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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Truthout apologizes. Well, not really.

Mark Ash the editor at Truthout has issued an apology for the Jason Leopold story about the Rove indictment, although reading it, I'm not really clear what he's apologizing for. It reads to me like an apology for the short deadline on a Fitzgerald announcement, but he seems to be standing by the meat of the story, that Rove has already been indicted and that there were plea discussions last Friday at Patton Boggs.

Salon has a bit of an interview with Mark Ash, but it doesn't really say anything other than this apology is simply an effort to buy some time.

I'm still treating this story as possibly true despite the obvious miss on the timeline. I am probably not going to call it as utterly false until either we have the facts of a Fitzgerald press conference, an unsealed indictment, or obvious indications that Fitzgerald has no more interest in Rove.

I know you may disagree, that's fine, but that's how I feel. I'm treating it for now as an open and as yet unresolved issue. Please feel free to comment if you wish, but I've made a promise to myself not to spend too much time getting involved in "the controversy," so I will certainly read them all. But if you're looking for an argument, I probably won't play along on this one.

Plame Gossip - Some Armitage Confirmation

Thanks to Reality Based Educator for pointing me to this NY Daily News article in the comments of an earlier post. The main story line is confirmation of Steve Clemons' point yesterday that Armitage has been an important cooperative witness for Fitzgerald and is not expected to be indicted.

Now, this article does leave unconfirmed Clemons reporting yesterday that Armitage is the key witness against Rove although it does include an open, but teasing, line that Armitage's testimony could hurt Libby and Rove. (I agree with RBE's guess that this seems to be coming from the Armitage camp.)

There's also this bizarre paragraph, (From here on, I'm deep in speculation. Remember, I'm doing Plame Gossip here, not Plame fact. So, excercise your own judgement.)
"People don't seem to want to talk about the possibility that Karl could be named an unindicted co-conspirator," a third source close to the case said. "Can an unindicted co-conspirator remain at the White House? Personally, I don't think so."

Sheer speculation, but to me that reads like a trial balloon out of the Rove camp, or at least someone sympathetic. There've been numerous reports of dubious credibility that Rove has been offered plea deals since back in November, and it does appear that there was some sort of major meeting on the "locked down" 4th floor of Patton Boggs last Friday, still questionable whether Fitzgerald was there or not.

But, if Rove was considering a deal, I think that keeping his reputation would be a key element in his thinking. The question posed is pretty clearly as a "talk amongst yourselves" question. Start the conversations anonymously and see what the consensus is. See if Rove can keep his role as Republican kingmaker if he deals way down.

But, at this point, I wouldn't put too much into the "
unindicted co-conspirator" line, it just sounds funny to me. It doesn't have the right "feel" for what we've been watching between Fitzgerald and Rove/Luskin unless Rove is the only access point to something huge. Maybe the 250 "missing" emails, or maybe a true directed conspiracy to out Plame? But at this point, I just don't see it.

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Iraq spin

Look, the main obstacles to a new Iraqi government forming have always been the Interior and Defense ministries, Interior controls the security forces and Defense the army. Basically, who and which faction control these two key posts will determine which faction's violence will be overlooked, or in the case of the Interior Ministry and the Shia militias, encouraged.

Sure, there was a lot of contention over who would control the cultural folios like education or the economic folios like the oil ministry, but within the context of the civil war, the posts backed by guns of official authority are the real gems.

So, to announce the formation of an Iraqi government with these two posts open is somewhat ingenuine. Yes, it does represent progress that they are able to reach some agreements on the less important posts, but the ministries of main contention, the ministries responsible for establishing security, are still vacant.

As a supporting example, let me offer the refugees. If the threats and violence which are causing ethnic cleansing are tamped down in one area, but allowed to persist in another, it would alter the geographic/factional dispersion giving one group more territory while allowing another faction to be driven off in other areas.

Picture of the Day

Friday, May 19, 2006

Sellout McCain gets smoked at the New School

As part of his Presidential efforts, McCain tried to create an image of openness by reaching across the political spectrum, speaking first at Falwell's Liberty University then at the very progressive New School. Unsurprisingly, the people who chose to go to Falwell's school sat quietly as McCain pushed his political points. (after all, they've been trained for that.)

But not so at the New School. Bravo! Encore! Encore!

Tell me again about "the vow" President Bush.

Whenever George Bush is caught with his hand in the Constitutional cookie jar, NSA wiretapping or database, torture, secret prisons or whatever else, his defense always includes that he took a vow on Sept. 11 to protect this nation from another attack. He always includes that in his defense.

And yet, this vow, so solemn that it justifies violating the constitution, seems to be inoperative when it conflicts with business interests, port security, checking containers, air freight security, border security.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Under intense pressure from shipping companies concerned about costly delays, the Coast Guard is tipping off some large commercial ships about security searches that had been a surprise, according to high-ranking Coast Guard officials.

You're collecting every goddamned phone record in the country, and yet you're giving incoming container ships 24 hours warning before the Coast Guard searches them? You're "disappearing" people extrajudicially to be tortured in secret sites, but you're worried about pissing off the shipping companies?

Apparently in George Bush's world, the interests of business outweigh the Constitution.

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----- Honk -----

Deniability and Coverup in the NSA phone records database.

On Wednesday, ThinkProgress had a post regarding a May 5, 2006 Executive Order that granted the President's authority to "John Negroponte "to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)) " Such activities would normally suffer disclosure under Federal Securities Laws.

At the time, I was wondering about the convenient timing of this executive order, just a five days before the USAToday printed their story on the NSA phone records database the night of May 10.

My question/working theory was that the White House, upon becoming aware that USA Today was going to reveal this NSA phone database, quickly issued this executive order to authorize the Telcos to lie about this program, transferring presidential authority to Negroponte so that if the lies were found out, it would have Negroponte's, not Bush's, signature on it.

At the time, I questioned whether the White House became aware of the USAToday story through negotiations to get them not to print it. That was only a theory based on an indirect statement made by the USAToday reporter.

Well, today, we have some indication that at least the Telcos knew the story was coming. (Paulson is USAToday editor in chief in an NPR interview. They is the Telcos.)
"We were surprised because we had been talking to both companies for literally weeks," Paulson says. "They knew this story was being written. They knew what we were going to say. And frankly, they took some time in deciding how to craft a response."

So, we have some confirmation that the telcos knew the story was coming well before the May 5 Executive Order, and, certainly, they must've been concerned.

Am I extrapolating too far to think they may have contacted the NSA to ask what to do? And then this Executive Order is just coincidentally generated.

I smell coverup. Anybody else?

Also: Paul Kiel and Justin Rood look at a Businessweek article and ask if the NSA/Telco relationship used cutouts "allowing phone companies to deny responsibility for or involvement in turning over their records to the government."


So, I'm at my local barbeque place waiting for some takeout ribs for lunch, and out of the corner of my eye, I see a face I recognize. As a hint, I live in Houston about 12 miles from congressional district 22. Ohmygod, it's Tom Delay!!!!

Now, it wasn't Tom Delay, but this guy was a spitting image of what Delay would look like if he lost 30 pounds. I mean, just dead-on body double. So, being who I am, I had to comment, and we started a little conversation. He told me that it's been just awful. He poured out like a man ready to break.

Around Tom Delay's various peaks in the public eye, people whisper and point at him. Sitting in restaurants people take pictures of him. People walk up to this poor guy to express support or say foul things to him. He said that around the resignation, he just stopped going out except when he absolutely had to.

Perhaps the funniest, his kid's highschool tried to enlist him to take pies in the face as part of a fundraiser. What a bizarre experience this poor guy has had just through freakish coincidence.

Just a little weirdness from somebody else's world.

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Plame Gossip - Rove Watch

It's too early still to call it officially, but since apparently there's been no announcement of a Fitzgerald press conference yet, I wouldn't be holding my breath. It looks like public action is increasingly unlikely today.

Update: Well, sort of. Steve Clemons has a post naming Armitage as the first leaker(disregard all the Inman crap at the top), and that from day one he has testified three times before the grand jury and been "a completely straight shooter." (That fits with other information, reporting, and reasoned speculation. Set it as a probable guess.)

Also according to Clemons, although I would give this a little less creedence, Fitzgerald is no longer interested in the "outing" of Plame but in the coverup, and that it is Armitage, more than anything else, that has put Rove in major risk of indictment.

Hmmm.... So, in this storyline, Armitage outs Plame, recognizes his mistake, tells Colin Powell everything, then tells Fitzgerald everything, and then Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and the rest try to cover up...... what?

Do you think Rove/Libby risked perjury well into the investigation to cover for Armitage who "isn't one of them" and was cooperating? Was the coverup simply designed to hide the fact that they tried to hatchett Wilson's credibility? Hardly seems worth the risk. Why the coverup then?

We're missing some key element here.

(And, as for the Leopold "controversy," I still hold the opinion that if the story is/was wrong, he was set up. I've heard his interview, read the stuff from Mark Ash, Larry Johnson, etc, I believe he honestly reported what he was told.)

(Also, just as a reminder, I went back through some of my old Plame Gossip pieces around the Libby indictment and the similarities in the coverage are comical. A ton of speculation, reporting, and defense lawyer spinning(lying) having Cheney, Rove, Hadley, Hannah and others indicted or free. Weeks of "Fitzgerald's indictments could be imminent." Tea leaf reading that was just ridiculous. And almost all of it turned out to be pretty dicey reporting.

So, just a reminder that this is the Plame Gossip section of the blog. It's interesting, it's fun, but nothing is guaranteed true until we hold Fitzgerald's indictments in our collective electronic hands. - Mike)


When Bolivia and/or Venezuela discard or change standing drilling rights agreements with oil companies, they are socialists and terrorists, but what happens when the US House of Reps does it with strong Republican support? (252 to 265)

Afghanistan is accusing Pakistan of aiding the Taleban in the wake of the recent upsurge of violence possibly indicating a spring offensive.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is assuring me that the housing bubble isn't popping, but is headed for a "soft landing." If the Bush administration can't get their strong economy message out in the next few months, it's looking increasingly likely that the numbers are going to turn against them. I sure hope you enjoyed your "Bush Boom."

Another article on the increasing post war difficulties of the "Marlboro Man" from Iraq. His picture was lifted up by the prowar folks as an icon of their vision of the war, but it's becoming more apparent that his experience of the war was decidedly more ugly. I think it's emblematic of something far bigger in this war, how this war's supporters really view the troops.

Fully fund, even overfund, all veterans programs. They held up their end of the bargain. We have to hold up ours.

Sorry for the catchall post, you know I hate them, but I had an appointment this morning and was in a hurry.

Picture of the Day

President Bush speaks at the RNC Presidential Gala Wed. night. The theme, like so many 8 year old's birthday parties, NASCAR.

And, you just know they had a car shaped cake.

(By the way, I'm so glad that Bush is in so much trouble. I'm getting all kinds of goofy Bush photos as they pull these stunts. Did you see Bush in the Border Control buggy today? Or this buggy shot? Thanks, Josh Bolten.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The gay marriage kerfuffle

There's alot out there right now about the shouting match between Feingold and Specter that led to Feingold storming out of the closed door Judiciary Committee Meeting considering an anti-gay marriage amendment. (That's right, the crazies actually want to besmirch our constitution with their bigotry.)

Politics, I'm really not that interested in the show today, but in reading the WaPo article, I came across this.
Not all who voted "yes" support the amendment. Specter said he is "totally opposed" to it but felt it deserved a Senate debate.

I mean, what the hell is that?

In the end, Senator Specter got his way, it passed and will be debated on the floor of the Senate. Certainly, it won't pass the full Senate, but his Republican colleagues get to launch election year rants about how gay marriages are destroying America. Congratulations Arlen, you must be so proud.

(By the way, it's always bugged me. Adultery destroys far more marriages than a couple dozen happy queers in Vermont. Why is it that we aren't talking about constitutional amendments against adultery? It's in the bible after all, it's one of the big ten that the fundies want put up in every "statehouse and courthouse." And, adultery isn't even a biblical reach like homosexuality; it's black letter, handed down to Moses, no question about it, bible law.)

el-Masri case dismissed - Protecting torture is in the national interest.

Khaled el-Masri has been denied his right to sue in US courts because, "moving forward with Khaled el-Masri's case would risk national security by exposing state secrets about CIA activities vital to the U.S. war on terrorism."

el-Masri you might remember was the completely innocent man who was snatched up in Macedonia, drugged, beaten, rendered to Afghanistan where he was held for a few months, then released when interrogators realized he was not the man they were looking for. (released by dumping him on a dirt roadside in Macedonia.)

So, an innocent man gets snatched up put through the worst the CIA has constructed for top Al Qaeda leaders, and then has no recourse, thus shielding another dubiously legal program and those who created and authorized it.

But, I guess it's all moot anyhow, because "we do not torture," right? The US would never torture anyone, especially the innocent. That would be a war crime.

(Just as a side note, remember this is the case in which Condi Rice intervened to get Mr. el-Masri freed after the mistake was recognized.)

Update: The UN Committee on Torture said the US must come clean over torture and renditions. That's right, America is being examined by the UN Committee on Torture and found lacking. Did you predict that seven years ago?

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Valerie Plame speaks with Michael Hayden at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Neither looks very happy about the conversation, eh?

CIA chiefs were thrown out of Iraq Neverland

Much has been written about the Bush administration's Tinkerbell strategy in Iraq, that if we all just clap loud enough and really believe, that Al Maliki will live and Iraq will become a functioning and stable nation state.

But, even in that context, this from Ken Silverstein at Harpers scares the hell out of me. Is it any wonder we're in the mess we're in?
A number of current and former intelligence officials have told me that the administration's war on internal dissent has crippled the CIA's ability to provide realistic assessments from Iraq. “The system of reporting is shut down,” said one person familiar with the situation. “You can't write anything honest, only fairy tales.”

Even if you were to assume that Rumsfeld, senior military planners, and other involved administration officials were exceedingly capable, how could any good decisions come from bad information? And intentionally coerced bad information at that!!!!

The quest of the Bush administration for adherence to doctrine over competence has once again reared it's head, and people are dying because of it.

(By the way, what sort of comfortable, confident and capable leader will only tolerate people around him who agree? In that I see fear and weakness, not loyalty or strength of character.)

Holy crap, I made the big time.

As a little blogger it's always your hope that your ideas might be picked up by someone larger. Normally, these fantasies involve the big blogs we know and like that largely share our viewpoint, Atrios, Firedoglake, Josh Marshall, etc.

So, how do I feel about making The Hotline's Blogometer? Way down the page, but I'm bracketed between Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Democratic Daily, and Talkleft. That's some pretty big company, eh?

Big ups to blog friend Reality Based Educator who got a whole paragraph of exerpt.

Iran fuel cycle not complete?

Was Iran's much ballyhooed uranium enrichment a bit of a sham using old Chinese uranium hexaflouride gas rather than a completely Iranian enrichment chain? The BBC gives it a maybe.

Of course, this could just be a propaganda story from somewhere, but the implications are interesting.

(Also, I'm guessing that threatening Iran wasn't testing well for the President. Or maybe it's that the Russians and Chinese have us beat on the diplomacy and the true diplomatic implications of the Iraq failure were about to reveal the resulting impotence of the administration's foreign policy. Whatever, it's just amazing to me how quickly that went away.)

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Plame Gossip - Partial confirmation on the Rove story

This is from Wayne Madsen, so we're definitely not talking NYTimes, but it does confirm some elements of the Leopold story, as well as contradicting others. So, take it for what it is. But for gossipy purposes, I have to put it up. (Note: until about 3 weeks ago I titled all Plame posts "Plame Gossip," and after recent events, I'm going to return to that practice.)
WMR can confirm that the appearance of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Grand Jury at the US Federal Courthouse in Washington was a formality in which the jury informed the Attorney General of their decision to indict Karl Rove. That proceeding lasted for less than 30 minutes and took place shortly after noon. Gonzales's personal security detachment was present in the courthouse during the Grand Jury briefing. ...

According to sources within the Patton and Boggs law firm, Karl Rove was present at the law firm's building on M Street. WMR was told by a credible source that a Patton and Boggs attorney confirmed that Fitzgerald paid a visit to the law firm to inform Rove attorney Robert Luskin and Rove that an indictment would be returned by the Grand Jury against Rove. Contrary to other reports, some of which may have emanated from the Rove camp in order to create diversions and smokescreens, the meetings at Patton and Boggs did not last 15 hours nor was a 24-hour notice of intent to indict delivered to Rove. In the Scooter Libby case last October, after the Grand Jury decided to indict Libby on Friday, October 21 and the Attorney General personally heard the decision the same day at a meeting with the jury, the actual indictment was issued the following Friday, October 28. Several sources have told WMR that an announcement concerning the indictment of Rove will be made on Friday, May 19 generally following the same scenario from October 28, 2005 -- the posting of the indictment on the Special Prosecutor's web site followed by a press conference at Main Justice.

So, according to Madsen, look for an announcement Friday. And how sweet is it that Luskin might get nailed for "massaging" the facts of the Viveca Novak story...
WMR was also told by a credible source that part of the reason for Fitzgerald's visit to Patton and Boggs was to inform Rove attorney Luskin that he has moved into the category of a "subject" of the special prosecutor's investigation as a result of a conversation with Time reporter Viveca Novak, in which Novak told Luskin that Rove was a source for Time's Matt Cooper. The special prosecutor, who has prosecuted one defense attorney in the Hollinger case, is reportedly investigating whether Luskin, as an officer of the court, may have violated laws on obstruction of justice.

So, take it for what it is, Plame Gossip, but fun, eh?

(Talkleft has a good skeptical post looking at the details, questionable terminology, and possible connections to the Leopold story. It's pretty good, I'm not going to try to rewrite it here.)

Day to day in the Sunni neighborhood of Zayuna

The WaPo has a gripping depiction of a Sunni neighborhood protection group in Iraq.

Also, for years Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials have been implying that troop reductions in Iraq could be coming soon. What do I make of the fact that the language has now turned to "hoped for" troop reductions? The administration's language has gone from 14 of 18 provinces stable and ready for imminent turnover to Iraqi forces to Peter Pace saying that no province is ready for turnover?

Also, if you didn't see this from FAIR, it's pretty funny. Tom Friedman's history of saying that Americans need to wait just "six more months" for Iraq to resolve, which makes yesterday's editorial where he tore into the Bush administration even more telling. (The editorial is behind a subscription wall, so the link is an excerpt.)

Picture of the day

It rains on everyone but McCain.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Race War

It appears the people at FoxNews have perceived a collapse of support for the president as a threat to themselves and the white race. How long until we get Nazi-like depictions of Mexicans morphing into rats? Think I'm kidding?

First there was John Gibson last Thursday on his national television show, saying "Hispanics are having more kids and others, notably the ones Hispanics call gabachos — white people — are having fewer..... To put it bluntly: We need more babies."

He frames this as an American issue, but clearly in the context of his piece the problem is non-white babies, so when he says "Americans" and "we" he is obviously only referring to white Americans.
(If you think it's out of context, here's the original on the Foxnews website.)

Today, O'Reilly said "That's because the newspaper(NYTimes) and many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed. According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide, a rainbow coalition, if you will. This can only happen if demographics change in America."

Oh, and I forgot all about former Fox commentator/new Bush press secretary Tony Snow discussing the tar baby yesterday.

See, at FoxNews, Americans are only white and Christian. Hispanics are not Americans and we must out-reproduce them so that "we" will win.

White Christian Americans are the only ones who should hold power and any effort to alter this is the work of zealots.

And apparently, the White House press secretary doesn't think Disney's "Song of the South", where Uncle Remus discusses the joys of living on a plantation, was that bad. Zipadeedoodah....

I think it's really telling that the FoxNews heads, and by extrapolation FoxNews Republicans, see attacks on them as attacks on their race. It really shows the filter through which they view the world. I had predicted the ugliest midterm election ever, but how far past Willie Horton are we? And it's still only May.....

Dear FoxNews, we don't hate you because you're white, we hate you because you're evil and wrong. (By the way, what does it take to get fired over there?) - signed America.

- Or - "Mr. Duke, I have a call for you on line two, it's FoxNews and they want you to do a show."

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Iraqi security force recruits training with fake guns.

Rove, Leopold, etc.

Talk Left has the latest on the Leopold story that Rove has already been indicted, with a pretty plausible theory of a two part indictment, perjury, offer a plea deal, then go back for obstruction. The most interesting statement is "Jason says he confirmed the story with more than 2 sources. He says Knight- Ridder, MSNBC and ABC News now have one source for the story."

I don't want to get too far into the Leopold controversy because it's a sidetrack from the real story which is/would be the indictment of the third most powerful man in the administration. But I thought I'd link this post because it's an exhaustive look at the state of play.

My general sense is that if his story proves to be wrong, which it hasn't yet, Jason Leopold was set up. I believe he has honestly reported what he was told.

Because, let's remember what the Plame investigation is all about, breaking the law retaliating against somebody who wrote stuff the administration didn't like. And what is the administration involved in right now? A Nixonesque effort to stop leaks at any cost.

So, if you want to look at bad history, Jason Leopold isn't the only one. This White House outed a covert agent working on critical WMD issues in Iran to silence a previous critic. (And let's not forget McCain's illegitimate black baby, the swiftboaters, or the bug Rove planted in his own office in the Texas governor's race. Or as a direct parallel, how Dan Rather was burned neutralizing the ANG story. We still don't exactly know how that went down.) Quite frankly, it's Leopold's bad history that would make him a prime candidate for this sort of setup.

That's my sense of it, I have no proof on either side, but in my evaluation of things, the Rove/White House side has alot to gain by Leopold getting burned and he has very little to gain by lying. That's all if the story turns out to be untrue which we don't know yet.

But it's funny just how well this controversy has deflected all conversation away from the guilt of Rove towards Leopold's credibility. It couldn't have turned out any better if Rove had planned it himself. So, let's stop talking about Jason Leopold and return to talking about the fact that the iconic most powerful political figure in the Republican party is facing indictment, trial, and jail time. That should be the story.

Update: Mark Ash at truthout wrote this among other things today supporting the Leopold story, (It's worth a read if you're tracking this.)
We can now report, however, that we have additional, independent sources that refute those denials by Corallo and Luskin. While we had only our own sources to work with in the beginning, additional sources have now come forward and offered corroboration to us.

We have been contacted by at least three reporters from mainstream media - network level organizations - who shared with us off-the-record confirmation and moral support. When we asked why they were not going public with this information, in each case they expressed frustration with superiors who would not allow it.

He also indirectly makes the point that if the indictment is in fact sealed, we may not know about it for a long time.

Very interesting

Eric Umansky ties the NSA call record database back to Amdocs and the infamous Carl Cameron 4 part series.

For those of you who know what I'm talking about, this might be an "oh my god" moment. If you don't know what I'm talking about, this is way down the rabbit hole into tinfoil hat land, and I wouldn't really encourage you to follow.

Executive Order authorizes Telcos to lie about NSA spying

It's a bit of a journey through the executive order and the US law code, but effectively, ON MAY 5 OF THIS YEAR, President Bush granted authority to John Negroponte "to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)) "

This could directly relate to the Verizon and Bell South denials that they supplied the NSA with call record details.

Now, I think we need to revisit the timing of when the White House found out this story was going to be written. In an interview, the writer of the USAToday story rather deftly dodged the question as to whether the White House had asked them to delay or not to print that story. (Remember, the NYTimes held their NSA wiretapping story for months at the request of the administration.)

I find myself wondering if those conversations just happened to take place before May 5.

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(Karl Rove speaking at the AEI on Monday.)

Bomb Iran

Britain's The Herald has a brief outline of US contingency plans for bombing Iran.

Iraq is just inconvenient

In the AP's top stories this morning, there was only one on Iraq, Making Coffee on Front Lines Gets Easier, which outlines the new technology in field coffee making.

Juan Cole's headlines?

The Iraqi Civil War took the lives of another 42 persons on Tuesday. Death squads are responsible for the 700 to 800 assassinations during the past month in Basra. Hundreds of Iraqis are fleeing Basra for Baghdad every day because security is even worse in the southern port city than in the capital. And there's a fair chance of an anti-Kurd crackdown in southeastern Turkey.

Good thing I know about this coffee breakthrough. Thanks, AP.

(Observation, we've seemed to reach a new threshold on reporting Iraq violence. The deaths in Iraq are no longer headlines unless 50+ Iraqis or 5+ Americans are killed in a single incident. 12 US soldiers have been killed by hostile attacks since Saturday, 46 this month, and that's no longer a headline. That normalization of death terrifies me. No coincidence that the President is driving the headlines towards immigration.)

UPDATE: The word "Iraq" is not even on the NYTimes web front page right now. The Wapo has it twice, once in a story on the probable new cabinet way down the page and once under a story on GOP approval ratings. What has changed since March?

Picture of the Day

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Brilliant blogging.

I don't always agree with her, but Georgia10 over at DailyKos is a brilliant blogger.
Take off your partisan hat for a moment. Leave politics at the door. Conservatives, liberals, and moderates who are reading this blog, I ask you, nearly five years after the September 11th attacks, how can we say we are winning the war on terror? How can we declare success when we have allowed terror to so greatly redefine American society?

Rovewatch begins again.

On Countdown, Olberman reported that Patrick Fitzgerald is holding a meeting with his team tonight and extrapolated that he will be staying over into tomorrow. Tomorrow and Friday are the next two days the grand jury is scheduled to meet. (Note: meetings are scheduled every Wed and Fri, so take the word scheduled as the word available not as an indication they are, in fact, meeting tomorrow.)

Whether you believe Leopold's report or not, tomorrow is another available day for Fitzgerald to meet with the grand jury and for a Rove indictment/announcement. There's all sorts of tea leaves readings out there as to Rove's mood, etc., but at this point, I'm just going to wait for the story to break tomorrow. So, bottom line, the Rove watch is back on.

(side note: We still don't know about Jason Leopold's Saturday report that Rove had already been indicted and was in the midst of a plea deal. We're not yet out of the window for an announcement in that scenario, and until we are, I'm not going to treat the report as false.

It's my belief that Leopold and the folks at truthout faithfully reported what they were told, whether what they were told was true or not is another question entirely. I think that the whole effort to prove or disprove that story is a distraction from the real story, the pending Rove indictment. If it comes to pass that the report is proved false, I will address it then.)

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Video from Iraq

Wapo reporter Nelson Hernandez was caught in an ambush in Iraq and shot this video.

(It starts at about 1:45 and I couldn't get a direct link, so look down the article at the third paragraph on the right.)

The Potemkin Immigration plan

Chertoff and his top assistant, the people to whom the border patrol reports, reveal the hollowness and political nature of the president's plan. (From this morning's DHS press conference whose sole purpose was to outline the President's plan.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY McHALE: . . .We don't know how many helicopters we're going to put up, but we know to a near certainty that we'll have helicopters. . . We don't know where we will place censors to detect illegal movement, but it's almost a certainty that we will have censors. . . We don't know how many barriers or roads we're going to build, but clearly, we will be putting new barriers in place, and clearly, we will be building new roads . . . So your question, sir, is a fair one.

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(AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Mike's trip to the gas station

I bought gas the other day at a local station/convenience mart where I'm a regular, and as I'm often prone to do, I started up a conversation with Rez, the owner, who is often there in the mornings.

Now, I make it a point not to mention gas prices to him directly, because everybody does and I know he's heard it enough. (It's not the station owner's fault, by the way. The prices on the sign are set by the oil company and if the station owner changes them, they lose their franchise. So be nice.)

Anyhow, I noticed Rez staring out the little half window underneath the cigarettes when I came in, elbows resting on an open accounts book. So, I said "hey, is everything alright," and we started talking.

Apparently, his receipts were way, way up, but his profits were way, way down. People are spending all their money on gas which is low profit for the stations, but, because of the gas cost, people weren't buying that extra candybar or soda or laser pointer or any of the other crap he's got spread around his store. From the sound of it, he's in real trouble.

I don't have any sense of how broad it is, but I've run across a lot of empirical evidence that Rez isn't alone. As I pulled out, I found myself wondering how many other small businesses are suffering because of gas prices. I'm not really talking about direct costs like more expensive gas for deliveries, I'm talking about market decisions made by people foregoing their small luxuries in order to save that little extra money to put in their tank.

Manicurists, piano lessons, my favorite Chinese restaurant. I just wonder how much Exxon's record profits are really costing us.

(I did end up buying a soda. It's still sitting in my fridge unopened.)

Graphic Photos

After Downing Street has put up some very graphic Iraq photos a large portion of which seem to be soldier photos. Warning: These are VERY GRAPHIC. So, if you want to look, look, but be warned.

Picture of the Day

Damn Sensenbrenner, deporting all the help....

Monday, May 15, 2006

FBI confirms looking at reporter's phones

Earlier today, ABCNews reported that they were told by a source that their phone calls were being tracked by the federal government. Here is a further update from ABC's The Blotter.

The FBI pretty much confirmed the story. My favorite statement:
“It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,” said a senior federal official.

Also, remember Russell Tice, the former NSA official who said that he might reveal on Thursday, "the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens?" Laura Rozen has been tracking some of the details today.

A question on the President's speech

How many times, in the defense of the questionably legal NSA program, renditions, "aggressive interrogation techniques," have you heard George Bush say that after Sept. 11 he vowed that he would do whatever is necessary to prevent another attack?

And, yet tonight, he called illegal immigration a matter of national security, I would assume that he was alluding to the possibility that terrorists could come across our borders, and yet, his vow to do whatever is necessary to prevent another attack, apparently didn't extend to border security until tonight.

So, the question is, why does "the vow" only apply to programs of dubious constitutional legality whereas it doesn't appear to apply to concrete security issues such as port security or illegal immigration?

(And, by the way, it appears the administration has in fact changed the subject for a few days.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Odd doings around the Presidential speech

A friend of mine works in TV, and he told me that the manner in which this TV time was obtained on Friday for the President's speech tonight was unusual. The usual process on something like this, going back an administration or two, is that the White House tells the networks that the President will be speaking and then they pick it up of their own accord.

This time around, my friend made a very distinct point about this, the White House told the networks, "we're going to require 30 minutes of airtime on Monday night.(paraphrase, but it catches the tone.)"

A slight difference, probably the result of the disaster that is Tony Snow and new Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, but interesting nonetheless.

UPDATE: Predelivery excerpts of Bush's speech here. It doesn't overwhelm me. Maybe it's the delivery.

Take a look at this

It appears that in their efforts to investigate leaks, the federal government has been tracking calls made by ABCNews as well as the NYTimes and WaPo. (From ABCNews blog, The Blotter.)

A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

Are they breaking into Ellsberg's phsychiatrist's office, yet?

(Brian Ross, ABC's lead investigative reporter whose name is on the byline for this is scheduled to be on Ed Schultz's show this afternoon.)

Another Data point on Rove

Earlier, I reported a rumor here that Rove's appearance at the AEI this morning had been cancelled, that is not true. CNN is broadcasting a clip of him right now. (Question, why was the Rove speech taped for broadcast on CNN when it was supposed to be a closed door strategy meeting? Somebody in Rove's camp wanted it very publicly known that he did appear at the AEI. Just interesting.)

ALSO: Talk Left has spoken with Corallo, Rove's defense's spokesman, and got a first hand account of his denial of the Leopold story. Worth a read if you're tracking it. This doesn't really change the question of who is lying, but it has shaken my faith a bit. So, if it is a lie by the defense, it is having the desired effect.

One question, in the middle of one of the biggest cases of his life, Robert Luskin took Friday off, a day when his client might be indicted, to care for his sick cat?

So, my point, I guess, is that the Rove team is pushing back against this story now. I don't know if it's a real effort to kill false rumors, or part of a larger lie to put off the news. I just don't know anymore.

UPDATE: Bradblog comes down on Leopold's side, "we've received various communications from both respected insiders and respected reporters who have told us in no uncertain terms that it's a done deal." Although it must be noted that these communications are coming second hand.

I think this indicates a CULTURE of corruption

I mean, Sweet Jesus.....
Federal prosecutors working the Cunningham case have requested so much information from Congress, three committees might have to "shut down" to comply, Roll Call's John Bresnahan reports.

U.S. Attorneys want boxloads of documents from the House Armed Services, Intelligence, and Appropriations committees, Bresnahan writes. They also want to interview at least nine current or former staffers.

It's clear from the requests that "the corruption probe that began with Cunningham has now clearly moved beyond the actions taken by the imprisoned former lawmaker to other Members," sources tell Roll Call, which notes recent stories naming Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), appropriations committee chairman, as another target of the feds.

Did you know?

Deep inside a puff piece on Tony Snow....
During Bill Clinton's second term, Snow played a minor role in the Monica Lewinsky uproar. He had become friendly with Linda Tripp when they both worked in the Bush White House, and introduced her to New York literary agent Lucianne Goldberg, who suggested that Tripp start taping her conversations with her friend Lewinsky.

Picture of the Day - 2

In the wake of Bush's call for National Guard troops on the southern border, Dick Cheney finally decides to enter the military so that he can hunt "The Most Dangerous Game."

Am I crazy in seeing similarities between Cheney and Count Zaroff?

or, "That old man just wasn't quick enough to be much sport. I just can't wait to head back to that South Texas ranch."

A bit on immigration

I wrote a rather lengthy piece on immigration, it's politics, and tonight's speech(it's here.) I think it's a really good post going into the roots of the problem, the politics of the current situation, the faultlines between both big business and the Republican grassroots, and the differing electoral strategies of the House and Senate members. But, I decided to back archive it, because nothing I wrote is more scything than this from Atrios.

I know what they're thinking at the White House. We can have a lovely little "fake war" at the border, one with all the cool uniforms, hummers, helicopters, etc... A war which is entirely safe. A war where there isn't really an enemy. And the president can safely visit that war, prance around in his codpiece, yell things out a bullhorn while sitting astride a massive hummer.

Ridiculous, but that's probably the plan.



Several Iraq stories in the news today. This first one from a WaPo article about the Iraqi police and their role in the death squads, I find the most troubling.
the U.S. Army units have quietly moved back into some neighborhoods that U.S. commanders had just turned over, with fanfare, to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi leaders asked for the return of the American troops into parts of central Baghdad in March, fearing that efforts to build a stable government would fall apart if they were unable to rein in the Shiite-Sunni killings,....

(Also, has anyone else noticed the fairly sudden recent appearance of stories about wounded US troops? The first piece I saw was a CNN package on a field hospital last week, but, fairly suddenly, both the pictures and news descriptions seem to have started including pictures of wounded US troops and lightly graphic pictures of the Iraqi dead. The film Baghdad ER is coming soon.)

Insurgents shot down another US helicopter, 2 aboard, and also, a British base in the "relatively peaceful" southern Shia part of the country took thirty to forty mortar rounds last night.

2,443 US soldiers have died in Iraq thus far.

Life imitates art?

Kevin Drum notices:
The current season of 24 revolves around a president of the United States who aids and abets a terrorist plot so that it will scare the hell out of everyone and provide him with an excuse to launch massive retaliatory actions. (As if the previous four seasons haven't done that job already.)

In V for Vendetta, a British politician aids and abets a terrorist plot so that it will scare the hell out of everyone and provide him with an excuse to launch a fascist dictatorship.

In Mission Impossible 3, the story revolves around a high-ranking intelligence officer who aids and abets a terrorist plot so that it will scare the hell out of everyone and provide him with an excuse to launch ever bigger and badder counterattacks.

Picture of the Day

I will get back to more normal posting tomorrow. The weekend traffic is irregular and light, so I wanted to be sure everyone who came by saw the Rove story.

(Thank Cookie Christine for the picture.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Leopold Report wrong?

Byron York of the definitely pro-administration National Review spoke with Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Rove's defense who said,
Did Patrick Fitzgerald come to Patton Boggs for 15 hours Friday?
Did he come to Patton Boggs for any period of time Friday?
Did he meet anywhere else with Karl Rove's representatives?
Did he communicate in any way with Karl Rove's representatives?
Did he inform Rove or Rove's representatives that Rove had been indicted?

So, either Corallo's lying or Leopold's sources were. I think we'll know which soon.

The question I guess would be, who would benefit by lying on either side. If the story is true, how much benefit does Rove's side gain in delaying the announcement 24 hours until after the President's speech? Would they be going back on Monday attempting to reopen plea negotiations? An effort to try to release the story on their terms? (As far as I can think, there is no punishment for Rove's defense team if they are lying. What, they're going to lose credibility?)

And on the other side, why would the sources lie to Leopold? Maybe to set up a situation where the administration can go after irresponsible reporting as an effort to spin this thing as political or the Rove indictment as not a big deal to the base? If you were going to pull a media operation, wouldn't you go bigger than Leopold at truthout? I mean, if Rove wasn't indicted, why would you want a false story out there that he was?

Maybe it was some rogue group working against Rove or the White House? Leopold's sourcing for the Patton Boggs meeting is "high level sources with direct knowledge of the meeting," so it's possible. But again, if you were trying to run a media operation, why do it in such a relatively small place?

Looking at it briefly, it looks to me like the Rove defense team and administration has more to lie for, but as we don't know the all details that's just pure supposition.

I wish I had solid answers for you, but I don't. Just have to wait a couple of days I guess.

UPDATE: TalkLeft spoke with Leopold who stands by his story. Also, Larry Johnson repeated that Joe Wilson had received very similar information. I gave a short version of my interpretation in the comments for now. Short version, Corallo/Rove's side is lying, seeking out two extremely friendly journalists to get their side out. More later, I'm sure. (Thanks to Reality Based Educator for the pointer, obviously the earlier bird. If you're tracking the arcania of all this, that blog is a pretty good one to watch.)

What these Corallo denials also mean though, is that if Leopold's story is true, it's going to take a lot of heavy sourcing for anyone else to go to print supporting his version. Effectively, this denial by Rove's team just seriously raised the bar on this story, making it more unlikely, I think, that we will get a second news source confirmation.

Leopold interviewed on KPFK this morning

(If you haven't read the previous post on last night's Jason Leopold article, read it first.

KARL ROVE HAS BEEN INDICTED. Then, this post will make alot more sense.)

Jason Leopold was interviewed this morning on a radio show called "Background Briefings" with Ian Masters. (Pacifica KPFK) If anybody sees a recording on the web, PLEEAAASSEEE let me know.

Here's a summary from a couple comments by xyz at Firedoglake. (I have no idea as to the veracity of this summary, but, at this point, it's what we have. The typos were in the original.)

Okay I just listened to the Jason Leopold interview. Missed the beginning. Here are my chronological notes: leopold got serious level of level of detail.

fitz arrived at paton boggs (luskin’s law firm) at 11:30 on friday, spent many hours there rove was at the law firm also, with secret security spent many hours on a plea agreement that ultimately was rejected [leopold doesn’t say who rejected] at the end of the negotiations, fitz handed indictment papers to luskin fitz said at that time that rove had 24 business hours to get his affairs in order leopold states that he feels very confident about this information.

he states that a source that burns him will no longer be anonymous. asked about mainstream media, leopold says he isn’t sure why they aren’t reporting this, offers a few thoughts on this. also points out how ny times has failed, sat on the nsa story, etc. more notes to follow momentarily…

leopold’s confidence in this story is based on the level of detail that he has received about the paton boggs meeting, which he describes as “just too real” leopold notes that rove’s speech is off the aei website, but leopold has not confirmed anything with the aei. leopold states that he is an agressive reporter, but he would never get in front of a story this big without thinking and fact checking. leopold notes that his sources are aware that he would no longer be obligated to keep their identity secret if they led him astray. when leopold speaks with people at the white house, the tone is that they are loyal to rove, but ready to get rid of the cloud that he has brought over the administration.

(He's gonna out the sources if they lied to him. That's awesome.)

leopold stated that the announcement that bolton would be shaking up the wh staff came after he had been informed by rove that he was meeting with the gj for a fifth time.

leopold doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of a sealed indictment, as he states that he believes that the indictment that fitz gave to luskin was “sealed” because it was not yet made public, at which point it would be unsealed. this is not my understanding of the definition of “sealed”, so leopold loses some credibility here although he acknowledges that he is not a lawyer and seems confused about this point.

leopold believes the indictment will be made public any time this week, after monday, which is the expiration of the 24 business hours. does believe that it will be this week and not later. [so announcement will be made any time from Tues through Fri - we will hear somethign this week]

leopold stated that luskin, not fitz, was the one who requested the fifth gj appearance. [i’m not sure that we knew this yet here at fdl - although not sure whether i trust leopold on the legal stuff very much]

leopold closed by stating that he and truthout fully understand the significance of this story. this is not a story that he and truthout would go with if they were “not confident that the details were bulletproof” [he literally said “bulletproof”]

Again, this is a summary from someone I've never met or heard of, so take it for what it is. Also, the "24 hours to get his affairs in order" are apparently a business day, so maybe Monday, but probably Tuesday or later for an announcement.

Basically, it sounds like Fitzgerald gave him Monday to arrange bail/bond money and make whatever political moves he thinks are necessary(resign.)

UPDATE: William Rivers Pitt, the host at truthout.org where Jason Leopold publishes, puts forth a similar explanation of the 24 hours at Democratic Underground, and states very plainly that the announcement will probably be Tuesday. (Big credit to Reality-Based Educator for pointing me there.)

Also, I've been digging through comments at the few sites that are talking about this, and there seems to be great confusion over whether the 24 hours refers to one business day or three. I feel pretty sure that it's one day, which means an announcement late Monday/probably Tuesday because if you were going to give three days you probably wouldn't use the awkard "24 business hours," you would more likely say "3 business days." So, my bet is an announcement Tuesday.

Bush had better give one hell of a speech Monday night!

Picture of the Day

Are his bags already packed?

"Tell Rove that he has 24 hours to get his affairs in order."

Luskin denies Rove indictment

I don't know if this counts as a formal statement, but to a blogger, who it sounds like annoyed the hell out of him, Rove's defense attorney flatly denied Jason Leopold's reporting, although it's unclear whether Luskin even knew of the latest reporting to comment on it.

So, I don't know. It may be a development, it may not. Read it yourself.

In the comments on that post, the author says she has been in constant communication with Jason Leopold and "Yes, he's standing by the story. And yes, I believe him. As to when it will be announced, that's a different story, because of Bush's speech planned for Monday night. They may hold it until Tuesday or even after."

(Here's my post of Jason's original reporting that Karl Rove has already been indicted under seal. I'm going to be covering this all day. Nobody else is picking this story up yet, it must sound as odd to them as it does to me, but following this as closely as I have, Jason Leopold has not had one major detail proved wrong in his reporting since I've been following him specifically from around the Libby indictment. There are many things as yet unproved, John Hannah's cooperation for instance, but I don't think there has been a major detail that has been proved wrong. If it's wrong, it's wrong, but my guess at this point is that it isn't.)


Several interesting articles today to recommend, but really my main focus today is following the Rove saga after Jason Leopold's story last night that Karl Rove has already been indicted under seal.

According to the WaPo, Mary McCarthy, the CIA Inspector General who was fired very recently for talking with Dana Priest, "had been probing allegations of criminal mistreatment by the CIA and its contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan -- was startled to hear what she considered an outright falsehood, according to people familiar with her account." (It must be said that this story is very friendly to her and appears to have come out of her camp.)

The WaPo also has an interesting piece discussing Iraq war vets experiences reintegrating when they come home.

And the Isikoff story on the release by Fitzgerald of hand written notes on Cheney's copy of Joe Wilson's editorial seems to be getting alot of play, but quite frankly, I think that pales next to the possibility that Fitzgerald might have revealed a CIA officer warning Libby and maybe Cheney against outing Valerie Plame. That would mean they knew she was covert and intentionally outed her anyway, breaking the law.

My main focus today, though, will be watching for reports and details that might confirm Karl Rove's reported indictment.