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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Plame Gossip - theory of the coverup

This post at Talk Left sums up my "theory of the coverup" in the Plame matter. This is all about the coverup, not the outing of Valerie Plame.

Short version, the Justice Department notified Al Gonzales about the investigation. He immediately called Andy Card, and then the two of them, so their story goes, didn't issue any notification to anybody for twelve hours.

But, there are 250 emails and documents which were "improperly archived" as was disclosed in one of the Libby filings. That awkward phrase has always implied to me an amateurish attempt to destroy them by someone without the technical knowledge of the White House email system. Maybe someone operating in that 12 hour gap. There's also less solid reporting of erased hard drives, and, as yet, we don't know whose computers were involved.

I'm under the impression that these emails and documents were not just one exchange between two people, but instead conversations off a number of desks meaning the deleter would have to be someone with huge security clearances and the ability to access all these systems. Or, it could have been a coordinated effort among several individuals.

The recent key revelation that unlocks this theory was that Rove was aware a month ago that he would be forced to testify again. This would have been a couple days before the Card resignation. Circumstantial, but the possibility does merit a reexamination? I, like others, theorized at the time that this could be the case.

The questions spawning in this interpretation: Has Rove been cooperating against Card? Who coordinated the purging? How complicit is Al Gonzales? Did anyone else know of the original document request during the 12 hour gap?

Is the reporting regarding these missing documents "Rove was able to chart a path for Fitzgerald directly into the office of the Vice President" true?

All of this, all of this, from Libby to Rove to Hadley to Card, all involves the coverup. Once it is broken, then perhaps we can get back to talking about the underlying crime of outing Valerie Plame.

Those emails are the key to this case. They will show who knew about Plame's NOC status, roughly when, and the general nature of the discussion surrounding her outing. And Fitzgerald, as well as the Libby defense, apparently now has them.

One More Note: Almost every major break on this story has come from three sources: Jason Leopold, formerly Rawstory, now at Truthout, Larisa Alexandrovna at Rawstory, and Murray Waas at the National Journal. When the history of this case that rocked the Bush White House is written, I really do hope that their roles are properly represented and that the credit goes to them.

Picture of the Day - 3

President Bush holds a puppy rescued from a pound, as he visits Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts in Biloxi, Miss. Thursday, April 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

He held a couple of puppies that are looking for a good home. Bush said he has no favorite among the White House dogs, denying Barney is his top dog.

One volunteer couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"That's a little over the top, the president holding puppies," he said.

So, we have Bush holding puppies, photo ops with little girls in pink dresses, and Al Gonzales holding tours for sixth graders(short, worth a read). Do I detect a ham-handed effort by the new chief of staff to "soften the image?"

Picture of the Day - 2

Stress position. A photo from Abu Ghraib.

25,000 non-Muslim casualties of terrorism last year

I already blogged the State Dept's report on terrorism which showed the number of terror incidents shot through the roof in 2005, but reading this mention in a USAToday article, something else struck me...

Overall, the report tallied about 11,000 terror attacks around the world last year, resulting in more than 14,600 deaths. That is almost a fourfold increase in attacks from 2004, though the agency attributes the change largely on new ways of tallying the incidents.

At least 10,000 to 15,000 of the approximately 40,000 people killed or wounded worldwide were Muslims, most of them in Iraq, said the National Counterterrorism Center, which provided statistical information to the State Department.

About 3,500 of last year's attacks occurred in Iraq and about 8,300 of the deaths occurred there, accounting for a large part of the increase over 2004.

Okay, if I'm doing my math right, that means there were at least 25,000 non-Muslims killed or wounded in terror attacks last year. It's not that I value Muslim terror victims less, but as Iraq is included in the statistics, I'm not surprised by that number.

But, I'm about as news-junkie as news-junkie gets, and that 25,000 number is surprising to me, because it's a pretty big terror attack that kills or wounds a hundred and you'd be looking at a major attack outside Iraq more than one every two days. Or at least one major attack a week with many smaller events at several a day. Am I missing something, am I forgetting something?

Using mistrained troops in Iraq

Rex Kramer, apparently a former US Ranger and host of the very clever and funny Spurious George, made some fascinating observations in the comments of a post yesterday.

The short version is that the redeployment of troops from their long term traditional stations, Korea for example, has them operating in Iraq without the proper tactical training for a counterinsurgency. The soldiers in Korea, again as example, have spent years studying and training for tactics and battles against North Korea and China leaving them with an illfitting tactical background for deployment to fight a counterinsurgency in Iraq. The same goes for soldiers out of Germany and other groups which have been training for decades for specific threats.

I know there have been lots of reports of soldiers being utilized outside their MOS, and even soldiers from other branches of service being brought in to fill roles in the Army, but I never thought about the complications of deployment outside of regional threat training. I just found it really interesting. If you've got a few minutes, take a read. I just never thought about it that way.

The Ambiguously Gay Duo

I don't know if you're a fan, I like some of it, but tonight on SNL, they're running an hour and a half tribute/collection of Robert Smigel's cartoons.

More "displacements" in Iraq

As the regulars here know, I have been troubled by the Iraqi "displacements" for some time, but for the humanitarian crisis they represent, but also for the geographical sectarianization they represent. Much like the wars in the former Yugoslavia, I see this ethnic cleansing as a step that will lead to a more open civil war as the various groups, once geographically homogenized, will begin to fight over their bordering territories.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Sectarian violence has forced about 100,000 families across Iraq to flee their homes, a top Iraqi official said, as six more Iraqis were killed in scattered violence on Saturday.

Working from the earlier estimates, "an Iraqi family" constitutes 6-10 people, so using this number we'd be looking at 600,000 refugees. It must be said that earlier estimates put the numbers between 60,000 and 90,000 people, but this number is so jawdropping that it caught my attention.

Picture of the Day

Friday, April 28, 2006

Somebody may be watching

From the Friday document dump. (6PM Friday, after the evening news.)

WASHINGTON (AP) - The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

It was the first time the Bush administration has publicly disclosed how often it uses the administrative subpoena known as a national security letter, which allows the executive branch of government to obtain records about people in terrorism and espionage investigations without court approval.

So, either there are 3,501 terrorists in the US, or the FBI is either abusing the Patriot Act to spy on non-terrorists, or they'e conducting warrantless searches through a patriot act workaround.

Plame Gossip

Jason Leopold says the charges against Rove are already written up and that they will be brought to the grand jury next week. This runs counter to some earlier leaks from Rove's defense team that Rove has been told it will be at least ten days.

The other tidbit is that the press will be given 24 hours notice before a Fitzgerald press conference announcing or releasing anything, so we'll probably first hear of breathless mentionsof a press conference.

Two other big pieces on the Rove indictment tonight, Murray Waas has some bits about Rove's testimony, and Firedoglake has an exhaustive look at the article and how it fits into previous interpretations.

It's late, and I'm tired. I'll look at doing fuller posts on it all tomorrow.

As a parting thought, despite Rove's attorney's spin that this testimony was "just clearing up some discrepancies," the growing consensus seems to be that Rove is pretty certainly going down. Good night.

Picture of the Day - 3

Renee Amick, mother of Jason Hendrix who died in Iraq.

Take a look at this

This post over at ThinkProgress postulates that the Russians are playing both sides in the Iran situation, selling the Iranians air defense missiles while at the same time launching Israel's Iran spy satellite. The theory is that a regional war in the middle east benefits the Russians by both depleting US forces and abilities, and also forcing the price of oil through the roof.

I've been talking about the Russians and Chinese using Iran for awhile, but helping the Israelis is a new wrinkle. I'm not sure they are actually trying to foment a war, they can accomplish their goals by simply creating tension.

If you can separate yourself from the evil of it, it's really quite a brilliant strategy. The Russians win almost every way.

Oh, and this is the problem with having a simpleton as president. He made the decision to go into Iraq from his gut, at least that's what he tells us, and now we're stuck, overextended, and exposed.

Friday Laugh

If you didn't see this Colbert interview with Bill Kristol, it is brilliant and good for a Friday afternoon laugh. Colbert, in character, got Bill Kristol so turned around, Kristol ends up saying that sometimes you have to beat your wife. I AM NOT KIDDING. (Roughly the 3:45 mark.)

I promise, it's worth the 6 minutes.

Plame Gossip - No Rove indictment for ten days

Rawstory says that MSNBC is slated to report that Rove's attorneys have been told by Fitzgerald that there will be no decision in the case for at least ten days. So, nothing today or next week.

That sounds odd to me unless Fitzgerald has a weeklong vacation scheduled. There are wheels turning behind the scenes. My guess would be that after Rove's testimony, Fitzgerald offered another figure in the case one week to make a decision.

It's just a hunch, but it would indicate that there are a lot more moving parts in this thing than we can currently see. Also, it might indicate that by next week or the week after, we may have a Rove indictment and someone pleading to an information and publicly cooperating with Fitzgerald. (Hadley?)

And, I want to know more about the 250 "missing" emails. I think that's now the key to this whole thing. It could be hard evidence of a coordinated obstruction and coverup seemingly coming from high in the VP's office.

(Also, I don't know what happened to my template. I'll probably get to fixing it over the weekend. Please excuse our mess.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Condi Rice at a Nato meeting yesterday, waits impatiently for her turn so she can threaten Iran.

No need for freedom when you have oil

Tell me the one about freedom again.
WASHINGTON - Searching for energy supplies and allies against Iran, the Bush administration is reaching out to leaders who rule countries that are rich in oil and gas but accused of authoritarian rule and human rights violations.

The presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Equatorial Guinea are all getting special attention. The effort sometimes seems at odds with President Bush's stated second-term goal of spreading democracy.

I do think it's notable that this is being covered in this way. For my entire adult newsreading life, the American press has rarely covered this directly. (Story link from AmericaBlog.)

Iraq "safe haven for terrorists" - State Dept.

This is off the CNN site, I found it through a search, but the page the link returns is blank. This blurb came from the search page.
The State Department's annual terrorism report finds that Iraq is becoming a safe haven for terrorists and has attracted a "foreign fighter pipeline" linked to terrorist plots, cells and attacks throughout the world, a senior State Department official involved in the preparation of the report told CNN.

I think that's news worthy of an active link, don't you?

Oh, it was active. Americablog has more than the blurb paragraph(two paragraphs,) but their link is dead as well.

Neil Young's servers are already under duress

I've always been mixed on Neil Young, I absolutely adore the acoustic and early electric stuff. Some of the grunge/noise stuff from the 90's is pretty good, too, but he always seems to have a lot of filler songs, too.

Nonetheless, with his antiwar album coming out on the net today, I think it's probably worth a listen. His website is already completely overloaded at 8AM(other artists, notice the pent up demand for an antiwar message,) but I was able to listen to some of the album here.

(Also, not that I would encourage such a thing, but it hasn't hit bittorrent yet, but I would bet it'll be there by this afternoon.)

Later: Frankly, some decent songs but I'm not overwhelmed. Please don't let that stop you, though. Even if you're not a Neil Young fan, go ahead and click the link, play the album, even if you just turn the sound down. Today, we vote with our bandwidth. We can make this antiwar message news.

Rove's "demotion"

I guess they did know that Rove was still in trouble when he was "demoted."
A lawyer with knowledge of the case said that Mr. Rove had known for more than a month that he was likely to make another appearance before the grand jury, and that he had known since last fall that he would be subject to further questions from Mr. Fitzgerald before the prosecutor completed his inquiry.

The same article also says Fitzgerald "is expected to decide in the next two to three weeks" about charging Rove. So, waiting anxiously today may well be fruitless.

Picture of the Day

The decider indicates exactly where the decisions come from. -or-

The President is seen feeling the empty spot after Patrick Fitzgerald extracted "Bush's Brain." (pending)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Drag my ass to Baghdad for a photo op, will ya?

I'm guessing this was a US reporter who wasn't too pleased to have to travel to Baghdad to cover Rumsfeld or Rice.

BAGHDAD, April 27 -- A full 10 seconds of silence passed after a reporter asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld what the intense secrecy and security surrounding their visit to Iraq signified about the stability of the country three years after the U.S.-led invasion. Rice turned to Rumsfeld to provide the answer. Rumsfeld glared at the reporter.

"I guess I don't think it says anything about it," he snapped. He went on to say that President Bush had directed him and Rice to go to Iraq to "meet with the new leadership, and it happens that they are located here," a reference to the heavily fortified Green Zone where U.S. officials -- and many Iraqi leaders -- live and work.

The LATimes had some choice quotes from the Iraqis on the visit.

"We didn't invite them," said Kamal Saadi, a Shiite legislator close to the new prime minister-designate, Nouri Maliki...

..."It would be more appropriate if they would leave us alone," said Mahmoud Othman, a senior Kurdish legislator. "Let us solve our problems by ourselves."

"Enough is enough," said Sheik Mahmoud Sudani, a politician affiliated with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr. "Rice's trip to Iraq at this critical time is just another desperate move by the Americans to try to impose themselves on our new government. But they have lost their influence."

This is what bigoted GOTV issues bring.

When Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert began pushing immigration as their "soft bigotry" get out the vote issue, the rhetoric they unleashed in an effort to win an election made this inevitable.
As the public debate over immigration reform has taken center-stage in American politics and public life, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other racists have declared "open season" on immigrants and attempted to co-opt and exploit the controversy by focusing their efforts -- and their anger -- on the minority group at the center of the controversy: Hispanics.

We are not in an immigration crisis! The situation is not significantly different than it was a year ago or will be in a year's time. If you want to solve the issue, fine, it is a problem, but your election year rhetoric, designed to bring out your "base," is spawning hate.

I guess you wanted to tap into that racism "just a little bit."

Picture of the Day - 3

"No! You can't take my Rover."

Plame Gossip - Heh Heh Heh




I gotta catch the 6PM rebroadcast of Hardball. The grand jury is scheduled to meet again Friday. Fitzgerald may use that time to enter more evidence, but I'll bet it's all largely in, so it is really possible we might have an indictment tomorrow. If not, very possibly next week.

Also, I would guess by the fact that the grand jury asked him questions for three and a half hours, that they're not buying his story. They believe Fitzgerald's version and it appears Fitzgerald wants to indict.

If you can't say something nice about the Bush administration...

The CIA has imposed new and tighter restrictions on the books, articles, and opinion pieces published by former employees who are still contractors with the intelligence agency. According to several former CIA officials affected by the new policy, the rules are intended to suppress criticism of the Bush administration and of the CIA. The officials say the restrictions amount to an unprecedented political "appropriateness" test at odds with earlier CIA policies on outside publishing.

Brent Wilkes is a cartoon

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Brent Wilkes, defense contractor better known as one of the bribers of Duke Cunningham, was running hookers and limos for congressmen(plural is theirs) and their staff.

Remember, Wilkes is the guy who was rumored to be liquidating his assets and preparing to run to Belize, maybe with a congressman, back in early December.

But honestly, I have to say this, in some strange way I respect these guys. Very often you hear about congressmen changing their vote for $5,000 in campaign donations, and in many ways, that seems far worse to me than the utter corruption engaged in by Duke Cunningham. I'm often amazed how cheaply some of this goes on.

I mean, as crooked as these guys were, at least Duke Cunningham's soul cost millions, a mansion, a yacht, a frickin' Rolls Royce. It's illegal, bust him, but I understand it.

Look at some of the funds surrounding Bob Ney or Katherine Harris. A couple thousand dollars and some golf trips for Ney. How corrupt is Washington when votes can be bought so cheaply? Are there so many congressmen up for sale that it's a buyer's market?

No, please don't answer that.

A little more on oil.

I do find it strange that there is very little talk of the connection between oil, US foreign policy designed to secure that oil, and the growth of terrorism as a response to US policy.

I guess it's because terrorists are evil and not acting within a greater context.

Also, can you ever remember a popular discussion of oil prices that didn't include any Arab bashing? All the anger, right now at least, is directed either at the oil companies or the politicians. I just find that surprising.

Picture of the Day - 2

Aristocracy not Meritocracy

Just another one of those, what's wrong with America posts.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - America may still think of itself as the land of opportunity, but the chances of living a rags-to-riches life are a lot lower than elsewhere in the world, according to a new study published on Wednesday.

The likelihood that a child born into a poor family will make it into the top five percent is just one percent, according to "Understanding Mobility in America", a study by economist Tom Hertz from American University.

By contrast, a child born rich had a 22 percent chance of being rich as an adult, he said.

Cheap stunts

What happened to the Republican party?

Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, have proposed sending $100 "rebate checks" to taxpayers as their plan to combat high gasoline costs.

Mr. Pandering Republican Politician, unlike you, my vote is not for sale.

First, the amendment is being attached to the Iraq emergency supplemental. That's just wrong. Second, it's conditional that the ANWR reserve be opened. Third, at a a time of skyrocketing deficits it is utterly insane.

And, fourth, how much does it cost to cut these checks? In my old "business days," there was a substantial process and handling charge associated with cutting checks, meaning that these checks probably cost far more than $100 to issue. It's a cheap stunt and bad economics.

But, if you're gonna be stupid enough to send out these checks, why don't you send mine to one of these guys.

More bad poll numbers

NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll
Yet Bush’s approval (36%) isn’t the only measure that has declined. In the poll — which was taken April 21-24 of 1,005 adults, and which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points — just 24 percent believe the nation is headed in the right direction, a drop of two points since last month and seven points since January. What’s more, only 17 percent think the nation’s economy will improve in the next 12 months, a decline of seven points since March.

I agree, but only 24%(and falling) believe the nation is heading in the right direction? What sort of impact does that have on the country? On the economy?

Picture of the Day

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hypocrite in chief

Funny, this runs against everything he has publicly said.

WASHINGTON -- President Bush generally favors plans to give millions of illegal immigrants a chance at U.S. citizenship without leaving the country, but does not want to be more publicly supportive because of opposition among conservative House Republicans, according to senators who attended a recent White House meeting.

Tony Snow's first question.

I was just thinking about this the other day, and I thought it would make a good question for Tony Snow on his first day.
Has President Bush paid his respects at any funerals for US soldiers who died in Iraq? If not, why not?

Picture of the Day - 3

Plame Gossip - Rove got a target letter?

This is a big shift in the Plame case regarding Rove that had gone unreported until today. Jason Leopold is reporting
Karl Rove's appearance before a grand jury in the CIA leak case Wednesday comes on the heels of a "target letter" sent to his attorney recently by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, signaling that the Deputy White House Chief of Staff may face imminent indictment, sources that are knowledgeable about the probe said Wednesday. ....

In an interview last week, Luskin confirmed that Rove was a "subject" of Fitzgerald's probe. In a previous interview, Luskin asserted that Rove would not be indicted by Fitzgerald, but he was unwilling to make that same prediction again during an interview last week....

Micheal Scherer at Salon has a quote from "a spokesman for Rove" who says that the reports of a target letter are "utterly false.

Later: Jason has a response up to the denial.

Also: I'm not an expert in legal linguistics, but after Rove's testimony today, Luskin, Rove's attorney issued a statement that
"U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, had advised Rove that he was "not a target of the investigation." However, Luskin said Fitzgerald has not made any decision about charges."

What does this mean? Is it that Rove will be indicted for perjury, but that is secondary to the investigation? Is it saying that the endpoint in the investigation is still many moves away? Is this confirmation that the real hunt for the real crime of conspiracy or obstruction in the VP's office is yet to be revealed?

This is what I was afraid of in the last post, more of a cliffhanger than a resolution. I hate sweeps week.

Tune in next post for more Adventures in Justice. (cue the weighty music)

Update 2: Reading a little more about Luskin's statement, I think Rove is singing. If he was just testifying about his own legal jeopardy, there would be no need for this request.
"At the request of the Special Counsel, Mr. Rove will not discuss the substance of his testimony," Luskin said.

I mean, there is no reason that a possible indictee should be limited in speaking about his own testimony unless it impacts other potential cases. So, I think we're going to have all this kerfuffle, Rove may or may not be indicted, but the investigation will plod on.

Using the chess analogy I keep falling back on, Fitzgerald appears to be in the phase of attritting pieces, Rove being a knight or a bishop. He has postion. He has time. It is now just the laboriously slow process of consolidating strength and control to trap the king and win the game.

Think Cheney's heart can take it?

Update 3: Talkleft seems to have come to the same conclusion I have about Rove singing about the 250 "missing" emails, and Cheney as the ultimate target, but it's much briefer and not in my roundabout discursive writing style.

Plame Gossip - Rove testifies for the grand jury.

Karl Rove is again testifying before the grand jury, for the fifth time.

Rawstory is also repeating Jason Leopold's earlier reporting as well as their own, that Rove is cooperating with Fitzgerald which could frame this appearance as testimony against someone else. That's an interesting possibility.

According to one source close to the case, Rove is providing information on deleted emails, erased hard drives and other types of obstruction by staff and other officials in the Vice President's office. Pentagon sources close to Rove confirmed this account.

None would name the staffers and/or officials whom Rove is providing information about. They did, however, explain that the White House computer system has "real time backup" servers and that while emails were deleted from computers, they were still retrievable from the backup system. By providing the dates and recipient information of the deleted emails, sources say, Rove was able to chart a path for Fitzgerald directly into the office of the Vice President.

UPDATE: Lawrence O'Donnell takes a look at the scuttlebutt and comes to the conclusion that Rove's side requested the appearance and that indicates a belief from Rove's side indictment is imminent.

Also look at the wording from MSNBC,
According to NBC News’ David Shuster, legal sources say Rove volunteered to testify and was not subpoenaed. Rove’s decision followed a recent conversation with Fitzgerald.

To me, that sounds like a man who had the fear of god put in him. Think Fitzgerald laid a trap here to get Rove back on the stand under oath? Did the recent conversation involve the offer of a plea deal? (there is still the open matter of the 250 "missing" emails which seem to have been deleted by someone in the VP's office.)

If this is just Rove's last attempt to craft a story to stay out of the pokey, an indictment may follow very quickly over the next week. If this is part of some plea deal implicating others, the whole thing is going to go quiet again for a long time as Fitzgerald works with the new information. (And, yes I am leaving out the possibility that Rove will testify and clear himself.)

If there is a plea deal in which Rove cooperates, it probably won't be announced, so I think that silence would confirm that Fitzgerald is still hunting "officials in the VP's office." (yep, the big official in the VP's office.)

And, lastly, let's just all say a warm welcome to Tony Snow. As a welcome gift, may I offer you the phrase, "not comment on an ongoing investigation." Go ahead, feel free. It's yours now.

Picture of the Day - 2

Can't you just hear Frist thinking, "please don't take my picture with this guy."

Tony Snow's feelings about Bush

Tony Snow is apparently the new press secretary. If you haven't run across them yet, Think Progress ran back through Snow's punditry and found a bunch of quotes of him criticizing the Bush administration and the president. Did nobody on Bolten's staff even vet this guy?

Just funny. Collection 1. Collection 2.


PALO ALTO, Calif. (MSNBC) - More injured troops are surviving the war in Iraq than any other. But because of the terrible force of IED explosions, more are surviving with brain injury than in any other war.....

Thousands of other vets are facing the same challenge of accepting their new selves.

Where are the Terri Schiavo crazies now?

The existence of this law made the rounds during the Terri Schiavo debacle, but this is a specific example.
HOUSTON---The countdown has begun on the life of Andrea Clark, a patient at St. Luke's Hospital.

Six days left.

No, she's not terminal, her family says and she's not brain dead. Her sisters say that she wants to live. The Houston hospital is going to unilaterally remove a woman from life support, apparently based on the decision of a lone physician even though her family wants her to continue to receive care.....

What's even more significant in the Clark case is that the Texas bill that allows health care providers to end a human life despite the wishes of the patient and the patient's family was signed into law in 1999 by President George W. Bush as Texas Governor.

Now this case is different than most of the cases under this law in that Andrea Clark has insurance, although I would wager that they would be happy to stop payment as well. This law was originally passed to limit the costs of hospitals.

Have you noticed?

Have you noticed that since gasoline prices became the headline that all those stories out of the administration about attacking Iran have, more or less, just disappeared? All those veiled threats turned off like a faucet starting Monday morning? (Or maybe it was Al-Maliki named Iraqi PM?)

The Iranians still want to play, but it seems the Bush administration finally realized they were playing a losing game. I mean, El Baradei is due to make his report to the UN on Friday and suddenly the US has taken all the air out of their rhetoric.

Maybe it was the Russians refusing even sanctions, or something said by Hu on his visit, or the knowledge that El Baradei is going to report Iran in compliance, but something suddenly, radically changed.

I guess point 4 of Josh Bolten's 5-point "recovery plan" for the administration must not be viewed as working very well.

ALSO: Maybe Bush's announcement of an investigation into oil price gouging might be a preemptive political move with Exxon and Chevron due to report profits this week. That should be fun.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

This is a graphical depiction of the amount of influence Dick Cheney and George Bush have within the administration. Bush is the little dark speck on the chair on the right. -or-

"It's okay, Dickie, those children are fools not to want to play with you. Someday, you'll make something out of yourself, and then you'll show them." -or-

"Mr. Cheney, the prince of darkness will see you now." (Fire away, it's an open mike)

Is Wall Street betting on the Dems?

This is a really big deal, especially in the context of the "booming economy" the Bush administration keeps talking about. I just find myself wondering if this is big money donors betting the Dems will come up big in the midterms.
April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats outdid Republicans last year in attracting political donations from investment banks, brokerages and fund managers for the first time since 1994, helped by support from hedge funds and companies such as Merrill Lynch & Co.....

"When the party with no power can raise more money than the party with all the power, it means people are pretty disturbed about the country's condition,'' Kramer said.

I'm sure there's no connection at all, but let's take a look back at Josh Bolten's five point "recovery plan" for the administration "leaked" to Time a couple of days ago.
2 MAKE WALL STREET HAPPY. In an effort to curry favor with dispirited Bush backers in the investment world, the Administration will focus on two tax measures already in the legislative pipeline--extensions of the rate cuts for stock dividends and capital gains.

I guess if the Wall Street folks can influence the politicians by "donating" money, then the Republicans figure they can influence Wall Street by "donating" money right back. I see Tom Delay's ghost hasn't yet left the building.


From Laura Rozen
Bush's motorcade just pulled into the hotel up the street, and the helicopters are practically circling on top of our rooves. Living in this city since 2001, you feel under siege half the time. Update: Here go the sirens.

Elsewhere, across the top at Drudge
"On way to speech, Bush motorcade passed the EXXON station next to the Watergate, where gas prices were $3.29, $3.39 and $3.49 a gallon..."

You, too, would be an illegal immigrant

As the Congress comes back from yet another break, with immigration on the agenda, I thought I'd ask a question.

If salaries in Canada were five times your current salary would you consider crossing the border and working illegally? Think about what that would mean for your family.

Picture of the Day - 2

From the funeral of Michael Weger who died in Iraq.


The Department of Defense has identified 2,376 American service members who have died since the start of the Iraq war. It confirmed the deaths of the following Americans yesterday:

LUEKEN, Eric R., 23, Cpl., Marines; Dubois, Ind.; Third Marine Division.

RAMSEYER, Jason C., 28, Staff Sgt., Marines; Lenoir, N.C.; Third Marine Division.

Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk/Preparing for Open Civil War

One of the major disagreements in the formation of a new Iraqi government has been what exactly constitutes a militia and what actions to take regarding them. The new Prime Minister Al Miliki has recently been making noises about disbanding the Kurdish Peshmerga, a militia force that has existed in its current form back into the early 90's.
"I'm confident that the militias, and there are more than 11 militias, must be disarmed," al-Maliki said. "There's no difference between one militia and others."

But the current Kurdish president of Iraq is attempting to hang on to their 70,000 strong fighting force.
Even the country's Kurdish president appears unwilling to lay down arms. Jalal Talabani, speaking yesterday to reporters in Erbil, defended the 70,000-strong Kurdish peshmerga militia as a "regulated force."

But, this is not some esoteric discussion, it is a significant dispute which may have serious ramifications going forward. During Saddam's rule, 300,000 Kurds were forced out of Kirkuk to the north while Arabs from elsewhere in the country were brought in to resettle the city in an effort to pacify it.

With the Iraqi Constitution calling for a referendum on Kurdish independence before the end of 2007, the clock is ticking on establishing the dispensation of Kirkuk. So, when I see reports like this, I begin to see the geographical boundaries of the coming civil war.
KIRKUK, Iraq - Hundreds of Shiite Muslim militiamen have deployed in recent weeks to this restive city -- widely considered the most likely flash point for an Iraqi civil war -- vowing to fight any attempt to shift control over Kirkuk to the Kurdish-governed north, according to U.S. commanders and diplomats, local police and politicians.....

The Mahdi Army, led by firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has sent at least two companies, each with about 120 fighters, according to Thomas Wise, political counselor for the U.S. Embassy's Kirkuk regional office, which has been tracking militia activity. The Badr Organization, the armed wing of Iraq's largest Shiite political party, has also boosted its presence and opened several offices across the region, military officers here said.

Oh, and did I mention that Kirkuk is the center of one of Iraq's richest oil regions?

Possession of Kirkuk would be the key to the Kurd's survival as an independent entity, allowing them wealth, stability and security in their support of the rebel Kurdish movements in southern Turkey and northern Iran.

But in order to possess Kirkuk, the Kurds will have to first establish indisputable control, and it sounds like the Shia are not yet willing to reliquish it.

Many pro-Bush US commentators have made the point that Iraq is not yet in civil war because there has not been open street fighting. But as I've written before, because of the ethnically integrated nature of Iraq during Saddam's reign, the Iraq civil war would have to proceed in stages.

Much like the war in former Yugoslavia, there has to be a period of ethnic cleansing, a forcible expurgation as we are seeing in the death squads and refugees, that would establish the ethnic boundaries of the various factions. Only then, would the various factions begin their battles for border terriroties.

As this story, and the recent events in Adhamiyah, indicate, we are growing closer to that open territorial warfare that characterizes traditional civil wars.

(Question: I have been doing more "thought pieces" lately like this post and the next one and am looking for feedback. Is this a good thing? Would you prefer shorter posts with more article links? Do you come by here looking for Mike's opinion, or as a starting point for your own reading? Or is it just all about the pictures, so who cares what I write. Just trying to get some kind of idea about all this.)

UPDATE: As I was wandering around the blogworld I came across this article link over at Carbon Paper pointing out that the Iranians and Turks are preparing for further Kurdish activity by building up troops along their borders.

The failure of Rovian politics

Karl Rove is an electoral genius, well, sort of.

His history of dirty political ploys and divisive politics have taken him and his current client to the apex of the political sphere, but it is precisely the same tactics which made him so successful at winning election after election which are now responsible for Bush's current standing in the eyes of the American public.

At any other level of political office in this country, a candidate is able to run a campaign based largely on political attacks and outright misrepresentations certain that once elected to office, the attention of the vast majority of his constituents will fade. A reputation bolstered by one or two key votes on defining issues is then enough to maintain the facade through to the next election cycle no matter how many quiet votes are cast against the interests of the constituents.

But, this tactic breaks down with the presidency because of the constant high visibility of the office. Every little mistake and lie is front page news. There is no slipping off the front pages for the president and the truth has a nasty way of eventually slipping out.

Karl Rove sold George Bush as an honest, pious, straight shooter who would protect us from all evil in the world, but the very nature of the fishbowl in which the president lives, made the maintenance of this image a full time job and eventually impossible. Remember how much talk there was about this administration always being in "campaign mode?"

And, now, if you look at the Bush poll numbers, it is precisely these traits on which George Bush was sold that he is scoring the most badly. Is the president honest? Do you believe the Whitehouse has a plan for Iraq? Terrorism? Iran? Even the pious characterization has taken a significant hit among the evangelicals, the only segment where it really mattered.

What has happened is that, unlike a congressman, or even a governor, the presidency lacks the ability to step back away from the press, gain some time and distance, and then retool, rebrand, and remarket. And as people become aware of the lies they were sold during the election, their opinions become substantially more negative in a permanent and contagious way. If he's not honest, he's probably not pious, either, and maybe I should look at that "security president" thing again.

And, not only are people developing these negative opinions against the previous positive traits that were sold, but those changes are very likely to be nearly permanent. Once you believe a president to be dishonest, what would it take to change your mind? Once you believe the president isn't pious, any action he takes will be viewed as a political move rather than the genuine action of a moral man.

(I recognize this post leaves aside the massive impact of poor policy. I recognize that Iraq, Katrina, and economic policy play a huge part in the poll numbers, but I wanted to explore the collapse on personal qualities as a thought experiment.)

Also: I'm starting to feel that Plame jones again. I'm anxiously awaiting the next development in Fitzgerald's investigation which may well be the indictment of Karl Rove.

Picture of the Day

Monday, April 24, 2006

US conducting operations in Iran

This somewhat cryptic article in the Asia Times is a fair collection of the allegations that the US military is currently conducting operations, both directly and indirectly, inside Iran. At the vary least, this article appears to have confirmation that US forces are harboring and aiding the MEK, a bad, bad anti-Iranian terror group, in Iraq.

There's also an allegation that in January the US or British forces in Iraq brought down a plane carrying 11 top officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard in Iranian airspace with an electromagnetic pulse weapon(?).

There are a number of allegations of US activities, including in country operations. This could be intel. This could be straight ahead black ops, but it sounds to me more like an effort at provocation or an effort to prompt a precipitating event.

Get out your tinfoil hat as it helps read between the lines, but there's a fair amount here.

Jesus is my copilot

Or, you can't spell believe without lie.
Later, Bush said: "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true. One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free."

We invaded a country based on his interpretation of god. The other night, I watched this giant PBS special of Richard the First and Salah Al-Din battling over Jerusalem. They both believed that their battles were the will of god.

It's bigger than just anti-evolution.

Picture of the Day - 2

Nepal. A protester throws a tear gas cannister at government forces. (AP- Sundar Shrestha)

Put this in context.

Yesterday, I blogged this article in Time about Josh Bolten's 5 point plan "recovery plan" for the administration. I was agog that apparently the administration sees the problem only as one of communication, not policy. But, while reading it again responding to an email, this section jumped out at me.
Presidential advisers believe that by putting pressure on Iran, Bush may be able to rehabilitate himself on national security, a core strength that has been compromised by a discouraging outlook in Iraq. "In the face of the Iranian menace, the Democrats will lose," said a Republican frequently consulted by the White House.

Put this in a little context. Can you imagine the press so blithely discussing Kennedy escalating the Cuban Missile Crisis in order to win the midterm elections?

And think about what this is saying, the President of the United States intends to escalate the situation with Iran, making attacks on Americans more likely, in order to garner more votes for his congressional candidates.

In what bizarre world of psychology does exposing the voter to danger make them more likely to vote for the guy who exposed them to danger? (I know the theory, cling to a "strong leader" in times of crisis, but how messed up is that when the "strong leader" is the one amplifying the threat?)

And the press discusses this solely in the context of a political strategy.

You know, beyond all this Dem/Repub sports-style coverage of elections, there is a real world, a real world in which wars have ramifications beyond the president's approval rating.

Picture of the Day

Just a couple of Quickhits to catchup

First, if you didn't see it, Crooks and Liars has the video of the Drumheller interview up from last night's 60 Minutes. Short version, "The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' "

In Newsweek's Periscope section, "May 1, 2006 issue - Some neocon activists have urged a sharp increase in U.S. efforts to undermine Tehran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Ledeen told NEWSWEEK: "The people hate [the regime]. It's a revolution waiting to happen." But U.S. intel agencies strongly disagree, according to six sources familiar with official analyses of Iran who asked not to be identified when discussing sensitive material."

Mick Jagger and George Bush fought over a hotel room, and Jagger won. That's almost enough to get me to listen to a Stones' song written after 1980. Almost.

A dozen physicists, including 5 Nobel laureates, wrote an open letter to Bush asking him to take the nuclear option off the table.

On the excellent CNNI's Your World Today(the best news show on TV) they were interviewing Iraqis in the street about the new government. The quote that caught my ear, "A drowning man will grab anything for hope."

Last, is the energy secretary publicly calling for more security at oil facilities supposed to keep oil prices down? Does it reassure, or does it remind the markets of the threat?

Sorry, I know this is sloppy blogging, but I'm just short of time. More later.


As many of you know, blogger is throwing fits today. If this post goes up, it is the first one I've managed to get published all day. There's an outage planned at 6PM local time(4PM pacific.)

Too busy right now to do more than this, but if it's working right, I'll try to get something up around 5. We'll have to wait and see.

Very annoying, but it's a free service.


It's funny the little things that make me smile. I was taking a quick glance at the WaPo's "key races" map(which I think is too limited,) clicked on my home state of Texas, and there it was:

District 22: Open Seat.

That was Tom Delay's district. It just made me smile this morning.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Military action without adequate intelligence - Sound familiar?

Making policy in the absence of intel, again.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States doesn't have enough good intelligence to know whether or not Iran will be capable of producing nuclear weapons in the near future, top congressional intelligence committee members said on Sunday.

It's a shame we don't have a CIA specialist working on WMD technology transfers relating to Iran, like, oh, say, VALERIE PLAME!!!!!!

When this White House outed Plame in a effort to discredit her husband, they burned the entire operation, the Brewster-Jennings employment cover, losing contacts and intel streams on the nuclear black market. And now, we're totally blind.

The Plame affair was not just some piddling little matter of political retribution; it was a coordinated effort to discredit her husband, a critic of the administration, for purely political purposes that has left the US blind to the actions of Iran over the last three critical years of their nuclear development. Have they imported P-2 centrifuges? Have they procured new weapons designs? It sure would be useful to know that.

If you want prosecute individuals for "compromising sources and methods," Mr. Bush, I recommend you start by looking at those around you, Cheney, Libby, Rove, Hannah. I think the damage they have done far outweighs the exposure of the secret CIA prisons or the NSA warrantless spying.

The White House is purging the CIA of Democrats?

The White House appears to be undertaking an effort to challenge the work of anyone who isn't a Republican. In other words, your analysis that Saddam didn't have WMD wasn't valid because you might be a Democrat.


Josh Bolten's 5 point plan to save Bush

Much has been made around the minor White House changes engineered by Josh Bolten that they represent changing the messengers and not changing the underlying policies. Well, Time magazine has an article outlining Bolten's 5 point "recovery" plan, and it just reinforces that belief.
But the musical chairs is just the first of a two-act makeover. Friends and colleagues of Bolten told Time about an informal, five-point "recovery plan" for Bush that is aimed at pushing him up slightly in opinion polls and reassuring Republican activists, whose disaffection could cost him dearly in November. The White House has no visions of expanding the g.o.p.'s position in the midterms; the mission is just to hold on to control of Congress by playing to the base. Here is the Bolten plan:

(Take a look about 2/3 of the way down the article, powerpoint bullets in italics. - Mike)

In the "five points," visible border enforcement measures, further tax cuts to bribe Wall Street, "Brag more," reassert the "security" theme, and court the press, there is no substantial change in policy.

This White House really believes that their problems and low poll numbers are due only to a lack of communication. This is terrifying to me. These are the folks running my country and they think all that is needed are a few photo ops and happy talk?

Also, note that the best case, most optimistic plan that this out of touch White House is hoping for is to simply not lose ground in the midterms and "pushing him up slightly in the opinion polls." If all of their focus, time, and money is spent simply defending their base, they're going to be in a lot of trouble.

Of course, on a national level, I guess that's about all the White House can offer local candidates. It's not like Bush is going to be pulling vast numbers of independent voters into the Republican fold.

Picture of the Day - 2

When I first saw this picture I was amazed. Have you ever seen a major administration figure attend a funeral with the folded flag?

Then I read the caption. It was Casper Weinberger's funeral.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Three U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb northwest of Baghdad, the U.S. command said. That brought the number of American troops killed in the Iraqi capital area over the weekend to eight.

Iran, Russia, Saudi, and China

A collection of little significant articles on the other "great powers" relations with the middle east.

Iran and Russia announced yesterday that they had reached a deal on enriching uranium for Iranian plants in Russia.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, the Russians then came out and issued a warning against threatening Iran with military action or sanctions. During Hu's visit to Washington, he was also very cool to the idea of any real actions against Iran.

In the same general area, Chinese President Hu made a stop in Saudi on his way back home, that sounds like it went far better than his day with George, signing another major energy deal.

Is Bin Laden's "truce offer" over?

A new Bin Laden tape is coming today. What it means, I don't know, but just a heads up.

Picture of the Day