard anything. But I just got this email from them: "hey, guess what, CNN was right about luskin's deposition." So there you have it.


Appalling, But Not Unexpected

According to The Hill, Liddy Dole and the NRSC, in what can only be described as an "I know you are, but what am I?" defense, have decided to try and pin the Abramoff influence buying scandal on...Democrats. Because, as the minority party, and a group that was specifically shut out of KStreet machinations by Abramoff and his buddy Tom Delay, were in such a position to hand out massive favors? Oh, puhleese.
Democrats said the GOP media campaign reflects fears that some Republicans who had not been deemed vulnerable might lose next year. Topping that list, these Democrats said, is Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who has been attacked for his connections to Abramoff.

Fears of a rout of Republicans next year, members of both parties say, have metastasized in recent months, as White House officials and congressional Republicans have been ensnarled in a series of investigations, court hearings and, in some cases, bribery charges, including White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and former vice president Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas), former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (Calif.) and Rep. Bob Ney (Ohio).

“Now that the Republicans have gotten their hand caught in the cookie jar, they are doing whatever they can to divert attention from the corruption that has become the defining characteristic of the GOP majority,” DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said. “It’s not going to work.”
When your strategy is to try and paint Harry Reid as dirty because he opposed Indian gaming the Senator for the State of Nevada, representing, oh, I dunno, Las Vegas?!? truly pathetic.

(Major graphics love to Originaldo.)


Well, Now Isn't This Interesting?

Buried quietly in the CNN story on Vivak's deposition today was this little nugget:
Fitzgerald deposed Luskin last Friday. Time and Luskin refused to answer CNN's questions about Luskin's conversation with Novak.
How intriguing. So, Luskin was deposed first on Friday. Fitz went back to the G/J for more than three hours yesterday. Then spoke with Vivak today.

Wouldn't you give a whole helluva lot to know what was discussed? Ooooh, I can feel the screws tightening.

UPDATE: Folks, just because Luskin (or anyone for that matter) is deposed, it doesn't mean that they are a target. (Or even close to being one.) It simply means that Fitz needed information they have for the furtherance of his investigation.

It is highly unusual, however, for an attorney for a potential target to be a witness. Normally, you simply take that attorney's word via a proffer of information and investigate from there. Judges are generally very reluctant to allow subpoena of an attorney for witness purposes unless (1) the client agrees and signs a waiver allowing such testimony (usually for particular evidentiary purposes) and (2) the testimony is necessary for a narrow evidentiary reason.

I can't help but wonder if this was voluntary testimony -- or if there was a motion to quash a subpoena somewhere that hasn't been reported as yet that Luskin lost. (And if so, what was the grounds for subpoena and the information requested?) That this hasn't been reported on lends weight to the voluntary nature of the proceedings as the likely explanation.

For my money, this may be an indication that we have differing stories between Luskin and Vivak -- and Fitz wanted both of them to be forced to tell them under oath. That puts a whole new level of truthful pressure on the storyteller, I can tell you that. Veddy, veddy interesting.

UPDATE #2: Something that I should have made clear earlier, but is done quite well by reader Thorny1:
A lawyer can also be deposed about something the lawyer knows that is not protected by the attorney client privilege--such as something that someone who is not the client may have said to the lawyer. OR something the lawyer observed.
This is absolutely correct. Vivak and Luskin could have discussed any number of matters outside of issues covered by attorney client privilege. And Luskin would be free at any time to discuss those -- and testify to them. But it does still raise a question regarding continued representation efficacy for an attorney who has now been required to give a deposition and might, potentially, become a witness should criminal charges be filed. This just smells more and more like a last ditch, all out save Rover's ass attempt to me. Will it work? Would Fitz call a G/J back in for more than three hours of discussion if he thought it was working? Guess we'll see...but my money is not on the smoke and mirrors act between Luskin and Rover.


The Emperor Has No...Audience

Via the fine folks at Think Progress, it turns out that the Council on Foreign Relations had trouble filling seats for the Preznit's speech there yesterday. And that empty seats in the back of the room had to be hastily removed prior to the start of the speech on television. Funny, I don't recall reporting on that yesterday.

Hmmmm...guess the MSM doesn't find the fact that the rank and file membership of a nonpartisan think tank refusing to show up en masse to a Presidential speech --perhaps in protest or disgust at Bushie's refusal to take any questions whatsoever in contravention of the organization's usual protocols -- newsworthy.

Well, I sure do. Good on ya, CFR membership. And Bushie? Try having an actual policy instead of just pretending. I find it makes you a whole helluva lot more credible with people who use their brains for a living.

UPDATE: Froomkin has an exceptional column up today. Great read.

Also, Forbes is reporting (along with CNN) that Fitz spent more than an hour with Vivak at her attorney's office this morning. Along with a court reporter, which would support the possibility of things being under oath, if definitely transcribed fully. No comments as anyone was leaving (via cab -- any cabbies out there want to spill, e-mail me!).


Your Move, Mr. Fitzgerald

It's the holiday season, and prosecutors and judges do not clog up court dockets lightly this time of year, mindful of the pressing shopping and family needs of staffs, jurors and others around the courthouse. It's a fact that the schedules are traditionally lighter this time of year (well, except for commercial attorneys who are all scrambling around trying to close matters for clients prior to the end of the tax year, but that is a whole 'nother matter entirely), other than criminal matters like shoplifting, DUIs and domestic batteries and assaults which all rise from Halloween through the New Year.

This tended to be when I scheduled a lot of plea hearings and other housekeeping issues, but we tried to keep trials off the docket if at all possible, for the practical fact that summoning a full compliment of jurors can be tough this time of year. (And as a personal plea, please take your summons for jury duty seriously. Having thoughtful, dedicated people on a jury can make a world of difference.)

That Pat Fitzgerald chose this point in time to go back to the Grand Jury with further information says a number of things to me. But most of all, it says that he has a heckuva lot more than any of us know about publicly -- and that he's very serious about bringing charges against someone (or someoneS).

And I'm not the only one who thinks so:
Randall D. Eliason, who headed public corruption prosecutions in the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, said Fitzgerald would not go through the trouble of repeating information to a new grand jury unless he is considering criminal charges or there are significant, potentially criminal matters he wants to resolve.

"The fact that Fitzgerald is going through the effort to re-present is certainly a sign that the investigation is active," Eliason said.
It also says to me that perhaps Mr. Fitzgerald has been given some additional information from a recently interviewed source. Booby? Vivaka? Some other cooperating witness? No idea -- but that pause that Rover was given? Might just be that indictment interruptus is back on the front burner.

One interesting tidbit in the WaPo story today:
The source, whose identity has not been revealed, had testified much earlier in Fitzgerald's investigation but did not mention the conversation, said two sources familiar with the investigation.
Well, that's certainly not good news for Woody's source. But it could explain why he has been so fervent in his characterization of the conversation as "gossip" -- protecting your access by covering the ass of your source is one way to *cough* practice journalism *cough* I suppose. But, unfortunately for Booby and his source, it is not a defense to an Espionage Act charge.

Vivak is scheduled to testify today via sworn deposition. There has been a lot of talk in the comments regarding her hiring an attorney well-versed in criminal prosecutions. I think it was a smart move on her part, actually. Anyone facing a prosecutor who is obviously so intent on his case would be wise to hire counsel who can guide them through the intricacies of criminal law -- and protect interests during any deposition.

Any time you give sworn testimony, you are at risk for charges if you speak out of turn, and Vivak is smart enough to understand that she needs legal counsel to prevent that from happening to the extent that is possible. I do not think that she is in any substantial legal jeopardy -- this is likely a protective action on her part -- but it certainly is a smart move. And one that likely made Luskin's spin job a bit more difficult as well.

One other tidbit that was brought to my attention by our wonderful reader Grampa, the Phillipine News online has a correction story up regarding Susan Ralston. It seems that the WH Media Relations staff took the time to phone the PN to let them know that Ralston is still at her desk working for the Preznit and Rove. Note that this was worded in the present tense and that the Commerce Dept. refused to comment, but still, at least Ralston is still in the WH at the moment.

That the WH felt the need to publicly comment on the disposition of a staffer is a bit odd. But perhaps Ralston, who has been at the epicenter of both Abramoff's and Rove's office machinations over the last few years needs to be treated like an upper level staffer in terms of protection. Or maybe it was the glare from yesterday's Froomkin column that pushed the matter into the open.

Jeralyn adds to the speculation on what Fitz may be up to with the latest G/J maneuvers. Her point on Luskin's non-statement statement is well taken -- no change in Rove's status really means not a whole lot of good news for Karl. Darn. (Can you hear the sarcasm in my typing?)

As for my predictions? I think Fitz is cooking up something big. He doesn't seem like the sort of guy who is wasteful of resources or the time of his staff or jurors. And pulling everyone back in to bring the G/J up to speed, to take new testimony via depositions or otherwise, and to put on a full court press in the middle of December -- well, that says more indictments to me. And it says that a whole lot of people in DC are in perpetual pucker mode.

Your move, Mr. Fitzgerald.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I don't have any reason to challenge the story in general circulation that Vivac is going to testify tomorrow because Luskin dragged her into the picture in the waning days of Scooter's gainful employment as a civil servant. Still unexplained is why it took Fitzgerald over a month to get around to interviewing her, but we'll cast that into the realm of the unexplainable for the moment and move onto more entertaining conjecture.

Time magazine disclosed on Nov. 27 that one of its reporters, Viveca Novak, would soon answer Fitzgerald's questions about conversations she had with Rove attorney Robert Luskin in 2004. Sources familiar with the case said Luskin told Fitzgerald in October that those conversations would help buttress Luskin's argument that Rove did not intentionally conceal his contacts with reporters from the grand jury.
When David Corn recounted his defense of Vivac, he indicated that there was just one conversation where she "pushed back" and said "this is not what I hear" after Luskin said he thought his client was in the clear. But the Nov. 27 Time article, and again the WaPo today, refer to "conversations." Plural. And seem to do so quite deliberately.

Fitzgerald originally asked for information on conversations taking place after May, 2004. A subsequent article in the NYT on December 2, 2005 -- which appear to have Luskin-esque sources -- said that:
Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, spoke in the summer or early fall of 2004 with Viveca Novak, a reporter for Time. In that conversation, Mr. Luskin heard from Ms. Novak that a colleague at the magazine, Matthew Cooper, might have interviewed Mr. Rove about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the case, the people said. (my emphasis)
But on Saturday, December 3, the WaPo reported that "the conversation" took place before Rove's grand jury appearance in February 2004, and appears to be quite Viveca-centric in its sourcing.

It would appear that Mr. Luskin and Vivac may have spoken more than once on the topic. And it seems likely that when Luskin offered up his good friend Vivac in order to save his client, he told Fitzgerald that the relevant conversation (or conversations) happened a good while after Rove's testimony in February, 2004 where Rove presumably did not tell the grand jury about the Cooper conversation, because Fitzgerald's request for information starts in May 2004.

One can only imagine that Mr. Fitzgerald's eyes lit up and his response to the Dec. 3 WaPo article was "WTF?" It also seems like Vivac's memories of her Luskin chitchats might differ dramatically from Luskin's. Was Luskin planning on her pegging him to a February, 2004 (or earlier) conversation when he thought she would provide testimony exonerating his client? Was Fitzgerald the only one who read the Saturday article and said "WTF?"

It sounds quite probable that Vivac might not be providing the Rove-friendly testimony his lawyer was hoping for. If indeed there were multiple conversations and Vivac's recollections don't support the tight timeline that lead to the Hadley email's discovery and Rove's recantation of his earlier testimony in the way that it seems like it was originally relayed to Fitzgerald, this whole thing may just have blown up in Rover's pasty face.


Could George Tenet Be Bob Woodward's Source?

I've heard some recent speculation that George Tenet might be Bob Woodward's source. I don't have any reason to think it is anything more than just that -- speculation -- but the possibility that it was Tenet is certainly interesting.

There are many who presume that Tenet was the original 1x2x6 leaker (that is, the one who told the Washington Post that two administration officials had leaked to six journalists), and there has also been much speculation that he has been cooperating with Fitzgerald all along. But Tenet is a slippery character whose loyalties are hard to pin down. To the best of my knowledge he's never denied anything, and during the time in question he most certainly had the requisite information.

So what do you think?


Will Rover Skate?

CBS News is reporting that Fitzgerald spent three hours with the grand jury today, accompanied by three deputies and an FBI agent. Since Judge Hogan's ruling last summer said that anybody testifying before the grand jury had to walk in through the front door, it's unlikely anyone made an appearance today and Fitzgerald was probably bringing this new grand jury up to speed on whatever it is he hopes to bring to them.

I also hear that Viveca Novak will be giving a deposition tomorrow, though not before the grand jury.

Lawrence O'Donnell sketches a withering indictment of Vivak's defense in this matter as laid out by her good friend David Corn:
Corn’s stated mission in this account is to prove what a good person and honorable reporter Novak is. “Novak wasn’t trying to tip off Luskin …” Uh huh. But she did. Why was a Time reporter discussing Time’s secret source with Rove’s lawyer? No other Time reporter did that. Corn’s Novak defense could not be more tortured. He says she didn’t know who Cooper’s source was, that she didn’t tell him anything, she just “pushed back.” Then he quotes another friend of Novak saying, “She assumed that Luskin did know about the Rove-Cooper conversation and that she was not telling him anything he did not already know.” So, according to that friend, Novak did know Rove was Cooper’s source and she did tell Luskin. With friend/defenders like these … Hey, I like Viveca Novak too. Everyone does. But in this case, she may have more to answer for than any other reporter involved.
He then goes on to detail just how he thinks Vivak's testimony might very well get Rover off the hook. And he might be right, but I have still not heard enough to convince me of the rectitude of this particular argument.

For Karl Rove to be able to recant his early testimony before the grand jury where he stated he did not remember his conversation with Matt Cooper, he has to be able to prove that he did not come forward because of the likelihood that his lie would be exposed.

I want to underscore this because it is critical and I think sometimes I take it for granted that people understand this. Vivac either did or did not tip off Luskin to the fact that his client was Matt Cooper's source, and it really doesn't matter whether his client had been forthcoming with him or not. The piece of information Luskin gleaned from this conversation is that Matt Cooper was not the only one who knew this, the story was in circulation and even if Cooper was successful in his bid to invoke journalistic privilege the story might out anyway. No matter what happens, O'Donnell is right. Vivac gave her good friend Luskin -- and I'm told they are very good friends -- extremely valuable information.

Because as a result, Luskin began to lay the groundwork for a plausible excuse that would serve Rove if he ever needed to recant -- the Hadley email. Now, nobody knows whether the Hadley email was given to Fitzgerald before or after Time Magazine and Matt Cooper lost their bid to quash the subpoena in October 2004. But the timing is quite convenient -- Rove appeared to correct his testimony two days later.

Further, if the WaPo is correct and Luskin and Vivac had their little highball gab fest prior to Rove's February 2004 testimony, they've got to explain why:

a) there's a 9-10 month delay until the email is produced and Rove recants
b) how Rove knew of Vivac's story and still went before the grand jury and didn't tell them about Cooper
c) his conveniently timed amnesia cure when it became evident that Cooper would have to testify, and
d) his refusal to grant Cooper a waiver for another ten months ('til July 2005) about a conversation he testified to in October, 2004.

I'm of the mind that Vivac's testimony makes Rove look more oily and guilty, not less.

O'Donnell also thinks that Fitzgerald will shy away from indicting someone as powerful as Rove if there is a plausible explanation for his behavior. I absolutely don't agree. Fitzgerald is dogged. He may not indict until he thinks he has enough to do so, but if he thinks Rove's guilty -- and my guess is he most certainly does or he would not still be pursuing him after two years -- he will keep digging and keep digging until he has enough to go after him.

I think Fitzgerald is perfectly happy to run around on Luskin's goat ropes because it gives him an excellent look into Rover's defense, and he can shape his indictment accordingly. If Luskin was so confident that this particular defense was exculpatory I think he would've offered it up long before the final days before Libby was indicted. I think he held onto it until the last moment because he knew it was incredibly dangerous, as likely to hurt his client as it was to help him, but he was willing to do anything at the last minute to keep Karl from being indicted on the same day as Scooter. In the smoke and mirrors world Rove lives in, appearances are everything and he was more than willing to roll the dice to push Libby out on that limb first.

And by the way, I admire Lawrence O'Donnell absolutely, and I know he has had much fun going back and forth with Luskin in the press. But I am more inclined to buy the Ryan Lizza portrait of Luskin than the full-lipped hummer he gets in today's WaPo.

Let's remember. If Luskin hadn't shot his big mouth off in the press, Matt Cooper might never have testified. If Rove skates, it might very well be due to Viveca Novak as O'Donnell speculates. But if he goes down, it's equally likely his own chatty lawyer had a hand in it.

Update: Over at the Agonist, Sean-Paul Kelly says DC bets are on Rover to be indicted.

And the NY Observer is saying that Vivac will testify tomorrow.


The Moral Low Ground

Lately, it's been one story after another on political corruption accusations, rumors of indictments, actual indictments, and plea deals among the GOP elites. It's getting so a girl can't keep up with the slime -- so I'm offering some hip waders and a primer for the less initiated among us. Wade in.

-- Have I mentioned that Fitz is back in front of a grand jury with his deputies and investigators on the Traitorgate mess today? Oh yeah, I did. The New York Times is reporting that Fitz and company spent almost three hours with the grand jury today. Oh, and that Rover and Bushie appear to have patched things up and made nice -- at least so long as the Preznit needs his brain to get past the low poll numbers (or until he's indicted, anyway).

-- Duke Cunningham looks like he isn't the only hog at the trough of defense contractor dollars. Ellen Miller has a list up at TPM Cafe. Josh Marshall is, of course, all over this story. Hello, Duncan Hunter, John Doolittle, Tom Delay, how's the weather? Enjoy it while you can.

-- Speaking of Tommy Boy, House Republican leadership types are leaving his job open in case his money laundering charges evaporate before January 31st. Hmmm...nothing better than a majority leader with multiple criminal investigations and an indictment hanging over his head.

-- Voting machines are back in the news again. Here's hoping for some action with teeth in it, instead of the usual gumming up the political works with spin and baloney.

-- Robert Scheer has a great summary of all the corruption sewer of the Abramoff mess in his SFChronicle editorial. Well worth a read.

-- And speaking of excellent reads, if you miss this Wolcott gem, you'll be sorry. Go and read it.

(Graphics love to 2politicaljunkies.)


In Memorium

I don't know about all of our readers, but Pearl Harbor has some serious significance in my family. One of my Great Uncles was on the Arizona, and survived the day. He still won't talk about his military service and what happened to the guys who didn't make it without substantial amounts of whisky, and even then it's a grudging discussion.
The Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other military bases on Oahu lasted two hours, leaving 21 U.S. ships heavily damaged and 323 aircraft damaged or destroyed.

It killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178.
Pearl Harbor was a direct attack on American soil. People in this country responded to this threat by sacrificing everything -- their family members, their lives, moving heaven and earth into the war effort, everything for the cause of fighting against what they saw as tyranny and wrongful actions on the part of the Axis powers.

In that case, America attacked only after provocation, which had been our policy until the current Administration decided otherwise in attacking Iraq in 2003. The Preznit gave what he called a major address today outlining his latest attempt to whitewash the piss poor job that he and his surrogates have done in prosecuting a war that we never should have started in the first place.

Afghanistan? We're still fighting the Taliban there, a group which harbored actual terrorists and which has had a resurgance in the past few months.

And Iraq? Well, Jack Murtha pretty much covered his thoughts on that again today.

Our military deserves better than what they are getting today. Those who serve this nation do so at great risk to their own safety, and at a cost that is very high to them and their families to protect the rest of us at home. To send them into a war that need not have ever been fought, on what we now know was false pretext, and without any real plan on how to truly accomplish whatever the mission might be (it changes so frequently these days, I don't even want to guess what the current edition happens to be) -- well, it's unconscionable.

The greatest generation is dying out. Those who served at Pearl Harbor and the Battle of the Bulge and on D-Day and all those other enormous and significant battles put their butts on the line so that this nation could remain free from tyrranny. Today's military puts their butts on the line so the Preznit can save his political ass. What's wrong with that picture?

UPDATE: John from Crooks and Liars has the video up of Murtha's speech. Well worth the watch, if only to see the intensity with which he gives his response. And note that he takes questions afterward. Hmmmm...oh, yeah, that's right. He can actually answer them.


DC Love Match: Unka Karl and Gold Bars Luskin

Even as the indictment drums beat again at the courthouse, the WaPo has an enormous puff piece on Karl Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin this morning, who seems to think his own apple needs a press polishing these days. He tells them to laud him as the perfect attorney for Karl Rove because he "knows how to do the sharp lawyering required to wage a strong criminal defense -- all the while nudging reporters toward his position, attempting to soften public perception of Rove and getting out his client's side of the story," and as if to prove the point they quite dutifully transcribe it.

But we think they get to the "perfectly suited" bit a little further down in the story:
Luskin had to do a lot of spinning for himself when the U.S. attorney in Rhode Island accused him of "willful blindness" for accepting 45 gold bars worth more than $505,000, as well as Swiss wire transfers of $169,000, for his work on the case of a precious-metals dealer convicted of laundering millions in drug money. In 1998 Luskin settled with the government, forfeiting $245,000 in fees.

Luskin says he did due diligence to assure that the money he got was legit, even if it was paid in "a somewhat unusual fashion," but now admits it looked bad. "I kind of got lost in what I thought were the legalities of the situation and didn't take a step back and say, you know, how would people regard something like this?"
In old "Gold Bars Luskin," it sounds like Rove found the perfect, morally flexible counterpart to do what it takes to get him off the hook. And as for his "skill" in handling the press, it seems about as ham-handed as Karl's own efforts.

According to the NY Observer this morning, Luskin is still angry at Matt Cooper because "[i]t just looks to me like there was less a desire to protect a source." Maybe he's still just a tad scalded because he blabbed to the press that "[i]f Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, itÂ’s not Karl heÂ’s protecting," and Cooper's lawyer seized on it to get his client a waiver?

Sounds like the skillful press manipulator's attempt to provide appropriate lighting for his client might be the very thing that leads to a big, fat indictment for Unka Karl to chew on.

Are they attempting to redefine "skill" as a bunch of high priced, loud-mouthed wankery that plays right into the Special Counsel's hands?


Nope, No Cronyism Here...

Haley Barbour's relatives secured some of those no-bid contracts awarded in Katrina's wake in the Gulf Coast. A whole lotta contracts.
...$6.4 million in contracts received by her company, Alcatec L.L.C., have also elicited questions about possible favoritism....According to a review of federal contracts awarded since Hurricane Katrina, her company ranks seventh in total contracts out of 88 Mississippi-based concerns that have received deals worth $100,000 or more.
The most valuable of these contracts was awarded in September and October when the government was handing out candy-coated no-bid contracts to its pals.

Both Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and his niece-in-law say that their family relationship, Gov. Barbour's former RNC chairmanship, and their connections to the Administration's GOP hierarchy had nothing to do with her shower contracts whatsoever -- especially those plum, no-bid ones. (Wonder if Harriet vetted the contracts for the WH?) Nope, no cronyism here.

UPDATE: Oh, and what is Barbour doing today? He's on the Hill, according to an update from CNN, complaining about money being stuck in Congress for reconstruction efforts in the Gulf Coast. Last I checked, Republicans were in charge of both Houses of Congress and the White House -- guess the reconstruction efforts got stuck in the same in box as the failing grade requests for updates after 9/11. Oh yeah, I'm feeling loads safer. *snerk*

UPDATE #2: For those who have been following the Murtha story, Cong. Murtha will be providing a Democratic response to the Preznit's CFR speech -- CNN reports that the Murtha response will occur around 1:30 pm ET.


He's Baaaaack

Guess who? Fitzy is back before the grand jury today, along with several deputies and lots of briefcases full of material, according to the WaPo and CNN.

No news as yet whether testimony will be presented today (NOTE: And when I say testimony here, I mean from witnesses other than Fitz and deputies and investigators.), but we'll certainly update as we learn anything. In the meantime, check your popcorn supply -- it could be a banner week.
Fitzgerald, accompanied by several deputies seen carrying files as they walked into the grand jury area of the courthouse, made no comment to reporters about the nature of his visit.
Oh, and if you live in the D.C. area, just a warning: antiacids may be in short supply for a while. Mwee hee.

UPDATE: Hat tip to reader Wilson for the link to this NY Observer piece on Vivak, Luskin and Time's management of sources. Interesting stuff.

UPDATE #2: And isn't this interesting? No idea how much weight to put on this since the article notes that the WH and Commerce Department is confirming nothing at this point and it appears based on a single "source close to Ralston", but the timing of this article (if it is correct) is quite intriguing. Seems that the Philippine News online is reporting that Susan Ralston has left Rove's office due to *cough* too much pressure. Hmmmm....would that be from the Abramoff investigation or the Traitorgate one? (Hat tip to reader Carrie for the link.)


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Late Nite at FDL

-- TBogg sends this along for the true Fitzgerald fans. BTW I'm pretty sure it was skin cancer and not adult onset acne, but regardless you can rest assured that with democracy hanging in the balance and all I would've done a full-on Edina Monsoon and barred the door until I'd had my way with a little Chanel concealer and some T. Le Clerc powder but this is probably why they feel adequate to handle things without the benefit of my help.

I'll just save democracy from over here.

-- Here's a spiffy photo of our good friends Johns Taylor and Amato (of Crooks & Liars fame).

-- Brian Linse says OG Blogger Mickey Kaus is on talking about Tom Maguire and FDL and giving us props for being on opposite sides of the political fence but working from the same set of facts to try and get at some kind of truth. It's a nice bit, and your chance to see Mickey Kaus live. Roger, are you there?

-- Several bloggers have made their way onto Cafe Press stamps, t-shirts and holiday ornaments. Digby is chortling that I am an angel. I guess until "shady character smoking unfiltered Gauloise and playing midnight baccarat while breaking up Chinese high-tech spy rings" becomes appropriate for Christmas ornamentation, a snowman will just have to do.


Five Big Ones

Proving that it is possible to talk out of every orafice and still not be honest, the Preznit and Congress were awarded five big, fat Fs for failure to take adequate steps for security by the 9/11 Commission. (Which had to secure private funding to keep up its watchdog activities, since Congress and Bushie didn't want anyone actually performing oversight on their failure to do any work.)
F's were cited for the lack of an adequate radio band for first responders, poor airline passenger pre-screening, the "burying" of the overall intelligence budget within the defense budget, and coalition standards for terrorist detention.

The report card gave an F to Congress for allocating homeland security funds "without regard for risk, vulnerability, or the consequences for an attack."
Nothing like a little pork with your security preparedness planning.

The NYTimes has more, including specific criticism of the Administration's detainee policies (or lack thereof). Specifically, the commissioners point to the fact that our detainee policies make it even more difficult to forge intelligence and other alliances that are vital in tracking al quaeda and other terror groups -- in the very nations with which strong alliances are necessary for our own security. Well, duh. But there it is...someone please pass this along to the Preznit, because I'm tired of having to repeat it.

With a grand total of 17 Ds and Fs (warning: PDF of entire commission report), do you think we might get some work out of the Administration and/or Congress after their lengthy winter break? Yeah, I didn't think so either.


Mata Whori Rides Again

I'd heard Vanity Fair was trying desperately to get Judy Miller to write a deep dish piece for them, but I guess they were unsuccessful and instead got Seth Mnookin. Still nothing from either Judy or Pinch himself, but looks like plenty on-the-record disgust from her colleagues. I remember reading that story about Judy's glorious return to the newsroom and thinking "my God, they must've kidnapped their kids."
Mnookin describes step-by-step how the reporters, including Don Van Natta and Janny Scott, were picked to write that October piece and how Miller often failed to cooperate fully with them. She allegedly refused to talk to Scott because she had not bothered to write to her in jail.

Von Natta talks about Miller putting him off even as she had time to talk with Lou Dobbs and Barbara Walters. "That was pretty amazing to me," he tells Mnookin, author of "Hard News," the recent book about the Jayson Blair/Howell Raines blowout. "I'm a colleague of hers, I'm trying to get an interview, and she doesn't have time for that, but she has time for Barbara Walters."

Von Natta came to believe that what Miller was saying at the time was so "preposterous" she must be "saving it all for a book.”

The Vanity Fair article reveals that the Times team actually finished a draft of that piece exactly a week before it appeared. Adam Liptak, one of the team members, recalls printing it out at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning and reading it in the cab home, before deciding, "This thing sucks and I don't want my name on it. ... There was no logical reason why she couldn't tell us her testimony." So it went through another week of drafting, with Miller finally convinced, partly on the advice of her Times friend David Barstow, to reveal her grand jury testimony.

Elsewhere, Mnookin pulls no punches in stating that over the years Miller "had built a reputation for sleeping with her sources," had dated one of Sulzberger's best friends, Steve Ratner, "and had even, for a time, shared a vacation home with Sulzberger," whatever that means.

He hits Sulzberger hard with quotes from various unnamed Times people, who say things like, "Post-Howell, Arthur and Judy were both looking at resurrecting their reputations. And Arthur was so oblivious he didn't care about the repercussions."
Like her WoodMill counterpart, I guess Judy is holding back all the sizzle for her own book deal, which there is reportedly abject little interest in outside of fellow sex-in-disaster aficionado Judith Regan. I think they should collaborate, something catchy like War Tips for Hot Chicks: Gettin' It On at Ground Zero and the Green Zone.

I know, I know. They can thank me later.


Strip Search Sammy Saves Christmas

It looks like they're relaunching Alito:
"Liberal groups like People for the American Way and the A.C.L.U. have opposed public Christmas and Hanukkah displays and even fought to keep Christmas carols out of school," declares a radio commercial paid for by the conservative Committee for Justice beginning Monday in Colorado, Wisconsin and West Virginia, states whose senators are considered pivotal votes on Judge Alito.

"Some courts and judges have supported this radical agenda, but not Judge Sam Alito," it continues. "Throughout his career, Judge Alito has consistently upheld the Constitution's protection of free religious expression."
I guess this is an attempt to "shore up the base" but things can get a little sticky when you inherit your wedge issues from Bill O'Reilly. The super social conservatives, the really repressed fundie freaks who screech on cue whenever Ralph Reed says "Indian Gambling" think Christmas is an attempt to commercialize the birth of Jesus with secular symbols (you know, like Santa Claus). I'm not sure if they're going to rally behind Strip Search Sammy for making sure Rudoph stays in Macy's and they damn sure don't care about the right of Muslim police officers to wear beads.

It's more of an issue for O'Reilly viewers -- the Velveeta and Wonderbread set who don't really pay a lot of attention to the Supreme Court and just tune in to see Bill get hot under the gyros. Maybe I'm making too fine a distinction between loons here. I mean, Dobson gives it the knuckledragger seal of approval. But I've just always thought of it as more of an opportunity to enfranchise the middle rather than rally the true snakehandlers who will spend their last nicklel to see the embryo killers burn in hell.

Whatever. Maybe it will turn Alito into a national hero. In the mean time I'm bucking for a seat on the War on Christmas steering committee. I'm thinking my superior hillbilly fundamentalist bona fides may just put me over the top.


George Avoids Questions Whenever Possible

According to today's Froomkin (and its a good one -- go read it!), Bushie will be speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations tomorrow, in his second of four planned speeches on the Iraq mess.

The format of his speech is a bit odd -- in an unusual move for the critical think tank, Bush is being allowed to speak without taking any questions afterward. He's just going to speak and go.

Awwwww, poor wittle Georgie is scawed of dee big intewectual qwestons.

The big question in my mind? What the hell is the Council on Foreign Relations doing allowing themselves to be used as a prop in the Preznit's "propaganda campaign to call a mess a success"?

Of course, the intellectual set will applaud politely to the end of the speech, out of respect for the Office of the Presidency. The Preznit will get his video clip of people being polite and spin it as agreement.

I mean, please, I'm not asking for boos or unsportsmanlike conduct -- but can you at least make him earn any sparse applause he gets? For heaven's sakes, even the Preznit ought to earn his marks, just like the rest of us. Even if he is acting like a big ole chicken by running from any questions he might not like -- heaven forbid that critical thinking might actually occur on his watch.

(Graphics love to And a less scary graphic for reader Harry.)

UPDATE: btw, so you don't miss it, Froomkin also has a fantastic poll summary in today's column. Thumbnail sketch: things look crappy for POTUS. Guess not taking questions keeps Bubble Boy from learning that he's losing friends and not influencing many people.


Dang! No Time for Shopping? This Trip Sucks!

Poor Condi. In Europe before Christmas (No saying "holidays" for this Secretary of State, thank you! It's not a religion, it's a lifestyle!), and no time for shopping.

Poor Condi has been spending her time issuing non-denials about CIA torture and secret prisons and renditions, trying to make nice with allies we've been...erm...deceiving, and attending press conferences where the newly minted German Chancellor publicly upbraided the United States for unlawfully detaining a German national.

How is Condi supposed to do her Christmas shopping for her husband's Bushie's present when she actually has diplomacy to do and stuff? Man, this trip is sucking.

UPDATE: Warning: Take blood pressure meds before reading this. (Hat tip to reader Percy for the link.) Some days being less informed looks more and more enticing -- but then, what would I do with all my free time?


Coal In His Stocking?

The latest ruling in the Delay case is in -- and things don't look great for The Bugman. According to the WaPo, the felony money laundering charge stands, dashing Delay's hopes of regaining his leadership position before the New Year.

Because there's nothing better in your leadership than damaged goods with the possibility of more indictments hanging over his head. Erm...what does Delay have on the whole of the Republican caucus that he thought would force him back into power, anyway, after all of this? Especially with the Abramoff investigation closing in on his KStreet machine?

But back to Texas. It sounds like Judge Priest thinks the money laundering charge has some meat to it.
If the state can prove that "these defendants entered into [such] an agreement . . . then they will have established that money was laundered. The money would have become 'dirty money' at the point that it began to be held with prohibited intent," Priest wrote in his decision, which he posted on his Web site and filed with the court clerk in late afternoon.
Delay is being told that he has until January to clear this mess up (not gonna happen) or there will likely be an election to permanently replace his leadership position (et tu Blunt?)

Oh, and the final lump of coal for Tommy Boy? He's currently polling at 36% in his district for re-election. I do believe in Santa. I do. I do.

[And a personal big thanks to Jane for the fabu (and exhausting) job of blogging alone while I was on my trip. It's awfully good to be back.]


Monday, December 05, 2005

And Just When That Racial Profiling Thing Was Working So Well

Muriel Degauque, believed to be the first European Muslim woman to stage a suicide attack, started out life as a good Roman Catholic girl in this coal mining corner of Belgium known as the black country. She ended it in a grisly blast deep inside Iraq last month.

Ms. Degauque, 38, detonated her explosive vest amid an American military patrol in the town of Baquba on Nov. 9, wounding one American soldier, according to an account received from the State Department and given to the Federal Police in Belgium.

Her unlikely journey into militant Islam stunned Europe and for many people was an incomprehensible aberration, a lost soul led astray. But her story supports fears among many law enforcement officials and academics that converts to Europe's fastest-growing religion could bring with them a disturbing new aspect in the war on terror: Caucasian women committed to one of the world's deadliest causes.

European women who marry Muslim men are now the largest source of religious conversions in Europe, the experts say. While a vast majority of those conversions are pro forma gestures for moderately religious in-laws, a small but growing number are women who willingly adopt the conservative comportment of their fundamentalist husbands.

Most of those in the conservative ranks are motivated by spiritual quests or are attracted to what they regard as an exotic culture.

But for some, conversion is a political act, not unlike the women who joined the ranks of South American Marxist rebels in the 1960's and 1970's.

"They are people rebelling against a society in which they feel they don't belong," said Alain Grignard, a senior official in the antiterrorism division of the Belgian Police. "They are people searching through a religion like Islam for a sense of solidarity."
I have no idea why this is happening, except to say that when the power structure is exceptionally fucked up people are drawn to all sorts of weird extremes as a form of rebellion (and by that I mean the blowing yourself up part). And then some people are just crazy. But now that the Face of Extreme Islam is no longer conveniently brown, I've got twenty bucks on The Corner to be the first to Blame It On The Feminists.

And I don't mean to mock the tragedy. I mean to mock those who will most certainly exploit it in an attempt to put down women for demanding dignity for themselves.

So anybody want to go 2:1 on Cap'n Ed?


And the Winner Is....

Our good friends over at Crooks & Liars are up for the Best Video Blog award over at the 2005 Weblog Awards, and we urge you to take a moment and go over and vote for them. The General is up for Most Humorous Blog, James Wolcott is up for Best Media/Journalist Blog, and both TBogg and Jeralyn are up for Best Liberal Blog. There are many fine blogs in the Best Blog category (I myself voted for Atrios, who as far as I'm concerned after this week of blogging by myself is an iron man) but since Michelle Malkin is winning I urge you to go over there and exercise your discretion in any way you see fit. She really shouldn't be encouraged. (NB: It has been brought to our attention that both Needlenose and Roger Ailes are up for Best 501-1000 Blog. Since we are totally torn over that one we leave it to you, but recommend checking them both out in any event.)

And I did not realize it until I started poking around, but firedoglake is nominated for Best of the Top 250 Blogs. I'm not even sure what that means but I don't really care, we've never won a blog award before and it sounds good to me.


The Misery of Duke

Howie Klein has a good roundup of Duke Cunningham's shenanigans, including a link to a site that lets you listen to MP3s of the Dukester in all his wingnut glory:
Mr. Cunningham, who underwent prostate surgery in August, compared prostate cancer treatment to gay anal sex before the above-mentioned group of elderly cancer patients at Alvarado Hospital. Cunningham said no man would enjoy prostate cancer treatment “unless he’s Barney Frank.”
But Howie also points us to the Washington Blade, who now claim that the Dukester is yet another self-loathing GOP closet queen. Oh please. This cliche is growing a bit threadbare, don't you think?

(hat tip Johnny Wendall)

Update:: Okay, let me spell it out. It's not the story that's a cliche, it's the being a self-loathing GOP closet queen that's cliche. I thought that would be obvious from the many, many posts I have done on the topic of hyporcritical, repressed Republicans, but I guess I need to be more vigilant about ambiguity these days.


A Few Questions for Viveca Novak

Well Viveca, your good friend Robert Luskin seems to have catapulted you into the middle of political bedlam. How exactly does one get through this present situation with one's journalistic integrity intact? Judy Miller and Bob Woodward have subsequently rendered their credibility insufficient to hawk the Popeil Drain Buster and offer no guidance. Matt Cooper, having had the foresight to understand that the leak was a "War on Wilson" and having written the first (and best) account of his grand jury testimony, offers a road map.

Your friend David Corn admirably leapt to your defense, referring to you as "my old friend Viveca Novak, a kick-ass reporter for Time magazine." He claims that Luskin was a longtime source of yours and "not a close friend (as has been wrongly reported)," without mentioning that the day before he was the one who wrongly reported it. Never mind the fact that Corn, approaching 50, uses the phrase "kick-ass" without irony as if he were still lighting a match at a Foghat concert.

We applaud his chivalry and are willing to overlook the fact that his blog now appears to be written by Harriet Miers. But it does raise the awkward question -- what exactly was your relationship with Robert Luskin? We will do you the courtesy of presuming you were not buttering each other's toast at the St. Regis like Scooter and Judy, but where does it fall along the contiuum, say, from narc/snitch to "let's load up on Manhattans and hit the handbag sale at Barney's?"

So in the spirit of being helpful we offer up a few suggestions for questions it would be nice to have answered in your upcoming piece for Time, which we read will be forthcoming after you tell-all to Patrick Fitzgerald:

1. When and where did the fated "over drinks" conversation with Luskin take place, and what did you say that purportedly "tipped him off?" How many drinks had you had and did it affect your judgment? Did you in any way indicate you knew who Cooper's source was? It's been reported that when Luskin said Karl was out of danger your response was "that's not what I hear." What were you trying to garner from him? Isn't that a tip-off pure and simple? Didn't he get more out of you than you got out of him?

2. Did you go back to your editors immediately afterward and say "hey, funny thing, you'll never believe what Rove's lawyer says..." Or did the significance of the encounter not occur to you at the time? If it DID occur to you and you DIDN'T speak up, why the delay?

3. How exactly did you know Matt Cooper's source? When did you know it? How widely was it known around Time?

4. Did you wait until it became apparent that your colleague would very likely go to jail for a man who never intended to give him a waiver before you went to your editors and said "hey, I don't know exactly how this fits in, but before they ship Matt off to some Romanian gulag for waterboarding I thought I should mention...?" Or did you wait until after July 2005 to mention this all to your editors?

5. Why aren't you fighting talking to Fitzgerald? Why isn't Time, Inc.? Why comply without even so much as a brief? Is it because Luskin was not a confidential source? If he wasn't, what was he?

6. Will you turn over notes as well? If so, what is contained in those notes? Will you publish at least part of them?

7. When will you testify? Where? Will you tell us if you refused to answer any questions?

8. Who is your lawyer? How long has he/she represented you and is Time, Inc. paying for them?

9. Have you had any previous formal or informal communication with Fitzgerald or his staff prior to this point?

10. When did Luskin inform you that he was going to Fitzgerald about your conversation? Did it put a crimp in your relationship? Did you ask him not to?

11. Please describe your friendship with Luskin. Have you ever had, say, a social dinner or Cosmos with him or been to his home or had him to yours for a social visit?

12. How do you feel about claims that you will now provide the backbone of Karl Rove's defense? I mean, Karl Rove. The man who was perfectly happy to cause a First Amendment crisis over a conversation he'd already testified about? The man who spends his days trying to shred the Bill of Rights into a tidy heap of cat box litter? The man who would have happily seen your colleague rot in prison to save his sorry ass? David Corn says you're not a resident of wingnuttia, and this we believe. It's got to rankle.

13. Did you apologize to Time, Inc, your editors, and to Matt Cooper? Do you think you owe it to them? If not, why not? If tipping off Luskin was in the service of reporting, what did you as a reporter and Time Magazine get out of it?

14. Will you sit for interviews with serious reporters (and by that we don't mean Larry King) or will you hide out like Bob Woodward?

15. Who will pay your legal bills? Assuming there is a clause in your contract that requires employees to act in good faith before the employer assumes their legal bills, do you think that Time, Inc. should have to pay yours?

16. Did you ever mention to anyone else besides Luskin either personally or professionally that you knew who Cooper's source was?

I think you have a really wonderful opportunity here Viveca to go to school on Woodward and Miller who denied their own culpability and ratholed the juicy bits for fat book deals that may never materialize and blamed it all on Patrick Fitzgerald, with predictably disastrous results. Bob Woodward is looking at life in the remainder bin while Judy Miller will probably languish in the Regnery ghetto or battle Kay Grogan in some steel-cage death match for column inches over at Renew America. But even if those options were available, it is unimaginable that you -- or anyone -- would want them.

Your upcoming reconciliation of all these disparate threads is anxiously awaited.

By the way, did any of this come up in your interview with Bob Woodward?