Saturday, July 09, 2005

The War on Terra

I don't know when I've agreed more with a sentiment than I do with Robin Cook in this Guardian article. My husband, British bubba, who lived in the Muslim world for almost two decades, has said many times the West simply does not understand the Arab mind and so is doomed to repeat past failures. Arabs and Muslims are proud, unified and determined to keep their civilization, one of the oldest in the world, unique and genuine. We can cannot force our way of life on them, any more than we could on the Native Americans. Yes, we succeeded in the near genocide of the people who inhabited this country before us, but there are far more people in the Middle East, and technology got there before us.

Democracy and capitalism found their way to the Americas, Europe and now slowly through Asia, not by force from the outside, but from within. Why does the right so distrust the fundamentals they claim to hold so dear. The last great threat, Communism, has been virtually eliminated, not by brute force, but by globalization. Russia and China are now our great partners or our biggest nemesis, depending on your point of view. We are fighting wars of trade and market control, rather than Star Wars and ballistic missiles.

The same could be true of our Global War on Terror, if we viewed the problem in a similar light. Bring Middle Eastern countries into the power structure. Ask, beg, implore, demand, force them to work with The World in our fight against terrorism. Allow them time to find a middle ground between the new world and the old. Let democracy and freedom take a foothold and watch the results. If history has taught us anything, it is that what Hitler tried in Europe, what Balfour did in Israel, and what we are doing in Iraq, does not work. Terrorism is not fought on the battlefields, but in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Judy, Judy, Judy

This is an absolutely nail-on-the-head defense of the jailing of Judith Miller, from Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News.

"Indeed, as recently as a few days, we didn't want to see Judy Miller of the New York Times (or Time's Matt Cooper, whose case turned out quite differently) sent to jail. But frankly, our reasoning was pretty much along the same lines that the NRA uses to make hideous arguments to allow assault rifles or cop-killer bullets -- the "slippery slope" argument.

So what if the "source" that Miller (and Cooper) have been protecting may have committed a serious crime, naming an undercover CIA agent and possibly even exposing her to fatal consequences, as happened when American spies were "outed" in the 1970s. In the "slippery slope" argument, those facts are irrelevant. If Judy Miller goes to jail today, under this thinking, it makes it more likely for a good and honest journalist who's on the brink of exposing true corruption to be jailed tomorrow.

Today, we realized that the "slippery slope" argument is wrong, and so were we. We're not happy that Judy Miller is going to jail, but we think -- in this case -- that if she won't cooperate with the grand jury, then it's the right thing.

That's because Judy Miller's actions in recent years -- a pattern that includes this case -- have been the very antithesis of what we think journalism is and should be all about. Ultimately, the heart and soul of real journalism is not so much protecting "sources" at any cost. It is, rather, living up to the 19th Century maxim set forth by Peter Finley Dunne, that journalists should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

That is why the ability of reporters to keep the identity of their true sources confidential is protected by shield laws in 31 states and the District of Columbia (although not in federal courts). Without such protections, the government official would not be able to report the wrongdoing of a president (remember "Deep Throat," the ultimate confidential source?), nor would the corporate executive feel free to rat out a crooked CEO. The comfortable and corrupt could not be afflicted.

But the Times' Judy Miller has not been afflicting the comfortable. She has been protecting them, advancing their objectives, and helping them to mislead a now very afflicted American public. In fact, thinking again about Watergate and Deep Throat is a good way to understand why Judy Miller should not be protected today. Because in Watergate, a reporter acting like Miller would not be meeting the FBI's Mark Felt in an underground parking garage. She would be obsessively on the phone with H.R. Haldeman or John Dean, listening to malicious gossip about Carl Bernstein or their plans to make Judge Sirica look bad.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Miller -- working with her "sources" inside the Bush administration and their friends in the Iraqi exile community like the discredited Ahmed Chalabi -- wrote a number of stories that now seem meant to dupe the American people into to thinking Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were a threat.

Turns out, as you know, there weren't any. When the Times looked back on the fiasco, it found that Miller wrote or co-wrote nine of the "problematic stories" on the topic.


And rather than act humbled when the basis for many of her stories proved false, by this year she had adopted yet another pet cause of the Bush administration, the oil-for-food scandal at the United Nations.

Then, seemingly out of left field, comes her involvement in the case of Valerie Plame, the "outed" CIA operative. The facts of the case are still murky, and so we want to tread carefully as we write about it. What is clear is that Judy Miller wasn't on the side of the person seeking to expose government wrongdoing -- that would have been Plame's husband, ex-ambassador Joe Wilson, who revealed the White House's lies about uranium and Iraq.

Instead, the special prosecutor wants to know about conversations that Miller had with a person, or persons, who wanted to squash the whistleblowers. He wants to know if Miller, perhaps unwittingly, abetted what would have been a criminal act against the whistleblower and his family. In fact, there's a theory that Miller might even have been a person who told Bush administration officials that Plame was a CIA agent.

We don't know what it's all about, except we do know that this isn't really journalism. It's about whether she continued her longtime pattern of aiding those in power and spreading their propaganda. What ever it is, we don't think it's protected by the shield laws that are on the books."

I used the slippery slope argument just today when talking about this story and why I have not covered it in this space. It is hard to write a convincing opinion on a topic you feel ambiguous about. An example is the Rush Limbaugh case - absolutely hate the guy, and what happened to him, developing a drug problem that is then exposed brutally in the media, could not have happened to a nicer guy. Cosmic Karma.

You would have thought he could have learned a little compassion from the mess, but then the government steps in and turns him into a privacy martyr. Seizing his medical record, threatening him with prosecution for a drug offense, when the only person truly hurt by his actions were himself. So I find myself defending this man who persecutes anyone who falls outside his narrow ditto-based koolaid community. Blogging is hard work, no misunderestimation about it.

The Miller case has been equally troubling because she is such a scumbag shill for the administration, yet I believe in protecting the First amendment. But now my mind is as unencumbered by doubt as a koolaid kid; eat pilaf Judy, enjoy your Capitol accommodations, watch out for people with digital cameras.

Finally, a brief bit of speculation. Novak publicly says he had two senior administration sources, but he has not named them publicly, nor said if he has testified. Cooper gave his source up, with "unambiguous permission" but has said he will not do so publicly. Miller has gone to jail rather than reveal her source, even though the prosecutor has a waiver from the source allowing her to do so. Rove has admitted speaking to all these people around the time of the disclosure. And what about this idea of the journalist informing the WH. Conclusions, there are multiple sources from both inside the administration and probably Miller herself. Chalabi is mobbed-up like the Mossad, it would be within his ablility to gain such information and to give it to Miller (was he still friends with the Koolaid Kids Klub at the time?). Miller lets fly at the WH. Rove rubs his cloven hooves together. If Judy told him, it must be common knowledge and therefore open to discussion with Novak and Cooper, maybe not just him but Libby too, so it looks like they all thought it was safe, plausible deniability. The original charge is therefore nullified. Novak probably bought into the common knowledge lie (he'll believe anything). Cooper has been trying to do the right thing journalistically, but after Time cooperated, Rove let him off the hook, what a guy. Which leaves Miller and Chalabi, a foreign national and persona non grata in the US. Miller protects Chalabi because Rove is telling her she has to. She is the only one who can break their cover, because if she gives up Chalabi, he'll reveal Rove as the ultimate source. Maybe Chalabi has signed a waiver stating his innocence but has been unavailable for deposition and as long as Miller does as she's told, everybody is covered. The prosecutor knows what's up but can't prove anything without Miller or Chalabi. I may turn out to be wrong, wrong, wrong, so would that make me a Republican?


The Next Supreme

Hunter at the Daily Kos, brings us an op-ed from the NYTimes that attempts to define the term "activist justices", a favorite phrase on the right. In the NYT piece we find that the conservative justices are much more likely to strike down existing laws, legislate from the bench so to speak, than the more liberal justices. It delineates quite neatly actually - Thomas 65.63 % Kennedy 64.06 % Scalia 56.25 % Rehnquist 46.88 % O'Connor 46.77 % Souter 42.19 % Stevens 39.34 % Ginsburg 39.06 % Breyer 28.13 % - four conservatives, O'Connor in the middle, then four liberals. So why don't the Christian right ask for what they really, really want, activist judges who will slap down congress and reshape laws according to their religious principles.

The right are looking for people like:

Emilio M. Garza, 57, is a judge for U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and has been on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination before. Garza has developed a reliably conservative judicial record that includes criticism of the Roe V. Wade abortion decision of 1973. In 1997, Garza sided with the majority in upholding a lower court decision that struck down parts of a Louisiana law requiring parents to be notified when a minor child seeks an abortion. In his concurring opinion, however, he expressed doubts about whether Roe v. Wade was well-grounded in the Constitution.
"[I]n the absence of governing constitutional text, I believe that ontological issues such as abortion are more properly decided in the political and legislative arenas," Garza wrote. ". . . . [I]t is unclear to me that the [Supreme] Court itself still believes that abortion is a 'fundamental right' under the Fourteenth Amendment. . . ."

Edith Hollan Jones, 56, has been a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans since 1985, having been nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Known as a strong and outspoken conservative, she has written opinions that called into question the reasoning behind the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, has been an advocate for speeding up death penalty executions, and is a vocal proponent of "moral values." She also wrote a 1997 opinion throwing out a federal ban on the possession of machine guns and has been an advocate for toughening bankruptcy laws.
In a recent interview with the American Enterprise Institute, she bemoaned the Senate treatment of several controversial appeals court nominees. "Nominees are accused very unfairly of things that they didn't do," she said. "For someone like Judge [Charles W.] Pickering to be called a racist is a vile lie. For someone like Judge [William] Pryor to be attacked on the basis that he is a Catholic and therefore cannot judge cases fairly strikes at the heart of the notion of religious tolerance in our society. And the character assassination of Priscilla Owen reached unconscionable bounds."

J. Michael Luttig, 51, has been a favorite in conservative legal circles for decades, going back to his clerkship for then-Judge Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1982-83. President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 1991, when Luttig was just 37 years old. Ever since, he has been spoken of as a likely choice for the Supreme Court should a Republican president have a chance to name him. His many supporters on the right, including ex-law clerks sprinkled throughout the Bush administration, think now is Luttig's time.
This has sometimes led him to clash with other members of the 4th Circuit, including fellow conservative J. Harvie Wilkinson, also thought of as a Supreme Court contender. In 2000, he dissented from a ruling by Wilkinson that upheld a Fish and Wildlife Service regulation limiting the killing of endangered wolves on private land. He also disagreed with Wilkinson in 2003, when he wrote a dissenting opinion that supported the Bush administration's position that it could designate and detain "enemy combatants" with little judicial scrutiny.
In 1998, he upheld Virginia's ban on the procedure known as a partial birth abortion -- but agreed to let it be struck down after the Supreme Court struck down a similar Nebraska law in 2000.

All have a proven track record of voting THEIR religious principles, while ignoring the constitutional rights of the rest of us, and it is a good bet that who ever Bush nominates (and is eventually confirmed) they will be in the top bracket of judges who strike down laws for reasons of their own design. The next time you read or hear someone on the religious right bemoan the nation's liberal judges and justices, ask them how they define activism. Then find out if they can pat their head and rub their stomach at the same time.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mental Health Smoke Screen

When an e-mail came to me the other day about mental health screening in public schools, I was immediately concerned. Unlike other types like vision and hearing, mental health screening is unusually invasive for the child, can easily lead to inappropriate labeling at a very young age and sets up an adversarial relationship between parents and schools when disagreements on diagnoses and treatment arise. It is a terrible idea. So imagine my surprise to find it is part of a Federal recommendation from the Bush administration's New Freedom Initiative and New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Where are you George Orwell?

Come to find out it only gets worse. It seems the state of Texas has been test marketing the mental health project for a decade - in it's prisons and state mental health hospitals. T-MAP stands for Texas Medication Algorithm Project. It has been providing the roadmap by which Texas institutions treat their mentally ill through the testing of new and more aggressive psychiatropic drugs, supplied by all the major pharmaceutical companies and paid for by the taxpayers, all the while lining the pockets of the drug companies and the state legislators who voted to fund T-MAP. And big surprise, who was governor of Texas at the time of its inception, GWBush. They have also test marketed the program in other states, most notably Pennsylvania when Tom Ridge was governor.

Now they are ready to take their show to the national level by screening and then medicating our nation's children. This despite hard data showing the correlation between higher risk of death by side-effect and suicide from these newer and more aggressive drugs, especially in children and teens. Whistleblower Allen Jones paints a pretty clear picture of the disconnect between the use and effectiveness of the drugs, the death rate increase, and the money trail.

US Representative Ron Paul of Texas tried to get congress to reconsider this dangerous assault on our children, our privacy and individual liberties, as well as the enormous cost, leaching funds from already seriously underfunded programs. He was unsuccessful, but there is still time to let our representatives, both state and federal, know we do not want our children used as labrats for the drug companies, nor do we want the government intruding so recklessly in our personal lives.

UPDATE - The trial of Rush Limbaugh is fast approaching and in advance of the judges order to hand his medical records over to prosecutors, let's listen to Limbaugh's attorney - "Nobody wants their intimate medical problems broadcast to the state. I mean, it's the ultimate invasion of privacy," Black said. Ditto