Lying Former Prostitute Passes Lie Detector Test

When former prostitute Wendy Yow Ellis claimed that she and Louisiana Congressman David Vitter had had a sexual relationship lasting several months, he accused her of lying. Vitter's name had already been disclosed as part of the client list of the now-famous "DC Madam," and the also now-famous "Canal Street Madam" had named him as one of her establishment's clients, also. At the time that she named Vitter, she said he liked to visit a prostitute named Wendy; however, Ellis claims that she had nothing to do with the Canal Street operation, that her negotiations with Vitter took place in a French Quarter apartment via the New Orleans Escort Service, and she was paid $300 an hour through a pimp named Jonathan.

It is not known whether there was actually another Wendy who worked at the Canal Street establishment (as implied by Canal Street Madam Jeanette Maier) who had sex with Vitter. So far, only Wendy Yow Ellis, sometimes known as Wendy Cortez, has come forward. This rather confusing scenario involving Wendys is complicated even more by the fact that Vitter's wife is named Wendy, also.

At any rate, publisher Larry Flynt paid for Wendy Yow Ellis to take a lie detector test, which she passed, and which Vitter's press secretary has refused to comment on. Flynt has also paid Ellis for details about her sessions with Vitter, which he is publishing in a future issue of Hustler.

Vitter, of course, ran for office with a promise of "protecting the sanctity of marriage." Ellis, who describes Vitter as "a very clean man," says she took the polygraph because people who heard Vitter's denial of their relationship might see her as "a two-bit whore when I'm the one telling the truth."

Powell at 70, No Longer Waking Up Screaming

In a rather frank interview with GQ, former secretary of state Colin Powell discusses the Iraq War, Barack Obama, and the ways in which fear is getting the better of us as a nation.

When asked how America might go about restoring its image, he responded:

"We should remember what that image was, back after World War II. It was the image of a generous country that sought not to impose its will on other countries or even to impose its values. But it showed the way, and it helped other countries, and it opened its doors to people, visitors and refugees and immigrants.

America could not survive without immigration. Even the undocumented immigrants are contributing to our economy. That's the country my parents came to. That's the image we have to portray to the rest of the world: kind, generous, a nation of nations, touched by every nation, and we touch every nation in return. That's what people still want to believe about us. They still want to come here. We've lost a bit of the image, but we haven't lost the reality yet. And we can fix the image by reflecting a welcoming attitude, and by not taking counsel of our fears and scaring ourselves to death that everybody coming in is going to blow up something. It ain't the case."

One Special Dame: Remembering Anita Roddick

I first met Anita Roddick at a meeting of the Social Venture Network in the fall of 1991. I say "met," more accurately: I encountered a human thrill ride. I was a newbie at that early gathering of progressive-minded entrepreneurs and, progressive though they were, they were also clubby, and the skepticism about whether nonprofit (and "radical!") Mother Jones belonged in this business club was palpable. I girded myself for some power networking.

Anita, unquestionably the queen of the social venture movement, was standing behind a little table for The Body Shop at the "Product Expo," and I approached to introduce myself. I was still several steps away when she spotted Mother Jones on my name tag and pounced. "Mother Jones! That's the most bloody brilliant magazine!! It's an inspiration! Tell me what you're doing here."

Profane charm, infectious enthusiasm, straight to the heart—in a few seconds Anita had given the new kid on the block instant credibility. It was just the beginning of her generosity to me and to Mother Jones. Anita's wear-it-on-her-sleeve enthusiasm was one part of her effectiveness as a businesswoman and activist—it was hard to resist her energy, not that it would be smart to try.

Her commitment to the causes she cared about ran deep, and a few years and several rollicking collaborations later, she joined the board of Mother Jones' nonprofit parent. There are lots of stories from her years as part of the Mother Jones famly, and in the next few days, I'll share some as part of our tribute to her. Anita's (and husband Gordon's) generosity, connections, and business smarts have helped MoJo through more ups and downs than the Cyclone. In that, we're not alone—today there are dozens of causes acknowledging the significance of the Roddicks' support—but we owe her a special debt. And we intend to pay it back in the only way that she would care about—with "bloody-brilliant," kick-ass journalism.

Jay Harris
President & Publisher

I love comparing what goes in the American editions of the newsweeklies to what goes in the international editions.

In the American edition of Newsweek this week, there is a Hillary Clinton cover story described thusly on TAPPED: "This piece is a long, tepid regurgitation of Clinton's career with little new insight."

On the cover of the international edition, a story called "Legal in Unlikely Places: Now mature in the west, gay power is growing worldwide, even in the land of machismo." The story isn't in the American edition at all.

I'll let TAPPED provide the final analysis:

Seems that both social and legal acceptance of homosexuality is rapidly increasing in some unexpected parts of the world. South Africa legalized civil unions in November 2006, making them the first developing nation to do so, and former Catholic strongholds like Latin America are also warming to civil unions. They've been legalized in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, and in Colombia, a bill is working its way through the National Congress that would grant full rights to health insurance, inheritance and social-security benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
Money quote: "The Catholic Church was facing a credibility crisis," says [a] longtime Mexico City-based gay-rights activist... "So many of its leaders... knew that if they fiercely opposed the gay-union law, the news media would eat them alive."
Unlike in the U.S., where ... this article doesn't even appear in Newsweek.

Scientific Proof That Liberals Are Not Smarter

MoveOn.org seems to remove its contact details after running one of the most idiotic ads in recent political history.

Scientific Proof That Liberals Are Smarter

Ok, so not proof exactly, but man we are really smart. And I'm not talking about knowing geography or spelling or history. I'm talking about the alphabet. We know it, while conservatives are apparently blinded by ideology. In certain situations their rigid brains cannot distinguish among different letters of the alphabet, a major study has found, and this explains why they can't tolerate ambiguity and conflict as well as liberals.

"Political orientation is related to how the brain processes information," reports the UCLA and NYU study, as detailed in the LA Times:

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative. They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

And conservatives were by far the worst knee-jerkers, routinely mistaking a W for an M, or vice versa when the weightings were changed. This has happened before. Mole hill or WMD? Morass or winnable? Melting ice or wacko science? In all seriousness, Frank J. Sulloway, a researcher at UC Berkeley's Institute of Personality and Social Research, told the Times that the results could explain why Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq War and why "liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas."

This study is by no means the first to suggest that one political persuasion or another is more fit for duty in the battle of ideas. A few years ago I wrote about a University of Texas study that found residents of Houston suffer from a quasi-clinical condition known as "war fever." But this newest study at least takes the political debate back to the ABCs. Now if only conservatives could go back to kindergarten. . .

There's not much I can add to Bruce's excellent piece on the Petraeus/Crocker hearing, but I'll throw some things out.

• It looks like MoveOn.org's full-page ad in the New York Times calling Petraeus "General Betray Us" backfired. The Republicans repeatedly used it to make Democrats look like awful people who hate those in uniform, even though the Democrats joined the Republicans in slathering praise all over Petraeus all day long.

• General Petraeus started his testimony by saying, "This is my testimony… I wrote this testimony myself." He was aware that people suspect him of carrying water for the administration.

• As the point man for political activity (as opposed to military activity) in Iraq, Ambassador Crocker had a much harder time pointing to successes than did Petraeus. He compared the debates and fights ongoing in the Iraqi government with earlier U.S. debates over civil rights and states' rights. We shouldn't ask if the Iraqis have resolved these debates, he said, but instead ask if the way they go about debating shows "seriousness." Talk about a tough sell.

• After explaining how local leaders and citizens had turned against al Qaeda in Anbar, Crocker said "Shia extremists are also facing rejection." He is trying to argue, while still remaining cautious, that Anbar's success is going to be recreated elsewhere.

• Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki for his close ties to Iran. Isn't this counterproductive to Lantos' goals of building support for withdrawal? Lantos is more or less admitting that if we leave now, Iran will sweep in, a strong argument for staying the course. Lantos didn't favor pushing Maliki out immediately, nor did he support waiting around until Maliki is pushed out Democratically. So what did he think would happen with Iran if we withdraw?

I was pondering the subject until I heard Lantos say this: "We need to send Maliki's government a strong message, loud and clear. Removing a brigade is nothing more than a political whisper." So that's the solution – force Maliki to reform his ways by withdrawing troops (more than a brigade, as Petraeus suggests) and showing him America's commitment to Iraq isn't open-ended. But withdrawal won't pressure Maliki to reform his ways; it'll leave him happier than before, because it will allow him to strengthen the Shiites hold on power and allow his benefactors in Iran to increase their influence in the region.

Perhaps the Dems should drop this talking point? I'm probably too deep in the weeds here. Just thinking out loud.

• Finally, Crocker should win an award for coining the euphemism of the year: "post-kinetic environments." That is, neighborhoods that have been destroyed by firefights and bombings. As in, "I lost my fruit stand. It was unluckily located in a post-kinetic environment."

During today's Petraeus-and-Crocker congressional showcase, Representative Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Texas) asked the esteemed witnesses what they felt about increasing our diplomatic engagement with the Middle East's regional powers. Ortiz supports our initial efforts at diplomacy, but would like to see vastly more of it used in the region.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker signaled their approval, but Ortiz stopped them short to follow up: are we engaging players in the region diplomatically, he asked. I know you support it, he said, but are we actually doing it?

I called Ortiz up to ask why a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee doesn't know if the United States is using diplomacy as part of our war effort. He told me it has to do with the administration and the secrecy it has repeatedly used, often with no good reason, over the last six years. Perhaps they are supplying the House Foreign Affairs Committee with more information on the subject, he said, but they certainly aren't giving us any.

Ortiz has been in Congress a long time. Elected in 1982, he's served with four presidents. He said he has a hard time remembering one who was less inclined than George W. Bush to treat Congress as a separate but equal branch of government.

So if any Republicans give you the old line about Republicans running government more efficiently, tell them that the House Armed Services Committee doesn't know the extent to which we are using diplomacy in the Middle East. That should fix their misconception.

This is Part Four of our LIVE coverage of the Petraeus/Crocker report. See also Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

3:18: C-SPAN reports that this room is rarely used for hearings, but was used for House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in the 1940s.

3:27: And.... we're back! John Spratt (D-SC) says that the war has cost over $600 billion so far and offers a CBO report that says it could cost almost another $1 trillion over the next five years.

3:28: Spratt asks (paraphrase): "If the purpose of the surge was to produce space so we can achieve political reconciliation, why haven't we seen progress on this front?" Crocker says we're seeing "signs" of political reconciliation. "We can see it because I think we are seeing it, ... [but] I can't give you a time line."

3:33: Howard Berman (D-Another Old White Guy) asks Petraeus whether Petraeus believes this is not the time for a mission change away from counterinsurgency. Petraeus says that's right. Than Berman lobs a softball about the refugee situation, which Petraeus clobbers.

3:39: It's hilarious how every congressman likes to talk about the first time they met Petraeus. Who is he, Lindsay Lohan? "I know General Petraeus! I'm so cool!" Or are we watching some weird version of "When David Met Jimmy"?

3:41: Yet another disturbance... "How can you thank him for his service?!?" Skelton: "Take them into custody."

3:45: The Republicans are proceeding with a transparent line of questioning, repeatedly asking what the consequences will be if we prematurely withdraw. Quite effective.

3:50: Crocker: "There is nothing inherently wrong with the benchmarks," [How generous!] but "conditions are not yet in place for achieving them."

3:53: Petraeus: "The ambassador and I are joined at the hip" (in saying you can't win in Iraq JUST in Iraq...).

3:56: Gary Ackerman (D-NY) asks why no one has mentioned the 'International War on Terrorism....' There's the sizzle and the steak.... It seems to me that we're trying to be in the middle of a dysfunctional violent family. Can we afford to put a cop in every bad marriage, even when the parties aren't going to counseling? How long do we stay? I don't know when that will happen. While we wait for this to happen, how much more blood should we invest? If it takes another four years, I'd like to know from each of you your best realistic view of Iraq will be in those four years.... will this be worth it?"

4:00: Petraeus says AQI is part of the Al Qaeda movement, but Ackerman angrily points out that AQI was founded in 2005, after we got to Iraq.

4:03: John McHugh (R-NY) asks if Iraq is an important part of the Global War on Terror. Petraeus says defeating AQI is. Then he asks if "abandoning Iraq" to focus on Afghanistan would be a net plus or minus for the Global War on Terror. Petraeus doesn't answer the question.

4:09: Crocker loves talking about how "difficult" and "complicated" the situation is. Hard-hitting! Serious!

4:10: Competing headlines on Petraeus' testimony in the New York Times and Washington Post. The New York Times: Slow Progress Being Made in Iraq, Petraeus Tells Congress. The Washington Post: Petraeus Claims Major Progress Following 'Surge'

4:20: The Democratic delegate from American Samoa, Eni Faleomavaega, asks if the military currently has the capacity to fight in Aghanistan, Iraq, and a third potential conflict. Petraeus says he shares the concern, and said it was one of the factors that informed his decision to draw down between now and next summer.

4:24: Petraeus: There has never been a military commander in history who didn't want more forces, more allies, etc... [Then why does he want us to draw down? Why not send more?]

4:29: Awww.... Mr Jeff Davis (R-KY), the Republicans' most junior member, is going to get a chance to speak. How nice.

4:41: Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Beards) continues the trend of non-question questions. You've got to love how much these people like to talk.

4:50: And now for something completely different: Donald Payne is (we think) the first African-American person to get a say in the hearing, and it's only been almost 5 hours!

5:00: They're taking a break, and we're done for the day. It's been swell. I'll leave you with the fact that someone just said "You've done a heck of a job" in the background. Seriously. More "Live Team Coverage" tomorrow. Be here.

—Nick Baumann

Americans Fight Terrorism From the Jury Box

After September 11, many Americans were compelled to give blood, write checks to the Red Cross, or even to join the military as a way of serving the country. Apparently, though, an awful lot of us were also moved to show up for jury duty. This revelation comes courtesy of U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young, who recently addressed the Florida Bar Association on the death of the jury trial. Young noted that nationwide data (which he unfortunately didn't cite) show that Americans turned up for jury service in record numbers in the year after the towers fell.

Young is most famous recently for sentencing shoebomber Richard Reid by telling him "You're no big deal," but his speech (recently posted here) is an amazing--and rare--love song to the American jury that's worth a read. Along with some harsh words for Congress for suspending habeas corpus, there are some interesting observations about the state of the federal judiciary, including this one:

In 1988, the average time a federal judge spent actually sitting on the bench each year was 790 hours. In FY 2005, that number had fallen to 437, of which only 225 hours were spent overseeing trials. So what are the judges doing all day if not on the bench?

"Litigation management," said Young. "Hardly a shining vision, is it?"

(H/T Consumer Law and Policy Blog)