Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
The end of the beginning
The Terri Schiavo case closed a key chapter today with the Florida woman's death shortly before 10 a.m. this morning. The bitterness hasn't ended, though, with spokesmen for the Schindlers calling Michael Schiavo out to the very end, including accusing him of denying the parents the opportunity to be with their daughter when she died (her brother and sister, and their priest were allowed in about 10 minutes before). The spokesman also implied that Michael Schiavo wasn't there when his wife died -- a pretty cruel charge leveled by people who admit they weren't there... Michael Schiavo's future brother-in-law has told CNN that Michael was in fact by her bedside. CNN is racking the video now, and I'm sure they'll replay it over and over again throughout the day.

Anyway, the end of this case is by no means the end of the fight, either between the Schindlers and Schiavos, who are now battling over Terri's body and burial, or between abortion opponents and the courts, whom the venerable Randall Terry said today on CNN must be "reigned in." Also, the finger-pointing has begun among the Schindlers' supporters, who are blaming each other for bad legal strategy, bad political strategy and more.

Efforts in Congress and the courts to prolong Terri Schiavo's life failed because of political miscalculations, missed deadlines and misguided legal strategy, according to legal experts and some of the conservative activists who made the case a national issue.

That harsh assessment is causing recriminations and finger-pointing among social conservatives and Republican staffers on Capitol Hill, who say there's plenty of blame to go around for why efforts to reverse state court rulings fell short.
Ken Connor, the former head of the conservative Family Research Council who gave legal advice to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the case was moving through the courts there two years ago, said Congress' inability to agree on a bill to keep Schiavo alive before her feeding tube was removed March 18 "severely prejudiced Terri's case."

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives took credit for getting a bill passed two days later, "but that's like an arsonist claiming credit for putting out his own fire," said Connor, who worked for weeks on the Schiavo legislation. "They should have acted with more dispatch."

On another front, the Catholic church has formed an entire order dedicated to fighting euthanasia and abortion.

...hang on to your seats, folks, this is just the opening round of what will be a very long battle. The rights of the federal government and courts versus those of the states and individuals are on a major collision course, and make no mistake, this isn't about Terri Schiavo, it's ultimately about abortion.
posted by JReid @ 11:32 AM  
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Order in the court
The appeals court judge in the latest (are we at 27 yet) iteration of the Schindler-Schiavo legal extravaganza had a few choice words for the Congress and the president, and their unwanted (and unwarranted) intervention in the Terri Schiavo case:

Said the judge, who, by the way, is a Bush I appointee:

"Any further action by our court or the district court would be improper," wrote Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., who was appointed by former President Bush. "While the members of her family and the members of Congress have acted in a way that is both fervent and sincere, the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty."

Birch went on to scold President Bush and Congress for their attempts to intervene in the judicial process, by saying: "In resolving the Schiavo controversy, it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people — our Constitution."

Amen to that. Oh, and looks like the Schindlers are headed back to the Supreme Court for yet another appeal. My question is, how long can this continue? How many more bites at the legal apple do the Schindlers get? And do they in their wildest dreams think that this spectacle (complete with reports of a video of Terri for sale to would-be donors) would have wanted?


On another note, goodbye Johnny Cochran. Forget the O.J. case, Cochran was a great man, who shined, both as an African-American leader, a role model and an attorney. God bless you, man.
posted by JReid @ 6:16 PM  
Schiavo madness, part 2
What on earth is Jesse Jackson doing in Pinellas County, Florida? Apparently the Schindler's called him, but couldn't he have consulted with them in private instead of making himself appear so much the publicity hound...? And what's with the public hangout sessions with Gov. Jeb Bush (suddenly Newsmax is so very kind to "the civil rights leader)? This isn't exactly what I call staying out of the Bushes...
posted by JReid @ 4:40 PM  
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
The art of being crazy
Alan Keyes has reared his ugly head again, smelling a publicity vehicle in the Schiavo case like no one else can (perhaps he'll toddle down here to sunny Florida and repeat his Illinois humiliation by running for the Senate... or maybe the governorship in 2006? Come and get it, Alan...)

Keyes' latest adventures in public insanity include making the usual right wing rounds, Hannity, et. al, but also turning up on the Randi Rhodes show on Monday, where he was promptly humiliated by the Florida-by-way-ofBrooklyn host for citing the wrong section of the Florida constitution to make an invalid point (namely, that Jeb Bush not only has the power to override the 25-some-odd court findings in the case and seize Terri Schiavo from her hospice bed, but that he also possesses the unique and wonderous ability to -- by himself -- determine the constitutionality of any law. Just try that one on for size, Florida Supreme Court!

Keyes' wacky forum RenewAmerica has also taken on a new role: bashing Gov. Jeb Bush. I guess he's really become Pontius Pilate in the eyes of these people. Never thought I'd find myself defending Jeb, but this is just ridiculous stuff:

At the most critical junctures, Gov. Bush had been a virtual no-show --willing to let the powerful judiciary define his options in ways that effectively strip him of his statutory and constitutional authority.
[Really? My understanding is that Jeb agrees with you, Mr. Keyes. He even pushed for and signed a law that went to absurd lengths to yank Terri Schiavo from the custody of her husband (a law eventually ruled unconstitutional), and over the weekend, was prepared to send in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to extract her, barely averting a public confrontation between the FDLE and the Sheriffs, who had been ordered by the judge to prevent such a snatching. Jeb has risked multiple Constitutional crises over this case, not to mention his credibility as the man charged with faithfully executing the laws and Constitution of the state...]

That's not the role of the executive under our system of government--to be a sycophant to black-robed elites. As a result, an innocent woman will likely die a horrible death.

[Jebbie a sycophant to "black-robed elites?" you mean the same Jeb who quietly pushed for a special legislative session in 2000 and signed an immediate "certificate of ascertainment" handing his state's 25 electors to his brother as Bush v. Gore wound its way toward the Florida and U.S. Supreme Courts?]
Here's what Gov. Bush said on Sunday, in clear abdication of his defined powers: "I cannot violate a court order. "The order he had in mind was a pre-emptive usurpation by circuit judge George Greer of the governor's statutory authority under Florida law to immediately take Terri into protective custody. Had the governor simply acted as he is duly empowered, Terri would not now be threatenedwith death. Instead, Gov. Bush cowered at Greer's threat literally to arrest the governor if he proceeded under legislative statute--as though Greer had such imaginary executive clout.
[No, actually, Jeb was right to reverse himself on the seizing Terri thing. To do so would have created a constitutional crisis, pitting one law enforcement agency against another...]

What on earth is going on here? To defend his impotence, Gov. Bush told CNN after attending Easter services, "I don't have powers from the United States Constitution or--for that matter from the Florida Constitution--that would allow me to intervene after a decision has been made" by an out-of-control, arrogant judge.

So much for the assertive action needed to preserve not only an innocent woman's life, but our republic itself. As Dr. Keyes argues, imbalance of the kind described above means we really don't have law anymore. Instead, we have a judicial dictatorship, whereby the courts aggressively define and control all elements of government without regard for the Constitution, the intention of the founders, or the rights and prerogatives of the other branches.

Is Jeb really "powerless," as he claims? Can he rightfully "wash his hands" of this
whole matter and leave it in the hands of others, when he alone is the supreme executive authority in the state, empowered and responsible to protect the health, safety, and life of his state's citizens?

Okay, so he's Pontius Pilate again ... I think that's all I can stand. So the good folks at RenewAmerica ignore the fact that Jeb Bush attempted to do precisely what they have been demanding, and decry his submission to the "tyrannical court" which has the authority under the Constitution -- and indeeed the obligation -- to exercise its prerogatives and restrain what would otherwise be dicatatorial gubernatorial power.

It all makes sense now. Keys and his merry men want to "overthrow" judicial tyranny be replacing it with fundamentalist, religion-fueled executive tyranny, architected by their version of God, whose will is to be interpreted and administered by his chosen representatives on earth: them.

How convenient for everyone...
posted by JReid @ 1:23 AM  
The enablers
It occurred to me over the Easter weekend, that if the Schiavo case has gone several bridges too far, and it certainly has, you almost can't blame the "let her live" protesters, however fanatical (and cruel for dragging their poor children out into the street with tape over their mouths). You've got to blame the people who are manipulating them -- starting with the "pro-life" activists like Randall Terry, who have turned poor Terri Schiavo into a grown-up Elian Gonzalez, complete with religious symbology, in a cynical attempt to advance their cause. (Next, they'll be trying to drag her poor addled body to Disney World). Their newest gambit: hawking the list of donors to the parents' cause, with the parents' complicity, of course -- who said this wasn't about money...?

From the NYT:

The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.

"These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," says a description of the list on the Web site of the firm, Response Unlimited, which is asking $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 4,000 e-mail addresses of people who responded last month to an e-mail plea from Ms. Schiavo's father.

"These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life, adamantly oppose euthanasia and are pro-life in every sense of the word!"

Privacy experts said the sale of the list was legal and even predictable, if ghoulish.
"I think it's amusing," said Robert Gellman, a privacy and information policy consultant. "I think it's absolutely classic America. Everything is for sale in America, every type of personal information."

Executives of Response Unlimited declined to comment. Gary McCullough, director of the Christian Communication Network and a spokesman for Ms. Schiavo's parents, confirmed that Mr. Schindler had agreed to let Response Unlimited rent out the list as part of a deal for the firm to send an e-mail solicitation raising money on the family's behalf.


On Sunday, as the Schindlers gave up on their legal battle and their daughter passed her 10th day without food, others continued to rally supporters and solicit money in an effort to restore the feeding tube.

"This time, we have a real chance to break through the 'roadblocks' that the enemies of life have been putting up in front of us," said a mass e-mailing from, asking supporters to urge Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene somehow.

The message added: "We're asking you to give a donation to help with our activism efforts to save Terri's life. Battles cost money; resources cost money; media costs money; we could go on, but you get the picture."

Mr. Sheldon - whose father, the Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, has also sent appeals urging support for Ms. Schiavo - apparently played a dual role as a partner in, which is working with the anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, and as a broker for Response Unlimited*. Mr. Sheldon did not respond to phone calls yesterday.

*the firm that bought the mailing list.


After that, you've got to blame the media, whose complicity in this whole, sordid circus has been more subtle, but perhaps even more pernicious. The live setups by MSNBC, Fox and others outside the hospice -- meant to be a place of rest -- is as obscene a spectacle as anything I've seen since Elian's temporary Miami home became a pilgrimage point for fanatical Castro-thumpers.

The media are to blame for having, since the November elections, coddled, stroked and pandered to a small sliver of religious zealots, who now believe themselves to be the country's super-majority "values voters," single-handedly responsible for reelecting the president, elusive and mysterious to the wickedly secular "mainstream media," and therefore entitled to have their every wish implemented -- by the state and federal legislatures, by governors, by the president, and by the courts -- or, as the infamous Randall Terry so eloquently put it over the weekend, "there will be hell to pay."

Hell? Really? Well my definition of hell would be living in the world these people are trying to create. Religious fanatics of the Christian variety are every bit as nutty as Islamists, because in the end, both want the same thing: a society built on religious law, where God trumps all secular authority and their particular reading of God's law is put into forceful action -- for everyone, like it or not. They are so clouded, they don't even realize they are vastly outnumbered by sane, variously religious but socially secular, Americans.

(By the way, an interesting poll from none other than Fox News shows that Americans have changed their minds very little on the Schiavo case over the course of a year. From a June 18, 2004, Fox Opinion Dynamics poll:
Three times as many Americans think Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed as think it should remain and — if in her place — most Americans say they would prefer the tube be removed. When asked to consider what action they would take if they were Schiavo's guardian, a 61 percent majority says they would remove her feeding tube and 22 percent would keep the tube inserted, according to the latest FOX News national poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation.
posted by JReid @ 12:33 AM  
Friday, March 25, 2005
The Randall nobody knows
The major media won't tell you this, but you need to know just who you're listening to when you're getting an earful from one of "Terri Schiavo's supporters," as the media so misnames them. The biggest wolf in the pack: Randall Terry.

Media Matters has his number:

Under Terry's leadership, Operation Rescue staged aggressive protests of abortion clinics, including "screaming and pleading with pregnant women to turn away," "toss[ing] their bodies against car doors to keep abortion patients from getting out" and "wav[ing] crucifixes and scream[ing] 'Mommy, Mommy' at the women," according to The Washington Post. The Post further noted that Terry "described Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, as a 'whore' and an 'adulteress' and arranged to have a dead fetus presented to Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention." The New York Times reported on August 14, 1993, that "[i]n his radio appearances, Mr. Terry said of [abortion provider] Dr. [Warren] Hern: 'I hope someday he is tried for crimes against humanity, and I hope he is executed.' "

The Times added that "Coming just five months after an anti-abortion protester [Michael Griffin] shot and killed the doctor [David Gunn] in Florida, Mr. Terry's words were construed by many abortion rights groups as a call to violence." According to an August 7, 1994, report on CBS' 60 Minutes, Terry entreated his followers "to pray for either the salvation or the death" of Hern. The New York Times also noted on November 8, 1998, that Terry "filed for bankruptcy ... in an effort to avoid paying massive debts owed to women's groups and abortion clinics that have sued him."

(Native New Yorker Terry's bankruptcy in homestead-friendly Florida is nicely protected by the recently passed bankruptcy bill, btw...)

And here is the longer, updated article with all the meat and potatoes.

Terry's words and personal life have also stirred controversy. As the Fort Wayne (Indiana) News Sentinel reported on August 16, 1993, at an anti-abortion rally in Fort Wayne, Terry said "Our goal is a Christian nation. ... We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism. ... Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules." In that same speech, Terry also stated that "If a Christian voted for [former President Bill] Clinton, he sinned against God. It's that simple." According to a March 18, 2004, press release, Terry declared on his radio program that "Islam dictates followers use killing and terror to convert Western infidels."

As The Washington Post reported on February 12, 2000, in his 1995 book The Judgment of God Terry wrote that "homosexuals and lesbians are no longer content to secretly live in sin, but now want to glorify their perversions." In a May 25, 2004, interview about his gay son with The Advocate, Terry stated that homosexuality is a "sexual addiction" that shouldn't be rewarded with "special civil rights."

Media Matters reprints a 2003 article in the conservative World Magazine (no longer available online) that was reprinted by the FReepers at the time.

A man once attacked largely by abortionists is now being criticized by some of his former colleagues for what they call an unethical fundraising campaign over the past half year.

"The purveyors of abortion on demand have stripped Randall Terry of everything he owned," said the Operation Rescue founder's website,, as of June 5. "The home was sold, and Randall's equity and assets were given to pro-abortion activists." The site then asks visitors to "help our brother.... Please give as generously as you can to restore what the enemy took," with donations to be sent to the Terry Family Trust. Hard-copy letters and e-mail solicitations with similar appeals have since November arrived in mailboxes around the country. (WORLD agreed to rent its mailing list for a Terry Family Trust solicitation in December 2002 and then a larger chunk of the list in February 2003; the proceeds from the rentals were donated to a pro-life charity this month.)

But neither the fundraising letters nor the website disclose that Mr. Terry is set to close on a new $432,000 home near St. Augustine, Fla., in South Ponte Vedra Beach. (Mr. Terry told WORLD he plans to close this month.) Nor do they reveal that Mr. Terry contracted to purchase the home eight months before he sent donors letters
saying he'd lost everything to pro-abortion forces. Donations to the Terry Family Trust will go to pay for the house, Mr. Terry told WORLD in a February 2003 telephone interview.

Some of Mr. Terry's former allies say the fundraising appeal is unbiblical and disingenuous. "I don't think you should ask people to sort of 'pay you back' to cover your losses," Pro-life Action League President Joe Scheidler told WORLD. Minister and pro-life activist Pat Mahoney says Mr. Terry's lifestyle since filing for ankruptcy in 1998 has not been that of a man who lacks money.

Mr. Terry's critics also say many donors who receive the fundraising letters are likely to assume that the proceeds of the Terry Family Trust benefit Mr. Terry's four oldest children, along with Cindy Terry, his wife of 19 years. Instead, the Terry family Trust is to help Mr. Terry get back into ministry and to benefit his infant son and his second wife, the former Andrea Kollmorgan. She was 22 and served as Mr. Terry's personal assistant during his failed 1998 New York congressional campaign. In August 1999, Mr. Terry left Cindy Terry, and obtained a divorce in November 2000. He married Miss Kollmorgan seven months later.

And this from the guy who literally laughed when an NBC reporter asked him about Michael Schiavo's love for his wife, calling him a bad person who abandoned his wife to shack up with another woman...

Just to be "fair and balanced," here's the Terryesque response to the World Magazine article.

Hm, and speaking of the FReepers, wonder how they feel about Mr. Terry these days...

Here's one post (there aren't many commenting on Terry's interesting marital and financial history...):
I have a big problem with Randall Terry (I used to work with him on occassion, BTW) and his new marriage. However, let's not shoot the messenger. The family asked Randall to be the spokesman and lead the effort. When this is over, then we can address this problem. 24 posted on 03/24/2005 7:35:18 AM PST by 1stFreedom (1)
So once again, the right is relying on a crook and serial sinner who ditched his wife of a generation to marry a young gal at the office (channeling Newt Gingrich?) to front their cause. I'm sure God is relieved to have the likes of Mr. Terry on his side, as the Schindlers surely must be...
posted by JReid @ 7:30 PM  
Shopping for venues ... and icons
This desperate court-shopping on the part of the Schindlers and their attorneys is becoming obscene. The Schiavos are headed back to an appeals court -- the same appeals court that rejected their claims less than 72 hours ago -- to appeal a ruling by the same federal judge who has now been forced to rule against them twice. (They've also had two bites at the Supreme Court apple). Question for the legal minds in the blogovers: How many times can a plaintiff return to the same court, essentially making the same argument, and having it rejected, before the suits are summarily dismissed as frivolous?

Meanwhile, this case is taking on all the sickening religious iconography that eventually turned the Elian Gonzalez saga not only into bad theater, but also into a religious movement (see here also, for a more academic account) The "Palm Sunday compromise," (a term coined by the Tom Delay press office, by the way,) the Easter Week deathwatch, and now Gov. Jeb Bush compared to Pontius Pilate by the Schindlers' overwrought supporters... (only question is, if Terri Schiavo -- and not the Pope??? -- is Jesus on the cross, who is Barabas? Tom Delay, perhaps...?)


...A pro-life group called Crossroads agrees that Gov. Bush has done a great deal on Terri's behalf."But how will history remember him if Terri dies? Likely, as a weak, moral coward, who did not have the courage to save a helpless, dying woman from those who so vehemently wished to take her life," the group said in a press release.

Crossroad noted that nearly 2000 years ago this week, Pontius Pilate "stood by and did nothing in the face of determined evil as it took the life" of one innocent man.

"Pilate simply lacked the moral courage that is occasionally demanded of one who governs, Crossroads said.The group said Pilate was not filled with hate -- but in the end, he "chose not to risk his office to save the 'insignificant' [Christ]."

Crossroads said Bush must (ask) himself, "Is one helpless woman's life worth my political career?'""As of this writing, the tribunals have spoken against an innocent, helpless woman, and an angry, hate-filled mob has gathered to mock and ridicule those praying for a miracle near to where Terri Schiavo lies in her fatal agony," Crossroad said."And her mother, Mary, must suffer the contempt of those who are determined to see her child unjustly condemned to death. Now it is in the hands of the governor, the man who will ultimately choose either to wield the temporal powers of his office to save innocent life, or 'wash his hands' of her."

Jeb Bush said on Thursday he understands that people are "acting on their heart, and I fully appreciate their sentiments and the emotions that go with this."But, he added, "I've consistently said that I cannot go beyond what my powers are - and I'm not going to do it."

Schiavo is also being linked to the Pope in the minds of some Catholics:

From the Guardian today:

As Christians reflect on Jesus' death this solemn Good Friday, some also are giving special attention to Terri Schiavo - particularly Roman Catholics who count Schiavo as one of their own, and whose church has been increasingly vocal this week in calling for the reinsertion of a feeding tube into the brain-damaged Florida woman.

Eternal Word Television Network, an Alabama-based Catholic cable service that reaches more than 100 million homes worldwide, is interrupting previously scheduled sacred programs for a Friday evening broadcast that expects to treat the Schiavo case through interviews with a family member and a neurologist.

News Director Raymond Arroyo said the network's ``extraordinary'' programming switch was driven by the public outpouring of concern over both Schiavo's plight and the frail health of Pope John Paul II.

``You have a collusion of events that I think only the spiritually blind would ignore,'' Arroyo said. ``It's not hard to see the similarities between the pope and what Terri Schiavo is going through, to some extent, and the sufferings of Christ that we commemorate Good Friday.''

And you thought this was just about the heartless exploitation of a dying woman and the perversion of her final days into public, political theater...

posted by JReid @ 10:06 AM  
Thursday, March 24, 2005
The Moscow news
If I may digress from the Terri Schiavo saga for just a moment...

Last month, The American Conservative magazine, Pat Buchanan's bi-monthly that has become the bain of the neocon right, published an article by Scott McConnell called "Hunger for Dictatorship," in which McConnell critiqued charges made by fellow conservatives, and anti-war libertarians, about the "brownshirting of American conservatism," and offered his own warnings about the militaristic, statist, authoritarian tinge of the current federal government (as if the federal meddling in the Schiavo case wasn't evidence enough). (Read the full article here -- trust me, it's worth it).

So now, there's this from the NY Observer, which profiles former White House press stooge Ari Fleischer opining that while CBS did itself some good with the Bush White House, they must do more in order to gain "trust and credibility" with the Bush White House. See if you can channel Joe Stalin with me:

“Karl Rove started talking to me again,” John Roberts, CBS News’ White House correspondent, said of President Bush’s chief political advisor and deputy chief of staff for policy at the White House.

That was fast.

Dan Rather left the CBS Evening News March 10, and now that the White House has gotten what it wanted, history has started over. Kind of.


“With the departure of Dan Rather, this is a good opportunity for CBS to reach out,” said Ari Fleischer, the former White House press spokesman. “This is almost a curtains-up for CBS to improve relationships.” Mr. Fleischer—the former Presidential press secretary who has published his Bush explication memoir, Taking Heat: The President, the Press, and My Years in the White House—was considering CBS News now that Mr. Rather, the bête noir of the conservative class, has departed the CBS Evening News.

Mr. Rather’s early retirement was good, Mr. Fleischer said. But it wasn’t quite enough. “

Dan Rather became a symbol,” said Mr. Fleischer, who remains close to President Bush. “That’s why this is a new opportunity for CBS. But there’s a lot more to it besides who was in the anchor chair. There’s CBS as a larger organization. There is still largely a Democratic tilt that goes in their journalism.”

Dan Rather was a good start. But the White House wanted more.

“A new chapter has opened up at CBS,” Mr. Fleischer said on March 22, “but we don’t know what’s in it yet.”


Adam Levine, who was the assistant White House secretary in charge of television news until January 2004—and who, like Mr. Fleischer, remains close to the Bush administration press office—said CBS News still had “a lot of work to do.”

To measure the relative credibility of news networks with press officials at the White House, Mr. Levine suggested a scale of one to 100: he put Fox News at 90, NBC News at 80 and CBS News at “about 10.”

Asked about that assessment, a current White House official, who declined to be named, said that figure was “probably generous given what happened.”

“It depends on where they go from here,” said the official. “Contrition is always nice, but it all depends on what gets on the air. That’s the true test.”

“Bowing and scraping is not going to please this White House,” said Mr. Levine. “Results are going to please the White House.”

Results? Like what? "Positive" stories about the president? Does Bush work in Washington or Stalingrad?

In any case, at least one 60 Minutes employee was still in good stead with the White House: Scott Pelley, the silver-haired newsmagazine correspondent and a dark horse candidate to replace Mr. Rather as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Mr. Levine said Mr. Pelley had remained well-liked, especially given his longtime friendship with Karen P. Hughes, who was recently named Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy in the White House. Since 2000, Mr. Pelley has had three sit-down interviews with the President; by contrast, Mr. Rather has had none.

“It’s human nature that if someone was unfair or biased, they wouldn’t get access to the President,” said Mr. Fleischer. But even Mr. Pelley had challenges with access that were beyond his control. The calculus for the White House in granting interviews, said Mr. Levine, was more than just the fairness and balance of the network—it was a combination of “reach, fairness and enjoyability.”

He described the latter as “the respect factor,” in which an interviewer showed due deference to the office of the Presidency, thereby making it a more appealing experience for Mr. Bush.

By this calculation, Mr. Schieffer, the CBS Evening News interim anchor, had “the respect factor” going for him, said Mr. Levine.

And one last bit, demostrating the proper way to develop a "relationship" with the Bush White House -- quickly distance yourself from any story which displeases the president.

Mr. Levine said that during his tenure, “NBC was a much more effective tool for us.” He said press officials in the White House liked Meet the Press host Russert, but not because he tossed softball questions.

“Nobody is going to tell you that Tim Russert is easiest,” said Mr. Levine. “He’s by far and away the toughest. But he’s fair.”

Mr. Levine declined to comment on the present standing of Mr. Roberts, as did the White House source. But Mr. Fleischer commented: “John is feisty. John is smart. And I had a good relationship with John.”

During the scandal over the suspicious National Guard memos, Mr. Roberts was eager to distance himself from his role in the segment. On the morning of Sept. 8, he had been the one to confront press secretary Dan Bartlett with the documents purportedly written by Mr. Bush’s squadron commander, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, which cast a negative light on Mr. Bush’s service.

In the panel report, Mr. Roberts was quick to point out that had he known that former National Guardsman Bill Burkett was the source of the documents, he would
have advised against using them. Mr. Roberts had interviewed Mr. Burkett for an earlier story about Mr. Bush’s service. Luckily for him, Mr. Roberts is not mentioned in a 24-person “Cast of Characters” listed in Ms. Mapes’ book proposal, which lists Mr. Rather and Mr. Bush as characters No. 1 and 2.

Read the full story for yourself. Here's a hint to the ending: Mapes isn't backing off the gist of the Rathergate report ... the question is, is there a media outlet anywhere in America that will stand up to the new, brownshirted GOP? (And you wondered where Vladi Putin gets all his smashing-good ideas...!)
posted by JReid @ 11:53 PM  
Beware the 'experts'
MSNBC just ad a guy named Ariel Cohen on the "Connected" show to "comment" on the Krygyzstan rebellion. He asserted that it was President Bush's statements on democracy, not Russian interventionism or the Ukraine rebellion, that sparked the latest dustup in a former Soviet republic. He even went further, crediting Bush's democracy push for all of the world's present revolutions, from the Middle East to Europe.

Oh, and while MSBNC credited him as a mere "Russian native," Cohen is actually a senior policy analyst at the arch-conservative, pro-Bush Heritage Foundation and a contributor to the National Review... One of his pet projects, in fact, has been advising the Bush administration on Heritage-friendly tinkerings to post-war Iraq (if there ever is such a thing), including installing exiles in key government posts and "preparing state-owned assets—including industries, utilities, transportation, ports, airports and pipelines—for sale to the private sector."... thanks for the heads up, MSNBC!
posted by JReid @ 12:36 PM  
Jeb in the pressure cooker
"I like to say that there is a constitutional crisis looming in the state of Florida, and the question is will the governor of the state let a district judge tell him how to run his state..." --Rev. Patrick Mahoney, spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

Now that the Supreme Court has rejected the Schildlers' appeal -- with no written dissents, by the way -- are you there, Antonin Scalia...? -- the ball is back in Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's Court. And it's being batted right at his head by Rev. Pat Mahoney.

Mahoney, who calls himself a spiritual advisor to the Schindlers, is goading Gov. Jeb Bush to essentially violate the district court judge, Judge Greer's order, and to order the Department of Children and Families to go into Terri Schiavo's hospice and have her feeding tube reinserted.

Mahoney is the ultimate provocateur. He has held serial press conferences, goading and even seeming to taunt Republican legislators who control both chambers in Florida's capitol, to "not allow Terri Schiavo to be murdered on their watch." For Republican politicians, Mahoney's strident rhetoric presents a challenge, and a warning -- what will Mahoney and his followers do if Jeb Bush and his advisors decide that he cannot act?

Will they believe that Jeb did all he could for Terri Schiavo, but ultimately failed? Or will they hold this case against him and his annointed successor for governor. What if he runs for Senate, challenging the seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson? What if he runs for president?

Jeb Bush -- a converted Catholic who has shown a high degree of religiosity in the past, to put it kindly, is probably sweating buckets right now... Personally, he probably wants to intervene. But to do so would set one state agency (the Department of Children and Families) against another (the state law enforcement agencies, which have been ordered by Judge Greer to prevent any move by DCF to enter the hospice) -- the state executive branch against the judiciary, and force all the state powers to careen on a very uncomfortable stage.
posted by JReid @ 10:39 AM  
Onward, Christian soldiers
Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican who was one of five GOPers to oppose Congress' unprecedented intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, warned that "this Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. There are going to be repercussions from this vote."

One can only hope so, not that the Democrats are exhibiting profiles in courage on a matter in which eight in ten Americans agree that federal intervention is wrong...

(Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a representative for Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, was just on TV excoriating the "Republican House and Senate" of Florida and demanding that Gov. Jeb Bush use his executive authority to intervene to replace Schiavo's feeding tube (and accusing the Tampa circuit court judge, Judge Greer, of practically conspiring to murder Terri Schiavo.)

This case has gone from bad to worse. The religious right already had the media captive, what with all the constant pandering to "faith and values" on the cable chat shows and the pathetic attempts to address religion at every turn in the major newspapers. Now, they have seized complete control of the Republican Party, and are riding it, through hyper-religious politicians like Jeb Bush, who recently solicited a "medical opinion" from a quack doctor who never even examined Terri Schiavo to push his case that in fact, she is not in a permanent vegetative state -- to ironic vessels like the morally repugnant Tom Delay, who recently told supporters that the Schiavo case wasn't about the dying Florida woman at all:
"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. ... This is exactly the issue that's going on in America, the attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Delay said.
Well that's good to know. Maybe all those relgious fanatic protesters can go home now and leave Schiavo's hospice in peace.

Make no mistake, the goal of these people, who are still on a high after the election, is to impose religious doctrine on us all. They also have a useful foil in the president, whom I actually don't believe is as much a religious fanatic as he pretends to be, but he is happy to go along for political gain...

From the NYT:

In their fight to keep their daughter alive, Ms. Schiavo's parents, who are Catholics, have been backed by an ad hoc coalition of Catholic and evangelical lobbyists, street organizers and legal advisers like the Rev. Frank Pavone, the Catholic priest who runs a group called Priests for Life and evangelical Protestants like Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, and the Rev. Pat Mahoney of the National Clergy Council.

The struggle is only the latest indication of a strengthening religious alliance between denominations that were once bitterly divided. Evangelical leaders say they frequently lean on Catholic intellectuals like Robert George at Princeton University and the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the journal First Things, to help them frame political issues theologically.

An increasing number of Catholics hold crucial staff positions in some of the religious conservative groups that lobby Washington. And conservative Catholics and evangelicals meet weekly in Virginia with a broad array of right-leaning lobbyists.

"The idea of building a culture that values human life is a Catholic articulation, but it echoes in the hearts of many people, evangelicals and others," said William L. Saunders Jr., director of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the Family Research Council in Washington.


The "culture of life" language has been widely adopted by conservative politicians. President Bush said in a news conference yesterday that government must "err on the side of life" in making every effort to keep Ms. Schiavo alive.

The Catholics and evangelicals first joined forces in the anti-abortion movement. And their alliance has now extended to include promoting sexual abstinence education and opposing stem-cell research and euthanasia. It is an array of issues they link under the rubric of "respect for the sanctity of life," whether that life is an "unborn baby" or an unresponsive patient lying in a hospice bed.

It's about abortion, it's about stem cell research, sexual abstinence (meaning the abolition of condoms and birth control pills, which the Catholic Church and others consider "human pesticides,") and its about euthanasia.

It doesn't stop there. If you missed Judge Roy Moore (the ousted Alabama Supreme Court justice who tried to install that massive Ten Commandments display in his courthouse), you missed him sharing with Chris Matthews his belief that American science students, including medical students, should be taught the literal Genesis -- that the earth was created in seven 24-hour days, and that he would be fine with having doctors -- doctors -- educated to believe in creationism rather than evolution. And don't think they aren't fighting to implement this plan at a school near you.

This is where we're headed folks. And it's being done against our will:

Americans have strong feelings about the Terri Schiavo case, and a majority says the feeding tube should not now be re-inserted. This view is shared by Americans of all political persuasions. Most think the feeding tube should have been removed, and most also do not think the U.S. Supreme Court should hear the case.

An overwhelming 82 percent of the public believes the Congress and President should stay out of the matter. There is widespread cynicism about Congress' motives for getting involved: 74 percent say Congress intervened to advance a political agenda, not because they cared what happened to Terri Schiavo. Public approval of Congress has suffered as a result; at 34 percent, it is the lowest it has been since 1997, dropping from 41 percent last month. Now at 43 percent, President Bush’s approval rating is also lower than it was a month ago.


Yes, and concerned about it - 68%

Yes, but not concerned about it - 9%

No - 17%



Spouse - 62%

Parents - 15%

Adult children - 10%

posted by JReid @ 10:01 AM  
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Common sense...
... appears to have prevailed in the Terri Schiavo case, at least for now. A federal judge has sided with Schiavo's husband Michael in his battle to carry out what he says would be her wishes -- to have her feeding tube removed (and keep it removed).

But oh, wait, here comes Congress again, big footing this issue even more than they already have, if that's possible. This time, they're vowing to waste even more of the public's time and money "dealing with" end-of-life issues. Take it away, Reuters:

WASHINGTON - When Congress passed extraordinary legislation in the case of a brain-damaged Florida woman, it also paved the way for broader congressional debate on end-of-life issues and the rights of incapacitated people.

Some legal experts and medical ethicists, however, believe that Congress should not expand the federal role in an area that has been the realm of state lawmakers and state courts.

"We've had a framework for 30 years and this case hasn't changed it," said Jonathan Moreno, a biomedical ethicist at the University of Virginia. "There's nothing unique about the case ethically, medically or legally except it's become a political cause celebre."

Alta Charo, an ethicist at the University of Wisconsin, said courts have already determined that there is a "constitutional right to personal autonomy, including to control the manner of your death... That's been in American national law for decades."

An ABC News poll showed that most Americans disapproved of Congress's intervention. Two-thirds said they thought lawmakers were using the case of Terri Schiavo for political gain, and 70 percent deemed the congressional action inappropriate, according to the poll published on Monday.

And so it's steroids in baseball all over again ...

Two congressional committees intend to hold hearings related to the case in the next week and several lawmakers -- mostly Republicans but also some Democrats -- have urged Congress to scrutinize the care of the disabled and the potential role of the federal judiciary.

"Every precaution should be taken to learn and respect their (incapacitated people) desires regarding the removal of life support," Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, said this weekend.

Other lawmakers, including Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson [he's up for reelection in 2006, mind you -- my note] and Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, have introduced legislation to encourage more Americans to sign advanced medical directives or living wills. Their legislation would allow Medicare to pay for elderly people to consult with their doctors in advance about end-of-life care. It would not affect how states deal with cases like that of Terri Schiavo.

Aye Dios mio! So now they're going to write some cockamamy law directing us to create a living will? Or else what? Are they gonna start locking people up if they refuse? Where does this federal overreach end?
Charo, for one, isn't taking any chances. "I'm going home and rewriting my advanced directive tonight," she said. "It's now going to include that I not want my case brought to federal courts, President Bush, members of Congress or the governor of my state in the case of any dispute."

I'm with you, Charo!
posted by JReid @ 9:06 AM  
Did you know...?
President Bush, when he was governor of Texas, signed a law allowing hospitals to disconnect life support for patients at the doctors' discretion, even against the wishes of the patient's parents or family?
In a statement released early [yesterday] morning, President Bush said he will "continue to stand on the side of those defending life for all Americans." But the facts make it hard to believe that Bush is standing on principle. In 1999, then Gov. Bush signed a law that "allows hospitals [to] discontinue life sustaining care, even if patient family members disagree." Just days ago the law permitted Texas Children's Hospital to remove the breathing tube from a 6-month-old boy named Sun Hudson. The law may soon be used to remove life support from Spiro Nikolouzos, a 68-year-old man. Bush has not commented on either case. [Source: Center for American Progress]
posted by JReid @ 9:05 AM  
Monday, March 21, 2005
Death be damned
From the March 1, 2005 Miami Herald, by writer Fred Grimm:

Political war kills all hope of dignified death

In a southwest Missouri cemetery, the tombstone over Nancy Cruzan's grave invokes a dilemma of our times. ``Born: July 10, 1957; Departed: January 11, 1983; At Peace: December 26, 1990.''

Her grave marker, with an etching of an EKG graph forming the words ''thank you'' before descending into a flatline, has become a local landmark. Tour buses stop on the way to Branson.

For nearly seven years, after a devastating brain injury, Nancy Beth Cruzan lingered in a netherworld while the courts struggled to find the legal demarcation between a horribly diminished life and death. As the case worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back, it ignited irreconcilable political and religious and philosophical clashes that seared the nation.

The case finally returned to a Jasper County, Mo., courtroom in December of 1990. Judge Charles Teel ruled that the family could have their daughter's feeding tubes disconnected. ``I suspect hundreds of thousands of people can rest free, knowing that when death beckons they can meet it face to face with dignity, free from the fear of unwanted and useless medical treatment.''

It didn't quite work out that way.

Right-to-life radicals tried to storm Cruzan's hospital a few days later. Finally, 12 days after Judge Teel's order, on Dec. 26, 1990, Nancy Cruzan's body ceased functioning. But her death hardly brought finality to the issue.


Earlier that same year, a young Florida woman collapsed from a potassium imbalance, leading to a heart attack. An interruption in the supply of oxygen to Terri Schiavo's brain caused a permanent loss of cognitive function. And the Florida case reprised the same brutal, divisive, emotional struggles that had erupted in Missouri.

Like Nancy Cruzan six years earlier, Terri Schiavo had lapsed into a perpetual, mindless repose. Her state-appointed guardian, in 2003, reiterated earlier findings: ``Highly competent, scientifically based physicians using recognized measures and standards have deduced, within a high degree of medical certainty, that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state.''

Doctors noted another condition in Schiavo that recalled the hopelessness attached to Cruzan's case. Neurological tests and brain scans indicated that her cerebral cortex, the center of human awareness, had essentially liquefied. Both women's bodies could register certain disarming physical reactions, but there was no hope for recognition, communication, thinking, knowing.

Neither the diagnosis nor the Cruzan precedent has been enough to staunch an endless struggle to keep Terri Schiavo breathing. Her husband and legal guardian has fought since 1998 for the right to remove the tubes that keep her alive. He's up against Terri's parents, right-to-life advocates, disability activists, the conservative media, a reactionary Legislature and a governor who courts the Christian right.

Read the rest here.
posted by JReid @ 10:00 PM  
A balloon bobbing in spinal fluid
Just discovered this blog today: Obsidianwings. Great post I think from today, explains the Schiavo case very well, and contains a pic of Terri Schiavo's brain scan vs. a normal brain (courtesy of Alas, a blog). Note: Buzzmachine made the original find.

From Obsidian's post:

The cerebral cortex is responsible for cognition and the integration of sensation. Terri Schiavo's cerebral cortex is not only dead; it has liquified. If her cerebral cortex were still there but for some reason not working, then there might be hope that she could recover. But in her case, it's gone. In order for her to recover, it would have to be literally recreated. Here, via Alas, a blog, is a scan of Terri Schiavo's brain and a healthy brain:

My understanding is that the dark bits are spinal fluid; and thus that the fact that the scan of Terri Schiavo's brain shows huge dark areas, both in the center and elsewhere, indicates that an awful lot of her brain has been replaced by
spinal fluid. I am not a doctor, of course. But Rivka, who is, writes: "The amount of brain tissue missing is truly shocking." And PZ Meyers adds: "I am not a medical doctor, but I do have that Ph.D. in neuroscience (I am eminently qualified to analyze the brains of fish and insects), and that is one ghastly mess. That's not much of a brain, it's a balloon bobbing about in there." (In using these quotes, I mean no disrespect to Ms. Schiavo, for whom I have nothing but sympathy.)

Read the rest here.

And here is a link to the text of the emergency legislation signed by President Bush in the wee hours Monday morning. Key para that effectively has Congress voiding all prior court decisions and asking the federal court to start anew:

Any parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo shall have standing to bring a suit under this Act. The suit may be brought against any other person who was a party to State court proceedings relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain the life of Theresa Marie Schiavo, or who may act pursuant to a State court order authorizing or directing the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life. In such a suit, the District Court shall determine de novo any claim of a violation of any right of Theresa Marie Schiavo within the scope of this Act, notwithstanding any prior State court determination and regardless of whether such a claim has previously been raised, considered, or decided in State court proceedings.
...and then the Congress doubles back to make sure their spiffy new law never applies to anyone else...


Nothing in this Act shall be construed to create substantive rights not otherwise secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States or of the several States.


Nothing in this Act shall be construed to confer additional jurisdiction on any court to consider any claim related-- (1) to assisting suicide, or(2) a State law regarding assisting suicide.

[This next bit is positivly Bush v. Gore...]


Nothing in this Act shall constitute a precedent with respect to future legislation, including the provision of private relief bills.


Nothing in this Act shall affect the rights of any person under the Patient Self- Determination Act of 1990.

posted by JReid @ 9:33 PM  
FReepers who actually make sense...
To: NorCalRepub
... If people really, deeply believe there is a heaven, and that innocent people who die will spend eternity in the glory of God's presence, why do they simultaneously work so hard to keep the Terri Schiavos of the world in this world?20 posted on 03/21/2005 5:31:57 PM PST by Wolfstar (If you can lead, do it. If you can't, follow. If you can't do either, become a Democrat.)
posted by JReid @ 8:47 PM  
Terri ... or not
The Terri Schiavo case has gone from bad to worse to insane. There I was enjoying a hectic weekend and dutifully avoiding the news for a couple of days, when a woman I know who works for a Florida congressman said they were being called into special session over Schiavo. I had my questions about the husband at one point, but have come to really take his side in this case. Yes he has moved on romantically. No, he doesn't want to continue the extraordinary methods to try and "rehabilitate" a woman whom the majority of doctors who have actually examined her (unlike all those grandstanding congressmen) have found to have a brain cavity full of spinal fluid where the grey matter should be...

If you believe the polls, and there are a slew of posters on Buzzmachine and elsewhere who don't (some FReepers appear to have resorted to calling the federal judge, although the idea was rebuked by some of the more intelligent denizens of the RWC...) the public is with me on this one about 70-30, the exception being a hefty share of evangelical Protestants, who seem to be displaying a profound fear and loathing of death, for a group of people who supposedly have such a strong faith in the hereafter... oh, and some GOP schmuck who circulated a memo over the weekend suggesting the whole Schiavo thing could be good for the party's prospects of continuing to bamboozle the Christian vote... (they're watching you, Bill Nelson...)

Best post of the day: Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has no opinion on this case. I guess that's as it should be...
posted by JReid @ 7:55 PM  
Useful definitions
Bill of Attainder:

''Bills of attainder . . . are such special acts of the legislature, as inflict capital punishments upon persons supposed to be guilty of high offences, such as treason and felony, without any conviction in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. . . . In such cases, the legislature assumes judicial magistracy ... In short, in all such cases, the legislature exercises the highest power of sovereignty, and what may be properly deemed an irresponsible despotic discretion, being governed solely by what it deems political necessity or expediency, and too often under the influence of unreasonable fears, or unfounded suspicions.'' [Source:]

Layman's redux: Laws passed for one individual, where the legislature acts as its own court.
posted by JReid @ 10:43 AM  
Schiavo madness
What have we learned from the Terri Schiavo case? That the Congress of the United States under its current leadership, along with the U.S. president, have absolutely no respect for the rule of law, for the judiciary in general, or for the authority of state courts (why is it that the PTB -- powers that be -- are always so dismissive of the Florida court system...?)

So now we have the Congress passing a last-ditch law to drag the Schiavos back to federal court (with the president scrurrying back to Washington to sign it), and the GOP smelling political advantage and having the cheek to say as much in a very poorly timed memo.

At least one poll shows that most Americans have the good sense to oppose this unprecedented federal intrusion into the most intimate aspects of life. [See earlier post on the GOP nanny state]

Oh, and here's a nice flashback that provides proof that you can learn a lot from the Lionel Show: What's the role of money in the Schiavo case? Michael Schiavo's detractors claim he's out for money, but could the parents be battling him over money, too?
posted by JReid @ 10:32 AM  
Friday, March 18, 2005
Newsom hari-kari
San Franciso Mayor Gavin Newsom is on Hardball right now committing political fratricide, claiming 1) that the Democratic Party should basically be willing to lose elections over the issue of gay marriage, because principles matter more than victory, and 2) that he somehow knows that many Dems who say publicly that they are against gay marriage are really for it in private, including the party's likely 2008 nominee Hillary ("deep down in her soul," he wagers).

He also claims the party paid no political price in the November elections for his unilateral decision to perform gay marriages in 2003. (The election was about security, he says, and those 14 state marriage amendments that buried John Kerry, including Ohio and almost in Michigan -- never happened. Florida's turn comes in 2006, when the last statewide Democrat standing, Sen. Bill Nelson, is up fo reelection. As someone who sweated it out for John Kerry in the trenches, only to see masses of religious African-American and Caribbean voters in Florida abandon us over this issue and vote for George W. Bush, I beg to differ with Mayor Newsom...)

Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of Gavin Newsom's national political capital circling the drain (and his grassroots political capital hitting the roof).
posted by JReid @ 7:48 PM  
Nanny-state conservatives
Since when did Republicans become so fond of centralized state power? The BGCs, (Big Government Conservatives) are at it again, this time both in Florida and in Washington, scrambling to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo -- a woman the vast majority of medical experts say is beyond comprehension, uncognitive and in a persistent vegetative state that cannot be reversed. Her husband, who may or not be a wife-dumping, new-woman-finding scumbag, says he knows her wishes. Her parents disagree, and want her kept on a feeding tube for ever and ever, amen.

Throw in the right-to-life crowd, including Operation Rescue alum Randall Terry, and you've got all the makings of a "hot mess" as they say down here in Flawrida.

This has become a showdown between legislative power and judicial power, with Congress attempting to sidestep a Florida judge's order by issuing a subpoena demanding that the family -- including Terri Schiavo -- to appear before them. They know that's impossible, but it sure as hell was a clever way to buy time. Now the judge in the case, Judge Greer, has reasserted his order -- and he seems to mean business. I suspect Greer is no hanging judge -- he is asserting a judicial prerogative, and testing the very important question of what the legislator can and cannot ignore when a court speaks.

But wait: I thought Republicans believed in keeping the government off your back? Instead, this crowd is seeking to wrestle control of the most intimate family decisions out of your hands and into theirs.

Orlando Sentinel's Mark Thomas:

The problem is that legislators cannot pass a law that basically says: "Feed Terri Schiavo. They tried that in 2003, and the courts tossed it out as blatantly unconstitutional.

To pass a bill that has any chance of being applied in Terri's case, the politicians have to come up with one that applies to all of us. And so legislators are working on measures that could force family members to maintain a relative in a vegetative state if they could not produce some kind of directive from that relative stating wishes to the contrary. Another proposal has vague wording about an "interested party" being allowed to intervene.

This is a frightening intrusion into the most personal and gut-wrenching decisions a family can make. Do you know how your spouse feels about being kept alive in a vegetative state? Of course you do, even if you don't have a living will to prove it. Now, imagine if you were complying with your spouse's wishes to die in peace and the government forces you to keep him alive in some under-funded Medicaid nursing home.

There is a political agenda here. Religious conservatives have filed legal challenges in the past to block parents from making end-of-life decisions about their children, even when the parents were in agreement. One of the groups that has done this, Operation Rescue, was founded by Randall Terry, who is pushing the Schiavo legislation.
This is insanity. Suddenly, the GOP stands for intervening all over the map -- around the world to install "democracies" and sprinkle freedom across the earth like Easter candy, at home to peek over your shoulder at the library, to pray with you (in school, in court, and silently as the Ten Commandments stare down at you in government buildings), to fund your church's programs, to teach your kids that God created the earth (making Sunday school so passe), to tell your local school board how to run your neighborhood elementary, publicly spank your kids sports heroes for using steroids, and now even on your (or your loved one's) death bed.

And this isn't about the right to kill your spouse. Glenn Beck tried that tack on his radio show this morning, offering Michael Schiavo millions of dollars in pledged cash and prizes, including a honeymoon package for him and his new fiancee, "if you just don't kill your wife." (honestly, can't tell if he's serious or not, but it was so creative I had to mention it). Look -- Michael Schiavo may be an asshole -- he clearly hasn't been the ever-faithful husband holding onto the love of his life. But he is her husband, and has the right to interpret her wishes. Once you let the government put their foot in that door, they'll be running not just your whole life, but your death, too.

For God's sake, does "conservatism" even exists anymore?
posted by JReid @ 1:30 PM  
1001 reasons it's good to be a celebrity...

Reason #2: At least you can be confident going to jail will ultimately help your career... (most unbelievable part of the story, "Lil Kim, 29...")
[Previous "reasons": 1
posted by JReid @ 1:55 AM  
Killer headlines, take 1
From the Guardian UK, March 18: "US to drill in Alaska for a six month supply of oil" -- Internal header: "The oil under this wilderness will last the US six months. But soon the drilling will begin." [Post flashback: why did the Hawaii Senators back the drilling?]
posted by JReid @ 1:50 AM  
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Don Ho's?
My sister asked me if I knew what would have prompted the two Hawaii Senators -- Democrats Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka -- to vote with the Republican majority in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (or more accurately, against the amendment that would have prevented it). So I got to looking. Didn't find much on politicalmoneyline that was damning. Both guys get their money where most Dems do -- from labor, tech firms and other assorted lovelies... But then I googled across something called the Hawaiian independence weblog. A Feb. 21 post linked to two articles that may answer the Dan and Dan conundrum.

A quick bite from the blog:
"Some Native Hawaiian groups, who fear that the Akaka Bill will set up a Hawaiian model similar to that of the Alaska native corporations, are working with the Alaskan activists to raise grassroots support in Hawai'i and to get the people's voice heard by Senators Akaka and Inouye."
Apparently it didn't work. ...
"Hawaiian Natives feel solidarity with Alaskan Natives on drilling and development in the Arctic and the effect it has on traditional practices that in themselves rely on a pristine environment," says Jim Medeiros of the Big Island group Protect Keopuka 'Ohana, who participated in local meetings with Akaka and Inouye's staff in Honolulu in mid-January. "Hawaiians face the same problem on a daily basis with the shrinking of the cultural landscape, pollution of their shorelines, alteration of traditional waterways, [and] desecration of our burials."

Here's a link to the original article, and the follow-up, both from the Hawaii's Island Journal -- ?The bites below come from the follow-up, which was written by an environmentalist named Jack Kelley -- you'll see his angle pretty clearly right off the bat. (note, I'm skipping around here, since the original article is hella long):

In an ongoing oil offensive that some insiders admit is more about setting a precedent than providing fuel for America, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on the North Slope of Alaska - one of the last true, immense pristine landscapes in the world - is once again on the brink of an invasion by pipelines and drilling rigs. At stake are 1.5 million acres of mountains and tundra, immense caribou herds, a host of other wildlife, and the lives and age-old practices of the people who have called these areas home for thousands of years. And Hawai'i's senate delegation may be a key to the outcome. [They certainly were]


Why would the senators from Hawai'i, a state with a highly pro-conservation, pro-traditional practice constituency, support such a blatantly anti-environmental measure? The Hawai'i State Democratic party is on record opposing drilling in the Arctic refuge, and many grassroots Democrats in the state do not want to see this exquisite wilderness ransacked for what the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has determined might produce enough oil for six months' use in the United States. Yet Hawaii's congressional leadership has taken a stubbornly different tack on the issue.


Setting the Precedent

Robert Redford, board member of the National Resources Defense Council, says in a letter dated 1/11/05, "The Arctic Refuge represents everything spectacular and everything endangered about America's natural heritage. It embodies a million years of ecological serenity . . . a vast stretch of pristine wilderness . . . By unlocking the Arctic Refuge, they hope to open the door for oil, gas and coal giants to invade our last and best wild places: our western canyon lands, our ancient forests, our coastal waters, even our national monuments."That statement might seem a little far-fetched to some until you look deeper.

On Tuesday, September 23, 2003, during a closed-door session of the House GOP leadership, House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) said that the battle in Congress to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration is a fight over whether energy exploration will be allowed in similarly sensitive areas in the future.


The Hawai'i Connection

As members of the Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Daniel Inouye of Hawai'i have long partnered to bring millions of dollars of military expansion funds and other federal moneys to their states. Chuck Neubauer and Richard T. Cooper of the Los Angeles Times reported, in a 2003 article entitled "Senator's Way to Wealth Was Paved With Favors," that "Federal spending in Alaska, known locally as 'Stevens money,' runs as much as 70 percent above the national average on a per-capita basis." The Times reporters also noted, "For more than 20 years, Stevens has been chairman or ranking member of the Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Since 1997, he has been chairman or ranking member of the full Appropriations Committee, which must approve every dollar of federal discretionary spending each year. "Hawai'i residents are well aware of Sen. Inouye's similar success in bringing federal pork money to our state.

Senator Akaka's push to implement the "Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill," now known as the Akaka/Stevens Bill, has similarly called on the Hawai'i delegation's close ties to Alaska. The Akaka/Stevens bill would begin the process for Native Hawaiians to be recognized by the U.S. government as an indigenous people. It would establish the beginnings of a framework for Native Hawaiian governance. That government would then be empowered to negotiate with the United States and the State of Hawai'i over the disposition of Native Hawaiian assets.

But some native Hawaiians fear that the Akaka Bill will lead to a Hawaiian model reminiscent of Alaska's native corporations. Established in 1971 as means of settling Native Alaskan land claims, the corporations manage huge tracts of "native" land for profit - sometimes to the detriment of subsistence villages and often to the profit of oil companies and of politicians, including Stevens. Among other allegations, Neubauer and Cooper note that Stevens has a very close relationship with Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the Inupiat "owned" corporation the manages the trust obligations given to it by the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Arctic Slope is the sole tenant of a building owned by Stevens, paying $6 million a year in rent on a twenty-year lease. Arctic Slope stands to gain immensely if exploration is allowed in the refuge. "Arctic Slope is no ordinary tenant," claim Neubauer and Cooper. "A $1-billion-a-year business, it is the largest Alaskan-owned company in the state.

More important, the company - along with 12 other regional Native corporations - was created through legislation the senator took the lead in drafting. And it has prospered through his continuing efforts in the Senate."Although Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John McCain, (R-Ariz.) recently came out in clear opposition to the Akaka/Stevens Bill, Frank Oliveri of the Honolulu Advertiser's Washington Bureau reported on January 12 that there will be hearings early this year and a Senate vote on federal recognition of Native Hawaiians.

You'll have to read the rest for yourself. Like I said, it's hellafide long. BTW McCain, who heads the Senate's Indian affairs committee, voted against the ANWR drilling...

BTW in his remarks on his vote, Akaka said it was about supporting "the native people of Alaska," and their right to exploit the land. From the Honolulu Advertiser:

Akaka said his position is based less on oil than on the desires of the area's native people. "To some of my colleagues, the debate about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is about energy. To others, it is about the environment. To me, the (refuge) is really about whether or not the indigenous people who are directly impacted have a voice in the use of their lands," he said on the Senate floor.

...While Inouye's explanation was more like, "hey, we need the oil..."

Inouye has said that since Hawai'i is an oil-dependent state, it is imperative that new oil deposits be found and developed to ensure a steady access to meet the state's energy needs.

"It is my belief that with proper regulation and enforcement, the coastal plain's potentially vast crude oil resources can be explored in a way that is compatible with the interests of the Inupiat Eskimos and natural resources located within the area," Inouye said in a statement.

posted by JReid @ 11:59 PM  
Chemical McCarthyism?
Who'd have thought the Congressional Baseball hearings would provide the best television of the day? Legendary slugger Mark McGwire lit up the hearing room with his opening statement, slamming steroid stool pigeon Jose Canseco and his now-infamous book "Juiced," (which touched off the chain of events leading to the hearings) as a liar and pointedly saying that while he welcomes the committee's participation in spreading the word about the dangers of steroids, and though his heart goes out to families who have been touched by steroid related tragedies, he, for one, will not use his testimony to implicate his friends and fellow colleagues.

Before McGwire took the stand, Canseco played the role of Elia Kazan, even going the late McCarthy-era snitch one further, blaming the whole steroid mess on baseball, whingeing over the fact he was denied immunity, and trumpeting his willingness to come before the committee ("I am the only one who did not resist the subpoena") and name names.

That left McGwire, Kurt Schilling and Raphael Palmeiro fuming, and they proceeded to let the rat have it.

Raphael Palmeiro: "I have never used steroids -- ever. I don't know how much more clearly I can put it."

In their statements, McGwire, Palmeiro and Schilling basically called Canseco a liar, denied ever having used steroids themselves, and refused to rat out other players before the committee.

From AP:
In a tense scene, Canseco sat at the same table as the other players as he told the lawmakers that he could not fully answer their questions because of concerns his testimony could be used against him. [Note: He had been denied immunity]

Choking back tears, his voice cracking, McGwire said he knows that steroid use can be dangerous and will do whatever he can to discourage young athletes from using them. "What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates," said McGwire, who ranks sixth in major league history with 583 homers.

This hearing has been snubbed as "chemical McCarthyism" by at least one player, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Randy Wolf, and you know what? He's right. What business does Congress have hauling private citizens to Capitol Hill to try and compel them to either incriminate themselves or stain their own records or the records of others? This hearing has a definite McCarthyite tinge, whatever the good intentions of the committee.

You've got to feel for the families of young people who have died as a result of using substances they thought would make them more like their heroes, and as a onetime baseball fanatic, it really sucks to think that the game's record breakers may have had "help," but I can't help wondering if this is a wee bit of St. Patty's Day grandstanding by a Congress facing its lowest approval ratings in years, not to mention a major breach of civil liberties...
posted by JReid @ 3:01 PM  
There's nothing sadder than (take two)...
...A former "Bush confidante" groveling, crawling and toungue-kissing the president's backside for having taped the guy when he was governor (as if presidential taping is such an unprecedented thing.)
posted by JReid @ 12:01 PM  
There's nothing sadder than...
...The media trying to convince itslef, via the public, that gosh-darnit, they really, really are tough on President Bush.
USAT: Judging from President Bush's news conference Wednesday, an uproar that followed a question he got in January hasn't made reporters shy about asking potentially controversial questions.
posted by JReid @ 11:58 AM  
1001 reasons It's good to be a celebrity
Reason #1: You almost never get convicted of killing your wife, though there's always the distinct possibility of bank-breaking civil action.
posted by JReid @ 11:54 AM  
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Screw you, Caribou
Here's the roll call vote on the ANWR drilling amendment that was passed as part of the FY 2006 appropriations bill. The results look counterintuitive: Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington State tried to strip the provision from the bill with an amendment, but the amendment failed. So a "yay" vote means no drilling and a "nay" vote means fire up the oil rigs. Hope that makes sense. (And note the apostasy of John McCain on this issue. Does that mean he's definitely running, or definitely toast if he does...? All apostates on both sides in bold. -- and look at ale Norm Coleman out there on a limb!)

YEAs -- (meaning strip the drilling provision from the bill) -- 49

Baucus (D-MT), Bayh (D-IN), Biden (D-DE), Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Byrd (D-WV), Cantwell (D-WA), Carper (D-DE), Chafee (R-RI), Clinton (D-NY), Coleman (R-MN), Collins (R-ME), Conrad (D-ND), Corzine (D-NJ), Dayton (D-MN), DeWine (R-OH), Dodd (D-CT),
Dorgan (D-ND), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Feinstein (D-CA), Harkin (D-IA), Jeffords (I-VT), Johnson (D-SD), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Kohl (D-WI), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Lieberman (D-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), McCain (R-AZ), Mikulski (D-MD),
Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Nelson (D-NE), Obama (D-IL), Pryor (D-AR), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV). Rockefeller (D-WV), Salazar (D-CO), Sarbanes (D-MD), Schumer (D-NY), Smith (R-OR)Snowe (R-ME), Stabenow (D-MI), Wyden (D-OR)

NAYs -- (meaning don't strip the drill bit) -- 51

Akaka (D-HI), Alexander (R-TN), Allard (R-CO), Allen (R-VA), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burns (R-MT), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Cornyn (R-TX), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Dole (R-NC), Domenici (R-NM), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Frist (R-TN), Graham (R-SC), Grassley (R-IA), Gregg (R-NH), Hagel (R-NE), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Inouye (D-HI), Isakson (R-GA), Kyl (R-AZ), Landrieu (D-LA), Lott (R-MS), Lugar (R-IN), Martinez (R-FL), McConnell (R-KY), Murkowski (R-AK), Roberts (R-KS), Santorum (R-PA), Sessions (R-AL), Shelby (R-AL), Specter (R-PA), Stevens (R-AK), Sununu (R-NH), Talent (R-MO), Thomas (R-WY), Thune (R-SD), Vitter (R-LA), Voinovich (R-OH), Warner (R-VA). [Source:]

The last time this idea came up for a vote, in 2003, the drilling idea was defeated 52-48. Coleman, McCain and basically the same Republicans voted against drilling then, too.
posted by JReid @ 3:53 PM  
War no more?
Note to Syria, Iran and N. Korea, the latest Gallup poll suggests Americans may not like you, but they don't want to go to war with you, either. (Most don't like Congress, either, but I'm not looking for much bloodshed there, either...)

Not that that matters much to the neocons, who are still spoiling for regime change in Tehran, and whose dean, Paul Wolfowitz (aka Wolfowitz of Arabia to good old-fashioned conservatives), just got nominated by President Bush to head the World Bank (sorry Bono. You would have been much cooler -- and more popular!)

Check this from this month's Global Agenda -- I'll just give you the preamble (you'll have to freak out over the rest yourself).
The belief that the US cannot afford another conflict is misguided, says Ervand Abrahamian. Fuelled by mutual paranoia, the risk of war with Iran is growing .


posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
Blogging while white?

This whole Estrich vs. Kinsley dustup regarding the dearth of women on America's op-ed pages (and in the top tier of the blogosphere) strikes me as mostly a case of white people yelling at white people (not that I mind seeing white people yell at each other). It's an important topic, but it invariably involves successful white feminists cracking on their successful white male counterparts, without ultimately changing things for the truly beleaguered caste in the wonderful world of newspaper and other opinion-dom: new writers (male, female, minority or otherwise).

First,the back story:

As Howard Kurtz points out in his WaPo column today, since Estrich let loose on the L.A. Times editor (and former Slate honcho), not only for not publishing more women, but also for having depleted mental faculties due to Parkinson's disease (low blow, Estrich, you really have learned something from Hannity...) the various MSM papers have been back-and-forthing over why more women aren't breaking into the punditocracy. The bloggers have joined in, with Newsweek columnist Steven Levy duking it out with Buzzmachine's Jeff Jarvis, who took Levy to the mat over the issue of whiteness itself after Levy tried to explain the gender imbalance as a case of "white men (bloggers) linking to other white men."

Jarvis: "First, what's wrong with being a white male? I'm white and male. Not much I can do about it. Not much I want to do about it. I'm sure as hell not going to apologize for it. I'm white. I'm male. I blog. You got a problem with that? Tough. (WaPo has more of the post, or you can get it at Buzzmachine)

Skipping a few here...

Fifth, don't judge the blogosphere only by 100 blogs on top of some list. That's so old media. There are eight million blogs -- and 7,999,900 of them that get more traffic and more links and more interest than those mere 100. Judge their diversity.

Sixth, so if there aren't enough unwhite and unmale bloggers blogging, am I supposed to stop? Is it my fault? No, it's not. My friends Halley and Rebecca are white, too. Should they do anything differently? I certainly hope not.

Seventh, see the post below about Hillary Clinton and Condi Rice. Welcome to the post-post-feminist era, folks.

Jarvis kicked it up a notch in a later post, after one respondent played the Larry Summers card...

There are tons of comments on the post below (naturally; isn't that why Steven Levy chose this topic)? This one really irked me:

"And sorry but I don't agree with Jeff Jarvis' rant about "so what if I'm a white male blogger." That's akin to saying, "So what if Harvard president Larry Summers says something derogatory about women's innate abilities in math and science... he's just trying to be provocative." Summers' comments do matter. They reveal his prejudices and his point of view. And he's in a unique policy-making position. And, yes, I'm a Harvard grad of the female persuasion. Eegads, did I really say that on my blog? Well what the heck... it's true. Now link to me, dammit!"

Well, damnit, don't you see that by lumping me in with Summers you are doing to me exactly what Summers is doing to you: You are making assumptions about me just because of my gender and race. You go after Summers because of what he says.
You go after me because of what I am. If that's not a case of white female bigotry, it is at least a case of hypocrisy and sloppy thinking.

Harvard, eh?

Hm... another female Harvard blogger... have to say I'm with Jarvis on this one, and as an alum, I think Summers is getting a raw deal -- aren't universities supposed to be marketplaces for ideas, or are they just really expensive sensitivity training schools? But I digress:

The whole thing boils down to this: the mainstream media is overwhelmingly male and white. The "new media" is mostly male and white. Ditto the blogs, editorial boards, boards of directors, shareholders, management and all top guns. And not just in media, but in corporate America too. Newsflash: America is mostly white (about 80 percent), and men mostly run it. Tell me something I didn't know.

Take it from me, the opinion business is tough. In the market where I live, there are two major papers, both of which I have been published in (as a freelance columnist or as a one-off on the op-ed page), but neither of which has the budget, or indeed the inclination, to spend money bringing on a new opinion writer. On the rare occasion when the majors do add a column, it invariably goes to a geriatric white man (not that there's anything wrong with being a geriatric white man -- some of the best writers are, including one at the television station I used to work for whom I consider one of my best mentors). But why the advantage?

First, I think there is something to the conceit that editorial page editors value "experience," and feel that long-time reporters, rather than young whippersnappers like myself, have more of it on offer, and that makes their opinion columns more valuable than those of a newbie. The built-in advantage there goes to white men, who have been in the game longer and therefore have risen more steadily.

Then there is that budget thing -- the opinion page might be the hardest part of the newspaper to crack, and budget is at least a major factor in keeping outsider writers (which often means women and minorities) off the page.

Space is another factor: there's just so much real estate on the op-ed page, and with newspapers increasingly relying on syndicated material, there's not much space left for local or new writers.

And then I think there is a touch of clubbiness to the opinion game. Each publication, whether print or online, has its pet writers, and they mostly come from the editors' own circle. Just trying getting something published in Slate or Salon, or even worse, the Nation, where liberal clubbiness is run-amok. Surprise-surprise, the vast majority of the writers pubbed in the liberal mag world are white, too. (I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Juliane Malveaux about this a year ago for a column, and she pointed out that in general liberal intellectuals would much rather mother minorities than actually deal with them...) In many of these cases, the gate keepers are often white women (Salon, The Nation,) and the people most often locked out are not other women, but minority writers.

But that's not a neat way out either. With so many publications, niche and otherwise out there, there is always a chance to find your voice. Blogs are the biggest example of that, though the difficulty of cracking the top tier does rankle the nerves (and let's face it, most bloggers have bloody raw nerves). But here, I think the issue isn't so much "exclusionary white men" as it is that same clubbiness that infects the print and online mag world. Bloggers are a clique, and just like life, college or whatever, cliques tend to be homogeneous.

Some stats for the nerdy:

In the United States, an analysis of the evening news programs in 2002 showed an average percentage of 14 percent female protagonists, compared to 86 percent males. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice led the top 10 with 45 appearances, followed by Senator Hillary Clinton (27) and the First Lady, Laura Bush (20). (Sheila Gibbons, Media Report To Women) [Women's Human Rights Net, 2003] ---with shout-outs to Jarvis on the post-post-feminist era Hillary/Condi catch...

Of those studied, women were 16 percent of presidents /CEOs in broadcast television and cable companies and 18 percent of presidents/CEOs in publishing companies. [Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania
(2003) via International Women's Media Foundation]

On female columnists specifically, courtesy of E&P:

The percentage of female opinion columnists on major-syndicate rosters has risen very slightly since 1999, according to an E&P study.

E&P looked at the Web sites of eight major distributors, and found that 33 of 135 opinion writers -- 24.4% -- are women. When we previously studied the numbers nearly six years ago, 23.7% of these writers were women (E&P magazine, Aug. 21, 1999).

Growth has obviously slowed, because the 23.7% figure from 1999 rose nearly nine percentage points from 1989 -- when 14.8% of op-ed columnists were female.

No numbers from E&P on minority columnists (sigh.)

Anyway, for the truly number-needy, here are some stats from the American Society of Newspapers 2004 survey (about newsrooms, not op-ed pages...)

Supervisors: Minorities account for 10.5 percent of all supervisors in newsrooms. Twenty percent of all minorities were supervisors, a slight increase from last year.

Newspapers with no minorities: The number of newspapers responding to the survey with no minorities remained the same at 373. That means that 60 percent of daily newspapers responding to the survey had minority staffers. The majority of these newspapers have circulations of 10,000 or less and serve small communities. Nearly two-thirds of all minority journalists work at papers with circulations exceeding 100,000.

Staff size: The number of full-time professionals working in newsrooms continues to drop. Newsrooms have lost an estimated 2,000 full-time professionals since the year 2000 largely through the loss of white men.

Where do minorities work:

The percentage of minorities working at the country’s largest newspapers, those exceeding 500,000 circulation, has remained virtually unchanged since 2000 and now stands at 18.7. Meanwhile the percentage of minorities working at newspapers from 250,0001 to 500,000 has grown from 18.3 percent to 20.6 and those at newspapers from 100,001 to 250,000 has grown from13.6 to 15.3.

Other findings:

Internships: The number of minority interns increased to 852 raising the percentage to 32.2 percent up from 30.6 percent.

Women: The percentage of women in daily newsrooms increased slightly to 37.23 percent after a two-year decline. The number of white women declined by a net of 72 and the number of minority women increased by a net of 80. Minority women make up 16.27 percent of the women professionals in newsrooms up from 15.8 percent last year.

Men: Daily newspapers staffs are still largely male. Men now total 34,017 a net decrease of 533 from last year. Minority men number 3,733 up from 3,652 last year.

Job categories: 65.8 percent of all supervisors are men. They are also 58.6 percent of all copy editors, 60.4 percent of reporters and 73.9 percent of photographers.

We can do these statistics to death. Does it mean things are getting better? Worse? And who's worse off, white women or minorities (I'd bet on the latter). And most importantly, is there anything, short of slapping a quota on the op-ed pages and on the blogosphere (which would truly ruin the whole point), that we can do about it?

And what's the most likely outcome of the Estrich debacle, do you think? I'll wager more columns for Estrich and other established white female writers, a good week's discussion (plus a nice play for Wonkette), and not much else.

posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
No nukes?

According to a New York Times story today, behind the Bush administration's about-face on multilateral "carrot, no stick" negotiations with Iran is a desire to shove Europe in the direction of closing certain loopholes in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Closing the holes would mean giving the U.S. and Europe the power to decide which nations lose their right to develop nuclear technology -- that's any nuclear technology, incluing power plants -- that could be developed in conjunction with a secret nuclear weapons program.

Says NYT:

just three days before the White House announced its new approach to Iran - in which it allowed Europe to offer broader incentives in return for an agreement to ask the United Nations for sanctions if Iran refuses to give up the ability to make nuclear material - Mr. Bush issued a statement that left little doubt about where he was headed.

The statement was advertised by the White House as a routine commemoration of the treaty's 35th anniversary, and a prelude to a meeting in May in New York to consider its future. It never mentioned Iran by name. But after lauding the past accomplishments of the treaty, also known as the N.P.T., in limiting the spread of nuclear arms, Mr. Bush went on to say, "We cannot allow rogue states that violate their commitments and defy the international community to undermine the N.P.T.'s fundamental role in strengthening international security.

"We must therefore close the loopholes that allow states to produce nuclear materials that can be used to build bombs under the cover of civilian nuclear programs."

On Sunday, his new national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, took the next step, making clear the connection to the current crisis with Iran. Yes, he said on CNN, the Iranians say their nuclear work is entirely for peaceful purposes. He cited no new evidence of a secret Iranian project to build a bomb, though that is what the Central Intelligence Agency and officials like Mr. Hadley insist is happening. (Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency say they join in the suspicion, but have no compelling evidence.)

The administration has decided, apparently, that some nations are just "too dangerous" to be trusted with any sort of nuclear technology, even if it is perportedly benign.

The latest version of the "Bush doctrine" gets some air support from the usual suspects at the National Review today:

Any serious strategy, after all, has to be based on more than a hope, particularly if that hope turns out to be wrong. Here’s where other facts that have not generally been focused upon deserve greater attention. First, after 18 years of keeping their entire enrichment program hidden and another two years of relatively fleckless hide-and-seek inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it would be folly to assume we know that Iran has no covert enrichment program. Indeed, if our experience in Iraq has taught us anything, it ought to be that a certain amount of humility is in order when it comes to specifying what nuclear facilities a proliferator may have.

Certainly, the fact that we don’t know that Iran doesn’t have a parallel advanced-centrifuge program hidden is a worry. Recent revelations that Iranian engineers have had detailed plans for years for much more advanced centrifuges than those deployed at Natanz, but claim never to have built them, has even put the IAEA on edge. Then, there is the latest development — Iran's admitting it is building nuclear-storage tunnels one kilometer deep at its declared enrichment facility. Where else it may be tunneling is anybody’s guess.

What does NRO want to do? They're already on record favoring a military strike against Iran. In the meantime, here's where the neocons are headed:

First, we should hope for the best but be far more prepared than we are now for the worst. This means President Bush needs to push the EU-3 to agree upon a deadline by which Iran must forswear and terminate their enrichment program or risk being hauled before the U.N. Security Council. To be actionable, this deadline should come before for the next major meeting of the IAEA in June.

Second, the president and the EU-3 need to start leveraging Russia and China in order to secure passage of a sanctions resolution at the UN. This may require holding up France's reactor sales to China and offering Moscow a cooperative nuclear agreement to temporarily store spent reactor fuel from Europe and Asia (commerce worth $10 billion to $20 billion). Action on this is required immediately.

Third, the U.S. and the EU-3 must start explaining why Iran is wrong when it claims it has a right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to enrich and reprocess nuclear materials. Both activities are uneconomical and unnecessary for Tehran to pursue and could bring it within a screwdriver’s turn of having nuclear weapons. Yet, so far, the only argument the U.S. has been made to contest Iran’s legal claim is that nations that violate the NPT’s strictures about acquiring nuclear weapons and IAEA nuclear safeguards obligations forfeit their right to develop “peaceful” nuclear energy. Iran, though, has not yet been formally found in violation on either count. More important, even if it is tagged as a cheater, do we really want any of its neighbors to conclude that if they declare all of the nuclear undertakings, they can come within days of having an arsenal of their own and, unlike Iran, be legally in the clear?

If not, we need to start hedging our bets now on Iran and all other states that might follow its example by laying down and enforcing rules that would apply to all. Certainly, attempting anything less not only risks losing the game with Iran and our allies, but leaving us in the untenable position of being the only major nation still standing against the spread of nuclear weapons.

Pushing the E.U.? "Leveraging" Russia and China? Just how much realworld influence over these powers do the neocons think their man in the White House has? I'll wager it's much less than they imagine.

Whether Europe will agree to the changes is one story (I'm willing to bet they won't be.) Whether the U.S., Europe or anyone else has the right to decide which countries are allowed nukes and which are not is whole 'nother matter entirely, and a philosophical one the administration seems to have already decided. (Interesting that the admin's controlled leakers and background briefers are right in step with the neocon pubs...same day, same story)

I wonder if Pat Buchanan and traditional conservatives (few though they may be these days), would be intellectually honest enough to say the U.S. has no business meddling in the affairs of other countries, including deciding for them what rights they have to exploit their own national resources (or the resources of other countries willing to sell to them -- like Russia, China and Pakistan, for instance). --Buchanan has said as much regarding Russian democracy (and the fact that the U.S. has no business meddling in it)...

Buchanan, who makes a lot of sense to me these days, argues in the current American Conservative mag that the U.S. has become a "stillborn" empire, stretched too thin around the world and in debt too deep to potential rivals like China.
Buchanan argues that despite the neocon triumphalism that has all but declared the U.S. the world's greatest and most glorious empire, the world is still as multipolar as ever:

Castro, though literally on his last legs, yet defies the Americans and is about to be succeeded as the leading hemispheric Yankee-baiter by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan ruler who lately defeated a U.S.-backed recall. Chavez has just ordered Russian-built MIG-29s and purchased 100,000 AK-47s and, despite U.S. protests, Moscow appears ready to sell.

And as Chavez finds imitators in the Andean nations, the Mexican government instructs its citizens in how best to sneak across the border into the United States. Would Caesar Augustus have put up with such as this in mare nostrum?
Our NATO allies, Tony Blair included, are lifting their embargo on weapons sales to China over the protests of President Bush. Old Europe remains adamant in its refusal to send troops to Iraq, as the Ukrainians and Poles, following the Spanish, quietly depart the beleaguered nation.

Germany, France, and Britain are negotiating a deal by which Iran, if she will submit to regular IAEA inspections, will be permitted to enrich uranium for nuclear power, be granted security guarantees, and be brought into the WTO. America opposes the three allies’ concessions, but there is no NATO support for U.S. military action. Should Bush exercise that option, America will be alone in fighting insurgents from the eastern border of Syria to the western border of Pakistan. U.S. generals are advising the president that his legions are already stretched thin.
The Iraqi elections appear to have deposed our client Allawi and empowered Shia parties with ties to Iran and Kurds who covet Kirkuk and its oil and look to ultimate independence.

This has the Turks grumbling as well as the dispossessed Sunnis, among whom the newly reignited insurgency first arose. Whatever the neocons’ vision of Iraq—as strategic base camp for World War IV or crown jewel of Middle East empire—Americans seem to be looking for an exit.

As for the Bush Doctrine—no axis-of-evil nation will be allowed to acquire weapons of mass destruction—it is being tested by Tehran and defied by Kim Jong Il, who has crossed every red line Bush has put down and now claims to have nuclear weapons. America’s response? Please come back to the six-power talks. Russia’s Putin is consolidating power in the czarist tradition, seeking to resurrect Moscow’s old sphere of influence, and is conducting military exercises jointly with Beijing.

And openly contemptuous China lectures us on our failure to rein in our voracious appetite for imports, which is sending the dollar the way of the peso. Beijing refuses to pressure North Korea to terminate its nuclear-weapons program, permits Pyongyang to use Chinese territory to transship missiles and nuclear materiel, and spends a goodly slice of its $160 billion trade surplus with America to build up air, naval, and missile forces for the showdown with Taiwan.

At the same time, the U.S. and Europe do have good reason to fear an increasingly nuked-up world. The very real threat, as Doug Feith articulated to myself and a group of editorial writers and columnists in December 2003 during a Pentagon junket, is that an enemy of the West could hand over some form of nuclear technology, incluidng so-called "suitcase nukes" to a rogue state or even a terrorist group.

That, purportedly, was the thinking behind the Iraq invasion -- to forestall the handover of dangerous weapons technology to terrorists by the enemy Saddam Hussein regime. It seems the neocons are building the same case for striking Iran. (Their friends in the Likud concur, and are apparently cooking up their own Iran first strike plan...)

The question remains, though, whether the U.S. can assert the prerogatives of an empire to override the nationalist claims on the national resources of other countries, even for our own protection.

posted by JReid @ 2:20 PM  
Monday, March 14, 2005
See, this is what the news media does... they grab onto a story, and then they milk the hell out of it until you just want to shoot yourself because you really can't take it anymore.

Take the case of the woman held hostage by the Atlanta courthouse shooter, I think his name is Nichols. We have now spent an entire weekend hearing her story over and over and over again on the cable news networks and on the websites of the major newspaper and other outlets, to be interrupted only by ad nauseum redux on the shooter. When will it stop?

Only when Michael Jackson does something crazy.

Aren't there other dastardly, one-off shootings to attend to? How about that Wisconsin guy who emptied his gun into a hotel church meeting, apparently because he was displeased by an earlier sermon? Nah, too many oppotunities to step on the delicate sensibilities of religious end-times believers...

No, the Georgia shooting case has one important element the other various shootings around the country lack: it can be tied editorially to another sensational case, namely the murders of the mother and husband of a federal judge in Chicago.

Call it theme development on American television news 101. And of course, there's nothing else newsworthy to talk about, right? Nothing like, say, Islamist terrorist Abu al-Zarqawi plotting to attack inside the United States....?

posted by JReid @ 1:52 PM  
Thursday, March 10, 2005
I didn't watch the fnal Dan Rather broadcast on CBS last night. I watched "That '70s Show" instead. That's not to say I don't care about Dan Rather. I am truly sorry to see him go. It just would have been too depressing.

The first live television newscast I ever watched was with Rather at the helm. I was 18 years old, taking a year off after my freshman year of college and working at Black Rock -- the CBS non-news building several blocks from the news studio on West 57th Street in Manhattan. I got the chance to watch Rather do a broadcast one afternoon and jumped at the opportunity.

Rather was in full command. His presence permeated that news room and it was clear that he ran things -- setting the tone for the broadcast and almost directing it from the floor. Rather was awesome. He still is.

Rather has taken a lot of flak over the years from right wingers who resented his constant challenges to their favorite leaders -- Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. Perhaps they've forgotten that that's supposed to be a reporter's job, to challenge power, to tweak it, to piss it off by asking tough questions and to hold leaders to account.

Today's news men -- the soft, genteel prompter readers who pose questions but only in a way that doesn't offend anyone -- could learn something from Rather. There aren't many like him, and the questions asked of power will be softer, mushier, and blander with him gone.

Rather also brought much-needed personality to the news business. I've worked in a few newsrooms in my time, and I can tell you there aren't many anchors who are also aggressive reporters and top-shelf personalities. Was Rather arrogant? Hell yeah, but that made him interesting, something not too many other hair-do news guys can claim.

I for one will miss you Mr. Rather. And as for crotchety-Cronkite and nasty Mike Wallace and all the FReepers in FReeperville who kicked you on your way out the door, they're just jealous because they're boring. Dan Rather never was that. Now we'll have fewer pros to rely on: Aaron Brown, Ted Koppel and Seymour Hersch, please don't retire any time soon!

For nostalgia's sake here are some great election night Ratherisms courtesy of the Kansas City Star:

Election Night 2004:

"This race is hotter than a Times Square Rolex."
"His lead is as thin as turnip soup."
"This race is humming along like Ray Charles."
"The vote's been closer than Lassie and Timmy there all night long."
"Ohio becomes like a sauna for the two candidates. All they can do is wait and sweat."
"This situation in Ohio would give an aspirin a headache."
"One's reminded of that old saying, 'Don't taunt the alligator until after you've crossed the creek.'"
"If you try to read the tea leaves before the cup is done you can get yourself burned."
"We had a slight hitch in our giddy up, but we corrected that."
"In some ways, George Bush's lead is as thin as November ice."
"John Kerry's moon has just moved behind a cloud, as far as Florida is concerned."
"To use a metaphor, he's gotta draw to an inside straight. But hey, sometimes you get lucky and hit that straight."
"No question now that Kerry's rapidly reaching the point where he's got his back to the wall, his shirttails on fire and the bill collector's at the door."
"No one is saying that George Bush is not going to win the election, and if you had to bet the double-wide, you'd have to bet that he'd win."
"In southern states they beat him like a rented mule."
"Is it like a swan, with every feather above the water settled, but under the water paddling like crazy?"
"Do you hear that knocking? President Bush's re-election is at the door."

More here and here.

Oh, yeah, and Michael Jackson really screwed up today (and it's "dazed," not "dazzled" MSNBCers...). Could it be that he didn't want to face his accuser again? Dunno... Happy weekend.
posted by JReid @ 12:09 PM  
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Who shot John
Let me say for the record that this time, I agree with the Bush administration. The notion that American soldiers deliberately targeted and shot at a car containing Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and a senior member of the intelligence services of one of the few allies with troops on the groud in Iraq (Reuters has a good, balanced account of the incident) is, to quote admistration hack Scott McClellan, 'absurd.'

To begin with, what would U.S. troops have to gain by killing Sgrena or Mr. Calipari? Frankly, Sgrena's claim, that U.S. troops seemed to deliberately target the car, which the Italians have pointedly said was not speeding toward a coalition checkpoint, fail the credulity test. For that to be true, American troops would have had to

1. know Sgrena was in the car
2. plot to kill her even at the risk of killing a senior intelligence official of an ally and risk an international incident.
3. know exactly when the car was coming

It seems unlikely that all three things are true. Here's a bit of the Reuters account:

The U.S. military has said its soldiers fired on the Italians' car after it approached a checkpoint at speed and failed to heed signals to slow down.

The Army general commanding U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, said on Tuesday he had no indication "even on a preliminary basis" that U.S. officials had been advised of the rescue mission beforehand.

But in a detailed reconstruction, Fini insisted that the Italians had been driving slowly and had received no warning. Moreover he said that Italy had made "all necessary contacts" with U.S. authorities to facilitate entry to the airport. He added that immediately after the shooting, U.S. soldiers had apologised profusely to freed hostage Giuliana Sgrena and an unnamed Italian intelligence officer who survived the fire.

Note: Why would the soldiers apologize, as the Italian spokesman said, if the shooting was deliberate?. Here's a bit more, including info on the reported ransom payment by Italy, and an indication that U.S. troops did not know who Calipari was, even after the shooting:

The Islamic militant group that held Sgrena hostage said in a tape released on
Tuesday they had rejected offers of a ransom for her release. Italian newspapers
have reported that between $6 million to $8 million (3.1 million to 4.2 million
pounds) was handed over by Italy
. Fini on Tuesday gave a long account of Calipari's fatal mission to Baghdad but made no mention of any ransom. He said
Rome had never considered a military swoop to free Sgrena for fear such an operation would endanger her life. He said Calipari arrived in Baghdad on Friday afternoon after establishing contact with the kidnappers. He checked in with U.S. authorities at the airport before driving off with an Italian colleague to meet an Iraqi middleman.

The middleman took them to Sgrena, who was seated in the wreckage of a car, dressed in black robes and wearing a mask.

On the drive back to the airport, the Italians left the lights on in the car to help identify them to U.S. checkpoints.

As they neared the airport, the car slowed to about 40-km/h because the road was wet and because the driver had to make a sharp turning. Half way around the curve, a searchlight picked out the car and guns opened fire for 10-15 seconds, Fini said.
The intelligence officer who survived the attack was forced to kneel in the road
until the soldiers realised who he was.

"Two young Americans approached our officer and, demoralised, repeatedly apologised for what had happened," Fini said.

Sounds like a tragic accident to me. I'm sure the troops involved feel badly. How else could they feel? That said, the Italians have good reason to be upset and to demand some form of satisfaction, along with an inquiry, which the U.S. is conducting. Ditto for Bulgaria. But at the end of the day, war is messy and dangerous, and Italy and Bulgaria chose to be a part of the coalition. There are risks in combat, and in daring rescue operations, and Calipari was brave enough to face them, as are the Italian, American and other troops fighting in Iraq.

On the ideological front, the fact that Sgrena writes for a Communist paper and opposes the war are irrelevant, it seems to me, except to the extent that her ideology may be coloring her view of what happened to her on that dark, dangerous road to the Baghdad airport. But the idea that U.S. soldiers sought to assassinate an opponent of the war, which Sgrena and her driver, along with the publisher of the newspaper in question, Il Manifesto, have suggested, is patently ridiculous, without some serious proof and a much better explanation of motive than Sgrena and her supporters have given. So critics of the U.S. and/or the war should chill out and wait for the investigation.

Note to the global left, U.S. troops aren't a band of cold-blooded killers, they're young (and not-so-young) guys on edge in a war zone. Sometimes they make mistakes, but for the most part, the men and women of the U.S. military, including the ones I know, are good and decent people, but people on a razor's edge of stress and adrenaline. If a car speeds (hurtles, drives slowly, rolls, whatver) toward them and doesn't stop when it's supposed to, chances are that car is going to get shot at.
posted by JReid @ 12:10 PM  
Monday, March 07, 2005
What's the gayest thing on TV...?

What's with all the speculation over Anderson Cooper? Michael Musto has recharged the "is he gay" machine with a highly unsubtle piece in Out Magazing, and of course, the message boards have long been churning over the issue, with men and women rooting on both sides of the sexuality question. Well, just to put it to rest, I have it on good authority that Cooper is totally gay (although my source thinks everybody is totally gay...) Anyway, while we're on the subject, Here are a few other things to think about:

Weakest celebrity at hiding obvious gayness: Ricky Martin

Most likely to eventually be confirmed as a lesbian: Queen Latifah

Most likely to be driven to lesbianism by failure to make straight love work: J.Lo

Most likely to be driven to lesbianism for the sheer publicity value: J.Lo

Gayest show on TV (no, not "Queer Eye"): Missy Elliott's "Road to Stardum" (UPN). At the end of every episode, Missy judges the contestants from a makeshift throne, wearing baggy closed and a baseball cap, sucking on lollypop and surrounded by scantily clad, sweaty female dancers. Hello???)

Second gayest show on TV: TIE - P. Diddy's "Making the Band" and MTV's "The Real World." I half expect the next episode to be set in San Francisco and to have only one lonely straight guy in the house!

Now I think that should get this out of our system. Anderson, you can now 360 in peace.
posted by JReid @ 10:58 AM  
Saturday, March 05, 2005
What can we learn from the Barbary pirates?
...Plenty. Caught this on Franken's show and had to follow it up. In case you didn't pay attention in high school history class, here's a quick lesson on the Barbary Pirates:

They were Arabs from what is now Libya, then called Tripoli. From the 1500s through the 1800s, a handfull of North African states: Tripoli, Morocco, Algeria and Tunis, basically controlled the Mediterranean Sea lanes through piracy. The pirates would pilage goods, and people -- holding the people for ransom or selling them into slavery. Countries who wanted to use the Mediterranean route had to pay up. picks it up from here:

Following the Revolution, America was no longer under the protection of the British tribute treaties, resulting in the pirates crippling American commerce in the Mediterranean. Having no significant Navy, the US decided to form tribute treaties with the Barbary states, such as this 1796 Treaty of Tripoli.
Now for the money quote: Article 11 of the treaty, which passed the U.S. Senate unanimously and which was signed into law by president John Adams, reads as follows:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; [emphasis added] as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen [Muslims]; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
(btw, a couple years later, President Thomas Jefferson wound up at war with Tripoli anyway, but that's kind of beside the point.) Read more about the U.S. and the Barbary pirates here, and have a look at the complete Treaty of Tripoli here.

Something to think about, FReepers ... I wonder if the Supreme Court Justices are up on their Barbary pirate history. After all, they are in the middle of a juicy Ten Commandments case (check out the Independent's not-to-be-missed explanation of the Cecil B. DeMille connection... Sandra Day O'Connor is ready for her closeup...!)

The question is, could a treaty, which has the full force of U.S. law, serve as a pretext to argue that the U.S. was not founded on Christian principles? I'm not sure that means we can't have "In God we trust" on the money, or a bust of Moses in the courtroom -- those things are vaguely historic enough that they don't offend me, at least, and I think some of the Church-state separators are overzealous on the issue, but still an interesting find.

And while we're on the subject of Barbaries, Sudan this weekend canceled an event at which 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom. The reason: The Sudanes government claims slavery does not exist in Sudan. Right. I'll bet this woman disagrees. Slaver in 2005??? Now there's a freedom issue Dubya and his merry band of Neocons could tackle!
posted by JReid @ 7:43 PM  
Friday, March 04, 2005
Where to, Mr. Perkins?
A conservative Black columnist named Joseph Perkins abruptly quit his syndicated column gig this week. E&P says the 40-somthing former WSJ editorial writer who did a weekly column for the San Diego Union-Tribune plus about 200 subsriber newspapers, announced his resignation in a farewell column Feb. 25. I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake here, but can't help wondering what gives. Could it be an Armstrong Williams problem? Or is he joining the shortlist for World Bank chief with Wolfowitz (or goin' fishing with Feith). Perhaps leaving to tour with his book "Right Like Me?" Have to confess I hadn't heard of Mr. Perkins or his book, but I'll definitely take a look at his columns now. From what I've skimmed so far, sounds like he's got the GOP talking points down pat...

A bit of background on Perkins:

According to his bio, after leaving WSJ, he was a White House staffer to former V.P. (and eternal punchline of the spotless mind) Dan Quayle (he was "Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy"). Bio also says he's a frequent contrib on MSNBC. All eyes on you, Perkins.

btw if you were in one of the markets that dropped the Friday Boondocks cartoon from the paper due to N-word issues, here's the strip you missed. Enjoy, happy weekend, and welcome back to the outside, Martha Stewart -- I've never watched your show or tried out your recipes, but you got a raw deal and I hope you make a killing from here on in!
posted by JReid @ 11:44 PM  
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Democracy domino theory
As the Cedar Revolution rolls on in Lebanon, the right is in jubilation overdrive, lording it over the Democrats ("democracy is on the march and you're on the wrong side of history!!!"), glossing over the rising death toll, cheering on a military strike against Iran's nuclear sites, and even touting Dick Cheney for president in 2008!

Classic Cliff May from NRO:

KOS & WOLCOTT [Cliff May]I know Jonah has written in response to recent grumbling from KOS and James Wolcott, two spokesmen for the post-humanitarian, post-democratic, neo-Buchananite left. Apparently, they are devastated by the fact that Afghan girls can go to school, that Iraqis can vote, that Lebanese are demonstrating for freedom, that Egyptians may get a fair election, etc. And, most upsetting for them, President Bush could be partly responsible for these revolting developments -- at least that’s what their erstwhile allies are suggesting in what used to be reliable publications such as the Guardian and L’Express.
They're also rolling out their tried and true practice of ascribing everything good that happens anywhere in the world to George W. Bush's Iraq policy. (Libya, Saudi "elections", Mubarak's democratic dabbling and in the ultimate geographic non-sequitor, the Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" (though to be fair, there is an Orange-Cedar connection, which I'll get to in a bit, it's just not the one the right is making...). As usual, the GOPers undersell the democracy movements that existed in these countries long before the Americans marched on Baghdad (Lebanon has had such a movement since the 1990s, and indeed, Rafik Hariri, the slain former P.M., was converted in recent years from a Syrian-backed figure to a leader of the oppo movement). (Good backgrounder by Newsweek's Christopher Dickey that includes key info in Hezbollah, still a key player in Syria and Lebanon...)

Still, you get this from NRO's (Paul Michael Wihbey):

Make no mistake: The massive explosion that claimed the life of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in Beirut on February 14 was a direct challenge to President Bush's Inaugural clarion call for democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East.
And here's a really interesting account by an Australian reporter in Beirut, which clearly establishes the chain of causation in the Lebanon uprising -- Hariri's assassination, and inspiration, not from Iraq, but from Ukraine: (Carney and Colvin are reporter and anchor, respectively.)

MATTHEW CARNEY: Well, it does. I mean, Hariri's assassination really united, you know, the 17 sects here. I mean, if you… the other day, when I was down there on Sunday and Monday, you had all strata of class, in terms of age, but you know, more importantly, as you said, in terms of, you know, religion you had Sunnis, of course, you had even Shia, you had Druze, of course, and also Marianites. Well, of all ages, of all classes, coming together and uniting in a singular voice, calling for the Syrians to get out, so this is quite significant, because this is a country that really has been broken by sectarian fighting and hatred. So, it is very significant in terms of, you know, this event has brought, you know, united Lebanon, it's brought it together against the Syrians, it is the one issue that's done that.

MARK COLVIN: Is there a sense in which they were inspired, for instance, by what they saw in Ukraine at the end of last year?MATTHEW CARNEY: Look, they were. I think, you know, it probably added to their motivation, but you've got to remember this is an issue that has been simmering for, well, since the end of the civil war. There has been, in all sects, and it has been building, and I really think the issue, and the real critical point, was Hariri's assassination. I mean, that was just, you know, for everyone here that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

That said, the left does have a problem, because despite the bumbling, the lies and rationale shifting of the Bush administration and its insatiable neocon drive toward war, Bush does seem to be winning the "democracy domino theory" debate, at least for now.

One thing can hardly be argued with: the Iraq war did shake up the Middle East, and the invasion does deserve some credit for creating that rare, unstable moment in which people in these politically repressed countries feel bolder about standing up to their governments. Democrats can't just continue repeating the talking points "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, bungled execution" because at some point, it begins to sound petty, and curiously unsupportive (for liberals) of the people in the Mideast who so desperately want change for themselves and their children (not to mention hard-working U.S. troops -- and I'm not saying liberals don't support the troops, just talking perception here...)

If you haven't done so yet, this Christopher Dickey piece in Newsweek is a must-read.

Key paras:

Did President Jimmy Carter promote human rights? You bet. And as a result, our friend, the unpopular Shah of Iran, was replaced by the charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini. What happened when Algeria moved toward democracy in the early 1990s? It almost got taken over by radical Muslim fundamentalists and quickly slid into a horrific civil war.

'Gunner Palace'
A documentary about the lives of 400 American soldiers living in a Baghdad palace formerly owned by Saddam Hussein

So, say the despots, this wave of rising expectations about freedom and democracy will pass. They’ve seen it all before. Americans forget these bursts of democratic enthusiasm, and American leaders even learn to regret them. All the despots have to do, they think, is buy a little time.

Well, not this time. The whole political environment has changed in the Middle East. Partly that’s because of 9/11; partly it’s because of President George W. Bush’s policies; partly it’s in spite of them. Bush did, after all, not send grunts like the men and women in “Gunner Palace” on a crusade for freedom. He sent them to Iraq to eliminate the supposedly clear and present danger Saddam Hussein posed with all that WMD, which wasn’t there, and the terror networks, which didn’t exist. (At least, not then.) So by late 2003 and early 2004, when “Gunner Palace” was shot, our troops were becoming rebel targets without a cause

But Bush’s stay-the-course rhetoric, which sometimes sounded like an end in itself, meant the troops had to keep fighting. And gradually, even grudgingly, they found their cause. Or, better said, their cause found them. Now that Bush has embraced freedom and democracy in the Middle East publicly, repeatedly, unequivocally—in his Inaugural Address, his State of the Union Message and his speech in Brussels—and now that he’s saying this is what 1,500 Americans have died for in Iraq, this is not a cause he can easily turn away from.

And check out this excellent soberer-upper from Slate:

The elections [in Iraq], at the very least, supplied a thaw, a glimmer of confidence and pride, perhaps a chance at self-rule. But they didn't eradicate the difficulties.
If the Democrats need talking points to combat the administration and its cult followers, without looking as if they're completely cold to the positive rumblings in Arabia, here are four good ones:

TALKING POINT #1. Yes, there have been positive changes in the region, and the U.S. is on the right side of those changes, but now it's up to the people of the Middle East to change their futures. The American taxpayer and the U.S. military can't do it for them. We're not Syria, we're not going to occupy the region and dictate to these people indefinitely, right? Well then it's time to begin passing the baton and supporting the home-grown democracy movements in the region.
[rebut] Does that mean you want to pull our troops out of Iraq?
[answer] That means we should draw down our forces to take the targets off our soldiers' backs, and leave a decent sized force in there to help the Iraqis hunt down insurgent leaders like Zarqawi, and we should double the number of troops in Afghanistan looking for Osama bin Laden... remember him? The first priority of the American president is to protect America, not to start democracy projects all over the globe.
[rebut] But spreading freedom does protect America.
[answer] Not if it spreads our forces so thin that it limits our military options outside of Iraq. I'd rather see the U.S. support these movements in the UN, the WTO, at the World Bank and elsewhere, even with military and financial aid, but not by invading and occupying country after country. Who's next? Iran? Syria? Where do you want to go to war to "spread freedom" next?
[rebut] How many troops should we leave in Iraq? [answer] As many as our military commanders feel they need to find Zarqawi and the other people who are blowing up Iraqis.
TALKING POINT #2. The Bush administration can take some credit for shaking things up, but let's remember that freedom was never the rationale for war. You can't change the game in the ninth inning and then say, "that's what I had in mind all along."
[rebut] But president Bush said all along that we were fighting for freedom.
[answer] No he didn't -- he said he was protecting Americans from weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds. That was what the American people supported going to war over. Freedom is a good thing, but let's not kid ourselves. George W. Bush only started talking freedom and democracy hen the death toll started rising and the WMD didn't pan out.
TALKING POINT #3. The real credit goes to the troops who are working so hard and sacrificing so much, and especially to the people in the region who are standing up for their own freedom.

[rebut] You just can't give President Bush credit for anything, can you?
[answer] I give him credit for doing a great job passing off Natan Sharansky and the neocons' ideas as his own. Now I can see how he got through Yale...
[rebut] See? That's your side's problem. You can't stand to see the president succeed.
[answer] I just wish the right were as willing to take the blame when things go wrong as they are eager to take the credit when things start to go well.

posted by JReid @ 11:27 PM  
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