Friday, October 28, 2005

Hungry? Eat Your Damned Cake!

Marie Antoinette would have loved these assholes.

While everyone was running around screaming either "Partisan Hack!" or "Happy Fitzmas", the House Agriculture Committee was doing the work of the devil.

And, as a result of a strict party line vote, up to 300,000 people are now one step closer to starvation in the "greatest nation in the World", in line to lose the one bone that the federal government throws the working poor, much of the time: Food Stamps.

Adding insult to injury, it is the fact that this for those families *is* often the only bone they get to help their survival that was used to justify cutting them off - because they make "too much money." I guess our nation's post-Katrina love affair with the poor has now officially ended.

Did I mention that the icing on the cake was that this happened just HOURS after the USDA reported that we'd set a new record for American hunger in 2004:

38.2 million Americans experienced food insecurity. According to the USDA report, which is linked here, this figure is up 2,000,000 people from 2003.

Today's amoral 25-20 vote (did I mention it was along party lines - Republicans I hope you burn in hell) also affects eligibility for school based meals (breakfasts and lunches.) As a former beneficiary of the school lunch program myself as a child, I can tell you what that means: worse performance in school by at risk youth, because they're hungry and cannot concentrate. Because their parents have no money for either hot lunches or even to make a home lunch, much of the time.

That ought to really help performance on those No Child Left Behind tests....

Those sneaky SOB's. They *knew* that there was no political will for this cut, which they tried but failed to shove down our throats a week ago. They knew it would never happen if anyone who cared about hunger and poverty was actually looking. So they deliberately waited for the *one* day that they knew that the media and progressives would be looking in the other direction, all out waiting to celebrate a made-up holiday called Fitzmas.

And our Democratic politicians, including on the Ag Committee, who supposedly are above such excess actually did not seem to care enough to warn folks about what was coming. They certainly appear to have let themselves be snookered.

Oh well, if by some miracle Libby is not pardoned and actually does time, he will at least get three squares a day.

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Scooter Scooted Away (Sans Literal Cuffs)

Well, despite all the hype on both sides of the political aisle ("nobody committed a crime, you partisan ()$*)@*$!" vs. "22 indictments! Rove! Cheney! OMG!") the indictment of Scooter Libby for perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice today was not all that earth-shattering. Anyone who paid close attention to the Judith Miller fiasco should have known that her belated "finding" of "forgotten" June 23 notes about a conversion with Libby was the nail in his (not her) coffin.

The indictment reads like a well-crafted story. There is quite a bit in it that is, technically, superfluous to the ultimate charges - but by in large it skirts just on the right side of the "motion to strike" line, i.e. there is nothing superfluous in it.

Libby's (under) statement: "Obviously, today is a sad day for me and my family."

It sure is. Indictment and knowing that the State Bar's going to be coming after your ass so that you can't even keep your career even if you're acquitted would make anybody sad. But hey, I don't feel sorry for him - a licensed lawyer knows not to screw around playing cute games fast and loose with the literal truth. So I do hope Scooter thought his license was worth it. The rumor mill says he took a fall for Dick Cheney, who if you read the indictment was indeed one of the persons who told Scooter about Valerie Plame (except that he told Libby based on information Cheney got from a mysterious "Official A", an "under secretary of State"). Sorry but Dick Cheney shouldn't be worth anybody's livelihood and freedom.

But who knows? Apparently they are thicker than thieves. Thicker than Rove and Dubbya, even.

Libby's lawyer's insists that Patrick Fitzgerald has already concluded that Libby did not violate the laws against leaking the identity of a covert agent. This may or may not be true - after all, as Libby's lawyer (ooh how alliterative!) knows, an indictment does not require that all charges be set forth at once, and it can be amended as things progress. This may well be the case, but somehow I doubt it. While Patrick Fitzgerald clearly is not a media hog (he seemed really nervous today) he strikes me as very very good at his job. And, knowing the situation in which he finds himself, if he had the goods to charge, he would have.

What really matters, in the end, is not whether Lewis Libby will get 30 years and end up spending his last years fleeing large burly felons in federal prison. What really matters is how akimbo the United States' government's moral compass has become and how damaged our standing in the world is as a result. Fitzmas, the gleeful celebration of comeuppance that most on the left have been praying for, merely left me depressed most of the time. Sure, there have been high level officials indicted before. Clinton's impeachment over lying about a blow-job is still fresh in many people's memory. But I don't have any memories of someone committing treason (outing a covert agent working on WMD, our national security) merely as vengeful tit-for-tat. And if nothing else, the indictment as written makes clear that there is indeed a relationship between Joseph Wilson's column proving that the "sixteen words" that Bush used to take our country to war were false and the destruction of Valerie Wilson Plame's career as a covert operative.

Finally, I admit that I sort of feel sorry for those many folks who went through a week of paroxyms of joy over "Fitzmas", only to now be feeling a bit like Charlie Brown looking into his Halloween bag:

"I got a rock".

Now, we get to watch both the brutal disappointment and the spin, from the reality based community. When, of course, if folks had stepped back emotionally from the need for revenge (a need I certainly understand emotionally) they'd have realized that the likely outcome was going to underwhelm them, and that despite all hopes this might not still be "The Moment" when the entire country realized that the *entire* Bush Administration - starting with Bush himself - is morally bankrupt, criminal, rotten to the core.

What we got instead was a moment in which a staff person is "frogmarched" (whatever the hell that means; I've never known) off but all the real folks in charge remain unscathed. Hell, they couldn't even nail Karl Rove (although it remains to be seen if an indictment for him is still coming). Given this, I predict that after a few days of media frenzy, the wingnuts and moderates-in-denial who needed to understand clearly what those on the left already know abotu the Bush Administration simply won't care anymore.

After all, we're talking Libby. Scooter Libby means almost nothing to anyone who doesn't follow politics as a hobby. He's not Bush's chief of staff; he's Dick Cheney's. In other words, so far off the larger public's radar in terms of importance that it won't take long for folks to go "yeah, wasn't anyone who really *mattered*. Now, of course, he matters - big time. But this indictment does not validate the *reasons* that Libby matters -- that he, along with his boss and others in the White House Iraq Group, are responsible for squandering all the goodwill that the United States had in the world post 9-11, and have left us shamed, and hated, throughout the world, because of our illegal war of aggression against Iraq.

Frankly the best thing to come out of today was the sight of Dubbya reading a 15-second "Libby you're doing great" speech and practically *running* to his helicoper to flee to Camp David.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bye Bye Harriet Miers

Well, that didn't take long.

According to both CNN and the NY Times, Harriet Miers has withdrawn from her candidacy for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The stated grounds, according to her resignation letter was that the Judiciary Committee had presented her with a choice: (a) release documents relating to her White House service or (b) be prepared to testify about her work.

She, of course, has refused. On the stated grounds of separation of powers and executive privilege.

That tells me that despite what I am sure was a stellar career as a corporate lawyer Ms. Miers spent diddly time studying the rules of privilege, legal or executive.

Executive privilege is an exemption granted to certain members of the executive branch having to testify about certain matters, if they choose not to. The limited parameters of the right of executive privilege were analyzed rather thoroughly in United States v. Nixon (you remember Tricky Dick!). The court confirmed that the right of executive privilege is indeed constitutional in nature, emanating from separation of powers even though never enumerated -- but the privilege is not absolute. So, a generalized assertion that information needs to be kept "confidential" is not enough to invoke the privilege. Instead, it was found in the Nixon case that when we're not talking about "state secrets", but instead merely "confidential executive deliberations" the executive privilege yields when there is a compelling national interest in disclosure of the information. While Dick Cheney currently has US v. Nixon under collateral attack in connection with his double-super-secret Energy Task Force - since Cheney has *not*, contrary to myth, invoked executive privilege - for now, Nixon remains the law of the land.

Because detailed information about her background, experience, qualifications and legal reasoning is central to evaluating her nomination, disclosure of information about Ms. Miers' work at the White House is indeed critical, and there is a compelling national interest for at least some level of disclosure.

Disclosure that, as we can see from her resignation letter and Bush's stonewalling for the past two weeks, this Administration has no intention of providing.

So if Harriet Miers, (former) contender for one of the most critical legal jobs in the country, doesn't understand why there is a compelling national interest in the disclosure of her work in the White House, she is clearly unqualified to do the job.

But there's another privilege at work here, which always applies to an attorney, licensed or no: the attorney-client privilege. It goes completely without mention in Miers resignation letter, even though it is a more theoretically solid privilege than executive privilege. I think that's not an accident.

Attorney-client privilege does not belong to the lawyer, even though the paramount duty is on us to assert it. Instead, the attorney-client privilege belongs to the client. In this case, to the extent that we are talking about legal advice that Ms. Miers did not wish disclosed, it was fully and utterly in Dubbya's power to say: "go ahead and talk."

He refused, obviously. Instead, he flip-flopped and accepted her resignation, having as recently as yesterday insisted that he would not withdraw her name.

And that says a lot about precisely how much information Ms. Miers may well have in her possession about a variety of subjects - everything from the Bush's TANG service to Abu Ghraib to lord knows what else. Information that Bush does not want disclosed, for whatever reason.

There will be a lot of spin about the meaning of today's resignation: whether it was intended to detract from what all presume to be coming indictments in the Plamegate Affair, whether it reflects the "last straw" diss of the Concerned Women of America after the National Review came out yesterday swinging about Miers' 1993 speech about judicial activism and separation of powers, which CWA and others freaked out about as code indicating Miers' potential support for Roe v. Wade; or whether it was simply that Bush wanted to avoid the public humiliation of what was rumored to be two GOP senators publicly coming out against the Miers nomination today. Who knows.

What we do know is that Ms. Miers, despite her low profile and rather secretarial demeanor (which I still am pissed at her about), is likely someone with a great deal of information in her possession that Bush is terrified of having see the light of day.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks Has Passed

It is hard to know what to say at a historic passing, such as that of Rosa Parks today at the age of 92.

Should I ruminate about what her name and her actions have meant to me and to other Black women of my generation? Should I tell the story of my mother, born and raised in Prattville and a participant as a young woman in the Montgomery Bus Boycott spawned in anger at Sister Parks' arrest, and her own adoration of Rosa Parks?

Or is it enough to give the moment of national silence that her passing seems to suggest is the only fitting tribute?

I'm finding that as I get older, there is this truth to be contended with: When our heroes and heroines die, part of us feels like it died with them. In the case of political heroines like Sister Parks, however, to succumb to that feeling is to dishonor their memory. In her case, from her early activity in the Montgomery civil rights movement, to her historical moment of truth on a bus, Rosa Parks never succumbed. She never gave in, all rules and battle fatigue notwithstanding.

Those of us still fighting the good fight for equality, albeit in a very different world than Rosa Parks faced, can never give up. We can never succumb, or give in, no matter how weary.

Rest in Peace, great Sister.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

No Car? No Food? No Problem!

If you don’t eat or drive, inflation’s no problem

I’m not sure you could say it any more plainly than this headline in today’s NY
Times – credibility deeply wounded by the Judith Miller/Plamegate morass, but kicking ass on a number of populist fronts in today’s issue (perhaps because they’re trying to staunch the blood?).

In case you didn't hear, the rate of inflation (as measured by the CPI-U) shot up in September to a rate of 1.2%, meaning that inflation over the past 12 months was a comparatively whopping 4.7%. Comparatively, meaning only in terms of the former boom (God I miss Clinton's econony!) in which money was cheap and the rule was Laissez les bon temps roulez!.This is a rate of increase for the CPI-U that is nearly 2.5 times that which was experienced in July and August, 2005 (0.5% both months.)

But we’re not supposed to look at the man behind that particular curtain. Instead, we are told that the only REAL concern is the “core CPI”. What is the “core CPI”? Why, that’s the one that increased only 0.1% - because it excludes the cost of energy and food. The reason we’re told this is really the “right” number to focus on is that the “core CPI” is less “volatile” than the CPI-U. Obviously, the people who are contending this are people whose “Do I eat this month or pay the phone bill?” radar isn’t growing increasingly shrill each time they fill up their car to go to work.

If nothing else, today’s Times article highlights a fundamental disconnect between the mindset of those most responsible for our nation’s economy and the people who actually have to live in that economy -- the citizenry. It’s notable that, when the “core CPI” was developed as a measure 30 years ago, economists were saying (according to the Times):

"When we were asked to strip out some of the most important things that people buy, my reaction was, 'You've got to be nuts,' " he said. "These are the vital necessities of life."

What good does it do to highlight that the price of everything other than the “vital necessities of life” remains stable (a claim that is highly dubious, as another article in the Times today about health care costs shows) when the “vital necessities of life” (which in the case of energy costs, went up 35% in a year) eliminate many families’ disposable income to spend on all that other stuff? What good does it to do play macro market games when the primary impetus for the economy, consumer spending, is continuing to shrivel out of necessity, as more and more folks – particularly at the bottom rungs of the working class -- confront the reality that eating and paying for gas to get to work may become a daily choice if things go on unabated? Indeed, as the money quote from the article says:
The dueling numbers seem to offer a classic case of how economists and consumers view the world differently. If only we lived in some futuristic biosphere where we didn't need energy or food, inflation wouldn't matter.

Futuristic biosphere aside, most of us living on Earth at the present still need to eat. And yet monetary policy continues to be set, and emphasized, by those who focus only on the long-term vision of macroeconomics. Things like “volatility” and “monetary supply” mean something to those who are looking at money as an investment, as something extra to play with. Yet “volatility” and “monetary supply” are terms that have meaning to most working women and men on the street only when they affect what it costs for them to pick up a gallon of milk this week.

Recognizing that Alan Greenspan is retiring (finally!) the next person in charge of monetary policy simply has to be more connected, thinking wise, to the real concerns of real day to day people and ensure that decisionmaking is forced to at least evaluate (and disclose) the bottom line impact of Fed monetary decisionmaking on day-to-day lives. It does no good to have millionaires celebrating in the streets about how the economy is growing gangbusters and making them a fortune if the workers that are responsible for the production of that fortune are increasingly teetering on the edge of volunteer slavery.

But in the meantime, the spin never ends, even as winter is coming.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

American Desecration of the Iraqi Dead

It is said that the stress of warfare will reduce a man to an animal, given enough time and fear.

I guess that's where some of our soldiers find themselves today:

From today's New York Times: American Desecration of the Dead

It's hard to know what to say in the face of this type of news (other than Thank you Australian Broadcasting Company, for showing what we all know would never have been shown here by our own ABC if the foreign media hadn't made it impossible to hide first). It was bad enough that they set fire to the corpses, a practice forbidden in Islam. But to read that they chose to do so deliberately facing the bodies away from Mecca, and then taunted the enemy with fact as propaganda, sends chills down my spine.

We claim to mock al Qaeda's assertions of jihad and holy war, and there is a lot that is worthy of mocking truthfully, since the Quran is far less warmongering than those folks claiming to act in its name (just as the Bible historically has diverged from the idjits who have waged Christian holy war). But in a civilized world, there has always been a limit - and at least one of those limits was in the area of the dead. yet our own troops are screwing with the dead - revered in all cultures -- just to say "fuck you" to the religion of Islam, practiced by billions world-wide?

I don't think so.

This is not the first time that the United States military has descended into vicious bloody-jawed bacchanalia over the image of the "enemy dead." I still vividly see the front-page photographs of the dead faces of Qusay and Uday Hussein that were splashed over our front page media - and remember the jubilance that was associated with those images. Perhaps that's when we crossed the line. Perhaps those photos were what desensitized folks enough where they became perpetrators of abuse at Abu Ghraib. Perhaps the sick fucks who desecrated corpses laid facing their holy land saw both as their personal equivalent of the Lynndie England "thumbs up."

Or maybe it was just the mindless, chickenshit, tactics of a conventional army who, as Malcolm X said 40 years ago, is so incapable of understanding and successfully ighting a guerrilla warfare that they were reduced to playing "neener neener" with dead bodies just so their opponents would make their presence known?

In the interview with the producers, Mr. Dupont explained that the American soldiers had been trying to bait the Taliban fighters to shoot at them. "They want the Taliban to fight them because they can't find them otherwise."

That's some sad shit, there, if true. And if it is, why don't we just pack it in and come on home if the only way we have to even confront our so-called enemy is to become barbarians? All fancy weaponry aside, we've been outclassed if we can do no better in the theatre than to taunt our opponents like children using the dead -- formerly sacred to all cultures -- as bait. That type of behavior went out when druids were still sent out in advance to taunt ancient enemy armies with their magic, I thought.

Of course we all know the whitewash is coming:

"This command takes all allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior seriously," Maj. Gen. Jason K. Kamiya, the American commander of daily tactical operations in Afghanistan, said in a separate statement issued by the Central Command. "If the allegation is substantiated, the appropriate course of action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and corrective action will be taken."

General Kamiya continued, "This command does not condone the mistreatment of enemy combatants or the desecration of their religious and cultural beliefs."

Sure we don't. That's why the propagandists were out equating Abu Ghraib to a college hazing, right? That's why the only persons to have taken a dive for what has become the US's default policy of abuse were a poor, stupid, young woman in love with a superior officer and similarly low-level lackeys, right?

Anyone who knows anything about history knows that millions have died over the centuries over religion. Religious belief has spurred and maintained more brutal, take-no-prisoners warfare in the world than is imaginable, sometimes. Yet here are our soldiers, troops from a nation that supposedly is beyond all that, deliberately taunting the enemy about the strength of its religious beliefs using the one thing that used to be sacred even in wartime: the bodies of the fallen. I can already see the headlines when, once again, just as they did last year over the news that at Guantanamo Bay the Quran itself was being desecrated, Muslims all over the world rise up in protest to call the United States the heathens, the barbarians, that this type of incident says we are.

And what will we say in response, this time After all, not everything can continue to be an "unfortunate exception". At some point exceptions become the rule.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Down but Not Out - Ms. Bunny on PBS

Two months ago, I wrote a diary about an incredible woman, and the fact that the train was on the tracks for her involuntary firing from the Army Corps of Engineers: Bunnatine Greenhouse, former Senior Procurement Officer. The response I got to that diary here and on DailyKOS was incredible.

But nowhere near as incredible as Ms. Bunny herself. She is a living example of the advice my father always gave me:

They may knock you down, but don't ever let them knock you OUT.

Of course, those of us who saw her Waterloo coming, employment wise, were only 1/2 right. Ms. Bunny was not fired. She was demoted. But the Army Corps didn't even wait until September, as originally planned - they knocked her down multiple paygrades and effectively stripped her of all power to do...well pretty much anything. Certainly, they took away all authority she had over procurement. As Ms. Bunny notes, it was not about competence - nobody has been able to combat her years of stellar performance reviews. It was about humiliation.

Make no mistake: today's 5 page expose about Ms. Bunny in theWashington Post, shows a sister that may have been knocked down status-wise by the Army Corps, but definitely has not been knocked out:

I learned very early that everything you did in life you did with every fiber of your being," she says, her voice a mix of pride and fury. "Why would I sit here now and let them tell me that I'm something I'm not? Why would I do that? I'm Bunny Greenhouse first, then I'm in a government position. I will not compromise who I am."

In other words, all that the Army Corps did by taking on this woman -- in this case, as proxy for the big boys at Halliburton/KBR acting through their elected stooge, Dick Cheney -- was, apparently, strengthen her will. Ms. Bunny has been talking, and telling, and still speaking truth to power. Including last week on PBS, where she gave an interview about her situation on NOW, which was looking at government contracting practices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and - you guessed it -- no bid contracts being awarded, including to Ms. Bunny's thorn, Halliburton Corporation.

Ms. Bunny could have easily just retired from civil service, and gone on to a stellar career as a pundit (after all, a lot of ex-government folks do that, and get paid handsomely). But nooo......apparently even in her ignominous demoted position, she still shows up to work every day, still ready to make a contribution to her government. To her country.

And she's getting famous doing it. People have speculated that Ms. Bunny would make a hell of a President, Vice President, the works. As the exemplary public servant.

That makes perfect sense when you understand how Ms. Bunny thinks about what she did, and what she is supposed to do. The money quote from Ms. Bunny's recent interview:

What is it the government wants? What is it that the public trust wants? What is it that you would have liked for me to have done if not to raise the issues of those things. If I felt that I had not the capability to be able to do it well and to look in the mirror and know that I have served this public the best I possibly could, I would have been the first person to step down.

Mention Ms. Bunny's name and you can almost see the patriotic flags waving. She is the quintessential public servant, the one we were all told didn't really exist, who cares about the public fisc and fights for us as taxpayers as if the money were personally hers. She is the obvious counter example to Bush's own personal corrupt procurement officer, former administrator for the Office of Procurement Policy, David Safavian, who is on his way to....well, jail, for his willingness to play fast and loose with the government's power to spend your and my public monies and then even faster and looser with the truth when someone tried to look into what was going on between him and a certain lobbyist named Jack Abramoff.

Just think: If the country got 435 Ms. Bunny's in the House, and 100 in the Senate, what type of fiscally responsble government might we finally have?

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

You GO, Ms. Bunny

P.S. The National Whistleblower Center has set up a legal defense fund for Ms. Bunny. If you haven't donated already, go here and give generously. America needs more civil servants like Bunnantine Greenhouse!

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Wisdom from Al Gore

While I'm here in New York dealing with the heartrending business of attending to my mother's last months/weeks/days on Earth, I have not been able to blog much, but I've been bitch slapped so hard about my own political echo-chamber thoughts -- and how insulated I was in even my little ghetto home of East Palo Alto from much of the grassroots -- that I am in for months of reflection.

Which is why this speech, which I saw on DailyKOS from Albert Gore, Jr., really moved me. Primarily because he speaks out about something I've been talking about for the past five years, the deterioration of the ability of most people in this country to engage in political discourse with folks holding different views, and the resultant fracturing of the nation - - a fracturing which really should scare folks, given that we are now seeing the holes in the dike of the Bush Administration's facade.

Here's a link to the video: Al Gore's Speech to The Media Center

And to the transcript: Transcript

Here are some rich nuggets for thought:

The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.

For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world.

To me, the money quote is its opening paragraph, and the subsequent discussion of how the "marketplace of ideas" (however flawed) served as a mediating force against a singular voice grounded in the politics of wealth and power. That discussion, which is but a part of a larger and well-thought out speech about the state of the media, makess clear that had Albert Gore, Jr. -- wooden, stiff, and seemingly too hoity toity to sell to the heartland -- had not been screwed by partisanship on the United States Supreme Court out of the title "President" that he earned in 2000, we'd not be now facing everything from the collapse of the American economy from fiscal hubris, the systematic elimination of the middle class with the bulk being absorbed into the working poor, and certainly not national shames such as our complicity in torture and mayhem in Iraq - or at least, we'd not be facing them with the comparable silence and lack of outrage that the American people as a whole are currently demonstrating:

. . .I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.

I feel you President Gore. This is wisdom - understanding that how we as Americans talk to each other, something that used to be taken for granted despite clear differences in political opinion, both supports and defines what made America different, what made America strong. And that the destruction of that ability to dialogue, even if imperfect, is a harbinger of the destruction of the idea of America itself.

It's just a shame that you have to abide these cautions before the Media Center instead of on the national stage that this type of wisdom deserves.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Be Careful What You Ask For....Dubbya's Pit Bull in The "Women's Seat"

My sisters who call themselves feminists have been stridently clear about only two things since it became clear that Dubbya was going to leave his imprimateur of his worldview on the United States Supreme Court. One of them was that they demanded that the primary test for whether a nominee was acceptable was whether or not that candidate was "pro-choice" as they define it - which somehow always manages to get distilled down to "the unfettered right to an abortion" despite the truth of the majority of women's views (but that ridiculous and unfortunately ongoing distillation is a discussion for another time.) Here is the second thing, which increased in volume upon Justice O'Connor's announcement of her retirement:

Justice O'Connor's "seat", for want of a better term, is a "woman's seat" and therefore should be/must be filled with a woman, or it is a signal that women are returning to second class citizenship.

Given his overwhelming success with his elevation of John Roberts - William Rehnquist's protege -- to Chief Justice, Dubbya had enough political capital left over that he could accomodate at least one of the two things feminists were demanding. He nominated a woman; his close personal friend and personal lawyer (now standing in as White House Counsel after Torture-Em-High Alberto Gonzales got a promotion), Harriet Miers. And he did so knowing that it will be impossible to attack her based on anything relating to he second demand - that Ms. Miers be "pro-choice" - because of (a) the "rule" that a nominee cannot comment about cases that might some day be before the court and (b) the use of the code phrases "conservatism in approaching precedent" and "stare decisis" to assuage those who look too narrowly at reproductive rights jurisprudence, seeing it almost entirely as a question of women's rights instead of a body of law addressing the broader questions of liberty and privacy, without regard to gender *or*, God help us, abortion (as opposed to the larger question of reproduction).

And he is able to do all of this because few people will bother to put the snippets we know about Harriet Miers together and courageously (without fear for who the next nominee might be) make the necessary arguments about why, based on a *holistic* view of the little that we know about her.

Saying that Ms. Miers resume is a little thin for a Supreme Court justice is an understatement. The non-controversial parts of it are, at least (there is already some controversy brewing over her role as Bush's lawyer in charge of cleaning up Dubbya's TANG records for public consumption, and over her role in silencing a whistleblower speaking out about corruption/cronyism in the Texas Lottery Commission even after Miers was hired precisely to fix this type of problem.

Indeed, there is only one thing on Ms. Miers' resume right now that doesn't have someone raising a "wait a minute" flag, something that is being touted by Dubbya *and* Harry Reid as a key reason that Ms. Miers is so qualified: that during a time where women had to fight in the legal profession, Harriet Miers was a successful partner at a corporate law firm and rose to managing partner.

Yeah, that's really reassuring. Not.

As any female lawyer under a certain age can tell you, a woman in Ms. Miers' age group who made partner at a large, corporate, law firm is not frequently a source of mentoring or support of other women. To the contrary, many of these women have become unconscious obstacles to advancement of women in the legal profession; and since they are women, of course they far more effective than the men in the club. Much in the same way that older doctors continue to resist changes in the training of medical students that would dramatically reduce the number of continuous "on call" hours that interns and residents must work, so too older female lawyers have often been the least sympathetic to changes in the legal profession that would allow their sisters to enter the field and succeed to partnership.

Of course, nobody has ever actually done a rigorous empirical study on this issue, but anecdotes abound:

See Comment by R.B.

Gender Schemas

The closest that one currently has to empirical data, Professor Deborah Rhode's 2001 summary of women in the legal profession for the American Bar Association The Unfinished Agenda indicates that there is a "'No Problem' Problem" in the legal profession - and that most women in power in the profession do not see gender as an impediment, any more than men in power do. Indeed, only 25% of women lawyers do.

Harriet Miers, as the first female attorney ever hired by her firm (and, subsequently, its first female managing partner, probably in no small measure due to her already extensive ties to George W. Bush), certainly got there through "singular dedication to her work". She has no children, no husband, and it's unclear whether she has had a long-standing nonmarital relationship of any kind. By all accounts, Harriet Miers was and remains a workhorse. This makes sense - there was simply no other way *for* a woman to make partner when she was up and coming (there still isn't now, not really). She had to, in many ways, become a man and prove that her gender was irrelevant (even as all thinking people know that gender is never irrelevant; much like racism, sexism is institutionalized.)

Having become one of the boys by making partner, Harriet Miers probably still was less likely to mentor other women coming behind her. At least if you take Professor Rhode's work, and the myriad anecdotes seriously, she may well have become a gatekeeper impeding the progress of women who were not "singularly dedicated" to their work, just another female lawyer insisting that there is "no problem" with women in the legal profession that couldn't be cured by billing more hours and having more beauty contests (what we lawyers call pitching business to a prospective business/corporate client of high billing potential who is in the market for new lawyers.)

Not exactly a basis for a lot of hope that Harriet Miers' background as one of the "pioneers" informs her about the struggles faced by women, whether in the legal profession or generally. Which is why I personally groan every time I hear about Harriet Miers' success at her old law firm. Speaking from *personal* experiences, I can say that if you're looking for a woman's advocate in an old-school female law firm partner, you're likely to be looking a very very long time.

Even worse, equal status for equally qualified women clearly isn't a priority, when the first job Harriet Miers did for George W. Bush in Washingtgon was not as assistant counsel, special counsel or any other job appropriate for a former firm managing partner and President of a State Bar who'd been carrying a law license for at least 30 years. What was Ms. Miers' first job for Dubbya in Washington?

His Staff Secretary.

So much for empowerment.

So far, here's what we know of Ms. Miers' views on women's rights: That she used to be a Democrat, but sometime during the Reagan Revolution, she had a born-again epiphany and switched political affiliations, even though she contributed $1,000 to Al Gore in 1988. We know that for the past 20 years, she has been a regular, devout, attendee at her local conservative Christian Church.

We know the question of groups she was affiliated with being seen as supporting abortion rights was at least troubling enough to her to take up the cause with the American Bar Association - our official "trade group", which most lawyers know has zero clout in terms of shaping any of its members' opinions on anything. Even lawyering.

We also now that personally, she is on the extreme end of the anti-choice movement.

That's a lot to know. And frankly, not a very happy knowledge, no matter how much I disagree (and I do vehemently) with the strident uber-feminist political rallying cry of "My body, my choice, and if you disagree you're a misogynist that wants to oppress or kill women." No matter how much I agree (and I do) with the view that the more women on the Court, the more likely that the diverse viewpoints of women will in fact be recognized and accepted as legitimate voices in society (although I'd argue that a woman of color - other than Janice Rogers Brown, who possesses the real life sensibilities of neither a woman nor a person of color but instead some strange sort of pod throwback to the 1920's where we women were barefoot and we darkies were happy with crumbs from the man - is what is needed to *truly* create harmony with Justice Ginsburg's voice and fill in absent viewpoints).

It seems clear that, in answering the feminist demand for a woman (other than Rogers Brown or Priscilla Owen, both who really have forfeited the right to call themselves women given their stridency) to step into the shoes, however conservative, of Sandra Day O'Connor, women have let themselves be hoist by their own petard with this nomination.

In light of all this, what can we predict about/expect from Harriet Miers? Well, with no judicial experience of any kind to temper her views of law, we can and should take what Dubbya said about her when he gave her Alberto Gonzales' former job to heart: She's a Pit Bull in Size 6 Shoes; an advocate's advocate. Moreover, as was highlighted in the National Review back in July, Miers is indeed staunchly anti-abortion (pro-life, if you will, but it never seems to be pro-life once the baby actually gets here). But she's not just any female pit bull who is opposed to abortion personally, by all accounts she's Dubbya's pit bull. She is staunchly loyal to George W. Bush, believing him to be the most brilliant man she's ever met. (Ms. Miers, if you really believe that, you simply must get out more.)

In other words, she's part of the same Dubbya Cult of Personality TM that Condoleeza Rice belongs to. Which, IMO, should be a disqualifying factor right there - a Supreme Court justice is not the President who nominates her or the Senate who confirms her, but constitutionally charged with literally shaping the entire nation's rights, long after both the President and Senate of her day are gone.

In other words, Harriet Miers may be a powerful woman, but she's Bush's woman, above all else. And, unlike Justice O'Connor, there is no evidence that Harriet Miers experienced personally the deep anger and frustration of being prevented by sexism from rising to the heights her qualifications justified. We all know that Justice O'Connor, despite being 3rd in her Stanford Law School class, couldn't get a job when she graduated as a lawyer without help (although she had to beat the secretarial offers off with a pool cue). Thus, when it came to women's concerns one most often saw the centrist side of Justice O'Connor...a balance that despite the evident narrow reading of jurisprudence that is evident in her decisions, reflected her real life experience and a real life understanding that law is not as simple as it seems.

(It's a shame Justice O'Connor couldn't extend her sense of distributive justice into the realm of race; I continue to be heartbroken that my undergraduate commencement speaker, my SLS alumna sister, and the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court was brutally and affirmatively oppositional when it came to remedies for discrimination against Black people in the work place).

Make no mistake: Justice O'Connnor is the key reason that Planned Parenthood v. Casey was not a complete overruling of Roe v. Wade. It is Justice O'Connor's "undue burden" reasoning in Casey, which pissed off hard-core feminists but was nonetheless far more legally sound than the practically sound but legally-garbage framework set forth in Roe that has ultimately protected the right acknowledged in Roe, rendering the fundamental premise of pre-viability choice far more unassailable than it was after Roe was decided. Recognizing that hard core feminists blame the Casey for the subsequent ascention of TRAP and other laws attemping to kill the abortion right by degrees, legal scholars know with certainty that Casey has a lot greater chance of survival even in the face of a hostile majority on the Supreme Court than Roe ever did.

Can we expect the same type of "practical reading of jurisprudence" from Harriet Miers, stealth candidate extraordinaire - who doesn't have so much as a law review article attributable to her that one can review to read the tea leaves from what folks can tell so far? Can we trust in anything she says or will say, or even that the confirmation process will truly work, given the no-doubt now regretted precedent established during Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 1993 confirmation process: the right of a nominee to demur to answering questions about fact patterns which *might* someday be before the Court?

Who knows. The tea leaves are looking muddy. And, the only counterbalance to a worst case scenario offered to us so far about Harriet Miers' views on constitutional jurisprudence, the role of the Supreme Court, and her role on it if confirmed, is this:

It is the responsibility of every generation to be true to the founders' vision of the proper role of the courts and our society. If confirmed, I recognize that I will have a tremendous responsibility to keep our judicial system strong and to help ensure that the courts meet their obligations to strictly apply the laws and the constitution.

Well, hell, we all know what the founders' vision (i.e. back to the Constitutional Convention; nobody coming is a "founder") of the proper role of the courts and our society means for women and people of color. If one takes that to its logical extreme in light of her anti-abortion views one could easily in a moment of panic conclude only one thing:

It's back to the kitchen, ladies; except for me, where it's back to the plantation, lawyer or no lawyer; there is no safe quarter in gender when you are a Black female.

Finally, I cannot overlook that at least right now some feminist spokespersons are still so flummoxed about how to respond to Miers'nomination -- in contrast to Roberts -- that they can't stay focused on their 'primary mission' and suddenly are are hinting at caring about Miers' views about 'civil rights' . Given how badly feminist voices flubbed this very issue of civil rights in connection with the Roberts nomination, it seems that this mention is not an accident, but a deliberate strategy of trying to find a back-up complaint just in case they can't find anything meaty to support a claim that Ms. Miers is anti-women's rights. Of course, had these same folks made such a charge in connection with John Roberts and his far-better known disdain for civil rights, and sought out coalition based on that issue as the primary issue rather than demanding that abortion be the only true litmus test for his nomination, we might have actually had a real chance to win the war and thus prevent Roberts' likely misogynist views from becoming enshrined on the Supreme Court. But noooooooooooo......abortion was the only thing that mattered when it came to Roberts, and thus the words 'civil' and 'rights' (let alone affirmative action, Black people, or racism) did not appear in a single Roberts' missive issued by a traditional feminist group. In no small measure, I lay responsibility for Roberts' overwhelming confirmation at the feet of single-minded dogma about abortion based on no more than hints and clues to the exclusion of charges about racism and civil rights that had more meat to support them in Roberts' actual record.)

All this leads to the cynic in me feeling thusly about this nomination and the overall debacle that is being wrought on the last bastion of rights, the Supreme Court:

Be careful what you ask for. Because you may get it.

(Folks might want to give womanism a try next time, which is grounded more in common sense survival tactics and less in dogma; we'll live longer.)

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