Saturday, October 29, 2005
Sistani May Call for US Withdrawal
By Juan Cole
The intrepid Hamza Hendawi of AP gets the scoop: Aides around Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the chief spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites, are broadly hinting that after the December 15 elections, he may begin a Gandhi-like campaign to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. A lot of sentiments are attributed to Sistani that he later has to deny, so we should be cautious about whether the aides have their own axe to grind. But if this report is true, it would suggest that Sistani is confident that the Iraqi police and military are strong enough to protect him and the other members of the current Iraqi political class, and that the Americans are not needed.
If Sistani gives The Fatwa for a US withdrawal, the Bush administration will simply have to acquiesce. The situation would be similar to what happened in the Philippines in 1991, when the Philippines senate declined to authorize the extension of the treaty that permitted US naval bases in that country. Given the ongoing Sunni Arab guerrilla movement (which killed another 5 US GI's in the past couple of days), the US simply cannot keep troops in Iraq if the Shiites also begin vehemently demanding their departure. Any attempt by Bush and Rumsfeld to remain in Iraq in defiance of Sistani would certainly radicalize the Iraqi population and risk pushing it toward anti-American Muslim extremism both on the Shiite and the Sunni Arab fronts. As Hendawi notes, most close observers of Iraq, such as Vali Nasr and Ahmad Hashem (who has experience on the ground as US military officer) believe that any such move by Sistani, should it succeed, risks throwing Iraq into substantial sectarian violence.
A majority of Americans now say that getting the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible is more important than ensuring that the country is a stable democracy. Sistani seems to be encouraging a new political coalition that is multi-ethnic. Al-Zaman says that some independent Shiite notables close to Sistani have formed the Independent Iraqi Capabilities Bloc. It groups many of the independents who were in the (Shiite religious) United Iraqi Alliance in the January 30 elections, but altogether includes 120 Shiites, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. (If this group was not offered many seats by the UIA this time, it might explain both why it bolted and why Sistani is said not to be as enthusiastic about the UIA this time around.)
Al-Zaman says that this new IICB Party list is headed by Husain Shahristani, a former nuclear scientist now close to Sistani. This report seems to be contradicted by the NYT, and, indeed, among Western news reports only the Financial Times even alludes to this new list. Unless Sistani directly endorses the new list, something his aides said Friday would not happen, I don't expect it to do very well, unfortunately.
On Friday, the young nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for calm after a major engagement between his Mahdi Army and Sunni Arab guerrillas, who killed 25 of the latter. Sadr called for an investigation and forbade individuals from taking the initiative. Also on the sectarian civil war front, the Washington Post reported Saturday that a family of 10 Shiites was found dead earlier this week in Qamishli in Babil province, killed by Sunni Arab guerrillas. Babil is a mixed province where Saddam stole land from Shiites and settled Sunni Arabs on it.
Al-Zaman/ Deutsche Press Agentur are reporting further breakaways from the United Iraqi Alliance. The UIA groups the Dawa Party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Virtue Party, the Sadrists of Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Islamic Action Party based in Karbala. Aside from the last, these are the big, central Shiite religious parties, and the UIA is likely to have a plurality or even majority in the new parliament elected on Dec. 15, unless there is a voter revolt of some sort.
It is probably therefore not very important that there were some last minute defections from the UIA. Ahmad Chalabi in the end decided to run his Iraqi National Congress as an independent list. The INC mainly represents the secular-leaning expatriate Shiite business class and seems unlikely to do well in open elections inside Iraq. It has been joined by Sharif Ali bin al-Husain, a Sunni Hashimite who has in the past put himself forward as candidate for king of Iraq (not a likely prospect).
Kirk Semple of the New York Times lists some other INC candidates, including " Iraq's justice minister, Abdul Hussein Shandal . . . Other members are Salama al-Khafaji, an independent Shiite who also defected from the Shiite coalition." Khafaji, a Shiite traditionalist who is uncomfortable with the idea of a clerically dominated state, has narrowly escaped assassination; as it is, her 17-year-old son was killed in an ambush. It would be interesting to know more about why she split with the UIA and joined Chalabi. Her advocacy for women's issues may have played a role.
Chalabi should never be underestimated, and he is perfectly capable of getting up some vote-buying scheme. But if the election is free and fair, I'd be just stunned if the INC got many seats in parliament. Semple also reports that Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi, the Marsh Arab leader from Amara, is running as an independent. Al-Zaman thought he would join Chalabi's list, but that possibility appears to have fallen through. Since most of the Marsh Arabs appear to have gone over to Muqtada al-Sadr since the fall of Saddam, I don't expect al-Muhammadawi to do well on his own, though he might get a seat for himself in parliament.
Hamza Hendawi reports that the secular "Iraqi Nationalism" list of Iyad Allawi groups the Iraqi Communist Party, secular Sunni figures such as Ghazi al-Yawir and Adnan Pachachi, and of course the ex-Baathist Shiites that Allawi has long attempted to organize. Allawi's list only received 14 percent of the vote in the last elections. The communists and al-Yawir could bring him an extra 4 seats or so, but it is also possible that his list will not poll as well this time. He no longer has the advantages of incumbency. He has been critical of Sistani. And several members of his cabinet have been charged with massive embezzlement.
Hendawi reports that Allawi is angling to form a government with the Kurds so as to outmaneuver the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. But I doubt Allawi's list will get more than 40 seats, and the Kurds are unlikely to do much better than 55. Even if they get some of the 40 seats that will be redistributed after the election by some complex formula, I don't see how they can get to the 138 needed to form a government. Only if all three-- Allawi's list, the Kurdistan Alliance, and the Sunni coalition unite could they form a government that left out the United Iraqi Alliance, assuming it does not end up with 138 itself. Such a strange-bedfellows government would be highly unstable and I doubt it would last. It is going to be hard to exclude the religious Shiite parties.
Hazem Shaalan, the former defense minister accused massive fraud committed while in office in 2004 and early 2005, maintained that he was the victim of an attempted assassination in his London flat, but which failed, according to al-Sharq al-Awsat. Shaalan, however, is a notorious liar, and has also charged that there are one million Iranian Shiites surreptitiously in Iraq and that Iran is allowing al-Qaeda operatives to freely roam its territory. Both charges are so laughable that you have to wonder whether Shaalan isn't a good friend of and source of information for Irving Lewis Libby.
The Turks went ballistic when Bush received Massoud Barzani (Mesut in Turkish) at the White House and called him "President Barzani." They wanted to know what Bush thought Barzani was president of. The Turks are afraid of an independent Kurdistan state in northern Iraq, which might create secessionist sentiments in Turkish Kurds. Bush at least did tell Barzani that Iraq had to remain a united country. Secretary of State Condi Rice pressed Barzani on behalf of the Turks to see that the PKK (a Marxist Kurdish revolutionary party in eastern Turkey) not be allowed to operate freely from or take refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turks were very upset when the US and the Iraqi government attacked the Turkmen city of Tal Afar in August on the grounds that terrorists operated from it, but seemed unconcerned about what the Turks consider Kurdish terrorists of the PKK establishing themselves in the same region.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Don't miss the Love Boat Reunion Cruise,
"Rats Off a Sinking Ship!"
Our guest stars:
After being dumped from Supreme Court consideration, Harriet flees to the Love Boat to get away. Don't miss her touching scene where she gushes over Captain Stubing, "you're the best captain ever!" Harriet, is of course still a virgin, as she is unmarried in the abstinence administration. Watch her fall under the spell of the tropical moon, though, and toss her inhibitions away as she engages in a night of toe-curling, sweaty passion in a Lido Deck lifeboat with U.N. ambassador John Bolton (played by Wilford Brimley.)
Our next guest star is disgraced former FEMA head Michael Brown.
Lulled to sleep by the ocean breezes and a bottle of Captain Morgan, Brownie dreams that he is the safety director on the Titanic.
A gin-soaked Captain Bush tells him he is doing a heck of a job just before the ship slips beneath the surface. Mike wakes and realizes it is all a dream, and happily rushes off on his shore excursion to the Mayan temples, where he is killed and eaten by crocodiles.
Our final guest star is Vice President Dick Cheney.
Look! The boat makes a stop at an unexpected port of call, Fantasy Island! Only it is MY Fantasy Island!
Here on Fantasy Island, Dick is stripped, made to eat rotten military meals from Halliburton, assaulted with broom handles by angry Wal-Mart employees, and then he is
A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb. Its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?
G. Gordon Liddy
I. Lewis Libby
Did Reagan have an H. Something Liccy working for him? That guy needs to get investigated.
And, 30 years from now, does this mean that Scooter will have a second career as an obnoxious radio voice?
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.
The disclosures also come as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up the nearly two-year-old CIA leak investigation that has focused heavily on Libby's role in discussing covert intelligence operative Valerie Plame with reporters. Fitzgerald could announce as soon as tomorrow whether a federal grand jury is handing up indictments in the case.
Central to Fitzgerald's investigation is whether administration officials disclosed Plame's identity and CIA status in an effort to discredit her husband, former ambassador and vocal Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, who wrote newspaper op-ed columns and made other public charges beginning in 2003 that the administration misused intelligence on Iraq that he gathered on a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa.
In recent weeks Fitzgerald's investigation has zeroed in on the activities of Libby, who is Cheney's top national security and foreign policy advisor, as well as the conflict between the vice president's office on one side and the CIA and State Department on the other over the use of intelligence on Iraq. The New York Times reported this week, for example, that Libby first learned about Plame and her covert CIA status from Cheney in a conversation with the vice president weeks before Plame's cover was blown in a July 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak.
The Intelligence Committee at the time was trying to determine whether the CIA and other intelligence agencies provided faulty or erroneous intelligence on Iraq to President Bush and other government officials. But the committee deferred the much more politically sensitive issue as to whether the president and the vice president themselves, or other administration officials, misrepresented intelligence information to bolster the case to go to war. An Intelligence Committee spokesperson says the panel is still working on this second phase of the investigation.
Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.
In April 2004, the Intelligence Committee released a report that concluded that "much of the information provided or cleared by the Central Intelligence Agency for inclusion in Secretary Powell's [United Nation's] speech was overstated, misleading, or incorrect." Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee say that their investigation was hampered by the refusal of the White House to turn over key documents, although Republicans said the documents were not as central to the investigation.
In addition to withholding drafts of Powell's speech -- which included passages written by Libby -- the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president's morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.
One congressional source said, for example, that senators wanted to review the PDBs to determine whether dissenting views from the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the Department of Energy, and other agencies that often disagreed with the CIA on the question of Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction were being presented to the president.
An administration spokesperson said that the White House was justified in turning down the document demand from the Senate, saying that the papers reflected "deliberative discussions" among "executive branch principals" and were thus covered under longstanding precedent and executive privilege rules. Throughout the president's five years in office, the Bush administration has been consistently adamant about not turning internal documents over to Congress and other outside bodies.
At the same time, however, administration officials said in interviews that they cannot recall another instance in which Cheney and Libby played such direct personal roles in denying foreign policy papers to a congressional committee, and that in doing so they overruled White House staff and lawyers who advised that the materials should be turned over to the Senate panel.
Administration sources also said that Cheney's general counsel, David Addington, played a central role in the White House decision not to turn over the documents. Addington did not return phone calls seeking comment. Cheney's office declined to comment after requesting that any questions for this article be submitted in writing.
A former senior administration official familiar with the discussions on whether to turn over the materials said there was a "political element" in the matter. This official said the White House did not want to turn over records during an election year that could used by critics to argue that the administration used incomplete or faulty intelligence to go to war with Iraq. "Nobody wants something like this dissected or coming out in an election year," the former official said.
But the same former official also said that Libby felt passionate that the CIA and other agencies were not doing a good job at intelligence gathering, that the Iraqi war was a noble cause, and that he and the vice president were only making their case in good faith. According to the former official, Libby cited those reasons in fighting for the inclusion in Powell's U.N. speech of intelligence information that others mistrusted, in opposing the release of documents to the Intelligence Committee, and in moving aggressively to counter Wilson's allegations that the Bush administration distorted intelligence findings.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee backed the document request to the White House regarding Libby's drafts of the Powell speech, communications between Libby and other administration officials on intelligence information that might be included in the speech, and Libby's contacts with officials in the intelligence community relating to Iraq.
In his address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Powell argued that intelligence information showed that Saddam Hussein's regime was aggressively pursuing programs to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons
Only after the war did U.N. inspectors and the public at large learn that the intelligence data had been incorrect and that Iraq had been so crippled by international sanctions that it could not sustain such a program.
The April 2004 Senate report blasted what it referred to as an insular and risk- averse culture of bureaucratic "group think" in which officials were reluctant to challenge their own longstanding notions about Iraq and its weapons programs. All nine Republicans and eight Democrats signed onto this document without a single dissent, a rarity for any such report in Washington, especially during an election year.
After the release of the report, Intelligence Committee, Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said they doubted that the Senate would have authorized the president to go to war if senators had been given accurate information regarding Iraq's programs on weapons of mass destruction. "I doubt if the votes would have been there," Roberts said. Rockefeller asserted, "We in Congress would not have authorized that war, in 75 votes, if we knew what we know now."
Roberts' spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said the second phase of the committee's investigation would also examine how pre-war intelligence focused on the fact that intelligence analysts -- while sounding alarms that a humanitarian crisis that might follow the war - failed to predict the insurgency that would arise after the war.
Little says that it was undecided whether the committee would produce a classified report, a declassified one that could ultimately be made public, or hold hearings. When the 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee was made public, Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials cited it as proof that the administration acted in good faith on Iraq and relied on intelligence from the CIA and others that it did not know was flawed.
But some congressional sources say that had the committee received all the documents it requested from the White House the spotlight could have shifted to the heavy advocacy by Cheney's office to go to war. Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.
In advocating war with Iraq, Libby was known for dismissing those within the bureaucracy who opposed him, whether at the CIA, State Department, or other agencies. Supporters say that even if Libby is charged by the grand jury in the CIA leak case, he waged less a personal campaign against Wilson and Plame than one that reflected a personal antipathy toward critics in general.
Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Powell as Secretary of State, charged in a recent speech that there was a "cabal between Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense [Donald L.] Rumsfeld on critical decisions that the bureaucracy did not know was being made."
In interagency meetings in preparation for Powell's U.N. address, Wilkerson, Powell, and senior CIA officials argued that evidence Libby wanted to include as part of Powell's presentation was exaggerated or unreliable. Cheney, too, became involved in those discussions, sources said, when he believed that Powell and others were not taking Libby's suggestions seriously.
Wilkerson has said that he ordered "whole reams of paper" of intelligence information excluded from Libby's draft of Powell's speech. Another official recalled that Libby was pushing so hard to include certain intelligence information in the speech that Libby lobbied Powell for last minute changes in a phone call to Powell's suite at the Waldorf Astoria hotel the night before the speech.
Libby's suggestions were dismissed by Powell and his staff. John E. McLaughlin, then-deputy director of the CIA, has testified to Congress that "much of our time in the run-up to the speech was spent taking out material... that we and the secretary's staff judged to have been unreliable."
The passion that Libby brought to his cause is perhaps further illustrated by a recent Los Angeles Times report that in April 2004, months after Fitzgerald's leak investigation was underway, Libby ordered "a meticulous catalog of Wilson's claims and public statements going back to early 2003" because Libby was "consumed by passages that he believed were inaccurate or unfair" to him.
The newspaper reported that the "intensity with which Libby reacted to Wilson had many senior White House staffers puzzled, and few agreed with his counterattack plan, or its rationale." A former administration official said that "this might have been about politics on some level, but it is also personal. [Libby] feels that his honor has been questioned, and his instinct is to strike back." Now, as Libby battles back against possible charges by a special prosecutor, he might be seeking vindication on an entirely new level.
While thousands were dying under the lash of Katrina, Rita, and most lately Wilma, and hundreds of millions more were feeling a major pinch in their wallets (oh, and the worst is yet to come, with winter on its way) Exxon-Mobil and Shell were posting record profits, with Exxon being the first US company to earn $100 million in a quarter. From AP:
To put Exxon's performance into perspective, its third quarter revenue was greater than the annual gross domestic product of some of the largest oil producing nations, including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The world's largest publicly traded oil company also set a U.S. profit record with net income of almost $10 billion, according to Standard & Poor's equity market analyst Howard Silverblatt.
Both Exxon and Shell said their performances were buoyed by higher crude-oil and natural-gas prices, even as output suffered due to a busy hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico.
Exxon's net income ballooned 75 percent to $9.92 billion, compared with $5.68 billion a year ago. The previous oil-industry earnings record was Exxon's 2004 fourth-quarter profit of $8.42 billion. Revenue grew to $100.72 billion from $76.38 billion in the prior-year period.
At Shell, third-quarter net income attributable to shareholders grew 68 percent to $9.03 billion, compared with $5.37 billion a year earlier. Including income attributable to minority interests, profit rose 67 percent to $9.39 billion at the Anglo-Dutch company. Revenue rose 8 percent to $76.44 billion, in spite of an 11 percent decline in oil and natural gas output.
"We are capturing the benefits of high oil and gas prices and refining margins," Shell Chief Financial Officer Peter Voser said, referring to the profit margin on each barrel of crude that is refined into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Excluding certain items, Exxon's profit was $8.3 billion, or $1.32 per share, or slightly below the $1.38 per share expected by analysts polled by Thomson Financial.
Shell said adjusted earnings on a current cost of supplies basis — a measurement that strips out the fluctuating value of the company's oil and gas inventories — was $7.37 billion, sharply higher than analysts' forecasts.
I'm sure glad that Shell and Exxon get benefits when gas prices go up - the rest of us suffer mightily. I wonder - will they be willing to share those profits with the poor who won't be able to afford heating oil this winter? The GOP always tells us that if government got out of the way, business would take care of everything. I think that record profits should allow for that, don't you?
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
So let's add more to Bush's legacy of record deficits, dwindling national resources, foreign enslavement of Americans through financial beholdenness (can we make that a word?) and a level of corruption in the face of high-and-mighty morality that would confuse even the most bipolar of psych patients.
US warned on long stay in Iraq as death toll rises
By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and James Boxell in London and Steve Negus, Iraq Correspondent
Published: October 25 2005 11:29 Last updated: October 26 2005 01:59
The US will likely have to retain a sizeable military force in Iraq even after President George W. Bush has left the White House, a leading London-based defence think-tank said on Tuesday.
On the day the number of US soldiers killed in the conflict reached 2,000, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which publishes a comprehensive account of military forces around the world, said that plans by the US to shift combating insurgency to Iraq's own army had not yet borne fruit, while rebels were showing considerable resilience.
On Tuesday, a sergeant died of wounds suffered in a bomb attack on October 17, bringing the death toll for the US military to 2,000.
The IISS report came as Iraq approved its new constitution by a slim margin in a referendum, with strong votes against the charter in Sunni provinces. “The next US administration will have forces in Iraq, and a fairly large number for some years to come,” said Patrick Cronin, director of studies at the institute. He said that US troop withdrawals next year were likely only to be small scale and that it would take “five years at least” for Iraq to generate the 300,000-strong army it needed to fight the insurgency on its own.
Mr Cronin said the US would need to maintain a substantial part of its 150,000 force in the country, even though private security contractors are playing a greater role. The IISS estimates that private security personnel are now the second-largest foreign contingent in Iraq after the US, and comprising a force more than double the size of Britain's 8,500-strong contingent.
Gen George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, said this month that problems with Sunni resistance to the constitution could call into question plans for “fairly substantial” troop withdrawals early next year. On Tuesday, John Chipman, IISS director, warned that there could be an escalation in the conflict between the military arms of the two dominant Shia groups in the south of the country, because of a “fracturing” of the Shia vote. He added that the poll could be also hit by a Sunni boycott similar to the one that afflicted the country's January parliamentary vote. Such a development could undermine the stability and legitimacy of any new government.
It's coming this week
For those who did lie
For those who did leak
We're waving good-bye
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Your name's on a list
You sure weren't nice
He's gonna indict
Your naughty ass twice
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
He tapes you when you're lying
He caught you being fake
Scooter and Karl and Dick Cheney
Many indictments he will make
It's coming this week
For those who did lie
For those who did leak
We're waving good-bye
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Santa Fitz is comin' to court
Wingnuts in G-O-P Land
They laugh at perjury
They'll soon be left to cry man
For the truth they cannot flee
It's coming this week
For those who did lie
For those who did leak
We're waving good-bye
Santa Fitz (is comin' to court)
Santa Fitz (is comin' to court)
Santa Fitz is comin'
Santa Fitz is comin'
Santa Fitz is comin'
Due to the extreme likelihood that a pretty white girl will disappear today, the White House has ordered a heightened "Pretty White Girl" awareness level and placed CNN's white girl disappearance expert Nancy Grace on full alert.
Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan stated "Look, we have big-time indictments going down, and we need cover. We threatened New York, no one cared. Someone had the bright idea that we could distract attention away with Greenspan's replacement, but hell, I'm not really sure what the Federal Reserve does, so we went with the obvious choice--missing pretty white girls."
The White House also announced that it is sending a compromise measure to Congress in response to Sen. John McCain's ban on torture. Under the president's proposals, foreign prisoners could only be tortured on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and after 6 P.M. on weekends.
Wal-Mart memo proposes cost cuts: report 1 hour, 51 minutes ago
NEW YORK (Reuters) - An internal memo sent to the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT - news) board proposes numerous ways to hold down health care and benefits costs with less harm to the retailer's reputation, including hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from seeking jobs, the New York Times said on Wednesday.
The paper said the draft memo to Wal-Mart's board was obtained from Wal-Mart Watch, a pressure group allied with labor unions that says Wal-Mart's pay and benefits are too low.
The paper said in the memorandum Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) pension contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits.
The memo is quoted as expressing concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive, said the paper, which posted the memo on its Web site (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/26/business/26walmart.ready.html ).
So fire 'em all after a year. It's not like they're earning anything working for you anyway.
To discourage unhealthy job applicants, the paper said, Chambers suggests Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering),"
Well, there would go the lovely Republican idea that when a 58 year old mother of 4 and grandmother of one loses her long-term, high-paying job because it's been outsourced to someone in another country willing to work for a nickel a day, she can always go work for WalMart - not if she's got a cranky hip, she can't - there's physical labor that needs doin'.
The memo also proposed that employees pay more for their spouses' health insurance, called for cutting the company's 401(k) contributions to 3 percent of wages from 4 percent and for cutting company-paid life insurance policies.
The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefits because critics attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Chambers in the memo acknowledged 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid.
Think about that. Forty six percent of 1.33 million people, or about 610,000 people who get listed as having a job in George Bush's America, and who work for the company owned by the richest family in the country, either don't have health insurance or are on Medicaid.
Wal-Mart executives said the memo was part of an effort to rein in benefit costs, which have soared by 15 percent a year on average since 2002. Like much of corporate America, Wal-Mart has been squeezed by soaring health costs, the paper said.
The proposed plan, if approved, would save the company more than $1 billion a year by 2011, the paper said.
Of course, legally, they have every right to screw whoever they want, financially. But morally, wouldn't it be nice if they thought "You know, we might be one of the few companies to which a billion dollars isn't that big a deal. We'd rather have happier, healthier employees than to up the profit margin another percent."?
In an interview, Ms. Chambers said she was focusing not on cutting costs, but on serving employees better by giving them more choices on their benefits. Chambers also said that she made her recommendations after surveying employees about how they felt about the benefits plan.
One proposal would reduce the amount of time, from two years to one, that part-time employees would have to wait before qualifying for health insurance. Another would put health clinics in stores, in part to reduce expensive employee visits to emergency rooms.
Of course, to save money, they'll be staffed by kids in the first year of med school, but they'll be cheaper.
Wal-Mart's benefit costs jumped to $4.2 billion last year, from $2.8 billion three years earlier. Last year Wal-Mart earned $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion.
Under fire because less than 45 percent of its workers receive company health insurance, Wal-Mart announced a new plan on Monday that seeks to increase participation by allowing some employees to pay just $11 a month in premiums.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
A majority would vote for a Democrat over President Bush if an election were held this year, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday.
In the latest poll, 55 percent of the respondents said that they would vote for the Democratic candidate if Bush were again running for the presidency this year.
Thirty-nine percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Bush in the hypothetical election.
The latest poll results, released Tuesday, were based on interviews with 1,008 adults conducted by telephone October 21-23.
In the poll, 42 percent of those interviewed approved of the way the president is handling his job and 55 percent disapproved. In the previous poll, released October 17, 39 percent approved of Bush's job performance -- the lowest number of his presidency -- and 58 percent disapproved.
However, all the numbers are within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, so it's possible that the public's opinion has not changed at all.
More than half, 57 percent, said they don't agree with the president's views on issues that are important to them, while 41 percent said their views are in alignment with those of Bush on important issues.
Democrats preferred on issues
On separate issues, a majority of those questioned felt the Democrats could do a better job than Republicans at handling health care (59 percent to 30 percent), Social Security (56 percent to 33 percent), gasoline prices (51 percent to 31 percent) and the economy (50 percent to 38 percent).
Forty-six percent also believed Democrats could do better at handling Iraq, while 40 percent said the GOP would do better.
In 2003, 53 percent said Republicans would better handle Iraq and only 29 percent believed the Democrats would do better.
The only issue on which Republicans came out on top was in fighting terrorism: 49 percent said the GOP is better at it, while 38 percent said the Democrats are.
And there was a dramatic shift downward in the latest poll, compared with September, in the percentage of people who said that it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq.
This time, 49 percent said it was a mistake, versus 59 percent who felt that way last month.
Now you tell us.
Two thousand coffins, laid end-to-end, would stretch approximately 16,000 feet. That's just over three miles, or just under eleven times the distance Andy Dufrense crawled to escape from prison.
May everyone involved in the lies and leaks that helped lead America into an illegal and unjust war spend every day of the rest of their lives crawling through a river of shit-smelling foulness that I can't even imagine.
James Ridgeway of the Village Voice recalls the ghost of corrupt vice presidents past in the light of the NYT's revelations Tuesday that Richard Bruce Cheney was the one who revealed the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to his chief of staff, Irving Lewis Libby.
Libby had earlier maintained that he learned the name from a "journalist."
If both things are true, it makes perfect sense of our weird American news reporting. Cheney isn't just "a" journalist, he is The Journalist--who calls up Roger Ailes at Fox Cable News and tells him what to report and how. Why, Jimmy Olson and Clark Kent are pikers compared to super-Dick.
Or it could just be that Libby was lying, in which case he get's Martha Stewart's old cell.
I saw Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson say that she hoped Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald would not bring a charge like perjury, which would be a sign that he could not discover a real crime, or words to that effect. She was speaking off the current Republican Party talking points aimed at spinning this scandal.
So let's get this straight. The Republicans roiled the country for two years and impeached Clinton for lying about sex under oath, but now all of a sudden perjury is a minor crime not worth bothering about. Remember that 1998 was a period when Clinton needed to focus on the threat of al-Qaeda, but he was being distracted by the Republican bulldogs and everything he did about al-Qaeda was dismissed as "wag the dog." Vicious partisan politics was put before the benefit of the nation. (Many of the major Republican figures who impeached Clinton had themselves had affairs and covered them up, and besides, who cared or cares?)
But what Cheney, Libby and Rove did was not just a private impropriety. The leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity did enormous harm to US national security, since it blew the cover of the dummy corporation the Company was using to investigate weapons of mass destruction proliferation.
Although it was not illegal for Cheney to share classified information with Libby, since both had clearances, there is a question of whether the idea of leaking Valerie's name originated with Cheney. Even if that were not true, there is a question of propriety. Undercover CIA operatives' names should not be bandied about without some serious purpose. At a time of a War on Terror, when the nation's security is under assault by a sinister and determined terrorist organization, do we want a vice president in the White House who has the kind of loose lips that sink ships?
Indictments Coming Tomorrow; Targets Received Letters Today
An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN:
1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.
2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.
3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.
4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.
From the National Review, of all places (as indicated by the gratuitous Bush hug at the end)
FITZGERALD: TOOL OF THE LEFT?
By Andy McCarthy
I’m too busy today to be monitoring the media, but I've gotten a lot of questions about this from people who say some conservatives are hitting the airwaves with preemptive suggestions that my friend Pat Fitzgerald may not be as apolitical as his press clippings indicate. In particular, I am being pointed to favorable comments made by Senator Schumer about Pat’s competence and integrity.
Let me just say this. Pat is at least as apolitical as his press clippings suggest. And just because Senator Schumer says something doesn’t make it wrong. Pat Fitzgerald is the best prosecutor I have ever seen. By a mile. He is also the straightest shooter I have ever seen – by at least that much. And most importantly, he is a good man.
This investigation has gone on for 22 months. Most of the evidence was collected before autumn 2004 – the last year of delay has mainly been caused by reporters challenging subpoenas in the federal courts. If Pat were political–or, worse, if he somehow had it in for the Bush administration–it was fully within his power to return indictments in the weeks before the November elections, which would almost certainly have cinched things for Senator Kerry. It is something, I am quite certain, it would never even have occurred to him to do. The only thing the guy I know would do is bring charges or close the case without charges when the facts of the investigation warranted doing so.
Unlike his predecessor, President Bush has been a model of decorum throughout this investigation, regarding it as a serious matter and being respectful and complimentary in light of the professional way in which it’s been conducted. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I think people would do well to follow the President’s lead. They will be far less likely then to look foolish later on.
"Congressional Republicans have also been signaling that they want to put some distance between their agenda and the White House's potential legal and political woes, seeking to cast the leak case as an inside-the-Beltway phenomenon of little interest to most voters. I think we just need to stick to our knitting on the topics and the subjects the American people care about, Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, said on Fox News Sunday."
He dares compare ordinary, mundane and routine politics to KNITTING? You can't let this happen, knitters, stand up and be heard!
and another of Fox hack Bill O'Reilly:
and in breaking news, The Thinker has learned that a heavily-armed Ann Coulter has barricaded herself in the Washington Times building.
Ann reportedly fired several shots from the building while chugging several cans of Coors beer. Witnesses report that she yelled "you'll never take me alive, you Godless liberal bastards! I also won't drink any of that commie micro-brew stuff, and damn it, yes, I AM A MAN!" through a building window.
Pat Robertson was and is a strong Bush supporter, and he would be very unlikely to lie in public and in print just two weeks before the presidential election about a matter that would discredit the president.
Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, told CNN in an interview Tuesday night that he urged the president to prepare the American people for the prospect of casualties before launching the war in March 2003.
Robertson said Bush told him, " 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' "
This same reasoning, however, exposes once again Bush's dishonesty. When faced with Robertson's damaging claim just two weeks before the election, it is a dead certainty that Bush and members of his administration would lie in order to avoid being discredited.
Suspect Arrested in Brutal Murders
(Local Fake Wire Services) Dallas police reported this morning that they had arrested a suspect sought in a series of local murders. When asked for comment, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson said “I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some bludgeoning and dismemberment technicality.”
Monday, October 24, 2005
"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.
How exactly is that different from an accurate characterization of Chimpy McFlightsuit?
In the 6th district, Henry Hyde is finally taking his hypocritical corrupt soul back to the abyss from which he was spawned. The Democrat campaigning for his seat is Christine Cegelis. I'm officially making her thinkingorsitting's second endorsement.
In the 8th district, Melissa Bean grabbed the seat away from the decrepit hands of Phil Crane, but that just leaves her ripe for a one-term career. I haven't heard much good about her, though, so that seat is a concern either way.
Can anyone think of anything more fun that getting big Denny Hastert out of his seat in the 14th district?
From the AP, I saw it in a local paper
BAGHDAD, Iraq — (AP) With the grim milestone of the 2,000th U.S. military death looming in Iraq, many wonder about the direction of the insurgency that killed most of them. Experts think the country’s increasingly regional-oriented politics will fuel the insurgency and even spread it further inside Iraq.
Others put forward a simple, disquieting scenario: So long as U.S. and other foreign troops remain in Iraq, the insurgency will continue. “It will become more chaotic,” predicted Magnus Ranstorp of the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm, Sweden. “It is obvious that the United States is in Iraq to stay. If this is the case, the Shiites will likely join the Sunnis in the fight.”
You can find more of the article at the link above, but I said before that we weren't leaving.
He almost won a House seat in one of the most "red" districts in the country, and the Republican Senate incumbent, Mike DeWine, is low-hanging fruit. He has a primary race against a good quality opponent, so I hope they don't beat themselves up, but Paul Hackett is an energetic voice the party needs. So if you are in Ohio, get out there and get busy!
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- The CIA leak inquiry that threatens senior White House aides has now widened to include the forgery of documents on African uranium that started the investigation, according to NATO intelligence sources.
This suggests the inquiry by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame has now widened to embrace part of the broader question about the way the Iraq war was justified by the Bush administration.
Fitzgerald's inquiry is expected to conclude this week and despite feverish speculation in Washington, there have been no leaks about his decision whether to issue indictments and against whom and on what charges.
Two facts are, however, now known and between them they do not bode well for the deputy chief of staff at the White House, Karl Rove, President George W Bush's senior political aide, not for Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The first is that Fitzgerald last year sought and obtained from the Justice Department permission to widen his investigation from the leak itself to the possibility of cover-ups, perjury and obstruction of justice by witnesses. This has renewed the old saying from the days of the Watergate scandal, that the cover-up can be more legally and politically dangerous than the crime.
The second is that NATO sources have confirmed to United Press International that Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.
Fitzgerald's team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with Yellowcake uranium. This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House.
This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case, that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated. This was the same charge that imperiled the government of Bush's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after a BBC Radio program claimed Blair's aides has "sexed up" the evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
There can be few more serious charges against a government than going to war on false pretences, or having deliberately inflated or suppressed the evidence that justified the war.
And since no WMD were found in Iraq after the 2003 war, despite the evidence from the U.N. inspections of the 1990s that demonstrated that Saddam Hussein had initiated both a nuclear and a biological weapons program, the strongest plank in the Bush administration's case for war has crumbled beneath its feet.
The reply of both the Bush and Blair administrations was that they made their assertions about Iraq's WMD in good faith, and that other intelligence agencies like the French and German were equally mistaken in their belief that Iraq retained chemical weapons, along with the ambition and some of technological basis to restart the nuclear and biological programs.
It is this central issue of good faith that the CIA leak affair brings into question. The initial claims Iraq was seeking raw uranium in the west African state of Niger aroused the interest of vice-president Cheney, who asked for more investigation. At a meeting of CIA and other officials, a CIA officer working under cover in the office that dealt with nuclear proliferation, Valerie Plame, suggested her husband, James Wilson, a former ambassador to several African states, enjoyed good contacts in Niger and could make a preliminary inquiry. He did so, and returned concluding that the claims were untrue. In July 2003, he wrote an article for The New York Times making his mission -- and his disbelief -- public.
But by then Elisabetta Burba, a journalist for the Italian magazine Panorama (owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) had been contacted by a "security consultant" named Rocco Martoni, offering to sell documents that "proved" Iraq was obtaining uranium in Niger for $10,000. Rather than pay the money, Burba's editor passed photocopies of the documents to the U.S. Embassy, which forwarded them to Washington, where the forgery was later detected. Signatures were false, and the government ministers and officials who had signed them were no longer in office on the dates on which the documents were supposedly written.
Nonetheless, the forged documents appeared, on the face of it, to shore up the case for war, and to discredit Wilson. The origin of the forgeries is therefore of real importance, and any link between the forgeries and Bush administration aides would be highly damaging and almost certainly criminal.
The letterheads and official seals that appeared to authenticate the documents apparently came from a burglary at the Niger Embassy in Rome in 2001. At this point, the facts start dribbling away into conspiracy theories that involve membership of shadowy Masonic lodges, Iranian go-betweens, right-wing cabals inside Italian Intelligence and so on. It is not yet known how far Fitzgerald, in his two years of inquiries, has fished in these murky waters.
There is one line of inquiry with an American connection that Fitzgerald would have found it difficult to ignore. This is the claim that a mid-ranking Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, held talks with some Italian intelligence and defense officials in Rome in late 2001. Franklin has since been arrested on charges of passing classified information to staff of the pro-Israel lobby group, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. Franklin has reportedly reached a plea bargain with his prosecutor, Paul McNulty, and it would be odd if McNulty and Fitzgerald had not conferred to see if their inquiries connected.
Where all this leads will not be clear until Fitzgerald breaks his silence, widely expected to occur this week when the term of his grand jury expires.
If Fitzgerald issues indictments, then the hounds that are currently baying across the blogosphere will leap into the mainstream media and whole affair, Iranian go-betweens and Rome burglaries included, will come into the mainstream of the mass media and network news where Mr. and Mrs. America can see it.
If Fitzgerald issues no indictments, the matter will not simply die away, in part because the press is now hotly engaged, after the new embarrassment of the Times over the imprisonment of the paper's Judith Miller. There is also an uncomfortable sense that the press had given the Bush administration too easy a ride after 9/11. And the Bush team is now on the ropes and its internal discipline breaking down, making it an easier target.
Then there is a separate Senate Select Intelligence Committee inquiry under way, and while the Republican chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas seems to be dragging his feet, the ranking Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, is now under growing Democratic Party pressure to pursue this question of falsifying the case for war.
And last week, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced a resolution to require the president and secretary of state to furnish to Congress documents relating to the so-called White House Iraq Group. Chief of staff Andrew Card formed the WHIG task force in August 2002 -- seven months before the invasion of Iraq, and Kucinich claims they were charged "with the mission of marketing a war in Iraq."
The group included: Rove, Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and Stephen Hadley (now Bush's national security adviser) and produced white papers that put into dramatic form the intelligence on Iraq's supposed nuclear threat. WHIG launched its media blitz in September 2002, six months before the war. Rice memorably spoke of the prospect of "a mushroom cloud," and Card revealingly explained why he chose September, saying "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."
The marketing is over but the war goes on. The press is baying and the law closes in. The team of Bush loyalists in the White House is demoralized and braced for disaster.
Oh, man, if this is true, then it all blows to hell. Finally.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, citing confidentiality, said on Monday he would refuse to release documents showing what U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers recommended to him as a White House lawyer.
"That would breach very important confidentiality, and it's a red line I'm not willing to cross," Bush told reporters.
Not just any confidentiality, but very important confidentiality. Why is the line red? Is that a red state-blue state reference?
And remember, being a fine person is the most important qualification to sit on the highest court of the land for the rest of one's life. That's why Mr. Rogers was such an exceptional Supreme Court Justice.
Senate Democrats and Republicans have sought White House documents related to Miers' work for Bush as they prepare for her confirmation hearing, set to begin on November 7.
At the start of a Cabinet meeting, Bush again praised his embattled nominee. Miers has come under fire from Democrats for once backing a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, and has been challenged by conservatives who see the appointment as cronyism and fear she may fail to move the Supreme Court to the right.
"Harriet Miers is a fine person, and I expect her to have a good, fair hearing," Bush said.
Bush has refused to turn over the internal documents before, including many requested in the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
In this case, both Democrats and Republicans had asked for the additional information, arguing little is known about Miers, who was Bush's personal attorney in Texas and who has never served as a judge.
"Requests ... have been made by Democrats and Republicans about paperwork out of this White House that would make it impossible for me and other presidents to be able to make sound decisions," Bush said.
That would, of course, imply that he's ever been able to make sound decisions.
'Mr. President, we need another couple billion dollars over at Halliburton. When are we going to invade Syria?'
"People can learn about Harriet Miers through hearings, but we are not going to destroy this business about people being able to walk into the Oval Office and say, 'Mr. President, here's my advice to you. Here's what I think is important,"' he added.
Bush did not answer a question about a weekend report that the administration was preparing possible contingency plans to withdraw the Miers nomination.
A White House spokesman said earlier on Monday that Bush remained committed to the Miers' nomination. "Absolutely," said press secretary Scott McClellan.
"I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars." (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Tex)
She puzzled over this for some time, but at last a bright thought struck her. Why, it's a Looking-glass book, of course! And if I hold it up to a glass, the words will all go the right way again!
The extraordinary exchanges between New York Times editor Bill Keller and reporter Judith Miller over her role in the Plame scandal and reporting on non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have suggested to me a wider context of the entire matter.
The wider context is that Rupert Murdoch, and Richard Mellon Scaife, and other far rightwing billionaires have deeply corrupted our information environment. They are in part responsible for what happened at the NYT.
Miller attempts to excuse her shoddy reporting on Iraq's imaginary weapons of mass destruction by saying that "everyone" got that story wrong. But the State Department Intelligence and Research Division did not get it wrong. The Department of Energy analysts were correct that the aluminum tubes couldn't be used to construct centrifuges. Elbaradei of the International Atomic Energy Commission was not wrong. Imad Khadduri, former Iraqi nuclear scientist, was not wrong. "Everybody" got it wrong only in the sense that "everybody" had been brainwashed by Rupert Murdoch.
As Rightweb notes:
His Fox News was singled out for criticism because of its blatantly one-sided coverage of the war in Iraq and for printing unsubstantiated stories about the conflict. When CNN reporter Christian Amanpour blamed Fox for creating "a climate of fear and self-censorship" regarding coverage of Iraq, a Fox spokeswoman shot back, "Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda." Said Murdoch of the war, "The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country."
Gee, we got $60 a barrel oil instead. You wonder how someone so stupid got to be so rich (hint: stabbing people in the back is more lucrative than canny market research).
So here is how Murdoch and Fox and the Right in general tie into the NYT scandal. They stalked the Times. If you lexis Fox "News" transcripts and the NYT in the period between September 11 and the Iraq War, you find a constant stream of attacks. Brit Hume even waxed wrathful that the Times urged Tiger Woods not to play golf on a course at a club that excluded women.
Here's Bill O'Reilly on September 10, 2002:In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, according to "The New York Times," some American diplomats are outraged that the USA is denying visas to young Muslims overseas. The "Times" reporter was extremely distraught by this. That's is no surprise since a new study by Center for Media and Public Affairs says that "The Times" and network news, as we mentioned in the "Talking Points" memo, skew against President Bush in his view of Iraq.
But the big attack on the Times was in summer of 2002, when it was accused of paying no attention to Ahmad Chalabi and others who were alleging Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs. It was even blamed for for Bush Senior National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft not liking the idea of an Iraq War (Fox News Sunday, Aug. 25, 2002):
Charles Krauthammer, Fox News Contributor: It's a question here also of timing. I'm not sure the administration really wanted to have the debate heat up in August. This is not the administration directing the pace of this debate. It was the opposition who, after eight months, after all the president launched all this in his State of the Union address when he talked about the axis of evil and emphasized Iraq, it's the opposition that has now seized the day and made its case, starting with the Scowcroft piece and the assist from the New York Times.
I spoke last year about the attack Andrew Sullivan launched in Murdoch's London Times on NYT editor Howell Raines for not cheerleading Bush's building Iraq War. Sullivan had been especially incensed that the NYT gave no credence to the Iraqi expatriates on the nuclear issue.
So in this polluted information environment, in which Howell Raines's view of reality, which was perfectly correct, was constantly pilloried by powerful rightwing media as nothing short of treason, there was every incentive to give Judith Miller her head. Remember that the NYT is a commercial publication. All major newspapers were seeing their subscription base shrink. After September 11, the country had moved substantially to the right on national security issues. The Times could easily go bankrupt if it loses touch with the sentiments of the American reading public. There is a lot at stake in the Murdoch et al. assault on the NYT.
In its absence, the information environment in the US would be even more rightwing. I've even rethought my own rash response to its editorial on the Columbia Middle East studies issue last spring.
The NYT had no sources to speak of inside the Bush administration, a real drawback in covering Washington, because it was a left of center newspaper in a political environment dominated by the Right. Miller had sources among the Neoconservatives, with whom she shared some key concerns (biological weapons, the threat of Muslim radicalism, etc.) So she could get the Washington "scoops." And her perspective skewed Right in ways that could protect the NYT from charges that it was consistently biased against Bush. Of course, in retrospect, Bush's world was a dangerous fantasy, and giving it space on the front page of the NYT just sullied the Grey Lady with malicious prevarications.
I have been told that Miller was also important in hiring decisions, and she probably created her own base of clientelage among new hires over time. It has been alleged to me that senior neo-conservative-leaning reporters at the Times at one point blocked the hiring of an Arab-American reporter. I have this from a single source and cannot be sure it is true, and cannot be sure that Miller was part of it if it was. But that she could affect the careers of her colleagues at the paper does seem clear and helps explain why even those critical of her had to tread lightly.
Raines began the strategy of letting Miller's stories act as responses to the constant attacks from the Right. But then he had to resign when he was caught up in the Jayson Blair scandal (like Miller, Blair made things up, and like Miller, Blair was unsupervised; unlike Miller, he was caught fairly early on).
The Blair scandal was red meat to NYT critics and the whole rightwing Sound Machine. I suspect that for the paper to face the Miller problem at that moment in 2003 might have seemed fatal to its credibility on the parts of Keller and owner Sulzberger. And, there are rumors that Miller had Sulzberger wrapped around her pinky.
So Bill Keller comes on board. And there are these complaints about Miller. So this is the larger context of Keller's recent remarks:
"First, I wish I had dealt with the controversy over our coverage of WMD first thing upon becoming executive editor. At the time, I thought I had compelling reasons for kicking the issue down the road. The paper had just been through a major trauma, the Jason Blair episode, and needed to regain its equilibrium. It felt somehow unsavory to begin my tenure by attacking the previous regime. I was trying to get my arms around a huge new job, appoint my team, get the paper fully back to normal, and I feared the WMD issue could become a crippling distraction. So it was a year before we got around to really dealing with the controversy. At that point we published that long editor's note acknowledging the pre-war journalistic lapses, and -- to my mind at least as important -- launched a body of aggressive reporting aimed at exposing how bad or manipulated intelligence had fed the drive to war.
I'm thinking of our excellent investigation of how those infamous aluminum tubes became a supposed smoking gun, the report on how the Iraqi National Congress recruited exiles to promote the notion of Saddam's WMD threat, our close look at the military's war-planning intelligence, and several other pieces. Critics sometimes overlook the fact that lot of the best reporting on how this intel fiasco transpired appeared in the NYT.
By waiting a year to own up to our mistakes, I allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester. Worse, I fear I fostered an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers. If I had lanced the WMD boil earlier, I suspect our critics -- at least the honest ones -- might have been less inclined to suspect that, THIS time, the paper was putting the defense of a reporter above the duty to its readers."
Second, I wish that when I learned Judy Miller had been subpoenaed as a witness in the leak investigation I had sat her down for a thorough debriefing, and followed up with some reporting of my own. It is a natural and proper instinct to defend reporters when the government seeks to interfere in our work. And under other circumstances it might have been fine to entrust the details -- the substance of the confidential interviews, the notes -- to lawyers who would be handling to case. But in this case I missed what should have been significant alarm bells.
Until Fitzgerald came after her, I didn't know that Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign. I should have wondered why I was learning this from the special counsel, a year after the fact. (After the initial leak to Robert Novak in 2003, we asked the Washington Bureau to ask our correspondents whether any of them had been offered similar leaks. As we reported last Sunday, Judy seems to have misled Phil Taubman about the extent of her involvement.) This alone should have been enough to make me probe deeper.
In essence, Murdoch, Scaife and other far rightwing super-rich propagandists succeeded in maligning the NYT and in pushing it off its liberal perch even further to the Right. In trying to defend themselves from the charge of treason, Raines and Keller fell into the trap of using Miller's shoddy reporting as a rampart. In the end, it was revealed to be not a rampart but a Trojan Horse for the Right.