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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Iraq is going so well that they're rushing more troops in.
A US Army combat aviation brigade with more than 2,600 troops will be deployed to Iraq 45 days ahead of schedule, expanding a surge of US forces to nearly 30,000 troops, the army said Friday.

And, if you didn't see it, check out this "escape" from a British detention center.
Ten detainees in a British military detention center in Basra carried out an audacious escape plan over the past several days: they switched places with visitors.

I guess we're going to have to reclassify A Tale of Two Cities.

Iglesias firing was political: The NYTimes has details.

New Mexico Republicans didn't do the White House any favors in this NYTimes article. In "justifying their anger," they make it very clear that their complaints against Iglesias were only political.

There's too much there to excerpt, but if you're following this story, it rips into the heart of the White House and DOJ denials. It has names, details, sequence.... A must read.

Picture of the Day - 3

(A woman sits beside her baby who became ill after a suicide bombing attack involving toxic chlorine gas in Falluja, March 17, 2007. (Mohanned Faisal/Reuters))

Three suicide bombers driving chlorine-laden trucks struck in the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Anbar province, killing two policemen and forcing about 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops to seek treatment for exposure to the gas, the military said.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Click it to make it bigger.)

As a less scientific measurement, the Feb. 2003 anti-war protests (over a half million in New York alone) weren't even metioned on the networks. (I finally caught some on CSpan.) Today's much smaller protests are front page news.

Another Bush cronism scandal in New Orleans?

First there was this revelation a couple days ago,
Massive flood-control pumps put in place in time to protect New Orleans at the start of the 2006 hurricane season might not have been able to do the job.

Now, come to find out, the CEO of the company that supplied the dodgy pumps, David Eller, just happened to have a joint business with Jeb Bush from 1989-1993. This business, Bush-El was a marketing firm which acted as middleman supplying MWI pumps.

But it doesn't stop there. David Eller is also under investigation by the DOJ for his conduct running MWI during this time period for dubious deals with Nigeria and was shuttling a suitcase and dufflebag of cash out of the country.

(Oh, and the lawyer representing Eller is William R. Scherer Jr, who also just happens to be a Bush "Ranger" and was also an attorney in the 2000 Florida recount. (Led the Broward County recount.))

I'm not saying it's scandal, but it sure smells funny.

Picture of the Day

Iraqi soldiers frisk a resident at a checkpoint in Baghdad March 10, 2007. (Namir Noor-Eldeen/Reuters)

(Something about the demeanor of the searchee reminds me of an African-American being searched by the police in the US.)

Public Integrity posts at DOJ empty for a year?

I don't really know what this means or if it's important, but the fact that two top Public Integrity positions at the DOJ (one of which prosecuted government corruption and Abramoff) were open for more than a year seems important to me.

Especially since they were hurriedly filled after Gonzales came under fire for questions about not prosecuting Republicans.
GONZALES QUIETLY FILLED two long-vacant jobs.

With no public announcement, the attorney general named permanent chiefs last week for the Public Integrity Section, which prosecutes government corruption cases and oversees Abramoff-related investigations, and for the Fraud Section. Bill Welch, deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section, moves up, as does Steve Tyrrell, acting chief of the Fraud Section.

Both posts were vacant for more than a year. A Justice spokesman says the delay was because of interviewing multiple candidates. “It’s not something that can be done overnight,” he says.

Again, maybe nothing, but it set my antennae twitching.


(AP) Winter warmest on record worldwide

(AFP) "Wheat harvested a month early, markets bursting with prematurely ripened produce, animals migrating too soon or not at all -- Europe's warmest winter on record has made nature run amok, experts across the continent have reported."

(WaPo) Antarctic Glaciers' Sloughing Of Ice Has Scientists at a Loss

(LATimes) Arctic could have iceless summers by 2100 (maybe as early as 2040.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

The level of McCain's sellout

I was struck by this ham handed attempt by McCain not to answer a basic question in his efforts to curry to the fringe right.
Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

I mean, holy crap!!! Do we want a man as president who is intentionally ignorant about something that ten year olds know as fact? (I know, we've already got one.)

And, even if you're wingnut enough to support that position, do you want a president who says, "You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception?"

Picture of the Day - 3

A man cries on the coffin of one of two brothers killed in Sunday's car bomb attack. (Kareem Raheem, Reuters)

Heads up, Sadr City

There is nothing really new in this Sadr statement, except in its timing, coming a day after the mayor of Sadr City was "seriously wounded."
A statement from Sadr that was read out at prayers in Sadr City on Friday repeated his longheld opposition to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, and appeared to respond to recent statements by U.S. military officials who have said people in Sadr City were cooperating with them.

"I'm confident that you consider them (U.S. forces) your enemies," said the statement.... "I call upon you all to raise your voices all together and shout with one voice 'No, No, America'."

Certainly, the key is that Sadr is calling for "voices" against the US, however, the need to make this statement tells me that he's feeling pressure from those in the Mahdi that want to go back out on the streets and fight the Americans. In other words, that pressure is building.

(The question is, who tried to kill al-Darruji, the Sadr City mayor who was working with the Americans? Was that someone trying to challenge Sadr's hold on the Mahdi?)

Another fired US Attorney was looking into Republican graft

Bud Cummins, the Arkansas US Attorney, speculates that he might have been fired because he was looking into "allegations that Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt had rewarded GOP supporters with lucrative contracts."

This was in 2006 when Missouri was holding the incredibly tight McCaskill/Talent Senate race.

By no means concrete, but it certainly adds to the "preponderance of the evidence".

How Karl Rove kept his security clearance.

In the Plame hearing today it was revealed that the CIA did indeed view Valerie Plame as covert, therefore her outing was a leak of classified info.

So, why then was there no internal White House investigation into the leaking of classified material (as promised by our president?)
Dr. James Knodell, director of the Office of Security at the White House, told a congressional committee today that he was aware of no internal investigation or report into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.....

Knodell testified that those who had participated in the leaking of classified information were required to attest to this and he was not aware that anyone, including Karl Rove, had done that.....

Rep. Waxman recalled that President Bush had promised a full internal probe. Knodell repeated that no probe took place, as far as he knew, and was not happening today.

If this investigation had gone forward, Karl Rove would've been stripped of security clearance.


Picture of the Day - 2

Protesters and police response in Pakistan. (This is from the lawyers protest. There was also a more violent political protest.)

(And, there are many pictures of Pakistani police beating the protesters.)

(Reuters) "U.S. hails "strong ally" Pakistan, gives new aid."

Musharraf wobbles

Pay attention to Pakistan. Musharraf recently removed (arrested?) their chief judge, but the removal is serving as a focal point for the pent up tensions in the country.

The protests are growing as is the government response.
Witnesses at the scene said that the police used tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges in an attempt to disperse the crowd, and that they arrested numerous opposition leaders. The Pakistani media reported that perhaps dozens of opposition members also had been detained in advance of the rally.

Among those reportedly detained were a former president of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar; Qazi Hussain Ahmad, chief of the Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of Islamic parties; and members of the parties of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.....

The government also made moves to suppress media coverage of the controversy. The regulatory agency that governs broadcasting blocked a television news show hosted by journalist Kamran Khan on the private Geo network Thursday night....

Late in the day, police ransacked Geo TV's Islamabad offices.

(I've seen two speculated reasons for the removal. 1) that Chaudhry was going to strip Musharraf of his military title , and 2) that Chaudhry was looking into "the disappeared" which might lead to uncomfortable revelations about US involvement in renditions.)


(AP) The Sadr City official who was attacked yesterday and had negotiated the US presence there, is called "seriously wounded" by the AP.

(BostonGlobe) "The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade, on top of five already on the way, as part of the controversial "surge."

(Reuters) In an article on the reforming Shia alliance, "We've made a decision to support Maliki to the end," a senior Kurdish official said. "The country cannot afford moves to topple the government, this is sensitive time for us all."

(TribuneBlog) Cordesman issues a new bleak assessment.

Picture of the Day

Iraqis are told to sit back down and the strategic goal of "the surge."

The evidence seems to be that the "surge" plan is to sideline the Iraqi military, or at least stop waiting for them to "stand up."
The report shows that Iraqi military units began assuming greater responsibility for operations in the earlier part of last year. But the trend has reversed. In October, U.S. forces were conducting 8% of the combat operations, while 72% were joint missions. By January, U.S. units were conducting 33% of the operations, and the percentage of joint operations had fallen to 59%.

The tactical goal is clearly to move US forces out of their larger bases into 100 distributed neighborhood bases, but I think the key to understanding the broader strategic goal of "the surge" is the descriptive talking point "breathing space."

The underlying premise seems to be that the Iraqis were simply overwhelmed, and that given a slight lessening of the violence, the Iraqis will be able to regain control militarily and enact political reconciliations.

But that seems premised on the belief that the Iraqi goals are the same as the US goals.

What evidence is there that the Iraqi factional and political leaders want to put a quick peace above their own longer term political struggles?

If, for instance, the Shia are "winning" in the current situation, why would they want to offer the Sunnis anything? If the Sunnis see their attacks as their best option to extort a share of power, how does a US military presence alter that?


Everytime I see this construction, it disturbs me.
Four U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, were killed in a roadside bombing in mainly Shiite eastern Baghdad.

The loss of these four lives is an afterthought, a concurrent event, in the reporting.

Four lives lost. Four families forever shaken. Wives, children, mothers and fathers......


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gonzales is finished

(CBSNews) "More Republicans called for his ouster, and one Republican strategist close to the White House told CBS News that Gonzales is "finished.""

(So, do they resign Al Gonzales tomorrow or look for another whole week of this?)

Picture of the Day - 3

A Secret Service agent stands watch as Vice President Dick Cheney, rear, delivers remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2007 Policy Conference in Washington, Monday, March 12, 2007. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

US Attorneys - Al Gonzales has to be gone

First we have the Murray Waas piece reporting that Al Gonzales convinced President Bush to refuse security clearances shutting down an investigation into NSA spying that would have targeted Alberto Gonzales.

Also, we now have an ABCNews story pointing to Rove discussing firing all 93 attorneys with..... guess who?
New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.

The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers, and was her idea alone.

So, Al Gonzales discussed political firings with Rove before he was AG, and then magically forgot the whole thing.

Oh, and the White House has been caught in lies about Rove's political involvement ("at the epicenter.")

I have a feeling that somewhere Scott McClellan is laughing his ass off.

(According to ABC, the emails could be released as early as released Friday. (I'm guessing Friday afternoon.))

Later: Don't miss Schumer, "“I know, from other sources, that there is an active and avid discussion in the White House whether [Gonzales] should stay or not,” adding that “the odds are very high that he will no longer be the attorney general.”

And, "“One of the reasons everything is getting out here is that there are people, particularly in the Justice Department, who have been so disgusted with what’s happening that information is getting out.”

And, we enter Phase IV, the breakdown phase.
The kicker is phase IV, the breakdown phase. The breakdown phase is where someone from inside the scandal comes forward to tell their tale, punching holes in the carefully crafted partial admissions and setting the wolves on the scandal members.

This person is usually either someone within the scandal facing consequences (usually legal) or someone outside the loyalty ring who sees this moment as an opportunity to twist a knife.

Political bits

(The Hill) Rahm Emanuel warns Dem Congressmen to stay off of Stephen Colbert's show.

(PoliticalWire) George Allen looks at an '08 Senate run for John Warner's seat.

(AP) California moves its primaries to Feb. 5. (So much for small money candidates.)

(Time) I find it hugely ironic that Time magazine rips off the "Crying Indian" motif with a crying Reagan bemoaning the troubles of his polluting anti-environment party.

And, (Politico) Jean Schmidt fell in vomit.

More data on Khalid Sheik Mohammed

ThinkProgress has this post trying to divine whether Khalid Sheik Mohammed was tortured from the testimony. I'll just resolve that issue.

From an ABCNews piece in Nov. 2005.
According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

Picture of the Day - 2

Iraqi girls cry in a hospital in Kirkuk, about 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, beside their one-year-old baby sister who was wounded in a rocket attack March 10, 2007. REUTERS/Slahaldeen Rasheed


(NYTimes) Al Sadr's plan is working. He pulled his people off the street, and now the US is fighting the Sunnis for him.
General Caldwell’s comments — combined with praise for the cooperation of Shiite officials and negotiators for the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr — seemed to suggest that the military was returning to its former strategy of concentrating on Sunni extremists. That would represent a change from American officials’ comments in the past few months that identified Shiite militias as Iraq’s largest threat.

Reading this story about the reduction in certain types of violence in Baghdad (mostly the type that Sadr's people were carrying out,) I find myself wondering just how sustainable this "lull" is.

The underlying problem is still looking unresolved. The Shia are showing little to no interest in sharing power with the Sunni minority. (Take a look at the benchmarks that still aren't being met.) That "balance of power" is the fuel for the Sunni insurgency.

(Reuters) "Three U.S. soldiers died as a result of injuries sustained during combat operations in Diyala province on Wednesday, the U.S. military said. Nine soldiers were wounded." (Not a headline, but an entry in the Factbox.)

(AFP) "One of Iraq's most powerful Shiite leaders, Abdel Aziz Hakim, on Wednesday demanded that the government have a say in security operations being conducted by US forces." (Positioning himself against a "puppet" Maliki?)

And, Two bits from this Asia Times article on the simmering tensions between Turkey, Iran, and the PKK.

A PKK claim of US support for "guerilla operations" in Iran. (Interesting that they've created a splinter group so the US can support operations against Iran but not Turkey.)
The PJAK, which PKK officials said enjoys limited US support, has conducted several guerrilla operations in the predominantly Kurdish areas of western Iran. The fighting has left dozens of casualties on both sides.

And, I don't know the credibility of this, but we're pretty much in "the spring."
PKK leaders are expecting a Turkish military invasion in the spring. They expect the attack to have limited scope in terms of "the time and area of operation".

Later: (AP) "The top official in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City was seriously wounded Thursday when gunmen ambushed his convoy in eastern Baghdad, killing two of his bodyguards, according to police and a local official.

Rahim al-Darraji has been involved in negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi government officials seeking to persuade the Shiite militias.... to pull their fighters off the streets."

Picture of the Day

Women rush to a hospital to look for their relatives who were victims of a recent bomb blast in Baghdad March 11, 2007. Bombs killed 29 people in Baghdad on Sunday, one day after Iraq signalled that world powers and neighbouring countries had agreed it was vital to all to stop sectarian violence spreading in the region. REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

But in six more months, I'm sure they'll hit all the benchmarks

NYTimes - The Bush administration, which issued a series of political goals for the Iraqi government to meet by this month, is now tacitly acknowledging that the goals will take significantly longer to achieve......

A “notional political timeline” that the administration provided to Congress in January had called for most of the objectives to be met by this month. Four of the significant objectives are final approval of an oil law regulating distribution of oil revenues and foreign investment in the oil industry; reversal of the de-Baathification laws that are widely blamed for alienating Sunnis by driving them out of government ministries; the holding of local elections; and reform of Iraq’s Constitution.

The things that get lost

Amidst everything else today, the Pentagon admitted that Iraq is, at least in part, a civil war. blasting a hole in the White House's dogged insistence.

That would've been headline news and debated on all the talk shows a month ago. Now, it's not even on the front page.

Chiquita Banana fined $25 million for supporting "terrorists"

Another lost item today,
Banana company Chiquita Brands International said Wednesday it has agreed to a $25 million fine and admit paying a Colombian terrorist group for protection in a volatile farming region.....

In court documents filed Wednesday, federal prosecutors said the Cincinnati-based company and several unnamed high-ranking corporate officers paid about $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004 to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, known as AUC for its Spanish initials.

Chiquita claims their payments were made for "protection," however the long running Columbian rumors are that the right wing AUC was created and trained by foreign mercenaries paid for by international corporations to protect their interests.

$25 million does seem a stiff fine for a company that claims to have been extorted.

Picture of the Day - 3

George Bush tries to recruit Guatemalan boys to be Dick (Zarof) Cheney's "Most Dangerous Game."

(U.S. President George W. Bush greets young performers dressed as animals after they performed for him during his tour of the Iximche ruins historical site in Guatemala March 12, 2007. REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Does anybody remember Harriet Miers' ethics classes?

With the now apparent fact that Harriet Miers was hip deep in the US Attorney firings way back into 2005, I thought it might be time to remind everybody that Harriet Miers was the one responsible for the mandated White House "ethics classes" in late 2005.

Curious little bits on the US Attorneys story

Remember how Arlen Specter claimed he had no idea how the appointment without confirmation section got in the Patriot Act reauthorization under his name?

Well, come to find out, the change had been requested by the DOJ by Brett Tolman who was since been appointed without confirmation as a US Attorney.
As he explained, "I then contacted my very able chief counsel, Michael O'Neill, to find out exactly what had happened. And Mr. O'Neill advised me that the requested change had come from the Department of Justice, that it had been handled by Brett Tolman, who is now the U.S. attorney for Utah, and that the change had been requested by the Department of Justice...

Also: In Froomkin's blog/column, there's this very curious bit about Karl Rove's aid sending one of the emails included in the document dump yesterday from a RNC's GWB43.com email address. (About 2/3 of the way down under the heading GWB43.com)

This would certainly seem to imply RNC politics being mixed with DOJ business. A tiny point, but interesting.

Bush leaves Gonzales to drown on his own

At the press availabilty in Mexico, the US Attorney firings dominated the US press' questions. Bush's answers sounded very tepid towards Gonzales, making a very clear point that Bush had passed on complaints about US attorney's only in general terms.

But it was this carefully crafted distancing phrase that captured my ear.
"But I never brought up a specific case or gave him specific instructions."

This was followed by a big smile similar to that of a small child who just successfully pooped in the toilet trainer.

It's very clear. If the politics are proved, Gonzales is on his own.

Later: (CNN) Gonzales to go to Capitol Hill 'later this week'.

Picture of the Day - 2

U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hugs a woman who was pushed by security personnel as Obama made his way through the crowd following a campaign appearance at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, February 12, 2007. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


(WaPo) Iraq's government tries to expel anti-Iranian terror group MEK, "although U.S. officials say they are in no hurry to change their policy toward the MEK, which has been a prime source of information about Iran's nuclear program." (This is very interesting as the US has been more or less allowing MEK safe haven. Perhaps a sign of Iranian over US influence?)

(LATimes) In the face of continued bombings, the Shia are clamoring for the Mahdi army to return to the streets.

(IHT) Maliki is warning he will be "ousted" by the US if the government doesn't pass an oil law by June 30. (He's holding himself hostage?)

(NYTimes) "The Army’s inspector general reports that more than nine out of 10 disabled veterans have been kept waiting for benefit evaluations beyond the 40-day limit set by the Pentagon. Some have waited up to a year and a half for benefits."

(CBS) "Three out of four — 76 percent of — Americans do not think the Bush administration has done enough to care for these veterans. A majority of Republicans agree with all Americans overall on this issue."

US rumblings about ousting Musharraf (Even as a rumor this is big)

I can't find the NYTimes piece this article is referencing, but if this is being put out there, it's huge.
THE US has indicated for the first time that it might be willing to back plans by elite echelons of the military in Islamabad to oust Pervez Musharraf from power, as the Pakistani President was beset by major new difficulties over his attempts to sack the country's chief justice.

Reports yesterday quoting highly placed US diplomatic and intelligence officials - previously rusted on to the view that General Musharraf was an indispensable Western ally in the battle against terrorism - outlined a succession plan to replace him.

Also: The opposition in Pakistan is beginning to unify around the recently fired (and arrested?) Pakistani Chief Justice. (The reason for the firing appears to be his efforts to force the government to account for those who "disappeared" while in state custody.)

I would wager the "oust Musharraf" talk is just pressure, but the "Orange Revolution" and "Cedar Revolution" were built on less.

(How are those going, by the way?)

Picture of the Day

People injured in an attack lay in a hospital in Kirkuk, Saturday, March 10, 2007. A rocket hit an open market in central Kirkuk Saturday afternoon, killing two persons and injuring another 35. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Smoking guns on the US attorneys?

Take a close look at this Seattle Times/McClatchy piece and the associated ThinkProgress post which seems to fairly clearly point to Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and the then Washington State GOP chairman blowing out the Seattle US Attorney for not pursuing a voter fraud case that had already been researched and cleared by his office and the FBI.

Also: Josh Marshall has another McClatchy piece,
In an e-mail dated May 11, 2006, Sampson urged the White House counsel's office to call him regarding "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam," who then the U.S. attorney for southern California. Earlier that morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Lam's corruption investigation of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., had expanded to include another California Republican, Rep Jerry Lewis.

Still not dead on concrete, but the timing certainly suggests that Lam was being blown out because her prosecutions of Republican corruption were about to reach a new level.

Later: TPM has a timeline around this email.

Also, I don't think it should be underestimated that my state's shame, Sen. John Cornyn (R - Crazyland,) is not jumping to Alberto Gonzales' defense. He was the Texas AG tied deeply into the Bush machine with Al Gonzales.
"I have known the attorney general for a long time as a personal matter, and I'm concerned," he said. "But I know the person, and I'm willing to give him an opportunity to come forward and explain himself. I will have to agree with Senator Leahy that the appearances are troubling. .....

Mr. Cornyn, R-Texas, said he has advised Mr. Gonzales to create a buffer between his office and the White House. "There's a perception that the White House is calling the shots," Mr. Cornyn said.

"It's the lack of separation between the White House and the Department of Justice that's created this problem."

It sounds to me like this very inside insider is urging Gonzales to take the fall to coverup the White House connection.

(It sounds like that's the growing administration insider position.)

These are Americans

Please, NYTimes, you may start off with the minimizing, "a small band of critics....," but the AP has the truth.
House Republicans said Monday that Democrats should retract an offer to let the nation's largest Islamic civil liberties organization use a Capitol conference room for a seminar.

The House Republican Conference referred to the Council on American-Islamic Relations as "terrorist apologists" and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to cancel the forum scheduled for Tuesday.

These are American citizens we're talking about here. These are American citizens that the Republican leadership is willing to stir discrimination against for political gain.

I guess it's no different than the recurring discrimination against gays or hispanics, but something about this just particularly rubs the wrong way.

Maybe it's the fact that this press release was issued in the name of all House Republicans, yet in neither the AP story or the NYTimes story is there a single Republican willing to go on record with the charges.

Picture of the Day - 4

Reporters today scrambling to get copies of newly released White House e-mail messages about the firings. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

(Worth Reading: Dana Milbank on the moments around this picture. (About halfway down, starts with Conyers.))

Political bits

CNN has a video bit highlighting how the major Republican candidates are being caught up by old videos of themselves on youtube.

(Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't Youtube, but instead, you know, the fact that McCain, Romney, and Giuliani have completely reversed themselves and their positions in an effort to kowtow to the crazy right that now runs their party. Maybe? Maybe?)

(WaPo) The Minutemen border group "is embroiled in a nasty legal fight over accusations of financial improprieties" by its founder. (Why do all these major right wing groups collapse under a corrupt founder? Promisekeepers, Moral Majority....)

Sen. Tim Johnson's website has pictures from his recovery.

(Politico) 39 Republican House members vote with the Democrats more than 60% of the time.

(CNN) "Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the alleged "Washington Madam," has reached an agreement with a media organization to turn over company records from her now-defunct escort service, her civil defense attorney said Tuesday." (No word on which "media organization," but that may matter. Imagine if Drudge bought it.)

And, (CNN) Dennis Miller endorses Giuliani. (Are you surprised? I don't think there was anyone in America who became more unhinged by 9-11 than Dennis Miller, so an endorsement for Giuliani seems a natural. (and what's Dennis Miller really worth these days?))

Picture of the Day - 3

So, how was your trip, sir?

(U.S. President George W. Bush waves as he makes his way towards Air Force One before leaving Guatemala City, Monday March 12, 2007. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini))

Spooky little flashback on the now resigned Kyle Sampson

I knew I remembered the name Kyle Sampson from somewhere.
Speaking of Karl Rove , there had been much concern last week that he also might have to resign as a result of Fitzgerald's probe. The loss of Karl's familiar presence -- he's the last of the original "Iron Triangle" of Bush's Texas advisers still in the White House -- would have unsettled many younger aides.

Fortunately, there's a ready replacement: D. Kyle Sampson , chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and formerly in the White House counsel's office. Maybe not exactly the same as Karl but . . . (Al Kamen's In the Loop, Oct 31. 2005)

This isn't my specific recall, but I think it clearly shows that Kyle Sampson is a little more than the random apolitical Justice Department flunky the administration is spinning.

I think it also implies a rather strong likely connection between Sampson and Rove.

Later: Big ups to me, I got credited on Talking Points.

The Gonzales press conference

I didn't catch it in full, but it sure sounds like Sampson is supposed to be the scapegoat/firewall.

I think the very existence of this press conference bodes ill for Gonzales' future. Several times in this administration, embattled figures have been given a last chance press conference to try to clear things up right before they were cast off.

If this doesn't quiet the waters, which doesn't seem likely, Abu Al may soon be gone.

Picture of the Day - 2

Jesus Bocanegra, a US army veteran diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, drinks water in 2006 to wash down one of four anti-depression and anxiety drugs he takes in McAllen, Texas. (AFP/Getty Images/Chris Hondros)

(Reuters) - Almost one-third of U.S. soldiers seeking government health care after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with a mental problem....

US Attorneys story goes front page and onto Bush's desk

The "surging" case around the US Attorney firings has now reached the President's desk.
Last October, President Bush spoke with Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to pass along concerns by Republicans that some prosecutors were not aggressively addressing voter fraud, the White House said Monday. Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, was among the politicians who complained directly to the president, according to an administration official.

Looking at who the complaints came from and how they passed through the White House, it is clear that the "firing offense" was not prosecuting cases that would aide Republican election efforts.

Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' top aide on these firings (who resigned over all this yetserday,) phrased their firing offenses this way in a memo to Harriet Miers in 2005.
Sampson sent an e-mail to Miers in March 2005 that ranked all 93 U.S. attorneys. Strong performers "exhibited loyalty" to the administration; low performers were "weak U.S. attorneys who have been ineffectual managers and prosecutors, chafed against Administration initiatives, etc."

Also, take a look at the mechanics of of a coverup/firewall. Sampson is taking the fall in an attempt to protect Gonzales and the rest of the administration from perjury before Congress.
The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.

And, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino isn't beyond shaping the language to protect her boss,
Perino also acknowledged Monday that complaints about the job performance of prosecutors occasionally came to the White House and were passed on to the Justice Department, perhaps including some informally from President Bush to Gonzales.

Or maybe a better example,
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that "it doesn't appear the president was told about a list nor shown a list" of U.S. attorneys at any point in the discussions.

We're now deep into phase II of the scandal, the "partial admission" phase and beginning to see phase III, the appointment and resignation of scapegoats.

Many scandals die right here. The kicker is phase IV, the breakdown phase. The breakdown phase is where someone from inside the scandal comes forward to tell their tale, punching holes in the carefully crafted partial admissions and setting the wolves on the scandal members.

This person is usually either someone within the scandal facing consequences (usually legal) or someone outside the loyalty ring who sees this moment as an opportunity to twist a knife.

One of the few "successes" of this administration is that their crazed belief in loyalty has cut off innumerable scandals at this point. Really, would Harriet Miers or Alberto Gonzales turn on Bush any more than Libby turned on Cheney?

(BTW, I'm waiting for the Republican talking point that all these "distractions" on the White House are helping the terrorists and undermining the "war on terror?")

Also: Does anyone else find it a little sad that after torture, renditions, secret prisons, wiretapping, databasing, phone records, and all the rest came off the desk of Alberto Gonzales, this may be the scandal that reaches him?

Picture of the Day

President George W. Bush, left, greets workers during his visit the Labradores Mayas Packing Station in the village of Chirijuyu Tecpan, Guatemala, Monday, March 12, 2007. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm sure the way out is over here.......

Often in horror movies, there's a point where the endangered group being chased by some threat comes to a split point.

Two groups are formed: One led by our level headed hero and his love interest, the other by a cocky prick and the slutty girl.

In the end, our hero and his girlfriend make it through, often coming across survivors (or remains) of the second group to reinforce the morality play.

Reading this NYTimes piece on the fractures within the Republican party, it sounds like the smart ones are very few, and those following the cocky prick are very many.
Even as Republicans said they supported Mr. Bush’s performance, they showed divisions over the party’s ideological makeup; 39 percent of Republican voters said they wanted the next Republican presidential nominee to continue with Mr. Bush’s policies; 19 percent said they wanted the next president to become less conservative, and 39 percent more conservative.

They don't get it. The bloodbath will continue.

Picture of the Day - 3

People grieve in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Monday, March 12, 2007, during a funeral procession of victims of Sunday's suicide car bomb attack. A suicide car bomber barreled into a flatbed truck packed with Shiite pilgrims on their way back from Karbala Sunday, killing at least 32 people, police said. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)

Dick Cheney is a lying sonofabitch

Dick Cheney once again today claimed that any discussion that contradicts the Bush "plan" for Iraq is a validation of Al Qaeda's strategy.

Listen, Dick, here's Al Qaeda's strategy.

Al Qaeda's strategy was to sucker the all powerful United States into an occupation/guerilla war which it could never win. Their sole intention was to draw the US into the exact same type of conflict that broke the Russians in Afghanistan and in the process increase their influence and image.

And you fell right into it, you stupid son of a bitch. You chose to fight the battle of Al Qaeda's chosing and we have been behind ever since.

After 9-11, the majority of the world, even the majority of the Muslim world stood with the United States. We had friends, we had influence, we had assistance, and the moral right, but you decided to take advantage of the American trauma to launch your war of choice in Iraq, and in the process you wasted all of that goodwill, all of that willingness towards America.

You followed this up by implementing policies of torture and rendition, the "disappearing" of Muslims around the world. In America Muslims were required to register themselves and you brought into the White House people who spoke of a "war of civilizations" and the nobility of the crusades.

And from the invasion, the torture, the destruction of Fallujah, and the embracing of near racist hate mongers, you have turned the Muslim world against us.

According to your own intel services, Al Qaeda is thriving in its recruitment. Terror attacks are up across the globe. Your choices have elevated Al Qaeda and its leadership from a dangerous and violent fringe group into a very real broad movement.

That was the Al Qaeda strategy, to use the United States as a unifying enemy through which they could reach across the entire Muslim world.

And you fell right into it.

You chose all of this. You brought us here.

So, don't lecture me about what's right and what's best. You have made mistake after mistake, and told lie after lie. We are here because of you.

So shut the fuck up.

(Later: Sorry for the rant. I try very hard, but sometimes it comes out. On the plus side, it appears I am not alone in my opinion.
JTA reports his message, adding, "His message was not received enthusiastically: Only about one-third to one-half of the audience in the cavernous Washington Convention Center hall applauded politely."

Let's remember, this only one-third to one-half politely applauding was at the AIPAC policy conference.)

Picture of the Day - 3

A pilgrim holds a Shi'ite flag at the site of a car bomb attack which targeted pilgrims in Baghdad March 11, 2007. REUTERS/Ali Jasim


(Salon) "The Army is ordering injured troops to go to Iraq"

(LATimes) The Shia government "puts off indefinitely" provincial elections. (Many provincial councils overrepresent Shia because the Sunnis boycotted the election. One of the benchmarks in reconciliation was supposed to be a rerun of these provincial elections.)

(NYTimes) In New Tactic, Militants Burn Houses in Iraq

(Honolulu Advertiser) More deployment extensions likely.

And, if you've got a minute, Check this out. It's an Iraqi TV ad for the Iraqi Police. Your tax dollars at work.

Pullout plans for Iraq or an internal Pentagon battle?

About a week ago there was a big and widely discussed WaPo article stating that there was no "Plan B" if "the surge" failed.

Well, the LATimes has a piece today discussing one of the "Plan B's."
American military planners have begun plotting a fallback strategy for Iraq that includes a gradual withdrawal of forces and a renewed emphasis on training Iraqi fighters in case the current troop buildup fails or is derailed by Congress.

Such a strategy, based in part on the U.S. experience in El Salvador in the 1980s, is still in the early planning stages and would be adjusted to fit the outcome of the current surge in troop levels, according to military officials and Pentagon consultants who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing future plans.

From the article it seems apparent that this leak has been given by a faction in the Pentagon which disapproves of "the surge" and "back(s) the position of Gen. John P. Abizaid....who favored handing responsibility more quickly to Iraqis."

It would seem to me that this is a minority leaking their ideas seeking political help for their side of the argument, but if that's their purpose, the timing's curious. It seems timed to the US political debate rather than a dramatic setback in the current policy.

And, the counter argument is interesting,
Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations argued that the El Salvador model would not work in Iraq. El Salvador was a fight against a Marxist insurgency, he pointed out. Because Iraq is a civil war between Shiite and Sunni Arabs, Bush administration plans built around training the Shiite-dominated government forces are bound to fail, he said.

I hate to admit it, but that actually makes alot of sense. The only way we do the "Salvador option" is to pick the majority side and turn the Shia loose.


AP - Second to last paragraph in an article on Iraq.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported three soldiers killed Sunday.

Picture of the Day - 2

Demonstrators burn a US flag during an anti-Bush protest in Bogota, 11 March 2007. Bush visited Colombia Sunday in a show of support for the conflict-torn US ally, as violent protests continued to mark his goodwill tour of Latin America.(AFP/Rodrigo Arangua)

(AP) Bush to push U.S. compassion in Guatemala.

Rove admits more

Last night, I did a large post on Rove's "partial admission" regarding the US attorneys. Well, lookee, lookee what we've got today. (This is an updated version of yesterday's article.)
Perino offered Rove's account of his dealings with the Justice Department after talking with him by telephone. She said Rove routinely passed along complaints about various U.S. attorneys to the Justice Department and then-White House counsel Miers.

Among the complaints that Rove relayed were concerns among Republican Party officials in various jurisdictions that the Justice Department was not being aggressive in pursuing allegations of election fraud by Democrats. Such allegations by Republicans were a particular concern in New Mexico and Washington.

Rove acknowledged that he personally complained to Miers that "voter fraud cases were not being treated as a priority" by the Justice Department, Perino said. He also passed along complaints about Iglesias that he had heard going back as far as 2004.

In addition to the voter fraud issue, some New Mexico Republicans were angry that Iglesias refused to speed up his corruption investigation of several Democratic state officials. At the time, party leaders were looking for any advantage they could get that might help them retain control of Congress.

Understand, this is Rove's version of what he did (passed through a spokesman so he wouldn't have to answer questions.)

In Rove's version, he didn't request that they be fired, but he's not denying adding politics to the decision. This version would legally clear Rove, but definitely throw the decision maker under the bus.

(Are they going to try to pin all this on Harriet Miers to save Rove and Gonzales? Would she take it?)

Picture of the Day

(Giuliani at a conference in Riga, Latvia, Nov. 28,2006.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Giuliani's 9-11 story had better stay compelling.

Giuliani on video in 1989,
"There must be public funding for abortions for poor women. We cannot deny any woman the right to make her own decision about abortion because she lacks resources.

I have also stated that I disagree with President Bush's veto last week of public funding for abortion."

I ain't lyin'. Look for yourself.

Rove goes for "partial admission" in US Attorney firings.

Partial admission is a time worn tactic for dealing with scandal. The idea is to admit what can likely be proved without admitting the crime. It is critical in this phase to create a "reasonable doubt" story while not claiming anything that can be later disproven.
The White House acknowledged on Sunday that presidential adviser Karl Rove served as a conduit for complaints about federal prosecutors as House investigators declared their intention to question him about any role he may have played in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Rove relayed complaints from Republican officials and others to the Justice Department and the White House counsel's office. She said Rove, the chief White House political operative, specifically recalled passing along complaints about former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and may have mentioned the grumblings about Iglesias to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

(Notice the way Rove brings in Alberto Gonzales (admit what can be proved,) but still allows distance between himself and the wrongdoing ("may have mentioned the grumblings to".))

As I pointed out last night,
In the grand scheme of the breakdown of a coverup, we're at the point where secondary characters begin to tell their stories for self protection, ("I only did this, but he did THAT,") and just beginning the section where primary characters offer partial revelations of truth in a desperate attempt to make it go away. ("What I did was unethical, but not illegal")

These things break open when someone from Group A, in an effort at exculpation, throws a member of Group B under the bus.

The one thing I would add is that Karl Rove is not a standard Group B. As he is so powerful, whoever "throws him under the bus" will have to make damn sure he's dead.

Picture of the Day - 3

"I wanted to put one of them "singing fish" right over there, but they wouldn't let me."

(President Bush gives a tour of the White House in Washington, Feb. 28, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))

Funny things on the internet (slow news day)

This collection of FoxNews screengrabs is pretty funny.

And, don't miss George, Condi, and Laura trying to dance with the Brazilian kids. (For someone who supposedly sold weed in college, Laura Bush is so uncool.)

Historical Amnesia

In all the barrels of ink that have been poured about the current US-Iran contretemps, how many times have you seen it mentioned that the US funded and armed Saddam Hussein in his invasion and 8 year war with Iran?

That the US supplied ingredients and technology for chemical weapons used against Iranian soldiers?

That war was only 20-25 years ago and killed an estimated 1 million Iranians. That policy was promoted and carried out by many of the same officials in this current US administration.

(Even today, the US is still providing safe haven in Iraq for the anti-Iranian terror group MEK as well as Kurdish separatist groups.)

So, you can see why they might be resistant to this administration's intentions and influence in Iraq.

I just think this is important as part of the broader context of the current situation, and yet it goes largely unmentioned.

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi boy lays in a bed in a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007, after he was injured in a car bomb attack. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)