Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Friday, March 30, 2007
Waxman To Rice
A wonderful letter indeed:
Dear Madam Secretary:

On March 12, 2007, I sent you a letter renewing, as formal requests of the Committee, prior letter requests that I sent to you between 2003 and 2006. These requests sought information on the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, White House treatment of classified information, the appointment of Ambassador Jones as “special coordinator” for Iraq, and other subjects. My March 12 letter is attached.

The March 12 letter requested a response by March 23 to several of the inquiries, but the Committee received no response from you.

I now request your appearance before the Committee at a hearing on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building. At this hearing, you will be asked to provide testimony and respond to questions on the subjects outlined in the March 12 letter and the original request letters. …

Henry A. Waxman
Kudo's to Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Nancy Pelosi and all the Dems who are really trying to exercise appropriate government oversight.
Vote Influencing
Here's an LA Times story on exactly what was wrong with the prosecutors firings. Despite the "they serve at the pleasure of the President" mantra, this story outlines exactly what the Rove operation was all about:
THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.
This is written by Joseph D. Rich, who was chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005. He now works for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Indeed, there have never been limits on the Presidents ability to fire Federal prosecutors. But then, they've never been needed as Presidents have historically respected the spirit of an independent justice system.

Until now.

Ironically, one outcome of the Bush presidency may be a weaker President, not a stronger one.

A hallmark of a sociopath is the willingness to test, or break through, all limits. Throughout the six years Rove, with the backing of the stupid-ass preznit, has turned the government into a political operation with the sole goal of maintaining Republican supremacy. This is no surprise when you combine the Republican contempt for government with their thirst for power. We're seeing some of it exposed, but I seriously doubt we'll be able to find all the metastases, there's simply not enough time or investigators.
In the past, when gasoline prices rose significantly drivers responded by conserving. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be occurring lately.

It appears that the process of adaptation is firmly in place for gasoline up to $3.50/gal. and will take much higher prices, or shortages, to get consumers attention again.
Wasting Time
Here the real data on how Americans feel about Congressional oversight:

Compare and contrast with the bobblehead talking points that America doesn't want investigations, it wants legislation! Note that even Republicans nearly equally support investigations over not.
Quick Hits
Here are two examples of the corruption of the media/punditocracy.

One is Margaret Carlson commenting on her former boink-mate Fred Thomson, and the other is James Carville doing political analysis without a disclaimer that he is a Hillary Clinton advisor (Paul Begala, ditto)
T. Boone
You all may remember T. Boone Pickens, the oil mogul. There's a blog post at "The Mess That Greenspan Made" with an interview of Pickens on the oil situation. Take a moment and give it a read.

The short version is that peak oil is likely here and oil prices will hit $75/barrel before going back to $55/barrel.

Time to buy more oil futures.
Wandering Thoughts
Last night on the Lehrer Newshour, panelists were discussing the confrontation between Congress and Bush over war funding/timetables. Judy Woodruff asked the question, what happens if they don't reach an agreement, particularly to the troops stuck in Iraq? No one on the panel really answered her citing that it's unprecedented.

I just wanted to comment that in any and all negotiations with Bush, Congressional Dems must keep in mind that Bush will not compromise and won't back down. He'll take himself, the Republican party and the country right over the cliff in his attempts to prove his manhood and resolve. He's pugilistic to the max, meaning that Dems had better have a plan for what their strategy will be after a veto, and with Bush willing to allow funding to lapse for the war.

The Pentagon can keep the war going for some time without official funding. But the P.R. campaign by the administration of a lack of funding will be enormous and viewed by Rove as an opportunity to slam the Democrats. The Dems need to prepare for this eventuality rather than running on conventional wisdom that reason will intervene and that Bush will ultimately negotiate.
The Riddle
I don't know about you but I need a few minutes of "nice".
Thursday, March 29, 2007
This Means War!

This does not surprise me in the least.

Does believing that "God is on our side" make it easier for us to inflict pain and suffering on those perceived to be our enemies? If we think God sanctions violence, are we more likely to engage in violent acts?

The answer to both those questions, according to new research, is a resounding "yes," even among those who do not consider themselves believers.

Shamelessly stolen from Gryphen. And just to prove the point, there's this.

Still Standing Up
Remember the post the other day about Iraqi policemen running around shooting civilians? Here's the latest on that story:
MOSUL, Iraq, March 29 (Reuters) - Policemen who took part in the reprisal shootings of scores of men in northwest Iraq this week were arrested but then freed again to prevent unrest, the provincial governor said on Thursday.

Hours after truck bombs killed 85 people on Tuesday in a Shi'ite area of Tal Afar, up to 70 Sunni Arab men were shot dead in a town which only a year ago was held up by U.S. President George W. Bush as an example of progress towards peace.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Can You?
Should've Known
The GOP is running attack ads against one of the fired U.S. prosecutors, David Iglesias.

Talk about kicking a guy when he's down.


And of course everything in the ad is bullshit.
So Much
I'm out of town right now, so light blogging.

The scandals keep on a comin'. Today it's the Government Services administration (GSA) being used by Rove to win Senate seats. This is a total violation of the Hatch act.

I kn0w it was said that a cancer was growing on the Nixon Presidency. But doesn't it seem as if there's a metastatic quality to Rove's involvement in virtually every arena of government?

You've gotta watch this clip of Lurita Doan of GSA being "interviewed" on her role promoting GOP goals through the GSA:

Libby disease, it's rampant.
Good friends:
WP columnist Jim Hoagland wonders why Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said no when the White House invited him to a gala in his honor. It's a story that has received scant attention in the papers, but an official flew to Washington last week to explain the cancellation as a scheduling conflict. No one is buying that. Hoagland says it's "one more warning sign that the Bush administration's downward spiral at home is undermining its ability to achieve its policy objectives abroad." And Saudi Arabia's king is not alone. Jordan's King Abdullah, who has never been shy about visiting Bush, said he won't be able to make a state visit that was being discussed for September.
It has nothing to do with Bush's popularity at home. It has to do with Bush's popularity in the world!

Of course not visiting Bush is just smart policy. Bush specifically and America generally, are so radioactive in the middle east, coming here and kissing Bush's ring would be political suicide.

Update: Put this is your pipe and smoke it Mr. Bush:
One day later: “The king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, condemned the presence of American forces in Iraq as an ‘illegitimate foreign occupation‘ in a speech today, and said the withholding of aid to Palestinians should end.”
More Chicken
Yet another game of chicken with the administration. As you likely know, the Congress is going to pass a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq with the most recent appropriations bill. Then:
The WSJ points out Bush and Congress must reach some sort of compromise by mid-May because that's when the military will start facing major money problems.
Get ready for a full metal jacket, red white and blue whine-a-thon from Republicans about Democrats not supporting the troops. How the Dems navigate this is going to be very important.
Standing UP
Iraqi style:
BAGHDAD - Shiite militants and police enraged by massive truck bombings in Tal Afar went on a revenge spree against Sunni residents in the northwestern town Wednesday, killing as many as 60 people, officials said.

The gunmen began roaming Sunni neighborhoods in the city, shooting at residents and homes, according to police and a local Sunni politician.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Great Visuals
By now you've likely heard that Department of Justice Aide Monica Goodling plans on taking the fifth rather than testifying in front of Congress.

Can you imagine the visuals?
Senator: Ms. Goodling, can you tell us what was said at your meeting with Attorney General Gonzales on blah blah date?

Goodling: Senator, I refuse to answer on the grounds that the answer may tend to incriminate me.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat over and over again.

If the Senators have their act together, they'll ask her questions for a couple of hours. This would complete the accurate depiction of the Bush administration as a mob family pulling the levers to stay out of jail.

As I understand it. You can only take the fifth if you have reasonable belief that you've committed a crime. Certainly she's implying that there is wrongdoing going on and that she might get caught in a "perjury trap". Ok. Then give her immunity and voila', immunity doesn't apply. I don't think that any wrongdoing by Monica Goodling is the goal of the investigation. You know, small fish/big fish.
Just A Thought
Suppose that the Iranians use the same interrogation techniques on the captured British soldiers used by the U.S. in Iraq and GWOT?

How would America and Britain respond if these boys are tortured interrogated?
One Ugly Chart
Just to give you some perspective on how bad the housing market has become .... goes back 10 years ....

Just take three minutes and watch this clip of the kewl kidz at work:

This is high school inside gossip at it's best. And remember, those being interviewed here are the Washington Press Corps!!! No discussion of lying, the impact of those lies, or policy implications. No references to illegalities, to the undermining of the freaking Constitution. No, just a bunch of fun fun fun bullshit political guesses. It's all just fun whispering about the cocktail weenie crowd. These are serious thinkers?

Is it any wonder that Bush has been so successful? One thing I may actually share with the Preznit is a complete disdain for the chattering class. They are shameful.
Oh My
Witnesses have told congressional investigators that the chief of the General Services Administration and a deputy in Karl Rove's political affairs office at the White House joined in a videoconference earlier this year with top GSA political appointees, who discussed ways to help Republican candidates.

With GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan and up to 40 regional administrators on hand, J. Scott Jennings, the White House's deputy director of political affairs, gave a PowerPoint presentation on Jan. 26 of polling data about the 2006 elections.

When Jennings concluded his presentation to the GSA political appointees, Doan allegedly asked them how they could "help 'our candidates' in the next elections," according to a March 6 letter to Doan from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman said in the letter that one method suggested was using "targeted public events, such as the opening of federal facilities around the country."
Isn't that, .... like .... illegal?
Hang Tough
Go ahead Bush, just keep on hanging tough with Abu and the subpoenas. We like it that way.
White House still supporting Gonzales.

Even though both liberal and conservative lawmakers, pundits, members of the media, and the American public are pushing for Gonzales’s resignation, the White House refuses to budge. “We are not negotiating,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. “We are where we are, which is where we were last week. I can understand why people would think we have not made the right decision, but we think we have.”
Oh, and you other Republicans? Just keep on supporting your fearless leader. We like that too.
Family Values Party
The "family values party" has brought not only the carnage of civil war to Iraq, but also skyrocketing levels of prostitution. These young people have nothing left.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Bigger Fish
This story has sort of gotten lost somewhere along the way. As I mentioned awhile ago, this is really the big story. And it wouldn't surprise me if all the stonewalling is designed to firewall Bush from inquiry into this little activity where we have evidence of obstruction of justice by BUSH!
Yesterday I reported that the Justice Department had written Congress that, against the advice of Alberto Gonzales, the president had shut down an internal department investigation into the administration's wireless wiretapping program. Bush's was an unprecedented and arbitrary (and still unexplained) move.

Democrats in the Senate want to know more. So yesterday Sens. Russ Feinfold (D-WI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter following up.
Here's the releveant graf from my previous blog post:
Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.
Looks like some Senators are interested in looking at this further.
Baghdadians are flocking, FLOCKING back to their homes!!!

So proclaims Gen. Petraeus in pointing to the success of the escalation. The only problem with it is ..... you guessed it .... like everything else coming out of the mouth of anyone who swears allegiance to Bush, it isn't true.
A Quicker Solution
If Abu won't resign, and if Bush won't cooperate in Congressional oversight by playing out the clock, why not impeach administration officials like Abu Gonzales?
"The Constitution's Impeachment Clause applies to all 'civil officers of the United States' - not to mention the president, vice president and federal judges," Dean wrote. "It is not clear who, precisely, is among those considered 'civil officers,' but the group certainly includes a president's cabinet and sub-cabinet, as well as the senior department officials and the White House staff (those who are issued commissions by the president and serve the President and Vice President)."

Dean writes on the precedent: "Impeachment of Secretary of War William Belknap, in the aftermath of the Civil War, is the only precedent for using these proceedings against subordinate executive officers. Belknap was said to be involved in a kickback scheme involving military contracts. Just hours before the House was to vote to impeach him, Belknap resigned. Nonetheless, on March 2, 1876, the House impeached the former cabinet officer, and the five articles of impeachment were presented to the Senate."
There's little doubt that Bushies have used every possible innovation of the Constitution to take power. Why not be innovative in using obscure provisions, not usually needed when people play nice, to exercise oversight?
How's That Surge Goin'?
Surge in troops or surge in violence?
Two US troops were announced killed on Saturday.

AP reporter Kim Gamel details a wave of bombings and mayhem across Iraq on Saturday. The deadliest attack was a suicide truck bombing at a police station in Baghad, which killed 20 and wounded 28, many of them police. Guerrillas bombed a pastry shop in the northern Turkmen city of Tal Afar, killing 10 and wounded 3. A truck bomber killed 11 and wounded 45 in Haswah, south of Baghdad. Suicide car bombers killed 20 and wounded 30 in attacks on police at Qaim near the Syrian border.

Reuters gives other incidents and estimates that 25 bodies were found in Baghdad on Friday, 8 in Fallujah, and another 4 in Mosul. The found-body count, of nearly 40, is much higher than in the AP story. Al-Hayat estimated the day's death toll from political violence at 90.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that the British made a security sweep in the southern, largely Shiite port city of Basra on Friday, killing one Iraqi and arresting 28. The fighting was with Shiite militiamen, presumably.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
More from Kevin Drum here analyzing the Friday doc dump.

Looks to me like they were searching for a presentable reason for the firings to cover the real reason.
Rover Political Operation
From the doc dump on Friday:
In a Dec. 3, 2006, e-mail released Friday night, Scott Jennings, one of presidential adviser Karl Rove's aides, asked Sampson if he had a list of "all vacant, or about-to-be vacant, US Attorney slots." Jennings' request came on a Sunday, so Sampson offered to send it to him the next day.

Jennings, a political operative, had earlier passed along complaints from Republican Party activists about U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who was fired from his job in New Mexico. Some Republicans were angry that Iglesias hadn't been more aggressive in investigating Democrats.
Karl baby. Let's see your list. Gee. I wonder who else is on it?
Lying SOB
Think Progress:
ABC News reports: “New documents show Gonzales approved firings of U.S. attorneys, contradicting earlier claims he was not closely involved.”

UPDATE: The AP reports:

Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting. …

The Nov. 27 meeting, in which the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials participated, focused on a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Justice Department officials said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was crafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week in the wake of the political firestorm surrounding the firings.

UPDATE II: On March 12, Gonzales denied any involvement in the prosecutor purge:

I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on … That’s basically what I knew as attorney general.
From yesterday's document dump.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Here It Is
McClatchey is starting to smell the coffee. Someone has finally written about Rover's speech to attorney's where he spells out the plan:
WASHINGTON - Under President Bush, the Justice Department has backed laws that narrow minority voting rights and pressed U.S. attorneys to investigate voter fraud - policies that critics say have been intended to suppress Democratic votes.

Bush, his deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and other Republican political advisers have highlighted voting rights issues and what Rove has called the "growing problem" of election fraud by Democrats since Bush took power in the tumultuous election of 2000, a race ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since 2005, McClatchy Newspapers has found, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He's denied any wrongdoing.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the four U.S. attorneys weren't chosen only because of their backgrounds in election issues, but "we would expect any U.S. attorney to prosecute voting fraud."

Taken together, critics say, the replacement of the U.S. attorneys, the voter-fraud campaign and the changes in Justice Department voting rights policies suggest that the Bush administration may have been using its law enforcement powers for partisan political purposes.


Last April, while the Justice Department and the White House were planning the firings, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in nine of them since 2005: Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. U.S. attorneys in the latter four were among those fired.

Rove thanked the audience for "all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected." He added, "A lot in American politics is up for grabs."

The department's civil rights division, for example, supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor, minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank DiMarino, a former federal prosecutor who served six U.S. attorneys in Florida and Georgia during an 18-year Justice Department career, said that too much emphasis on voter fraud investigations "smacks of trying to use prosecutorial power to investigate and potentially indict political enemies."

Several former voting rights lawyers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of antagonizing the administration, said the division's political appointees reversed the recommendations of career lawyers in key cases and transferred or drove out most of the unit's veteran attorneys.
As they say, go read the whole thing. I've been saying it and I'll say it again, it was a Rove political operation to use U.S. prosecutors to intimidate Democrats in key states. It's has Rove's typical fingerprints alllll over it.
Michael Kinsley, We Hardly Knew Ye
What in the world has happened to Michael Kinsley?

Here's the short version. Kinsley wrote a column the other day condemning Democrats for making a big deal out of the prosecutor scandal. Kinsley seems unable to distinguish the difference between the normal appointive turnover of prosecutors and using the U.S. Justice Dept. as a political arm of the Republican party. Josh Marshall to Kinsley:
The firings were not the offense. They were the clue that suggested the offense. As the Congressional Research Service has shown, over the last twenty-five years only ten US Attorneys have been dismissed other than at the beginning of a new president's term of office. And of those, eight were for clear cause. For instance, one of them bit a stripper on the arm in a night club. And that, not surprisingly, led to his ouster.

To quote the CRS report ...

In virtually all of those 10 previous cases, serious issues of personal or professional conduct appeared to be the driving issue. Prior to December, for example, only two U.S. Attorneys were outright fired for improper, and in one case criminal, behavior. The CRS report identifies six other U.S. Attorneys who resigned during the 25-year period who were implicated in news reports of “questionable conduct.” For two others, the CRS was unable to determine the cause.

(For more details on this key element of the firings story, see this discussion by Scott Lilly.)
In any case, ten times over twenty five years and in eight of those cases for clear and publicly aired reasons.

And then on one day, secretly and with no explanation, seven get canned. And several are involved in corruption investigations targetting Republicans. The first public explanation is that they were fired for poor performance. But then it turns most were among the highest performing US Attorneys in the country. Add in the fact that one of the eight was overseeing one of the broadest ranging and historic public corruption cases in US history and ... well, it all got our attention.

Then, only a little digging revealed clear evidence that two of the US Attorneys were dismissed for not pursuing bogus claims of Democratic 'voter fraud'.
In addition to Marshall, as I often say, just go read Digby on the matter. As usual, Digby does the thorough knockdown of Kinsley as well, but points to the larger issue of what is now a thirty year tradition of Republican corruption in government. And like Digby, I'm sick of being labeled a dirty f$%king hippie because I squeal at the abject corruption right under my nose. I'm not a leftist firebrand. Much of the rest of the country have left American traditions to become reactionaries, blithely following the slick P.R. marketing plan of the GOP.

What I would like to add is, what's up with these guys? People like Kinsley, Broder, Klein, Roberts, Friedman, Donaldson, and on and on .... folks that I used to think of as being bonafide progressive thinkers and guardians of the Jeffersonian wing of the American tradition, what happened to them?

Is the explanation simply that all of these folks have gotten old? Has aging influenced them in a more cynical and conservative direction, as it does with many people? Where are their ideals? I used to love to watch Kinsley on crossfire, his sharp wit cutting conservatives to ribbons. Now he's saying that Bush's behavior is simply, "bidness as usual"?

I don't know. It's all so disillusioning. Interestingly, it's the generally younger blogosphere that is calling these folks on the carpet. I mourne for these thinkers, for the loss of their wisdom, idealism and sense of right and wrong in government. And I mourne for the impact of their loss on the nation.
DHS to Move
The Department of Homeland Security will be moving its headquarters to a former lunatic asylum. How fitting.
The $3 billion move will begin in 2011, according to a plan prepared by the DHS, once a new building is ready in the grounds of the former mental hospital, St. Elizabeth's.

You can't make this shit up.
TPM Muckrakers
I just made a contribution to Josh Marshalls site.

The work they have been doing lately is outstanding. They have led the way on the entire purgegate story (among others), far ahead of the mainstream media.

But like every other endeavor, it takes a buck. So if you are of a mind, go a send them some love too.
The Inhofe Scale
I love this. Blogger Lou Grinzo has come up with the "Inhofe Scale", a measure of delusional thinking.
The Inhofe Scale will be used to measure statements (but most definitely not the speakers who make them) that exhibit a noticeable and willing detachment from reality. The scale is calibrated so that 100 equals the detachment seen in Senator Inhofe's "greatest hoax", polar bear, and Mars quotations, seen above. Extra consideration is given to positions espoused with an excessively cavalier attitude or downright meanness, and those from people or organizations that have a obligation to get it right.
My Blood Pressure Rises
You've got to be kidding me:
Maura Reynolds writes in the Los Angeles Times: "Congress called a timeout Thursday in its confrontation with the Bush administration after a Senate committee voted to authorize subpoenas to compel White House officials -- including political advisor Karl Rove -- to testify about why eight U.S. attorneys were fired last year. . . .

"[M]embers of Congress said they would not issue any subpoenas for at least a week, a move that allows time for negotiations in what had become a rapidly escalating constitutional showdown. . . .

"The cooling of rhetoric on both sides seemed to reflect a political calculation that each could be damaged if the confrontation were to proceed further and land in court. Courts have rarely intervened in such disputes between the legislative and executive branches of governments, and Democrats acknowledge that a legal battle could outlast the 22 months left in President Bush's term."
This is bullshit ... plain and simple.

Congresspersons must surely read polls. Don't they get that the American public, by a whopping two-thirds majority, want a smackdown of Bush? Don't they even look at the poll consensus? Don't they notice that their ratings fall when they go easy on Bush, and they're approval rises when they actively confront him?

If a constitutional confrontation drags on for the next 668 days, so what? Keeping Bush's feet to the fire, keeping his secretive stubborness in the headlines, causing Republicans to whine like stuck pigs all over the media is not only good policy, but good politics. We've got plenty of fainting couches for the moderate Dems and I'll personally donate pearls to clutch.

Rove lies.

Everyone knows it.

Without the threat of jail time, any interview is pointless. Arlen "the enabler" Specter says that they should take the White House deal and then issue subpoenas if necessary. That's fine, except if that were to happen, a case can be made that Congress is badgering the White House. In other words, to accept a deal while holding the ace card of a subpoena merely lends credence to the absolutely ludricious White House offer of a "chat", then making Congress look foolish and weak later.

If Congress blinks on this one, be prepared for an uproar and a major P.R. setback of the gains made since 2004.
Interesting Legal Argument
This is one of the better legal arguments I've heard as to why Rove shouldn't be able to use executive priviledge:
Alexis Simendinger writes in a National Journal story (subscription required): "White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove may have forfeited potential claims of executive privilege over the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys-- if he communicated about the latter outside the White House e-mail system, using his Republican National Committee e-mail account or RNC equipment. Or at least that's a legal possibility posed by rapidly advancing electronic technology and the evolving work habits of busy White House officials. . .

"According to one former White House official familiar with Rove's work habits, the president's top political adviser does 'about 95 percent' of his e-mailing using his RNC-based account. Many White House officials, including aides in the Political Affairs Office, use the RNC account as an alternative to their official government e-mail addresses to help keep their official and political duties separate. Although some White House officials use dual sets of electronic devices for that purpose.
Would it not be ironic that in his attempts to keep his communications away from scrutiny, Rove sinks his ability to claim executive priviledge?
Republican Watch
Ever the enabler:
Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), Judiciary’s senior Republican, at first declined to reveal his vote, later adding that he abstained by remaining silent. Specter urged Democrats to negotiate with President Bush, whose Tuesday television address on the prosecutors was characterized as a proposal by the lawmaker.
No surprise. I guess the real surprise is that Specter actually said what his vote was .... an abstention. Specter is also ready to announce he's seeking re-election. The Dems are being much nicer than the GOP majority would have ever been by allowing a voice vote on the matter.

The Republican watch continues!
House Dem Watch
I haven't written about the ongoing battle in the House of Representatives between the so-called "progressive" Democrats and the Pelosi-led Democrats. It looks like Pelosi has cobbled together enough votes to pass the more moderate get-out-of-Iraq bill. Progressive Democrats are squealing that they are going to stand on principle (including my own rep., Lynn Woolsey).

I haven't given it much attention because the issue is a non-starter. It'll never get through the Senate and Bush will veto anything they do anyway. Still, I understand the position that it's important for at least one branch of government to take a stand of some kind. Above all, I don't think this particular version of the bill is worth Democrats chewing on each other. I don't see anything wrong with progressive Dems saying they'll vote for this bill while maintaining that stronger legislation is also needed.

We voters often criticize our reps for being unprincipled and overly pragmatic. But the fact is that no legislation ever gets passed without a fair amount of pragmatism. It is important to keep your eye on the form that pragmatism takes, i.e. there's a difference between trading your vote for a bridge to nowhere built by your lobbying interests vs. flexing your principles to advance your party's agenda, and your overall principles.

Given the cultural we live in, advancing a real get-out-of-Iraq bill is going to take time and patience. This bill certainly achieves political goals while advancing the agenda of stopping the war.

Update: Yep:
According to a source, three key House liberals -- Reps. Barabara Lee, Lynne Woolsey, and Maxine Waters -- privately approached Speaker Nancy Pelosi today and asked how many votes the leadership needed to pass the bill. They were told that four votes were needed.

The three then went to other liberal holdouts and encouraged them to support the bill, the source says. The source adds that the leadership is all but certain to now have the votes it needs. Lee explained her conversion this way in a press release just out from the liberals: "I have struggled with this decision, but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war."
Kurd Watch
Northern Iraq is still a tinderbox:
The US is scrambling to head off a "disastrous" Turkish military intervention in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq that threatens to derail the Baghdad security surge and open up a third front in the battle to save Iraq from disintegration.

Senior Bush administration officials have assured Turkey in recent days that US forces will increase efforts to root out Kurdistan Workers' party (PKK) guerrillas enjoying safe haven in the Qandil mountains, on the Iraq-Iran-Turkey border.
Hey, why not? The U.S. is in the middle of keeping a bunch of other folks separated who want to kill each other.

Seriously, it looks like Turkish special forces are already operating in Northern Iraq. You've got to wonder if/when that battle will get hot.
Gasoline Explanation
From my local paper:
California's price spike since Jan. 1 "does seem to be attributed almost entirely to refining margins," Bushnell said.

On Jan. 1, the refinery margin was 59 cents per gallon of gas, according to the state Energy Commission. On Monday, the most recent measurement, the margin was $1.12 a gallon.

The refinery margin is calculated by subtracting the market price for Alaska North Slope crude oil from the wholesale price of gas. The result includes the cost of operating the refinery as well as the profits for the refining company.

The last time the refinery margin exceeded $1 a gallon was in May - when pump prices peaked and the margin hit $1.08. The margin then fell steadily to about 50 cents a gallon by year's end.

Allow me to explain in English.

Refiners are gouging.

Increased "margin" is nice business-speak for profit. Because refining capacity is tight, they can gouge. Why is refining capacity tight? Because oil companies are not building new refineries. Some of that is the fault of oil companies, part of it due to NIMBY.

I actually am all for higher gasoline prices. History has proven that high prices are the only motivation for conservation and innovation away from a petroleum based economy. It's just irritates me that the oil companies are reaping the financial benefits. How about an increase tax on oil company profits?
More Bad News on Climate Change
The impact of global warming on the vast Southern Ocean around Antarctica is starting to pose a threat to ocean currents that distribute heat around the world, Australian scientists say, citing new deep-water data.
For the so-called Atlantic Conveyor, the surface warm water current meets the Greenland ice sheet then cools and sinks, heading south again and driving the conveyor belt process.

But researchers fear increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet risks disrupting the conveyor. If it stops, temperatures in northern Europe would plunge.

The phrase "global warming" suggests to the uneducated that the entire planet will heat up. They point to unusually cold snaps to dispell the notion of a planet in crisis. This article explains that the climate is changing and not in a good way for most life.

Thursday, March 22, 2007
Hanging By A Thread
Meanwhile, in the part of the world where nuclear arms co-exist with fertile ground for a real Islamic fundamentalist state to emerge, there's this news:
LAHORE, Pakistan -- In the rapidly unfolding crisis in Pakistan, no matter what happens to President Pervez Musharraf -- whether he survives politically or not -- he is a lame duck. He is unable to rein in Talibanization in Pakistan or guide the country toward a more democratic future.

Since March 9, when Musharraf suspended the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, public protests have escalated every day -- as has a violent crackdown by the police and intelligence agencies on the media and the nation's legal fraternity.


It is in the interest of the United States to support such an exit strategy [Musharraf voluntarily stepping down and holding elections]. The military can no longer counter the phenomenal growth of Islamic extremism in Pakistan through offensives alone. What the country needs is greater political consensus and a popularly elected government, and to replace the extortions of the mullahs with the return of day-to-day parliamentary politics. The army created a political vacuum in which extremism has thrived. Pakistan needs a return to civil society and government.
This column was written by Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, and the author of "Taliban" and "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia." Musharraf is dependent on the aid from the U.S. for military toys and support of the military. Both are teetering while fundamentalists are exploiting the vacuum left by Musharraf not having a popular base of support among the people.

This is not a good development and one that bears watching ... much more watching than Iran.
Party ID
Kevin Drum had this interesting chart today:

George Bush, with help from Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich and a host of others, have given a tutorial on how to destroy a political party. Of course the Republicans aren't any deader than the Democrats have been at various times. I suspect that Bush's continued implementation of a policy of national destruction is not going to help the current trends in the short run.

Other Republicans have got to know what's happening and must begin a process of soul searching. As I've written before, watching Republicans over the next two years is going to be great sport. And a final thought. The above trend is heartening in another way .... the perception that the Republican party is dominated by the religious right has got to be a large part of the party's soul search. The fad of being a part of a fanatical approach to life seems to be wearing thin with some degree of sanity returning to the populace.

More Like This!!!!

Is there any level of wishy-washiness that Arlen "the Spectre" Specter won't sink to?
Gasoline Watch
I don't know about where you live, but here in Sonoma County regular unleaded gasoline is running about $3.10/gal.

I remember last year when gasoline hit $3.00. There were news stories galore, hybrids were selling like hotcakes, the buzz was about high gas prices.

I'm not seeing that. Adaptation to the $3.00 level has happened. We're now going to need prices above $3.50/ gal. to become newsworthy again, which is highly possible this summer. This is yet another drag on the economy and at the same time, inflationary. I never wanted to economically relive the late 70's and 80's, but it appears that this is exactly where we're headed. You just can't have guns and butter with an outside-the-economy factor exploding in price. The last leg to fall on a economic stool is employment, which has been tepid at best. Put another way, despite Bush's belief you can't repeal the rules of economics.
Quote Of The Day
"If Karl Rove knew he'd one day be forced to testify under oath about advice he gave the president, he'd have to limit that advice to things that weren't shameful, illegal or spectacularly boneheaded."
John Oliver explains to Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show"
PurgeGate Update
It's looking like one of the prosecutors put on the list was done so at the last minute to give cover. Kevin Ryan, the U.S. attorney for Northern California was known to be a poor prosecutor with problems despite being a rabid Bush supporter. His name was added to the hatchet list at the last minute to stave off accusations that the others were fired for other than performance reasons.
"You would have to know Kevin," said UC Hastings College of the Law professor Rory Little. "You can't find a stronger supporter of the Bush administration agenda."

His tenure, however, was plagued by morale problems and accusations that he was a bad manager. A number of the office's most experienced lawyers left.

Despite his problems, which were well documented in legal newspapers, Justice officials wanted to keep Ryan on, even as they plotted the firings of other U.S. attorneys. It was only when a Democratic judge threatened to go to Congress to raise a public fuss over an excoriating written evaluation of Ryan's office that Ryan was put on the termination list, according to e-mails released by the White House.
Rove, Rove and more Rove. This whole thing stinks to high heaven of Karl Rove.
Joke of the Day
Well .... kinda funny:
Bono was playing a U2 concert in Glasgow recently, when he asked the audience for total quiet.

Then in the silence, he started to slowly clap his hands, once every few seconds.

Holding the audience in total silence, he said into the microphone, "Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies."

A Glaswegian voice rang out from near the front of the crowd, piercing the silence........

"Well, fuckin' stop doing it then!"
Message For Congressional Democrats
Talk Is Cheap
In my continuing vigil of Republican behavior in the face of Bush's self-destruction, I ran across this:
Roll Call: "Every time they think they have turned a critical public relations corner on Capitol Hill, they find themselves back in the unpleasant position of having to deal with the latest White House snafu. And, at least privately, many GOP Senators and aides say they've hit their boiling point."

On a scale of one to 10, "The level of frustration is at an 11," offered one Senate Republican aide.
Ah huh.

Let's see if any of you Republicans have the balls to stand up for the Constitution rather than your tribal affiliations.

Update: One Republican insisted on going on the record in voting yes for subpoena's: Chuck Grassley. Congratulations Chuck, we appreciate your patriotism. How about you St. John? Or how about Guiliani, Romney and Chuck Hagel?
Take a Break UPDATED
Looks like Edwards is going to suspend his campaign to be with his wife who is ill again.

Best wishes to Elizabeth who is a class act.

Update: Edwards says the campaign continues despite Elizabeths illness.
Asked by a reporter at the press conference if those were accurate, Edwards answered flatly: "No...the campaign goes on."

Edwards also said that Elizabeth's sickness wouldn't lead them to "cower in a corner," adding: "We leave here, this press conference, to go to New York and Boston and California tomorrow. Together."
I hope this means that her medical prognosis is very good.

Update II: This doesn't sound good:
Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has returned, as everyone has been speculating. It's largely confined to her bones, "which is a good thing." Not curable but treatable. "We and she are very optimistic."
But I'm not medical expert. I'm sure we'll get more info later.
It's so funny to watch em' whine.

Whenever a reporter does his/her job and really digs to find out information from a Republican, they start squealing like a stuck pig.

This is a tradition started during the famous Pappy/Dan Rather encounter. Aggressively going after the interviewer has worked, and is now SOP for GOP operatives.
As if the situation in Iraq wasn't complicated enough:
BAGHDAD - The violent Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army is breaking into splinter groups, with up to 3,000 gunmen now financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, adding a potentially even more deadly element to Iraq's violent mix.

Two senior militia commanders told The Associated Press that hundreds of these fighters have crossed into Iran for training by the elite Quds force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard thought to have trained Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Apparently there are some of the more radical elements in the Mahdi Army not happy with "laying low". I would guess as time goes by and the escalation continues, their ranks will grow in opposition to U.S. and Sunni attacks. The pressure on Moqtada al Sadr to get active again will also grow. Not good news for sure.
The Process
If the Constitutional showdown over "executive priviledge" plays out, here's what we can expect:
The Post helpfully goes through what could happen if the White House refuses to comply with the subpoenas. First, the judiciary committees would have to decide to issue citations for contempt of Congress. If the full House and Senate agree, Congress would ask the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to seek indictments. But would a U.S. attorney go against the wishes of the president? No one really knows because it's never gotten that far. The WSJ points out that the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia previously served as counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Doesn't this just explify the problems of having a political appointee head the Department of Justice? If a U.S. attorney issues an indictment, he's likely to be fired knowing this bunch.

Negotiations are going fast and furious between Congress and the White House. Bush is counting on weakness from the Dems, implementing the same old strategy of "act like you have a mandate". Will Dems fold?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tinfoil Hat?
Almost every time a "fringy" explanation has been offered for Bush administration behavior, you are left a normal reaction of thinking it might be tinfoil hat time. And in normal times, that would be a good reaction.

These are not normal times.

In fact, many times, too many times, the tinfoil hat theory has been proven correct.

Well, Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake goes to the nut of the matter when looking at what might be behind a Rovian political operation to fire prosecutors. First, the 2006 electoral map:

Now, a list of eight of the fired prosecutors and where they served:
David Iglesias (District of New Mexico)
H. E. Cummins III (Eastern District of Arkansas)
Paul K. Charlton (District of Arizona)
John McKay (Western District of Washington)
Daniel Bogden (District of Nevada)
Margaret Chiara (Western District of Michigan)

Carol Lam (Southern District of California )
Kevin V. Ryan (Northern District of California)

6 of the attorneys come from states that are not completely red or blue. The other 2 are from the country’s largest state and a major source of campaign contributions California.
Put this together with the statistic that 80% of the Justice Dept. investigations against politicians were done on Democrats and it has to make you go hmmmmm.

I believe that a few of the prosecutors were fired for ordinary performance reasons. But I also think that the above prosecutors were fired as a part of a political operation by Rove. These prosecutors refused to play ball with the administration in it's "goals" (political goals set by Rove) to use the justice system to target members of the opposing political party, and were thus removed/punished. If this is so, it is wrong and crosses the line between "serving at the pleasure of the President" and being recruted to be a part of the political arm of the President and his political party.
F. U.
Here's a news flash for you. Tom Friedman says we need .... wait for it .... another Friedman Unit in Iraq! This is an example of your librul media at work!
Stuck In AIPAC
This is very disappointing:
Sen. Obama said yesterday he disagreed with the postition taken by George Soros in a recent essay published in the New York Review of Books. In the essay, Soros "called for the Democratic Party to 'liberate' itself from the influence of the pro-Israel lobby," according to the New York Sun.

Soros says the United States ought to pressure Israel to negotiate with the Hamas-led Palestian government, and "that one reason America has not embraced this policy is because of the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee."

"Rep. Robert Wexler, a Democrat of Florida who sent out an e-mail to Jewish supporters in his home state last week vouching for Mr. Obama's pro-Israel bona fides, said he too rejected Mr. Soros's comments."
Jimmy Carter and George Soros are now on record as taking a more balanced approach to the Israel-Arab conflicts. But as the old saying goes, "money talks and bullshit walks". It's highly likely that until American politics is unleashed from the stranglehold of AIPAC, the U.S. will be impotent in the middle east.
Rose Mary Woods, Where Are You?
I think I'm just being paranoid.

Shades of Rose Mary Woods? An 18 day gap?

I think a commenter in our document dump research thread may have been the first to notice that the emails released by the Justice Department seem to have a gap between November 15th and December 4th of last year.
Meanwhile, Over There
BAGHDAD, March 19 -- Dozens of insurgents wielding machine guns surrounded the police station before dawn Monday in Duluiyah, a majority Sunni town about 45 miles north of Baghdad. The five officers on duty walked out, hands to the dark sky, and waited to be executed.

But instead of firing, the insurgents' leader spoke: Repent, he commanded, or die.

"So we swore to quit the police and support the Islamic State of Iraq," recalled Mohammad Hashmawi, one of the police officers, referring to a militant Sunni organization active in many parts of the country.

Apparently content, the insurgents stole the officers' decrepit weapons and the station's communications equipment, blew up the building and released the officers. A similar scene played out simultaneously at another police station in the town, said police Capt. Hussein al-Jaburi. It was the fifth police station in the town to be destroyed by Sunni extremists in two weeks, he said, leaving just three standing.
Remember the Alamo!
If you ever doubted the committment of our adversaries in Iraq, take a look at this:
Everybody reports that the Pentagon announced that Iraqi insurgents used two children as decoys during a suicide attack Sunday. The children helped the vehicle pass a checkpoint, then the car was parked, the adults got out, and they set off the bomb with the children still inside. On Tuesday, two U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.
The cursory examination of the story is likely to lead our nutbar friends to decry the heathens as barbarians and primitive.

The reality is that behavior such as this is a measure of the cultural standards of some fundamentalists, and yet another example of assymetrical warfare (you go to war with the weapons you have). If Americans think we can win a war against this kind of committment on the Iraqi domestic stage, we're nuts. This kind of conflict can only be won/resolved by those who understand the situation, which ain't us.
This was in the roundup of the news today regarding the Bush/Congress showdown over subpoenas:
Experts believe a court battle is unlikely and that the issue will be solved in negotiations. The LAT points out that "openly defying a subpoena has little precedent." If subpoenas are issued and the White House aides refuse to cooperate, Congress could vote to find them in contempt. But making things just a tad weirder, the Justice Department would normally be in charge of prosecuting this kind of case. Congress could also use other tools at its disposal, such as withholding funds from an agency or refusing to approve any nominees.

The NYT points out that even if an interview isn't under oath, lying to Congress could still be a crime. But the WP notes aides would not face "the same level of criminal charges" if they're not under oath.
Perhaps the "experts" are correct. But using precedent for such a showdown is a mistake. Bush is not like previous Presidents ... even Nixon.

First, Bush needs to play for time. In his ever-present contempt for voters and rule of law, he believes he will not be held accountable and that if enough time passes people will tire of the fight. He also knows he only has 670 days (and counting) left in office.

Second, by opposing now, Bush attains his best negotiating stance. He doesn't believe Dems will stand up to him (for good reason) and he may know that if they do, there will be future battles over witnesses, subpoenas, records etc. By setting precedents now of a negotiated settlement with Congress he can shape the future situation. In other words, he knows where the bodies are buried which is shaping his decision-making now.

As I've said before, the key to the whole thing is the other Republicans. And watching them is going to be great sport as the entire situation plays out.
Republican Watch
John Conyers has the authority now to issue subpoenas to Rove et. al. On the Republican watch front, there's this:
Republicans called the authorization premature, though some GOP members said they would consider voting to approve the subpoenas if Conyers promises to issue them only if he has evidence of wrongdoing.

Conyers agreed. "This (authority) will not be used in a way that will make you regret your vote."

Several Republicans said, "No" during the voice vote, but no roll call was taken.
That's nice, no record of the vote. I'm going to try and find out what the vote actually was. I suspect for the show it was on party lines. But again, no Republican is on the record for it. Republicans continue to experience that hard place next to a rock.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Well ... Clinton Did It!
Yes, indeed, he did. There is plenty of precedent for having Presidential aides appear before Congress under oath:
Harold Ickes, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff - 7/28/94

George Stephanopoulos, Senior Adviser to the President for Policy and Strategy - 8/4/94

John Podesta, Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary - 8/5/94

Bruce R. Lindsey, Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President - 1/16/96

Samuel Berger, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs - 9/11/97

Beth Nolan, Counsel to the President - 5/4/00
Sorting Out The Purge
Kevin Drum took a moment to look at the Fed. prosecutor firings and found some patterns:
But there was something else I noticed as I read the document that Paul highlighted: there was a noticable difference in the quality of the stated reasons for firing the eight prosecutors. Some reasons seemed pretty strong, some pretty weak, and a couple in between. Here's how they looked to me:

Strong: Chiara, Ryan, Cummins. The first two appear to have had serious morale/management issues that had previously required on-site visits to address. Cummins was planning to resign anyway.

Middling: Charlton, McKay. In both cases, EOUSA managers appeared to be unhappy about "insubordination" and working "outside of proper channels." It's not clear what the problems were, but these are at least colorable stories.

Weak: Bogden, Iglesias, Lam. In the first two cases, virtually no reasons are given at all. "Lack of energy" and "Underperforming generally" is the best they could come up with. In Lam's case, they complained about "time management" and then tossed in some items about illegal immigration and gun prosecutions that were pretty plainly bogus.

Notice anything unusual about this list? I didn't at first, but it turns out that the five firings with the weakest official explanations are the same five prosecutors who have been suspected of being either too tough on Republican corruption cases or too weak on Democratic ones. You can't very well put that on your summary sheet, though, which probably explains why the DOJies had trouble coming up with good reasons for firing them. The dots are practically begging to be connected here.
Trust me, all dots lead to Rover.

In other news, it's looking like the Dems will not be accepting the White House "offer" to have Miers and Rover meet Congresspersons. Subpoenas look likely. If so, onward to the Supreme Court!

Update: On Bush's newsconference. He sounds like and old worn out version of Richard Nixon. His petulance is in full bloom and he's ready for a fight. No surprise frankly. Most White House strategies these days center on running out the clock.

Update: In thinking about this looming constitutional confrontation, I think it plays out well for Democrats. What's more, I think Republicans know that. But Bush is not going to be a Republican party player. He does not face reelection and his narcissism will trump any practical political considerations. If the corruption stories just continue to drone on through the courts, Republicans who do face election (particularly the Presidential type) are going to be increasingly under pressure and swimming upstream. All the negative press will decimate Republican changes in 2008 and I wouldn't be surprised to see a solidly Democratic Congress and a Democratic president.

Given my speculation, I'm going to be carefully watching Republicans and what they do. The only thing that can really save their necks, or at least change the bleeding from an arterial bleed to a veinous bleed is to assist Democrats in confronting Bush. Whether they will or not is going to be great theatre.
Subpoena Watch
Well, the White House has offered Rover and Miers on an interview basis (hint, not under oath). The ball's now in the Dems hands. If they go for this. I. Am. Going. To. Be. Pissed.

Under oath, or don't even bother. No half loaves. No political calculations.
That's One
The Senate has voted to restore oversight over the appointment of Federal prosecutors. That's one Patriot Act loophole, probably 1000 to go.
No Shock
At all:
New e-mails released this evening by the Justice Department reveal the depth of White House involvement in the discussions to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year. The thousands of pages of e-mails suggest the White House was involved in the plan from the beginning.
If Leahy Won't, Conyers Will
John Conyers is meeting tomorrow to authorize subpoena's for Rover and Harriet Miers. They're not issued, but getting closer. Wonder what Pat Leahy's group is doing?
Monday, March 19, 2007
Abu Gone-zales
A search for a replacement Attorney General is reported as underway. The document dump that was supposed to occur today didn't until late tonight. Looks like the White House figures he can't survive the next round and have been delaying for time.

Bu-bye Abu.

Now we see if the media and Congress will take the bait. After Abu is gone, will the media and Congress stop the chase? Will the Abu firewall protect Rover and Bush?

We shall see.
Bonus Quote of the Day
“I really regret bringing down the statue,” said Kadhim al-Jubouri, an Iraqi weightlifter who was enlisted to help bring down the statute in 2003. “The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.” He added that he would prefer to be living under Saddam than under U.S. occupation: “The devil you know [is] better than the devil you don’t. We no longer know friend from foe. The situation is becoming more dangerous. It’s not getting better at all. People are poor and the prices are going higher and higher.”
Quote of the Day
"There will be good days, and there will be bad days ahead" -- George W. Bush, today.

"There will be good days and there will be bad days" -- George W. Bush, in 2005.

"There will be good days and there will be difficult days" -- George W. Bush, in 2004.
Margin: New Record
Margin debt hit a new high today. This means that folks have borrowed an all-time high amount of money to put into the stock market.
The amount of money borrowed from brokerages that do business on the New York Stock Exchange to buy stock rose 3.6 percent to a second straight monthly record, reaching $295.9 billion in February. Margin debt, as the borrowing is called, in January broke the prior high set at the peak of the so-called Internet bubble.
Some folks call that a "contrary indictator" meaning that when most people think it's going up, watch out.
From McClatchey this morning regarding the prosecutor purge:
"Maintaining that independence, without fear of repercussions, is the bedrock principle at stake in the controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. As the top law enforcement official in each of their jurisdictions, these federal prosecutors have the power to destroy reputations, careers and even lives.

"They're political appointees, but they're supposed to follow the evidence wherever it leads, without fear or favor. While presidents have the power to remove them for any reason, tradition holds that prosecutors should stay on the job unless they're corrupt or incompetent."
There is an inherent tension between being an political appointee and remaining independent. This tension has led to problems in the past, but as with everything Bush, nothing like this. And I'm not sure we should change the system, i.e. make U.S. prosecutors civil service employees.

The Constitution and our government depend on the democratic goodwill of it's leaders. You could never write all the rules, laws and regulations necessary to maintain a free society and to maintain a check on our leaders, although there are plenty around. Bush has aptly demonstrated this political reality that is rooted in Poly Sci 101, and Bush has given the nation a refresher course in the idea. The other part of the goodwill equation is when those in charge of checks and balances exercise their democratic goodwill in the instances of leadership overreach, providing oversight and holding our leaders accountable. Unfortunately, we've not seen much of that during Bush's administration. Whether we ultimately will and the ship-of-state will right itself is very much an open question.

Added: Many in the news media are opining that the prosecutor purge is the result of incompetence and insularity.


This latest scandal, like all others, is a full throated implementation of conservative GOP ideology and political practice. To call it incompetence is to minimize this dangerous fact.

Meanwhile, much much more continues to come out on the story. It's difficult to keep up with it all.
On The Anniversary Of War
I was reading this morning about Bush's non-celebration of the anniversary of the war. Central to Bush's stated reason for staying the course in Iraq is that if we don't fight them there, we'll fight them here. The corollary to that is that if we leave Iraq the region will erupt into a violent mess.

One thing that struck me as I was looking at his flawed logic is to remember the same types of warnings about Indochina during the Vietnam war. And indeed, when we left there were purges and genocide largely perpetrated against those who had sided with the American occupation. Would that genocide have occurred if we didn't go there in the first place? No one knows. And I think the same can be said of Iraq.

I'm not sure if Iraq or the region will fall apart if we leave. I suspect that there'll will be no peace as long as we are there. But I do know that the biggest allies of the United States vs. Islamic fundamentalists are the ordinary Arab citizens. Unlike Afghanistan, which is largely an undeveloped pre-modern culture, Iraq has a developed economy, liberal secular tradition and an abundance of natural resources. Should the Americans leave Iraq, will the ordinary Iraqi citizen desire a turn-back of the clock to the 15th century? I suspect not. But as long as we occupy Iraq the Arab street will maintain sympathy with anyone who fights the occupation.

The longer we stay, the longer we handcuff our biggest ally, the average Arab citizen. The sooner we leave, the sooner the area residents sort out their desires for the future. And if the past is any indication, they'll largely support a government/societal culture that is closer to the west than to fundamentalist Islam. It may not look like our society, but it was foolish and naive to think it ever would.

Afterall, who would have thought 60 years ago that our biggest trading partner would be China, and that American dignitaries would routinely visit Vietnam on trade missions? I say we give our real ally in the Great War on Terror a hand and get out of the way. Then the issues to be decided can be the real issues rather than our continued presence being a great excuse for further development of Islamic fundamentalism.
You've likely been hearing about the "subprime mortgage meltdown". There are no shortages of opinions on the outcome ranging from a minor blip to a major economic meltdown.

I don't know how it's going to turn out. I think it's largely at the mercy of the Fed, who in the very near future is going to be facing a decision of either fighting inflation or stimulating the economy. If they cut interest rates to stimulate the economy, it fuels inflation. If they raise interest rates to fight inflation, they slow the economy and add to the interest payments of those homeowners who are stuck with those crappy loans. It's called stagflation and it's an economic conundrum. But for those with an adjustable rate mortgage, it hits very close to home:
The sub-prime and overall mortgage carnage is now likely to lead to a financial crisis whose cleanup and bailout costs will make the S&L bailout bill look like spare change. We are only at the beginning of this fallout but, already, several proposals and bills in Congress have been submitted to help millions of sub-prime homeowners on the verge of bankruptcy and foreclosure.
One thing is clear to me. The Republican ideology of free markets does not work in a modern society with a middle class. Yet, free-marketeers are already reviving their engines to blame the subprime problem on government regulation (go figure) while likely lining up to lobby Congress for bailout money for the lending institutions. I think this graf puts it best:
In summary, lack of sensible supervision and regulation of banks, mortgage lenders and other financial institution – partly induced by an ideology of free market fundamentalism – has been the core cause of this private sector created disaster, not excesses of regulation or of government policy. Thus, to minimize the fiscal costs of cleaning up this mess, use of public funds should be carefully managed and targeted to help the true victims of this mess – borrowers duped by predatory lending practices – while avoiding any bail-out of the culprits of this mess.
When capitalism is left unfettered, it will ultimately sort out such problems. That's the allure of the argument of free-marketers. However, in that purely natural environment, the process of correcting imbalances is very ugly, disruptive and damaging to human beings. Government regulation of the excesses in a free market environment may have a somewhat stifling effect on those trying to make money, but it's done so for the greater good. I'm not a pure socialists, but I think FDR proved that a healthy balance between socialism and capitalism makes for a vibrant middle-class .... and a vibrant economy .... in the long run.
Press Bribery Express
This is a tell. Michael Scherer has written a story about life with St. John McCain on the "straight talk express".
By all appearances, the national press had somehow become one with the McCain campaign. We had been with him all day, nearly a dozen scribblers from the major papers, news Web sites, networks and wire services. We reclined on the motor coach's two couches, set our papers on its tables and swiveled in its leather chairs. There were six flat-screen televisions to watch the NCAA basketball finals, free WiFi for filing stories, packs of playing cards and boxes of powdered Donettes. A framed fern print hung above the toilet. We all sank into our seats, guests of honor mingling with senior staff, munching potato chips and Butterfingers with the candidate, peppering him with questions, and waiting for him to stumble. It went on for hours, with the subjects breaking in waves: Iraq, his age, military contracting, Jack Abramoff, the Bush administration, immigration, gays in the military. Everything was on the record, and nothing was off limits. It was a reporter's dream. David Broder, the grand muck-a-muck of campaign columnists, once called the national political press "the Screening Committee." John McCain, on the other hand, calls it "my base."
For sure, his base. It looks to me like the bus tour is all about getting the press back on his side rather than any serious outreach to voters. And the press can be had for a comfy chair, internet access, wide-screen tee vees and donettes.

That's comforting.

Scherer's article is also interesting for it's look at the distinction between the old "straight-talk express" with the new version. In some ways the comparison is a story of McCain's descent into the hackery of a pandering politician. Too bad ......
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Confusion Solved
Remember a few days ago when Valerie Plame Wilson declared that she did not recommend her husband go to Niger? At that time, I suggested that her testimony would be newsworthy, at least in that someone was lying when it was reported she did recommend her husband. The nutbars at Faux have jumped all over this "discrepancy" to claim Plame Wilson was lying.

Well, like clockwork, they're wrong. I didn't know it, but I guess that claim was really disputed some time ago, which goes to show just how powerful such misinformation really is:
Hume’s false claim originated from a statement attached to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq that was released in 2004. In an addendum to that report, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Christopher Bond (R-MO), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) wrote definitively, “The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador’s wife, a CIA employee.” The right-wing, including columnist Bob Novak, have taken the statement written by three Republican senators and falsely attributed it as the “unanimous” conclusion of the Senate report.

The three conservative senators based their claim on testimony by a CIA employee who appeared before the Senate Intel Committee. Plame revealed on Friday that the CIA employee later apologized to her “with tears in his eyes” because he said “his words had been twisted and distorted” by the senators. And in fact, the unnamed employee drafted a memo, asking that he be re-interviewed by the Senate to correct the record. His attempts to set the record straight were denied.
That kinda puts that issue to bed.
Ten Cents A Cup
Shoot, Starbucks is more expensive than that.

Here's Matt Simmons on oil. Like in previous interviews, I love to watch the interviewers as Matt, very calmly and matter-of-factly talks about a 50% shortage of oil in the near future (hint: deer in headlights):

I saw this headline yesterday:
Rumsfeld Undergoes Heart Procedure
I thought to myself, self? This must surely be wrong or a case where the medical profession is scamming someone. Everyone knows that Rummy doesn't have a heart.
Friday, March 16, 2007
There goes that librul media again. Please, allow me to do Media Matters work for them and dissect part of this hacktacular AP story on Valerie Plame Wilson. Let's start with the headline:

Plame sheds little light in leak case

Oh really? The first public appearance of a covert CIA officer who was outed by the administration, and who forcefully reinforces (despite right wing spin) that she was covert didn't shed much light?
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, Associated Press Writer 16 minutes ago
I'll be remembering this name.
Valerie Plame put a glamorous face and a personal story to Democrats' criticism of the Bush administration Friday, telling a House committee that White House and State Department officials "carelessly and recklessly" blew her CIA cover in a politically motivated smear of her husband.
Meow. A "glamorous face" huh. Ever hear a male giving testimony described as "handsome" or "dashing"?
Plame, the operative at the center of the leak scandal that resulted in last week's criminal conviction of a former top White House official, created more of a stir by her presence on Capitol Hill than by her testimony.
Once again, no value beyond "creating a stir". Guess this hack is a Republican. She's glamorous and of not other real value other than as a museum piece apparently.
She revealed little new information about the case, which sparked a federal investigation and brought perjury and obstruction of justice convictions of Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. No one has been charged with leaking her identity.
How does a musuem piece spark a federal investigation into perjury of the chief of staff to the Vice President? No, she only spoke about the facts around the CIA doing a damage report after she was outed, and the impact on her being outed, and the possible national security implications on being outed, the work she'd done that went down the drain, and the fact that she was, indeed, covert. And how about a little context? No one was charged with leaking her identity because a key witness acted as a firewall against those who leaked? Or that those who leaked were given immunity, thus it was a real crime that was committed at the highest levels of government?
Still, Plame's appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was a moment of political theater that dramatized Democrats' drive to use their control of Congress to expose what they see as White House efforts to intimidate dissenters.
Ah yes, nothing but political theatre. It's all political. Has nothing to do with crimes, corruption or *gasp* national security!
Rep. Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., the panel's chairman, called Plame a victim in a White House drive to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for publicly disputing President Bush's assertion that Saddam Hussein was on the brink of acquiring a nuclear bomb.

"I find that troubling, that in the zeal for their political positioning that there (is) a lot of collateral damage around, including a war that didn't have to be fought," Waxman said.

News cameras whirred and spectators craned their necks to catch a glimpse of Plame as the blond former operative took her place alone at the witness table for her 90 minutes of testimony.
Please, don't dwell too long on any of the substance ... back to the "blonde" and "craned necks".
Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the committee's senior Republican, called the session a partisan hearing that would do little to illuminate how Plame's identity came to be exposed or how such disclosures could be prevented.

"It's a terrible thing that any CIA operative would be outed," Davis said. But "there's no evidence here that the people that were outing this and pursuing this had knowledge of the covert status."
Plame repeatedly described herself as a covert operative, a term that has multiple meanings. Plame said she worked undercover and traveled abroad on secret missions for the CIA.

But the word "covert" also has a legal definition requiring recent foreign service by the person and active efforts to keep his or her identity secret. Critics of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation said Plame did not meet that definition for several reasons and that was why nobody was charged with the leak.
Did you not read your own previous paragraph? She did travel overseas on covert missions. And who are the critics that say she didn't meet the "definition"? (hint, they all have "R" in front of their names). So tell us hack, what is the definition covert? From your reporting knowledge, do you think she meets the definition? Everyone else does .... except of course White House defenders .... oh and Barney.
Plame said she did not select her husband for a CIA fact-finding trip to Niger. Wilson later wrote in a newspaper column that his trip debunked the administration's prewar intelligence that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa.

"I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority," she said.

That conflicts with senior officials at the CIA and State Department, who testified during Libby's trial and told Congress that Plame recommended Wilson for the trip.
Ahhhh. Is this not news? I know it's not information like what's in Anna Nicole's medicine cabinet, but isn't it relevant that the horses mouth testifies under oath that she did NOT recommend her husband? Doesn't that at least suggest to you that someone is at least misinformed, if not lying?
James Knodell, director of the White House security office, did testify that there had been no internal investigation into the leak, and no disciplinary action against those involved.
Good stenography. What's it mean? Does the reporter think it's relevant that there's never been a White House investigation into the leaking to the press of the name of a CIA covert operative who was investigating Saddams "weapons of mass destruction"?
Friday's hearing showed the intense interest in Plame, who drew autograph-seekers and camera-toting congressional aides to a hearing on an otherwise quiet morning.

Even a member of Congress confessed to being a bit star-struck.

"If I seem a little nervous, I've never questioned a spy before," Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (news, bio, voting record), R-Ga. said. "I was here during the steroid hearings, too, and I don't think any of those baseball stars got this kind of media attention that you're getting today."
And finally? Back to the star power. Swallow that kool aid, sucking in the statement by the biggest Republican nutbar on the panel who's key question to Plame was, "What political party do you belong to?"

It's no wonder voters are so misled and misinformed. This is a classic case of reporters and their editors acting like stenographers, except when they can juice it up a bit with tabloidism, or throw their shots in. It makes me sick.