Monday, July 18, 2005


Bush Advisor Karl Rove leaked identity of CIA operative

(This column will run in the 7/21/05 edition of THE ALBANY (GA.) JOURNAL)

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." George W. Bush, State of the Union Speech, January 28, 2003.

“The White House concedes that information wasn't true.” CNN, December 25, 2003.

The disconnect between the increasing loss of honesty, integrity, and fairness at the top of the government food chain- the civilian leadership- and those Americans who risk their lives daily in Iraq and Afghanistan, becomes greater and more apparent with each revelation from the Bush Administration. As Bush’s poll ratings sink to their lowest ever (an NBC- Wall Street Journal poll reveals that only 41 percent of Americans think that Bush is “honest and straightforward”), the latest embarrassment is Karl Rove, the Presidential counselor with a top security clearance, including duties involving both the National Security Council and Homeland Security.

Karl Rove’s chickens are finally coming home to roost. After falsely accusing John McCain of being “the Fag candidate,” of treason during his prisoner of war experience in North Vietnam, and of fathering a black child by a prostitute (Senator McCain his wife adopted an orphan from Bangladesh) to help George W. Bush win the 2000 Republican South Carolina primary, it is only fitting that Rove has impaled himself on the media stiletto he has wielded so faithfully in the service of his master.

The gist of the story is that Rove was incensed at the July 2003 New York Times opinion piece by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who revealed that Bush had falsely stated that Saddam Hussein was attempting to obtain yellow cake uranium from “an African country” (Niger) in the 2003 State of the Union speech. An obviously forged letter which implicated Saddam was the impetus for the CIA’s decision to send Joseph Wilson to Niger in 2002 to investigate the allegations. (In July of 2003 David Ensor of CNN reported that one of the forged documents, a letter discussing the uranium deal with Iraq, contained the faked signature of Tandja Mamadou, the president of Niger and another, written on paper from a 1980s military government in Niger, bears the date of October 2000 and the signature of a man who by then had not been foreign minister of Niger for 14 years.) By the time President Bush delivered his State of the Union speech in January of 2003, the CIA, the Vice President, and the National Security Council were all aware that the documents were forged and the uranium allegations unproven.

After the Wilson revelations, in an effort to limit the damage to President Bush’s credibility, Rove leaked information to reporters, including Matt Cooper of Time Magazine, that Wilson was sent to Africa at the behest of his wife (Valerie Plame Wilson) and warned Cooper against going “too far out on Wilson.”

Unfortunately for Rove, he violated federal law by outing Wilson’s wife, who was a CIA operative in the field of Weapons of Mass Destruction. When the leak first surfaced- Robert Novak’s column was the first to identify Plame by name- the CIA sought a special prosecutor to identify and prosecute the leaker. During the course of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, one reporter, Judith Miller of the New York Times, has gone to jail for refusing to identify an administration leaker, while Matt Cooper of Time avoided jail and revealed Rove’s role after receiving a waiver from Rove’s attorney early last week.

The right wing media and politicians have received their talking points from Rove, and as usual, their response is to attack the messengers who tell the truth. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman appeared on July 17th’s Meet the Press and declared “outrageous” the calls for Rove’s firing from Democratic Senators John Kerry, Charles Schumer, and Hillary Clinton (he apparently forgot to mention Ted Kennedy, for which he will lose Limbaugh points in the pit bull competition). From Mehlman’s contorted facial expressions, he didn’t even appear to believe his own absurd comments, and neither did host Tim Russert. As I watched, I wondered idly how much more fun the show could be if NBC hooked up the politico guests to a lie detector, so the audience could see the wild swings of the needle as the prevarications piled up.

Meanwhile, the President has apparently backtracked on his pledge to fire the leaker, in an interpretation of the English language worthy of Bill Clinton’s explanation of his grand jury testimony in the Paula Jones case. The New York Times reported on July 13, 2005:

“Mr. Bush was asked in June 2004 whether he would fire anyone who leaked Ms. Wilson's name. Without hesitation, he said "yes." But if Ms. Wilson was discussed -- but not named -- current and former White House officials say Mr. Bush may not feel he is violating his pledge by keeping the political engineer who, as deputy chief of staff, is now formulating much of the domestic policy agenda of Mr. Bush's second term.”

I guess it all depends on the meaning of the word “fire.”

Saturday, July 09, 2005


(Jim & Ben ride top of London double decker bus)

(this column is for THE ALBANY JOURNAL 7/14/05)

“We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities....Victory in Iraq is essential to victory in the war on terror. We have a strategy to achieve that victory.”
President George W. Bush, Greely Colorado, October 25, 2004.

"An assault on Iraq will inflame world opinion and jeopardise security and peace everywhere. London, as one of the major world cities, has a great deal to lose from war and a lot to gain from peace, international cooperation and global stability."

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, September 28, 2002 (prior to America’s invasion of Iraq in March of 2003).

When my son Ben called me from Kuwait in June of 2003, he mentioned to me that he would like to travel after he came home and was released from active duty- to “see the world other than from behind the barrel of an M-16,” was how he put it. Four months later, he got his wish. Using a Eurail pass, he visited Germany, France, Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway. After he had been on the road for about a month, we met up in England at Gatwick Airport. I flew from Atlanta, the late night flight over the Atlantic meeting the rising sun over the Irish Sea.

We bummed around for 10 days in a rented Nissan Micro, stopping at touristy places like Stonehenge, Bath, Cardiff, and Stratford on Avon. But our favorite stop was unquestionably the city of London, where we spent several days visiting museums, art galleries, stores, and going to plays. Once in the city, we parked our car and traveled by train, bus, the Underground, and on foot.

Which brings me to my topic- the tragedy of July 7th on the London Underground and on a city bus. When Ben and I visited the city, we traveled through two of the targeted railway stations, Kings Cross and Russell Square. We rode an open topped double decked bus on a tourist ride around the city. (See the photo.) We even visited my old home- a flat in South Kensington not far from Knightsbridge where three other college students and I lived while attending school in east London. It was 34 years ago when I briefly lived in London, and the tube (the slang term for their underground trains) was the way to travel if you didn’t have a motorcar or bicycle.

The college we attended in eastern London was miles away from our flat, in an area referred to as the “City of London” where almost 2,000 years ago the Romans built the original Londinium. When Ben and I visited the old city in 2003, we made a point of walking through the area and viewing the old Roman walls which had been excavated. The sense of history throughout the country is palpable- a cathedral or castle less than 300 years old is relatively new. The faded remnants of Roman roads, ruins, baths- even gold mines- are everywhere.

But in July of 2005, all that was torn asunder, as men (I’m relatively sure no women were involved) did what envious, jealous, mindless human beings have done since the dawn of time- they tried to destroy that which they are unable to build for themselves. The same nihilistic tendencies which impel bullies to tear down painstakingly built sand castles on the beach inhabit the religious zealots who justify their use of bombs to wreak terror and stop the heartbeat of the greatest city in the world- if only for a day.

I loved my time living in London as a college student back in 1971. I loved having my honeymoon there with my beautiful bride twelve years ago. In October of 2003, the pleasure I experienced accompanying my son, several months after he was mired in the muck and chaos of the War in Iraq, cannot be communicated in words. We went to plays, visited Parliament and Big Ben, saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, climbed an ancient tower, and ate Indian curry near Picadilly Circus. We spent hours at the British Museum, staring in awe at artifacts brought back decades ago from the very country where my son had gone to war only seven months earlier.

The July 7th bombing won’t destroy London and it won’t break the spirit of its citizens. When the IRA waged war there- the first IRA bombing (the Post Office Tower) occurred in October of 1971- the gritty British managed to keep their city and their country on an even keel. But it saddens me nonetheless, thousands of miles and years removed from the place I will always think of as the greatest- and most civilized- city in the world.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Susette Kelo, who lost in the Supreme Court land taking case, with attorney Scott Bullock © Institute for Justice, 2005

(This column ran in July 7, 2005 THE ALBANY (Ga.) JOURNAL)

"Walk on my property trying to take it, and I will die fighting for it."

"If you take a life for someone taking your property, if I'm on the jury I will not convict you."

Anonymous vents, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/30/2005.

NRA supporters typically support Republican candidates for one very simple reason: they feel that Republican legislators are less likely to craft laws that will take away their guns and their privileges in carrying and using them. Fair enough, since the legislative history pretty much supports that viewpoint- Democrats are far more likely to come down on the side of gun safety and keeping guns out of the hands of the emotionally disturbed and mentally ill, while Republicans are more laissez faire on the subject. But when it comes to government power over our homes and private property, it may surprise voters to know that earlier this year it was the Democrats and the Free Press who held off an effort by Georgia’s newly empowered Republican Party to give away the farm (literally) to foreign developers.

The subject of "eminent domain" ordinarily is a topic which is about as exciting as watching paint dry or snoozing through a long winded, pointless sermon. Simply put, eminent domain, also called the "taking clause," is the power given to the government under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution to take your personal property- your home- and use it for a governmental purpose. The operative phrase is: "... nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." And the recent uproar focuses on two words in that phrase: "public use."

When Oakridge Drive was extended across southern Albany in the late 1970’s, many houses had to be condemned to make way for the road. When Dawson Road was widened to four lanes from two a couple of decades ago, every landowner on the route lost valuable frontage, diminishing the value of his or her property. Whether the government is building a jail, courthouse, or road, we may not like it, but at least we understand it when the government takes our property for an obvious public purpose.

But what happens when they take our homes so a big developer can put in a mall or office complex that will pay out more taxes than we do on our homes? Every person I’ve talked to, Republican or Democrat, is outraged by the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut that upheld the power of a local government to take private property and hand it over to a developer for private businesses.

But if you voted for a Republican State Senator or member of the State House of Representatives last year, what are the odds you will know that during the 2005 session- the first in over a century with a Republican House, Senate, and Governor- bills were introduced by Republican leadership in both the House and Senate that would have allowed developers to take your private property without you even knowing about the deal until it was too late?

Senate Bill 5, introduced by the Senate Republican leadership, would have allowed private developers to do exactly that- take your property and give it to a private developer. As Sam Griffin, Jr. wrote in the Bainbridge Post Searchlight last January, when the bill was introduced:

"The idea embodied in SB 5, touted by Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, to allow state and local governments to use the power of eminent domain to seize private property and turn it over to private developers for private commercial purposes is the most outrageously repugnant piece of legislative claptrap since the Yazoo Land Fraud. It is neither a conservative principle nor consistent with the president’s concept of an "ownership generation"—and if Gov. Perdue and responsible Republican leadership do not immediately repudiate, quash and bury forever this travesty, folks will soon be hunting down the Georgia GOP with dogs."

Strong words indeed, especially from a conservative South Georgian who would ordinarily back Republican causes. As for the Republican controlled House, they did their part to help the giveaway to private developers by coming up with House Bill 218, which would have allowed local governments to negotiate in secret to give away property, tax breaks, or sweetheart land deals. Under HB 218, a county commission could engage in secret negotiations to attract a landfill, hazardous waste dump, or other undesirable activity without any public knowledge. The public would not be informed until after a deal is signed.

It was only because our free press was diligent- people like Sam Griffin, Jr., papers like the Savannah Morning News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and many others- that neither of these bills made it through. But that was this year, and next year the Republican leadership could come up with a quieter, more subtle version of the same that could slip by our media watchdogs. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in February that Republican State Senator Dan Moody of Alpharetta, one of the sponsors of the bill to take private property and give it to developers, gave his bill a "mock funeral." But he didn’t give up: "Instead, he decided to fight another day, and e-mailed an obituary that listed one survivor: a study committee."

So if you want to keep your property rights intact, and if you want your local governments to have to be open and honest with you about their business dealings with foreign developers, then talk to your State Representative or State Senator today. And remind them that their decisions on these bills could cost them their seats next year.