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Friday, July 29, 2005

He's A Well Respected Man About Town Doing the Best Things So Conservatively

Sorry, I just couldn't resist The Rolling Stones reference.

I think Daily Kos has the right of it. All the newspapers and news magazines just fell all over themselves last week to write glowing reports that Justice John Roberts was not a rightwing ideologue. They were oh so careful to point out that while he was indeed a conservative, it was definitely a small "c" conservative out of the tradition of genteel "country club" conservatisim, served up with a generous helping of moderation, politeness, and civility. Right of center, with the emphasis definitely on center, at least as far as his temperament went.

The major national papers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, dragged out references from Robert's liberal colleagues at his current law firm to attest to his polite non-ideological manner. A host of liberal lawyers who knew him personally were apparently willing to vouch for the fact that although they knew he was "probably conservative, probably Republican," they actually didn't know what he thought because he was so reticent to impose his views on them, which they took to be a sign of Roberts' much vaunted temperate personality.

Look, that was in the workplace. Do you go around sticking your face into your colleagues' business and haranguing them on politics and religion in your workplace?

I certainly don't. And not because I don't have strong opinions (I mean I blog, for cripes sake, of course I have strong opinions). Sure, I might get involved in a political discussion around the water cooler, especially if it's at election time or if something is prominent in the newspaper and everybody else is talking about it. But I'm polite and I watch what I say and how I say it. It's the workplace, for heaven's sake.

So, yes a liberal lawyer could have worked alongside Roberts for years and not known the extent of Roberts' beliefs or just how much of a true beliver he was.

And it's emerging that he was quite a true believer in conservative circles. He was one of the Young Turks in the Reagan White House, often weighing in with more conservative opinions than the older members of the Administration. More conservative than even Theodore Olson - yikes!

And he also was pretty snarky at times. The recently released documents, which contain his legal opinions and writings, reveal a witty, sometimes cocky mind. He was young, self-confident, even arrogant at times.

Yes, he might appear more humble now. Growing up does that to you. Being alive a long time is a humbling experience that tends to moderate your views and mellow your personality.

Certainly two of the things living a long time teaches you is discretion and circumspection. It appears less likely, though, that John Roberts has modified his opinions or his ideology so much as he's learned to package himself better to the general public, including his liberal Washington, DC colleagues.

The early reports that he is a non-ideological conservative now look more like a Bush Administration "charm offensive," carefully calculated to disarm the public and press, as well as to hide just how truly rightwing Justice Roberts really is.

But with the release of his papers, the real John Roberts is out of the bag, just like the proverbial cat.

As both The Washington Post and The New York Times show, Roberts' views on a host of issues, including busing, civil rights, sex discrimination, affirmative action, presidential war powers, prayer in public schools, separation of church and state issues, First Amendment rights, and the power and role of the courts have showed him to be out of the mainstream and in support of views that are harmful to both individuals and our nation. His views, in short, would put this country on a backwards, reactionary and regressive trajectory that would make us lose years of real gains for women, blacks, workers, and those in minority religious faiths. His decisions would impact women struggling to have a workplace free of harassment; blacks striving for a fair deal in employment and educational opportunities; and Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and even liberal Christians who don't wish to have rightwing Christianist views pushed on them. It would affect the middle class at every turn as they too struggle to keep a decent standard of living.

I think, given this record, it would be a huge mistake for Democrats and liberal interest groups to allow Robert's confirmation hearings to boil down to simply a discussion of his views on Roe v. Wade and abortion rights. As important as the pro-choice position is to many liberals, I think they need to launch a more broad based opposition that demonstrates to the general public that this nomination is about more than just an abstract "culture war" which won't affect them personally. Rather, the public needs to be convinced that the Bush Administration's judicial nominations, like this one, are detrimental to their interests too.

Therefore, it's best for us not to focus on any one issue, but to show that across the board, Roberts has shown neither circumspection nor mainstream judgments on anything.

And while we're opposing his nomination, it would be good to also articulate what we would propose as an alternate vision. It's not enough to simply say what we don't like. Critics are right that focusing only on what we oppose, simply sounds negative and whining.

On the other hand, the hallmark of a charismatic leader is one who can come out with a stirring vision of what he or she would do differently. So Democrats, don't be afraid to propose an alternate vision of where we want to lead this country. And especially, don't be afraid to think and act boldly.

As I've said before, this isn't so much about defeating John Roberts' nomination as it is about setting out an alternative to the Republicans' vision so that voters truly have a choice next time. Let's face it, we don't have the votes to win. And I don't think we should try to fillibuster or do anything that might be perceived as obstructionist. I say, let's grill Roberts, make him express his true views and mount as much oppositional rhetoric as possible so that voters know what we stand for. And every Democrat should feel free to vote against Roberts' confirmation. But let it be an up or down vote. The point isn't to stop the nomination, it's to oppose it in a way that makes it clear to people what it is we're opposing and what it is we stand for instead of Roberts and Bush. Fight the good fight. The victory, at this point, is getting our vision across to voters.

Democrats, this is important. Please don't blow it this time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Roberts Is Not The Worst of Them

Oh come on, did you really expect a liberal?

Even a centrist pick for the Supreme Court vacancy was a pipe dream. The last time Bush masqueraded as a moderate or a centrist was back in 2000, before the Supremes gave him a gift wrapped election victory.

However, this time I don't think anybody really doubted how conservative he truly is. In the 2004 election it was all about the base. And he did win it fair and square this time. Although, I question whether the base had that much to do with his victory. Given a very close election, yes, that disciplined one quarter of the population voting in lock step did provide the swing he needed for a narrow victory. But Bush also increased his popularity with Hispanics, gaining about 44 percent of their vote, and he even got a slightly higher percentage of the Jewish vote this time out.

I think his victory was as much attributable to the security issues as it was to his Christianist base. And in the middle of a war - even one that people had doubts about - voters were reluctant to change course. And yes, Kerry ran an abysmal campaign too.

But Bush won. And to the victor go the spoils. And so he gets to pick a nominee to the Supreme Court. It gives me no joy to announce this obvious fact. But there it is.

However, the bigger question is how do liberals and Democrats (not always the same - but close enough) react to the nomination of John Roberts?

Firstly, I really do agree that he was the best of the worst choices. It could've been Priscilla Owens or Frances Brown. The best thing about Roberts is that nobody actually knows anything about him. There's at least the slimmest of hopes that he'll turn into another Justice Souter, or Day O'Connor. Not likely, but there's just enough uncertainty to make the Falwells and Dobsons a tad nervous.

For some good discussion on this, Daily Kos has a lot of reaction. If you'll scroll about half way down, Steven M. makes the excellent point that even if the Democrats lose the battle, they ought to fight the confirmation. Sometimes, there is no shame in defeat. Sometimes, fighting the good fight and doing it honorably is what matters more.

This is a time to lay out our alternative vision rather than a 40 point campaign program that nobody reads. If we can communicate that vision with passion and clarity in simple and compelling language which engages people both emotionally and intellectually then we will have claimed a victory.

We won't stop Roberts.

But too many American, in the last election, admitted that they didn't know what Kerry and the Democrats stood for. This is our opportunity to tell them that we stand with workers whose jobs have been outsourced, employees who have lost their pension plans while their corporate bosses give themselves exorbitant bonuses and golden parachutes. That we stand with women who must make the agonizing decision of whether to terminate an unwanted pregnancy that may have been caused by rape, incest, abuse or that might be endangering her health. We stand with all those on the outside who have their noses pressed against the window because they still don't have a place at the table on the inside. We stand with those for whom the American Dream is still an unbroken promise and we stand for those who want to protect our environment from pollution and keep our streams and our air clean.

All of these are issues that the Supreme Court's decisions impact. This is not about an abstract culture war for us. It's about living, flesh and blood people.

And if we stick to that narrative and can convey that story and that vision to voters, then we will have won this battle. And if we really believe those things, ourselves, then this is one battle in a war worth fighting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Karl Rove and The Limits of Legality

I have not addressed the Valerie Plame-Karl Rove situation on my website – except for some comments about journalist Judith Miller, who still languishes in an Alexandria jail - for a reason.

I am not a journalist and especially not an investigative reporter, so I have no new facts to contribute to this ever-evolving story. And I probably won’t either. Like most of the other amateurs in the blogosphere, all I have are opinions about the unfolding facts (there are exceptions, of course; there are professional writers who do have sources and the time and resources to conduct investigative reporting of the highest quality – but I’m not one of them).

Right now, too much is still being revealed for me to form an opinion. I prefer to wait until more information is out there. In other words, I’m pleading lack of opinion about Karl Rove’s actions due to insufficient data. Whatever I say can, at any moment, be subject to change.

Is he guilty of a crime? Right now, I’d guess not because he may have covered any tracks very cleverly. It could come down to exactly the same legalisms that most conservatives used to hate when Bill Clinton employed them. What is the definition of “sex?” What is the definition of “is?” What is the definition of outing a covert agent?

“I didn’t inhale.”

“I didn’t tell anybody her name, only to whom she was married.”

One thing, however, I do know about this situation is that whether Karl Rove is guilty of a crime or not may be beside the point.

You see, federal government workers are usually held to a higher standard of conduct than just mere legalisms. As a one-time fed, myself, I know two things about the rules of conduct and the standards of ethics to which government employees are held.

One is that they are all required to take an oath to defend the nation against its enemies and uphold the constitution. Every one of them, not just the president and his senior staff, takes that very same oath. Indeed, once when I was a personnel clerk, I administered that oath to other employees on their first day of federal employment. With hands held high, secretaries, clerks, lawyers, janitors, supervisors – anybody who was coming into the federal service – took the same oath. So did I.

And so did Karl Rove. Somehow, I don’t think outing a CIA employee could ever be considered defending our nation or upholding its constitution. To make serving our country more dangerous for federal workers in the intelligence service is, if not an outright act of treason, certainly an action that strengthens our enemies’ hand and weakens our ability to defend ourselves. It makes it more likely that good agents will decide that their government doesn’t back their sacrifices and will leave the intelligence services at the very time that we need more, not less of them.

I also know that government ethics require more than merely not breaking the law. Whether it’s refraining from accepting a gift or benefit or attending an event, federal workers must do more than simply stay within the limits of legality. They must also avoid the appearance of wrongdoing. The language used in their ethics manuals and by their general counsels, is that they must avoid situations where a reasonable person could conclude that there is even the appearance of wrongdoing.

In Karl Rove’s case, this standard has very obviously not been met. Reasonable people all over the political spectrum, not just the usual band of partisan hacks, are having trouble deciding whether his actions rise to the level of illegality.

When a fed is in such a situation, the question isn’t did he break the law. Rather, it’s did he give the appearance of wrongdoing, regardless of whether an actual law was broken. Would reasonable people have trouble concluding that everything was above board? Those are the standards that every single federal worker is held to. And if he or she can’t meet that standard, whether the law was broken or not, that fed should face consequences in the workplace.

If Karl Rove did not break the law, of course, he shouldn’t go to jail. Just as he isn’t above the law, he also isn’t below the law. He deserves the same protection and due process as every citizen. But he is a fed too. And so he should be held to the very same standard that every other fed is held to. Not just the legal, but also the appearance of wrongdoing standard.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that Karl Rove has top-secret clearance? That gives him even more responsibility to act wisely and to observe a standard far higher than simply observing the letter of the law and legalisms such as the definition of “is.”

Because of his status as a federal employee with a top-secret clearance, Karl Rove should be handing in his letter of resignation right now and President Bush should be accepting it, regardless of whether he broke the law. He certainly broke his oath to defend this nation and he violated the trust of his top-secret clearance. And whether a law was actually broken, a very reasonable appearance of wrongdoing and unethical behavior is certainly present. And that’s the real standard by which he should be measured, especially in an administration that is more and more insisting upon greater accountability and higher performance standards for other feds.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Yes, It's Still the Economy Stupid!

I know, I know. I've harped on this so many times. But, as Karl Rove and other Republicans have proved, if you say it often enough, people will believe it. Of course, what they keep repeating, on message to the end, is usually a pack of lies.

But what if you used their same tactic, only what you kept repeating often enough was actually the truth? What if you stayed on message with rigorous discipline, as they do, only you told only truth and spoke it without rancor or viciousness? If you did that, could you win an election, improve economic and political conditions, change the world for the better, and make a real difference?

I don't know, but I suspect it's worth a try. So, I'm going to resolutely stay on message, even if it means repeating myself, about the things I think matter.

Here's another article on the appalling gap between worker productivity, which is very high, and workers' wages, which are stagnant. The author, Jonathan Tasini, on yesterday's Tom Paine website, discusses the inverse link between productivity and salaries.

He mentions that among the reasons for the large disparity is that many corporate CEOs have been taking obscenely high salaries, bonuses, severance packages and retirement benefits that have left their companies profit-challenged despite the high productivity and high revenues. In other words, the elite few at the top are draining the rewards of labor and siphoning it all off to themselves at the expense of the those who actually earned it for them.

However, that's only part of the equation. I still maintain that they can only do this because the laborer's productivity is now working against him or her. The more efficient each worker is, the less employees a company needs. Worker productivity, plus automation, has shrunk the demand for additional workers. Another factor that has reduced the demand for more workers in the marketplace is outsourcing. Corporations can get their products produced much cheaper in China and India than they can here because of the much lower standard of living in those countries. American workers simply can't compete with the Chinese and Indians.

Indeed, with the housing boom (or bubble), it's just not possible to work for the kind of wages they pay in the Far East and keep a decent roof over your family's head, let alone put food on the table. An Indian computer programmer who works for half of what an American would make, would still be living in palatial splendor in Bangalore, whereas over here, he'd be eking out a living in squalor. Stuff costs more here, especially housing.

Some have slyly pointed out that CEOs also cost less over there, so perhaps these overpriced corporate executives should have their jobs outsourced too. That would actually save investors a bundle.

Anyway, the major factor driving wages lower is the combination of productivity and outsourcing because both of those conditions lead to a lower demand for American workers. If one worker can work 12 hours a day and produce 30 widgets and you can import 40 more sub widgets from China, you just don't need to hire anybody to produce more widgets. And what is fueling the stagnant wages is an even more stagnant job market. It's the old law of Supply and Demand. There is an over-supply of unneeded workers and little demand for them.

One thing that could correct it is to go back to stricter overtime rules. Make companies adhere to an 8 hour day and make it more costly for workers to do overtime by ensuring that they are paid a fair wage for it. And start penalizing companies that outsource by taxing them for it. When they try to bring their goods back into the country, treat them like foreign corporations and impose duties and tariffs on the goods.

We use tax incentives and tax breaks all the time to encourage behaviors that we think are beneficial. What can be more beneficial to our economy, in the long run, than encouraging companies to stay here and share the wealth by paying a decent wage and providing good jobs right at home?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's About the Greed

I received the following as part of an e-newsletter from an AFL-CIO source. I don't usually publish things like this on my blog because I prefer to give you my own personal opinion and to put original writing - my own - on my site; but I consider this important enough to make an exception.

I should also let you know that I am not personally anti-Wal-Mart, per se. I know many people on limited or fixed incomes who don't have the luxury of boycotting a company that provides them with great bargain prices. But somehow there has got to be a way to give these folks low cost goods while not exploiting children, women, and immigrants - society's most vulnerable members - in order to rake in big buck profits while doing it.

Wal-Mart has proven that it's no friend to small businesses or even larger businesses in competition with them. It's also no friend to its own suppliers who it squeezes unmercifully with hardball tactics. And it's certainly no friend to the many communities which it has destroyed by driving citizens from the centers of towns to suburban strip malls to shop. My husband comes from one such small Tennessee town where the main street is now composed of pawn shops and shuttered store fronts.

Wal-Mart uses hardball tactics on friend and foe alike. So read below and if you can lend a hand, please do so.

"Dear Working Families e-Activist,

Let Wal-Mart Hear It from Children


Help your child send a message to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to let him know your family won’t be buying any back-to-school
supplies from
Wal-Mart this year.

Mail your child’s
letter by Aug. 1 to:

Lee Scott
C/O Wal-Mart Campaign
AFL-CIO
815 16th St., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20006



We'll see that Scott
gets the message—
loud and clear.




Connecticut just fined Wal-Mart for child labor law violations. And in January, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $134,540 after being cited for child labor violations in Connecticut, Arkansas and New Hampshire.


Really—that’s not the kind of place we want to shop for our children’s back-to-school supplies, is it?


This is a great opportunity to send a strong message to Wal-Mart and start the children in your life on the way to activism. Help them write letters by Aug. 1 to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott telling him why their families won’t buy school supplies from Wal-Mart this year. Here are some unpleasant facts about Wal-Mart they can use as they write their letters:


Wal-Mart has racked up huge fines for child labor law violations. The rich company reportedly makes children younger than 18 work through their meal breaks, work very late and even work during school hours. Several states have found Wal-Mart workers younger than 18 operating dangerous equipment, such as chain saws, and working in dangerous areas like trash compactors. (The New York Times, 1/13/04; The Associated Press, 2/18/05; The Hartford Courant, 6/18/05)


Wal-Mart pays poverty-level wages and fails to provide affordable health insurance to more than 600,000 employees. That means Wal-Mart workers and their families have a hard time paying the bills and getting the health care they need. (Wal-Mart annual reports; BusinessWeek, 10/2/03)


Wal-Mart has a shameful record of paying women less than men—discriminating against moms. Wal-Mart paid full-time male employees $5,000 more than women on average in 2001. Some 1.6 million women are eligible to join a class-action lawsuit charging Wal-Mart with discrimination. (Richard Drogin, Ph.D., 2/03; Los Angeles Times, 12/30/04)


Wal-Mart sells products made by young people in other countries who work in horrible conditions over long hours for little money doing dangerous jobs. In Africa, workers who make clothing for Wal-Mart are forced to put in too many hours, are yelled at by their bosses, are not paid enough to take care of their families and can’t even take breaks to use the bathroom. Wal-Mart refused to investigate stories that shoes and jeans from Asia were being made by workers in forced labor camps. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/14/04; China Labor Watch, the National Labor Committee and Clean Clothes Campaign reports)


Wal-Mart can afford to do better. Wal-Mart—America's largest private employer—raked in $10 billion in profits last year. CEO Lee Scott landed nearly $23 million in total compensation last year alone. Wal-Mart has no excuse for its behavior.
Help your children write letters telling Scott his company is hurting families, communities and children here and around the world—and that’s why your family won’t be shopping for back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart this year. Please send the letters to:


Lee Scott
C/O Wal-Mart Campaign
AFL-CIO
815 16th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006


We'll see that Scott gets the message—loud and clear.


Thank you for working to stop the Wal-Marting of America’s jobs and for getting the children involved.


To learn more about how Wal-Mart affects your community, go to:


http://www.walmartcostsyou.com


Thanks for all that you do for working families.


In solidarity,


Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO
July 12, 2005


P.S. Help us get thousands of letters from children to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. Please forward this e-mail to parents you know who also want to stop the Wal-Marting of America’s jobs. Thanks!"

Monday, July 11, 2005

It Really Matters

This is why it matters who is on the Supreme Court. Sometimes judges are the only ones standing between life and death in an ambiguous case. This particular murder case has made some of the strangest bedfellows, including the NAACP, the conservative Rutherford Foundation, religious leaders on the anti-death penalty left, and former right wing Special Prosecutor Ken Starr, who defended the defendant in one of his appeals.

As Donna St. George, The Washington Post reporter who covered this story, points out, the unusual twist is that a clerk destroyed the DNA evidence that might either have cleared or proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused, Robin Lovitt, was the killer.

Virginia has one of the worst execution records, second only to Texas for the amount of people put to death. In more than one case, there was reasonable doubt as to the condemned's innocence.

Given that context, it seems incredible that this execution could have continued after the DNA evidence was destroyed before the appeals process had run its legal course.

Although the state of Virginia claims that the clerk who destroyed this crucial evidence did so due to an honest and well-intentioned mistake, I find that hard to believe. Especially since one of his employees begged him not to do it. How well-intentioned could this employee have been, or how incompetent to have done such a thing in a capital case where a man's life was at stake?

And shame on Governor Mark Warner that he did not step in to prevent what could be an egregious miscarriage of justice and possible execution of an innocent man.

The truth is we will never know for sure whether Lovitt is innocent because a state employee took it upon himself to destroy the evidence that could have told us for certain whether he was innocent or guilty. But surely, when in doubt, it's better to err on the side of caution and to keep Lovitt in prison rather than take his life.

If it turns out that Lovitt's attorneys could ever prove innocence, it would be far harder to make amends to a dead man. And if he's guilty as originally charged, well, he's not going anywhere. Virginia prisons are punishment, not country clubs. I certainly wouldn't want to be in one for life. And nobody is proposing to release Lovitt without evidence that exonerates him. All anybody, even his lawyers, are requesting is to proceed with caution.

I think that's a great idea in this case. And it's also another reminder of why it's important who sits on that Supreme Court, or any court. Ambitious politicans who have visions of their future career in the White House dancing in their heads, like sugarplums, certainly can't be expected to actually take a stand, lead by conscience, or do the right thing (they'll do the "political thing" every time instead). All that stands between life or death in ambiguous cases like this is a good judge who cares about the law. Fortunately, Robin Lovitt found one.

And I'm Even More Confused Now

I don't think reporter Matt Cooper acquitted himself very well. It's obvious he was scared to go to jail. It appears he didn't exactly personally check with his source before cooperating with Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. He took a very broad and general statement from Karl Rove's lawyer to be a blanket release from his vow to protect his confidential source, who it turns out, to nobody's surprise, is Rove himself.

In truth, I don't know that I'd be much braver if I was facing serious jail time. I was when I was much younger (and yes, I actually once did face the possibility, as a reporter, but that was before I was middle aged and comfortable and not very physically fit).

However, Judith Miller is going to come out of this as the only true heroe for standing up for her convictions - convictions about the right to confidential sources, which is so important to all journalists.

However, this, from The Washington Post, claims the source at the center of the whole thing is indeed Karl Rove. And the Post calls him Clintonesque in the hairsplitting over whether he broke the law in outing Valerie Plame. It boils down to whether he actually mentioned her name. Shades of the definition of "is."

Anyway, I'm still confused about why nobody seems to be asking Robert Novak about the source. After all, when all is said and done, he's the one who wrote the original column outing Plame. He's also the conservative with the insider buddies in this White House.

It's not that I particularly dislike Novak or wish him ill. Far from it. He has, in fact, always publicly defended the right of both Cooper and Miller to keep their sources confidential. But it just strikes me as weird that Novak isn't also on the hot spot given that it's his column that started this whole mess.

So, what gives?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ok, I Just Don't Get It

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, assigned to discover, and possibly prosecute, the government official who outed CIA covert agent Valerie Plame is going after a New York Times reporter with a vengeance despite the fact that she never wrote an article about Agent Plame.

Many believe that a highly placed official in the Bush Administration gave the information about Ms. Plame's work as a CIA agent to columnist Robert Novak as revenge for her husband Joseph Q. Wilson's criticism of Bush's foreign policy in Iraq. It is, of course, a felony to reveal the identity of covert CIA operatives.

What I don't get is why Fitzgerald has been going after NYT reporter Judith Miller or Time Magazine writer Matthew Cooper when they are not the ones who actually wrote the article that sparked this whole investigation into who revealed her identity.

I suspect that it's because Fitzgerald, a Republican-appointed special prosecutor, is less interested in actually solving the case than in challenging the right of journalists to protect anonymous sources. After all, just think how convenient it would actually be for the Bush Administration, or for that matter, any political administration, Republican or Democratic, and national or local, to be able to bully and intimidate sources and reporters.

If whistleblowers couldn't be guaranteed anonymity how many corrupt administrations would flourish? How many Boss Tweeds would go undiscovered? How many nuclear accidents, oil spills, and other disasters would occur because those in a position to blow the whistle to prevent the dangerous, careless, or just plain greedy and unsafe actions of power plants, shipping companies and large corporations would simply remain silent?

That's the freezing effect on both democracy and public safety that Mr. Fitzgerald actions would have.

I don't, however, believe that Mr. Fitzgerald is as interested in catching the official who illegally revealed Valerie Plame's identity as he is in intimidating reporters and asserting his own power as an inquisitor to bully anybody he pleases. This is a personal, ideological mission for him. He doesn't believe that reporters should have right to protect their sources, even if that is the lifeblood of their work and even if doing so ensures a free press, which is the lifeblood of our democracy. Not only that, he doesn't believe anybody in America has the right to a client-professional privilege, even if it's a client-attorney privilege or a patient-doctor right to privacy.

Here's the money quote:

"In one of his filings yesterday, Fitzgerald argued that "journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality -- no one in America is."

Actually, though, Mr. Fitzgerald is dead wrong. There is one group of professionals who have an absolute and uncontested right to promise complete confidentiality, here and in most civilized nations of the world. They are priests.

Some overzealous prosecutors have tried, in the past, to get this broken, one even going so far, years ago, as to tape a confessional that occurred in a jail. But it was thrown out of court and the prosecutor, a Protestant in a Western state, was widely and publicly castigated for his failure to respect the privileged communication between a priest and his parishoner

So, despite Mr. Fitzpatrick's unique definition of the law, there are people in American who can give a promise of complete confidentiality. Fortunately, priests, doctors and attorneys can do so. And journalists should be able to also, for just the reasons that I stated above.

And regardless of what Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald thinks of her, Judith Miller is a hero and probably will become a patron saint to all beleagered journalist who feel morally compelled and honor bound to protect their confidential sources. And also to all citizens who understand just how important this issue is.

Meanwhile, according to this Washington Post article, Miller is now headed to jail. U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan has remanded her to an Arlington, Virginia jail. Her request for house arrest or to be sent to a less harsh detention center was denied. Her fellow journalist Cooper is currently free. Firstly, his magazine had already cooperated with the prosecutor in providing Cooper's notes and the names of his sources over his protests.

Yet although Time Magazine argued that since they had already given Prosecutor Fitzpatrick the information he demanded, without Cooper's cooperation, their reporter should be let off the hook, even if he was still personally refusing to cooperate, Fitzgerald was hesitant to release Cooper from custody.

Even having the information that he sought was not good enough for this arrogant prosecutor. Until Cooper agreed to personally cooperate, Fitzgerald was stubbornly demanding that even he be sent to jail despite already having Cooper's sources from his employer.Then, Cooper was explicitly released from his agreement by his source. With this release, it put his cooperation today in an entirely different moral light than Miller's. And he was freed.

Judith Miller has received no such release from her source and her publication declined to cooperate with prosecutors. Like their very brave reporter, The New York Times remained absolutely committed to protecting her anonymous sources, as all good newspapers and news magazines should. (Although Matthew Cooper is blameless and waited until his source gave him release to cooperate, his publication broke a professional trust with that source).

As Daniel Shore pointed out on National Public Radio without the ability to protect an anonymous source, Woodward and Bernstein couldn't have broken the Watergate story and prevented genuine malfeasance at the highest levels of government. Without a shield law for journalists, some of the most eggregious examples of government corruption in countless municipalities would go unreported much to the detriment of citizens and their communities. Indeed, we would be much closer to being a corruption laden, dictatorial banana republic without a free press. And democracy, capitalism, and public morality would all suffer for it.

But none of that is as important as arrogant Peter Fitzgerald making his case. And asserting his authority as a prosecutor. And, of course, intimidating sources and reporters.

And you know what? It's easy to tell this is about intimidation and not about truly getting the facts. You know how to tell?

Easy.

If all he really wanted to know was who the source was who outed Valerie Plame, why wouldn't he simply ask the one person who actually did the outing in his nationally syndicated column, Robert Novak?

What am I missing here?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy Birthday, Wagner Act

Here's another link I'm posting for those interested in worker justice. And who isn't, if you are not self-employed?

The Wagner Act is also known as the National Labor Relations Act and it guaranteed workers certain rights including the right to organize and to form unions. It included provisions that organizing efforts could not be blocked by corporations by firing workers who choose to join unions and companies couldn't threaten to lock employees out or to close their shops if their workers voted to join unions. Most of these provisions are routinely violated today.

At the same time, workers have lost ground on the right to overtime pay, wages are flat while companies and CEOs are reaping huge profits and bonuses. The middle class is being eroded by outsourcing, automation and a general race to the bottom of the barrel as skilled workers are being forced to compete with those in foreign countries who are willing to work for poverty level wages.

America once had a strong economy, a stable political system, and a high standard of living for average people because we had a strong labor movement that fought for decent wages. During the fifties, sixties and seventies, Americans took their standard of living and the stability and security of the middle class for granted.

You never know what you've lost until it's gone. But this time, let's not wait until it's too late to defend our economic and political rights.

Please go to the site, read it over, and if you agree, sign the petition.

Thanks.

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Below is an email I received from WesPAC, General Wesley Clark's PAC. He was my first choice in the last Presidential Primaries. Although I also thought John Kerry had a lot of positives and could have won if he'd run a better campaign, it was my opinion that General Clark had less negatives. Kerry simply had too long a voting record. Anybody who had been in the Senate for as long as he was would have had far too many opportunities to change his mind and even his votes for very valid reasons. That is, anybody with a modicum of intelligence and integrity. After all, there's always new information that wasn't available at the time of an original vote. Conditions that might have changed since that time, etc. That is the plight of any long term successful senator, including a John McCain whose generally known for his integrity and his independence. Scratch a thoughtful person and you will find somebody who has changed and grown.

Nevertheless, in the hands of ambitious and unscrupulous campaign operatives willing to bend the truth, misrepresent somebody's actual record, and outright lie about them, those qualities could be disastrous. And they were for Kerry.

There would have been far less information available with which to smear Wes Clark. And I think not having Bob Shrum, Tad Devine, and Mary Beth Cahill as his campaign team (as Kerry did) would have been an enormous plus for him.

Despite his loss, however, Wes Clark has proved himself to be actively engaged in the issues that first drove him to seek the presidential nomination. And he has stayed active as a Democrat, using his PAC to raise funds for other candidates. Although some of the party regulars (or party hacks, depending on how you look at it) questioned his bona fides as a Democrat, when he first ran in the primaries, I think he's proved his loyalty to the party. He didn't pick up his marbles and walk away when he didn't get his way. He stayed and is learning how the political game is played. General Clark is now reviving his PAC specifically to aid candidates in the upcoming '06 midterm elections for Congress.

Not only does his fundraising help any future efforts he might make, his consistent and on target criticism of this Administration gives lots of ammunition to all Democrats, especially his thoughts on America's true national security, national defense, and the real war on terrorism. So, read below, and if you are as impressed as I am, follow the link to his site.

"Dear Friend,
The time has come to investigate the Bush Administration's role in the prisoner abuse and humiliation that has motivated our enemies in the war on terror and endangers the well-being of our fighting forces.

Today, the reports of abuse and humiliation at detainment facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba are distracting the world from focusing on winning the war on terror. Although the military chain of command seems to have properly investigated the role of its personnel and held accountable those in the wrong, the civilian leadership in this country has failed to do the same.

For generations, the United States has been a powerful voice of moral authority in the world. After World War II, we led the world in creating the Geneva Conventions and prosecuting war criminals at Nuremberg, and later became one of the first nations to ratify the Convention Against Torture. Even today, Slobodan Milosevic is being tried for war crimes thanks to a U.S.-led NATO air strike against his brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has squandered our legacy of moral leadership.

I need your help to protect the honor of our men and women in uniform and to set us on the right course to win the war on terror. Although the President has said the United States is "committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example," the Administration's actions don't match his words. In his infamous memo, Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush to ignore the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war – a treaty that protects our soldiers captured abroad – to give the president more "flexibility." This so-called "flexibility" along with other Administration policies and statements may have ultimately contributed to the environment in which the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan have occurred.

Among the disturbing practices identified so far: the rendition of prisoners to countries where they can be tortured, failing to register "ghost prisoners" to deny them visits by the Red Cross, employing civilian contract agents to conduct interrogations outside military rules, and the reported prolonged degrading treatment of some detainees in U.S. custody. All of these deserve further investigation.

With the right leadership and accountability, couldn't the Administration have prevented the embarrassment of Abu Ghraib and the controversy at Guantanamo Bay? While some are blaming individual soldiers, doesn't at least some of the responsibility rest with the civilian leadership of our government? Don't the American people deserve the truth? Shouldn't Congress lead an investigation?

How can we win the war on terrorism, a fight for democracy and freedom in America and around the world, if we forsake the very principles and institutions for which we are fighting?

The laws of war are designed to regulate combat and to protect non-combatants from the violence and degradation of war. The conduct of this Administration may ultimately lead to a green-light for our enemies to torture our soldiers when captured -- we owe it to our men and women in uniform and their families to investigate.

American soldiers deserve better than to see our allies pointing their fingers at Guantanamo Bay and calling it an "American problem." We are doing their work too – defeating terror is a global priority.
People of good conscience cannot afford to stay silent.

Sincerely,Wes Clark

Invite your friends and family to join WesPAC -- Securing America's Future!

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for WesPAC"