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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Late Nite FDL: Bitches Brew

And you thought we'd forgotten Barbara Comstock. Fat chance. She may be busy doing opposition research into Patrick Fitzgerald and his witness list on behalf of Scooter and the bear, but people like Valley Girl and Alison K. have been doing opposition research into her.

Turns out she's bosom buddies with none other than fellow wingnut ogress Alice Fisher. From Roll Call, January 9, 2006 (Lexis/Nexis):
It's Washington. Eyebrows were raised last month at just how cozy things were at the Justice Department's Christmas party. Most notably, between Alice Fisher, the newly installed head of the Criminal Division, and her old buddy Barbara Comstock, a strategic public relations and lobbying consultant who represents two of the biggest Republican fish caught up in the corruption scandals engulfing Washington.

Comstock, a lobbyist at the Blank Rome Government Relations firm, represents indicted ex-veep Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, as well as DeLay, who's already been indicted in Texas and is treading choppy waters in the Congressional bribery scandal. Her longtime close friend Fisher, well, she has the ultimate say over which public officials are gonna get fried.

According to partygoers, the DOJ Christmas party was like a fish fry, with Comstock almost (though, come on, not really) like a PETA activist fighting to spare the lives of the Libbyfish and DeLayfish. One attendee described the party as "Lobbyist City" and said Comstock was "very conspicuous, buzzing around Alice." The term "nauseating" was also used to describe Comstock's palling around with the Criminal Division chief.

Comstock declined to comment. But her former colleague at Justice Mark Corallo did a heckuva job speaking for her.

Corallo is to Karl Rove what Comstock is to Libby; he's the flack for Rove's legal team. Maybe all that breath holding and praying that the man President Bush dubbed "Turd Blossom" doesn't get indicted has turned Corallo into some kind of neo-feminist, because Corallo thinks Comstock might be the latest victim of the Old Boys' Network's double standard. (Shocking. In Washington?)

He said he certainly didn't hear the boys complaining about him attending the solicitor general's Christmas party.

"I feel slighted," Corallo said, laughing. "No one raised eyebrows about me." He said "almost every lawyer" invited to the DOJ or the solicitor general's parties "inevitably have business before the Justice Department."
How is it that the people who regularly take a sledge hammer to the word "feminism" are so quick to invoke it whenever their tits are in a ringer? Must be convenient to have a mouth you can talk out of on both sides at the same time.

As Redd said, Comstock's history at the DoJ is a complete conflict of interest with her current job on Team Libby:
Whether or not it is "just fundraising," it is still wrong. Comstock would have been privy to high level meetings about the information gathered by the FBI, how the DoJ could best publicly respond to questions about Rove, Libby and other members of the Administration and their conduct -- and to do so, she would also have likely had contacts with the FBI investigators heading up the search for information. Think that kind of information wouldn't be valuable to Team Libby?

A way to look at it is this: if you were a corporate defense counsel, working for Corporation X, and you left the firm to work as plaintiff's counsel, you ought to be barred from participating in any way in any cases involving Corporation X. You would have intimate, behind-the-scenes knowledge not only of how your former firm operates, but also what kind of advice they have given on settling claims, what sort of risk averse or risk positive strategy your former client has, what they do in terms of investigation, etc., etc.

In Comstock's case, she would have intimate insights into how investigators approached the Traitorgate case from the outset. And how the DoJ managed crisis issues internally. And how the communications went between DoJ and the WH in those early days. And...well, you get the picture. This just screams "appearance of impropriety," doesn't it?
One would think the Virgina Bar Association might have something to say about this.

On the Ciro Rodriguez front, Kos tells us the campaign is going to be doing some remote phone banking. If you can afford the time you can sign up here. If you don't have the time but can afford the cash you can give here (we've now raised $18,478 for Ciro on this site alone). It's a great cause and if Barbarella knew you were doing it I'm sure she'd be outraged.


Straddling the Corruption Stallion?

A former defense contractor for MZM pleaded guilty on Friday to paying bribes in excess of $1 million dollars to Duke Cunningham, according to the LATimes. What interested me even more in the article was this segment:
He also hired the son of a defense official and got inside information that allowed him to land contracts for MZM.

In addition, Wade funneled $80,000 in contributions to two unnamed members of Congress by illegally reimbursing MZM employees for making the contributions. The lawmakers, officials said, were unaware of the scheme. Federal Elections Commission documents identify two members of Congress who received large-scale contributions from MZM employees as Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.).
Wonder Katherine Harris has been doing more than hitting the Lancome counter on "gift with purchase day?" Just which "officials" indicated that Harris was not aware of the scheme -- and when she was given all this cash from "employees" of MZM, was she asked to work on anything in return? Or was this just given with her understanding that it came from the goodness of their hearts?

And is anyone else wondering which defense official's son is involved in this "inside information" mess? And how much trouble this defense official might be in -- and whether he or she knew that the contract information was going to MZM, and whether this was some sort of quid pro quo means of passing the money directly to the defense official via the son?

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm beginning to need a program to keep track of which GOP official is involved in which corruption prosecution.


Tie the Tin Can on the Wingnut

Being generally inclined to be a bit lazy, any time I see the chance to hit three targets with one post -- in this case Holy Joe, the warmongers and the WaPo (in the form of the odious editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt) -- I'm going to take it, I really can't help myself.

Armando reminds us of this Hiatt chestnut from November 14, 2005:
. . . Congress . . . pours most of its Iraq-related energy into allegations of manipulated intelligence before the war. "Those aren't irrelevant questions," says Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). "But the more they dominate the public debate, the harder it is to sustain public support for the war."

What Lieberman doesn't say is that many Democrats would view such an outcome as an advantage. Their focus on 2002 is a way to further undercut President Bush, and Bush's war, without taking the risk of offering an alternative strategy -- to satisfy their withdraw-now constituents without being accountable for a withdraw-now position.

Many of them understand that dwindling public support could force the United States into a self-defeating position, and that defeat in Iraq would be disastrous for the United States as well as for Mahdi and his countrymen. But the taste of political blood as Bush weakens, combined with their embarrassment at having supported the war in the first place, seems to override that understanding.
Fred is one of Elton's favorite targets over at BusyBusyBusy. Elton gives us even fonder memories of Fred:
The United States and this administration in particular continually assert the moral right to behave differently than other nations. We will not be bound by the International Criminal Court. We insist that other nations give up their nuclear weapons while we keep our own. We wage war without U.N. Security Council approval. We publish annual report cards on everyone else's human rights records.

The premise of this highhandedness is that the United States is, on balance, a force for good in the world -- a superpower that uses its might not to subjugate others but to allow them to live freely. This is a premise that The Post's editorial page on the whole accepts -- to the dismay of many readers.
You would think those Iraqis would be so grateful for our our highhandedness that they'd hop to that "live freely" business already.

Have a tin can, Fred.


Reasons to Harp About Those Who Got It Wrong

I'm certainly not above engaging in bitter recrimination against those whose sagacity led us into this war, but as Glenn Greenwald notes, there are other reasons to consistently revisit this particular trail of blunders:
It is critical to focus on who was right about this war because this country, right now, has extremely difficult choices to make with regard to the disaster it has created in Iraq -- and the first choice is whose judgment and foreign policy wisdom ought to be listened to and accorded respect.
As Glenn notes, one of those people was Howard Dean, who was successfully ridiculed for being profoundly right at the time. From a Dean speech in 2003:
We have been told little about what the risks will be if we do go to war.

If we go to war, I certainly hope the Administration's assumptions are realized, and the conflict is swift, successful and clean. I certainly hope our armed forces will be welcomed like heroes and liberators in the streets of Baghdad.

I certainly hope Iraq emerges from the war stable, united and democratic.

I certainly hope terrorists around the world conclude it is a mistake to defy America and cease, thereafter, to be terrorists.

It is possible, however, that events could go differently, . . . .

Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.

Anti-American feelings will surely be inflamed among the misguided who choose to see an assault on Iraq as an attack on Islam, or as a means of controlling Iraqi oil.

And last week's tape by Osama bin Laden tells us that our enemies will seek relentlessly to transform a war into a tool for inspiring and recruiting more terrorists.

There are other risks. Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms.
As Teddy points out in the comments, failure to politically decapitate people like Cheney and Rumsfeld at the appropriate time brought us to this current mess:
When all this neo-con farce is put to rest, we must ensure it's dead for good. Otherwise, the energetic and younger members of the current cabal will return in the third decade of this century with some "new" concept of Executive power and warmaking capability as well as some "new" paradigm for world domination. Yup, just like the youngest chief of staff in the White House (Cheney) and the youngest Defense Secretary (Rumsfeld) returned to visit this current hell upon us.
Not to mention the fact that these people will continue to be those charged with making decisions about the current debacle they have done so much to encourage. Redd linked to Wolcott this morning, who notes that they continue to pour gasoline on the situation with their phony concern for "free speech" (as if) with regard to the Danish cartoons to distract attention from the mess that they've made, though arguably this mess is just what they wanted all along.

Wolcott goes on to quote Robert Dreyfuss:
In a paper for an Israeli think tank, the same think tank for which Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith prepared the famous 'Clean Break' paper in 1996, Wurmser wrote in 1997 : 'The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by the extreme repression of the state.' After Saddam, Iraq would 'be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families,' he wrote. 'Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [Iraq's] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition.' Yet Wurmser explicitly urged the United States and Israel to 'expedite' such a collapse. 'The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance.'

Such black neoconservative fantasies -- —which view the Middle East as a chessboard on which they can move the pieces at will -- —have now come home to roost. For the many hundreds of thousands who might die in an Iraqi civil war, the consequences are all too real.
Until someone can point out the inherent logic to me of the John Dickerson's of the world who have concluded that we early opponents of the war were wrong to be right even as the warmongers were right in their wrongness, I think it's valid to keep harping on the scorecard. If not only to knock the struts out from underneath the GOP's plan to run on "national security" in 2006, then surely to figure out who should be listened to from here on in based on who has had a clear-eyed vision of this mess from the start, as distinct from those who most certainly have not.


And Now Let's Hear From the Experts...

Tristero has a superb post up at Digby's that calls into serious question the reporting skills of those we rely upon in the major media outlets to inform us about what, exactly, is going on in Iraq, specifically with regard to a survey of opinions about what civil war in Iraq would look like done in the NYT by Kenneth Pollack:
Pollack's emphasis on Shia-Shia conflict seems an academic distortion, going for the unusual angle. But that's nothing compared to this unattributed whopper:
Some experts, however, say Iran may understand the dangers of a war. Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denunciation of the bombing of the Shiite shrine in Samarra last week, in which he blamed Zionists rather than Sunnis, could be seen as an act of restraint, these experts say -- an effort to play to Shiite anger without fanning flames between Iraq's Islamic communities.
Now this is such an unspeakably stupid analysis of what Iran is up to that it could only come from a high Bush administration official. I'm quite serious. Another clue it's from a Bushite is its sense of loony "accentuate the positive" thinking. And indeed, the context gives a pretty clear clue where this idiocy probably came from. Backing up one paragraph we read:
While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has proclaimed that the world has isolated Iran more than ever because of its nuclear ambitions, Iran has in fact tightened relationships with it local allies as events in Iraq have played out. In recent months, Iran has been deepening its alliance with Syria and the Shiite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon, and now it appears ready to strike up a friendship, backed by financing, with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

Some experts, however, say Iran may understand the dangers of a war. Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denunciation ...
Am I saying Condoleeza Rice is the moron who sees hope in Iran's anti-Zionism/semitism? No, not exactly. But anyone who is making the fundamental error Rice is making - focusing on Iran's "world" isolation while downplaying its strengthening of regional ties, including to Hamas - is quite capable of misconstruing Ahmadinejad's remarks to mean Iran is not doing whatever it can to grasp as much purchase within Iraq as possible. And if it came to a war that led to Iraq's total disintegration, it is unclear what Iran stands to lose.

The article also floats the idea of a negotiated breakup of Iraq into three states. Good luck. Who gets the oil regions, boys and girls? Who gets the desert? And who moves? And who sez Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are just gonna twiddle their fingers and not interfere?

There is much more interesting speculation and detail about how truly incredibly complex the mess in Iraq is, and how few alternatives exist that won't quickly lead to disaster for the people of the region, and the people of the United States. Will Turkey invade to defend the Turkomen against oppression if Iraq's Kurds officially set up on their own? Will the Arab League step in to intervene? And looming above it all are nukes. Iranian nukes coming soon. Potential Sunni Arab nukes depending on how the situation worsens (calling Dr. A. Q. Khan!).

So, Mr. Tom Friedman, are you enjoying the real live political experiment now? So, Mr. George Packer, still think that those of us who absolutely knew Bush/Iraq would open the gates of hell have "second-rate minds?"

Hey, y'never know! Maybe Ahmadinejad really was sending a signal that Iran wasn't interested in an Iraq civil war when he blamed Zionists - Israel -for the attack. True, that could be because he wants to attack Israel first, but at least it's not supporting civil war in Iraq!

Yes, it's possible. And maybe there really is a Bigfoot. And maybe tomorrow, cold fusion will work and, as Woody Allen predicted in Sleeper, cigarette smoking will turn out to improve your health and longevity. You never know...
Meanwhile let's recall the snaggletoothed quote-unquote "experts" Matthews is dredging from the primordial ooze and propping up on MSNBC:
CHRIS MATTHEWS:....Could this civil war, which we're on the edge of, perhaps, be foreseen?

RICHARD PERLE, FMR. ASST. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well first of all, I don't believe we are on the edge of a civil war. I think we need to stay calm, which is what we in the leadership in Iraq are urging, urging Iraqis to do.

MATTHEWS: Why is our nervousness about a civil war in any way a triggering mechanism for more civil war? What matters whether I'm nervous about this or not? Why do we have to remain calm?

PERLE: Well it doesn't matter in that sense, but I think there's a lot of hyperbole. I was just listening to Mr. Reagan.

MATTHEWS: One hundred and sixty eight mosques have been torched in the last 24 hours.

PERLE: I don't believe that serious damage was done to 168 mosques and I don't believe that we're on the verge of a civil war although it was certainly the intention of the people who blew up the mosque in Samarra.
The neocon monsters had an awful lot of help bringing the world to this awful place. They could not have done it without the help of compliant -- and one can only assume willfully ignorant -- journalists. May it be tied to their tails like a tin can for all eternity.


There's More Trouble Brewing

Professor Juan Cole has a bleak blog going today and yesterday. The reality on the ground all over the Middle East is tense -- especially in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Daragahi adds, 'Iraqi police today found at least 29 bodies scattered in Baghdad. Each corpse was handcuffed and had single gunshots to the head, in the style often attributed to Shiite death squads believed attached to the Ministry of Interior. '

Ed Wong of the NYT reports on the role of the militias in the recent violence in Iraq. The Shiites will certainly now insist on keeping them, after the bombing of the Askariyah shrine, but the Sunni Arabs fear them and are threatening to form their own.
I heard a report on NPR (on yesterday's All Things Considered) that militias are not only avoiding the curfews, but are flouting them with public calls for assembly at mosques for later protest marches, and that some local politicians and Iraqi police are aiding the more powerful militias in passing this information around to the populace or looking the other way in terms of conduct. NPR had another report on the subject today, and you can listen to it here.

Similarly, the NYTimes has an in-depth look at the strength of militias in Iraq -- and their increasing levels of power in the country and how that bodes ill for any hope of non-sectarian violence. BBC News has more on this as well.

The WaPo covers the resurgence of sectarian violence in Iraq despite the curfews.
Fierce sectarian violence erupted anew Saturday despite an extraordinary daytime curfew, killing at least 20 people in a car bombing attack on a Shiite holy city, a raid on a Shiite home and a brazen attack on the funeral procession of an Iraqi television journalist in Baghdad....

Shiite and Sunni Arab political leaders have issued public pleas for calm, but each side accused the other of mounting revenge attacks since the bombing of the golden-domed Askariya shrine in Samarra four days ago. More than 150 people have been killed in the fighting since the shrine attack.

Iraqis are waiting on tenterhooks to see whether the recent violence will explode into an open full-scale civil war.
The WaPo is also reporting on conflicting reports on the readiness or lack thereof of Iraqi troops. It is tough to know what is real information and what is spin in this, since every time we see reports the numbers shift back and forth when substantive questions are raised.

The NYTimes has a frightening look at what a civil war in Iraq could look like -- and how close we are to seeing one at this point.

ReutersUK tells us that the Iraqi government is now warning of the possibility of civil war.

I don't know about all of you, but just reading through the bits and pieces we see in the media -- and knowing full well that this is only a small part of what soldiers, diplomats and intel folks are seeing in country -- well, I'm very frightened about the implications of all of this. And it's not just in Iraq that we are seeing this sort of unrest. Take a look at these headlines from Saudi Arabia:

-- Al Qaeda Threatens to Hit More Saudi Sites. (AP via WaPo)

-- Saudi Arabia on High Alert After Attempted Oil Plant Attack. (Bloomberg)

-- Saudi Attack Sends Oil Prices Soaring (The Age Aus.)

And in case you were thinking we'd at least finished the job in Afghanistan -- NATO's head says we'll be there for years, because of continued violence and instability and continued threat from the Taliban.

I wish I had solutions for all of this. But at the moment, I'm just fearful for what all of this means for the days to come.

Wolcott adds this to the discussion, and it's worth some thought. I'm afraid it is too early for me to start having any "silver lining" thoughts about any of this. It's just looking so bleak at the moment, and I'm worried about what the next headline will bring. Here's hoping someone with far more expertise than me sees a way out of this debacle with some level of sanity attached to it.


Trying to Grab the "Family Jewels," and Other Libby-isms

The "blame the journalists" defense tactic continues for Team Libby, in its defense against the perjury, false statements and obstruction charges that Scooter Libby is facing (via the LATimes).
Lawyers for Libby say they have reason to question the accuracy of statements that journalists have made about him to special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. They are also seeking to prove that information about Plame was widely known among reporters at the time, and that Libby therefore would have no incentive to lie about his knowledge of her.

Walton set an April 7 deadline for recipients of the subpoenas to respond to whether they intended to comply with them, and a date of April 21 for a hearing to consider objections.
I have to say, it's risky, in that if a jury finds that Team Libby is simply trying to throw up a screen of smoke and mirrors, then they are more likely to find Scooter guilty in the absence of any real "reasonable doubt." Jurors tend to be disgusted by obvious, smarmy tap dancing, at least in my trial experience in real-world criminal trials. (I'll try to have something more in depth about this soon, but I need to go back and review several pages of my notes on this.)

In this case, though, the first amendment arguments are going to be fairly robust from the news organizations involved, I'm sure, considering the high profile names involved. I'd guess that Team Libby is banking on this -- but I must say that Judge Walton's framework on subpoenas and motions is an aggressive one, and that bodes well for him not taking kindly to attempts to stonewall and delay. The deadline on this was set for April.

The most telling quote in the LATimes story is this one from Wells:
"The very heart of our defense is about the family jewels," Wells said. "We need the notes and the PDBs to put together a story to make the jury believe that his defense is not concocted."
Yep, that about sums it up, doesn't it? When you have a client who dosn't give you a lot to work with in his defense, the job is not a fun one, no matter how high your pay scale. One has to wonder about the internal dynamic of Team Libby -- the constant tug-of-war between actually defending Scooter on one side and maintaining the firewall for the Veep (and perhaps others in the Administration) on the other side.

According to the LATimes, Fitz will be keeping both the identity of the official who spoke with Woodward a secret, but also the second official who spoke with Novak. (Since Rove has already owned up to being the first source on this, we at least know one name, but indications are that the second name is not that of Scooter Libby.)

This was all requested by Team Libby and denied because of the ongoing nature of the investigation. btw, it seems that it was Jefress who indicated that the Woodward leaker didn't work in the White House, so take that statement with an enormous grain of salt for now. I sure am, because the LATimes article doesn't indicate whether Jeffress said this in court or outside of it to the press.

I wanted to take a moment to explain the whole judicial review issue of this information being kept from the defense for the moment. This is a process that happens frequently when there are questions or arguments about (1) whether the information requested is even material to the case at bar or (2) whether the information might tip the hand of the ongoing investigation or might be better kept as classified or sealed (depending on the type of information).

This process happens not only in cases where there is a classified information consideration in matters of national security, but also where you have a juvenile whose name and information needs to be kept from public disclosure (as in a child sexual abuse matter where protecting the victim is important) or where you have prior juvenile charges that need to be held in confidence (because that information is kept from public disclosure as well).

What happens is the judge gathers all relevant material, and he and his clerks will comb through it, looking at the information involved, as well as case law and court rules pertaining to what should and should not be disclosed. Then the judge will determine what is and is not disclosable, will issue a ruling, and any information to be disclosed will be ordered handed over to Team Libby. Information to be held in confidence will stay behind the non-disclosable wall. And arguments on the ruling will continue from there.

All this to say that this is not an unusual process -- but, in this case, the level of importance to national security that the large number of documents hold is unusual. PDBs aren't exactly a run-of-the-mill request. And Judge Walton made it clear to Team Libby that he was well aware of the potential "greymail" defense on this, and that he was skeptical of their request for information that Cheney has dubbed "the family jewels" of the Executive branch -- the PDBs. (And isn't that just asking for the late night comedians to have a field day? I mean, really?)

All of this will be under review, and Fitz will be providing information to the judge on his continuing investigation efforts to show why a lot of other information ought to be held close for now.

This cannot be a comfortable moment for Karl Rove or Dick Cheney or the other Administration officials involved in this: to know that Judge Walton and Patrick Fitzgerald have come to an understanding about the fact that this case is, in fact, moving forward and that his investigative team is looking much, much further into criminal conduct among them.

UPDATE: Meant to also say that Forbes has an updated version of the AP story.

UPDATE #2: The NYTimes story from this morning now appears to indicate that Fitz offered to stipulate the following:
Mr. Fitzgerald said Friday that he would readily agree that Mr. Libby had an important job and dealt with weighty matters. But he said that the presidential briefs would provide far more detail than Mr. Libby needed to make that argument.
Well, that sure gives the judge a huge out to refuse to order the PDBs turned over, doesn't it? We've all been thinking that Fitz would offer to stipulate on this -- looks like he thought it was a good move as well. This is the first reporting I've seen on this aspect of the hearing, and I'm hoping someone else will dig into this a little deeper, but we may have to wait until the transcript is available to know exactly what was said here.


Friday, February 24, 2006

FDL Late Nite: Barbara Comstock Goes Bottom Feeding

Scooter went a-fishin' for Marlins today and came back with a pocketful of guppies.

Libby's lawyers asked for copies of the notes he took during an 11 month period from 2003-2004 and got them, but that was about it.

They also wanted to know the identitity of the "Senior Administration Official" who leaked to Bob Woodward in June of 2002 (although the fact that it was an SAO is per Woodward, someone who has felt free to fabricate to protect the identity of his "sources" and nothing I'm putting too much stock in), but Judge Walton said no go:
Libby’s lawyers and Fitzgerald disagreed over whether the unidentified government official — who does not work at the White House — was referring to Plame or her husband when he said, “Everyone knows,” during a taped interview with investigators.

The defense said the official meant that most reporters knew that Plame worked at the CIA, as Libby testified before a federal grand jury. But Fitzgerald said the reference was to Wilson, who was not identified in initial media reports about the trip to Niger.
That seems to be all they've got -- Libby's lawyers consistently misstate what he's charged with distort basic facts in his defense. While I realize a lot of this is just standard throw everything against the wall and see what sticks tactics, it's also an indication that they haven't got a whole lot. So it's likely they either know Libby's guilty as shit or they have a client who is unwilling to actually let them defend him.

Neither of which puts them in a particularly enviable position.

According to the AP, Walton indicated that since the SAO has not been charged they have the right to privacy. But on Countdown tonight David Schuster seemed to be saying that to reveal the identity of that individual was getting to the "overall strategy" of Fitzgerald's investigation.

Both Schuster and the AP say that the investigation is, indeed, ongoing. Libby's lawyers also tried to block Fitzgerald from filing any information only the judge can see, including "strategy memos and classified information that he wants withheld from Libby's legal team." Walton said no dice to that, too. What's he gonna say? "You're right, I'd really rather be operating in the dark on this one."

The specter of the White House is always looming in the bakcground. According to Schuster, Walton put off deciding whether Libby was entitled to have access to the PDBs he's requested until the CIA has had time to review them. But Walton did say he is concerned that the request by Libby could "sabotage" the case because the President would no doubt invoke executive privilege.

And the white house computers seem to be recovering from the dreaded DC memory-sucking virus faster than their human counterparts:
The defense was told that the White House had recently located and turned over about 250 pages of e-mails from the vice president’s office. Fitzgerald, in a letter last month to the defense, had cautioned Libby’s lawyers that some e-mails might be missing because the White House’s archiving system had failed.
I seem to remember Judy Miller miraculously recovering some forgotten notes after her encounter with the Special Counsel. Fitzgerald's next gig will no doubt be a magic act with a couple of wild animals and a leggy bimbo in Vegas.

Redd had a good post up about the patent dishonesty of the charge that Fitzgerald's appointment to the case was unconstitutional, and Walton seemed to think about as much of it as Redd did. From a legal angle I suppose it is to be expected, and I might accept such bullshit tactics as just that -- were it not the lockstep with which people like the fashion challenged Byron York and CNN's Brian Todd were immediately parroting these canards that even a casual observer knew were false.

This seemed designed more for media consumption than success in court, a way to publicly call the legitimacy of both Fitzgerald and his investigation into question. Funny how it got smacked down immediately even at The Corner, and Andy McCarthy all but called Byron York a cheap hostile pimp.

Barbara Comstock must be desperate.

Update: How does the WaPo manage to print an entire article on the topic without mentioning the 250 pages of newly released emails from the Veep's office? I don't know but by jingo they do.

Update 2: Suzanne brings up an interesting point in the comments -- were the emails turned over last week, during Dickfest? Odd timing for the White House to be handing a loaded gun (so to speak) to Fitzgerald to point straight at Cheney.


South Dakota Blogger on the Rapists' Rights Bill

Doug from Dakota Today Blog weighs in on the state's decision to insure that rapists have their fetuses carried to term by the wanton women who were really just asking for it anyway (esp. if she happens to be your 12 year-old daughter, because all we know how that goes):
Mike Rounds, Governor of SD, is pondering and thinking about the Rapist Rights Bill the SD Legislature just passed. The wingnut loons answered prayers are putting Mikey in a bind. Does he eat everything they shovel his way or not?

Well, He just has to find out if God raped the Virgin Mary. That will provide the theological basis for SD supporting Rapist Rights and treating women as nearly worthless chattle, good only as reproduction machines betting on hitting the Jesus bonus on the reproductive powerball lottery. Speaking of lotteries, how about that Million dollar bribe the anti-women's righters are promising to pony up to fight for their lunatic legislation? Ok, Mike, I wanta buy a vowel and a subsection of a new law. Umm . talk to the lawyers, they are looking for another lawyer's subsidy law. Hey, guess what? Wild Bill Janklow is back in the legal saddle. Whooopppeeee!
I like this guy and I'm liking the idea of supporting local blogs a lot right now so let's throw him some traffic.

Oh and you can tell the rest of those godless South Dakota fuckers what you think of their Kingdom of Gilead beef, too.

(thanks to Valley Girl and TeddySanFran)


Milbank Slips One to Lil' Debbie

During today's online chat, the beleaguered Dana Milbank defends his wearing of the Orange as a statement of solidarity with the Dutch Olympic team.

Which lead to this follow-up question:
Boston, Mass.: Interestingly, I read that Queen Beatrix issued the following statement in your support:

Ik stel erg op prijs de steun dat Dana Milbank voor onze olympisch ploeg toonde door het dragen van onze nationale kleuren. Samen met miljoenen Nederlanders, neem ik kwallig de kleinzieligheid van Deborah Howell, die vaker onder de schijnwerpers gekomen is wegens de inhoudelijke fouten van haar verslagen. Lang leve Dana Milbank, het rapporteren van de waarheid, en het Huis van Oranje!

Did her spokesmen clear this with you?

Dana Milbank:
I could not have said it better.
Dannyboy gives us a translation in the comments:
"I heartily appreciate the support that Dana Milbank showed for our Olympic team by wearing the national colors. Together with millions of Dutchmen, I take offense at the mean-spiritedness of Debbie Howell, who has more than once been in the spotlight for the factual errors in her reporting. Long live Dana Milbank, reporting the truth, and the House of Orange!"
See, the truth does have a home at the Washington Post. Just as long as it's written in a language completely incomprehensible to 99.9% of its readers.


Joementum: Desperate and Draggin'

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: We want to give you a peek into how this local legislation is resonating nationally. There's not a lot of talk on the big, conservative political blogs, other than just linking to the news, but what little chatter we are seeing is about how this may be a sign of things to come.

It may be a sense that now that the Supreme Court is seeming to turn a little more conservative, this may be the start of lots of states challenging on this level.

We went to over to prolifeblogs -- this is one of the big blogs that was first and foremost in the fight for Terri Schiavo. And they say actually that the stipulation within this legislation that allows for an abortion in the case that the mother's life is at risk is actually a giant loophole. They'd like to see that go away.
That's right. You fuck you die. Your life thereafter as a woman is worth less than the embryo you carry. Your sole function is as human host, and should you fail in that task your death is appropriate punishment.

At least they're willing to come right out and say it.
There's also some reaction on the left that the stipulation that would punish doctors for with five years of imprisonment may be too much for moderate Republicans. And now there's also a call on the left to go after Joe Lieberman, saying that he helped to confirm Alito, this is all his fault. They want to support his [N]ed Lamont in the Senate race against Lieberman. So it's resonating. It's bubbling up, and then resonating out, Wolf.
That's right, it is all Lieberman's fault (that was FDL she was referring to, BTW). And it is resonating. It is bubbling up.

As long as we're on the subject, Ned Lamont reminded me of this Lieberman golden oldie:
"You would have kept the tube in?" asked NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.

Lieberman, a Demcoratic U.S. senator from Connecticut who ran as his party�s vice presidential nominee in 2000, replied, "I would have kept the tube in."

The exchange began when Russert mentioned Lieberman's Republican House colleague, Rep. Christopher Shays.

Shays said he believed the GOP would suffer "repercussions" from voting last week to try to get the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube replaced.

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. ... There are going to be repercussions from this vote [on Schiavo's constitutional rights]," Shays said. "There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

Russert asked Lieberman if he "agreed" with that statement.

"I don't," Lieberman said. And though he said Shays' statement was "a very credible and respectable opinion, the fact is that, though I know a lot of people's attitude toward the Schiavo case and other matters is affected by their faith and their sense of what religion tells them about morality, ultimately as members of Congress, as judges, as members of the Florida state Legislature, this is a matter of law. And the law exists to express our values.

"I have been saying this in speeches to students about why getting involved in government is so important. I always say the law is where we define the beginning of life and the end of life, and that's exactly what was going on here," Lieberman continued.

"And I think as a matter of law, if you go - particularly to the 14th Amendment, [you] can't be denied due process, have your life or liberty taken without due process of law, that though the Congress' involvement here was awkward, unconventional, it was justified to give this woman, more than her parents or husband, the opportunity for one more chance before her life was terminated by an act which was sanctioned by a court, by the state."

Lieberman added, "These are very difficult decisions, but - of course, if you ask me what I would do if I was the Florida Legislature or any state legislature, I'd say that if somebody doesn't have a living will and the next of kin disagree on whether the person should be kept alive or that is whether food and water should be taken away and her life ended - that really the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to life."

In conclusion, Lieberman said, "The family member who wants to sustain her life ought to have that right because the judge really doesn't know, though he heard the facts, one judge, what Terri Schiavo wanted. He made a best guess based on the evidence before him. That's not enough when you're talking about aggressively removing food and water to end someone's life."

"You would have kept the tube in?" asked NBC's "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert.

Lieberman replied, "I would have kept the tube in."
That was on May 27, 2005, two days after a three judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the parents of Terri Schiavo. Not to mention all the other 20 judges involved in adjudicating the case over the previous decade.

Maybe it's Joe's noodly grasp of the facts that is causing people like Bill Buckley -- the man responsible for putting him office in the first place -- to jump ship from his tough talking chickenhawk Iraq stance.

As Kos says, Lieberman's actions are those of a man completely freaked out by Ned Lamont.

And well he should be. Weasely little creep.

Update: I'm on was on the Young Turks talking about NARAL, South Dakota and Ned.


Ya Gotta Support Your Friends

This is one of the most hilarious things I've read in a long, long time:
State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to "introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents." The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship....

To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

However, Hagan admitted that he has no scientific evidence to support the above claims.

Just as "Hood had no scientific evidence" to back his assertion that having gay parents was detrimental to children, Hagan said.

"It flies in the face of reason when we need to reform our education system, address health care and environmental issues that we put energy and wasted time (into) legislation (Hood's) like this," continued Hagan, who has been in the Ohio Senate nine years. Before the Senate, he served 19 years in the Ohio House.
Good on this state Senator in Ohio. Ridicule is an appropriate response on this, and one we ought to use more often.

My husband was listening to some comedian the other day who was riffing on the whole discrimination against gays obsession that the religious right has developed. The comedian said something to the effect that these folks seem to be playing some sort of weird child's game of telephone with God.

On the front end, God says, "Be good to each other." But what they hear is "don't let gays adopt children."

With 16 states considering banning gay adoptions in this country:
Where bills are being drafted or discussed: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.
Yep, I'm ashamed to say someone is trying to put this forward in my own state and I had no idea. But I know now -- and I'm going to find out who is behind it, and let them know how I feel. Me and a few thousand of my friends.

It's time for those of us who find this to be a bigoted mindset to stand up and say so. I have very good friends who have provided loving, stable homes to children who would otherwise perhaps still be in an orphanage or in foster care.

What's next, regulations that only married people get to do in vitro fertilization? Erm...yeah, looks like they are already working on that, too.

You think the line stops at abortion? Think again. It is time that all of us who disagree with an evangelical theocracy being imposed on the entire country stand up and be counted. Government ought not be in my bedroom, and I sure as hell don't want it telling me or anyone else who I get to love -- including telling me whether or not I get to love my child, or my friends get to love theirs.

Oh, and South Dakota's legislature just sent their abortion ban bill to the Governor, who is indicating that he will sign it. Put your money where your values are -- and do some work for a candidate who supports your values in your area. The only way we protect our rights and our values is if we do the work. So, let's get to work.


Bill O'Reilly: Concern Troll

Church Lady Brady's got nothing on Loofah Bill when it comes to thin skin. From his website:
February 22, 2006
Chairman Robert Wright
National Broadcasting Company
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, New York 10112

Dear Chairman Wright:

We, the undersigned, are becoming increasingly concerned about the well-being of MSNBC and, in particular, note the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8:00 PM EST.

It is now apparent to everyone that a grave injustice has been done to the previous host for that time slot, Phil Donahue, whose ratings, at the time of his show's cancellation three years ago, were demonstrably stronger than those of the current host.

Therefore, in an effort to rescue MSNBC from the ratings basement and to restore the honor and dignity of Mr. Donahue, who was ignobly removed as host three years ago, we ask that you immediately bring Phil Donahue's show back at 8:00 PM EST before any more damage is done.
When you think of the towering achievements in the Falafosphere already chalked up by Al Franken, David Letterman and now Keith Olbermann, our "organized smear website funded by radical left-wing billionaires" seems quite insignificant.

And I was so proud.

Keith just turned into Must See TV tonight.


Libby Hearing Today, More Motions

There is a hearing today in the Libby matter, according to reporting from the AP (via NYTimes).
Defense lawyers and Mr. Fitzgerald are to appear in Federal District Court here on Friday to argue defense requests for classified records and evidence gathered by the prosecution about reporters who learned about Ms. Wilson from officials other than Mr. Libby.
I haven't been able to confirm a time for the hearing, but as soon as I hear anything on this -- or results from whatever arguments occur today, I'll be sure and let everyone know.

Beyond that, Team Libby filed more motions yesterday, this time claiming that Patrick Fitzgerald was improperly appointed and that the indictment ought to be dismissed as a result. As I've said countless times here, the job of defense counsel is to protect their clients' interest, and that includes the filing of motions that may not have a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning -- but they must be filed, to make a record on every potential argument for appeal should Libby be convicted. If you don't make the record with a paper trail, or via oral argument in court on the record, then you lose the issue for appeal -- and no lawyer wants to do that, no matter how slim the margin for success might be.

I had actually prepared to do a lengthy post on the latest Libby filing (which can be read here), but this morning I was alerted to a post from Andy McCarthy at the NRO Corner (h/t to reader moi in the comments for bringing this to my attention) which sums things up nicely, so I'm going to excerpt a couple of points here (sorry, I'm not linking, because the last time I did the return traffic brought with it hateful e-mail spam in my mailbox for three weeks (and one troll who still e-mails once a week), and I just don't have the time to spend hitting my delete button all day long and play with my child -- but it's the National Review Corner Online, in case you want to google it):
Libby’s premise is flawed. Fitzgerald is not a “principal officer” for purposes of the case; he is an “inferior officer.” The defense attempts to cast him as a principal officer by portraying his warrant as broader than that of Judge Starr, who was held an inferior officer as the Lewinsky independent counsel in Morrison v. Olson (1988). But this fails for at least three reasons.

First, Pat’s jurisdiction is comparable to Starr’s – it’s different in some respects, but it’s not materially broader, and its differences are, as I’ve previously suggested, less constitutionally strange than the construct prescribed in the lapsed independent counsel statute. Second, and more importantly, Libby is misreading Edmond v. United States (1997), which, like Morrison itself, makes quite clear that Starr’s jurisdiction in no way marked the outer limit of “inferior officer” terrain beyond which “principal officer” status (and its confirmation requirements under the Appointments Clause) is triggered....Finally, and relatedly, Fitzgerald’s authority fits well within the parameters of “inferior officer” under Edmond....

Suffice it to say that Libby is exaggerating the purported limitlessness of Pat’s powers. The delegation of authority to Pat could have been withdrawn at any time by the Attorney General....

Moreover, going back to first principles, for the first 80 years of the Republic, when there was no Justice Department, it was a commonplace for the Attorney General to delegate his authority to private attorneys. While, as Mark points out, there is now a statutory framework, and such an arrangement might not suffice under it, there was no constitutional defect in it.

I’m also constrained to observe that during the Lewinsky controversy, we looked with disdain on these hyper-technical legal maneuvers (like Clinton’s risible attempts to create new evidentiary privileges) whose unabashed purpose was to derail the prosecution. Back then, we used to say the important public interest was to resolve whether public officials had lied and obstructed justice. Now, such maneuvers somehow seem worthy, and we are apt to find the prosecutor, rather than the defendant, to be stonewalling (as in Byron’s column of yesterday, which, with due respect, is based on an elementary legal error which I hope to have more to say about today). I guess it all depends on whose ox is being gored.
I hope that Andy doesn't mind my pulling an extended excerpt, but this was very well argued and exactly on point with what I have been thinking and what my research was telling me. And, frankly, it's nice to see someone stand on principle and facts rather than just parroting the team talking points, and I find it nice to highlight that where I find it on all sides these days.

I've said this previously, but it is worth repeating: prosecutors and law enforcement investigators get incredibly annoyed with people who lie to them or otherwise obstruct their case -- precisely because the lying and obstruction is designed to derail a criminal investigation and thwart justice. We are a nation of laws, and no one should be exempt from accountability for breaking them. Period. Justice is blind for a reason -- and trying to cheat her is conduct for which one should pay a penalty.

Carol Leonnig hits some of the same notes as McCarthy in her coverage in the WaPo, including:
Several legal experts said yesterday that the Libby defense team was making a valiant and appropriate effort to defend its client, but said they doubted that the central argument for dismissing the charges would gain traction with the court.

"I think it's a nice try, but I don't give it much chance of success," said Scott Fredericksen, an associate independent counsel during the Reagan administration who helped investigate scandals at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
She also reports this interesting nugget, which I thought was worthy of mention here this morning:
Other documents released with their filings show that by August 2004, eight months after beginning his investigation, Fitzgerald had amassed a large amount of evidence suggesting that Libby was lying to investigators. Libby's accounts of conversations with administration officials and reporters about Plame conflicted with others offered by virtually every administration official and reporter questioned by Fitzgerald's investigators.
Thanks again, Team Libby, for bringing even more interesting information about your client, his lies, and the reasons therefor to our attention. Publicly. (See several of the exhibits attached to the motion here.)

For even more information on the recent Libby filing, SusanG had a great diary on this at dKos yesterday evening.

Keep in mind that there will likely be a whole lot more motions to follow in this pre-trial arguments process. It is common, and it is necessary for both sides to clarify a lot of complex legal arguments in this matter. But in some cases, it is building the official record on behalf of your sides' interests for appeal in case you lose -- which is exactly the thing that lawyers are supposed to do -- and to also argue on the merits those issues which you feel you must in order to protect your client's interests, be that client Scooter Libby or the citizens of the US.

There will hopefully be more news today as we get updates on the hearing, and we'll bring it to you when we hear it. There will be some public portion to the hearing (so we hear, anyway), but the bulk of the arguments will likely be closed-door if they get into the specifics on the classified materials. Also, be forewarned that judges don't always rule immediately from the bench on motions arguments but, instead, take time to do their own, independent review of the law (via their clerks' and their own research) and the facts, and then the judge issues a ruling at a later time. We may get some rulings from the bench today, and some delays while the judge does some legal review -- but whatever happens, I'll try to interpret for everyone as I get the information.

Also, Jeralyn has more at TalkLeft. Looking forward to more of her thoughts on the memory issues, because it is a very complex, very difficult subject to do well -- and Libby, in my opinion, is going to be skating the razor's edge with this as his main defense.


Kansas Roots Action -- Phase I

Today as part of our Roots project we're asking people from Kansas (or those with ties to Kansas) to write in to local papers regarding the Senate hearings into the illegal NSA wiretaps. Kansas is the home of both Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Sam Brownback of the Judiciary Committee. As Meteor Blades pointed out, many places will just ignore letters that don't have a Kansas address so if you are a Kansas resident your participation is really important.

Glenn Greenwald has a great post up with some very clear and concise talking points. It's important to put things in your own words, however, and not just "cut and paste" as those will probably wind up in the bin as well.

Kansas blogger Josh Roseneau who writes at Thoughts From Kansas has an excellent post up on the subject from a local perspective along with an in-depth media contact list for many local regions. And Thersites from Vichy Dems provides this quick national impact list:
The Kansas City Star
1729 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64108

Guidelines : Paper accepts LTEs, "Voices"”, "As I See It" columns and Op-Eds. LTEs max. 150 words; must include name, address, daytime phone.

How to submit :
Snail mail at above address, or

Alternate venue : "“Reader's Representative: For concerns or questions regarding the fairness or accuracy of The Star's news coverage."”

The Lawrence Journal-World
609 New Hampshire
P.O Box 888
Lawrence, Kansas 66044

How to submit :
Paper asks for LTEs via Webform; not sure whether they accept by snail mail

Alternate venues : Editorial Page Editor Ann Gardner, 832-7153,
Online Editor Dave Toplikar, 832-7151,

The Topeka Capital-Journal
616 SE Jefferson
Topeka KS 66607
Fax (785) 295-1230

How to submit :
Snail mail at above address, or

Alternate venue : Executive Editor Pete Goering,

The Wichita Eagle
Reader Views
P.O. Box 820
Wichita, Kan. 67201

Note : Editorial (from news service, not home-grown) they’re running today on topic. Consider writing a letter responding to it.

Guidelines : Max 200 words. Include name, address and telephone. Letters are signed with the writer'’s name and town.

How to submit :
Snail mail at above address, or
Fax: (316) 269-6799, or

Alternate venues :
Editorial blog:
Opinion Editor Phillip Brownlee

The Pitch (alternative paper, KC)

Guidelines : Must include full name (but can request they don't print it), email address OR telephone number; city; and "title of the article you are writing about."

How to submit : Webform;, or

The Olathe News
514 South Kansas Ave., Olathe, KS 66061
Phone (913) 764-2211 -- Fax (913) 764-3672

How to submit :

Lee's Summit Journal

How to submit : Webform; (apparently same form is used for subscriptions and LTEs).

Alternate venue : Ann Scheer, Editor,

The Cass County (MO) Democrat-Missourian
301 South Lexington
P.O. Box 329
Harrisonville, MO 64701

How to submit :
Snail mail at the above address, or
Fax at (816) 380-7650, or

The Star-Herald (Northwest Cass County) (Weekly)
P.O. Box 379
Belton, MO 64012

Guidelines : Include name, hometown and daytime telephone number. "“[O]ne page typed double-spaced or neatly printed is a good measure." "Letters endorsing or against political candidates will not be published."

How to submit :
Snail mail at the above address, or

Update: Vichy Dems has a more complete, updated list.
If you are from Kansas or feel like you can write on behalf of family or friends there or have some other sort of tie to the state please take a moment to carefully craft your own thoughts, follow the specific submission guidelines and send a letter.

It's awfully difficult to cut through the national media ice on this (or any other) subject and by using local media we may be able to have a much greater impact at a time when BushCo. is busy fighting other battles and won't see it coming.


Saving Face for Bushie

President Bush at a cabinet meeting yesterday:
Bush at cabinet meeting: "And so people don't need to worry about security. This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America."
And in this morning's newswire reports from the AP, the UAE/Dubai-owned port corporation has taken the face-saving step for Bushie:
A United Arab Emirates company has volunteered to postpone its takeover of significant operations at six major U.S. seaports, giving the White House more time to convince skeptical lawmakers the deal poses no increased risks from terrorism.

The surprise concession late Thursday cools the standoff building between the Congress and President Bush over his administration's previous approval of the deal. In early reaction, lawmakers praised the temporary hold. But some critics pressed anew for an intensive examination of the deal's risks.
I'd like to think that this will be some sort of lesson learned by this White House, that they need to do their homework on things up front instead of after-the-fact, that transparency is always preferable to secrecy in matters which the American people have a substantial interest, that Congress has the obligation to provide some oversight rather than just be ignored or stonewalled.

But I'm sure not going to hold my breath that they've learned anything other than a petulant President is no fun.

At least he finally made good on his promise to be a uniter not a divider: Americans across the political spectrum are united in not trusting that the President actually did the work on this port deal. Perhaps because the WH is now insisting that the President didn't know anything about the deal at all until the press started asking about it. That Clueless excuse is a political flop, isn't it?

And to all those conservatives who have asked questions about this deal, welcome to the "you are unpatriotic" club. How's it feel to know that your President thinks you ought to just keep your mouth shut and agree with him -- or have your patriotism and love of country questioned by your own government if you don't fall in their line?

Heckuva job, Bushie!

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman raises an important question today that ought to have a clear answer, but apparently does not: who is actually running port security in this country? The fact that current and former Bush Administration officials aren't coming up with the same answer is more than a little troubling, don't you think?

You know, the more I look at the state of port security in this country, the more I'm glad that I don't live anywhere near a major port. Has any real work been done on this since 9/11? Any readers out there with experience in this issue -- please chime in, because I'm interested in some answers on this from people with on-the-ground observations and real world experience. I've had enough of the political talking heads, what I'd like is to hear from real people who have done some real work on this and talk about what has been and what still needs to be done.

UPDATE #2: Big kudos to Prof. Juan Cole for his appearance on CNN this morning. Great stuff. If you haven't read his blog, please take a moment to go over and take a peek. Some very scary stuff on Iraq this morning, but it is information we ought to all be paying attention to -- and contemplating -- regularly.

And while we're talking about the unrest in Iraq (and elsewhere, to be honest) I just wanted to take a moment to tell our readers in uniform to stay safe and keep your head down. I got an e-mail from a friend of mine currently stationed in Afghanistan, about some news of another mutual acquaintence currently in Baghdad, and I'm keeping them and everyone else in uniform in my prayers and thoughts today. It's a very volatile time, and some incredibly decent folks are in harms way (in and out of uniform, because our diplomatic staff and aide workers are just as much on the front lines as well). Just stay safe, folks -- wanted to let you know I'm thinking about all of you today.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Late Nite FDL: BTW I Love You Guys

In a very non-gender specific way, of course. From MyLeftNutmeg:
Daily Kos: CT-Sen: NOW gets it
by: Larkspur
February 23, 2006 at 19:18:16 EST
( - promoted by Matthew Gertz)

This diary by Markos got the phones ringing off the hook at CT NOW headquarters. I got a call from our Exec Director, Kathleen Sloan, a few hours ago and she said that she was getting calls from as far away as California about her Feb. 1 press release. And she's gotten an avalanche of emails thanking CT NOW for rebuking Lieberman for his vote on Alito.

She had sent the Press Release out after Lieberman's last Alito vote around Feb. 1. The only call CT NOW got back then was from Lieberman's office. They called to complain about the press release to CT NOW's political director. They said that Lieberman has always supported women's rights in the past and he didn't deserve the treatment he got in our Feb. 1 press release.

Kathleen asked me why all the sudden interest in a press release she sent out a few weeks ago. I checked DailyKos and sure enough Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, had posted a diary about CT NOW's Feb. 1 press release and asked readers to call CT NOW thanking us for our stand. He posted this diary partly as a response to the new law banning abortions in South Dakota.

DailyKos diary by the founder of that blog Markos Moulitsas "CT-Sen: NOW gets it"

Kos links to blogger firedoglake diary "Ned Lamont and NOW" (you may have to do a find on the title to find it)

I had sent the Lamont campaign the CT NOW Feb. 1 press release and it was Ned Lamont who gave it to blogger firedoglake, who was impressed. Markos read firedoglakes blog and linked to it.

The power of the netroots!!!
I hear that NARAL is feeling the heat and is "irritated" by all the phone calls and emails they are getting. I'm also told that they "do not like you very much."

Well they can just sit over there and whimper with Church Lady Brady, Lil' Debbie Howell and Ole 60 Grit O'Beirne in the honorary FDL WATB chair. Being on their shit list is a badge of honor as far as I'm concerned.

(thanks to thirdparty for the catch)

Update: Well let's give them something to bitch about.


And The General Still Owns Maria Cantwell's Uterus

It seems quite clear that the new South Dakota legislation outlawing abortion is a means to test out the new Supreme Court now that Strip Search Sammy is on the job. How is a small state like South Dakota able to afford such an expensive legal skirmish?
The hope of the bill's supporters, reports Jodi Schwan of CBS affiliate KELO-TV, is that the U.S. Supreme Court will be more receptive if the case gets that far.

"They feel with the changing makeup of the Supreme Court that it is perhaps a time to start challenging Roe v. Wade, and they think especially with the addition of Alito and Roberts to the court that those are justices who would vote in their favor," says Schwan.

Supporters of the ban have said an anonymous donor has pledged to provide South Dakota with $1 million to help defend the law in court.
If this "anonymous donor" thing seems wrong to you in more ways than you can count, remember that our strength is in numbers so please give whatever you can afford, no matter how small to help break up the Gang of 14 who have committed themselves to the destruction of choice in this country (we've already raised over $4,000 in two days to help Ned Lamont -- YEA HAH!!).

Meanwhile that confirmed heterosexual breeder General J.C. Christian has found himself in the spotlight review again at Amazon. A telling nugget from his past gives us a peek into the enigma that is the General in a review entitled "Close, but no falafels."

(BTW -- did I mention that Amazon will not delete reviews if they recommend other books instead? Apropos of nothing, of course.)

And John Amato from Crooks & Liars will be talking about blogging with Alan Colmes' radio show tonight at 8pm PST/11pm EST. You can listen here.

(graphic by Jesus' General)


When Are We Gonna Ban In Vitro Fertilization?

As a big pro-choice person, I have absolutely no doubt that E.J. Dionne's contention -- namely that most forced childbirth forces actually "care" about "the taking of innocent life" -- is a steaming load of nonsense. What they care about is punishing women for having sex. Because you never see them picketing outside in vitro fertilization clincs do you? And yet the end result is the same -- creation of embryos that will only die. If life begins at conception, then in vitro fertilization is murder too. Period.

I wrote this a while back (when I was getting 25 hits a day so I'm sure nobody's read it unless that's you, Mom) about a debate on the first episode of the Ron Reagan/Monica Crowley show on MSNBC (the spiffy dresser I now know was Byron York). I don't think I could say it any better now than I did then:
On the pro side they had Alta Charo, professor of bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, and on the con side they trotted out Some Dude whose name I can't remember, whose personal style is cribbed from a 1957 issue of Gent and whose contention is that life begins at the moment of conception when sperm meets egg and having been thus blessed by the Divine Hand of the Creator it is henceforth entitled to the same protections as an adult human. In fact, more protection than if the life happens to belong to some African American on death row, but now I'm off topic and I don't even want to get into that right now. The ultimate conclusion is that Embryonic Stem Cell Research Is Wrong.

So Alta brings up the conundrum that's always guaranteed to set wingnut heads a-spinning and green pea soup spewing from their mouths, which is basically a riff on "if a fire breaks out in a fertility clinic, who do you save -- a Petri dish with five blastula or the two year-old child?" Suddenly everyone's yelling, Monica's mouth starts doing that other thing it does which is not a smile, and the whole show devolves into a split-screen talking head orgy of indignation. Nobody ever answers the question, by the way.

Whenever I hear wingnuts arguing about stem cell research I always get the feeling that they are doing so under duress, like reluctant Visigoths who've been forced to carry the battle into a town they really don't care about sacking. But having made the argument that women should not have control over their own bodies and be entitled to an abortion because even the littlest zygote amongst us is sacred, and not because they hate and fear women and want to relegate them to the social role of biological functionaries, they have to naturally extend the argument and oppose embryonic stem cell research as well. You know, for consistency's sake and all.

This is going to surprise a lot of people, but I actually respect that argument. If you really believe that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred, and therefore the destruction of any life is unethical, I really can't argue with you. Because I can only say what I believe, which is obviously not that, but I can't claim to have some sort of ultimate dispensation of knowledge that will answer the question of when life begins. So if someone wants to claim that life begins at conception, and works diligently against any, and I mean ANY procedure that would result in the creation of a cluster of cells that might one day result in the development of a human being only to ultimately thwart that process with its destruction, I have to respect that as an honest position.

But here's where it starts to get prickly. Because Ron then proceeds to point out that during the in vitro fertilization process numerous embryos are created but only the first one to "take" will produce a child. Mr. Needs to Update His Personal Style then argues that this is actually okay, because the embryos that are not used are not destroyed; they are merely frozen for all eternity. And since I was consumed at that moment with peeling an orange and drinking half of a flat Coke from yesterday I didn't get it all down word for word, so I'll have to paraphrase, but in a nutshell Ms. Charo's response was that after a certain length of time the embryos are no longer viable anyway so who are you fuckin' trying to kid, Jack.

Well now I'm consumed by curiosity about how the wingers address this thorny issue so I cruise on over to the NRO to consult that self-professed Oracle of all things Right, K.J. Lopez, and I found an article by her on in vitro fertilization cleverly entitled Eggheads. It's filled with the usual NRO "ooh, Science scary" tocsins, as well as a dig at working women ("The demand side of the market comes mostly from career-minded baby-boomers, the frontierswomen of feminism, who thought they could have it all"). But then she goes on to note that 15% of all mothers in this country get a little help on the fertility front from science, and since that probably includes no small number of Iowa fundies looking to increase the flock of the faithful, she stops short of casting Joe and Sally Christian who just want to breed, breed breed into the fiery ovens of eternal damnation if they happen to brew up a few extra embryos they never intend to use along the way. A strange omission.

Or maybe not. I surfed around to various anti-choice websites, trying to find out if there was any kind of consistent voice on this front, and it took me to a lot of dillies, but I found that most of them simply sidestepped the issue altogether. Some didn't, several of the Catholic ones were vocally opposed to in vitro fertilization, and I tip my hat to them for the consistency of their argument. I can hardly claim to have made a comprehensive and exhaustive exploration of the subject, because, you know, I had to finish the rest of that Coke. But on the whole it seems to be a bit of a sticking point that the fundies would just rather not address.

But it does lead to this other question that nags at me. When John M. Opitz of the University of Utah testified before the President's council on Bioethics in 2003, he noted that between 60 and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos are simply flushed out in a woman's normal menstrual cycle in the first 7 days after fertilization, and that women never even know that conception has taken place.

(As a side note, at the same meeting, Harvard government professor Michael Sandel, also a member of the Bioethics council, noted that "If the embryo loss that accompanies natural procreation were the moral equivalent of infant death, then pregnancy would have to be regarded as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions: Alleviating natural embryo loss would be a more urgent moral cause than abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem-cell research combined." Although I enjoy Dr. Sandel's sense of humor and appreciate the presence of a smartass on the Bioethics council, I really do, let's just chalk this one up to "God's will" for the moment and proceed with the question at hand.)

Now, I'm certain by most fundamentalist assessments that when I die, barring some sort of deathbed recant of the Lee Atwater variety, I am going to hell. (That last vote for John Kerry probably put me over the top.) But say by some fluke God has a soft spot for unrepentant preacher's kids who are good to their dogs, and I wind up in heaven. Is 60 to 80 percent of the population going to be filled out with people who never made it past dome stage blastula? I mean -- conversation is liable to be a bit thin, don't you think? What can you really say beyond "congratulations on winning the big swim?"
Abortion/in vitro fertilization. Abortion/in vitro fertilization. Two sides of the same coin. If you think one is moral and the other is not you are inherently dishonest.

(Update: Byron York emailed Atrios and asked him to tell me it was not him. I of course was off getting irresponsibly knocked up.)


Try Standing in Someone Else's Shoes

We knew the issue of choice would be the first thing that the evangelical right tried to hit out of the park after Justice Alito was elevated to the bench. It's one of the main reasons that Jane and I worked our tails off trying to stop the appointment -- and the prior appointment of Justice Roberts. It was a big part of why I hit the pavement and the phone banks and did everything I could for the Kerry campaign for months back in 2004.

Around the time of the Alito vote, I talked about my rationale for being pro-choice. I want to raise a couple of points I discussed then, so I'm going to re-print something I wrote back on January 24th:
Above and beyond the issues of personal liberty and freedom (as though that isn't enough), there are also questions of privacy and choice. I've actually had to spend time with young teens who have been impregnated by family members (father, stepfather, brother) through rape and incest, and then had to make the decision as to whether or not to terminate the pregnancy or carry a child of incest to term for nine long months. I can tell you that it is heartbreaking for everyone involved, no matter what the decision. To try and criminalize someone who has already been victimized in that manner is horrendous -- but to use this issue as a dividing line through inflamatory speech and no compassion for the people facing this heart-rending choice is unconscionable.

That Alito is the number one selection for people like Tom Coburn based solely on whatever wink and a nod someone has given him in a back room that "Alito is one of us" is beyond infuriating.

I don't want people to have more abortions. If I could, I'd wave a wand and make all babies be born under ideal circumstances to parents who would love and care for them.

But I happen to live in the all-too-real world, where sexual abuse and violent rape and all those other nasty things happen, where children wake up and wonder if there will be any food for them to eat -- right here in the US of A -- and where other things that most people can never even imagine happen within families and neighborhoods and all over the place.

And I know enough to know this: I don't speak for God, and neither should anyone else. That's why it is an individual choice -- you make peace with your own soul, your own faith and your own family and friends based on your own, individual and hideous circumstances in each case -- and beyond that, it's no one's business. And I say this as someone who struggled with fertility issues for close to seven years and fully understands how very precious that life is. But I've seen enough horrible things in my life in the law to know that there are just some circumstances where you cannot know unless you happen to be walking in those particular shoes...those very dismal, very difficult shoes.
I want to let you all in on something that I don't talk about very often. I am a rape survivor. It happened when I was very young, and to my lifetime shame, I never reported the rape to law enforcement, because I was too ashamed and was afraid that I would be blamed for it.

As I said, I was young -- but despite how horribly brutal the rape was, I was lucky. I never had to face the choice of an abortion because I did not get pregnant. Thank God.

But every single time I hear someone talk about being pro-life without giving a thought to the woman involved, I cringe. Because I could have easily been impregnated against my will. Violently, viciously impregnated.

And now, some young girl in South Dakota who is raped and finds herself pregnant will be forced to carry the child of her rapist, feeling it grow and move, a daily reminder of the rape -- with the flashbacks, the terror, the nightmares, the gut-wrenching fear -- everything that you have to overcome after being raped, along with handling the emotions and the responsibilities that come along with a pregnancy.

Wealthy women will be able to travel to other states and obtain an abortion. But, as with so many other things, the poor will be disproportionately affected because they will not be able to pay to travel, stay overnight somewhere, have an abortion and then get the necessary adequate follow-up medical care, let alone the necessary counseling.

Poor women will face the unenviable choice of carrying the child of a rapist or a child conceived of incest (imagine the hell of being impregnated by your own father for a moment)...or perhaps the choice of a back-alley, unsafe abortion and then the resulting sterility or worse, an infection that leads to death, that caused abortion laws to be fought so hard for in the 1970s.

Being pro-life does not mean that you can only value the life of the fetus while it is in the womb. If you are pro-life, you have to value all life. You have to work to make life better for all living people. Not just the ones that live in your sterile, gated community or who attend your Laura Ashley-dressed church ladies society or who volunteer at the PTA.

Life is ugly, messy and unfair. Last time I read my Bible, Christ asked his followers to do for the least of his bretheren as they would do for the highest of them.

Last I checked, rape and incest victims didn't ask for the violent, terrifying, horrible action taken against them. But clearly someone in South Dakota disagrees.

Shame on them. And shame on every single "pro-choice" politician who voted for cloture on Alito. Every woman in this nation is about to reap what those politicians so cavilierly have sown. Shame, shame, shame.

I agree with Jane -- put your money where your values are.


Keep Your Legs Together in South Dakota

South Dakota has now passed a law banning abortion with no exception for rape or incest thanks to angry, cowardly men (and women) like the one pictured above, whom TBogg dubs "lildick." TBogg has more on this fellow most women wouldn't fuck on a bet (and boy is he going to make us pay) who was instrumental in this law's passage.

As Digby says, enough already with this bullshit about how much they value life. I'll have more on that high hypocrisy and the mushy-headed tripe of people like EJ Dionne later, but for now just read Digby.

The law was passed, in large, because the way is now clear to a Supreme Court who might actually uphold it. A supreme court whose balance was tilted to the right when Joe Lieberman and Lincoln Chafee voted for cloture on Samuel Alito. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are whimpering on the ground, sniveling even as they frolic in the huge mountain of cash they raised for the purpose of fighting Alito's confirmation. Which they did not show up for. What did they do with that hoarded pile of cash? Then they had the outrageous gall to send out emails to their membership asking them to write thank-you letters to Lieberman for his vote. Why do they not understand? Their comfortable shift to the "middle" and toward the GOP can only be interpreted one way: follow the cash and fuck choice.

They cannot be trusted to be the guardians of pro-choice in this country any more.

If you care about choice, cut 'em off. And let them know why you're doing it. Contact Nancy Keenan at NARAL. Contact Cecile Richardson at Planned Parenthood. Tell them -- not one more dime until they denounce Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman and endorse Ned Lamont.

Give your money to Ned Lamont. Choice in this country will not survive another Bush nominee to the Supreme Court confirmed by this Senate. It may not survive the ones we've already got. There is no more important task right now before the supporters of pro-choice in this country than breaking up the Gang of 14 and making sure that pro-choice Senators take the seats of those who would return us to coathanger days, and yes that means you, Lieberman.

Please. I'm begging you. Support Ned Lamont with whatever you've got.