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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Corruption Update.

I was talking with a friend last night, and I realized I hadn't really captured the scope of the corruption by this current version of the Republican party. (I'm really just after the criminal stuff here, so I'll leave out the Bill Bennett type stuff. And I really don't want to have to search all these down for the best links, so if you do, here is Googlenews, where all of these can be found quickly.)

Obviously, we've got the Rove/Libby Plame investigation.

And, quite obviously House Majority Leader Delay.

And, of course, Bill Frist is being investigated by the SEC for insider trading.

Let's not forget Franklin pleading guilty of spying in the DoD for Israel.

Then there's Abramoff, the uber lobbyist who corrupted both left and right, but mainly right who may go to jail.

And one of those indicted for crimes associated with Abramoff is David Safavian, who was the administrations top procurement officer.

Also, Timothy Flannigan, who was up for the number two spot at Justice, who pulled out because of questionable activities with Abramoff.

And Rep Duke Cunningham of Cal who bought and sold his house for near 100% profit a year after purchase to a defense contractor who just happened to get a major contract through Duke's committe.

And, quite quietly, Richard Perle has been caught up in the whole Hollinger/Conrad Black thing and has had to pay restitution to the corporation. Charges are still up in the air.

And we'll leave out the allegations of Bunnetine Price about corruption in the early days of the no bid contracts for Halliburton in Iraq, because she was demoted and reassigned and no one's investigating. Also, I'll leave out the convictions surrounding the Boeing tanker lease deal which was soooo crooked.

And, because I'm doubtful that any charges will ever be pursued, I'm forced to leave out the torture/rendition allegations against the administration. Yes, Italy and, briefly Germany, had standing charges surrounding renditions, but I doubt they will ever procede.

NOW, let me say, that this is not a complete list, just a quick 10 minute remembering. Also, think how much of this has come out without the presence of a special prosecutor. Can you imagine what would be coming out if there was a Ken Starr figure giving the Bush admin a six year rectal exam? (If you want to see that happen, vote dem in the midterms.)

Lastly, on the Dem side, there is the case of Rep Jefferson of Louisiana. Don't really know what he's being investigated for, but I think it's pretty serious, his home and offices have already been searched. He was the one who commandeered a squad of national guardsmen in the middle of Katrina to go and get some things out of his house. I don't think you do that unless there's really something to hide.

Anyway, that's the quick roundup. I'm sure there's more, but this should hit all the majors. And for now, this will have to do.

Once again, the rich are protected.

First, let's lead off with the loaded term used here, "entitlements" which was introduced by the republicans to criticize social welfare programs, because the term entitlement evokes the false images of the "cadillac welfare moms" that Reagan used to rely so heavily on.

Second, let's just take a minute to notice that the Bush admin and the Republican Congress are attempting to pay for Katrina rebuilding by cutting assistance to the poor, and leaving the debt ballooning upper class tax cuts in place.

Remember the language, "Katrina has revealed the true problems of poverty and class in our nation."

Well, here are those problems writ large.

House Republican leaders raised the stakes this week in a looming budgetary showdown, pledging to lift the target of entitlement cuts from $35 billion to $50 billion, impose across-the-board spending cuts and rescind spending already approved -- all to offset the cost of hurricane relief. .......

Sixteen committees in the House and Senate face an Oct. 26 deadline to produce $35 billion in budget savings over five years, mainly from entitlement programs for the poor, such as food stamps, Medicaid and student loans.

(And Hurrah????? We're only going into debt at $1,000 per american per year vs. $1,250)

The push for austerity comes amid some good budget news. The federal budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 came in at $317 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said, or 2.6 percent of the economy. That is nearly $100 billion less than the 2004 deficit and $14 billion less than what the CBO projected just eight weeks ago. ........

I'm not a particularly strong supporter of some of the more extreme social welfare programs, but I gotta say this; It is unconscionable to give government beneficence to the wealthy while borrowing money to pay for the running of our government. It is unconscionable to give huge tax breaks to a small percentage of our society while thirty to forty times as many people have no health coverage which just happens to balance out to about the same amount.

And don't give me that supply side, growing the economy bullshit. I'm around alot of people who got significant advantage from those sizeable tax cuts, and most of that money was just filed away like the rest, savings, IRA's, that sort of thing. They didn't go out and spend it; it didn't flow quickly back into the economy.

If you want to jumpstart the economy, give a couple hundred bucks to a family of four who are barely scraping by. They will spend it before the week is out, and then it will be back in the economy boosting us all.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Shame! Shame! Shame!

From Think Progress.

Emotions erupted on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon as the right-wing-led Congress held open yet another vote to twist arms and pass a bill that would line the pockets of energy company executives. The House leadership held the five-minute vote open for almost 50 minutes until they could convince three lawmakers — Reps. Wayne Gilcrest (R-MD), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) — to change their minds. The bill passed 212-210. As the vote concluded, opponents of the bill chanted in unity: “Shame, Shame, Shame!”

The vote was held on the “Gasoline for America’s Security Act of 2005,” a provision sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to nominally “expedite the construction of new refining capacity.” But the bill is essentially a giveback to the oil industry — Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) called it a “leave-no-oilman-behind bill.”

The antics of right-wingers on the House floor today mirrored their previous strong-arm tactics in passing CAFTA and prescription drug legislation – bills that, like today’s, favored large corporations. In July 2005, the House passed CAFTA with a slim two-vote margin after holding the vote open for an hour and 45 minutes. In November 2003, in the dead of night, the House leadership passed the Medicare prescription drug vote by five votes after holding the vote open for three hours.

And the video here is quicktime, and I have never been able to get quicktime to run right on this PC. And, no tips, it comes up so rarely, I don't really care.

Another Bush nominee downed by corruption/Abramoff

Haven't covered this guy, Timothy Flannigan, much, there's been sooo much else going on.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - President Bush's pick for the second-ranking position at the Justice Department abruptly withdrew his nomination today after facing weeks of questions over his ties to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his role in formulating torture policies, officials said.

Or Maybe it was this....

Senators made clear they planned to question him about his role in setting the administration's detainee interrogation policy when he worked at the White House during Bush's first term.

Just a few homecoming photos

Just a few photos from Ohio. 3rd Batt. 25th at their homecoming.

The captions state that this group had 48 killed, 14 of which were in two attacks in a week last summer.

It just moved me.

WaPo offers more circumstantial on Delay

This Morning, the WaPo offers a little more circumstantial evidence against Tom Delay.

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) met for at least 30 minutes with the top fundraiser of his Texas political action committee on Oct. 2, 2002, the same day that the Republican National Committee in Washington set in motion a series of financial transactions at the heart of the money-laundering and conspiracy case against DeLay.

During the meeting at his Capitol office, DeLay conferred with James W. Ellis, the head of his principal fundraising committee in Washington and his chief fundraiser in Texas. Ellis had earlier given the Republican National Committee a check for $190,000 drawn mostly from corporate contributions. The same day as the meeting, the RNC ordered $190,000 worth of checks sent to seven Republican legislative candidates in Texas. ......

The next day, according to the indictment, Ellis delivered the check to the Republican National State Elections Committee, an arm of the RNC, and also provided it "with a document that contained the names of several candidates." He also "requested and proposed" how much each candidate should receive, the indictment said.

And one more quick aside. From living in Texas and watching Dick Deguerin work all these years, I've come to two conclusions. 1) Deguerin is a hell of a defense lawyer, so there is a fair chance he will get Delay off. 2) Generally, because of his extreme cost, people only hire Deguerin when they're guilty.

This is what competence brings.

This is what happens when you replace a patronage appointee, Michael Brown, who gave alot of no bid contracts to companies represented by Joe Allbaugh, his former boss and the man who took Brown from the Int'l Arabian Horse Association and basically made him the head of FEMA.

New guy. Competent guy. First order of business, undo all the counterproductive political crap done by Brown.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 - The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told a Senate panel on Thursday that the agency would seek new bids on $400 million worth of contracts that had originally been awarded with no competition in the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort. ....

The contracts up for bidding - worth up to $100 million each - were awarded to four giant firms specializing in construction, engineering and consulting, said Nicol Andrews, an agency spokeswoman. The businesses have long records of work for the federal government, and some have executives or lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration. ......

"I've never been a fan of no-bid contracts," Mr. Paulison said in an appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "All of those no-bid contracts we are going to go back and rebid." ......

Government watchdog groups have been raising questions from the moment these contracts were awarded. The Shaw Group's lobbyist is Joe M. Allbaugh, the former FEMA director and a friend of President Bush. Bechtel has ties to the Republican Party; George Shultz, the former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, is on the corporation's board, and Riley P. Bechtel, the chairman and chief executive, served on President Bush's Export Council.

This reminds me of Carter's last Nobel.

This reminds me of when Carter won the Nobel a few years ago, ostensibly for his negotiations on the N. Korea nuke program. Really, it was the Nobel commitee trying to rebuke the Bush admin in the runup to the Iraqi invasion.

So, now we have Baradei and the IAEA winning, after they were right on Iraq(I'll never forget the slapdown of Colin Powell at the UN Security Council on the Niger forgeries,) and now, right again on Iran.

Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency that he heads won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. .........

ElBaradei said in Vienna, Austria, that the prize "sends a strong message" about the agency's disarmament efforts and will strengthen his resolve to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

"The award basically sends a very strong message, which is: Keep doing what you are doing," ElBaradei said. "It's a responsibility but it's also a shot in the arm. They want to give the agency and me a shot in the arm to move forward."

New CBS poll and more!!

I am, generally quite suspicious of opinion polls except over a significant period of time. For instance, a single event can impact an approval poll by ten percent or more. With the general consensus trend among the polls on Bush being downward, we can draw a fair conclusion about the erosion of his support. But this CBS poll just jumped out. Even if you consider significant error, it's still a pretty big margin.

Direction of the Country:

Right direction 26%
Wrong track 69%

(can someone out in the polling universe tell me why it's "direction" and "track" not direction and direction or track and track?)

Bush Approval:

Approve 37%
Disapprove 58%


Approve 46%


Approve 32%

UPDATE: AP/Ipsos poll story out as one of AP's top ten stories. It focuses on Bush's decline among his "base."

Only 28 percent (total poll)say the country is headed in the right direction while two-thirds, 66 percent, say it is on the wrong track, the poll found.

Those most likely to have lost confidence about the nation's direction over the past year include white evangelicals, down 30 percentage points since November, Republican women, down 28 points, Southerners, down 26 points, and suburban men, down 20 points.

NYTimes main editorial today.

Yesterday, the same day New Yorkers were warned there was a "specific threat" of a bombing on their subways, President Bush delivered what the White House promoted as a major address on terrorism. It seemed, on the surface, like a perfect topic for the moment. But his talk was not about the nation's current challenges. He delivered a reprise of his Sept. 11 rhetoric that suggested an avoidance of today's reality that seemed downright frightening.

The period right after 9/11, for all its pain, was the high point of the Bush presidency. Four years ago, we hung on every word when Mr. Bush denounced Al Qaeda and made the emotional - but, as it turned out, empty - vow to track down Osama bin Laden. Yesterday, it seemed as if the president was still trying to live in 2001. It was eerie to hear him urge Americans to take terrorism seriously. .......

The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating. For most of us, the memories are fresh and painful. We mourn the people who died on Sept. 11, as we mourn Daniel Pearl and other Americans, not to mention innocents from other countries, who were murdered by terrorists. The administration's penchant for using them as political cover is offensive. It threatens to turn our wounds, and our current fears, into cynical and desperate spin.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The hallmark of fair elections....

Nothing says free and fair elections like an occupying army conducting "operations" in an area that is likely not to vote the way they want. I'm sure all the young Sunni men in western Iraq will feel perfectly free to walk down the streets to cast their votes.

A series of U.S. military strikes in western Iraq will continue at least until December to try to stop insurgents entering from Syria before a general election, the top U.S. army spokesman in Iraq said on Thursday.

"We're going to fight our way to the referendum, and we're going to fight our way to the election," Major General Rick Lynch told a news conference, referring to an October 15 referendum on a new Iraqi constitution and the December parliamentary vote.

U.S. forces launched a wave of assaults in Iraq's Euphrates valley in late September, with new operations getting under way in October.


Bush speech

Watched the Bush speech this morning, and was sort of impressed by the first quarter or so (in that bush setting the bar low kinda way) in which he actually acknowledged the real grievances of our "enemies." Basically, he acknowledged, maybe for the first time, that the US presence in the middle east might have some bearing upon the attacks and didn't once say "they hate us for our freedoms."

Now, after that, I gotta say, the rest of the speech was pretty average, and there was an obvious logical disconnect between the sources of terrorism, which he finally recognized, and the solutions he offered. Also, he maintained Iraq as part of the war on Al Queda saying that if we didn't win in Iraq, Zarqawi and Bin Laden would take over the country. That's crap. The Shia majority will take over Iraq, whether we're there or not, and they will, at most, utilize al Quaeda where their common interests intersect.

Also spent a fair amount of time trying to equate Al Queda with Soviet Communism, which is a poor comparison, then added in Pol Pot and Hitler just for good measure.

And weirdly, his body language collapsed when he was talking about Iraq. He started shifting foot to foot like a guilty schoolboy and seemed to shrink, to get smaller. Then, he turned it back to "defeat the terrorists" and seemed to grow back up.

Anyhow, here's my favorite quotes.

And the civilized world knows very well that other fanatics in history, from Hitler to Stalin to Pol Pot, consumed whole nations in war and genocide before leaving the stage of history.

Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes can multiply.

(Kinda funny with all the indictments coming down?)

He assures them that this is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride.

Like the ideology of communism, our new enemy teaches that innocent individuals can be sacrificed to serve a political vision. And this explains their cold-blooded contempt for human life.

(And the dozen or so Bush kin have voluteered to serve in Iraq?)

No act of ours invited the rage of the killers, and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder.

(And this is where I get off. In the first part, you recognized the grievances, now you say this.)

Anyhow, the whole text is here if you're that much of a nerd.

And, yes, he did work 9-11 in a half dozen times or so.


Update: Boy, did I get it wrong. The general consensus from the TV news people( is that this sucked. It got seriously panned. I don't know about Fox;I don't watch Fox even on a dare. I find their occasional revisions of history offensive.) Check out these exerpts from the press briefing over at first draft.

And maybe better, try the NYTimes editorial the next day.

There also seems to be a huge tonngue in cheek mocking of the "goal" that Bush outlined for the "Islamofascists" of taking over every country from Spain to Indonesia.

It's not unusual for me, I never seem to judge speeches the way everyone else does. After all, I thought Kerry won the debates and should then win the election.

Made me laugh.

Leno on the Miers nomination. Just made me laugh.

"She's never been a judge before...never served on the bench. This is part of President Bush's strategy of surrounding himself with people who are also in over their heads." --Jay Leno


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

And rumors on the Plame front.

Just rumors, but if true, can you imagine? Twenty-Two.

The D.C. rumor mill is thrumming with whispers that 22 indictments are about to be handed down on the outed-CIA agent Valerie Plame case. The last time the wires buzzed this loud — that Tom DeLay would be indicted and would step down from his leadership post in the House — the scuttlebutters got it right.

Can it be a coincidence that the White House appears to be distancing President Bush from embattled aide Karl Rove? “He’s been missing in action at more than one major presidential event,” a member of the White House press corps tells us.

If the word on the street is right a second time, we have a bit of advice for Rove: Go with vertical stripes, they’re way more slimming.

I know nothing about this source, but it's just so mind numbing I feel obliged to gossip it on.

Of course, it could just be another case of the Bush setting the bar low so they can claim that there were "only six indictments" so they can frame it as a success.

UPDATE: Interesting inclusion in this morning's Reuters piece on "the investigation."

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say whether his client had been contacted by Fitzgerald. In the past, Luskin has said that Rove was assured that he was not a target.

Libby's lawyer was not immediately available to comment.

"It's an ongoing investigation and we're fully cooperating," said Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride.

And Larry Franklin officially pleads.

Also today, Larry Franklin officially pleads guilty in the Franklin/AIPAC spy ring. I guess we can call it a spy ring. Franklin took classified documents, transferred them to AIPAC employees Weissman and Rosen who allegedly then transferred them to an official with a foreign government.(as yet not officially specified by the prosecutors if you can believe that.) It's just that in all the big media coverage of this thing, the phrase "spy ring" is very carefully avoided.

Anyhow, the bones of the case are

According to the indictment, Franklin met periodically with Rosen and Weissman between 2002 and 2004 and discussed classified information, including information about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Rosen and Weissman would subsequently share what they learned with reporters and Israeli officials. On at least one occasion, Franklin spoke directly to an Israeli official.

Rosen, a top lobbyist for Washington-based AIPAC for more than 20 years, and Weissman, the organization's top Iran expert, allegedly disclosed sensitive information as far back as 1999 on a variety of topics, including al-Qaida, terrorist activities in Central Asia, the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and U.S. policy in Iran, according to the indictment.

Franklin at one time worked for the Pentagon's No. 3 official, policy undersecretary Douglas Feith, on issues involving Iran and the Middle East.

Sounds like a spy ring to me, but what do I know?

A spy is arrested in Cheney's office!!!!!!

No, not the spy you were thinking of, but a Fillipino spy worked in the Whitehouse in Cheney's office for three years pilfering classified intelligence from computers all over the building.

Instead of outlining it all here, I'm gonna send you to Laura Rozen's Blog. She's already done a pretty good roundup of all the pertinent info this far.

Both the FBI and CIA are calling it the first case of espionage in the White House in modern history.

Officials tell ABC News the alleged spy worked undetected at the White House for almost three years. Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, was a U.S. Marine most recently assigned to the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.

That link is running slow right now, so I'll link to the original ABCnews story

and the WaPo version.

And let me add the update:

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked about the ABC report, said: "It's an ongoing investigation. As such all questions should be directed to the FBI. We are fully cooperating."

(I wish I had the time and inclination to hunt down the video of every "ongoing investigation" comment issued by the whitehouse. Spliced together I'll bet it would be mindnumbing at over five minutes.)

The senate votes to end Bush torture.

Read this closely. The administration of George Bush wants no limits on their ability to torture. He threatened to veto the defense appropriation bill if this "interrogation limits" amendment was attached. We'll have to see if the house leadership will tow the Bush admin line.

A word of warning though, congressmen and women. Even if you have no human morals left after being in government so long, I would think carefully about your political future after voting to maintain and support these policies. It looks quite possible that the rest of the Abu Ghraib photos and videos may be released that they include, according to Sy Hersh and a few others, the sodomization of a screaming young teen boy, rape, and the forced exposure of a female detainees breasts.

The Senate defied the White House yesterday and voted to set new limits on interrogating detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, underscoring Congress's growing concerns about reports of abuse of suspected terrorists and others in military custody.

Forty-six Republicans joined 43 Democrats and one independent in voting to define and limit interrogation techniques that U.S. troops may use against terrorism suspects, the latest sign that alarm over treatment of prisoners in the Middle East and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is widespread in both parties. The White House had fought to prevent the restrictions, with Vice President Cheney visiting key Republicans in July and a spokesman yesterday repeating President Bush's threat to veto the larger bill that the language is now attached to -- a $440 billion military spending measure.

By the way, the vote was 90-9. I'm gonna try to see if I can find out who the nine were.

Update: found the list at MyDD.

  • Wayne Allard - Colorado
  • Kit Bond - Missouri
  • Tom Coburn - Oklahoma
  • Thad Cochran - Mississippi
  • John Cornyn - Texas
  • James Inhofe - Oklahoma
  • Pat Roberts - Kansas
  • Jeff Sessions - Alabama
  • Ted Stevens - Alaska
Just another reason to hate my Texas Senator Cornyn, and there's alot of them.

And while we're updating republican scandals.....

And just quickly while we're updating all the Republican/Bush admin scandals......

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 - The former head of procurement policy for the White House budget office was indicted Wednesday on charges of obstructing investigators and lying about his ties to Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist who is at the center of a federal investigation that has brought Representative Tom DeLay under scrutiny.

The indictment of the former official, David H. Safavian, was the first to result from the Justice Department's larger investigation of Mr. Abramoff, a major Republican fund-raiser who was once among the most powerful lobbyists in Washington.

A new Iran/Iraq strategy.

Ran across a story talking about how the Iraq Sunni/Shia conflict has spread discord between the groups throughout other countries in the region, how the Iranians are now having to deal with their Sunni minority and the Saudis are facing a similar problem, and it got me to thinking.

Remember the Iran/Iraq war which was carefully monitored by the US who shipped arms and support to both sides more or less guaranteeing an extended eight year stalemate which hobbled both countries both in the short term and the long term? I'm beginning to wonder if the whole Iraq project might be being utilized in the same manner only along religious and cultural lines when you throw in the Kurds.

I mean, if the countries in the region have to deal with local independence movements and political stability they are far less likely to either a) unify or b) project any significant political or military impact towards Israel. This idea of tribalizing many of the Islamic mid-east countries is vaguely outlined in the "Clean Break" strategy papers in relation to Syria prepared by Feith, Perle, and Wurmser for incoming Likud chairman Netanyahu.

Couple that with the fact that many of the current policy makers, Cheney, Elliot Abrams, Rumsfeld, as well as the better president Bush, were involved in the support of Saddam(see Rumsfeld picture above after Saddam had "gassed his own people") and the arms shipments to Iran, and it just makes me kind of wonder.

No direct conclusion, just kind of riffing this Wednesday afternoon. But, after the last post and the evidence of some questionable behavior by British Intelligence down in Basra, I was just sitting here thinking about it from the other side. Who benefits from increased intra muslim conflict in the middle east? Clearly Israel, up to the point that the various factions arm up, but does the US/British alliance?

I just keep remembering the anecdotal account of the firing of Gen Garner. The story was that he was sitting in Bagdhad a few days after the US troops fought their way in, and began setting up plans to hold Iraqi elections in 90 days. He was promptly relieved from that duty, only to be replaced by Bremer whose first order of business was to shelve those 90 day plansand to set about establishing the privatization of industries.

It was anecdotal from someone like Robert Fisk, but it just makes me think.

Update: Interesting. Came across this two minutes after I finished the post. Justin Raimondo is pushing a somewhat similar theory. Skip on down abit and read how the current offensive in Tal Afar falls in with this tribalism in relation to the Kurds, as well as the link to the Sy Hersh story citing Israeli intelligence and military support for the Kurds whose proclaimed "homeland" just happens to extend well into northern Iran.. And he throws Ledeen into the theorists supporting continued islamic infighting.

Just what are the British up to in Basra?

Not clear from this article whether the citizen in question is employed by British Intelligence or just a British Muslim who has been caught up in fanaticism. Under normal circumstances, I would think not, but after the previous arrest of the two MI guys who were carrying loads of explosives along with their night vision/weapons/communications gear, I'm growing suspicious that the British are engineering incidents for some reason.

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) - A British national has been arrested in Iraq, the British embassy said on Tuesday.

"We are aware that a British national has been arrested," said a British embassy spokeswoman.

Saadoun al-Jabiree, a media officer for the Iraqi border police in Najaf, said he had contacted the British consulate in Basra on the British national.

No conclusions, just a second weird story in the same area.

And good news on the Iraq vote.

Didn't think I'd ever write that, but those ridiculous interpretations passed in an unnanounced Sunday session of the Iraqi paliament that would have basically guranteed passage of the constitution by starting a civil war, have been repealed. The UN came out against it. The US came out against it. And now it has been reversed, thank god, so we can maintain the state of possible civil war rather than guaranteeing our soldiers would be standing in the middle of an open civil war.

(Really tells you the state of things in Iraq that we're all happy that the existing civil war, though being fought, is still undeclared.)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraq's National Assembly voted on Wednesday to reverse last-minute changes it had made to rules for next week's referendum on a new constitution following criticism by the United Nations and a boycott threat by the Sunni minority.

After a brief debate and with only about half of its 275 members present, the assembly voted 119-28 to restore the original voting rules for the Oct. 15 referendum

Global Warming from those with a Business Interest.

Swiss Re, a massive reinsurer has for a long while been talking about global warming as it might impact the insurance business, their business, in the coming years. Other insurance companies are always cited in these articles, but the reinsurers, those that insure the insurance companies and thus are liable for the largest claim spikes, have been publicly talking about global warming for years now. Everytime there is a massive weather related insurance surge, articles like this show up. As example, I remember the same articles after the series of hurricanes in Florida last year.

We should take these guys seriously, as their research is not based on "politics" but instead on the very real projections of their business costs. Their research is profit based and very well funded because of the potential impact on their bottom line. We should pay attention to what they have to say.

The devastation and cost of Hurricane Katrina provided a new hook for a faction of the insurance industry that is trying to raise public awareness of global warming and push the topic onto the political agenda.

Some of the industry's largest companies have sided with environmental groups in recent years to argue that global warming exists and that man-made causes are adding to the severity and cost of natural catastrophes. ......

Swiss Re since 1994 has endorsed the idea that the climate is changing and employs 20 scientists and engineers to study the question.

While quick to note that no event or its severity can yet be linked with certainty to climate change, some insurers began to take the position that governments nonetheless should take preventive action to reduce greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere.

While it confines most of its climate emphasis to raising public awareness, Swiss Re has pushed for political action. For instance, it has worked with a United Nations-sponsored insurance group that backed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit so-called greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in industrialized countries. The company, in a policy statement, says that even natural climate changes carry "risks far greater than generally assumed" and that man-made influence on climate will aggravate them.

"It is a dangerous misconception to regard even minor changes in climate behaviour as nonthreatening," the company said in the statement. "Even a small shift in the climate pattern can lead to a disproportionately frequent failure of protective measures. Once protection measures fail, loss figures rise exponentially."

Just a quick Econ 101 lesson on inflation.

This has been making the rounds, and it's not a good sign.

US inflation is running close to the Federal Reserve's danger zone, Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher said, in comments that suggest the central bank will keep hiking interest rates.

Another Fed official said policymakers would be alert to "surprises" in inflation.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita, price pressures are mounting as energy gets more expensive and businesses pass on their higher costs to customers, Fisher said in a speech in Dallas, Texas.

I will leave out the implications of inflation to our personal and economic well being, and focus instead on its source. Yes, rising energy costs are going to play a big role in rising inflation, but don't forget the other component, a huge national budget deficit. The US government, with the already planned deficit plus the Katrina costs, is probably going to spend 400-500 billion dollars more than it takes in this year. This increases the amount of debt that must be sold on the world markets and depresses the value of the dollar.

Quite frankly, this will not be the major component of inflation, rising fuel prices will claim that role, but we should not forget that the cut taxes and spend policies will have an impact on a weaker dollar which means you can buy less for that dollar.

A day in Iraq

Fascinating short daily diary by a Knight Ridder reporter in Iraq.

Definitely, worth a look.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

heh heh heh.

Okay, I know it's petty but tell me this doesn't bring out a little schadenfreude.

From the Yale student newspaper.

It was a bittersweet homecoming for United Nations Ambassador John Bolton '70 LAW '74, a former chair of the Conservative Party who returned to the Yale Political Union Monday evening amid a chorus of hisses and politically charged questions. .....

The audience interrupted Bolton throughout his speech with loud banging on desks and hissing, the typical YPU expressions for approval and disagreement. When asked about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bolton said the U.S. -- not other countries or international organizations ­-- should hold its own citizens accountable for possible abuse.

"We don't need anybody else to judge us," he said. "We judge our own."

The answer prompted loud hissing from the audience, but Bolton offered students a question of his own.

"I'm just curious, those of you who are hissing, who do you think will judge better than us?" he asked the audience.

I still don't get this.

I still don't get this. The current pope, they one who looks kind of evil to me in every photo I've ever seen of him, is conducting an investigation and purge of any and all "homosexual" priests.

If they are practicing celibacy, why does it matter what they're celibate from?

The ruling came as the Vatican is reportedly considering a ban on the admission of homosexuals to the clergy, and is conducting an inspection of more than 200 U.S. seminaries to check for homosexual activity and the way that candidates for the priesthood are being taught to practice celibacy.

And, to answer a logical supposition, data shows that homosexual men are no more likely than heterosexual men to sexually abuse children. So, what's the purpose of your inquisition, Pope Johnny Ratz?

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Civil War in Iraq is now on.

Iraq, Oct. 3 - Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders quietly adopted new rules over the weekend that would make it virtually impossible for the constitution to fail in the coming national referendum.

The move prompted Sunni Arabs and a range of independent political figures to complain that the vote was being fixed. .......

Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least 3 of the 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds would both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.

I think the civil war is now officially on. Imagine, for example, that ten days before an election the rules were changed by the republicans to require that in order for a republican to lose his seat, 50% of the registered voters had to vote for the other guy.

And this is especially heinous as the US forces in Iraq have been cleaning out the populations of whole towns in the Sunni dominated areas in the latest offensives.

Imagine my example above requiring 50% of registered voters being required in New Orleans right now. This is the scale of this change. Oh, and notice the key phrase "unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon."

Oh, and it gets worse.

In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish members interpreted the law as follows: the constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In other words, the lawmakers designated two different meanings for the word "voters" in one passage.
The civil war is now truly on.

Car stories.

This is from Atrios. I like it so I'm gonna put it up here.

Story one:

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Sales tumbled at General Motors and Ford last month as record high gas prices and the automakers' own summer promotions finally took their toll.

Tough comparisons with strong results a year ago were also a factor, industry executives said.

GM, the world's biggest automaker, said U.S. sales overall sank 24 percent to 344,797 vehicles in September.

Sales of light trucks, which include pickups, sport/utility vehicles and vans, plummeted even more, off 30 percent from a year earlier, while car sales declined 14.5 percent.

Ford, the nation's No. 2 automaker, said September sales overall sank 19 percent to 228,157 vehicles.

Ford's sales of light trucks fell even more sharply, sinking 27 percent to 155,167.

Story two:

Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday that its U.S. vehicle sales jumped 10.3 percent in September as climbing car sales offset a slight decline in trucks.

The Japanese automaker - which sells car and trucks under the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands - sold 178,417 vehicles during the month, up from 161,793 last September. Car sales jumped 22.2 percent to 107,551 vehicles, more than making up for a 3.9 percent decline in truck sales to 70,866 units.

( Mike: Oh, and it must be because Japanese labor is so much cheaper, right? So we gotta bust the unions to compete. Couldn't possibly be that they produce 30% more efficient cars?)

Interesting notes from a National Security Conference

Just some notes this blogger made from a National Security Conference.

Worth a quick browse just to kind of get your head up and take a look around beyond the obvious issues of today. No huge shocks except for a prediction of a decline of Europe as a major world power.


Cryptic Statement on Miller's Testimony.

Very strange, very cryptic statement from Floyd Abrams, Judith Miller's attorney. Kind of makes you wonder who else spoke to her during the run up to the war, eh?

Appearing Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources," Abrams said: "I tried to get a deal a year ago. I spoke to Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, and he did not agree at that time to something that he later did agree to, which was to limit the scope of the questions he would ask, so as to assure that the only source he would effectively be asking about was Mr. Libby." ......

Miller held out, Abrams said Sunday, in part because "she has other sources and was very concerned about the possibility of having to reveal those sources, or going back to jail because of them." Before she finally testified, Fitzgerald promised to limit his questioning to the Libby contacts regarding Plame.

Now, I understand the idea that Miller should not be asked to testify to what other sources said on other matters, but I think my question would be, who gets to draw the boundaries on the Plame investigation. Is Miller's "concern" about other sources an indication that the Fitzgerald grand jury is looking beyond just the leaking of a Plame into the inclusion of the 16 words on Niger uranium? Or some of the "mischaracterizations" that were used to sell the Iraq war? After all, Judith Miller was the key NYTimes byline on almost all the Chalbi information on WMD, and she obviously was a key element in the campaign to propagate false information in the war run up. Alot of the same people are involved in both the direct Plame leak, and the lies of Saddam's WMD. And most of it seems to center around the VP's office, where Libby was chief of staff.

Don't know, may be over reading this, but it seems to indicate that Miller was concerned with protecting more than Plame.

But then we come to my meta question. Do I think that if this thing links up to Cheney or Bush, they would actually be brought up on some sort of charges? I don't know.

Let's look at the history on these sorts of things. Do you believe the Warren Report, that Oswald acted alone? Polls show most Americans don't.(somewhere around 65%) Do you believe that we know all the criminal activities from the Nixon administration? Do you believe the 9-11 investigation was thorough?(as one example, what about the massive short sales on the airline stocks where the investigation was dropped because they couldn't determine the buyer. C'mon, a brokerage house places a ten million dollar short sale and has no way to indentify the buyer? Well, then I placed it. I'll take my profits now, please.)

So, my point is this. I'm not sure whether the true activities in the run up to the war will ever be made public. I wouldn't be surprised to see some indictments of Libby, for instance, on charges related to Plame, but my belief would be that he would be allowed to plead on the Plame charges in exchange for a walk on the lying the country into war charges if he keeps his mouth shut. And the higher ups, Cheney for example, would just step out of the limelight because of health reasons or "to spend more time with my family."

The reason I'm so cynical about this is that there is circumstantial evidence that the Israelis were running intel ops in the DoD (See Franklin/AIPAC), and that the flow of information was not just out of the DoD, but into it. Into the Office of Special Plans where it was "stovepiped" up to Cheney's desk and distributed to the media. And, damningly, the OSP was set up to "re-examine" the existing intelligence specifically looking for evidence of WMD, and it was the source for alot of the bad Chalabi/Ghorbanifar intel that was used to prop up the WMD claims.

Now, as Israel is our international "friend," I find it difficult to believe that the true nature of all this would be made public, as it would seriously disrupt relations between the US and Israel. So, I'm not optimistic that we will ever know the full truth of what went down in the lead up to the Iraq war, but I do take some solace in the belief that those involved will probably be slowly and quietly removed from postions of influence.

Maybe I'm just too cynical.

(Aside: Before anybody starts yelling anti-semitism, let me say, that my issue is not with the Jewish people. I side with the vast majority of Israelis that would prefer peaceful coexistence rather than the aggression and occupation exercised the current Likud government. And there is circumstantial evidence(AIPAC/Franklin) that certain individuals within the Israeli governement were involved in the transfer of classified info. Whether or not it was sanctioned by the gov't is unknown. )

Sorry, tinfoil hat morning.


UPDATE : Somebody else agrees with me. Russ Hoyle from the new Talking Points Cafe site.
But with Miller’s release from jail last Thursday, her cloudy motives have grown even murkier. It may be time to admit that we’ve probably been asking the wrong questions about Judith Miller. The chattering classes so far have completely ignored the possibility that what Miller is so determined to protect may have nothing to do with the Plame case.

It may, however, have plenty to do with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice-president’s chief of staff, whom Miller met with on July 8, 2003 and spoke with at least once more that week, along with other unnamed officials, after her return from Iraq and the unsuccessful U.S. search for Saddam’s weapons. And it may have everything to do with protecting the White House officials who leaked classified intelligence – not about Valerie Plame to Robert Novak in the summer of 2003 – but to Miller herself about Iraq’s allegedly reconstituted nuclear weapons program in September 2002.

Plus, he's got a lengthy recounting of the Judy and Iraq Propaganda story.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Holy Crap!!!

Unsubstaniated rumor alert!!!!!

Light blogging today, Astros fan, and that was the main attraction today. But Holy Crap!!! What'd I miss.

From ThinkProgress (mainstream far left.)

Near the end of a round table discussion on ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos dropped this bomb:

Definitely a political problem but I wonder, George Will, do you think it’s a manageable one for the White House especially if we don’t know whether Fitzgerald is going to write a report or have indictments but if he is able to show as a source close to this told me this week, that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions.

Video here:

It's delivered as kindof a throwaway line, but did Snuffleupogus just say that he has a source that said Bush was in discussions of who and when? If true, isn't that obstruction after the fact? Does that mean he lied to the grand jury, or told the truth there, then lied in his speeches? Or is Snuffleupogus just blowing smoke? Would explain the outside defense council?

Don't know, but that's a pretty big thing to just mention as an aside.

UPDATE: Also, reports from MSNBC, that if Miller didn't testify, Fitzgerald was going to empanel another grand jury which would mean another 18 months in jail for Miller. So, the message I'm reading in this is either, Fitzgerald was simply bluffing, raising the stakes to scare Miller into compliance, or.....

He's hunting some really big game and Miller's piece is the connection to substantiate the rumored conspiracy charges, rather than the classified info charges, which would include a lot more people who thought they could plan, but not leak, and get away with it.

Maybe Big. Now if we could just crawl up the chain on the Franklin/AIPAC case .......

Check this out.

Oooohhhh, this is weird. This guy found a copy of a Libby letter to Miller in jail somewhere out there in the public record. Read this para, and tell me it's not "the crow flies at midnight" kind of code.

You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover--Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work--and life.

The Cock Crows at Dawn.


Interesting Plame Case Claim from the WaPo

Interesting tidbit from a WaPo summary article on the Plame case thus far.

But a new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose. .......

(Mike comment : Another theory, presumably from Rove/Libby/Whitehouse lawyers)

But a new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.

There is also the claim that Fitzgerald might end up "announcing that he completed a thorough investigation, concluded no crime was committed and would not issue a report." But I find that pretty hard to fathom after the very public jailing of Judith Miller. Jailing Miller solely to say the invesitigation was thorough before dismissing it seems to me a pretty unbelievable step because that sort of thing would leak out over time, and I doubt that anyone in politics would want the NYTimes as that much of an enemy.

Just interesting. Oh, and if I've got my timelines right, this grand jusry should be wrapping up at just about the same time as the Iraqi constitutional referendum.