Free at Last

Free at Last

Free at Last

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Sept. 30 2005 4:37 PM

Free at Last

Bloggers discuss the strange saga of Judith Miller, the incautious mouth of Bill Bennett, and the optimistic humanitarianism of MIT Media Labs.

Free at last: Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed since early July for refusing to testify in the CIA leak investigation, yesterday walked free after she received a personal confirmation from her source, Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, that an earlier waiver of confidentiality was, indeed, voluntary. Miller testified this morning before a grand jury examining the Valerie Plame case.


"Translation: Miller's lawyer called Libby's lawyer last month; Libby said his generic waiver a year ago was plenty; Miller said it wasn't; Libby said fine, I'm telling you now you have a waiver; really and truly?; yes, yes, really and truly," summarizes reliable Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum. "So tomorrow morning Miller testifies…. Before long, we should know if he's got anything or not."

At Volokh Conspiracy, legal eagle Orin Kerr remains confused. "Am I missing something, or was the jailing of Judith Miller not about high principle and the First Amendment but about a factual dispute as to whether [Libby] had really waived his confidentiality?" he writes. "If you're Bob Bennett, Judith Miller's top-shelf lawyer, wouldn't you try to clear this up before your client spent three months in jail? Something about this seems fishy to me." Many more in the blogosphere share his skepticism.

"I hope some day somebody writes all this down, because the whole story is unbelievable," writes conservative John Podhoretz at National Review Online homeroom The Corner. "Miller never writes a story about Plamegate, but insists she must keep her sources secret, even though the name of her primary source…has long since been a matter of public record -- and has publicly released her from her pledge of anonymity. She decides to go to jail to protect the principle of source anonymity, and is only weeks away from being sprung (because the grand jury she was refusing to talk to will go out of business in Ocrober) before she abandons her stand on principle and decides to talk. And all this," he writes, "in relation to a matter that may well not have been a crime to begin with." (Podhoretz also thinks the in-house Times coverage of the story is both vague and disingenuous).

Others say Miller knew exactly what she was doing. "Fellow source-hoarder Matt Cooper's thrilling tale of a last-minute reprieve had seemed cinematic at the time," writes Beltway gossip Wonkette. "Good stuff, we thought, but what's a book about being a journalist martyr without sleeping on cement and not being able to watch CNN? When Miller stayed clammed up while Cooper sang, people wondered what she knew and now it's clear: She knows the dollar value of minor humiliation and anecdotes about prison laundry." Count the tabloid crestfallen. "We were all so First Amendment about you and shit."


Read more about Judith Miller and more about the Plame case.

Foot-in-mouth: "I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," former secretary of education Bill Bennett, now a radio host, said Wednesday, responding to a caller who wondered how much tax revenue had been lost over the years because of abortion. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky." Liberal activists and legislators quickly piled on.

"Bennett, when talking about crime, immediately [thought] of African-Americans, and immediately thought that the removal of all blacks would lower the crime rate enough to notice," writes Kevin Keith at Lean Left. "The racism on display in astounding." At liberal clubhouse Daily Kos, Armando is equally dismayed. "But hey, it is important that we not stifle discourse. I mean Bennett is one of the giant intellectuals of our time right?"

Not everyone on the left falls into line behind them. "Bill Bennett is a hypocrite, a loathsome fungus on the tree of American politics, a man who has worked unceasingly to make America a worse place," writes Berkeley professor Brad DeLong. "But Bill Bennett is not afflicted with genocidal fantasies about ethnically cleansing African-Americans."


"Not only is Bennett clearly not advocating a campaign of genocidal abortion against African-Americans, but the empirical claim here is unambiguously true," argues progressive Mathew Yglesias at liberal salon TPMCafe. "Similarly, if you aborted all the male fetuses, all those carried by poor women, or all those carried by Southern women, the crime rate would decline…. Nor, as Bennett says, can the moral point be seriously disputed – [that] doing any of that would be wrong."

The American Prospect's Garance Franke-Rutke takes the liberal apologists, to task. "Bill Bennett yesterday offered left bloggers a golden opportunity to make political hay, and what do we have? The spectacle of them explaining his remarks away in order to prove ... what exactly? That they, too, studied Latin and philosophy?" She believes taking the intellectual high road was a strategic blunder. "Bennett's comment is, essentially, a political twofer: a prominent values conservative talking about abortion in a way that could upset conservatives, and a statement that could scarcely have been better designed to outrage a critical part of the Democratic base."

Read more about Bill Bennett.

PCs for peanuts:Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Labs has announced plans to develop a laptop available for less than $100 and provide the computers to needy children around the world.

"I'm in two minds about the goal of providing laptops to children in developing countries," says Jarvis Cochrane at Insert wry recursive allusion here. "My inner cynic is whispering 'but wouldn't it be better to, you know, feed them?'. But as one part of a much broader program to "help people out" and give them a 'fair go', then yes." The researcher behind A Time To Reflect praises Negroponte for developing the product with a specific eye toward the needs of the developing world, and not merely eliminating features from a more expensive model.

"Originally designed for use in the third world, they will be appearing in the US shortly as well," writes Raj Boora at EDITing in the Dark, "and at the same cost as the graphing calculator that secondary students are purchasing now, we could see a real interesting shift by the end of the decade - between this and the cell phone, there could be some really interesting things emerge in terms of how we can have students interact with information."

Read more about the announcement.