Friday, April 28, 2006

Limbaugh guilty of one count of Doctor Shopping - tentatively.

Based on a Press release by his attorney, Roy Black, Rush Limbaugh has agreed to accept a single count of Doctor shopping filed today by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office. Rush has filed a response of "Not Guilty", and the charge will be held in abayence for 18 months. The state of Florida will drop the charge it has filed after 18 months if Rush remains in the drug treament program he is currently in for that period, pays $30 a month for the cost of supervision, and pays a fine of $30,000 which Roy Black, Rush's attorney, characterizes as "paying for the cost of the investigation.

This is a Yahoo News release based on a Press release by Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black. Or, to state it more explicitly, this could not possibly be presented as more favorable to Rush Limbaugh.

I'd say that Roy Black has (so far) earned his very high fees. Rush is a drug addict and hypocrite who attacks other drug addicts in his show. The state of Florida, run by Jeb Bush, is a very favorable place for him to be operating.

[Via TPM]

Ken Lay's surly manner; Enron on Trial

Digby sicced me onto this, as I have been following the Enron trials of Skilling and Lay through the Houston Chronicle. I like this view.

Ken Lay delegates failures, but is responsible for successes. Just ask him. And his view of Skilling? Skilling is the hands-on technical guy who knows what is going on. Ken was unaware of the criminal activities of Andrew Fastow (hired by Skilling) and Skilling. How could the affable Ken Lay be responsible for the collapse of Enron?

Yeah, well maybe Ken Lay knew and isn't admitting it. Or maybe he just didn't do the job he was being (over)paid for. Enron was rife with criminality, and Ken Lay was the man responsible.

He either knew what was going on, or he allowed himself to be duped and overpaid to be the figurehead. Either way, he is guilty as Hell.

Sure Andrew Fastow was a crook, but the guys he worked for let him be. Lay and Skilling are as responsible has Fastow was.

Republican sex scandal may include half a dozen Congressmen

Think Progress expands the sex allegations after the Wall Street Journal reports that the Wilkes-Wade sex scandal is larger than just Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The San Diego Union-Tribune adds to the story.

Democrats looking forwards to the November elections are ordering their champaigne early for fear that dealers will run out. Republicans are heard muttering "Shut up and Deal!"

"Duke" Cunningham was Bi-sexual??

OK. I thought I saw this somewhere yesterday. Here it is. Digby at Hullabaloo offers the gossip about Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Viet Nam era Navy Fighter Ace, Top Gun pilot, and highly bribed Congressman is reputed to be bi-sexual. The initial source for this is The Washington Blade.
Cunningham, who is married with grown children, has admitted to romantic, loving relationships with men, both during his Vietnam military service and as a civilian. That was the remarkable story that this publication reported two years ago, when Elizabeth Birch, the former Human Rights Campaign leader, inadvertently outed Cunningham at a gay rights forum.

Birch never mentioned Cunningham’s name, but she talked about a rabidly anti-gay congressman who asked to meet privately with her in the midst of a controversy over his use in a speech on the floor of the House the term “homos” to describe gays who have served in the military.

Alone with Birch and an HRC staffer, the unnamed congressman shared that he had loved men during his life. In telling the story, Birch offered up a few too many details about the closeted congressman.

A few Google searches later, the Blade reported that it had to be Cunningham, whose career was pockmarked with bizarre gay pronouncements, including a reference to the rectal treatment he received for prostate cancer, something he told an audience “was just not natural, unless maybe you’re Barney Frank.”

There’s every reason to believe Birch’s inadvertent outing, even as Cunningham denied it through a spokesperson.

This is, after all, a man without principles, who could "love men" in private, all the while condemning gays in speeches and in congressional votes. Little surprise that he could live a second double life, in which he sold those unprincipled votes to the highest bidder.
I am not too upset about the "Duke"'s choice of bedmates. That's between him and his family - and his bedmates. My problem is the hypocrisy. It's just another case of Republicans who will say anything to gain and keep political power, so that they can abuse it as Cunningham did when he took $2.6 million (which he has admitted) in bribes to use his public office as Congressman for the narrow benefit of his bribers. It isn't the sex. It's the duplicity - like Jim and Tammy Faye Baker and Jimmy Swaggert.

Billmon stacks snark onto Republican corruption

Justin Rood, over at TPM Muckraker describes the Hooker ring that Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade ran for 15 years. This is courtesy of The San Diego Union-Tribune, one of two newspapers who exposed the bribery of Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Wilkes and Wade were the bribers, and apparently the "Duke" wanted more than just money.
In his guilty plea in November, Cunningham said Wilkes, referred to as "co-conspirator No. 1," gave him more than $630,000 in cash and gifts in order to gain government contracts. Wade, known as "co-conspirator No. 2,"” also named Wilkes in his guilty plea. Wilkes has not been indicted in the case, and his companies continue to receive money from government contracts.

Several of Wilkes' former employees and business associates say he used the hospitality suites over the past 15 years to curry favor with lawmakers as well as officials with the CIA, where both Wilkes and Wade sought contracts.

Wilkes hosted parties for lawmakers and periodic poker games that included CIA officials as well as members of the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees. Cunningham, who sat on both committees, was a frequent guest, according to some of the participants in the poker games.

People who were present at the games said one of the regular players was Kyle Dustin "“Dusty"” Foggo, who has been Wilkes' best friend since the two attended junior high school in Chula Vista in the late 1960s. In October, Foggo was named the CIA's executive director, – the agency's third-highest position.

Another player was a CIA agent known as "Nine Fingers,"” so named because he lost one of his digits while on assignment.
Justin Rood also reports that current CIA Director may have been involved with the Hookers.

But this is just background. Here is a bit from Billmon:
You have to love it: Whores buying whores for whores. Even Jeff Gannon and his White House "sources" couldn't top that.
The only form of corruption the Republicans hadn't been caught in up until now has been sex. Looks like they finally got caught at that, too.

That makes the Republican Party a full-service corruption machine. One stop shopping for your politician through the Republicans. How utterly convenient.

Democratic success: Citizenship plus a fighting organization.

Ruy Teixeira discusses the two weaknesses of the Democratic Party. They are (1) a failure to stand for any large idea, and (2) a slow, stogy, unresponsive party organization that does not know how to fight.

The good thing about the discussion is that it is about the solutions to those problems, not an effort to describe what is wrong with Democrats.

Go! Read! This is the solution that is offered to you!

Rove may be indicted Friday - per Jeralyn Merritt

I am fascinated by the Fitzgerald investigation into the Plame leak, partly because I resent the way the White House used the destruction of her career and her networks to attempt to intimidate her husband and partly because it has been the source of a lot of really fascinating insights into how the White House has been run. Iraq and Katrina have demonstrated the results of how the White House has been run, and the Fitzgerald investigation has shown how the various actors there have interacted to achieve the train wreck that the Bush administration has achieved.

But there is really too much detail. I have tried to follow EmptyWheel at the Next Hurrah in her efforts to decipher the meaning of the entrails of the various legal sacrifices, and while I have great admiration for her work, I simply get lost after about a page and a half.

Then there is Jeralyn Merritt, proprietor of TalkLeft: the politics of Crime. Jeralyn is a Defense attorney in Colorado. Her insights have been informed and well written. Here is another.

She has pulled together some recent reports on Rove's latest encounter with the Grand Jury today, and she suggests that he is toast on making a false statement to investigators in 2003, but that is not a major crime. It is a crime, but Rove may consider pleading guilty to it politically survivable. However, if Fitzgerald also indicts him for a false statement to the Grand Jury when under oath, that is Perjury and Rove will do real time if convicted of that.

The question of what he is indicted on may be why he went before the new Grand Jury Thursday. Remember, the previous Grand Jury expired October 28, 2005, so this is an all new set of people. Ms. Merritt suggests that the indictment is very likely to be handed down Friday, so we don't have long to wait.

As I say, I am fascinated by the case. Both EmptyWheel (last name Wheeler, first name I don't know) and Jeralyn Merritt are attorneys. I just prefer Jeralyn's style. It is a lot less demanding. She does the logic and just hands me the results.

So we'll see soon. Got your popcorn ready?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Buy Crashing the Gate; Make a conservative cry.

This is a line suggested by Kos himself. Personally I think it is a brilliant sales slogan.

The book really explains what has been happening in American politics, and suggests how to correct the problems.
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics

Click through and buy your copy. You will not regret it.

Democrats need to call for War Profiteering Investigation

Sara over at The Next Hurrah points out the need for a Congressional Investigation into War Profiteering, and the real advantage that calling for such an investigation could have in the Congressional elections in November 2006.

TPM provides a NH phone-jamming time-line

Talking Points Memo very kindly offers us a timeline of the phone jamming crime during the New Hampshire 2002 Senate election. This is the incident that James Tobin, the Republican operative who was in close contact with the White House and Ken Mehlman has recently been convicted of. Consider this a supplement to my previous post last Monday.

After 5 years of Bush, FEMA has been destroyed

The Senate has been reviewing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see what went wrong with Katrina and Rita. According to the CNN report the Senate has concluded that FEMA is beyond repair and needs to be replaced.

As Kevin Drum points out, the same FEMA which operated so well for eight years under Clinton that it was considered one of the best run agencies in the U.S. government has been so destroyed under the five years of the Bush administration that it must be replaced.

Any Organization theorist will tell you that the purpose of an organization is to route information to decision makers who use it to make decisions, allocate resources and direct the actions of others. Human beings have a limited capability to process information and determine actions, so an organization breaks decisions down to small pieces that individuals can handle, defines job functions to handle that information and then route relevant data to those decision makers.

The decision makers use the data they receive and obtain to determine what actions will be taken. They then allocate people and resources to the appropriate time and location in the stream of those actions. In short, an organization is a decision-making structure.

That decision-making structure learns how to accomplish its functions through repetition. When it makes mistakes it restructures, breaking the decision down differently and routing the data to different people. By doing so, an organization learns to adapt to the environment. Structures and job roles that work are kept and structures and job roles that don't work are rejected.

FEMA under Clinton was a smooth-running structure that worked well. Under Bush it was placed into the Department of Homeland Security and restructured so that by 2005 it was completely unable to function adequately. Bush failed, Chertoff failed, and the Republican Congress failed.

Now Senators Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman have concluded that as a result of poor leadership and inadequate funding FEMA cannot be repaired. It will have to be replaced.

Michael Brown, the fired Director of FEMA points out that the new agency will have the same mission and structure as FEMA did before Chertoff and the Department of Homeland Security took its planning responsibilities away a year ago.

It is really difficult to totally destroy a good-running organization unless you replace most of the effective, trained and experienced people with ineffective ones. Such a process eliminates the previously developed organizational experience.

To say that FEMA can't be fixed, but has to be replaced is a massive admission of failure by the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NH fights backdoor National ID

A long-term goal of authoritarians in the U.S. government has been to establish a national ID that every American is required to carry. This has always been defeated - so the Republican Congress did an end-run. They passed the federal Real ID Act which requires states to verify documents used to apply for drivers licenses such as birth certificates, Social Security cards and passports. State drivers license databases with both information and photos are required to be linked to each other. This is intended to create an effective national ID by 2008. Resistance has centered in the individual states, supported by privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union, conservative privacy advocates and Christian fundamentalists. The strongest reaction has come from the New Hampshire legislature.

The Republican-controlled New Hampshire House has already strongly voted to bar the state from participating in the program. The similarly Republican-controlled Senate is expected to also pass a bill against participating in the program shortly. The Democratic Governor has not indicated his position either way.
Legislation in other states would condemn Real ID, but New Hampshire's bill is the toughest measure making real progress anywhere, Steinhardt said.

Republican state Rep. Neal Kurk, author of the bill against Real ID, gave a stirring speech during the debate.

"I don't believe the people of New Hampshire elected us to help the federal government create a national identification card," Kurk told the House. "We care more for our liberties than to meekly hand over to the federal government the potential to ennumerate, track, identify and eventually control."
Consider the Real ID Act along with the pending federal legislation to give CIA and NSA officers arrest power with no requirement for warrants. Add this to the NSA wiretaps and the secret overseas prisons, along with the effort by the federal government to crack down on leakers and on reporters they leak to (unless the leakers are the President or Vice President or those who support their attacks on political opponents) and we are really looking at a strange America. This is an America which is moving rapidly towards authoritarian government. But of course, Bush operates on the theory that there are no Constitutional limitations or check-and-balances on a President operating in his role as Commander-in-Chief.

We should support the New Hampshire legislature and get our legislatures to act similarly.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The coming American police state

Even with Bush's approval ratings tanking in the low 30's, the Republicans are working to defend themselves from the mob. Digby describes the new proposed laws which will allow security officers from the CIA and NSA to make warrantless arrests when and where they wish, and which will penalize leakers as well as those to whom they leak. Digby has the story.

What can we expect from a group of criminals who have been running wild, looting the American government like Randy "Duke" Cunningham and who are beginning to be aware that if they are caught they will be sent to prison the way Cunningham was? The Abramoff noose is closing in on a lot of Republicans. How do they save themselves?

They criminalize the transfer of information on their misdeeds, of course. That's what this is all about. It has nothing to do with American security, and everything to do with Republican political wrongdoing.

That "mob" the Republicans are afraid of is the mass of the American people. If the Republicans can just keep them from finding out how crooked they have been in the last decade, they really think they might be able to survive the coming cleanup. The only protection remaining to the Republicans is the Police State they are working hard to develop.

I'd guess that if they also pay off enough people, they have a fifty-fifty chance of pulling it off.

Gas price increases, results in drop in Bush popularity

Billmon points out that the low Bush approval ratings (CNN has him at a new low of 32%) is less a function of his incompetence and poor performance in things like Iraq and Katrina than it is a direct result of the increasing price of gasoline.

That doesn't sound like a favorable comment on the intelligence of the American voters. Bush's approval ratings are not the logical result of his incompetence. They are the visceral result of the current financial pain being felt by poll respondents.

I'm sure that Karl Rove has plans for his October Surprise already in the can and ready to go. Fear and militarism are all the Republicans have left to run on. Conservatism has failed - as it logically was expected to.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Blogger was down

Blogger refused to post anything this morning. The post below was started about 9:00 AM, and I finally got it to post a few minutes ago.

Sometimes I wonder if Blogger is worth the fees I pay them.

Oh, yeah. That's right. It's free. Oh well.

More on the New Hampshire phone-jamming incident

The Republicans say that it is an isolated political dirty tricks incident in a New Hampshire election that occurred three years ago - but the Republican National Committee has already spend $2.5 million dollars for the legal defense of James Tobin who was recently convicted of the phone jamming. Bloomberg has the report today.

The Democrats are asking why, on the day of the election and phone jamming, Tobin made about 24 phone calls to Ken Mehlman at the White House where he was then Political Director. Currently Ken Mehlman is Chairman of the Republican National Committee which is funding Tobin's expensive legal defense for no reason he will explain.

Interestingly, two Indian tribe clients of the convicted briber of Republican government officials sent money to the New Hampshire Republican Party just before the election. The amounts of the two contributions roughly equal what it cost to jam the phones. The New Hampshire Democratic Chairperson has found that Abramoff's clients only donated to elections in states where there were Indian gambling casinos - except in New Hampshire and one other state in which the Republicans were involved in a close election.

This is a classic voter suppression activity by James Tobin and two subordinates. James Tobin led the Republican National Committee's New England effort in the 2002 election, then based on that success became the region's director for President George W. Bush's re-election campaign in 2004. It resembles the many forms of voter Suppression used by Katherine Harris, then Republican Secretary of State for Florida and Co-Chair of the Florida Bush for President Committee, in the Florida 2000 Presidential election. A similar voter suppression activity was conducted by the Republican Ohio Secretary of State who caused too few elections machines to be places in Democratic precincts in the 2004 Presidential election. Such patterns of election tampering have been found in most elections that Karl Rove was involved in.

The Democratic lawsuit against the Republican state committee, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee in ongoing. We will see what it turns up - or if the Republicans can maintain the coverup.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Congress covered up White House lies

60 Minutes aired its interview with Tyler Drumheller, the CIA European Chief of covert operations tonight. Several things stand out. First, the White House was not misled by "faulty Intelligence." They intended to go to war, and when the evidence that there was no nuclear weapons program was presented to them, they ignored it. From the interview:
Naji Sabri, Iraqs foreign minister, had made a deal to reveal Iraqs military secrets to the CIA. Drumheller was in charge of the operation.

"This was a very high inner circle of Saddam Hussein. Someone who would know what he was talking about," Drumheller says.
"You knew you could trust this guy?" Bradley asked.

"We continued to validate him the whole way through," Drumheller replied.

At that meeting, Drumheller says, "They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis."

What did this high-level source tell him?

"He told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program," says Drumheller.
Condi Rice later said that there was only a single source for that information, so it couldn't be trusted, yet they all, especially Cheney, kept telling everyone that Mohammad Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Chezkoslovakia, something also based on a single (unreliable) source.

Second, Josh Marshallll (who has investigated and reported most of this information already) called Tyler Drumheller to check what he had told thinvestigatorsrs from the commissions investigating pre-Iraintelll. Those were the Robb-Silverman Commission and the Roberts Committee. Drumheller stated that he told their investigators everything he said in tonight's 60 Minutes interview. From TPM:
The fact that none of Drumheller's story managed to find its way into those reports, I think, speaks volumes about the agenda that the writers of those reports were pursuing.

"I was stunned," Drumheller told me, when so little of the stuff he had told the commission's and the committee's investigators ended up in their reports. His colleagues, he said, were equally "in shock" that so little of what they related ended up in the reports either.

What Drumheller has to say adds quite a lot to our knowledge of what happened in the lead up to war. But what it shows even more clearly is that none of this stuff has yet been investigated by anyone whose principal goal is not covering for the White House.
The people in the White House are dangerous to America, and the Republican Party has been covering up for them.

Short of Southern secessionon in 1860, nothing has ever been as damaging to America as Bush and the Republican Party currently are.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The new protest music

My kid emailed me this song by Pink. "Dear Mr. President." [Takes a while to download, even with broadband.]

OK. I knew protest music.
Protest music was my music.
This, sir, IS protest music.
[Apologies to Lloyd Bentson]

There is a difference, though. This is music that protests George W. Bush, not his war. Good. It is going to the cause, not the effect.

Why illegal immigrants are a problem

Low pay, substandard work conditions, and failure to file income taxes. So why would workers come to the U.S. illegally anyway? Here is a reason. The plants like the cheap labor and recruit them.

The LA Times today published this story of a criminal corporation which has a basic business plan of recruiting and hiring illegal workers and forcing them to work in dangerous workplaces for low pay. They then compete with legal firms to sell their products. Think the legal firms will be raising the pay of their legal American workers anytime soon?

I also notice that the company, IFCO, is part of a Dutch conglomerate. I hope the Justice Department puts them out of business and confiscates their assets. Their international website is here. This is a major multinational firm.

Here is the Press Release sent presented by IFCO Systems (.pdf file) on April 21, 2005 regarding the ICE raid in the U.S. I found it on their German(English) website. It looks like something written by the Bush White HOuse to cover up the latest screwup. Give the Press a statement, but don't say anything except that "We are not to blame for what those employees did." Sort of like the Pentagon and high Army brass responding to Abu Ghraib. Here is a quote:
We are cooperating fully with ICE and other authorities including voluntarily allowing ICE to visit many of our facilities this past Wednesday. We are now working to understand the facts and will implement any additional changes necessary to further improve our current procedures. So that we will be able to move forward with confidence, we have begun an internal investigation that will be headed by outside counsel. Pending the outcome of our investigation, the local IFCO managers arrested yesterday have been placed on temporary leave from the company. In cooperation with ICE, we will be reviewing the status of our temporarily detained hourly workers across the country on a case by case basis.
Shorter version: "Gambling? Here? I never knew that!"

Read the article.

What fundamentalists believe

This is a dKos diary by an ex-fundamentalist, ex-Republican providing his view of what the Fundamentalists believe and generally how it all fits together. (here) I find it extremely interesting, and it seems to fit with what I have observed as a non-fundamentalist Christian.

There are two key points to make about this. First, the Fundamentalists consider themselves to be under attack (to include by those of us who are not fundamentalist Christians.) Second, this is more to determine the political implications of their beliefs than the theological aspects.

The author does a good job of explaining why he is writing this, and what he thinks it is good for. I have found it very illuminating. If you do also, and have an interest in history, go look at Karen Armstrong's book in the right-hand column of this publication called "The Battle for God: A history of Fundamentalism." It covers Fundamentalism as a subject in all three of the religions of the book (also known as the Desert religions.)
The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism
The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism

Click through and read the reviews. It is an excellent book.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ney lied to investigators about cost of trip he was given

We are all familiar with the trips to Scotland to play golf that Abramoff handed out to Congressmen and other government officials. Congressman Bob Ney took one of those trips, then lied to Congress about what it was for, who paid for it, and how much the trip cost. Here is the story from Raw Story.
In his financial disclosure report to Congress, Ney listed "speech to Scottish Parliamentarians" as a purpose of the trip. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff later revealed that there was no record of Ney’s speech and that the Scottish parliament was away on recess during the time of the junket.

On September 9, 2002, a month after returning from the trip, Ney filed a form with the Clerk of the House of the Representatives which indicated that his share of the trip was $3200. He reported $1,500 for travel, $1,200 for lodging and $500 for meal expenses.

According to the prosecutors’ estimate, Ney likely should have reported the trip at $15,000. Ney's office did not respond to a call placed for comment Friday.
We know Bob Ney is in trouble. This is just another indicator of the trouble he is in, and the extent of the crimes Abramoff committed with Congress.

How George C. Marshall established the occupation forces and structure after WW II.

This is a brief description of a history book on George C. Marshall by Sara at the Next Hurrah. Basicly, Marshall started establishing the Doctrine in 1936 and put the forces together starting in December 1941. If you have an interest in history, in how goverenment works, in military history, or want something to compare the Bush Iraq adventure to, this is a great place to start.

I said "brief description." That is a little misleading. The write up is really pretty long, but it is still just a short distillation of the story.

See what you think. [The link puts you at the BOTTOM of the diary, where the comments begin. Scroll up to get to the beginning.]

Is money the same thing as political speech?

The Supreme Court has answered this question with a resounding "Yes." But look at the result. This describes the election of Congresspersons to the House of Representatives:
Nowadays, no matter where they are, over 90% of those who run tend to be re-elected (98% in 2004), thanks to gerrymandering and the ease with which those in power can raise money.From The Economist
My question is: Is money the same as speech, or is money the same as Power?

The clear experience of those who have more money when running for election is that they tend to defeat those with less money. To me, that suggests that money is power, not speech. Money wins because it allows those with money to shout down those with less money. The candidate with money can buy a megaphone, and those without equivalent megaphones cannot get heard. Thus the person with the megaphone gets elected - and since the incumbent has the ability to draw more money to himself than does his competitor without the power of office, he gets reelected.

The implication of this, to me at least, is that if you remove the ~power elements~ of money from elections then each person involved has an equal voice. The power of those ~equal~ voices then comes from the facts and ideas they express~, rather than the (purchased) volume with which they are shouted.

So how do you remove the megaphone of money from elections? Public financing of elections is the best option I am currently aware of.

Anyone know how public financing of elections is working in Arizona or Maine? Last I heard the system in Arizona was a winner.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Texas Congressman Pete Sessions accused to taking bribes

Congressman Pete Sessions (R - TX) is accused of receiving $27,500 from Indian tribes associated with convicted felon Abramoff in exchange for signing two letters, one to former Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2001 and another to former Interior Secretary Gale Norton in 2002 in behalf of Abramoff's client the Louisiana Coushatta Indian Tribe.

Raw Story has the story.

CIA personnel joining military against Bush actions

The recent group of retired Army and Marine Corps Generals who have gone public demanding Rumsfeld's resignation has been in the center of the news for the last week or so, but there is a group at the CIA who are also attempting to distance themselves from this administrations actions. From Harper's:
...what's been little noted thus far is what looks to be a similar revolt brewing at the CIA. An ex-senior agency officer who keeps in contact with his former peers told me that there is a “a big swing” in anti-Bush sentiment at Langley. “I've been stunned by what I'm hearing,” he said. “There are people who fear that indictments and subpoenas could be coming down, and they don't want to get caught up in it.”

This former senior officer said there “seems to be a quiet conspiracy by rational people” at the agency to avoid involvement in some of the particularly nasty tactics being employed by the administration, especially “renditions”—the practice whereby the CIA sends terrorist suspects abroad to be questioned in Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and other nations where the regimes are not squeamish about torturing detainees. My source, hardly a softie on the topic of terrorism, said of the split at the CIA: “There's an SS group within the agency that's willing to do anything and there's a Wehrmacht group that is saying, 'I'm not gonna touch this stuff'.”

Scott Horton, a human rights activist who has become a principal spokesman for the New York City Bar Association in evaluating the Bush Administration's tactics, said that he's also hearing stories of growing dissent at the CIA. “When the shit hits the fan,” he explained, “the administration scapegoats lower-level people. It doesn't do a lot in terms of inspiring confidence.” [Snip]

Today's “Wehrmacht” officers at the CIA are right to be worried about subpoenas: a legal analysis prepared by a senior FBI attorney in 2002 deemed that renditions to countries that torture detainees were illegal. The attorney concluded that such actions were designed to circumvent American laws against torture and that anyone even discussing such a plan could be found criminally liable. If the political winds shift, some “bad apples” in the CIA could find themselves indicted for torture.
[Underlining mine - RB]
This shouldn't be any real surprise. Cheney is well-known for disliking and distrusting the CIA, and there have been constant efforts during the Bush Presidency to remove functions from the CIA and give them to other, more pliable, agencies. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney have gone a long way towards removing the covert warfare mission from the CIA and transferring it to the Pentagon, and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security included taking portions of the analysis of terrorist activities away from the CIA. Then the CIA was made the scapegoat for President Bush's inclusion of the famous "16 words in the State of the Union Speech" although it is now clear that the CIA was correct while Cheney and the Pentagon were wrong.

It will be amazing - or frightening - if Bush remains in office until the end of his term. Things are simply falling apart aroung them to such a degree that something will have to be done to Replace Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld soon.

Update April 21, 2006 (San Jacinto Day)
The administration has announced today that a CIA agent has been fired for leaking the information about the secret prisons to Dana Priest. This is the story Dana Priest just won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking. The CIA agent would be one described above as one of the “Wehrmacht” officers. Crooks and Liars has the story on video.

The administration is having to battle a civil war internally in the CIA.

Update two April 22, 2006
Larry Johnson names the fired CIA officer and gives some background on her here.

Bob Novak - Fitzgerald and President know who Plame leaker was

Bob Novak told staff Reporter Dave Newbart of The Chicago Sun-Times that both Plame Prosecutor Fitzgerald and President Bush know who the leaker was. In a forum jointly sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times and the University of Illinois at Chicago, the moderator immediately asked Novak what he could say about the Plame case. While avoiding most specifics, Novak stated
"If I had gone before a grand jury and taken the Fifth Amendment, Mr. Fitzgerald would have that on the street in about two minutes."

Novak also claimed that investigators know who leaked the information, although he did not say how they know.

"The question is, does Mr. Fitzgerald know who the source was?" Novak asked. "Of course. He's known for years who the first source is. If he knows the source, why didn't he indict him? Because no crime was committed."
Novak also stated that it is his opinion that Fitzgerald has not taken action on the leaker because, in his opinion "no crime was committed."

Considering the source and the self-serving nature of Novak's opinion, we should wait to see what Fitzgerald has to say about whether a crime was committed.

Rove's loss of duties related to Social Security, possible Plame charges

ABC News reports on what insiders say brought about the change of duties for Rove. Rove was replaces as Domestic Policy Advisor, and redirected to working on the election in November. No official reasons were given.
Insiders say the move is not just window dressing. They say that Rove's role in the CIA leak investigation may have also triggered the move, and that Rove has not proven as adept at the nuts and bolts of policy as he is at political strategy, citing the failure of Social Security reform and the lack of a compelling domestic policy agenda. [Snip]

Rove's change in responsibility is still bound to be a disappointment to him. Years ago, he was frustrated at being known only as a political wizard.
With Rove's possible indictment by Fitzgerald in the Plame case becoming highly possible, that would seem to be enough reason. Still, the collapse of the President's Social Security initiatives really should have caused someone to pay.

Perhaps Josh Bolton was only induced to take the Chief of Staff position replacing Andy Card because the President gave him real power to make people responsible. It is unlikely that the changes of duties for Rove and the resignation of Scott McClellan as Presidential Spokesman have occurred so soon after Bolton moved into his new office by coincidence.

Things in the Bush White House are becoming more interesting.

Cheney scuttled possible negotiations with Iran in 2003

Kevin Drum presents a series of news reports which state that in May 2003 the Iranians were prepared to negotiate the differences between the US and Iran and sent back-channel messages to that effect. But the Bush administration was never able to decide how to respond and the Iranian effort died.

The best guess is that the people in Cheney's office and in Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans killed any effort that did not call for regime change in Iran.

Since then, relations with Iran have only gotten worse. Bush's bellicose statements towards Iran right before their elections seemed designed to drive Iranian voters to elect the most extreme anti-American running, and they did.

"Regime change." That's the code word for U.S. going to war against Iran, right?

Conservatives will lose control; Respond by making US ungovernable

In Italy, Berlusconni has lost his reelection attempt, narrowly but definitively. He is, however refusing to accept his loss. So reports Emptywheel over at The Next Hurrah. From the Guardian Emptywheel points out:
Mr Berlusconi is still refusing to concede. Members of Mr Prodi's coalition today asked him to stop challenging the election results.

"I want to invite the premier to lower his tone and stop what appears to be a real strategy of tension, an undermining of the electoral victory that increases the bitterness," Massimo D'Alema, leader of the Democrats of the Left, said in a interview published the Corriere della Sera.
[Underlining mine - RB.]
Emptywheel then points out that the term "Strategy of Tension" refers to a term adopted in Italy in the 1970's and 80's to explain the series of right-wing bombings and terrorist actions which were suspected to be planned in such a way as to be blamed on Communists and lead to public demands for a right-wing authoritarian government.

Emptywheel also links to The New York Times where they report that the Italian Court has clearly decided that Berlusconni lost the election. Berlusconni is still not conceding his loss.

So What?

So here is what Emptywheel thinks is happening in Italy, and how she thinks the analogy is likely to carry over to the US after the US election in November:
This guy is either afraid of going to jail ... or he's afraid of losing his base of power, the media. Either way, it's striking to consider his actions, this fear of reprisal, in terms of strategy of tension. Better to let the country remain ungovernable then to face up to your crimes.

I can't help but imagine that Berlusconi's behavior is similar to what we would have gotten in 2000, had SCOTUS not handed over power to George Bush. Right wing attacks on Clinton, while far short of the terrorism that Italy suffered, served to make a popular President weak. I have no doubt that the wingnuts would have continued their Brooks Brothers Riots rather than let Gore take power and govern effectively.

And, I fear, the same may be true here. By all accounts, the Republicans are rightly fearful they'll lose their stranglehold on Congress in November. If Democrats gain subpoena power, Bush and his cronies face at least as much scrutiny as Silvio does. The collective weight of all the Bush/Republican scandals already threatens to do permanent damage. Imagine how much more so if investigations into those scandals aren't mitigated by a friendly bench or a craven Abu Gonzales?

I'm not sure what that would mean. Perhaps a return of the Brooks Brothers Riot. But I do worry that Berlusconi's games in Italy are just a preview of what we can expect in November.
[Underlining mine - RB.]
Unfortunately, I agree with her. Our frustrated radical right-wingers are going to be shoved out of national power, and they are not going to react well. Berlusconni's reactions are an example of what we can expect of our conservatives here in the US.

They will have the Presidency until January 2009, and perhaps one House of Congress. They have also packed the Judiciary with a lot of conservatives who are likely to react with such travesties as the 2000 Supreme Court decision that appointed Bush as President. I will not be surprised to see right-wing instigated riots/marches in the US after they begin to lose power.

I really hope I am wrong, but I don't think I am. Once these right-wingers begin to lose power, they will do whatever they think will help them keep it.

It's Thursday, a gray, overcast and wet day. Maybe I am just responding to the miserable weather.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Is Rove about to be indicted?

Sidney Blumenthall writes in the Guardian today:
For months, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, has assured the press that his client, who was believed to be vulnerable to indictment for perjury, is in the clear. But Libby insisted that he was entitled to "disclosure of such documents" in Rove's files "even if Mr. Rove remains a subject of a continuing grand jury investigation".

Karl Rove is a subject of Fitzgerald's investigation - this is the headline buried in Libby's filing.

In white-collar criminal investigations, individuals who fall under the gaze of a prosecutor fit into one of three categories: witness, subject or target. Rove's attorney has suggested that Rove is simply a witness. But that is untrue. He is a subject. A subject is someone the prosecutor believes may have committed a crime and is under investigation. If the prosecutor decides he has accumulated sufficient evidence to prove guilt, he will change the designation of that person from subject to target and then indict him or her.
While Jeralyn Merritt writes in her blog Talkleft: The politics of Crime this comment"
I'm hearing rumors that Fitz met with the Valerie Plame grand jury this morning. and Rove was the topic of discussion.
Since Fitzgerald just finished up his massive corruption case against some sixty or more Republicans in Illinois by getting a corruption conviction against ex-Governor Ryan, he may well be returning to the Plame case and preparing to indict Karl Rove.

[Via Talkleft.]

Princeton Historian says Bush 43 is worst President ever

Rolling Stone has a lengthy article by Sean Wilentz that provides a profile of George W. Bush as President. He starts from the informal discussions by historians regarding which American Presidents are the worst.

The candidates include:
  • James Buchanan who essentially dithered the U.S. into Civil War in the face of Southern secession,
  • Andrew Johnson who sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction,
  • Warren G. Hardin who ran what until now was considered the most corrupt administration in American history,
  • Herbert Hoover who was unable to break with his failed individualist ethic in the face of the greatest economic failure America has ever faced, exacerbating the 1929 market crash into a world-wide depression,
  • Or maybe Richard Nixon who is the only President ever forced to resign from office in the face of his clear high crimes and misdemeanors.
To this list the discussants now Add George W. Bush. Dr. Wilentz writes:
George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, and informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "Failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrou7s policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.[Snip]

And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figure would certainly be higher.
This is the beginning. It is a long article, but since it agrees with and justifies what I decided by early 2003, I really suggest reading it.

I found this from a diary by clammyc at Booman Tribune.

The core of a successful Democratic/Progressive movement

Kos offers an essay on what it will take to create an effective Democratic Party Philosophy. Go read it.

Then read the Book Kos and Jerome Armstrong wrote:
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics

Yeah, I think this is what is needed by America. Conservatism as practiced by the current Republicans is an illness - a corruption - on the body of society. Society must begin to muster all resources to expel the conservative illness.

Meaning of minimum wage

I was just looking at the cost of gasoline.

Minimum wage of $5.15 per hour means that after FICA Tax is deducted, a worker takes home $4.74 per hour. If gasoline costs $3.00 per gallon, then it takes 3.16 hours of work to buy 5 gallons of gas for $15.

At 15 miles per gallon, driving 75 miles to and from work will cost 40% of what your take-home pay. That limits a minimum wage worker to a job 38 miles away, assuming the car is paid for, does not require repairs and he or she does not buy insurance.

Workers deserve better pay for their time. They should at least earn enough to pay to get to work and back.

Marshall muses on White House personnel changes

Josh Marshall considers some of the complications the White House as they try to change White House staff and Heads of Departments.
I think the real story here continues to be that things are so bad at the White House, the level of denial and secrets to be kept, the self-bamboozlement and bad-faith so profound, that they just can't manage to bring in any new blood.

With Rumsfeld, or any other cabinet secretary, there's a related problem -- the importance of which has, I think, not been fully appreciated or aired. If Rumsfeld goes, you need to nominate someone else and get them through a senate confirmation. That means an open airing of the disaster of this administration's national security policy. Every particular; all about Iraq. Think how much they don't want that ...

Finally, can they find anyone on the outside who wants in? This, remember, seems to be the problem with Treasury Secretary Snow. He has already, in essence, been fired. But they can't come up with anyone crazy enough to take the job.
Sounds like it might be difficult to induce rats to climb back onto a sinking ship.

Appeals Court agrees; DeLay Conspiracy charge dismissed

According to the Associated Press 04-19-2006 a Texas Appeals court today agreed with a lower court ruling that the Texas Law on conspiracy did not apply to Tom DeLay's actions on money laundering in 2002.

This does not mean DeLay did not conspire to illegally launder corporate money to change control of the Texas House of Representative in 2002. Because the Legislature revised the statute in 2003 to clarify that actions such as those taken by DeLay were covered, the court has decided that the earlier version of the law did not apply to what Tom DeLay is accused by Austin District Attorney Ronnie Earle of doing.

The underlying felony action of money laundering to avoid the Texas Law against the use of corporate money in Texas elections is still going forward to trial. With this appeal decided, the trial date can now be set. It will probably be sometime in late Summer now.

Press spokeman MeClellan announces resignation

Scott McClellan just announced his resignation from the job of Presidential spokesman. McClellan said "I have given it my all." Sounds like he has been used up. (From MSNBC) Josh Marshall reports that FOX News' Tony Snow is currently a candidate to replace McClellan. That IS funny.

Karl Rove is giving up oversight of policy. He is going to focus on the elections of 2006. Current Deputy Budget Director Joel Kaplan will take over the job of Deputy Chief of Staff for policy.

Normally I don't do breaking news, but this is the beginning of the staff changes that have been expected since Josh Bolton stepped in to replace Andrew Card a few days ago. Naming Joel Kaplan as the new Presidential Advisor continues the practice of appointing people that Buah has already worked with closely. Narrowing Rove's duties to the coming election may be an indication that they are preparing for another "must win" election under difficult circumstances.

This is the kind of "Kremlinology" that has become necessary to try to figure out what this super secretive White House is up to.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Statements by Bush, Rummy cannot be trusted

Gregory Djerejiam at Belgravia Dispatch takes quotes from the media saying that there were no plans at that time to invade Iraq, then compares them to facts from the new book Cobra II by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor to show how far along the plans reallly were at the time the public was told there were no such plane. Bush stated:
Bush asserted that Iraq's WMD programs were a serious threat but that he had not prepared an invasion strategy. "I told the Chancellor that I have no war plans on my desk, which is the truth, and that we've got to use all means at our disposal to deal with Saddam Hussein." The president made a similar comment in Paris three days later. [Ed. note: See here too for a third example of the 'no attack plans on my desk' stump response. Clearly this was language the President had decided to go with purposefully, in other words, it was not a slip of the tongue at a single press conference].

[Tommy] Franks went further. In late May, a radio reporter asked him how many troops he would need for an invasion of Iraq. "That's a great question and one for which I don't have an answer because my boss has not yet asked me to put together a plan to do that," Franks said. "They have not asked me for these kinds of numbers. And I guess I would tell you, if there comes a time when my boss asks me that, that I'd rather provide those sorts of assessments to him. But thanks for your question.

The president's statement was true in only the most literal but trivial sense. Bush had ordered the development of a new CENTCOM war plan, repeately met with Franks to hear its details, offered his own views on the schedule for deploying troops and on the military's effort to couch the invasion as a liberation, and sent his vice president halfway around the world to secure allies for the war. And as for Franks, even the cleverest hair-splitting could not reconcile his remarks with the activity of CENTCOM during the previous six months. (Cobra II, p. 51-52)

Notice how closely the current statements from Bush and Rumsfeld resemble the ones before the Iraq invasion. The planned media term this time is "wild speculation" rather then the earlier "I have no plans on my desk."

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Not only does Bush have no credibility, it is safest to assume that everything out of his mouth to the media is a lie in one way or another.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

After Haiku; Fibonacci poetry - FIBs

and rumor
But how about a
Rare, geeky form of poetry?

to blog.
Theory matters.
Computer science (theory)
is my home and geometric algorithms are
sublime. Let P be a set of points in general position in the plane. Amen.

The last line, said Mr. Venkatasubramanian, is an inside joke in geometry.

no doubt
will not find
it interesting
to talk to me about this stuff.

Gregory K. Pincus, a screenwriter and aspiring children's book author in Los Angeles, wrote a post on his GottaBook blog ( two weeks ago inviting readers to write "Fibs," six-line poems that used a mathematical progression known as the Fibonacci sequence to dictate the number of syllables in each line. [Snip]

The number of syllables in each line must equal the sum of the syllables in the two previous lines. So, start with 0 and 1, add them together to get your next number, which is also 1, 2 comes next, then add 2 and 1 to get 3, and so on. Mr. Pincus structured the Fibs to top out at line six, with eight syllables.
That's 0-1-1-2-3-5-8 . The first line of each poem is, of course, silence.

This is from an article in the New York Times, April 14, 2006 written by MOTOKO RICH.

About the war plans for attacking Iran

William M. Arkin writes about the various war plans that have been prepared and practiced since 2003. Bush and Rumsfeld certainly have all the military options available that they need.

Are we already fighting in Iran?

Billmon presents some chilling statements.

When (not if) we attack Iran, there will be no Congressional resolution. Since the President has no political capital, he will simply give Congress about 24 hours notice and attack.

Then Billmon refers to a CNN interview with retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner:
...if you're going to do it, you're under a lot pressure not to just stir up the bees' nest, but to go after the stingers. I don't mean to be cute about that, but if there's going to about strike, you can't leave the medium-range ballistic missile unhit, you can't leave the air bases that are within 30 flying minutes of Baghdad unhit, you can't leave the chemical facilities unhit. You may want to hit the terrorist training camps.

So what happens is, very quickly, you end up with a relatively large operation, even though you started with just the nuclear sites.
Col. Gardiner also said in the same interview:
I think the decision has been made and military operations are under way.[Snip]

...the Iranians have been saying American military troops are in there, have been saying it for almost a year. I was in Berlin two weeks ago, sat next to the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador to the IAEA. And I said, "Hey, I hear you're accusing Americans of being in there operating with some of the units that have shot up revolution guard units."

He said, quite frankly, "Yes, we know they are. We've captured some of the units, and they've confessed to working with the Americans."

The evidence is mounting that that decision has already been made, and I don't know that the other part of that has been completed, that there has been any congressional approval to do this.

My view of the plan is, there is this period in which some kinds of ground troops will operate inside Iran, and then what we're talking about is the second part, which is this air strike.
There is a great deal more in Col. Gardiner's interview, so it is worth clicking through to the interview and scrolling down to Col. Gardiner's part of the transcript. Col. Gardiner also discusses how the Iranians are likely to respond to the air attacks.

That we might already be at war with Iran, without notification to Congress, is completely reasonable given Bush's idea that he is the great man set into office to do what no other politician of either party could do, and also given his belief in the uncontrolled power of the President when acting as Commander in Chief. It is already clear from the NSA domestic intercepts that he keeps such decisions secret from the Congress as well as the public.

I really hope that this is wrong. All the current evidence is that it is not, and nothing that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or Scott McClellan say can be trusted based on their consistent history of lying.

Digby at Hullabaloo weighs in on Col. Gardiner's interview with much the same set of speculations I posted above. He reports that Dennis Kucinich has written a letter to Bush asking of the allegations are true. Then Digby points to the story in Raw Story on April 13th that the U.S. is using an Iraqi terrorist group, MEK, in Iran at this time.

Digby also refers to the article by Sy Hersh published in January 2005 about a new covert action organization set up by the Pentagon. From Hersh:
In interviews with past and present intelligence and military officials, I was told that the agenda had been determined before the Presidential election, and much of it would be Rumsfeld’s responsibility. The war on terrorism would be expanded, and effectively placed under the Pentagon’s control. The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. [Snip]

“The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the former high-level intelligence official said. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the C.I.A. phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs”—the regional American military commanders-in-chief. [Snip]

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran.
Hersh goes on to describe the view of the Hawks in the Bush administration as of early 2005.
[The] immediate goals of the attacks would be to destroy, or at least temporarily derail, Iran’s ability to go nuclear. But there are other, equally purposeful, motives at work. The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership. “Within the soul of Iran there is a struggle between secular nationalists and reformers, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the fundamentalist Islamic movement,” the consultant told me. “The minute the aura of invincibility which the mullahs enjoy is shattered, and with it the ability to hoodwink the West, the Iranian regime will collapse” —like the former Communist regimes in Romania, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz share that belief, he said.

“The idea that an American attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would produce a popular uprising is extremely illinformed,” said Flynt Leverett, a Middle East scholar who worked on the National Security Council in the Bush Administration. “You have to understand that the nuclear ambition in Iran is supported across the political spectrum, and Iranians will perceive attacks on these sites as attacks on their ambitions to be a major regional player and a modern nation that’s technologically sophisticated.” Leverett, who is now a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at the Brookings Institution, warned that an American attack, if it takes place, “will produce an Iranian backlash against the United States and a rallying around the regime.”
This is the same kind of wishful thinking - magical thinking even - that the hawks used to justify the invasion of Iraq. I see no indication that as a group they have changed from the PNAC believers that led Bush into the Iraq invasion.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

American politics is insane; Republican incompetence and immorality is why.

Simon at NDN Blog describes the recent national political situation. A few stupid incidents are normal for any governing coalition, but the last six years have been ridiculous. Check it out.

Current GOP election issues

According to the Associated Press, these are the social issues that the GOP is currently working on:
  • Pass the protection of marriage amendment.
  • Pass the anti-flag burning amendment.
  • Outlaw abortion - or at least...
  • Pass a law against crossing state lines to get an abortion.
  • Stop any bill allowing taxpayers to underwrite human embryonic stem cell research.
Senator Frist is planning to bring the first four items up in the Senate this Summer, and is preventing the fifth item.

Knowing this, there should be opportunities to make the Republicans continue to look bad. We need to think on this.

Addendum Sunday April 16, 2006.

I wonder how this will play with the gender gap reported by the LA Times, Bloomberg and the Cook Report. According to Jonathon Singer, the gender gap in generic congressional polls is as much as 30% for Democrats.

E-mails show connection between Abramoff and government official

A batch of 278 e-mails from Abramoff and David Safavian show how Abramoff courted, groomed and then used Safavian. From the Associated Press:
The e-mails show that Abramoff and Safavian, then chief of staff at the General Services Administration, were in frequent contact, played golf often and traded workplace gossip. Abramoff showered Safavian with offers of meals, invitations to parties as well as the trip to the fabled St. Andrew's golf course in Scotland.

One message from Abramoff, sent July 23, 2002, asks Safavian, "golf Friday? golf Sunday? golf Monday? golf, golf, golf!!"

At the same time, Abramoff is peppering Safavian with questions and requests for his help on a variety of projects, including obtaining parcels of federal land that were managed by GSA for Abramoff's charitable groups.
Safavian was originally a Congressional staffer, and was looking for a better paying job. He ended up at the General Services Administration where Abramoff was able to put Safavian's position to effective use.

This is not to declare Safavian guilty. That is for a court of law to decide. But his relationship with Abramoff was clearly inappropriately close for a civil Servant. Abramoff's power came directly from uncontrolled Republican greed.

People working in government are under different rules from those that apply to private businesses. This is one reason (among many) why businessmen cannot easily transfer their talents to government and make government work better.

Why haven't the Generals spoken out before?

I have read a lot of complaints about the fact that the Generals have not spoken out against the war in Iraq before now. Frankly, I find it both amazing and frightening that they are speaking out publicly even now. This runs counter to American military tradition. One of the latest to speak out is Lt. Gen. Newbold in Time.

Maybe Gen. Newbold stayed silent until now because it is the essence of the American military tradition to let the civilians determine what wars to fight. The Generals present their arguments ~in private~ and then accept the decision from the civilians.

The American officer corps ~does not involve itself in politics!~ Doug MacArthur was an aberration, and was fired for it. Properly so.

It is another of the many failures of the Bush administration to weaken this excellent tradition. It is obvious that the Generals are speaking out with great reluctance because the military has been politically used and misused by the Bush administration. That it is only retired Generals speaking out is a compromise which ~may~ not be a serious violation of the tradition of the military staying out of politics.

Anyone who seriously thinks the Generals should have spoken out earlier better consider what they are asking for. How many countries have democracy only as long as their military forces allow it?

If you really think military interference in politics can't happen here, consider how many other things Bush et. al. have given us that no one thought could happen here. America under Bush is already following Argentina into financial ruin. Do we want the Generals to take over here too? Generals in politics is a step closer to that.

I do not write this to criticize the Generals for speaking out. It is time that they did so. I write this regretfully, because Bush and his crooked pals have destroyed another very important tradition that has protected American democracy for over two centuries. The Generals have had to speak out because of the failure of Bush and his gang to properly govern a democratic America. I write this to warn of what we have already lost.

Counterpunch has an excellent article on this subject.

Addendum. Why are the Generals speaking out right now? James Pinkerton suggests that they are afraid the H. R. McMaster may be writing another book and they want to get out and position themselves ahead of it.

I don't know, of course, but it is an interesting speculation.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Republicans steal elections - more indicators

James Tobin was the New England director for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 when he directed a telephone firm to repeatedly call the Democratic headquarters line in New Hampshire. The election was a very close one, and the Republican candidate John E. Sununu was barely elected Senator in that election. James Tobin and two other Republican operatives have pleaded guilty to felonies for their actions to disrupt the Democratic phone lines and prevent the Democrats from getting their voters to the polls.

Since then, the Republican National Committee led by Ken Mehlman has paid over $2.5 million of Tobin's legal bills, and will pay more since the Democrats have filed a civil suit against him. There is no contractual requirement that the Republicans pay those bills. My bet is that this is the price Tobin is demanding so that he doesn't roll over and tell that the White House was behind the phone jamming.

Why the White House? Well, consider this:
A Democratic activist group, combing through evidence from a trial last year in which the former New England regional director of the Republican National Committee was convicted, uncovered 22 calls from New Hampshire officials to the White House political office on Nov. 5-6, 2002. During the same time, according to prosecutors, state GOP officials started -- and then frantically sought to stop -- a plan to have a telemarketer bombard the phone banks of Democrats and a local firefighters association that was offering voters rides to the polls.[Snip]

The court documents describing the calls were only discovered recently by researchers at the Senate Majority Project, a Democratic group based in Washington.[Snip]

There are no public documents or public sworn testimony concerning the matters that were discussed in the phone calls. "They started calling the White House about 11 a.m., and didn't stop until 2 a.m.," said Christy Setzer, a Senate Majority Project spokeswoman.

Paul Twomey, of Epsom, N.H., an attorney for the Democratic Party in its civil lawsuit, said that he wants to question Mehlman and Davis to determine if the calls dealt with the phone-jamming scheme.

"You have somebody who's committing a felony, and he's calling [the White House] during the planning, the execution and when it's falling apart," Twomey said, adding that he will request records listing what outgoing calls were made from the White House during the same time.
[From the Washington Post.]

Then there are the experiences in the 2004 election - see More evidence that the 2004 election was hacked for Bush.

Addendum April 15, 2006

Want more evidence that the White House knew about the phone jamming? See here. Ken Mehlman, head of the RNC hired Tobin as chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign and kept him on even after the other two Republicans working with Tobin had pleaded guilty. Tobin was not required to resign until he was himself indicted.

It should be remembered that RNC Director Ken Mehlman was apointed to the RNC after the 2002 election from his White House job where he worked for Karl Rove.

Nelson Crushing Harris in latest poll

The latest Poll reported on the Florida Senate race between Ben Nelson (D) and the Republican candidate, Katherine Harris, shows Nelson leading at 57% to 27%.

The Florida filing deadline is May 12th. After that, no other candidate will be in the race against Nelson.

I guess that God isn't helping Katherine Harris in this race. Karma, maybe?


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Easter is Sunday; Was Jesus resurrected bodily or spiritually?

The question is whether Jesus was resurrected bodily. The answer from Paul? No. He was resurrected Spiritually. From the Rev. Madison Shockley via Truthdig:
...Someone somewhere will quote I Corinthians 15:12 to us, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
According to the good Reverend, Paul anticipated this question as he wrote:
Verse 35 says, "But someone will ask, 'How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?''" You bet we want to know that! His answer to this question would be considered heresy today by fundamentalists and many conservative-traditional theologians. "It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body." Did I read that right? Paul just said there is no resurrection of the "physical body"! In spite of his opening homage to the received "gospel," his own theology essentially undoes any literal interpretation of the resurrection of the body.
If you really want to see why a literal interpretation of the Bible is nonsense, go read

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Then for a more theoretical view, take a look at this book that describes what language actually is and how it works. Hayakawa does not mention Biblical Inerrancy, but he carefully explains why nothing expressed in language can possibly be inerrant. Hayakawa originated the statement "The Map is not the territory."

Language in Thought and Action
Language in Thought and Action

So now the questions are (1) Did Jesus resurrect bodily or spiritually? Or (2) Does Dan Brown have it right? Did he not die, but instead got up and walked away, Married Mary and spent the rest of his life teaching in Egypt?

Then there is the meta-question - does the answer to the two questions above make any real theological difference to Christianity? Could it be that the Truths in the Christian Religion are embedded in the Christian traditions rather than in the truth or falisity of the events of the first century in Israel?

It is my personal belief that the questions matter a lot more than any possible answers.

Now I know it is Spring

Walked in and looked down at my unmade bed, and noticed a lot of hair on my pillow. Naturally, the normal male panic set in. I quickly checked the bathroom mirror for a bald spot (nope) then brushed my hair and checked for hair on the brush (nothing unusual.)

Went back to the bedroom and cat was back, sleeping on the pillow. The hair there was grayish. At age 63 I still have little gray hair. The cat is a five and a half pound gray tabby. So she is the source of the hair, not me. (Whew!)

She is shedding her Winter coat at a high rate. Checked the sweater I set out for her to sleep on, and sure enough, it too is fur-covered.

Spring has officially arrived to Fort Worth, TX.

Immigration: This Fall's blown wedge issue

Immigration reform was supposed to be the big "wedge issue" for the Republicans for the elections of 2006 and 2008, but something strange happened on the way to the election. DemFromCT at The Next Hurrah has the analysis, based on a Wall Street Journal article (sub req.).

The short description of this issue is that it was supposed to be one that would generate Republican voter interest and turnout while forcing Democrats to take positions that Democratic voters did not particularly like. But what it really did was to energize the Hispanic voters in a way never seen before, as the rather shocking numbers who turned out for marches has demonstrated. LULAC is now using this to push for voters registration of the normally poorly registered Hispanic voters.

Think about it. There was a well planned and controlled march with half a million marchers in Dallas, TX. Dallas has a population of only slightly over 1.2 million people. This happened because of the Immigration Bill passed by the House Republicans.

The problem is that the Republicans crafted a Bill with enough really nasty provisions in it that Democrats wouldn't vote for it. Then the Democrats in the House craftily forced the Republican attempts to amend those harsh provisions to fail. That left the House Republicans with the choice of passing the bad Bill they had crafted and explaining to their voters why they were soft on Immigration, or passing it. So that when the entire Republican House did finally pass the Bill on essentially a party-line vote, it included the provisions making felons of anyone who assisted an illegal immigrant in any way, including providing medical care, food or water.

Now the Republicans are trying to whine that the Democrats wouldn't let them amend it to soften those provisions. Well, Hell, they should have voted it down and tried again. Instead they passed it with those provisions sitting on top where everyone could see them. It was their Bill, after all. They are the majority party after all. They are responsible for what passes the House. I hear they even dragged Bush into whining on his Saturday morning radio program. So let them whine.

As of April, Immigration appears to be a net loser for the Republicans and a real winner for the Democrats. This is especially thanks to crafty political maneuvering by Nancy Pelosi and a unified House Democratic Party. The politization of the Hispanics is merely a bonus for the Democrats. It will be a lot harder for an Hispanic voter to vote Republican now. [I do wonder if this will effect the South Florida Cuban Republican turn-out, though.]

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Who is killing bills in Congress?

Of 83 roll call votes conducted in the Senate in the first three months of 2006, 35 were authored and sponsored by one of the parties. The other party killed 31 of those bills. Most were strict party-line votes.

The Democrats are really giving the Senate Republicans Hell, aren't they? Except that the 35 Bills were authored and submitted by the Democrats. [Via]

So when you hear Senator Frist or Bush complain about how the Democrats are working to prevent the Senate from getting its work done, ask yourself why they are crying crocodile tears in public and preventing the Democrats from being involved in the Senate at all behind the scenes.

Right now the Democrats under Harry Reid are the only protection America has.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A real hero - Rick Rescorla

Joseph Galloway, the senior Knight-Ridder Military Correspondent, writes a brief story of a real hero. Here (from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) is a part of his story:
The statue of the young Rescorla was born out of what he did as an older, heavier civilian vice president for security for Morgan Stanley in New York City. The brokerage firm occupied 22 floors of the South Tower in the World Trade Center.

Ever since the failed terrorist truck bombing in 1993 in the basement of that building, Rescorla had been convinced that the terrorists would come back to finish the job. He urged Morgan Stanley to build its own low-rise high-security headquarters across the river in New Jersey, where most of its employees lived. Not possible, he was told, because the firm had a long-term lease on those 22 floors.

Rescorla fought for the time and money needed for half a dozen surprise full evacuation drills each year. And, yes, he knew how much it cost to pull a couple of thousand stockbrokers off their telephones. He knew and didn't care.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Rescorla stood at the window of his office on the 66th floor and watched the tower across the way burn. The Port Authority Police squawk box on the wall urged everyone in the other buildings of the Trade Center to remain at their desks and not panic. You are safe, the reassuring voice said.

Rescorla responded with a curt word: "Bull----!" He grabbed his bullhorn and moved floor by floor ordering Morgan Stanley's 2,700 workers to evacuate immediately. They knew where to go and how to do that, thanks to Rick. Two by two -- the old buddy system -- they began the long walk down the stairs to the street.

Halfway down, the second hijacked airliner plowed into their building. The building swayed. Smoke began filling the stairwells. People were frightened.

Rick Rescorla used his bullhorn again. This time, he sang to the evacuees, just as he sang to his soldiers on a long night in Vietnam. He sang God Bless America. He sang the songs of the British army in the Zulu Wars.

He got them all out and headed for safety down the streets away from the World Trade Center. Four of his own security people were still up clearing the Morgan Stanley floors, so Rescorla turned and headed back up the stairs with New York City firemen. None of them made it out alive, and neither did Rick Rescorla.
This is a man who as an infantry 2nd Lt. Platoon Leader earned the Silver Star during the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang Valley (from which the book and movie "We were soldiers, and young" was made) in Viet Nam.

Rescorla is an American who performed truly heroic actions. He was not promoted to the status of "hero" just because he died somewhere. We are all better because he lived, and we have all lost because he was killed.

Today we march, tomorrow we vote

Sunday somewhere between 350,000 and half a million people marched in Dallas in opposition to the punitive Immigration Bill which recently passed the House in Washington, D.C. (Dallas Morning News) Atlanta, GA had about 30,000 turn out, Fort Worth had between 10,000 and 15,000, Salt Lake City had about 20,000, and San Diego had about 50,000 people turn out. There were other demonstrations in Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon. (From Associate Press through Yahoo News.)

The Iraq war, the repeated incompetence in all forms of governance, and the blatant corruption of the Republicans have all demonstrated their unfitness to run the government. But these things struck different people in different ways. There was not any single group of large size that felt damaged. Until the House Republicans passed a ridiculously punitive Immigration Bill. That mobilized the Hispanics in America.

Partly it has been the hubris of the Republicans (especially those in the House leadership) inside the beltway. Partly it has been the timing, following Katrina, the failure of Social Security Privatization, etc. But the result has been to mobilize the sleeping giant of the Hispanics.

Everyone who has looked at the potential voters has been aware that there were a lot of Hispanic potential voters, but they were so diverse that no single issue could mobilize them politically. Until now.

This is going to be interesting.

Good News! Xtian Coalition in financial trouble

Ralph Reed has moved on to political problems related to Abramoff and Pat Robertson no longer runs the Xtian Coalition. The result is a much smaller organization with a lot less money and a lot more unpaid bills. The Washington Post published the story Sunday.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

More evidence that the 2004 election was hacked for Bush

Here is more evidence that the 2004 Presidential race was hacked to change about 6,000,000 votes towards Bush and away from Kerry in Wisconsin, Pennnsylvannia, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

This is in addition to the voter suppression activities which reduced the number of Democratic votes. These actitivies are rather well documented now.

When the Democrats take back at least one house of Congress, this is an area which demands public investigation.

Liberman to run as independent if not Democrat

This is really interesting, because it tells us how much Joe Lieberman is feeling the pressure from the primary competition of Ned Lamont. According to McJoan at Daily Kos, Lieberman says that he will run for Senator as an independent if he can't win the Democratic Primary.

It looks like a threat to the Democratic establishment to try to get them to force Ned Lamont out of the Connecticut Primary, because the mechanics of Lieberman running as an Independent are most unlikely to work.

Next time someone asks Markos Moulitsas which candidates that the blogosphere have supported have won, he can already say that Ned Lamont has Lieberman running really scared.

I suspect that this means that Hillary Clinton's plans to run for President in 2008 may need to expand to include efforts to attract the blogosphere. Her pro-War stance will have to go.

This is the 1006th post under this title

I just noticed that I have posted 1005 comments/articles to Politics Plus Stuff since I started it September 27th, 2004.

That's a lot of words from the keyboard, probably in the range of half a million. I really hope that I have learned some things from this experience. It has been interesting, and mostly fun.

Wilson was right; Bush was wrong.

Booman of Booman Tribune presents the case to date on the accuracy of the famed "16 words in the State of the Union Speech." The currently revealed evidence clearly shows that the Intelligence Community knew that there was no attempt by Iraq to buy yellow-cake uranium from Niger, and that the White House (including Condoleeza Rice and Steven Hadley) clearly understood that, discounted the evidence, and used the story as truth anyway.
"Four U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge said in interviews that [a National Intelligence Council] memo...[that stated unequivocally that the Niger allegations were groundless] arrived at the White House as Bush and his highest-ranking advisers made the uranium story a centerpiece of their case for the rapidly approaching war against Iraq.

And they went ahead and kept the uranium as the centerpiece of their case.
One obvious conclusion here is that then CIA Chief, Tenet, was awarded the Medal of Freedom for his actions taking responsibility for letting the 16 words into the SOTU speech when, in fact, the fault was that of the White House. Condi Rice's award was the job of Secretary of State. Steven Hadley's award was Condi's old job, National Security Advisor.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Duval County voting irregularities reported

Has the Parr family again returned to its political ways? Actually, the Box 13 votes that gave Lyndon Johnson his 87 vote victory in the 1948 Democratic Primary came from the nearby Jim Wells County, but it was apparently orchestrated by the famed "Duke of Duval", George Parr. [See the Handbook of Texas, Duval County.]

This time the irregularities are that over half the votes cast in the March primary election were cast by absentee ballot, and the reported voter turnout was 57% of registered voters. Statewide the turnout was about 4%. From the Houston Chronicle:
More than half of the 5,641 votes cast were through absentee balloting. That amounts to 2,958 ballots sent by mail, more than all the early voting in the county's 2004 primary when about 2,800 ballots were cast both in person and by mail.
Then from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times:
Some of the callers to the state from Duval County asked why 4,098 of the 5,445 primary ballots were early voters and why 2,800 of those were by mail. Mail-in ballots are limited by law to registered voters 65 or older, the disabled, people who will be out of the county on Election Day and during early voting, and eligible voters confined in jail.
Something is very fishy in Duval County, TX. The Dallas Morning News got this information, but it certainly doesn't explain the (alleged) fraudulent mail-in ballots:
Alicia G. Saenz, Democratic Party chairwoman for Duval County, said she's not surprised with the voter turnout because of two prominent local races, for county judge and county treasurer. But Saenz said she was surprised at the number of mail-in ballots [Snip]

Some residents complained about receiving rejected mail-in ballot forms at their homes, although they were unaware who had sent them in the first place, West said.

"In one instance, it was the lady's deceased father's name that was on the ballot," West said. "We know he didn't fill it out.
So what's new? It rains in the rain forest, and there is vote fraud in Duval County, TX.

Evolution of an "irreducibly complex" system explained.

Sorry, Creationists. This blows one of your talking points out of the water. This is from a press release about research reported in the "Science" of April 7, 2006:
"Our work demonstrates a fundamental error in the current challenges to Darwinism," said Thornton. "New techniques allowed us to see how ancient genes and their functions evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. We found that complexity evolved piecemeal through a process of Molecular Exploitation -- old genes, constrained by selection for entirely different functions, have been recruited by evolution to participate in new interactions and new functions."

The scientists used state-of-the-art statistical and molecular methods to unravel the evolution of an elegant example of molecular complexity – the specific partnership of the hormone aldosterone, which regulates behavior and kidney function, along with the receptor protein that allows the body's cells to respond to the hormone. They resurrected the ancestral receptor gene – which existed more than 450 million years ago, before the first animals with bones appeared on Earth – and characterized its molecular functions. The experiments showed that the receptor had the capacity to be activated by aldosterone long before the hormone actually evolved.

Thornton's group then showed that the ancestral receptor also responded to a far more ancient hormone with a similar structure; this made it "preadapated" to be recruited into a new functional partnership when aldosterone later evolved. By recapitulating the evolution of the receptor's DNA sequence, the scientists showed that only two mutations were required to evolve the receptor's present-day functions in humans.

"The stepwise process we were able to reconstruct is entirely consistent with Darwinian evolution," Thornton said. "So-called irreducible complexity was just a reflection of a limited ability to see how evolution works. By reaching back to the ancestral forms of genes, we were able to show just how this crucial hormone-receptor pair evolved."
That's what's wrong with the ideas behind "Creationism" or "Intelligent Design." The people pushing those ideas grab onto something they cannot find a rational explanation describing the process of evolution for, then state that only supernatural processes can have caused the end result.

There are is a major problem with this form of thinking. Since it cannot currently be explained, the Creationists/ID'ers assume that it can never be explained. Thus they shut off all study into rational explanations. This keeps such people from learning the rational explanation for the development of something. Then, since all attempts to learn the explanation are stifled, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It prevents understanding of the rational process, and failure to understand the process is used to prove that only supernatural ("magic") processes could have created the current result.

Creationism should never be taught in introductory science classes (everything prior to graduate school) since it is magical thinking. Science is a rejection of magical thinking, and introductory science classes teach scientific thinking.

[Thanks to Daily Kos]