Watergate star reporter takes a fall

Deborah Howell, the Washington Post‘s ombudsman, calling Bob Woodward, “the master of the anonymous source,” has criticized him for keeping the information “that he had been told about the identity of CIA analyst Valerie Plame more than two years ago” from Executive Editor Len Downie and for “commenting on National Public Radio and ‘Larry King Live’ about the Plame investigation without disclosing his early knowledge of Plame’s identity.” Howell also seemed to want knock Woodward, one of two reporters famous for their investigative reporting in the Watergate Scandal, down a peg or two, noting the exceptional privileges he enjoyed at the newspaper. “[H]e kept the kind of information from Downie that is a deeply serious sin not to disclose to a boss — the kind that can get even a very good reporter in the doghouse for a long time,” wrote Howell.

Wal-Mart a poster child for corporate abuse

I’ve been thinking for a while now that though Wal-Mart has been a lightning rod for criticism, it is, in fact, merely a poster child for a kind of corporate abuse which has become common in corporate America. Increasingly, corporations are taking advantage of the weakening of the labor movement and conservative hegemony in American politics to abuse their employees, put pressure on unionized operations, evade social and environmental costs, and pass these costs on to local government. An article in Spiegel concludes:

“Wal-Mart has largely played by the rules that society has set out for it,” business columnist Joseph Nocera wrote in the New York Times. In other words: low prices and high shareholder value come first, and everything else is a low priority. “Do we really want to change Wal-Mart?” asks Nocera, offering his own answer: “If the answer truly is yes, then we need to change ourselves first.”

Deserter wins appeal in Canadian Courts

Given that the U.S. went to war on “false pretenses,” and given reports of continuing abuses of detainees, and the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead, the case of a soldier who deserted to Canada rather than deploy to Iraq gains further poignancy:

Jeremy Hinzman, who maintains that fighting in Iraq would have amounted to an atrocity because he considers the war an illegal one, is “very much encouraged” the Federal Court is willing to hear a judicial review of his case, said his lawyer, Jeffry House.

Self-proclaimed journalistic hero Judith Miller resigns

After helping the Bush administration build its case for invading Iraq, and then, under the guise of protecting a whistleblower, protecting a source that actually sought to discredit a whistleblower (a confusion shared by many journalists), “it had been made clear to Ms. Miller that she would not be able to continue as a reporter of any kind,” and she has now resigned from The New York Times. Though the Times sought to be gracious about Miller’s departure, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “[A]fter U.S. troops failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Times acknowledged lapses in some of its prewar Iraq coverage, a mea culpa widely read as an affront to Miller.”

Many progressives confounded her performance on weapons of mass destruction with her performance in Plame-gate, in which she refused to divulge her source, I. Lewis Libby Jr. In both cases, she acted as a propaganda whore for the administration; many have challenged her “entanglement” with Libby as improper. But there are important distinctions to be made:

  • In her reporting on weapons of mass destruction, The New York Times shared what were largely her faults. She did not critically examine what her anonymous sources were telling her. Neither did her editors.
  • In passing on Valerie Plame’s name, exposing her as a CIA operative, Miller cooperated in the Bush administration’s effort to retaliate against Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, who, after investigating Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium in Niger, publicly concluded that they were unfounded. If there was a whistleblower in this case, it was Wilson; Miller participated in an administration attempt to silence him and to retaliate against him, perverting the intent of protection for anonymous sources.

If the intent of a free press is to serve as a check on political power, Miller has instead exposed The New York Times as anything but. After all this, “Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The Times, said: ‘We are grateful to Judy for her significant personal sacrifice to defend an important journalistic principle,’ adding, ‘I respect her decision to retire from The Times and wish her well.'”

Schwarzenegger terminated at polls

With something like 80% of the ballots counted, all the statewide propositions up for a vote in yesterday’s special election appear headed for defeat. I voted against the six supported by Schwarzenegger, and for propositions 79 and 80. I am pleasantly surprised that the Schwarzenegger six all seem headed for defeat, and unsurprised that 79 and 80 are also headed for defeat.

I remember Schwarzenegger brandishing a broom, promising to sweep the capitol clean. But the fact of the special election demonstrates a failure to work with the legislature. And the fact of his insistence on holding it–as election day headlines proclaimed it the most expensive in state history–despite a widespread feeling that none of these issues justified the expense of a special election, demonstrates miscalculation. Reinforcing the sense of poor judgment:

  • Proposition 73 would have required doctors to give parents 48 hours notice before performing abortions on minors, injecting a radical right wing issue, presumably with the hope of attracting the rabid right to the polls. But this is California, not the South. Evangelicals aren’t nearly so prominent here, and pro-choice groups pulled out all the stops to bring voters to the polls who are considerably less likely to support Schwarzenegger’s agenda. At this writing, however, the margin of defeat (51.5%) for this proposition is the narrowest of the lot, pitting the safety of teens–who will likely obtain abortions whether they are legal or not–against the seemingly sensible notion of parental control.
  • Proposition 74 would have extended new teachers’ probation from two years to five years. It was one of three propositions that prompted at least one teacher to ask, publicly, why the Governor had it in for them.
  • Proposition 75 sought to limit union influence in politics, while doing nothing about corporate influence. With reports of record oil company profits following new record gasoline prices, Schwarzenegger clearly targetted the wrong fat cats.
  • Proposition 76 was an obvious power grab. At least one editorial headlined that this proposition would have increased the powers of an already powerful Governor. Given his failure to work with the legislature, this seems positively undemocratic.
  • Proposition 77 would have changed the reapportionment procedure, presumably making some legislators’ seats less “safe.” But it reinforced the image of an imperial Governor, who apparently wants a more compliant legislature.
  • Proposition 78 illustrated Schwarzenegger’s preference for corporations, at the expense of everyone else. In this case, it was the pharmaceutical companies.

Showing Iraqis what WMD are all about

The United States categorically denies the use of chemical weapons at any time in Iraq, which includes the ongoing Fallujah operation. Furthermore, the United States does not under any circumstance support or condone the development, production, acquisition, transfer or use of chemical weapons by any country. All chemical weapons currently possessed by the United States have been declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and are being destroyed in the United States in accordance with our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Christian Science Monitor reports, based on an Italian documentary, allegations that the U.S. has in fact used chemical weapons, including white phosphorus, napalm, and poison gas on civilians in Iraq.