Friday, July 29, 2005
Republican Salute

The nation is abuzz. The right says this is a harmless thumbs-up. The left has spent enough time in traffic to know what we're really looking at.

Oh yes. We've seen that one before.

1:29 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
How It Goes

My father's heart, apparently, is enormous -- I mean in size and mass, not necessarily in its capacity to give and receive love. It's also flabby, diseased, and 80% of its tissue is effectively dead. And yet it still beats, albeit weakly, and only with an overwhelming amount of mechanical help and some of the most advanced medical technology in the world. My big, scary father has been reduced to a bag of sluggish blood attached to a bunch of tubes and hoses -- I try to imagine him that way, weak and frail and struggling to survive, but I can only see big, scary dad towering over me and filling my field of vision and giving me that glare that always made my id curl up into a ball and hide under the nearest piece of psychic furniture.

His chest was cracked open this morning, and a surgeon -- who described my father's surgery as the "one of the most difficult he'd ever performed" -- completed a quadruple bypass. On top of this, I've now learned, he's suffering from diabetes and increasingly from renal failure as well. It looks like he may get to spend the rest of his recovery (if not the rest of his life) undergoing daily dialysis. And, of course, his risk of death is still exceptionally high. Given all that's happening to his body -- multiple systems struggling to maintain function, some of them beginning to fail, and the double traumas of the recent heart attack and of the surgery itself -- the process he's in seems a lot more like death than recovery. The best case prognosis is that he lives another couple of years with severe physical disabilities -- one doctor apparently described him as a "heart cripple." The worst case prognosis is pretty obvious. He has, at best, months of excrutiating pain, helplessness, difficult rehabilitation and complete dependency ahead of him. Or his future might be one of sudden death when his heart finally says "fuck it," and twitches itself into oblivion.

I've gleaned all this from brief messages from his wife; she's encouraging me to come see him soon, offering to let me stay at her home. It looks like I may have to explain to her -- gently, of course, and with sensitivity but also with honesty -- why I feel that that would be an unconstructive thing to do. And between you and me, while I don't hate my father's wife, meeting her and staying in her home rank down near lobotomy on my list of attractive offers. Not to mention that her constant, saccharine invocations of Jesus and God are about to make me vomit. What do you want to bet she's got at least one object in her house with a Thomas Kinkaide "painting" on it?

So, until something else happens, which it will sooner or later -- maybe tonight, maybe a few years from now -- I guess that's that. I've spent much of the last three days thinking about my father, and I'm exhausted now. He told me once when I was a teenager living for six lonely, isolated months in his house in Alaska, that he believed he wouldn't live much past 50 (he's 52 or 53 now) -- no particular reason why he thought that, I guess it just seemed to be the most likely, most romantic outcome: die young, beautiful corpse, that kind of thing. He was only 40-ish when he said it, so I guess back then it still seemed like a reasonably long time to live, and I doubt he anticipated such an ignominious demise -- heart attack, sure, but not everything that's come after. I expect he'd have preferred something fast and dramatic that would leave his acquaintances goggle-eyed at his funeral, not something slow and painful and humbling that would isolate him from the world and reduce him to abject helplessness before it was through with him. But I guess with death you just take what you get.

Or maybe he's grateful that he's gotten an extra couple of years. I wouldn't know.

Anyway, I sent a message wishing him/them good luck this morning. I did consider calling him, but given that he didn't die in surgery, I think if I had I'd have felt pretty stupid afterwards -- I'd attempt to explain why, but it would take a long time, and I just don't feel like trying right now. If he called me himself and asked me to come, I might consider it. But that won't happen.

Tomorrow or the next day, I'll write about something else, I promise.
10:55 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Undead Dad

Well, the old bastard's not dead yet. But he might be soon.

I screwed up the force of will necessary to call my father's wife to enquire about his state; he lives yet, although his heart's thoroughly buggered now and only the bypass surgery that has so far been deemed too risky and too futile to help might save him. He goes in to face death (again) in the morning; once he's on the table, he's got a 40% chance of surviving the surgery.

I think I disappointed her with my lack of emotion; furthermore, I think I surprised his nurse with my lack of desire to talk to my father on what could quite possibly be the last day of his life. She kept asking, "you're sure you don't want to talk to him?"

"Oh yes, I'm sure."

"Okay... well, you can call later, whenever you're ready."

By every Hallmark Channel movie-of-the-week standard, I should be rushing off to McAllen, Texas to have a tearful reconciliation with him on his deathbed. I'd arrive and sit frostily, staring at the tubes snaking into his frail, strangely shrunken body; he'd tell me how much he always loved me and how proud he is of me; and I'd collapse into a sobs at his bedside while he strokes my hair. That's how this is supposed to proceed in the popular imagination, and I'm not even trying to live up to my end of the deal. Obviously, eyebrows are raised.

If they think I don't want that -- if they don't understand that I would give everything to have that happen -- then naturally they would assume that I'm as poor an excuse for a daughter as he has likely led them to believe. And I understand their position. But so many times I've reached out for that -- often with anger, always with pain and confusion, but still trying -- only to be pushed away again and again, that eventually I shut him out completely just to protect what was left of my self-esteem. Emotionally, I had to do a lot of self-parenting during my late teens and especially through my early 20s -- my mother was wonderful, and without her influence I'd have been left a complete psychological wreck; everything I've done to build myself up into some semblance of the person I was born to be has been constructed on the foundation she provided me. But it was always partly a process of shoring up my identity against the father-shaped hole in the middle.

Rushing off to my father's side would bring me nothing I need -- he's got no love or approval to give me; he doesn't even know me as an adult woman, how could he "be so proud" of me, as I've been told he is? And if he is... well, it's a pity he never said so to me; I so badly needed him to. Going for some bogus reconciliation now would only be for his peace of mind as he goes off to wrestle with death -- "see, I wasn't such a bad father after all" -- and in the sense that there are many, much worse fathers in the world than him, I guess he's right. But he was still pretty fucking bad at it. I've gotten to live with that reality for my entire life; frankly, I don't feel particularly inclined to go pretend to be okay with everything that's happened, and more importantly to risk another crushing disappointment and all the pain that it would drag back up to the surface, just so he can assuage his guilt before he goes to have his risky surgery and likely not come back.

I have, as far as I'm able, already made peace with the state of our relationship; there's nothing in that Texas hosptial I need. If he finds himself in a less peaceful situation at the end of his life, that's not my problem. I don't wish him death -- I honestly don't. What happens to him now makes little effective difference to me either way. I admit that his death would simplify things somewhat -- I'd have some work to do with the counselors at school, and I'd have assorted personal and familial business to take care of -- but I'm as content to have that happen some other time as now. It's not a matter of wishing him ill, it's just that, in every sense that matters, I lost my dad a long time ago; his death would only finally give him a decent excuse. If he does die tomorrow, or shortly thereafter, then I'll have to live with the choice I'm making right now for the rest of my life; it's certainly possible that I'll regret it. But this, at least, is finally my choice to make. That's better than I've done with him so far.

I know I'm supposed to surrender to sentimentality at the likely death of my father, but all I can do is say what I honestly feel. I guess I wouldn't be very good at being Japanese.

Enough of my daddy issues; nobody really wants to hear about this, I know (but it's my blog, so I'll do it if I want). I promise not to bring it up again until I know it's all over. I'm just going to go on with my life as normal today; it's another cliff-hanger, still no resolution to be had. Maybe tomorrow.

PS: Don't smoke. It's bad for you.
12:37 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, July 25, 2005
The Strangest 48 Hours Of My Life

Sometime over the weekend I got aboard some kind of crazy ride... it goes up and down and around and around, and I keep thinking it's finally winding up (surely that's the last twist in the track), but no -- it keeps throwing new stuff at me. I'm probably gonna talk about something in this post that normally I wouldn't talk about much publicly, but what the hell, it's my blog -- this kind of thing is a big part of why I originally started it, along with my obvious political frustration.

First, the best, most amazing thing, which I'll just talk about in abstract terms since the person who would most need to understand undoubtedly will. I've got this buddy -- known among long-time readers as Smithers -- whom I genuinely love like a brother, and have loved for a long time now. I would do absolutely anything for that guy, would stick by him through both hell and high water; he's been there for me in a way that almost nobody else in my life has. He's an incredibly beautiful, wonderful man; friends like him are a rare gift in life and I'm lucky to be able to call him mine. And I felt that way even before he did something that left me teary-eyed. He knows how I feel, but sometimes I have to say it again.

Second, the weirdest, most confusing thing, which I'll explain more concretely since even I can't make sense of it and could hardly expect anyone else to: tonight I got a call from the woman who married my estranged father; it's only the second time in my life I've heard from her, and the first time she's actually called. Last time, a few years back, I got an email telling me that my father had been taken to the hospital for heart surgery -- he'd had a heart attack sometime in the past and had subsequently been diagnosed with both massive, inoperable blockages in his arteries and heart rhythm problems that alone could kill him. They couldn't do anything about the blockages, but they were attempting to install a pacemaker to control the arrhythmia. They'd had some trouble with their first attempt -- that's why she finally got around to calling me, making it sound as though my father might not live through the night -- although eventually they operated successfully.

You have to understand, that was the first time in years that I'd heard anything about my father -- he and I were thoroughly and profoundly estranged after a difficult relationship lasting into my teens. He, I've come to assume, never really wanted a kid; and I, for my part, desperately wanted a dad, but not one as cruel as he could be. He was a brilliant, charismatic man, but he could play some evil fucking headgames; I am not the person I might originally have become because of him. And that's okay -- I'm a grownup now, and for the most part I've tried to supply myself with everything he failed to provide, with I think an admirable amount of success. But while my emotional baggage has been trimmed and pared down to the point that it amounts to no more than a small metaphorical backpack, poking at certain parts of my psyche will still produce a reaction.

And that first contact out of nowhere -- your dad might be dying -- was a hard, deep poke at my most carefully-guarded scars; it got an appropriately spectacular reaction. I went into full demon-wrestling mode, trying to figure out what I'd do if my dad died and all that pain and old anger suddenly found itself ripped from its moorings. How would I tell his increasingly-senile mother, his long-abandonded siblings? He'd cut them out of his life as thorougly as he did me; my grandmother ached for him, and I could sympathize, even while I found myself avoiding her as well. (She, to be fair, is as dysfunctional and fucked-up as he is.) Would I go to his funeral, meet the family that had so completely supplanted me; meet the new conservative, Christian, family-values wife with whom he had cheated on my mother (and her husband), the new wife who apparently loved every word that Dr. Laura ever spoke but somehow never thought to ask why my father's only child was so totally absent from his life? Would I be sad that he was gone, or relieved? As cold as it sounds, ever since I hit my 20s I've just been waiting for the man to die so that our fucked-up relationship would finally be over. No more major life events that went unnoticed by him, no more ignored birthdays, no more endless years of wondering what I'd done or been as a child that was so repellant to him that he couldn't even accept me as his daughter. Intellectually I'd come to understand our relationship and that his dysfunctions weren't about me, but parental rejection always leaves you damaged and wounded, and mature insight can heal that, but you'll always be a little crooked. Attempts to forgive him were pointless, since every day that passed was a tiny new insult that joined the rest and accrued over years until the bitterness was back full-force. Given that he was incapable of repairing the situation (if only I could have explained to all the people who urged me to go to him in search of some talk-show reconciliation that the man couldn't have given me what I needed from him any more than he could have flown to the moon), the only way out was for one of us -- preferrably him -- to leave this world to the other could finally start putting the whole tangled mess behind them.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking at the time. It took me several days to sort my thoughts out, and in the end I made one superhuman effort to extend some love and forgiveness to both him and his wife. He got through his ordeal, but it ended with the recognition that from that day on he was living on luck alone. Somehow -- maybe feeling further battered by the fact that I'd had to struggle through that emotional morass and didn't even get any closure, not even a word of thanks or acknowledgement from the old bastard in the hospital bed -- I left the experience feeling raw and used. I put every remaining ounce of sympathy and untainted love for my father into that last gesture of affection, and just like every time in the past, I got nothing for my effort but silence. So, fuck him.

My mother, when it was all over, said something that only a justly-bitter ex-wife could say: she (the new family-values wife) wanted him so badly, now she can bury him. Every ethical and moral belief I possess says that such a thought is unworthy of me as his child and as a compassionate human being, but I can't deny that I feel the same way -- although, I have to say, as only part of a much larger, more complex set of emotions. My relationship with my father was complicated and poisonous; the worst thing (and the best thing) he ever did was turn away and leave me behind. Trying to make sense of that paradox in my mind has so far been a life-long puzzle.

Anyway... tonight, like I said, I got message from the paternal void: "another heart attack," says the tear-choked voice on the answering machine. Dead? I don't know yet. Maybe. If he is, then tomorrow when I find out for sure I'll be going back into full demon-wrestling mode, blessedly for the last time. If he's not, I guess I just go back to my life and let him attempt to go back to his. Even sitting here knowing that my father's corpse might be cooling as I write this I only feel a kind of morose indifference -- after last time, as much as I would like to think that I'm noble enough of spirit to rekindle it, I just don't have any love or compassion left to give him. If he lives, fine, let him live -- if he dies, fine, let him die. I've been waiting for it for half my life.

Now, if I were you, reading words like those from a stranger, I'd wonder what kind of cold-spirited person could write them. It's hard to accept that they're coming out my own heart; I'm shocked at the bluntness of my dismissal of what would normally be a major event in my life. And if he does indeed die, I might surprise myself -- in fact, I'd be more surprised if I didn't surprise myself at least a little. Would I go to Texas and watch "his family" put him in a hole in the ground? I'm not sure -- it might be helpful, psychologically, to see the reality of his now-justifiable absence for myself. And I worry, after watching him fail to attend his own father's funeral exactly three years ago today, that that kind of bad karma can be passed down -- my biggest fear in life is replicating the despair of my relationship with my dad with my own, as-yet-nonexistent kids. Surely I can at least end that relationship by proving myself to have a more expansive, more graceful soul that he did. But I also have to recognize that all of those thoughts amount to little more than self-reassurance and signifying... I'm doing it for me, not for him.

But then, that's how it's always been between us. I am, after all, still my father's daughter.

I should call my father's wife back tonight and find out what's going on, but I'd honestly rather not let that catastrophe through the door into my life until tomorrow. Whether he's dead or alive, I guess he'll keep until the morning.

And the strangest thing of all is, that's not even everything that's happened in this bizarre couple of days, but only the things that have the most direct impact on my life. This summer has so far been frustrating and reassuring by turns; the year to date has been a process of old things slowly passing away and new things opening before me -- not always smoothly or easily, but the sense of release and expansion is undeniable. After a few days like these, I'm incredibly curious to see what happens next, but I'm also a little afraid; it's possible that by this time tomorrow my life will in several ways be not much different, but profoundly changed. Or not.

What next?
8:47 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, July 22, 2005
Very Cool

There are times when I wish I didn't like Google as much as I do. They're so close to becoming an evil empire in their own right, but damn it to hell, they just keep getting everything right: I went from Gmail skeptic to whole-hearted convert; that little search box does so many amazing, useful things that I can no longer live without it; Google News makes scanning an entire planet's worth of headlines effortless (and means I can startle far-flung friends with familiarity about local stories); the image search alone has made my online life better.

My most recent Google-epiphany was finding a satellite image of my house on their new mapping tool; and now -- damn those bastards -- I can look at the moon, too.

The closest zoom is a stroke of silly genius.
4:22 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Wait... Who?

A quick post on a major development, since nobody actually has any clue what the fuck just happened...

Apparently Bush's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is some guy named John Roberts. At first blush -- and I do mean "first blush" since nobody apparently has ever heard of this guy -- is that he's anti-choice, pro-corporation, and has only been a judge for two years.

Yes, seriously, only two years. Partisan attorney to Supreme Court Justice in two years is pretty... well, I was going to say "special," but what I really mean is "fucked up." So now we're all curious -- who the fuck is this guy, anyway? -- and I expect we'll be asking him lots and lots and lots of questions over the coming months. After all, this man, if confirmed, will have direct influence over our society for potentially as much as 30 years, and we wouldn't want just any asshole walking in off the street for the job. Right?

PS: AmericaBlog is doing the work of piecing together what little information exits on the man.
9:10 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

A Sad Use Of An Afternoon

I think my car is dying. I was driving her up to Midtown today to have lunch with a friend, and about halfway there she began making a dreadful grinding noise -- it came and went (though never stopping completely) -- but otherwise she continued driving more-or-less normally (though a bit on the warm side.) As I was passing through a less-salubrious part of town, I decided to make the attempt to get where I was going; a mile or so from my destination, she began making a second dreadful sound of air being released at high pressure. My poor baby -- I fulfilled my promise to her that I'd get her to 200,000 miles (surpassing it, as of now, by 1,928 miles), but it looks as though she won't get much further than that. My guess -- pointing out that I'm no mechanic, but that I have a good record of correct guesses where automotive problems are concerned -- is that the difficulty lies in the transmission. Given that this car has travelled 200K on its original clutch, that wouldn't be surprising... dunno how the air sound fits into that, though. I could easily be completely wrong. But at this point, the repair would need to be very minor to be worth the expense, and that didn't sound like any minor repair.

More as things develop -- hopefully the loss will be mostly sentimental; transport-wise, the timing could possibly not be better. In any case, I'm now in midtown at the Co-op, whiling away the afternoon until someone comes to take me home -- and that gives me time to write a rambling post that I've had in my mind for a while now.

One of the fringe benefits of having a relatively-unknown blog on the web is that, over time, it affords you a sidelong view through the window on humanity's soul. Between SiteMeter and Google, I know exactly what brings about 75% of my random visitors to this blog, and that can be both moving and alarming.

For example, given that the word novena appears in this blog's title, I get a lot of visitors looking for novenas to address their assorted personal problems -- novenas to find love, novenas to find friendship, novenas for sickness, novenas to find a job, novenas to conceive a child, et cetera. I've always figured I must be a disappointment to those people -- I offer absoluely no advice on any of those subjects (if I had anything that worked, I'd have used it myself by now.) I've even considered compiling some novenas and setting up a separate page, just so I could give these aching souls something for their trouble. But, in spite of the nom du blog, I don't know nothin' about any novenas.

On the other end of the spectrum are the disconcerting number of people who come here based on the other half of my blogname -- "sister" -- combined in various ways with assorted words that usually include "fuck" (which I admit I use fairly frequently), as well as "young," "ass," "pussy," "shaved," and once, "dog." Now, I'm not shocked -- I devoted my teenage years and young adulthood to making myself so jaded about these things that it now takes an exceptionally high degree of perversity to actually shock me, and obviously I can distinguish between blameless fantasy and guilty action -- but where I feel bad about not giving the novena people any good results, I'm rather proud that the incest crowd leaves here empty-handed. (I give the "monkey cocks" people the benefit of the doubt.)

Inbetween these poles are all the people who come looking for assorted things, many of which I've actually mentioned and/or linked to: the Lcpl. Boudreaux sign generator is popular; I get a lot of hits for this picture, and I got more than half of my total hits for this picture; and I get far, far too many hits because of one negative mention of Winx Club. But the hitmaker that both gratifies and annoys me -- gratification in the way it boosts my hit count, annoyance that it gets more attention than any of the posts into which I actually put some thought and care -- is Archie the 84-pound baby.

Archie, the 84-Pound Baby

So I want to say this once and for all: there is nothing substantive on this blog about Archie the 84-Pound Baby, nor Archie the 6-Stone Baby. I mentioned "Archie the 84-Pound Baby" once-- in reference to the poor quality of television, not even saying anything about the poor kid himself -- but that's it. There's nothing to see or read about Archie the 84-Pound Baby on this blog. Okay?


Oh, and the "fuck sister" people can fuck off as well.
1:54 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tsk tsk...

But Rove's conduct certainly meets the far less demanding elements of the Espionage Act: (1) possession of (2) information (3) relating to the national defense (4) which the person possessing it has reason to know could be used to damage the United States or aid a foreign nation and (5) wilful communication of that information to (6) a person not entitled to receive it.

Under the Espionage Act, the person doing the communicating need not actually know that revelation could be damaging; he needs only "reason to know." Classification is generally reason to know, and a security-clearance holder is responsible for knowing what information is classified.

Nor is it necessary that the discloser intend public distribution; if Rove told Cooper -- which he did -- and Cooper didn't have a security clearance -- which he didn't -- the crime would have been complete.

And to be a crime the disclosure need not be intended to damage the national security; it is only the act of communication itself that must be wilful.

It's also a crime to "cause" such information to be communicated, for example by asking someone else to do so.
3:55 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
The Rove Primer

I'm excerpting a large chunk of this piece, a) so people can see it without having to wait through ads, and b) because it's really, really important for folks to understand what's going on with Rovegate. The original is full of hyperlinks to source documents, so if you're keen you should have a look. For the first time in five years, the Bush administration is on the defensive and reeling; White House spokesman Scott McClellan was being openly mocked by the press corps today (yeah, that press corps, I swear to god it's true) for his clumsy refusals to cop to what everybody already knows -- that the White House promised to "deal with" the leaker if he was in the administration, but now that it turns out to be Rove they have no intention of making good on the promise. Standard operating procedure for the most corrupt, dishonest administration in a century, but never before quite so blatant or dead-fucking-obvious to even the most gullible citizen.

And it's worse than blowjobs. Way, way worse.

Is Karl Rove going to jail?

Don't know yet. It's clear from recent reports in Newsweek and the Washington Post that Rove was involved in, and possibly headed, a White House effort to discredit Wilson. What's not clear is whether Rove committed a crime, either by leaking Plame's identity, or by lying to investigators who are trying to determine whether he leaked Plame's identity. Even if Rove did violate the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which prohibits divulging an intelligence agent's identity, investigators may lack the necessary evidence to charge him. Rove continues to deny any wrongdoing.

What do we know about Rove's involvement?

We know that on July 11, 2003 -- the Friday after Wilson's article, What I Didn't Find in Africa," was published in the Sunday New York Times -- Matthew Cooper, who'd just started covering the White House for Time magazine, called Rove to ask what he made of Wilson's story. After the conversation, Cooper sent his editor an e-mail describing what Rove had said. Cooper, who moonlights as a stand-up comedian in Washington, labeled the e-mail "double super secret background." Newsweek obtained it after Time decided to hand it to prosecutors.

The e-mail suggests that Rove gave Cooper an earful. Rove warned the reporter not to "get too far out on Wilson" -- that is, not to put too much stock in what Wilson had written -- because Wilson's trip to Africa, Rove attested, had not been authorized either by George Tenet, the director of the CIA, nor Vice President Dick Cheney. Wilson had only been sent to Niger to check out claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium there because, Rove told Cooper, "wilson's wife, who apparently works at the [Central Intelligence] agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues" had "authorized the trip." In other words, Rove was telling Cooper, Wilson only got the assignment because of nepotism, so there's no reason to believe what he's saying about Saddam.

Rove, Cooper added, said that not only was the "genesis of [Wilson's] trip ... flawed an[d] suspect," but so were Wilson's conclusions about Saddam's WMD search in Africa. Rove "implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger."

Close readers will spot what Rove did not tell Cooper: Valerie Plame's name. It's not clear whether Rove went into detail about Plame's status at the CIA; she was an operative who often worked undercover and so needed her identity to remain cloaked. In the legal case against Rove, this omission is key, as Rove's attorney says that because Rove didn't name Plame, Rove didn't do anything wrong.

Is that true? Or did Rove violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act?

Again, it's not cut and dried. As the Washington Post pointed out, "To be considered a violation of the law, a disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent's identity."

Based on Cooper's e-mail with Rove, it isn't clear that Rove knew Plame's name. But even if Rove did know Plame's name, which is likely, that fact is not as important as knowing her CIA status. In pointing out her occupation and association to Wilson, Rove was clearly identifying Plame. Was he then knowingly and deliberately disclosing a CIA operative? For that, Rove would have had to know that Plame was undercover. If he didn't know that fact -- if Rove knew Plame simply as Wilson's wife who happened to work on WMD at the CIA -- he didn't commit a crime.

So to stay out of the slammer, can't Rove simply say he didn't know who Plame was?

Yes, and that's essentially Rove's defense. Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, told the Washington Post on Sunday that Rove had no idea who Plame was, other than that she was Wilson's CIA wife. Luskin says that Rove's conversation with Cooper "was not an effort to encourage Time to disclose her identity. What he was doing was discouraging Time from perpetuating some statements that had been made publicly and weren't true." Those allegedly untrue "statements" are claims made by some at the time that Wilson's trip was Cheney's idea; according to Luskin, Rove only mentioned Wilson's wife to show that it was her idea, not Cheney's, for Wilson to go to Africa.

That said, we don't know what Rove told other reporters; specifically, we don't know whether Rove gave Plame's name to Robert Novak, the first journalist to name Plame, who appears to have talked to the prosecutor. But it's a fair guess when you look at the similarity between what Rove told Cooper and what Novak said Bush administration sources told him, and the fact that Cooper spoke to Rove on July 11, a Friday, and Novak's column was published the next Monday.

Here's what Novak wrote in his column outing Plame: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report [which suggested an effort by Saddam to buy uranium in Africa]. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

To recap: Novak was talking to "senior administration officials" around the same time that Cooper was talking to Rove. Novak got the same story from "senior administration officials" that Cooper got from Rove. As we're pretty sure they don't say in Texas, the whole thing sure does stink of turd blossom. And here's where it could get hairy for Rove. If Novak did get Plame's identity from Rove, and if Novak has said as much to special prosecutor Fitzgerald, with whom he's allegedly cooperating, Rove may yet face legal troubles.

So if Novak sings, does Rove go to jail?

Could be. But there are caveats to that, too. Even if Rove -- or anyone else in the White House -- did reveal Plame's name and undercover status to the media, that act may still not qualify as a technical violation of the law. Victoria Toensing and Bruce W. Sanford, two Washington lawyers who helped draft the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, wrote in the Washington Post in January that the law was meant to protect agents who were truly "covert," meaning that the agent's "status as undercover must be classified, and she must have been assigned to duty outside the United States currently or in the past five years. This requirement does not mean jetting to Berlin or Taipei for a week's work. It means permanent assignment in a foreign country." But because Plame had been "living in Washington for some time when the July 2003 column was published, and was working at a desk job in Langley (a no-no for a person with a need for cover), there is a serious legal question as to whether she qualifies as 'covert,'" Toensing and Sanford wrote.

Even if the prosecutor determines that outing Plame was a crime, he will have to prove that Rove did so knowingly and deliberately. And many on the right argue that Rove's defense on this point -- that he was only mentioning Plame to show that Wilson wasn't recommended for the job by anyone really important, like Cheney -- was corroborated by last year's Senate intelligence committee report on Iraq-war intelligence failures. That report quoted the CIA as saying that Wilson was sent to Niger only because Plame "offered up" his name for the job, which Rove would argue is essentially what he told Cooper about Wilson.

Yet the Senate report doesn't completely support Rove's tale because it still leaves the possibility, as Wilson argued, that Cheney asked the CIA to look into the Niger case, and the CIA then asked Wilson to look into it. In his book, "The Politics of Truth," Wilson described his meeting with the CIA to arrange his Niger trip. "My hosts opened the meeting with a brief explanation of why I had been invited to meet with them," he writes. "A report purporting to be a memorandum of sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq had aroused the interest of Vice President Dick Cheney. His office, I was told, had tasked the CIA to determine if there was any truth to the report. I was being asked now to share with the analysts my knowledge of the uranium business and of the Nigerian personalities in power at the time the alleged contract had been executed, supposedly in 1999 or 2000."

Wilson says that his wife had nothing to do with CIA's decision to send him to Niger. He asserts that the White House had no right to talk about his wife in its discussions with reporters regarding his Niger claims.

Even if Rove didn't knowingly divulge Plame's name, isn't inadvertently disclosing her identity bad enough?

Well, yes. In talking to Cooper, Rove disclosed Plame's occupation to a reporter in the service of a political hit job on a White House critic. At the very least, he was careless with sensitive information, which isn't a quality to be prized in a deputy White House chief of staff. To punish Rove's carelessness, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement today, "the President should immediately suspend Karl Rove's security clearances and shut him down by shutting him out of classified meetings or discussions."

Or as Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, recommended in a statement today, Bush should fire Rove. "I agree with the President when he said he expects the people who work for him to adhere to the highest standards of conduct," Reid said. "The White House promised if anyone was involved in the Valerie Plame affair, they would no longer be in this administration. I trust they will follow through on this pledge. If these allegations are true, this rises above politics and is about our national security."

Reid's right. Looking at Bush's statements on the case, you'd expect that Rove might be in some trouble with his boss. "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush said last year. Bush has never discussed the details of the case, but he's suggested that he believes that leaking an operative's name, perhaps even accidentally, is not something he'd tolerate. "I want to know the truth -- leaks of classified information are bad things," he said last year.

Any chance that Bush would fire Rove?

Who knows what Bush will do. Scott McClellan, Bush's press secretary, has decided not to answer any questions on the case. In a remarkable press briefing on Monday -- remarkable for the tenacity with which reporters kept at McClellan -- the press secretary refused to say whether he believed Rove had committed a crime, whether Bush had lost confidence in Rove, and whether Bush was aware that Rove had spoken to Cooper about Wilson. McClellan, citing the ongoing investigation of the case, repeatedly declined to answer anything. "Well, those overseeing the investigation expressed a preference to us that we not get into commenting on the investigation while it's ongoing. And that was what they requested of the White House. And so I think in order to be helpful to that investigation, we are following their direction," McClellan said.

As Tim Grieve points out in Salon's War Room, this excuse hasn't stopped McClellan from commenting on the case in the past. The press secretary has previously cleared Rove of any involvement in the case: "Let me make it very clear," McClellan said in October 2003, "as I said previously, he was not involved, and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified information, nor would he condone it. So let me be very clear."

Today, reporters pointed that out to him. "You're in a bad spot here, Scott," one reporter told McClellan, "because after the investigation began -- after the criminal investigation was under way -- you said, October 10th, 2003, 'I spoke with those individuals, Rove, [deputy national security advisor Elliott] Abrams, and [Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis] Libby. As I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this.' From that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began. Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?"

McClellan responded: "And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this, because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point, I look forward to talking about it. But until the investigation is complete, I'm just not going to do that."

So where does that leave us?

Lawyers observing the case have said that the prosecutor, who's known for being tough, may be looking to charge someone for some lesser crime than leaking an undercover operative's name, namely perjury or obstruction of justice. But because we don't know what Rove has said to the grand jury or to investigators, it's impossible to tell whether he's the subject of these investigations, either.

At this point, then, it's distinctly possible that Rove -- the same Rove who recently called liberals soft in their response to the 9/11 attacks -- may face no punishment at all for outing the identity of a CIA agent.
4:47 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, July 11, 2005
Stuff to Read

I've got a lot going on today, and as much as I want to blog about a few things, I just don't have enough time or energy to spare. So instead I'll just point you around to a few blogs that already have it covered (better than I could, no doubt), and you can infer what I'd be saying if I had time to say it.

First, Karl Rove's been a naughty, naughty boy. The running theory at this point is that his defense will revolve, in essence, on what the definition of the word "name" is. More amusing for the time being, though, is the White House reaction to the Plame outing back when Rove still enjoyed anonymity, vs. their reaction now. Little George's daddy fired "Turd Blossom" back in '92 for a reason... pity junior never got that through his thick skull. But Dubya doesn't go anywhere without Karl; those two are thick as thieves... literally.

Secondly, have a look at this essay on how we're treating out returning soldiers. No, it's not Vietnam all over... this time it's the federal government spitting on vets.

And finally, there doesn't seem to be much to say about the London bombings... they happened, it was horrible, but if the Luftwaffe couldn't shut London down, al Qaeda surely isn't going to faze them. The one thing I want to point out is, as much as some people revelled in the destruction, and as hard as other people worked to re-strike terror into the hearts of America, the people closest to the bombings could teach us Americans a thing or two about resiliance, dignity, and genuine bravery in the face of random violence.
1:39 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, July 08, 2005
Why Mississippi Loses Out

One point I frequently try to make to conservatives -- particularly the fiscal kind -- is that paying taxes to support the common good leads directly to the kind of prosperity that allows them to make so much money that they complain about how high their taxes are. The wellbeing of the lower and working classes -- and the taxpayer-funded subsidies that help support their needs -- are directly related to the prosperity of the public in general. If you cut taxes and subsequently cut spending, you also cut the wellbeing of those people; down the line, as the standard of living of the lower classes begins to decline, so follows the local/regional/national economy. And once that begins to tank, the number of people making a killing is going to follow it down. Failing to support the weakest and poorest members of our society is exactly the same as failing to support the strongest and richest.

Case in point: the new Toyota factory slated to be built in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada.

In recent years, Toyota has built factories in southern US states like Alabama and Mississippi, and both states were potential sites for this factory. The states courted the company aggressively -- Alabama and Mississippi are both deeply economically depressed states and desperately need the jobs. But Toyota turned them down in favor of Canada for two reasons: 1) Canada's educational system, and 2) Canada's health care system.

Toyota says it's had trouble training workers adequately in the southern US because employees are so poorly educated and illiteracy is so widespread that they often have to use "pictorials" rather than manuals to teach workers to use equipment. Furthermore, the money they save on insuring workers in Canada, who are covered by a national healthcare system, was at least enough to balance out the much lower subsidies Canada offered the company. Mississippi and Alabama offered twice as much in tax breaks, to the tune of half a billion dollars, and even that wasn't enough to convince Toyota to build another plant there.

So there are 1,300 good jobs that won't be had by any Alabaman or Mississippian, which is tragic considering how badly those jobs are needed in both states. Those states were willing to cough up $500 million to attract a major corporation, so why aren't they also willing to invest that money to create a better-educated, healthier workforce? In this case, it might have made all the difference. As goes Toyota, so shall go other potential employers; without the companies, jobs all along the economic spectrum will dry up. There must be at least one would-be Mississippi executive who won't be complaining about his wages from Toyota being so high that he has to pay what he feels an unfair sum in taxes... but it's that very attitude that robbed him of the opportunity.

A high-quality education and adequate, affordable healthcare for every single American shouldn't even be up for debate, much less something for which we have to struggle. A society can only advance as far as its least citizens; by pulling them up, we all get ahead. There's a place for competition and the free market, but there's also a point at which the common good must be considered if the free market is to remain viable.

Mississippi's educational system is among the lowest-ranked in the country, and as I write this state-funded health care is being gutted. That's why Mississippi is losing out, rich and poor citizens alike.
9:42 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, July 06, 2005
The Horror

Remind me not to live in London in 2012. And definitely, definitely, definitely not in Stratford.

PS: Ahem, quite.

A few quick thoughts on the explosions in London today -- not intended to argue any particular point (that would be crass), but just my initial reaction:

1) Everybody knows the tube is the weak link in the system -- back during the paranoid days of late 2001, when I was still living on the Isle of Dogs, the constant whispers of impending threat always centered on the tube. It's a sealed-off pipe full of vulnerable human flesh buried (in some places) hundreds of feet underground, and at certain times some trains carry tens of thousands of people, packed in like cattle. Frankly, I was relieved at the scale of the attacks. It could've been hugely worse.

2) Everybody (who pays any attention) also knows that there's a big militant Islamist community in London; some of these groups aim to turn the UK into an entirely Muslim country. They aren't shy, everyone knows they're there. But then again, London has a huge Muslim community period, and the vast majority -- 95% at least -- of those people are peaceable, honest citizens. Londoners, I anticipate, will understand the distinction in a way Americans never quite seemed to grasp.

It'll be interesting to see how Londonders -- who've survived twenty years under terrorist threat, centuries worth of the typical perils of big-fuck-off-city life, and a little thing called the Blitz -- respond compared to how Americans responded to their terrorist attack (admittedly a much larger one -- but certainly not as bad as the Blitz.) Hopefully we Yanks can take a lesson or two -- observe, my people.

Anyway, my thoughts go out to anyone who's worrying (or grieving) over a loved one in London. Moreover -- and anyone who's seen a tube strike will understand the specific mention -- my thoughts go out to London commuters. Man, Friday rush hour's going to be a son of a bitch.

And my plea: once, Americans were as united as Londoners are now. Please don't fuck it up the way we did.

Update: Apparently Fox News is already spinning this as a rationale for attacking Iran. Those fuckers will be the ruin of us all.
8:48 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Worth Reading

Billmon's Fourth of July post.

I seriously considered trying to write an America-sympathetic post yesterday -- it seems like a useful chore for us liberals who are so often tarred as "anti-American" -- but I found that the only worthwhile sentiment I could come up with is this:

The thing about America is, whatever we are as a nation of people, we're also the opposite. In some ways that's a good thing; for every Nathan Bedford Forrest we produce, we also produce a Martin Luther King, Jr. On the other hand, for every Franklin Delano Roosevelt, we get a George W. Bush. We're optimistic and friendly and eager to reward good work; at the same time we're arrogant, xenophobic, and blinded by greed. And I'd like very much to think that this messiness is an inherent part of America's inevitable march towards enlightened progress, that we're still a work in progress and not an over-reaching empire in the early days of a long, dark decline -- but in these times, that's a difficult vision to maintain.

There was a time when I was convinced that my generation (and those just after) would be the first to see major emigration from the United States to other countries in search of "a better life." I lost touch with that idea some years back, but I've found it recurring more and more often recently. Some argue -- and I understand their position -- that leaving is the coward's way, and they may well be right. I hope very much that this country, of which I am wholly and profoundly a product (I'm nothing if not thoroughly American, even if I choose to define that along different lines than many of my antagonistic European friends) can find its way back to reason and moderation, or at least stop its slide before there's really nothing left of "America" in us. But at the same time, my ultimate allegiance is to humanity and the world we all share; if the United States is no longer supportive of that, there are other places that might be.
4:18 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Saturday, July 02, 2005
The Good Times Keep On Coming

Oh man is this ever gonna be a fun summer.

The question of "who outed Valerie Plame?" has been building momentum for over a year now, and finally it's all coming to a head. On the left the conventional wisdom that it was Karl Rove -- we could smell his fishy stank on it from a mile away. When the leak first made it's way into the public consciousness, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said this:

McClellan said that if anyone at the White House leaked Plame's identity, he should be fired, and pursued to the "fullest extent."

"No one was authorized to do this. That is simply not the way this White House operates and if someone leaked classified information it is a very serious matter," he said.

(CNN, Sept. 2003)

The good news is that that's exactly what should be done; revealing the identity of an undercover CIA operative is a federal offense. The bad news (for Bush) is that today a Newsweek reporter involved in the incident claimed Rove was indeed the source, and produced documents to support his statement.

"Oops," says the Bush administration. Will they follow through on McClellan's statement? They won't want to, but I think we're gonna force the bastards. Squirm, piggy, squirm.

On the other hand, the O'Connor retirement is going to be a long fucking headache for the entire country. The bad news is, Bush will almost certainly nominate some frothing-at-the-mouth fundie asshole who loathes the entire concept of justice (at least, going on his recent nominations of a pro-torture judge as Attorney General, an ass-raping, anti-choice fundie misogynist to a position of in charge of "reproductive health" at the FDC, and a virulently anti-UN bully as our embassador to the UN). The good news is, O'Connor's retirement isn't effective until a replacement has been nominated and confirmed. And we all know what that means -- we're spending the next six months in opposition city, kids! We're going to block whatever mouth-breathing fascist toady Bush tosses our way, and if Rev. Dobson doesn't like it he can shove it up his pasty, pimply ass. Democrats and liberals are sick of having this bullshit shoved down our throats, and our elected representatives are finally starting to get the message. All that stuff about filibusters a month or two back was only partially about Bolton; it was just as much about our right to block extremists from the Supreme Court. We won that round, and that paved the way for us to win this round -- or at the least to break the Republican party's collective nose in the attempt.

Bush is looking awfully beaten up these days -- but it can get worse. Much, much worse. Heh.
10:57 PM ::
Amy :: permalink