Saturday, October 15


Some not-so-random thoughts about the New York Times' "major story" on the Judith Miller-Valerie Plame leak affair.

Miller's superiors at the Times are pansies:

Interviews show that the paper's leadership, in taking what they considered to be a principled stand, ultimately left the major decisions in the case up to Ms. Miller, an intrepid reporter whom editors found hard to control. [Note: Hard to control? Nothing's easier. It's called firing for insubordination.]
Asked what she regretted about The Times's handling of the matter, Jill Abramson, a managing editor, said: "The entire thing."
In the year after Mr. Engelberg left the paper in 2002, though, Ms. Miller operated with a degree of autonomy rare at The Times.

Douglas Frantz, who succeeded Mr. Engelberg as investigative editor, recalled that Ms. Miller once called herself "Miss Run Amok."

"I said, 'What does that mean?' " said Mr. Frantz, who was recently appointed managing editor at The Los Angeles Times. "And she said, 'I can do whatever I want.' "

Miller's own account of her visits with Scooter Libby, and the repeated references to Wilson's wife, provide a clear picture of a high-level attempt to discredit Wilson's contradiction of the administration's assertion that Saddam was trying to build a nuke:

On June 23, 2003, Ms. Miller visited Mr. Libby at the Old Executive Office Building in Washington. Mr. Libby was the vice president's top aide and had played an important role in shaping the argument for going to war in Iraq. ...Her assignment was to write an article about the failure to find unconventional weapons in Iraq. She said Mr. Libby wanted to talk about a diplomat's fact-finding trip in 2002 to the African nation of Niger to determine whether Iraq sought uranium there. The diplomat was Mr. Wilson, and his wife worked for the C.I.A.
Mr. Wilson had already become known among Washington insiders as a fierce Bush critic. He would go public the next month, accusing the White House in an opinion article in The Times of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

But Mr. Libby was already defending Vice President Dick Cheney, saying his boss knew nothing about Mr. Wilson or his findings. Ms. Miller said her notes leave open the possibility that Mr. Libby told her Mr. Wilson's wife might work at the agency.

On July 8, two days after Mr. Wilson's article appeared in The Times, the reporter and her source met again, for breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel, near the White House.

The notebook Ms. Miller used that day includes the reference to "Valerie Flame." But she said the name did not appear in the same portion of her notebook as the interview notes from Mr. Libby.

During the breakfast, Mr. Libby provided a detail about Ms. Wilson, saying that she worked in a C.I.A. unit known as Winpac; the name stands for weapons intelligence, nonproliferation and arms control. Ms. Miller said she understood this to mean that Ms. Wilson was an analyst rather than an undercover operative.

Ms. Miller returned to the subject on July 12 in a phone call with Mr. Libby. Another variant on Valerie Wilson's name - "Victoria Wilson" - appears in the notes of that call. Ms. Miller had by then called other sources about Mr. Wilson's wife.

Miller lied -- it is not believable that she could have construed Libby's having brought up Wilson's wife at least twice to her as "casual conversation," particularly when she was interviewing him for a story, not sharing a social occasion.

In the fall of 2003, after The Washington Post reported that "two top White House officials disclosed Plame's identity to at least six Washington journalists," Philip Taubman, Ms. Abramson's successor as Washington bureau chief, asked Ms. Miller and other Times reporters whether they were among the six. Ms. Miller denied it.

"The answer was generally no," Mr. Taubman said. Ms. Miller said the subject of Mr. Wilson and his wife had come up in casual conversation with government officials, Mr. Taubman said, but Ms. Miller said "she had not been at the receiving end of a concerted effort, a deliberate organized effort to put out information."

The following excerpt may be evidence against Libby for obstruction of justice and certainly is evidence that he lied to the grand jury:

Mr. Abrams told Ms. Miller and the group that Mr. Tate said she was free to testify. Mr. Abrams said Mr. Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife.

That raised a potential conflict for Ms. Miller. Did the references in her notes to "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" suggest that she would have to contradict Mr. Libby's account of their conversations? Ms. Miller said in an interview that she concluded that Mr. Tate was sending her a message that Mr. Libby did not want her to testify.

According to Ms. Miller, this was what Mr. Abrams told her about his conversation with Mr. Tate: "He was pressing about what you would say. When I wouldn't give him an assurance that you would exonerate Libby, if you were to cooperate, he then immediately gave me this, 'Don't go there, or, we don't want you there.' "
Telling another witness about grand jury testimony is lawful as long as it is not an attempt to influence the other witness's testimony.
[This was OBVIOUSLY an effort to do just that. Tate should be disbarred.]

"Judy believed Libby was afraid of her testimony," Mr. Keller said, noting that he did not know the basis for the fear. "She thought Libby had reason to be afraid of her testimony."

And that last, dear friends, is the story of how with full knowledge Judy Miller suckered her bosses and co-workers at the Times and may have brought down the venerable paper that defended her to the nth degree to its own detriment. Pinch Sulzberger is a fool if he doesn't fire her immediately and apologize profusely to the readers for enabling this disgrace of a journalist to assist the administration in leading us into an unnecessary war by her erroneous and credulous reporting on the threat of WMD in Iraq and for the paper's support of her since the Plame leak.


Heard Robert Borosage on the Alan Colmes Show discussing a Democratic version of the "Contract With America," and it seemed simple common sense and eminently doable, so I went looking for a copy. The rethugs and pundits keep saying that the Democrats aren't offering an alternative to Bush policy. Well, here's one:

§ Crack Down on Corruption: In contrast to conservative cronyism, shut the revolving door between corporate lobbies and high office. Prohibit legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Require detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators. Pledge to apply this to all, regardless of party. Take the big money out of politics by pushing for clean elections legislation.

§ Make America Safe: Commit to an independent investigation of the Department of Homeland Security's failures in response to Katrina. Detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. End the pork-barrel squandering of security funds.

§ Unleash New Energy for America: In contrast to the Big Oil policies of the Administration that leave us more dependent on foreign supplies, pledge to launch a concerted drive for energy independence like the one called for by the Apollo Alliance. Create new jobs by investing in efficiency and alternative energy sources, helping America capture the growing green industries of the future.

§ Rebuild America First: Rescind Bush's tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which create more jobs in China than here, and use that money to put people to work building the infrastructure vital to a high-wage economy. Start with challenging the Administration's trickle-down plans for the Gulf Coast, which will victimize once more those who suffered the most.

§ Make Work Pay: In contrast to the Bush economy, in which profits and CEO salaries soar while workers' wages stagnate and jobs grow insecure, put government on the side of workers. Raise the minimum wage. Empower workers to join unions by allowing card-check enrollment. Pay the prevailing wage in government contracts. Stop subsidizing the export of jobs abroad.

§ Make Healthcare Affordable for All: Pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, with the goal of moving to universal, affordable healthcare by 2015. Start by reversing the Republican sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down costs and by allowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.

§ Protect Retirement Security: In contrast to Bush's plan to dismantle Social Security, pledge to strengthen it and to require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to pensions and healthcare.

§ Keep the Promise of Opportunity: Instead of Republican plans to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans, offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford the college or higher technical training they have earned. Pay for this by preserving the tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.

§ Refocus on Real Security for America: In contrast with Bush's pledge to stay in Iraq indefinitely, sapping our military and breeding terrorists, put forth a firm timeline for removing the troops from Iraq. Use the money saved to invest in security at home. Lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, to get loose nukes under control and to fight nuclear proliferation.


Always insightful.


Ridiculous and revealing.

Seven or eight years ago I directed a fundraising video for the Dallas Women's Foundation that included a segment on Girls, Inc. It was the most affecting part of the film. The facility I filmed stood poignantly in the shadows of the West Dallas Projects, one of the nation's poorest neighborhoods, called a "gigantic monument to segregation and neglect." Ironically, the outdoor play area provided one of the best and most beautiful views of the city of Dallas in the area. Standing metaphorically between the girls' view of the promise of the city and the reality of their lives on the outskirts stood a rusty chain-link fence.

The building and services Girls, Inc. provided its neighborhood included a few computers and devoted volunteers who taught the children basic computer skills, dance classes, table manners, help with homework, self-esteem, good decision-making, grooming, and other lessons to help them fit into a society they were ill-equipped by poverty and neglect to join. Clearly subversive and anti-values efforts that deserve the scorn of fanatical conservatives!

I am incensed by so-called "family values" associations that attack organizations that are trying to close the opportunities gap between those who take their privileges for granted and those who have never known any. Their efforts seemed based upon a belief that it is better for young minority women to stumble ignorantly into disadvantaged sexual relations and breed babies they're ill equipped to support (and who are then attacked by the same people for being "welfare queens") than to be taught that they have a right to choose their own destiny. Is Girls, Inc. "pro-abortion" and "pro-lesbianism"? Absurd. They're merely pro-girl.

UPDATE: Incidentally, the Dallas Women's Foundation does not fund organizations that actively promote abortion. The organization is made up of women both Republican (a majority) and Democrat who are enlightened enough to recognize that helping girls and women to become self-sufficient and self-determining is good for all of society. My former boss -- an unwavering Republican -- is actually a member of the board of Girls, Inc. and one of its most fervent supporters.


Dallas insiders muse on Harriet Miers and her stint on the Dallas City Council (1989-91).

The independent Dallas Observer, antidote to the conservative Dallas Morning News, describes the conflicting opinions of local gay activists about the SCOTUS nominee, reports on her good relationships with leading members of the African-American community, and reflects on her early support for the minority-backed city council configuration of single-member seats instead of at-large representation. Miers is pictured as fair-minded, prepared, politically adept, anti-abortion, uncomfortable seeking endorsements of gays and lesbians, and fiercely private. It's an interesting portrait of the woman whose nomination has caused some conservatives to break ranks with Bush.

My only real beef with the lady is her relationship with George W. Bush and the poor judgment she displays in her assessment of his abilities and performance. My HOPE is that she's just been acting as a smart female lawyer on behalf of a sleazy client, and that if she makes it through to a seat on the Court she'll assert her independence. I'd prefer to rely on facts, though, so I keep seeking clues to this very, very private woman's character and philosophy.

Mike Daniel is one of a tiny coterie of tough activist lawyers who in the 1970s and '80s pushed through a series of federal anti-segregation, anti-housing discrimination, anti-disenfranchisement lawsuits that changed the city forever. Of that barrage of litigation, the piece that struck the deepest blow was a suit seeking the overthrow of the old city council system.

Daniel represented plaintiffs Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams, who argued that Dallas had used a series of tricky arrangements to prevent black people and Latinos from achieving power on the city council. When their lawsuit was coming to a head in 1991, Harriet Miers was nearing the end of her single two-year term as an at-large city council member.

Daniel and Roy Williams, his former client, remember Miers as a smart and thoughtful council member who eventually came to support a version of the all single-member-district "14-1" council system they were seeking.

"She's really not an ideologue," Daniel says. "She came over to 14-1 way sooner than the mayor."

The mayor at the time was Annette Strauss, nominally a Dallas liberal, sister-in-law to Robert ("Mr. Democrat") Strauss, who was a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Both Daniel and Williams remember Miers as far more interested in fair representation issues than Strauss or any of the other big Democrats still in town in those days.

Williams also was one of two candidates who ran against Miers for the seat she won on the city council in 1989. "She knew the law, and she would always recite case law," he says. "A couple times I rode with her to the debates, even though we were opposing each other. I think she's a fair-minded person."

Daniel also remembers her well from her tenure as a member of the board of Legal Services of North Texas, when Daniel and some of his cadre were legal aid lawyers. "She kept the Bar Association off our backs," he says.

Mary Vogelson, a water expert and activist with the Dallas League of Women Voters, remembers Miers as having a keen interest in an array of public participation issues when she was on the city council. "She was interested in how the public has access to City Hall and to city council meetings," Vogelson says.

Former mayoral candidate Peter Lesser is a liberal who was right in the middle of the racial and political turmoil in Dallas in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He says his radar has always given him favorable impressions of Miers: "Number one, I don't think she is a right-winger. Number two, she comes from the real world."
In the late 1980s and early '90s, Dallas as a whole was far to the right of the rest of the nation. It was a city that seemed to have been passed over by much of the political change that swept the nation in the 1960s and '70s. The battle over the city council configuration--single-member seats instead of at-large representation--was the first instance of truly aggressive political action by minorities.

In that context, and with politics being the art of available alternatives, Harriet Miers looked good to many liberals. In fact, she danced just on the verge of progressivism.

Former City Councilwoman Diane Ragsdale also labels Miers "fair-minded." And if you knew the notorious Ms. Ragsdale and had experienced her tumultuous, divisive years on the Council, you'd know just how powerful such a statement is, coming from her. (I have to say in Ragsdale's defense, that the times required a certain amount of radicalism in order to budge the monolithic Dallas even a bit. Her disruptive tactics have to be taken into the context of the times. After all, "yesterday's terrorist is today's freedom fighter.")

"We've had some divisions along policy lines, but that never diminished my feeling that (Miers) was a fair woman," said Diane Ragsdale, a former colleague who in the heat of the redistricting battle labeled Miers "a traitor" — words she says she no longer recalls. "She always tried to be a mediator, a bridge-builder," Ragsdale says.

Friday, October 14


Do-ers scorn FEMA do-nothings:

Needless to say, Adams and his team of experienced professional firefighters eventually got to work. Their first stop was the emergency management operations center in Forrest County. The director of the center, a veteran of many hurricanes, had a suggestion. Ditch the FEMA shirts. "I think his direct quote was, ‘I don’t have the security personnel available for eight people walking around in this county in FEMA shirts,’ " Adams recalls. "He was serious. We took him at his word."

The people of the county were dying for FEMA support, Adams says, and there was much animosity toward the federal department. Making it worse was the fact that the firefighters sent out on behalf of FEMA had no information to offer about disaster relief. They were given fliers with phone numbers to call in a county in which working phones were scarce.

"We were there purely for show," he says.

After a second day of not accomplishing much - they checked in at a shelter as requested and passed out a few fliers - the firefighters from Charlotte decided to speak up. They had been separated from two of their fellow firefighters, who ended up going out on their own, and with other emergency workers helped set up a makeshift disaster relief center in Pearlington, Miss. They sent their team leader to talk to the FEMA folks at the camp.

She came back with the news they had been fired.

"We were relieved of duty for refusing to wear our blue FEMA shirts," Adams says.
"Firefighters in this nation have an unspoken bond with the people that need us," Adams says.

"If you call, we will come as fast as we can to help make your problem better. FEMA needs to adopt this doctrine."


Zbigniew Brzezinski , Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, has a terrific analysis of Dubya's inept foreign policy and "catastrophic leadership." A must-read.


Mark Levin is one of the most noxious, obnoxious voices on right-wing talk radio. A man every bit as consumed by hatred of the Clintons as the worst of the wingnuts, his defense of Karl Rove on his show a few minutes ago perfectly exemplified the extremist conservative perspective.

As best I can remember, Levin ranted that the Democrats are smearing Rove, Frist and DeLay. "That's what they do!" he exclaimed. That Karl Rove should be under investigation for this NOTHING, while "Hillary Clinton prances about in that pantsuit" and "goes FREE" simply enrages him.

Now let's remember that this NOTHING was the act of outing an undercover CIA agent working on weapons of mass destruction in order to discredit her husband, a distinguished public servant and former ambassador, who had information that rebutted the BushCo assertion that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger in order to build a nuclear weapon. Bush & Company promoted that falsity to justify going to WAR. But Levin insists that Valerie Plame, the CIA agent-wife of Joe Wilson, was never in DANGER as a result of Rove's sharing of her status with the agency with reporters -- in fact, she's appearing EVERYWHERE with her husband now (two years after she was exposed), even letting her picture be taken! Doesn't that prove that Karl is just being pilloried for NOTHING? Doesn't he have the right to violate the law since he could see into his crystal ball and prove to his satisfaction that none of Valerie's contacts or subjects of her intelligence work would succeed in removing her permanently from the face of the earth?

And Hillary Clinton "prancing"? In "that pantsuit"? I think Mark's either tortured by an involuntary lust on for Hillary that makes him crazy ("oh! the way she moves in that seductive, form-fitting garment!"). Otherwise, he's revealing a serious case of misogyny; i.e., how dare THAT WOMAN wear men's trousers and move confidently in circles of power appropriate only to men? Either way, THAT WOMAN is a massive threat to Mark's ego. (I guess it's okay for Elizabeth Dole and Kay Bailey Hutchison to prance because they customarily wear skirts.)

And what does he mean, "goes FREE!" Unless I'm mightily mistaken, there's no evidence that Hillary has ever committed a crime or even an impropriety, even after being subjected to the most relentless and partisan investigation in political history. Is he suggesting (that's rhetorical; I'm sure he is) that Hillary got away with a crime that should have resulted in her incarceration? No doubt Levin is among the Rushbo nuts that are furious at the failure to frame her for the murder of Vince Foster.

Republicans like to talk about liberals' "irrational hatred" of Dubya. Yet influentials such as Mark Levin continue to demonstrate a fear and loathing of anyone surnamed Clinton that has endured well beyond a decade. How any American not certifiably insane can listen to this fruitcake and not suffer a sever case of nausea is beyond me.

Wednesday, October 12


Poignant. Big-time. Losing hope in Louisiana.

But Laura and George were seen hammering a few nails on a Habitat for Humanity house, so they've done their part. So what if the big reconstruction plan Americans were expecting after Dubya's big speech in Jackson Square hasn't materialized? That's not his job. His job is to make speeches and pose for photo ops -- it's up to Congress to actually DO something.

Sounds sort of like the British Royal Family, doesn't it?


Where does Dubya get the names of the people he appoints? From those attending Karl Rove's birthday party and/or from James Dobson's Christmas card list?

The list of Bush appointees who seem to be rising on political connections rather than expertise continues to grow. A recent example is President George W. Bush's choice to head a key State Department office that coordinates the delivery of emergency aid to refugees of foreign wars, persecution and natural disasters.
The nominee is Ellen Sauerbrey, the former Maryland state legislator who was state chairman of Bush's 2000 campaign. In 2002, Bush nominated her for another patronage job as the American representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where she has relentlessly pressed an anti-abortion and anti-family-planning agenda.
Sauerbrey has no experience responding to major crises calling for international relief. As assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, she would oversee a vital $700-million-a-year bureau that coordinates with private relief groups and other international players like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to set up refugee camps and arrange for other crucial assistance. This is a post for an established expert in the field.

Coming immediately upon the heels of the Michael Brown FEMA fiasco, it is clearly a thumb-your-nose gesture on the part of the pResident not to replace Sauerbrey's name with someone with credible experience for this position that bears so directly upon life-and-death matters. I'm tired of hearing what a decent guy the Chimpster is, when he is so cavalier about issues critically affecting the most vulnerable members of our society. So what if the guy gets emotional about dead soldiers and hurricane victims? It's all crocodile tears -- his actions belie his histrionics.


Everyone's talking about Matt Lauer's interview with George and Laura. But one part of it struck me that hasn't been widely discussed.

First, Matt asked why the plans/loans for Hurricane Katrina assistance include none of the traditional provisions for loan forgiveness, when the money we're giving Iraq requires no repayments? Bush answered that "Well, the people of Iraq are paying a heavy price for terrorism. A lot of people are dying, Matt. These people are working hard to establish democracy and they're paying a serious price. Look, I understand there are a lot of politics. One of the things that I suggested was we keep the politics out of New Orleans and Mississippi as we all work together to rebuild these communities. And we've got people here who volunteered their time, from all over the country - and they didn't say, you know, I'm a Democrat and I'm going to work here, or, I'm a Republican and I'm going to come and work here. They said, I'm an American that wants to contribute. " Huh? People are dying in Iraq, and they didn't die in our own Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama as a result of Katrina? Iraqi lives, in other words (all evidence to the contrary in Bush Land), are of more value than American lives? What's politics and volunteerism got to do with Matt's question? And since when did Iraqis start paying a terrible price for terrorism -- since we INVADED their country, which had no terrorism activities before that? So is the message that we're paying them to provide a flypaper for terrorism so we can make a show of fighting it?

As Louisiana Senator (D) Mary Landrieu pointed out in her battle with her Republican senatorial counterpart David Vitter, "no other local governments in similar situations have been denied the possibility of loan forgiveness." Bush's response to Matt was that we're talking about a lot more money here than in other situations. In essence he said, we can forgive small loans, but hey, we're talking big bucks here!

The transcript of the interview is here.


Wow. Easter Lemming directs us to a report that links favorite GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Tom DeLay's best pal) with a gangland murder, the corruption of College Republicans, and more.

Just how corrupt are these guys? We're talking some of the most prominent and powerful Rethugs here -- Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, et al. Disgusting.


Barbara at Mahablog has a concise, intelligent (what else?) essay on constitutional interpretation that is a must-read and must-quote to our conservative friends.


Joe Scarborough reveals the secret of successful cable news talk shows:

Asked if he had any advice for Mr. Colbert, who will also interview one guest each night, Mr. Scarborough passed on a nugget that he said had been given to him by an MSNBC executive.

"If you let someone talk for more than seven seconds on your show without interruption," he said, "then you are a failure."

So THAT'S why Republicans are so successful. They've mastered the art of the seven-second speech -- "9/11, terrorists, family values, evil liberal tax-and-spend."

OK, Democrats, let's develop our own: "Bush lied, we're not safer, exploding deficits, Republican incompetence, middle class burdens, American values, crony capitalism and corruption" or some such.


Hilarious bit I caught on the Radio Factor today. Bill O'Reilly, having asserted that the extreme right wing doesn't get much of a voice in the media, responded to a caller who asked him, "What about Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin? They're all over the airwaves, and on your show."

O'Reilly conceded that Ayn might be considered extreme right wing, but definitely not (his sidekick emphatically agreed with him) darling Michelle. "She's conservative, but I wouldn't call her right wing. She's a reasoned conservative." Extreme right wingers and left wingers, he said, can't be reasoned with. His sidekick added that much of their talk is practically hate speech. Bill went on to gush that Malkin is a reasonable, intelligent conservative. Can this be the same Michelle Malkin that defends racial profiling and the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII?

Ayn, he noted, has been on his show only three times this year, while Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has been a guest seven times (I guess the inference was that Lynn is an extreme left winger counterpart to Ayn's right wing -- you know how freakish those constitutional supporters are). And he always gives Ayn a hard time, he indicated, all of which proves he's a neutral kind of guy. Why, former FBI director Louis Freeh won't even appear on the Factor to discuss his new book, he's so afraid of O'Leilly, even though Bill sells more books for his guests than anyone in cable news!!

He must have fantasies of Michelle and a loofah.

"We clearly live in an era of evangelical American barbarity."

My vote for "Blog Most Deserving of a Wider Audience" this year will certainly go to Mainstream Baptist's Dr. Bruce Prescott. Oh, that more evangelicals could hear his voice on behalf of true Christianity!

The Bush administration pledged yesterday to veto legislation banning the torture of prisoners by US troops after an overwhelming and almost unprecedented revolt by loyalist congressmen.

Our "born again" evangelical President is vetoing legislation banning torture and the religious "values voters" who elected him are still maintaining a code of silence on this issue.


A great article I missed last week while in Florida. Bush's "10 foiled terrorist plots" claim is fact-checked by the LA Times.

"To take that and make it into a disrupted plot is just ludicrous," said one senior FBI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with departmental guidelines.

Tuesday, October 11


Outgoing WaPo ombudsman blasts journalists and their editors for misleading war info:

Iraq, he observed, "has proved impossible for me, along with many readers, to put aside and move away from. I keep coming back to it, in part, because readers keep coming back to it but also because I cannot think of a story in the past 40 years that offers more warning signs for journalism and for the role of the press in our democracy. And it's not just the press for whom Iraq should loom large. It is also Congress, the Cabinet, the civil service, the intelligence community and the military leadership.

"There is no bigger story than war. And a war whose major premise -- the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- turned out to be unsupported is an even bigger story. That the administration presented this threat to the public with such a strong, yet false, sense of certainty -- including the imagery of mushroom clouds -- is an even more important lesson for all of us about big but not well-examined decisions. ...

"Since the war began, many other questions have been raised about other prewar assessments. But the key question for journalists is how the process of vetting the main prewar rationale for sending Americans into a war took place, or failed to take place.


So, Americans largely now support interracial dating.

I should think so. Look what happened to Moses' sister Miriam when she criticized her brother for marrying a black woman.

I just love God -- he has such a choice sense of humor.


I've delayed posting on this because I was trying to find some kind of confirmation in the media. But the lack of coverage simply validates the essential story.

My Florida family has been devotedly working with churches throughout the state in Hurricane Katrina relief work along the Gulf Coast, clearing debris and working on reconstruction projects. They tell me that 10,000 Christian churches are involved, all of whom are pledged to do this honorable work without recompense from the government, yet their efforts are unreported by a media that, rightly, is occupied with pointing out the failures of a governmental response and, wrongly, with photo ops of a president who is desperately trying to use them to bolster his faltering approval ratings.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am extremely critical of those so-called "Christians" who are more concerned with Republican politics, power, and material pursuits than with ministering in a Christ-like way. So it is equally incumbent upon me to point out instances where Christians ARE obeying the directives of Christ to feed the hungry, visit the sick and minister to the needy.

I'm proud of my brothers-in-law who have devoted weeks to the cleanup and reconstruction effort. The oldest is 71, and he's been clearing debris! One of my other brothers-in-law has spent countless hours helping one of our nephews who is trying to kick drugs and rebuild his life. I'm proud of my elegant and dynamic 84-year-old mother, who still manages her Baptist Church's Target-sized clothing distribution center and in her classic Southern lady style has become the trusted and compassionate advisor to the local "ladies of the night." I'm proud of my sisters, one of whom I heard last week on a 24-hour visit to them gently but firmly chastise another relative for a kindly-meant remark ("They'd be more comfortable in their own neighborhood") (I know it sounds bad, but I know her heart, and she was truly thinking of their feelings) that she noted could be construed as supporting a racist outlook. Another of my sisters devotedly cared for her AIDS-inflicted stepson until he died, and is a vocal champion of gay acceptance in the community -- not easy in the religious South.

These good people are all Republicans. I don't get it. I don't understand how they can be. But they are. All I can think of is, they just believe government should butt out of charitable work and leave it to folks like them. If everyone was LIKE them, maybe it'd be different.

Monday, October 10


They HAVE no shame.


This war just produces one outrage after another immorality.

When are we getting out? After we've destroyed every vestige of our priceless sense of who we are as Americans?


Got home from a seven-day film shoot last night. You know, one of those Atlanta-Savannah-Ft. Lauderdale-Orlando-Daytona Beach-Jacksonville-Tallahassee whirlwinds. We tracked Tropical Storm Tammy the entire week, getting drenched day after day as we set the shot and waited for the sun to come out -- which it did, eventually, every time except the very last.

So there was lots of time to talk to the seven-man, one-woman (besides me) crew, intervals where we discussed the Harriet Miers SCOTUS nomination, the Iraq War, the religious right, the economy, the python in Florida that was found dead after swallowing a six-foot gator, and the state of Florida Atlantic coast beaches. My film crew is nominated for seven regional Emmys, they're intelligent, well-informed, and range in age from 23 (a recent SMU grad) to 55 (a one-time producer of James Dobson Focus on the Family films and others for other prominent Christian leaders). The former Dobson producer left the evangelical movement several years ago when he became convinced that it was becoming more about politics and earthly power than following in the footsteps of Christ. He and his wife now attend the Episcopalian church and favor Democratic politics. The recent SMU grad is, at this point, apolitical, cynical about both parties. All the others are staunchly Republican, supporting George W. Bush's policies in most everything, one notable exception being that they prefer government to butt out of the private bedroom. One of them spoke for several as he noted, "We haven't had a terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11. That tells me we're winning the war on terror. Bush is on the right track." (The schoolteacher wife of one of the men is a fervent Democrat, and he considers her a lovable but misled eccentric, as he does me.)

When I see that 37% of Americans still support their beloved Dubya, I realize that these guys are among their numbers. Not all of the Chimpster's base are naive or selfish plutocrats. Some just plain won't ever believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Republicanism isn't synonymous with fiscal responsibility, strict constitutional interpretation of the law, good government, Christianity and American patriotism.

That's one heck of a brand, but the number of buyers are clearly diminishing. Can we Democrats establish one as good, as enduring, among a greater percentage of voters? Because make no mistake, that's our challenge. Sure, probably an equal number of voters will consistently vote Democrat, but can they articulate WHY to independents and moderate Republicans as well as the Rethug true believers? If you listen to right-wing talk radio, you'll guess the answer is "no" -- our conservative counterparts make mincemeat of most progressive callers because we try to talk facts, not image. Democrats must boil down our essential differentiators to a few memorable, repeatable, substantive phrases. In marketing we call it "positioning" or creating a "value proposition." We've never been very good at being pitchmen, but in this short-attention-span culture that's evolved over the past several decades, it's an absolute necessity that we learn the skill.