Monday, October 31, 2005

Who says there is no God?

A pastor performing a baptism was electrocuted inside his church Sunday morning after grabbing a microphone while partially submerged, a church employee said.

The Rev. Kyle Lake, 33, was standing in water up to his shoulder in a baptismal at University Baptist Church when he was electrocuted, said Jamie Dudley, a church business administrator and wife of another pastor there.

Doctors in the congregation performed chest compressions for 40 minutes before Lake was taken to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, Dudley said. Police said they weren't called and the hospital referred calls to the church.

The woman Lake was baptizing was not injured, Dudley said.

Pastors at University Baptist Church routinely use a microphone during baptisms, Dudley said.

"He was grabbing the microphone so everyone could hear," Dudley said. "It's the only way you can be loud enough."

Another month of Bushovik honor for our dead soldiers.

From the AP:
Capping the bloodiest month for American troops since January, the U.S. military reported Monday that seven more U.S. service members were killed — all victims of increasingly sophisticated bombs that have been become the deadliest weapon in the insurgents' arsenal.
But it looks they will be honored even more in the months ahead.
Military commanders have warned that Sunni insurgents will step up their attacks in the run-up to the Dec. 15 election, when Iraqis will choose their first full-term parliament since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.

To guard against such attacks, the military has raised the number of American troops in Iraq to 157,000 — among the highest levels of the Iraq conflict.
More attacks, more targets, and Our Dear Embattled Leader still has not honored the American people with the reason why they had to die.

Wonder where your pension went?

Chances are good that it ended up in the corporate pool for executive bonuses. But make no mistake, if you lost your pension, someone stole it, legally of course. And if you still have one, someone is trying to steal it, with the help of the law. Both Time magazine and the NYT Sunday Magazine have articles on the Great Pension Robbery. Read both but consider that what they describe is pretty well summed up in these paragraphs from Time:
A TIME investigation has concluded that long before today's working Americans reach retirement age, policy decisions by Congress favoring corporate and special interests over workers will drive millions of older Americans--a majority of them women--into poverty, push millions more to the brink and turn retirement years into a time of need for everyone but the affluent. The transition is well under way, eroding efforts of the past three decades to eliminate poverty among the aging. From taxes to health care to pensions, Congress has enacted legislation that adds to the cost of retirement and eats away at dollars once earmarked for food and shelter. That reversal of fortunes is staggering, and even those already retired or near retirement will be squeezed by changing economic rules.

Congress's role has been pivotal. Lawmakers wrote bankruptcy regulations to allow corporations to scrap the health insurance they promised employees who retired early--sometimes voluntarily, quite often not. They wrote pension rules that encouraged corporations to underfund their retirement plans or switch to plans less favorable to employees. They denied workers the right to sue to enforce retirement promises. They have refused to overhaul America's health-care system, which has created the world's most expensive medical care without any comparable benefit. One by one, lawmakers have undermined or destroyed policies that once afforded at least the possibility of a livable existence to many seniors, while at the same time encouraging corporations to repudiate lifetime-benefit agreements. All this under the guise of ensuring workers that they are in charge of their own destiny--such as it is.
And these same people want to get their hands on Social Security. If they do, they eat caviar and you won't be able to buy dog food for your dinner.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

They call this news?

Little boy lost

The Mahablog has an interesting take on Our Dear Embattled Leader.
George W. Bush appears to be a “magic bullet” kind of guy. I have read that his oil businesses failed because he was determined to make a big strike rather than slowly and patiently build a business. “To George W. Bush, a Texan who revels in the myth of the wildcatter, running risks in pursuit of the big gusher is a quintessential part of the American character,” says this May 16, 2005 Business Week article. “But as the scion of an aristocratic Eastern dynasty, the budding young tycoon always had a network of family friends and relations to call on. Those golden connections bailed George W. out of his early forays into the oil business.”

As president, Bush struck a political bonanza in September 11. But his biggest gamble was the war in Iraq. See how he threw the dice–he (and his advisors) bet there would be WMDs in spite of flimsy evidence. He and his crew assumed no post-invasion planning would be required, since the happy Iraqis quickly would establish a democracy as soon as they were finished tossing flowers. And he and his crew seemed to believe that the mere removal of Saddam Hussein would be the magic bullet that would bring peace to the Middle East. Why bother with boring ol’ nation building when you’ve got a magic bullet?

Once he realized he’d taken a political hit from his inept response to Katrina, Bush worked hard–to find another “bullhorn moment.” One event after another was staged to show Bush in action. Yet FEMA and the rest the Department of Homeland Security still seem to be drifting. Bush has a rare gift for getting his picture taken with firemen, but whipping a drifting department of his administration into shape is beyond his skill.
Five years of total bullhorn and three more to go.

It's looking like the Mother of All Knife Fights

Inside the White House between the Rovians and the Cheneystas for control of Our Dear Animatronic Leader. Read whats being said in the print media.

The New York Times

The Washington Post

The Los Angeles Times


The Democrats are speaking out

From the AP:
"First of all, the vice president issues this very terse statement praising Libby for all the great things he's done," Reid said. "Then we have the president come on camera a few minutes later calling him Scooter and what a great patriot he is. There has not been an apology to the American people for this obvious problem in the White House," Reid, D-Nev., told ABC's "This Week."

Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said Cheney should "come clean" about his involvement and why he discussed Plame with Libby before Libby spoke to reporters about her.

"What did the vice president know? What were his intentions?" Dodd asked on "Fox News Sunday."

Democrats appearing on Sunday talk shows portrayed Libby's indictment as one of many serious problems surrounding the White House and one of several allegations raising questions about Republican ethics. Republicans repeatedly said the charges have been made against only one individual and that Libby should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Public opinion appears to be running against Bush. Almost half the public, 46 percent, say the level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has fallen with Bush as president, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll. That's three times the number who say ethics and honesty have risen during that time.
Let's hope we hear a lot more from them

Yup, it's been a hard week for ODEL

And the Guardian has the details.
President George Bush has just had the worst single week of his political life. It first saw the 2,000th US soldier die in Iraq. Then came the humiliation of Harriet Miers withdrawing her candidacy for the Supreme Court. Finally, came the hammer blow of Plamegate that saw top White House aide Lewis 'Scooter' Libby face five criminal charges and perhaps a lengthy jail term.

And there is no end in sight to the troubles. Bush's political guru Karl Rove is still under the shadow of investigation by the Plamegate prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. A trickle of former allies, friends and colleagues have also begun openly to turn on Bush. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, has blasted the march to war with Iraq, blaming it on a right-wing 'cabal' in the administration. Brent Scowcroft, a close confidant of Bush's father, has also gone public. He last week slammed the war in Iraq and revealed the younger Bush had not spoken to him in two years.

That sums up Bush's mood: bitter and angry at his perceived enemies who are then cast out of the inner circle. The formerly watertight Bush White House is starting to leak badly, revealing an inside picture of a President furious at the way his second term has collapsed around him and unwilling to blame himself for any of the disasters. Bush has always had a temper, but now reports of furious tirades against senior staff, and even of rows between Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, have begun to emerge.

How many exemptions can you find?

On jan 20, 2001 Our Dear Embattled Leader issued the following Standards of Official Conduct for the Executive branch. Since Republicans never do anything wrong, I ask you to pick your favorite Republican and count how many exemptions from the rules he or she has been granted.
(1) Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.

(2) Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.

(3) Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic Government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.

(4) An employee shall not, except as permitted by applicable law or regulation, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the employee's agency, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee's duties.

(5) Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.

(6) Employees shall not knowingly make unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the Government.

(7) Employees shall not use public office for private gain.

(8) Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.

(9) Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.

(10) Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official Government duties and responsibilities.

(11) Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.

(12) Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those -- such as Federal, State, or local taxes -- that are imposed by law.

(13) Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.

(14) Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating applicable law or the ethical standards in applicable regulations.
Are you finished yet? Good! Now, just for fun, tell me who you picked and how many you found. Sorry, no prizes. This is just a learning experience.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sunday is Spin Day

And no doubt the various spinmeisters for Our Dear Embattled Leader will be out in full force today. However there is a remedy for any confusion that may arise. The WaPo has an excellent summation of what happened, including the Italian Connection.
It may never be clear what drove Libby, the most cautious of Washington insiders, to take such risks, ostensibly to protect the administration. In a news conference Friday, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald described the question as unanswerable so far. "If you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it," Fitzgerald said. The obstruction of his inquiry, he said, "prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make."

Libby's possible motive is only one of many unknowns left in the aftermath of Friday's indictment, which prompted the resignation of one of the most powerful figures in the White House and left the Bush administration reeling politically. Still to be determined is who first leaked Plame's name to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak -- the original act that led to Fitzgerald's investigation -- and the roles of many other administration officials, including Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.

Even so, the grand jury's 22-page indictment fleshes out a saga that has been largely shrouded for almost two years by grand jury secrecy. While Friday's disclosures allege no wrongdoing by Cheney, they place the vice president closer than has been known before to events at the heart of the case.

Libby is already trying out his defense in the media and TurdBlossom is trying hard to prevent his needing a defense. Jim VandeHei, also in the WaPo, has a fine story about their stories.
"Mr. Libby testified to the best of his recollection on all occasions," Joseph A. Tate, Libby's lawyer, said in his first statement on the case, released Friday. Libby's friends plan to set up a legal defense fund soon to help him fight the charges, according to one person familiar with the effort.

Rove, who sources said narrowly escaped indictment through last-minute negotiations, is working privately to convince Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that he did not lie to a grand jury about his role in the disclosure of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. With Fitzgerald threatening to indict Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff provided him with new information last week that prompted Fitzgerald to rethink charging him with making false statements, according to two people close to the case.
Libby or TurdBlossom could put on an old bathrobe and start mumbling to himself and use the Vinnie "The Chin" Gigante Defense.

CoinGate may revive another scandal

The Ohio election scandal seems to have a few connections to indicted campaign funds launderer Tom Noe.
While media attention focuses on Plamegate and on Noe's financial scams, it overlooks many years as Chair of the Board of Elections in Lucas County. He was deeply involved in controversial procurement deals that brought Diebold opti-scan vote counting machines into inner city Toledo precincts. Many of those machines suspiciously malfunctioned at key times on election day. Sworn testimony in hearings conducted by the Free Press after the election confirm that thousands of inner city voters were disenfranchised due to Noe's decisions. Just look here

In a widely circulated 2003 fundraising letter, Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell promised to deliver Ohio's 2004 electoral votes---and thus the election---to Bush. O'Dell and Noe are two of Ohio's nineteen GOP Bush Pioneer/Ranger high money donors.

Sworn testimony in the Free Press hearings further confirmed that Diebold technicians were given access to the machines procured by Noe, compromising the Ohio recount, and were allegedly involved in the selection of the precincts to be recounted, in violation of Ohio election law. Ohio requires that precincts be "randomly selected" in a recount.

Noe's wife Bernadette chaired the Lucas County BOE leading up to and during the actual November 2, 2004 balloting. Under her guidance, Toledo-area officials purged some 27,000 voters from registration lists in late summer 2004, just prior to the November presidential vote. The conduct of the election under her regime was so deeply tainted with incompetence and fraud that Ms. Noe announced her resignation effective soon after the election. The scandals ran so deep that in the summer of 2005, the Republican Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, was forced to make public a scathing report on how Lucas County handled the election. Amidst the public uproar, the entire Lucas County Board of Elections resigned.
Lucas county would appear to have been a hotbed of Republican electoral ethics.See here and here and here and here.

The troops are returning the Bushoviks love

From the Charlotte Observer comes news of a new poll:
A majority of current and former military members surveyed this week in North Carolina disagree with how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq, according to a poll released Friday.

More than 56 percent of military members surveyed in an Elon University poll said they disapprove or strongly disapprove with how the president is running the war.

Nearly 53 percent disapprove or strongly disapprove of Bush's overall job performance.

The results are startling because military members almost always overwhelmingly support wars and the president, said poll director Hunter Bacot.

"Members of military are mirroring the general public's" attitude toward the war, he said. "That is very telling."

North Carolina is home to bases for the Marines, Army and Air Force. Their troops have been deployed often in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not good for Our Dear Embattled Leader.

Friday, October 28, 2005

CoinGate - In the shadow of Irv

From the Toledo Blade comes a pair of related stories. The first is a more detailed account of Tom Noes indictment, including this tidbit.
Mr. Hillman, the chief of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, said the indictment does not allege that state coin-fund money was funneled to the Bush-Cheney campaign. However, if that proved true, he said it could be considered an “illegal” source of campaign funds. That could trigger a stiffer penalty, he said.
And then there is this puzzling bit of accounting from Lucas county.
The Lucas County Republican Party cannot say who gave it nearly $190,000 from 2003 through early 2005, when Bernadette Noe was its chairman, party officials said yesterday.

Local GOP officials including Patrick Kriner, the party treasurer and a member of the county elections board, spent months investigating their financial history in response to a county audit request.

They found no records of donations from 2003, though bank statements show the party deposited $67,560 that year in its executive account.

Among the missing records is a list of who gave money at the party’s annual Lincoln Day fund-raiser in 2003.

A 2003 campaign finance filing that named donors from that event was actually a duplicate list from the 2002 Lincoln Day dinner.

The party also can’t attach names to nearly $115,000 in contributions in 2004 and about $7,000 from early 2005. It can account for all its spending in that time, Mr. Haynam said.
What was the name of that chairman? I don't Noe. She's on third.[cue the rim shot]

Well, they got Irving

And, according to the WaPo article, TurdBlossom is still in the crosshairs.
Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted today by a federal grand jury after a nearly two-year investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity.

Capping a week of political turmoil in Washington, Libby promptly resigned and left the White House. He expressed confidence that eventually he would be "totally exonerated," and both Cheney and President Bush praised his talent and dedication. "Obviously, today is a sad day for me and my family," Libby said in a statement.

The grand jury did not return an indictment against another top administration official who was caught up in the probe: Karl Rove, President Bush's top political strategist. But the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, said the investigation is "not over" and that another grand jury would be kept open in case prosecutors decide to press other charges.
Now we wait to see how long it will take Our Dear Embattled Leader to issue the necessary pardons. After all, treason Is OK If You Are A Republican.

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

The Grumman F6-F Hellcat was the US Navys response to the Japanese Zero. Looking very much like its little brother, the Wildcat, it differed in a number of very important ways. With a Wright R-2800 "Double Wasp" 2,000 hp engine it was faster and could climb much better. The larger size also allowed for larger ammunition storage for its 6 .50 cal machine guns. It had a wider wheelbase for safer landing and, despite its size was very maneuverable. Beginning service in 1943, it quickly became THE carrier fighter in the US Navy, with 12,000+ being built in only 3 years. It was respnsible for destroying more than 6000 Japanese planes, including more than 160 in one day in the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot". For all its achievements, it was quickly phased out after the war. According to Warbird Alley, there are only 8 still airworthy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

CoinGate - Tom Noe indicted by Feds.

From the Toledo Blade we get the first federal indictment of Tom Noe:
A federal grand jury has indicted Tom Noe, the former Toledo-area coin dealer at the center of a state investment scandal, of illegally laundering money into President Bush’s re-election campaign.

The three-count indictment states that beginning in October 2003, Mr. Noe contributed to President Bush’s election campaign “over and above the limits established by the Federal Election Campaign Act."

“He did so, according to the indictment, in order to fulfill his pledge to raise $50,000 for a Bush-Cheney fund-raiser held in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2003,” Gregory White, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced at an afternoon news conference.

The two other counts were for conspiracy and filing false statements.

One of the indictment accused Mr. Noe of giving money to 24 friends and associates, who then made the campaign contributions in their own names. In that way, he skirted the $2,000 limit on individual contributions, prosecutors said.

“The indictment also alleges that Noe wrote several checks in the amounts slightly less than the maximum allowable amount so as to avoid suspension. All together, Noe allegedly contributed $45,400 of his own money through 24 "conduit” donors, the prosecutors said.
As you remember from previous post, boys and girls, Tom was shown to have made contributions from the same account that held state funds for his coin fund. Looks like the fun is just beginning.

Did TurdBlossom just bitch-slap Uncle Dicky?

Murray Waas has the details.
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.
Ooh, that's got to hurt. Read on, it gets better.

Taking a toll on TurdBlossom already

From the NY Daily News we learn of the terrible price already being paid by TBs loved ones during the Fitzpatrick investigation:
Meanwhile, Radar magazine yesterday reported on its Web site that Texas political insiders are predicting the demise of the married Rove's "very close relationship" with wealthy forty-something Texas lobbyist Karen Johnson.

"Everyone knows how close Karen is to Karl, but she's sick of it," the mag quotes a source "familiar with the situation," noting that Johnson and Rove didn't return phone calls.

Apparently Johnson's family wants her to marry her handsome ranch foreman, Rhett Hard, who works on Johnson's Cinco de Mayo property in Austin.

But Moore, a veteran Texas political reporter who has known Rove well since the late 1970s, told me that he and co-author Slater have no plans to include Johnson in their new book.

"It's a tough thing for me," Moore said. "Darby, Karl's wife, is a wonderful woman. And they've got a great kid. They just happen to live with an evil man."
I guess this is not an official biography.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Now they get it.

From CNN:
Only one in 10 Americans said they believe Bush administration officials did nothing illegal or unethical in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative's identity, according to a national poll released Tuesday.

Thirty-nine percent said some administration officials acted illegally in the matter, in which the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative, was revealed.
Took long enough!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



And Jesus wept while Little Georgie laughed.

The LA Times reports on the moral values of the Busheviks

Autopsy reports on 44 prisoners who died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan indicate that 21 were victims of homicide, including eight who appear to have been fatally abused by their captors, the American Civil Liberties Union reported Monday.

The abuse involved cases in which detainees were smothered, beaten or exposed to the elements, sometimes during interrogation. Many of these cases had been brought to light previously but now have been confirmed through U.S. military autopsies. Some of the deaths followed abusive interrogations by elite Navy SEALs, military intelligence officers and the CIA, the ACLU said.
The Pentagon has launched a series of investigations. But critics lament that no one over the rank of brigadier general has been held accountable.

Steve Clemons says tomorrow is Fitzmas eve

And we open the presents on Thursday

Monday, October 24, 2005

"It's not personal," Fitzgerald said,"It's my job."

Today in the WaPo, this article pieces together all the known and alleged phases of The Road To Fitzmas. Included is this little tidbit:
A critical early success for Fitzgerald was winning the cooperation of Robert D. Novak, the Chicago Sun-Times columnist who named Plame in a July 2003 story and attributed key information to "two senior administration officials." Legal sources said Novak avoided a fight and quietly helped the special counsel's inquiry, although neither the columnist nor his attorney have said so publicly.
No wonder Novak was so grouchy. Imagine, ratting out all your buddies and not being able to gloat about it.

There is a Vulcan in the White House

"The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider. "Andy [Card, the chief of staff] gets his share. Karl gets his share. Even Cheney gets his share. And the press gets a big share."

The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.

Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."

Amazing Grace

He once was blind but now can see. Bill Frist that is. The WaPo details just how much information and access Bill had to his "blind trust".
Since 2001, the trustees have written to Frist and the Senate 15 times detailing the sale of assets from or the contribution of assets to trusts of Frist and his family. The letters included notice of the addition of HCA shares worth $500,000 to $1 million in 2001 and HCA stock worth $750,000 to $1.5 million in 2002. The trust agreements require the trustees to inform Frist and the Senate whenever assets are added or sold.
Senate rules prohibit any lawmaker with a blind trust from contacting his trustees unless the ownership of an asset poses a potential conflict of interest "due to the subsequent assumption of duties" by the lawmaker. The lawmaker can then ask the trustees to dispose of the asset.

Frist did not take on any new duties this year. But a Frist adviser said the senator had been thinking about selling his HCA stake from the time he was elected majority leader in 2002. Frist had not known that he could sell his shares until this spring, the adviser asserted, and so went ahead with the sale based on his nearly three-year-old wish.
Honesty thy name is NOT Frist.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Is Digby onto something?

Over at Hullabaloo he has an interesting post with this bit:
I had not realized until I read this that Raines and Boyd had been around the paper as late as June of 2003. This clears something up for me. I have found it completely bizarre that Miller claimed she pitched the story to an editor and yet her editor, Jill Abramson, says it never happened. Miller refused to name the editor yesterday, which means she's either lying outright or she has a reason not to name the person.

The White House had been agitated about Wilson since the spring, particularly about Nicholas Kristoff's NYT columns in May, using Wilson as an anonymous source.
Raines and Boyd resigned on June 5, 2003.

I think it's likely that Miller pitched the idea to Raines or Boyd before they left, which means that she was on this Wilson beat weeks before she admits to it. And it explains why she won't say to whom she pitched it.
This could get very interesting.

Non Sequitur by Wiley

It does not post well, but it is really good today. You will find it here.

Trick or Treat!

Hopefully it will be the Fitzmas present we have all been hoping for.The WaPo is carrying this report from Reuters:
Fitzgerald is expected to give final notice to officials facing charges as early as Monday and may convene the grand jury on Tuesday, a day earlier than usual, to deliver a summary of the case and ask for approval of the possible indictments, legal sources said. The grand jury is to expire on Friday unless Fitzgerald extends it.
While Fitzgerald could still charge administration officials with knowingly revealing Plame's identity, the lawyers said he appeared more likely to seek charges for easier-to-prove crimes such as making false statements, obstruction of justice and disclosing classified information. Fitzgerald could also bring a broad conspiracy charge.

Fitzgerald has sent several signals in recent days that he is likely to bring indictments in the case, lawyers say.
It's beginning to look a lot like Fitzmas.

They deserve a much, much better president

The NY Times has a report by Sabrina Tavernise about the daily existence of Marines in Ramadi, Iraq.
Here in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, Sunni Arab insurgents are waging their fiercest war against American troops, attacking with relative impunity just blocks from Marine-controlled territory. Every day, the Americans fight to hold their turf in a war against an enemy who seems to be everywhere but is not often seen.

The cost has been high: in the last six weeks, 21 Americans have been killed here, far more than in any other city in Iraq and double the number of deaths in Baghdad, a city with a population 15 times as large.

"We fight it one day at a time," said Capt. Phillip Ash, who commands Company K in the Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, which patrols central Ramadi.

"Some days you're the windshield," he said, "some days you're the bug."
"You can't just walk down the street for a period of time and not expect to get shot at," said Maj. Bradford W. Tippett, the operations officer for the Third Battalion.
"It's like everyone in this town is a sniper," said Muhammad Ali Jasim, an Iraqi soldier who has been stationed here since May. "You can't stand in one place for long."

"You get a workout," Corporal Rosener said. "It's all running. Running from building to building."
The line between civilians and insurgents is blurry in Ramadi. In a twist that sets it apart from other violent cities, insurgents usually do not attack civilians in large groups. There have been no suicide bombings in recent memory, and I.E.D.'s are rarely placed close to houses. Insurgents have left alone American projects that deliver services that locals want, like the installation of 18 transformers last month for more power. And when the streets empty out, the Americans know an attack is imminent.

"The population clearly gets the word - there's a network out there,"
If only the US population would get the word.

The Bushoviks just can't get the hang of vetting nominees.

From Knight-Ridder, we get this glimpse of Harriet Miers.
Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers collected more than 10 times the market value for a small slice of family-owned land in a large Superfund pollution cleanup site in Dallas where the state wanted to build a highway off-ramp.

The windfall came after a judge who received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Miers' law firm appointed a close professional associate of Miers and an outspoken property-rights activist to the three-person panel that determined how much the state should pay.

The resulting six-figure payout to the Miers family in 2000 was despite the state's objections to the "excessive" amount and to the process used to set the price. The panel recommended paying nearly $5 a square foot for land that was valued at less than 30 cents a square foot.
Our Dear Embattled Leader really knows how to pick 'em.

Rebuilding tool or giant land grab?

On paper the idea could work, but this article from the LA Times illuminates a potentially disastrous idea.
Officials and community advocates are quietly planting the seeds for an enterprising program that could give the government temporary control over thousands of privately owned homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

An increasing number of Louisiana housing authorities believe the proposal, based on an arcane legal concept called "usufruct," could be a key to determining whether New Orleans will again be a seminal American city or whether it will stagnate with a population, like it has now, equal to that of Duluth, Minn., and Fort Smith, Ark.
The mechanics of the proposal remain uncertain but are beginning to come together. It would work like this:

Authorities would locate scattered homeowners to determine if they have the means or the inclination to rebuild. There are believed to be at least 100,000 homes in New Orleans that are damaged to the point that they are not habitable. If the owner is not planning to return anytime soon, local officials would strike a deal.

The owner would sign over controlling rights of the property — but not the title — to the government. In most cases, that would likely be the city of New Orleans, but the program would apply statewide and could involve numerous municipal or parish governments.

Through contracts targeting hundreds of properties at once, the government would then pay to make the home habitable again, while assuming, in most cases, mortgage payments for the owner.

The home would then be rented out, first to displaced "essential workers" such as teachers, police officers and firefighters and their families, then to the public. Rents would likely be subsidized, and checks would be written to the government agency that signed the deal or to a company hired to manage the money.

The owners would be allowed to return after an agreed-upon period of time — perhaps three to five years — provided they could repay the government for repairs made. If, at that point, the owner did not want to return or could not pay for the fixes, the government would have the right to sell it. If the house were sold, the government and the owner could share in profits and losses.
The sole drawback that I can see is that the powerful and politically connected ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT be able to resist the temptation to screw as many people as they can with a program like this. Other than that, it works for me.

Who is he kidding?

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says a federal investigation into his sale of stock in a family-owned hospital chain will affect his decision on whether he will seek the presidency in 2008.

Frist, R-Tenn., said Saturday during a visit to Iowa -- site of the nation's first presidential caucuses -- that he has not lost the public's trust and wants people to "wait for the facts before passing judgment."
You can't lose something you never had.

Tom Toles Today

Business as usual

From the WaPo, we get another story of corporate excellence in billing.
Federal auditors say the prime contractor on a $1 billion technology contract to improve the nation's transportation security system overbilled taxpayers for as much as 171,000 hours' worth of labor and overtime by charging up to $131 an hour for employees who were paid less than half that amount.

Three years ago, the Transportation Security Administration hired Unisys Corp. to create a state-of-the-art computer network linking thousands of federal employees at hundreds of airports to the TSA's high-tech security centers.

The project is costing more than double the anticipated amount per month, and the network is far from complete -- nearly half of the nation's airports have yet to be upgraded. Government officials said last week that the initial $1 billion contract ceiling was only a starting point for the project, which they recently said could end up costing $3 billion.
And what does Unisys have to say about this?
Conaway acknowledged that Unisys had problems with its internal financial controls. He also said that employees miscoded timesheets and that mistakes were not caught until months later because the company was pushing to meet the demands of the contract.

"Our discipline on some of our internal processes lapsed a little bit," he said.
Read the whole article, it's a doozy!

And so it goes

With apologies to Mr Vonnegut, the body count in New Orleans continues to rise.
Nearly two months after Hurricane Katrina struck and more than two weeks after the official quest for bodies was abandoned, corpses of Ninth Ward residents are being found every day.

The discovery of new remains shows no sign of slowing down: Workers hired by the state remove several ossified bodies each day, many of them discovered by residents returning home.

As of Wednesday, the death count from the hurricane was 1,053. That includes 20 more bodies than the total counted five days earlier, and 80 more than were discovered by Oct. 4, when the search was officially called off.

Coin-Gate update

From the Toledo Blade:
One month after Gov. Bob Taft won re-election in 2002, Tom Noe used $10,000 from his personal business to contribute to the governor's inaugural committee - money the governor is considering whether to return.

The Dec. 4, 2002, check to Mr. Taft's inaugural committee from Mr. Noe's Vintage Coins and Collectibles was included in records that Attorney General Jim Petro submitted yesterday to bolster his argument that Mr. Noe used money from Ohio's rare-coin venture to buy his former Catawba Island home, landscape his property in the Florida Keys, and show an imaginary profit to the state.

Mr. Petro, a Republican who is seeking his party's nomination for governor next year, has alleged that Vintage Coins and Collectibles was the conduit Mr. Noe used to steal millions of dollars that the coin dealer managed for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Orest Holubec, Mr. Taft's communications director, said Mr. Taft is "concerned about the source of any contributions from Noe or his corporations."
Bank records do not directly link the $10,000 donation to the rare-coin funds.

Instead, they show that the same account receiving state money for coin purchases was also the source of contributions to Mr. Taft.
Gee! You think? It's a good thing that appearences don't count in Republican Ohio. Like this:
Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro has declined to sue the Lucas County Republican Party in order to recover $63,000 in loans made by Tom Noe, according to a letter from his office.
The disclosures show that Mr. Noe extended a $40,000 loan on Oct. 22, 2002, and a $25,000 loan on Oct. 21, 2004, to the county party's candidates' fund. On Aug. 28, 2003, the party repaid $2,000 on the 2002 loan, county GOP records show.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Looks like Irv is being set up for the fall.

Two interesting pieces in thr WaPo today. The first is an exposition by WH insiders into how Irv should have known better.
I[rving]. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is known for his sarcastic, world-weary and at times dark sense of humor. He once quipped to an aide that he planned to stay as Vice President Cheney's top adviser until "I get indicted or something."
The joke -- recounted by the aide, who no longer works in the administration -- sounded absurd at the time, given Libby's renown for canniness and prudence.
Yet Libby could find himself in big trouble for saying too much. And this jibes with a lesser-known side of Libby, the audacious novelist and daredevil skier who has long been gripped with concern about exotic terrorist scenarios; who fervently argues his own viewpoints, particularly on matters of foreign policy; and who can become, friends and associates say, overly passionate in the face of opposing ones.
"He's always been excruciatingly careful, which is ironic in his situation," says World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz, a former deputy secretary of defense and a longtime mentor of Libby's.

The "situation," of course, refers to the Plame case.
When your mentor gives you up, you know you are dead meat.

The second story
details how Patrick Fitzgerald made sure he had all that he needed early on in the investigation.
Weeks after he took over the investigation 22 months ago into the unauthorized disclosure of a CIA operative's identity, special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald got authority from the Justice Department to expand his inquiry to include any criminal attempts to interfere with his probe, according to a letter posted Friday on Fitzgerald's new Web site.

Fitzgerald is nearing a decision on whether he will prosecute anyone when the federal grand jury term ends Friday. The letter specified that he could investigate and prosecute "perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence and intimidation of witnesses."
"The fact that he [Fitzgerald] asked for authority that he probably already had, but wanted spelled out, makes it arguable that he had run into something rather quickly," Washington lawyer Plato Cacheris said yesterday.
It looks more and more like Our Dear Embattled Leader will have to xerox a whole bunch of pardons for his boyos

Because Tom knows

From the WaPo we get these tasty tidbits.
DeLay did not speak during the brief session, in which the lawyers posted a bond for his appearance and explained the grounds for alleging that the judge's record of campaign contributions to Democrats and liberal organizations demonstrated "a personal bias" against DeLay.


DeLay's staff disclosed that he flew to Houston on Thursday morning on a corporate jet owned by R.J. Reynolds, a longtime contributor that has flown him to Puerto Rico and other destinations; they said the jet was "used in compliance with regulations." The company, which has also given $17,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund, did not have a comment Friday.
Money talks in Toms world and Tom writes the dictionary.

What the market will bear.

My blog is worth $26,533.38.
How much is your blog worth?

I, of course, would put a much higher value on it.

Anybody wonder if Our Dear Embattled Leader cares?

One hundred Brentwood kindergartners, many dressed in costumes, were all set to go see "The Wizard of Oz" on Friday when their first-ever field trip was blocked by the nation's 43rd president.

They never got to see the wizard.

President George W. Bush, his Marine One helicopter grounded by fog, brought morning rush hour to a standstill while his motorcade proceeded from West Los Angeles through the San Fernando Valley to Simi Valley for the dedication of the Air Force One Pavilion.

"We had buses all loaded up - but by the time they got to school it was too late," said Julie Fahn, a volunteer mom at Kenter Canyon Elementary in Brentwood, where girls had dressed as Dorothy to see the play performed in Malibu.

"My poor children - they were so disappointed. They're all so sad. They were inconvenienced by a silly motorcade down Sunset (Boulevard)."
With a silly man inside.

Greenspans last bubble

The real estate market in the US may well have reached the end of its string. When a savvy player like this drops out, beware!
Tom Barrack, arguably the world's greatest real estate investor, is methodically selling off his U.S. real estate holdings as prices drive the market to nosebleed levels.

He likens the current real estate market to a game of polo.

"I feel totally safe playing polo on a field full of pros," says the bronzed 58-year old. "But when amateurs are all over the field, someone can get killed. They have more guts than brains. They charge after every ball and don't know when to hold back."

It's the same with U.S. real estate right now. "There's too much money chasing too few good deals, with too much debt and too few brains." The amateurs are going to get trampled, he explains, taking seasoned horsemen, who should get off the turf, down with them.

Says Barrack: "That's why I'm getting out."
And as "Al the Hack" gets ready to go into retirement. so goes Greenspans last great bubble.

Flu Season

From the pen of David Fitzsimmons

Well, D-U-H!

A top U.S. official for aid to Iraq has accused the Bush administration of rushing unprepared into the 2003 invasion because of pressures from President Bush's approaching reelection campaign.

Robin Raphel, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq assistance, said that the invasion's timing was driven by "clear political pressure," as well as by the need to quickly deploy the U.S. troops that had been amassed by the Iraq border.

Soon after the invasion, Raphel said, it became clear that U.S. officials "could not run a country we did not understand…. It was very much amateur hour."

She said that key decisions from those days, including those to disband the Iraqi army and remove from government members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, were dictated by the neoconservative views held by hawkish senior administration officials and their Iraqi exile allies.

The decisions "were ideologically based," she said. "They were not based on analytical, historical understanding."

She said she believed officials with an ideological bent kept close watch on the others.

"There were political people round and about," she said. "One had to be careful."
Beware what you say and do when the commissar is near.

Is Ariel pushing Bushie to take "action"

Like he did in Iraq? The fact that Bushie finds the report "deeply disturbing" is quite interesting in light of his blase attitude to other equally disturbing acts by nations not adjacent to Israel.
Although Rice has refused to rule out military action against Syria, the Bush administration stressed that it has no plans for military intervention.

"We are seeking a diplomatic solution to this problem," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Friday.
Just like we did with Iraq.

Only time will tell if the neo-conmen, here and in Israel, will get their way.

Dan Simpson, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, puts the arguement against war very clearly in his column.
What of the regional impact in the Middle East? Some observers have argued that destabilizing Syria, creating chaos there, even bringing about regime change away from the current government of President Bashar Assad, is somehow to improve Israel's security posture in the region. The argument runs that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the biggest regional threat to Israel; Bashar Assad's Syria is second. The United States got rid of Saddam; now it should get rid of the Assad regime in Damascus.

The trouble with that argument, whether it is made by Americans or Israelis, is that, in practice, it depends on the validity of the premise that chaos and civil war -- the disintegration of the state -- in Iraq and Syria are better for Israel in terms of long-term security than the perpetuation of stable, albeit nominally hostile regimes.

The evidence of what has happened in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in early 2003 is to the contrary. Could anyone argue that Israel is made safer by a burning conflict in Iraq that has now attracted Islamic extremist fighters from across the Middle East, Europe and Asia? Saddam Hussein's regime was bad, but this is a good deal worse, and looks endless.
But that is only the position of the reality based community.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Enough to make Ali Baba and all the 40 Thieves cry.

The American Conservative magazine has an article detailing the corruption in the Coalition Provisional Authority.
The 15-month proconsulship of the CPA disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash, most of which came from the Development Fund for Iraq that had replaced the UN Oil for Food Program and from frozen and seized Iraqi assets. Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 “cashpaks,” each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons.

Once in Iraq, there was virtually no accountability over how the money was spent. There was also considerable money “off the books,” including as much as $4 billion from illegal oil exports. The CPA and the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Board, which it controlled, made a deliberate decision not to record or “meter” oil exports, an invitation to wholesale fraud and black marketeering.
When you start like that, is any of this a surprise?
The contracts were especially attractive because no work or results were necessarily expected in return. It became popular to cancel contracts without penalty, claiming that security costs were making it too difficult to do the work. A $500 million power-plant contract was reportedly awarded to a bidder based on a proposal one page long. After a joint commission rejected the proposal, its members were replaced by the minister, and approval was duly obtained. But no plant has been built.

Where contracts are actually performed, their nominal cost is inflated sufficiently to provide handsome bribes for everyone involved in the process. Bribes paid to government ministers reportedly exceed $10 million.

Money also disappeared in truckloads and by helicopter. The CPA reportedly distributed funds to contractors in bags off the back of a truck. In one notorious incident in April 2004, $1.5 billion in cash that had just been delivered by three Blackhawk helicopters was handed over to a courier in Erbil, in the Kurdish region, never to be seen again. Afterwards, no one was able to recall the courier’s name or provide a good description of him.

Paul Bremer, meanwhile, had a slush fund in cash of more than $600 million in his office for which there was no paperwork. One U.S. contractor received $2 million in a duffel bag. Three-quarters of a million dollars was stolen from an office safe, and a U.S. official was given $7 million in cash in the waning days of the CPA and told to spend it “before the Iraqis take over.” Nearly $5 billion was shipped from New York in the last month of the CPA. Sources suggest that a deliberate attempt was being made to run down the balance and spend the money while the CPA still had authority and before an Iraqi government could be formed.
And the sad part is that we probably could have bought each and every Iraqi, except the Chalabi family, for 10% of that.

Paint a bullseye on TurdBlossom and Irv.

From the NY Times today:
Among the charges that Mr. Fitzgerald is considering are perjury, obstruction of justice and false statement - counts that suggest the prosecutor may believe the evidence presented in a 22-month grand jury inquiry shows that the two White House aides sought to cover up their actions, the lawyers said.

Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said, but only this week has Mr. Fitzgerald begun to narrow the possible charges. The prosecutor has said he will not make up his mind about any charges until next week, government officials say.

With the term of the grand jury expiring in one week, though, some lawyers in the case said they were persuaded that Mr. Fitzgerald had all but made up his mind to seek indictments. None of the lawyers would speak on the record, citing the prosecutor's requests not to talk about the case.
There is still a long road ahead to Leavenworth but now they know which way to go.

UPDATE:Thanks to AmericaBlog for pointing the way to this Reuters article:
Prosecutors investigating the outing of a covert CIA operative opened a Web site on Friday to post possible indictments next week and were said by lawyers in the case to be focusing on whether top White House aides tried to conceal their actions from investigators.
The website is here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rove and Libby talk to each other.

Who knew? Actually, according to this WaPo article, Rove seems to be trying to sink Libby.
White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.

In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said.

Rove has also testified that he also heard about Plame from someone else outside the White House, but could not recall who.
Regarding politics, TurdBlossom remembers every person spoken to and every word said, ever in his life. Except when his head is on the block.

Once more our British cousins have better American news

In the Financial Times today we get some of the inside skinny on this disastrous regime ruining our country.
Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.

In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

“Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”
Regardless of whether or not 41 was good at foreign affairs, his son, ODEL, is an idiot, bastard child.

Thank you, Mr. Earle!

And kudos to The Smoking Gun for the wonderful graphics

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Our Dear Embattled Leader slaps a little love on the troops.

Because, according to the Tacoma News-Tribune, he and the Pentagon are not going to pay the bonuses promised to the Guard and Reserve troops who extended their enlistments.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, confirmed the bonuses had been canceled, saying they violated Pentagon policies because they duplicated other programs. She said Guard and Reserve members would be eligible for other bonuses.

Krenke said some soldiers had been paid the re-enlistment bonuses, but she was unsure how many or whether the money would have to be repaid.
But they do love and support the troops.
The bonus offer was part of the Pentagon’s effort to retain Guard and Reserve members at a time of declining enlistments in the regular Army.

Army officials have said they face the toughest recruiting climate since 1973, when the draft was dropped and replaced with an all-volunteer military.

Roughly 3,400 members of the Washington National Guard’s 81st Armor Brigade were serving in Iraq at the time the bonuses were offered.

The bonuses were tax-free because they involved soldiers stationed overseas.
Will the troops be allowed to un-reenlist?

Is the moon made of green cheese?

De Daily News has DeFrank story on ODEL & TurdBlossom

This mornings edition relates a story that has Our Dear Embattled Leader ripping poor little TurdBlossom a new one.
An angry President Bush rebuked chief political guru Karl Rove two years ago for his role in the Valerie Plame affair, sources told the Daily News.

"He made his displeasure known to Karl," a presidential counselor told The News. "He made his life miserable about this."

Bush has nevertheless remained doggedly loyal to Rove, who friends and even political adversaries acknowledge is the architect of the President's rise from baseball owner to leader of the free world.
Of course he stays loyal to TB. And near the end of the piece we see why.
"Bush did not feel misled so much by Karl and others as believing that they handled it in a ham-handed and bush-league way," the source said.
Nothing wrong with wasting spooks as long as you do it with style.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hey look! Another Republicrook.

The WaPo has a nice piece on the many connections between Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney of OHIO.
As federal officials pursue a wide-ranging investigation into the activities of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his arrest on fraud charges in the purchase of a Florida casino boat company has increasingly focused attention on a little-known congressman from rural Ohio.

Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) placed comments in the Congressional Record favorable to Abramoff's 2000 purchase of the casino boat company, SunCruz Casinos. Two years later, Ney sponsored legislation to reopen a casino for a Texas Indian tribe that Abramoff represented.

Ney approved a 2002 license for an Israeli telecommunications company to install antennas for the House. The company later paid Abramoff $280,000 for lobbying. It also donated $50,000 to a charity that Abramoff sometimes used to secretly pay for some of his lobbying activities.

Meanwhile, Ney accepted many favors from Abramoff, among them campaign contributions, dinners at the lobbyist's downtown restaurant, skybox fundraisers, including one at his MCI Center box, and a golfing trip to Scotland in August 2002. If statements made by Abramoff to tribal officials and in an e-mail are to be believed, Ney sought the Scotland trip after he agreed to help Abramoff's Texas Indian clients. Abramoff then arranged for his charity to pay for the trip, according to documents released by a Senate committee investigating the lobbyist.

Ney is under investigation by Florida federal prosecutors looking into Abramoff's acquisition of SunCruz, according to sources familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Abramoff and his business partner Adam Kidan were indicted in August on fraud charges related to the purchase.
But don't worry, Ney is "shocked, shocked" to find out what Jack was up to. And in case someone doesn't believe him, he is already lawyered up.

They don't call him "Dick" for nothing.

The WaPo has another good article on the latest tremors and spasms in DC.
As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney's long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

In grand jury sessions, including with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Fitzgerald has pressed witnesses on what Cheney may have known about the effort to push back against ex-diplomat and Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, including the leak of his wife's position at the CIA, Miller and others said. But Fitzgerald has focused more on the role of Cheney's top aides, including Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lawyers involved in the case said.
As that goofy hound dog in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons might say,'Which way will he go George, which way will he go?'

Monday, October 17, 2005

Rep Conyers writes to Der Rumsfurher

from the GreatScat blog:
October 17, 2005

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write about reports that journalists who were embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq were given security clearances. In her recounting of discussions with Scooter Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, disclosed her belief that she had a security clearance. She specifically wrote, "[d]uring the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment 'embedded' with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons."1 She also noted she was not certain whether her clearance was in existence at the time she met with Mr. Libby.2

In order to better understand the scope of the program under which journalists received security clearances, we would appreciate your prompt response to the following questions:

1. Since March 20, 2003, the date of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, have any journalists been provided with a security clearance or with access to classified information? If so, please explain. At what level were these clearances granted? Were background investigations conducted on these journalists and, if so, in what manner? Of journalists receiving security clearances or access to classified information, how many were embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq?

II. Who approved the policy of providing journalists with security clearances or with access to classified information? What was the operational reason for granting security clearances to journalists? How does this policy comport with the requirement that classified information be disseminated on a "need to know" basis?

III. Did each journalist sign documentation delineating their obligation to protect classified information as is required by employees of the federal government? Were journalists required to sign any additional non-disclosure agreements by the Department of the Defense or the military department to which they were assigned? If so, please provide a copy of such an agreement.

IV. Did journalists maintain their clearances after completing participation in the embed program? Are journalists with a security clearance or other access notified upon the revocation or termination of such clearance or access? When does such revocation or termination occur? Have any journalists who are or have been embedded with forces in Iraq had their security clearances revoked or otherwise terminated?

V. Since March 20, 2003, what journalists were provided with security clearances or other access to classified information? How long did each clearance or access period last?

Please reply through the Judiciary Committee Minority Office, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-225-6504) and the Armed Services Committee Minority Office, 2340 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-226-9007).

_____________________________ ______________________________

John Conyers, Jr. Ike Skelton

Ranking Member Ranking Member

Committee on the Judiciary Committee on Armed Services

From the pen of Mike Luckovich

Thanks be to Cookie Jill over at Skippys for showing us the link.

John of AmericaBlog speaks for real Americans

We're at war, George Bush keeps reminding us. We cannot continue with business as usual. A pre-9/11 mentality is deadly. Putting the lives of our troops at risk is treason.

Then why is the White House and the Republican party engaged in a concerted campaign to make treason acceptable during a time of war? That's exactly what they're doing. On numerous news shows today, Republican surrogates, their talking points ready, issued variations of the following concerning White House chief of staff Karl Rove's outing of a covert CIA agent as part of a political vendetta:

- It's the criminalization of politics
- Is this 'minor' leak really worth all this?
- Political payback is common and should not be criminalized
- Mis-speaking or mis-remembering is not a crime

Yes, the Republicans are now making light of an intentional effort to expose an undercover CIA agent, working on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, no less, while we are at war in the Middle East on that very issue.

The GOP has become the party of treason.
Stop by his blog and read the whole piece.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Brits like torture, too

From the Sunday Herald, we learn that the British are joining the torture fun and not just looking through their fingers.
ON each stage of his journey, as he descended further and further into the gulags and torture chambers of the war on terror, Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi was shadowed by British intelligence. The British were there in Karachi when Americans interrogated him and Pakistanis tortured him; they were feeding questions to the Moroccan torturers who took a scalpel to his penis; they stood back and watched as he was dragged to an American torture chamber in Afghanistan and then to the gulag of Guantanamo, where he languishes to this day.

Al-Habashi is a perfect example of what happens to a person who has been subjected to “extraordinary rendition”. This process sees someone suspected of involvement in terrorism snatched off the streets, usually in a third world country, then flown around the world by the CIA to regimes which indulge in torture, to be questioned on behalf of the US.

Hundreds of these “rendition flights” come through the UK, and the payback for the UK is that British intelligence gets to question some of the suspects by proxy – the proxy usually being a Middle Eastern torturer.
The rest of the story is appalling, but this is what our tax dollars pay for.

Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail protecting the identify of a source she couldn't recall

Many thanks to Fark for the title that pretty much sums up the NY Times story of Judith Miller and her courageous fight for something that has yet to be revealed. What is revealed is the fact that Darling Judy was a journalistic loose cannon in the newsroom and Pinch Sulzberger still has to explain why he let it happen. You can read the NY Times article here. And for journalistic balance, you can read the Washington Post article here. And to complete the Trifecta, the LA Times article is here.

UPDATE:Jane from firedoglake delicately dissects the Marvelous Tale of Darling Judy. Take the time to read it and her other posts on Darling Judy.

The Young Chickenhawks

CBS News finds what Operation Yellow Elephant and BuzzFlash have known for sometime now.
The cheeky website recently posted a petition calling for Jenna and Barbara Bush to serve in Iraq. But the famously private Bush twins have never disclosed their views on the war; they may even be opposed. So calling for them to serve might not be fair. But there are young and prominent Bush-backers who deserve to be targets of such a petition: The assorted leaders of the College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) are cheerleaders for a war they are unwilling to fight.
But as all YAF'ers know, bravery lies not in your actions but in who you know.
Indeed, YAF chairman Erik Johnson, vice chairman Darren Marks and fourteen other national officials have posted brief autobiographies on YAF's website. According to these bios, not one of them has served in the military or has any intention to do so in the future. YAF official Chris Hill told The Nation that he had been a member of his university's Navy ROTC program and the moderator of a blog where he offered advice to aspiring soldiers on how to obtain a military commission.

But he chose to seek a master's degree rather than join the armed forces. Asked about this decision, he said, "But I know people over there, and that's a fact."
Yes, he knows people over there. People like the maids son, the gardeners son and the plumbers son.
Conservative campus groups like YAF and College Republicans are growing in strength and numbers. And since the start of the Iraq War, these outfits have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Bush to support the war, but they have not stood alongside the soldiers doing the actual fighting and dying. They want someone else to do the hard work.

Tom Toles today

What we can expect from a distaff Clarence Thomas.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Money talks

This has been said before by others, but it's nice to see a major paper like the WaPo write about the dirty dealings of Jack Abramoff and his minions.
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his team were beginning to panic.

An anti-gambling bill had cleared the Senate and appeared on its way to passage by an overwhelming margin in the House of Representatives. If that happened, Abramoff's client, a company that wanted to sell state lottery tickets online, would be out of business.

But on July 17, 2000, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act went down to defeat, to the astonishment of supporters who included many anti-gambling groups and Christian conservatives.

A senior aide to then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) helped scuttle the bill in the House. The aide, Tony C. Rudy, 39, e-mailed Abramoff internal congressional communications and advice, according to documents and the lobbyist's former associates.

Rudy received favors from Abramoff. He went on two luxury trips with the lobbyist that summer, including one partly paid for by Abramoff's client, eLottery Inc. Abramoff also arranged for eLottery to pay $25,000 to a Jewish foundation that hired Rudy's wife as a consultant, according to documents and interviews. Months later, Rudy himself was hired as a lobbyist by Abramoff.
But through it all Tom Delay was just being a good congressmoop.
DeLay, an outspoken opponent of gambling, was an instrument, witting or unwitting [?!?-Ed.], in eLottery's campaign, documents and interviews show. Along with Rudy, he was a guest on a golfing trip to Scotland. As majority whip, he cast a rare vote against his party on the Internet gambling bill and for the rest of the year helped keep the measure off the floor. He told leadership colleagues that another vote could cost Republican seats in the hard-fought 2000 elections.

A statement from DeLay's lawyer said his votes "are based on sound public policy and principle."
Shouldn't that be principal + interest?

The article is long and disturbing, but it's a good read.

A New Contract With America?

Robert Borosage in the current issue of The Nation has a few good ideas. If you agree let the Democratic Party folks know.
§ Crack Down on Corruption: In contrast to conservative cronyism, shut the revolving door between corporate lobbies and high office. Prohibit legislators, their senior aides and executive branch political appointees from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Require detailed public reporting of all contacts between lobbyists and legislators. Pledge to apply this to all, regardless of party. Take the big money out of politics by pushing for clean elections legislation.

§ Make America Safe: Commit to an independent investigation of the Department of Homeland Security's failures in response to Katrina. Detail action on the urgent needs that this Administration has ignored: Improve port security, bolster first responders and public health capacity, and require adequate defense planning by high-risk chemical plants. End the pork-barrel squandering of security funds.

§ Unleash New Energy for America: In contrast to the Big Oil policies of the Administration that leave us more dependent on foreign supplies, pledge to launch a concerted drive for energy independence like the one called for by the Apollo Alliance. Create new jobs by investing in efficiency and alternative energy sources, helping America capture the growing green industries of the future.

§ Rebuild America First: Rescind Bush's tax cuts for the rich and corporations, which create more jobs in China than here, and use that money to put people to work building the infrastructure vital to a high-wage economy. Start with challenging the Administration's trickle-down plans for the Gulf Coast, which will victimize once more those who suffered the most.

§ Make Work Pay: In contrast to the Bush economy, in which profits and CEO salaries soar while workers' wages stagnate and jobs grow insecure, put government on the side of workers. Raise the minimum wage. Empower workers to join unions by allowing card-check enrollment. Pay the prevailing wage in government contracts. Stop subsidizing the export of jobs abroad.

§ Make Healthcare Affordable for All: Pledge to fix America's broken healthcare system, with the goal of moving to universal, affordable healthcare by 2015. Start by reversing the Republican sellout to the pharmaceutical industry by empowering Medicare to bargain down costs and by allowing people to purchase drugs from safe outlets abroad.

§ Protect Retirement Security: In contrast to Bush's plan to dismantle Social Security, pledge to strengthen it and to require companies to treat the shop floor like the top floor when it comes to pensions and healthcare.

§ Keep the Promise of Opportunity: Instead of Republican plans to cut eligibility for college grants and to limit loans, offer a contract to American students: If they graduate from high school, they will be able to afford the college or higher technical training they have earned. Pay for this by preserving the tax on the wealthiest multimillion-dollar estates in America.

§ Refocus on Real Security for America: In contrast with Bush's pledge to stay in Iraq indefinitely, sapping our military and breeding terrorists, put forth a firm timeline for removing the troops from Iraq. Use the money saved to invest in security at home. Lead an aggressive international alliance to track down stateless terrorists, to get loose nukes under control and to fight nuclear proliferation.

The Bushoviks Roll of Honor

These are all honorable people, casualties of the malfeasance and incompetence of the Bushoviks.

Some people love SPAM

From the LA Times:
If you're looking for a gift that bespeaks elegance and taste, you might try Spam. The luncheon meat might be the subject of satire back home in the U.S., but in South Korea, it is positively classy. With $136 million in sales, South Korea is the largest market in the world for Spam outside the United States. But here, some consider the pink luncheon meat with its gelatinous shell too nice to buy for themselves, and 40% of the Spam is purchased as gifts.

Especially during the holidays, you can see the blue-and-yellow cans neatly stacked in the aisles of the better stores. South Koreans are nearly as passionate about packaging as the Japanese are, and the Spam often comes wrapped in boxed sets. A set of 12 cans costs $44.

"Spam really is a luxury item," said Han Geun Rae, 43, an impeccably dressed fashion buyer who was loading gift boxes of Spam into a cart at the Shinsegae department store before the recent Chusok holiday.

Chusok is the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, and the biggest gift-giving occasion of the year here.
Why, you may ask, is there such adoration of the pink stuff.
Not coincidentally, Spam is also popular in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa, Guam and Saipan, all places with a history of a U.S. military presence. The "Miracle Meat in a Can," as it was touted after its launch in 1937, was a staple of the GI diet during World War II and the 1950-53 Korean War.
Yes, it's true! Our military is the cause. Another reason why "War is Hell".

George W. Bush's suicidal statecraft

This thoughful piece by Zbigniew Brzezinski in the International Herald-Tribune should give anyone who loves their country pause to reflect on the sad state of US foreign affairs.
Sixty years ago, Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental "A Study of History," that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was "suicidal statecraft." Sadly for President George W. Bush's place in history but - much more important - ominously for America's future, it has lately seemed as if that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11.

Though there have been some hints lately that the administration may be beginning to reassess the goals, so far defined largely by slogans, of its unsuccessful military intervention in Iraq, Bush's speech of Oct. 6 was a throwback to the more demagogic formulations that he employed during the presidential campaign of 2004 to justify the war that he himself started.
Take the time to read it all.

This is what we are training.

From Editor & Publisher comes the details of the Knight-Ridders correspondent time embedded with US trained Iraqi troops. It ain't pretty.
Lasseter writes that "a week spent eating, sleeping and going on patrol with a crack unit of the Iraqi army" (the 4,500-member 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Division) suggests that the Bush exit strategy of turning over military control to the Iraqis "is in serious trouble. Instead of rising above the ethnic tension that's tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population."

Indeed, the soldiers he traveled with are "seeking revenge against the Sunnis who oppressed them during Saddam Hussein's rule."

American commanders often refer to the 1st Brigade as a template for the future of Iraq's military, and sometimes they operate on their own, other times with American firepower taking the lead. But Lasseter notes that increasingly "they look and operate less like an Iraqi national army unit and more like a Shiite militia."
We often forget that, for all its modern trappings, Iraq was always a tribal state. Whether is was external conquerors or internal strongmen, it was the heavy hand of the ruler that kept it together. And we took that all away and put nothing in its place. A great many people are going to die while the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds sort it out. As one Iraqi sergeant puts it, "Your country had to have a civil war. It will be the same here. Everything in this world has its price. In Iraq the price for peace will be blood."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Our Dear Embattled Leader tries to prove he is dumber than a stump.

From the NY Times we get this lovely compilation of cross border fracases with Syria.
A series of clashes in the last year between American and Syrian troops, including a prolonged firefight this summer that killed several Syrians, has raised the prospect that cross-border military operations may become a dangerous new front in the Iraq war, according to current and former military and government officials.

The firefight, between Army Rangers and Syrian troops along the border with Iraq, was the most serious of the conflicts with President Bashar al-Assad's forces, according to American and Syrian officials.

It illustrated the dangers facing American troops as Washington tries to apply more political and military pressure on a country that President Bush last week labeled one of the "allies of convenience" with Islamic extremists. He also named Iran.

One of Mr. Bush's most senior aides, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that so far American military forces in Iraq had moved right up to the border to cut off the entry of insurgents, but he insisted that they had refrained from going over it.

But other officials, who say they got their information in the field or by talking to Special Operations commanders, say that as American efforts to cut off the flow of fighters have intensified, the operations have spilled over the border - sometimes by accident, sometimes by design.
Having misused the armed forces until they are stretched to the max, he seems to think they can go a little farther.
Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.
And those of us who are old enough remember how well that little adventure went.

Frankly the reasoning behind this is hard to understand. The attack on the WTC was perpetrated by religious fanatics. Still, after a half-hearted attck into Afghanistan, where ODEL failed to catch the ringleader of the religious fanatics, he went haring off after one of two secular regimes in the Middle East. Bad as Saddam was, he had no use for Al-Quaeda or any other religious types, and kept them at bay with maximum force. The other secular state is Syria, which has long battled its own religious fanatics. We seldom hear that after the WTC, Syrian security opened their extensive and detailed files on religious terrorists to the US. Not only has this gesture been spurned by ODEL, he seems determined to remove Assad and open the way to success to the religious fanatics, as he has done in Iraq. It really makes me wonder which side our government in on.

So remember, the next time someone says ODEL is dumb as a stump don't you believe it. He is proudly, defiantly dumber


And the WaPo today shows how the Repugnant party honors our wounded veterans.
His hand had been blown off in Iraq, his body pierced by shrapnel. He could not walk. Robert Loria was flown home for a long recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he tried to bear up against intense physical pain and reimagine his life's possibilities.

The last thing on his mind, he said, was whether the Army had correctly adjusted his pay rate -- downgrading it because he was out of the war zone -- or whether his combat gear had been accounted for properly: his Kevlar helmet, his suspenders, his rucksack.

But nine months after Loria was wounded, the Army garnished his wages and then, as he prepared to leave the service, hit him with a $6,200 debt. That was just before last Christmas, and several lawmakers scrambled to help. This spring, a collection agency started calling. He owed another $646 for military housing.
Call or write your congressmoop today!

We all need the latest jib-jab

Thanks to John at AmericaBlog for showing the way.

Enjoy it here, unless its about you.

Friday Night Airplane Blogging

Tonights plane is one of the true oddities of airplane development in WWII or any other time. The Blohm & Voss BV-141 was the product of a shipbuilde rthat was well known as a builder of flying boats. The asymmetrical BV-141 was an attempt to create a very stable reconnaisance aircraft, and it worked. The aerodynamics of the offset pilot and crew compartment nicely cancelled the torque of the single engine to provide an easy handling stable platform for aerial photography. Sadly, the Luftwaffe was not ready for something this radical in design and only 13 were built. None survived the war

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tom Toles

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Somebody is really pissed off!

From the Louisiana Weekly in its entirety.
Executive Privilege and Privileged Executives

By James Clingman, NNPA Columnist
October 10, 2005 talkback

We have heard of executive privilege and have seen it in action several times, especially now that arrogance reigns in the White House. Our president exercises his executive privileges, and passes them on to his buddies in the private sector as well. The attitudes and actions of privileged executives are in-your-face, I-don't-care-about-you, and you-can-kiss-my-assets-and-go-to-hell.

Current political policies are a death sentence to Black and poor people in this country. The president travels across the country talking about why we should support the war in Iraq, all the while apparently not believing that the majority of the population is telling him what he can do with his war, as New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport, and Mobile drown. He finally "cuts his vacation short" and wants us to be impressed about it.

That's what Bush executive privilege is all about; and you thought it was simply about signing orders or withholding information from the public. This guy flies over the gulf coast and then holds a press briefing telling us what we already know. In addition to rattling off numbers meals and other items he says will arrive in New Orleans, oh about four days too late. He has to read everything he says, even his regrets and sympathies to families that have lost loved ones. I suppose his executive privilege dictates his reaction to the recent hurricane devastation. Seems to me, as I recall, it was bit different when hurricanes hit his brother's state of Florida.

Executive privilege by privileged executives like Bush, Ken Lay, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others is both appalling and enlightening. People in this country are on the brink of starvation and epidemic, wandering through the streets like Darfurians, Rwandans, and Haitians (Hmmm, I wonder why all of those groups happen to be Black), and Bush comes to the rescue four days late seeking credit for doing what we pay him to do. The hugging and kissing photo opportunities were great.

Executive privilege supports lying, cheating, deceit, and arrogance of the highest degree. It allows the spending of a billion dollars per week on a stupid war, but not even a million per week on our own citizens who are stranded, stricken, and suffering from Hurricane Katrina. Water, so plentiful in this country is not even available to those who desperately need it. Food, in this land of bounty, is scarce and in short supply for the children caught in this quagmire. Executive privilege allows "fly-overs" and shallow speeches. Privileged executives continue to watch the big board at the New York Stock Exchange and applaud after the day's trading is over, especially the oil and drug execs.

The juxtaposition of the tragedy along the gulf coast against multi-million dollar earning CEO 's getting raises and making even more in Bush's compassionate economy suggests a decadent and Nero-like society teetering on the edge of destruction. All the signs are there. How we treat the least among us is the determining factor in whether we will be treated kindly. But we get the leadership we deserve, don't we?

George Bush and his men of ill repute are now in their second term. They have lied to us and caused untold numbers of people to be killed in their war, yet they are still in charge. They have not been indicted; Bush has not been impeached, as Clinton was for lying about an affair; and now another Bush waits in the wings to be crowned leader of this country. We get the leadership we deserve.

Executive privilege among privileged executives will be the ultimate demise of this country because as it says in Ecclesiastes 5:10, "Whoever loves money, never has money enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income" Many of our billionaire privileged executives will go to their graves thinking their money will be their salvation. They will continue to overcharge and rip people off in the midst of devastation. They will pass laws that negatively affect the poor and disenfranchised, while increasing their own assets. They will stand before us and lie to our faces, eat caviar and drink champagne, and watch thousands of their brothers and sisters wade through infested waters trying to survive. They will shake their heads and wag their fingers at poor people ripping off abandoned Wal-Mart stores, while they rip off entire countries for their oil and other valuable resources.

Privileged executives, buoyed by executive privilege, are just plain greedy, aloof, and despicable. They do flyovers rather than parachute drops; they do press briefings instead of pressing into action; they read from Teleprompters rather than speak from their hearts (If they have hearts); they are patronizing rather than patriotic; they are rhetorical instead of real; they are sarcastic rather than sacrificial; they are condescending rather than conscious; they are evil rather than good.

We had better awaken from our comatose state real soon, brothers and sisters. We may as well accept the fact that we are not high on the agenda of those who run this country. We must deal with the fact that some of our more prominent brothers and sisters have sold us out and continue to do so, as they follow and praise a guy like George Bush, despite all that he has done and now in the face of what he has not done. We may as well deal with the fact that some of our black preachers are closely tied to Bush and continue to support his sinfulness simply for money and the "privilege" of dining with him.

We must face these realities and move with whomever we have to assure that Black people in the U.S. do not become extinct. Look at New Orleans and ask yourself: "Do we have a choice?"

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