plame and judy

Our friends at One Good Move have posted the video of last night’s 60 Minutes segment on the repercussions of outing CIA operative Valerie Plame. Doing what many in the press haven’t taken the time to, the producers of the program went to the effort to speak with her (now retired) CIA associates, who make it very clear that the actions of the Bush White House, not only put the lives of CIA operatives in jeopardy, and derailed Plame’s active investigations into weapons of mass destruction, but sent the message though foreign intelligence communities worldwide to be suspicious of the spouses of our Diplomats. (Plame, a covert CIA operative, is the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson.) Their exposing of her, in order to discredit her husband, ended her career, brought down Brewster Jennings, the CIA front company for which she worked, and put all of her international assets (and those of Brewster Jennings) in jeopardy. We joke about Rove and Libby being candidates for execution (as traitors), but the more I think about it, the less outlandish a possibility it really is. By outing Plame, for the purposes of gaining political advantage, they seriously crippled our intelligence gathering capabilities during a time a war. I don’t know that they could have done more damage by bombing a government facility. (And, no, I’m not suggesting we kill Rove and Libby if they’re found guilty. I oppose the death penalty. I’m just saying that their actions, it could be argued, were more damaging in the long-run than an act of domestic terrorism.)

And, here, tying it all into the ’04 election, are the words of Arianna Huffington:

Among the many facts that we learned from Patrick Fitzgerald’s press conference, one of the most dramatic came in response to a question about whether it was “worth keeping Judy Miller in jail for 85 days?”: “I would have wished nothing better,” Fitzgerald replied, “than, when the subpoenas were issued in August 2004, witnesses testified then. We would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005. No one would have [gone] to jail.”

Hmmm, October 2004. That was right before November 2004.

Does anyone doubt that if Patrick Fitzgerald held a press conference announcing five indictments against a key member of the Bush administration just before the last election it would have affected the outcome? Would the two men whose lies Libby was ultimately lying to cover up have been re-elected?

It hadn’t occurred to me before, but I suppose that it does make sense that Judy, by keeping her mouth shut and going to jail in order to protect Libby, did help Bush in his bid for reelection.

But don’t feel sorry for Judy – unlike most people getting out of jail, she isn’t finding it difficult to get work…. Word is she’s going to be the keynote speaker at the launch of Pajamas Media, a new on-line entity conceived of and financed by conservatives… And I’m sure she’ll get lots of air time on Fox News to pitch her book when it comes out.

Posted in Politics | 8 Comments

happy halloween from ypsilanti

(The bee in the sweater is Clementine, and the lion is her friend Ian. The photos were taken by Ian’s mom, our friend Elizabeth. You can’t see it from these photos, but Clementine has a little stinger hanging off her bottom. It’s cute. Linette, being the great and resourceful mom that she is, made the outfit from things we had around the house and a roll of yellow electrical tape. If we only had a beekeeper’s outfit, it would be perfect.)

Posted in Mark's Life | 12 Comments

on meeting john edwards

John Edwards seems like a nice enough guy. He’s good at making eye contact and has a firm handshake. He exudes health and smiles a lot. He has great teeth and hair. I wonder, when I’m standing there next to him, if he has a tanning bed in his basement, or if he’s just outside an awful lot. I wonder about other things too, like why all the women who seem to be with him are beautiful, and why they’re asking me to meet him in a junk-filled hallway, between offices, where people are trying to do their jobs … And, perhaps most importantly, I’m wondering how many hours he’s going to keep me away from home, knocking on doors, when ’08 rolls around.

I’ve been agonizing over this post and how to write it, but, as it’s already midnight and I haven’t made any progress over the past two days, I’ve decided not to worry about it. I’m just going to set the timer for an hour and see what comes out. Hopefully, I’ll at least touch on most of the major issues.

Let’s see… I got there at 11:30, only to find that the location of his speech had been changed. Instead of speaking at the Michigan League Ballroom, as he’d been scheduled to, Edwards, who was in Ann Arbor on the last leg of his Opportunity Rocks poverty-awareness tour, was going to be standing on the steps of the University of Michigan Graduate Library, where fire codes wouldn’t be an issue. (Apparently, the student response was so overwhelming that the event had to change venues. The police later approximated that roughly 2,500 people had gathered outside, in the cold, to hear Edwards speak. They’d been planning on fewer than 500.)

By the time I got there, well over a thousand people had already gathered and I had to make my way through them, like an obnoxious prick. I kept the printout of the email requesting that I come and interview Edwards in my hand, just in case anyone asked me what in the fuck I thought that I was doing. After a bit of work, I made it to the front and struck up a conversation with the first of about six idealistic undergrads in Opportunity Rocks t-shirts that I’d be talking to that morning. The last one pointed me toward a blonde woman with a backpack who she thought might be in charge.

The woman, when I got to her, gave me a quick “who the fuck are you?” look and I stammered that I was “from a website”… and that I’d been asked to come. “You’re a blogger?”, she asks. “Yeah,” I respond, kind of ashamed… I thrust out the printout of the email and pointed out the list of names of people I was told to ask for. She then asked me for my business card, like I’d carry around something like a card saying “Mark Maynard, CEO Mark Maynard Dotcom.” I think I snorted out loud in response.

Assessing that I wasn’t someone who was going to make her life more difficult, and not holding it against me that I didn’t have a card, she told me to go to room 310 after the speech and that someone would bring the former Vice Presidential candidate up to speak with me. I asked if I could stay where I was standing, off to the side of the podium, while he spoke, and she said sure. (I didn’t want to have to go back into the sea of students who were, by this point, dancing to what I think might have been an Outkast song.) I noticed that MTV had a camera crew there, but I was too busy chatting with a union organizer about the efforts underway to unionize Walmart workers, to bust out my tried and true spring break freak dancing moves.

When Edwards finally came out, it was pretty much what I’d expected (having spen the night before looking over his website and the information available on poverty in America)… To make a long story short, he was against poverty, passionately so. (If you want to, you can read the article about his speech that came out afterward in the Ann Arbor News.)

His key points on poverty in America: 37 million people in the U.S. live in poverty. That’s 1 million more than just last year. Most of these are people living in households headed by single mothers. And, “the face of poverty in America,” as Edwards points out, “is one of color.” (According to his statistics, the average black family in America has a net worth of $6,000. The average Hispanic family has $8,000. And, the average white family has $80,000 in assets.) The news coverage from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina showed us these hidden poor, and opened an opportunity for dialogue. Now, it’s up to us to keep this window open… He also says that these people have never has a “champion” fighting for them, and that he wants to be that person.

After the speech, I headed up and met the other bloggers who had come out. I was joined by Michigan Liberal’s Matt Ferguson, Jon Koller from the Michigan Politics site, correspondent for the Hamtramck Star, Nadine Gizak, and Ryan Werder from Kicking Ass Ann Arbor, the blog of the U-M campus Dems.

We sat there in room 310 talking for about an hour, occasionally interrupted by a bright-eyed Opportunity Rocks volunteer telling us that Edwards, beset by students, was having a difficult time getting away… We made use of the time by talking about state politics, the Bush administration, and Edwards’ chances in ’08… I think we all agreed that Edwards seemed sincere in his belief that poverty was an issue demanding immediate attention, but we were also of the opinion that it must somehow compliment his plans for ’08. I was struggling to see the angle (especially as the Republicans would use it against him, labeling him an “instigator of class warfare”), but another one of the bloggers suggested that it might be as much about preemptively seizing college Democrats as it was about the issue itself. I know it might sound cynical, but from that perspective it’s a brilliant move. By going to colleges and speaking about poverty and the moral leadership that’s presently lacking in American politics, he’s locking in the hardest working agents for progressive change. If he pulls it off, he could not only use his position with Opportunity Rocks to stay in the spotlight, but he might get to own the college base.

Edwards, it occurred to me, also wasn’t going into the barrios and the projects on this tour, stoking the fires of discontent. He wasn’t going the purely populist route. He was talking instead to the idealistic students of America, echoing the words of Bobby Kennedy, who had done very much the same thing when he, as a Senator in 1963, set out on the road to the presidency.

As we sat there and waited, we also learned a little bit of scuttlebutt behind the scenes. Edwards, it seems, was accompanied that afternoon by a woman who is writing a book about him, which should fit pretty nicely into his communications strategy in the run up to the election. (His wife, by the way just announced this weekend that she is also working on a book.)

Finally, when someone did come to tell us that Edwards was ready, they also told us that we’d have to leave the office where we’d setup and go downstairs to speak with him… So, we head downstairs and wait some more. Only now we’re in the same room with him, and about 25 Opportunity Rocks volunteers. He’s taking photos and shaking hands. One of the kids, who had a cellphone to his ear, tells the group that Libby had just been indicted and there’s a joyful shout. I’m not close enough to hear what Edwards says, but I make a note of how cool it is that I’m in the same room with him as the Bush empire begins to crumble.

One of his people points toward a door and tells us to go in there and wait. I peak in and think I must have misheard. It’s a small room where three offices join. There’s a table and a communal printer, and stacks of papers. She comes over and reiterates that we’ll be meeting him in there, so we all step in. A women in one of the connected offices peaks her head out to see what all the hubbub is. (While we were talking with Edwards, this woman had two people come to meet with her. They stood in the doorway for a moment and then kind of snaked their ways between us. It must have been surreal for them. One minute you’re in the graduate library at the University of Michigan, and the next your shimmying between the man that could be the next President of the United States and rickety stack of mailboxes.)

There were a lot of questions that I wanted to ask. I wanted to ask about the press coverage on the tour and how Opportunity Rocks was being received. (I noticed that while the local papers and MTV were covering the event, none of the Detroit networks were present, which seemed kind of odd to me since a message like his would probably resonate with Detroiters – one-third of whom live in poverty.) I also wanted to ask what concrete steps needed to be taken for there to be an increase in the minimum wage. And, in a similar vein, I wanted to find out if there was any legislation in the works that would reign in predatory payday lending. And, I wanted to ask if he thought the poverty issue was one that crossed ideological and party boundaries, and whether or not he was looking to bring young Republicans into Opportunity Rocks… I didn’t have time for any of this though…

OK, here’s the interview. I may get some of the speakers wrong, but the words should be fairly accurate:

EDWARDS: “Hey, Angie… Salad. Just tell them like chicken salad, or just something. Salad… (to us) Sorry. They wanted me to look at a menu, and I couldn’t get that far.”

MARK: “So, you enjoy chicken salad?”

EDWARDS: “I eat whatever they give me usually” (laughs) “Fire away… Thank you guys for doing this by they way.

NADINE: “Tell us more about the work bonds?”

EDWARDS: “Basically it’s an idea that addresses this… It sets up accounts for low-income families, and you can do it in many ways, but the simplest way is to have a match from the government for the amount of money that the worker is able to put into the account. You can also make it a multiple dollar match too… The basic notion is that when we have low-income families without assets, not just (do) they suffer, but we suffer as a nation. The economy suffers. We end up spending a lot of money to help these families. The best thing that we can do is to help these families become financially independent, and the best way we can accomplish that is to create some assets for them so that they have something to fall back on. It also protects them against payday lenders and predatory lenders.

MARK: After (Hurricane) Katrina, it seemed like it took a few days for the right wing blogosphere to get all their ducks in a row, but, when they did, they had a clear message – the images (we were seeing from New Orleans) weren’t evidence of a government not doing enough to help its poorest citizens, but instead they showed that we’d done too much, that (through welfare) we’d created a dependent class (who were helpless to fend for themselves). Then, it seemed like the question of race and poverty just kind of faded.

EDWARDS: I don’t think it’s faded from the American consciousness. I think the political leaders feel like they’ve allocated some money and now they’re just going to move on. And that’s why these students and this grassroots movement are so important. It’s why what you guys do is so important. It’s continuing to drive this issue and keep it in people’s minds. That’s enormously important because that’s what drives political leaders to be doing what they ought to be doing.

MARK: How are you going to be able to tell whether or not you’re successful with this campaign?

EDWARDS: I already know it’s successful because we have many more students that I ever expected we’d have. I don’t know how many people were out here today, but thousands it looked like. It was way more than we ever would have thought. We were supposed to be inside here originally with three or four hundred. What happened is that we went to college campuses and asked the students, “How much space do we need?” And they’d say, “People don’t come to these things.” You know? “It’s just hard to get them there.” And, I don’t think it’s an accident. I think they’re actually looking for something big and moral to be involved in.

MATT: I don’t know how much you’ve been following what’s been happening here in Michigan, with respect to the auto industry… We have Delphi Corporation that’s just declared bankruptcy.

EDWARDS: I saw that.

MATT: Now they’re saying that they’re going to be paying their workers $9 an hour. General Motors may not be far behind. Unfortunately, Ford doesn’t look much better. Through all the reports that you read about what’s happening, two big phenomena come out – healthcare and pensions. Where do you see the national debate on healthcare right now? In Michigan it’s sort of starting to come up. The governor’s proposed some initiatives…

EDWARDS: I think there is no national debate.

MATT: It doesn’t seem to be a priority at all.

EDWARDS: It’s not a priority. What we have to make sure the country understands is that this doesn’t just hurt workers who don’t have healthcare coverage, or people who don’t have healthcare coverage, or Americans who are trying to pay the rising costs of healthcare. It’s hurting us economically for the very reasons you’ve just identified. We’ve got somewhere between $1,700 and $1,800 per car that we’re (spending) in healthcare cost. Japan has $250 or $300. It makes it extraordinarily hard for us to be competitive.

MATT: Did you know that they make more cars in Ontario, Canada than they do in Michigan right now?

EDWARDS: I did not know that…. That’s a very sad fact… The truth of the matter is that we not only (have) to deal with the healthcare crisis — we have a system in crisis right now — on top of that, in order to make sure that we keep jobs here that don’t have to be closed down and go somewhere else, we have got to have healthcare coverage. And the government’s got to play a serious role, and it’s not doing it. Unless I’m missing it, I haven’t heard any initiatives out of the administration.

MATT: No, they’re too busy being indicted… Not to be flip, but that’s…

EDWARDS: And they’re worrying about the bad publicity about not responding to the hurricanes, and Tom DeLay’s troubles… yeah.

RYAN: I’m curious how the reaction here and the turnout you got compares to other campuses, and especially if Ann Arbor, with it’s proximity to Detroit, or just as a campus with a history of progressive activism, has a special role in this fight.

EDWARDS: First of all, whatever I thought, it was proven by who showed up today and what they were saying after the event. This is a bunch of young people who want to do something. They know this is a huge issue that the country hasn’t done anything about in 40-something years. And I think they’re rising to the occasion. The way it compares with other campuses? I don’t know exact numbers but in terms of size this and Berkley were the two largest, I think. Yale was probably in the ballpark. This was a very big, enthusiastic crowd. I think with the University of Michigan’s history of leading on causes that really matter to the country, there’s a huge opportunity here. That’s why I wanted to come here.

JON: I don’t know if you’ve seen the charts, but you probably have since you’re doing this tour, of real wage increases — 30 years before 1980 and the 25 since.

EDWARDS: I have.

JON: Before 1980, everyone’s wages went up.

EDWARDS: It’s all been shifted to the top.

JON: Yeah. The bottom 20%, their real wages have fallen.

EDWARDS: I think it’s worse than that. Actually, the economic growth that’s happened in this country in the last 25 years occurred almost entirely among the top…

JON: Yeah. It’s not even close… What it tells me is that the institutions that we’ve developed in this country that were supposed to lift everyone up — the rising tide that lifts all ships — became institutions that made some ships bigger and other ships smaller. What do we do about these institutions? How do you address them?

EDWARDS: It’s a big question. And there are lots of parts to it. And I’m not sure I can talk about them all. We talked about healthcare, which is a piece of it. We need a fiscal and tax policy that gives opportunity to the working poor, who are living in a place that they shouldn’t be living in, in a country of our prosperity. We need to stop giving huge tax advantages to people with capital, which is what we have now. We have a tax system that literally allows billionaires to pay lower tax rates on their income than their secretaries. It’s insanity. It makes absolutely no sense. It just completely contributes to this idea that people with capital and a lot of money are doing great and nobody else is. And what you just described has also happened more intensely over the past four or five years. A million more people fell into poverty last year…

JON: Do you think that there’s a breaking point? Like you said, it’s insanity. We all see it. But it seems like no one seems to care.

EDWARDS: I think they care… It’s like… Who’s that guy who wrote the book, The Tipping Point? I think you reach a place where the country rises up and speaks out. It’s true of healthcare… As the problems evolve, you expect political leaders to respond. And when they fail to respond, the country demands a response. And we’re going to get to that place in healthcare. I think we’re very close to that place now with the have’s and have not’s, and how much worth… And it affects political cycles. And it affects what people vote on. It affects what they care about.

JON: You don’t think we’re there yet with healthcare?

EDWARDS: I think we are there with healthcare, but I don’t think we’re there yet with tax policy… What I just said, I doubt that a lot of the country even knows. I doubt they know that billionaires are paying lower tax rates… except for the notion that rich people generally get off with lower taxes just because they have accountants and lawyers working for them. But I doubt that they know that they thing is actually structured to allow people with capital to pay lower tax rates. So, I think the bottom line is that we are near a breaking point some of these things — some of them are actually past the breaking point — but we don’t see any leadership response. Nothing’s happening with the administration or the leaders in Congress. There’s a reason why I came to college campuses and not to Washington to talk about poverty. Because going to Washington is a waste of time. Coming here is not. People will respond, they’ll rise up, and they’ll speak out. And if we do what we’re capable of doing, we’ll finally get to the place where the people who are supposed to be leaders, many of whom are just following in Washington… they don’t have any choice but to do so.

MARK: During the last presidential election, you were accused of instigating “class warfare” when you brought these issues up. How do you respond to that now?

EDWARDS: It’s the Republicans who created class warfare in this country. What we’re trying to do is get rid of class warfare. I talked about it some in my speech before, but this notion that we all have equal value in this society, which I think is one of the core principles of America. And we’ve walked away from it. It’s not right. And I think that the American people deserve a government that respects the idea of equal worth. All these things that we’ve been talking about revolve around that principle core concept. And the American people will embrace that concept, but they need leaders to get them thinking about it and focused on it.

(We take a photo and there’s lots of commotion, but Nadine asks something about the poverty center in North Carolina that he’s associated with.)

EDWARDS: We’re actually having a big summit over the next couple of weeks. All the national experts on poverty are coming down. We’re having a panel discussion with a bunch of journalists about the media’s coverage of the subject… (as he’s leaving the room) Thank you guys for what you’re doing.

MATT: What’s your favorite blog?

EDWARDS: I don’t want to pick a favorite… Here’s what I’ve started to do… Actually, my wife is the one to get me into all this to begin with. And, as we’re trying to reach out on things like poverty, we’re blogging. We’re doing a lot of blogging actually – including video-blogging. Podcasting… You guys listening to my podcast? You’ve got to listen to my podcast.

(And, with that, he’s whisked away to his waiting chicken salad.)

I’m pissed at myself for not asking better questions — I especially wanted to ask about any research that he might have done on Robert Kennedy’s poverty-related work — but it was an awkward situation, all of use standing there around the printer, trying to hold our voices down out of courtesy for the people around us trying to work, sucking in our guts to make way for the people heading in and out for meetings.

I know it’s a little early to pick a candidate for ’08, but I’m thinking I might join the Edwards team. He seems like a decent enough guy, and he’s talking about the right things, like the United States having to reclaim its position as a moral force in the world, one working to spread freedom of the press, women’s rights and democratic reform. (In his speech, he talked of the fact that we no longer have moral authority. People aren’t looking to the U.S. as the champions of what is right. We don’t speak up when the Russians crack down on the free press, or when genocide takes place in Africa. We used to. And he thinks we hunger for it.) Sure, some of it may just be him positioning himself for the next race, and his whole decision to attack poverty might just be a calculated gambit, but life’s too short to be cynical at every turn. And, I’ve got to think that there’s really something in him that believes in the inherent worth of the individual. Given everything I know, I think I might be close to casting my lot and saying I want him to be my president.

update: There are several pieces in the press today about the possibility of an Edwards run in ’08.

update: Nadine’s story is up at the Hamtramck Star, and her perspective as a single mother living in poverty is worth reading.

Posted in Politics | 24 Comments

uncle sam has seen better days

(Photo courtesy of Steve Cherry, who, knowing all my passwords and such, was apparenlty able to sneak in and upload it without my knowledge… From now on, whenever you see something that you don’t like here – like disgusting references to monkey taints – just assume that it was Steve’s doing.)

Posted in Found Objects | 11 Comments

libby takes one for the team

The Vice President’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, after a two-year investigation, was charged with five criminal counts this afternoon. US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (a Bush appointee), in his statement to the press this afternoon, outlined the charges in the indictment as follows: 2 Perjury, 2 False Statements, 1 Obstruction of Justice.

Not having any other choice, Libby resigned his position at the White House… If convicted of all of the charges against him, Libby faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.

Now, we’re just all waiting for the other shoe(s) to drop, and the question on everyone’s mind is, just how far will it go. At the very least, it would seem as though Vice President Cheney, the man who first told Libby of Valerie Plame’s position as a covert operative with the CIA, knew that Libby was lying when he told the grand jury that he’d found out about Plame not from Cheney, but from reporter Tim Russert. And, at the very worst, Cheney had not only told Libby of Plame’s status at the CIA, but asked him to share it with the press in an effort to discredit her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a man who had come forward and told the press that the administration knew for a certainty that Saddam had not been seeking nuclear materials in Niger, even as it continued to use that (bad) intelligence as a justification for war. (If you want to learn all the specifics, check out this Wikipedia entry on the Plame affair.)

The President’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, was likewise expected to be indicted this afternoon, but it seems as though he might have made a deal to keep himself out of prison. Here’s a clip from the Washington Post:

Rove provided new information to Fitzgerald during eleventh-hour negotiations that “gave Fitzgerald pause” about charging Bush’s senior strategist, said a source close to Rove. “The prosecutor has to resolve those issues before he decides what to do.”

It’s unclear as to what’s going on, but many have found it telling that Rove’s name doesn’t appear anywhere in the Libby indictment, having been replaced with the alias “Official A.” So, did Rove give up Cheney and/or Bush to save his own ass? That’s the question of the hour. Whatever he did, it looks like he’s bought himself a few more weeks though.

Reporter Carl Bernstein says it reminds him of Watergate. Here’s a Quote:

“But what the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up–how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives.”

And that’s not all that the administration has to contend with. The Democrats are beginning to pile on. Congressman John Conyers is calling for a congressional investigation into what Bush and Cheney knew and when they knew it, and Senator Kennedy is demanding all the documents that weren’t shared with the Fitzgerald grand jury.

The noose is tightening, and, predictably, Bush is dealing with it in the only way he knows how – by heading off for a few days of vacation.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment


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