Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Steve Martin Defense

WASHINGTON - The lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide is outlining a possible criminal defense that is a time-honored tradition in Washington scandals: A busy official immersed in important duties cannot reasonably be expected to remember details of long-ago conversations.
So he's going to raise the Steve Martin defense:
You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. "Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?" First.. get a million dollars. Now.. you say, "Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, 'You.. have never paid taxes'?" Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: "I forgot!" How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don't say "I forgot"? Let's say you're on trial for armed robbery. You say to the judge, "I forgot armed robbery was illegal." Let's suppose he says back to you, "You have committed a foul crime. you have stolen hundreds and thousands of dollars from people at random, and you say, 'I forgot'?" Two simple words: Excuuuuuse me!!"

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Novel Advertising

HEALTH CARE -- PhRMA COMES UP WITH A NEW SCARE TACTIC: For years, PhRMA has lobbied Congress to deny Americans access to discounted prescription drugs from Canada "by warning that terrorists might poison the imports." These efforts weren't enough for PhRMA, which came up with a new idea to scare Americans away from Canada: a fictional thriller novel about "a group of shadowy terrorists conspires to murder thousands of Americans by poisoning the medicine they're importing from Canada to beat U.S. drug prices." A PhRMA marketing executive then became "intimately involved" in monitoring the book's progress, much to the frustration of the publishing company. "She demanded that the terrorists be militant Muslims but that their motivation be greed, not politics. She insisted on lots of 'frilly female stuff...Harlequin Romance stuff,'" said Kenin Spivak, who helped write the book. But in July, PhRMA suddenly informed the writers that the company "didn't like the book and was pulling out. [Spivak said] the group offered them $100,000 if they would agree never to speak ill of PhRMA or the drug industry for the rest of their lives. They refused." Check your bookstores for "The Karasik Conspiracy," which will be out in December.

Fuck the Poor

Blondesense posts this little item, lost in all the hoopla over Libby:
The Senate gave a rousing "Fuck The Poor" to the elderly and disabled by voting to cut Medicare and Medicaid spending over the next 5 years by a measly $10B. If they would quit the war in Iraq, imagine how much could be spent helping our least brethren in this oh so (not) christian country. In typical party politics that have nothing to do with the actual human beings that live in this country, the committee's 11 Republicans supported the legislation. The committee's nine Democrats opposed it.
What she didn't post, but linked to, was this:
In doing so, Democrats cited what they believed was inadequate assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina. In particular, Democrats wanted to temporarily extend Medicaid coverage to thousands of people currently ineligible for the program even though they have lost their jobs and their home.

"Eight weeks ago yesterday, Katrina made landfall. Eight weeks ago today, the levees broke. And eight weeks later, I cannot in good conscience join in cutting health care, when Congress has left the health care needs of Katrina's victims unaddressed," said Sen. Max Baucus (news, bio, voting record) of Montana, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee.

Republicans said they weren't thrilled with the bill, either, mainly because they said it did not go far enough to overhaul Medicaid, the nation's health insurance program for the poor. But they rejected the notion that beneficiaries would get a reduced level of care as a result of the changes they approved.

"We are not cutting health care services to the beneficiaries," said Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa. "We have squeezed some fraud out. We have squeezed providers."
Well, if Dogfucker says it, it must be true, right?*snark*

When will we start seeing famine in our country?

Oh. Right. New Orleans.

Why the Markets Don't Always Seem Logical

The highest ranking US official ever was indicted yesterday.

You'd think that was bad news, coming on the heels of the Harriet Miers withdrawal, the death of the 2,000th soldier in Iraq, and the avian flu pandemic that's about to break.

The markets didn't.
NEW YORK - Stocks rallied sharply Friday, with the Dow gaining 172 points on better-than-expected gross domestic product growth last quarter despite the disruptions caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The major indexes finished an erratic week higher.

The upswing in economic activity for the July-September quarter soothed a market anxious for signs of the economy's health amid fears of a downturn. The GDP figure also overshadowed a drop in consumer confidence and a weak forecast from oil company Chevron Corp.

"It basically drove home the point that the economy was healthy before the hurricanes and indeed may have remained healthy afterward as well," said Doug Porter, a senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, who noted gains in spending and business investment among increases in nearly every GDP component in the Commerce Department's report.
So why?

After all, Fitzgerald has stated he'd continue the investigation, likely Rove will continue to be on the hot seat, negating any real influence he can have in the White House, and so you'd figure the markets might be wary.

Well, the weird thing about markets is, they tend to factor all this in ahead of time.

Smart money yesterday at 1 PM (of which I count myself) bet the market to leap skyward, and sure enough, a 12:59, the markets were languishing, up only a point or so on the Dow. When the indictments were announced, all the uncerainty about the administration was removed (for the immediate term) and investors (the dumb ones) poured back into the market.

Why? Well, look at the GDP numbers! The economy grew by 3.8% (subject to later adjustment, and don't think it won't be) according to the government, exceeding the government's own prediction of 3.6%.

Gee....really bad news week and for some reason, the government gets their economic indicator prediction, um, wrong. What a surprise!

This is why the smart money waited until the Dow ticked over 150 points yesterday (the real gamblers stayed in until it was up in the 170s), and settled their derivatives out. We know the economy didn't grow by 3.8%. It probably didn't even grow by 3.6%.

But the suckers will believe it.

The other funny bit about this week's market moves is the appointment of Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman. The markets hated Alan Greenspan, because he was keeping a tight rein on inflation by keeping a tight rein on interest rates. So what's the first thing the Fed's going to do next week in light of this GDP data?

Raise interest rates another quarter point, as they should. Even at 3.2% (which is my estimate), the 3rd Quarter GDP is still highly inflationary, and the full effects of the spike in oil and gas prices won't be felt until heating season.

People can avoid driving. They can't avoid freezing.

An Unique Honor

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer Sat Oct 29, 1:43 AM ET
WASHINGTON - In death, Rosa Parks is joining a select few, including presidents and war heroes, accorded a public viewing in the Capitol Rotunda. It's the place where, six years ago, President Clinton and congressional leaders lauded the former seamstress for a simple act of defiance that changed the course of race relations.

On Sunday, Parks becomes the first woman to lie in honor in the vast circular room under the Capitol dome.

I haven't said much about this story this week (too focused on celebrating), but the story we were taught back in high school was not the way this deal went down, and when I think about how it went down, and how much more heroic her actions were, it angers me that the truth was hidden.

Rosa Parks was a seamstress, sure. And yes, she was coming home from a long day's work. But she also had been bullied by the same bus driver on the same bus route years earlier, and this time, not only did she refuse to obey an unjust law, but she stood up to the bullies around her.

You have to admire that kind of gumption. Now, I'm sure she felt support from her NAACP brethren helped give her the courage she needed, but she couldn't know whether she'd be shot or lynched on the spot.

Courageous woman. We need more like her.

Uh oh, things are heating up in Gaza again

It amazes me that anyone thought that just by removing the settlements, suddenly Gaza would calm down. My suspicion is Sharon manipulated the situation to show that Palestinians are unable to live peacefully and thus make the forceful case for Israeli oversight.

I say that because it was Sharon, after all, who instigated the whole mess with his armed visit to the Temple Mount.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a suspected rocket launching area in northern Gaza on Saturday, the military said.

It was the third such airstrike Saturday, and came in response to sporadic Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli border areas.

In addition, eight Palestinians have been killed in targeted Israeli missile strikes against suspected militants since Thursday.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Five to the Noggin

The Indictments

Is Science Dead?

I figured that was a nice turn of phrase on the 70s "Is God Dead?" as immortalized in Time Magazine.

All this talk of intelligent design, our shackled stem cell research sector, and other "fear mongering" amongst the so-called Godly has raised hackles, understandably, at our institutes of higher learning.

Is US becoming hostile to science?
Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:09 AM ET

By Alan Elsner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence among scientists, and some senior academics warn that science itself is under assault.

In the past month, the interim president of Cornell University and the dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine have both spoken on this theme, warning in dramatic terms of the long-term consequences.

"Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation," said Stanford's Philip Pizzo in a letter posted on the school Web site on October 3.

Cornell acting President Hunter Rawlings, in his "state of the university" address last week, spoke about the challenge to science represented by "intelligent design" which holds that the theory of evolution accepted by the vast majority of scientists is fatally flawed.

Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. "When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers," he said.
Dogma. Yes.

It amazes me that the religious right in this country doesn't take a clearer look at what has happened in the Islamist states, and realized we are in danger of becoming a bunch of snarling, backwards anachronists. After all, the Arab world was once the beacon of enlightenment and knowledge (as I've said here before), and we ought to know that history repeats itself with regularity.

I believe history is a pendulum, and that when it swings too far in one direction, it swings back as far in the other. Most pendulums eventually stop: friction, gravity, heat loss, and other factors decelerate the pendulum until it finally must rest.

So we're seeing the ground shift and the pendulum start to swing back to a more liberal, intellectual and enlightened society. I fear for what has happened while the emotional, fear-mongering rightists have done while they've had control of the agenda. I fear for the fact that pensions are worthless, social security is near-worthless, and health care is enormously expensive, all while the entire country gets older, and we've squandered both our standing in the world authoritatively and fiscally.

But back to the topic at hand:
In the past five years, the scientific community has often seemed at odds with the Bush administration over issues as diverse as global warming, stem cell research and environmental protection. Prominent scientists have also charged the administration with politicizing science by seeking to shape data to its own needs while ignoring other research.

Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have built a powerful position within the Republican Party and no Republican, including Bush, can afford to ignore their views.

This was dramatically illustrated in the case of Terri Schiavo earlier this year, in which Republicans in Congress passed a law to keep a woman in a persistent vegetative state alive against her husband's wishes, and Bush himself spoke out in favor of "the culture of life."
Yes. Terri Schiavo. A woman who died many years ago, but through the efforts of a hateful, spiteful family, was forced to suffer years of indignities, all because they saw her through a lens that no rational person did.

I grieve their loss, but in truth, they should have, for Terri's sake, grieved it long ago.
Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller believes the rhetoric of the anti-evolution movement has had the effect of driving a wedge between a large proportion of the population who follow fundamentalist Christianity and science.

"It is alienating young people from science. It basically tells them that the scientific community is not to be trusted and you would have to abandon your principles of faith to become a scientist, which is not at all true," he said.
"Alienating young people from science." And those young people are the economic engine of the future. Further, can you imagine what would have happened if this uprising of regressive fascism had happened even a century ago?

No rockets to the moon. No computers. No polio vaccine, or smallpox, or chicken pox or measles. No cell phones. And we'd likely be speaking either German or the Queen's English, since goodness knows, we'd barely be able to change a diaper.

Since it's nearly Halloween, let me put a scare into you:
Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51 percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.

Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

"When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent turn out to be scientifically literate," said Jon Miller, director of the center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.
Go read the article. There's a lot more.
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Write Your Own Caption!

Score One For the Right Wing, Literally

In a week that had mixed results for the Religious Right, what with losing a valuable athlete and role model, Sheryl Swoopes, Mr. Sulu from Star Trek, and having to tussle to get Harriet Miers to withdraw her nomination, comes this tidbit (hat tip to Miss Cellania....where DOES she get those marvelous toys???)...

Gay penguin goes straight
From: From correspondents in New York
September 26, 2005

THE animal kingdom's most famous gay couple has split up. Silo and Roy, the cohabiting penguins of Central Park Zoo, are no longer an item.

The pair rose to prominence six years ago when they came out with their same-sex relationship.

Since then, they have successfully hatched and raised an adoptive chick (after an uncertain start that involved trying to incubate a rock).

They blazed a trail for six other gay penguin couples at the zoo.

But the affair ended when Scrappy, a new female penguin, moved into the neighbourhood and caught Silo's eye.

"Silo and Roy stopped spending as much time together or building a nest," John Rowden, the zoo's head curator, told The New York Post.

Silo promptly moved in with Scrappy, building a new nest with her.

Zookeepers are at a loss to explain Silo's sudden conversion.

I hear Anne Heche has been called in to consult with zoo officials...

Discussion Topic of the Day

"A CONSERVATIVE is a man who is too cowardly to fight and too fat to run." --Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard is an author who has some pretty memorable quotes attributed to him. You might recognize this one:

"Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out of it alive."

Or, perhaps...

"Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped."

(Quotes courtesy of Hat tip to poster JillK. over at Jesus' General. Sorry Jill, your attribution link comes up self-referencing.)

AgitProp Is On The Ball

Cheney & Libby Withheld Intel From Senate
Kept Crucial Documents From Senate Panel Looking into Iraq Intelligence Failures

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Pity Karl Rove

Not only is he about to see the inside of a prison cell and have a brand new husband, but look at this:
Radar magazine yesterday reported on its Web site that Texas political insiders are predicting the demise of the married Rove's "very close relationship" with wealthy forty-something Texas lobbyist Karen Johnson.

"Everyone knows how close Karen is to Karl, but she's sick of it," the mag quotes a source "familiar with the situation," noting that Johnson and Rove didn't return phone calls.

Apparently Johnson's family wants her to marry her handsome ranch foreman, Rhett Hard, who works on Johnson's Cinco de Mayo property in Austin.

But Moore, a veteran Texas political reporter who has known Rove well since the late 1970s, told me that he and co-author Slater have no plans to include Johnson in their new book.

"It's a tough thing for me," Moore said. "Darby, Karl's wife, is a wonderful woman. And they've got a great kid. They just happen to live with an evil man."

By the way, Darby, his wife is two years older than Karl and is a breast cancer survivor.

Where does the Republican party come up with these sleazebags?

It's Official: the 2004 Vote In Ohio Was Inaccurate

Well, my heroes at the GAO have done it again! (Hat tip to Eric Blair's Ghost)

Nearly a year ago, senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) asked the GAO to investigate electronic voting machines as they were used during the November 2, 2004 presidential election. The request came amidst widespread complaints in Ohio and elsewhere that often shocking irregularities defined their performance.

According to CNN, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received "more than 57,000 complaints" following Bush's alleged re-election. Many such concerns were memorialized under oath in a series of sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted in Ohio by the Free Press and other election protection organizations.

The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

Among its findings:
Among other things, the GAO confirms that:

1. Some electronic voting machines "did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, thus making it possible to alter them without detection." In other words, the GAO now confirms that electronic voting machines provided an open door to flip an entire vote count. More than 800,000 votes were cast in Ohio on electronic voting machines, some seven times Bush's official margin of victory.

2. "It is easy to alter a file defining how a ballot appears, making it possible for someone to vote for one candidate and actually be recorded as voting for an entirely different candidate." Numerous sworn statements and affidavits assert that this did happen in Ohio 2004.

3. "Falsifying election results without leaving any evidence of such an action by using altered memory cards" can easily be done, according to the GAO.

4. The GAO also confirms that "access to the voting network was easily compromised because not all digital recording electronic voting systems (DREs) had supervisory functions password-protected, so access to one machine provided access to the whole network." This critical finding confirms that rigging the 2004 vote did not require a "widespread conspiracy" but rather the cooperation of a very small number of operatives with the power to tap into the networked machines and thus change large numbers of votes at will. With 800,000 votes cast on electronic machines in Ohio, flipping the number needed to give Bush 118,775 could be easily done by just one programmer.

5. Access "to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user IDs combined with easily guessed passwords," says the GAO. So even relatively amateur hackers could have gained access to and altered the Ohio vote tallies.

6. "The locks protecting access to the system were easily picked and keys were simple to copy," says the GAO, meaning, again, getting into the system was an easy matter.

7. "One DRE model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary fashion that a power failure on one machine would cause the entire network to fail," says the GAO, re-emphasizing the fragility of the system on which the Presidency of the United States was decided.

8. "GAO identified further problems with the security protocols and background screening practices for vendor personnel," confirming still more easy access to the system.

Highlights of the report here.

The full report here. (PDF here)

So What Happened in the Oil-For-Food Scandal

As expected, Kofi Annan was criticized for his lack of oversight of the program, Saddam earned $1.8 billion from over 2,000 companies, and the neo-cons were forced to shut up as it turned out that American companies and/or their foreign affiliates made up 52% of the companies dealing with Saddam.

Saddam took $1.8 bln from UN oil-for-food pact
Thu Oct 27, 2005 10:53 AM ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - More than 2,000 firms that did business with Iraq in the now-defunct U.N. oil-for-food program were involved in bribes and kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government, a major report on the program said on Thursday.

Saddam diverted some $1.8 billion in kickbacks and surcharges said the report from a U.N.-established Independent Inquiry Committee led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

According to the London Times:
More than 2,200 companies helped to enrich Saddam Hussein's regime by paying a total of $1.5 billion in illegal bribes as they scrambled to profit from the United Nations Oil-for-Food programme, an inquiry is expected to report today


Companies and individuals from 66 countries paid bribes, while those paying oil surcharges came from, or were registered in, 40 countries. Their names will be published later today.

The report strongly criticises the UN Secretariat and Security Council for failing to monitor the programme, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a leaked copy.

The report will say that the Banque Nationale de Paris SA, known as BNP, which administered the Oil-for-Food holding account, had a dual role and did not tell the UN all it knew about the financial relationships that fostered the payment of illegal surcharges.

Iraq was first allowed to sell limited and then unlimited quantities of oil, provided that most of the money went to buy humanitarian goods.

But it left Saddam free to choose the buyers of Iraqi oil, and the sellers of humanitarian goods. He manipulated the programme by accepting bribes from favoured buyers and awarding contracts to them.

Meaning that Saddam could punish companies from countries that opposed lifting sanctions, and prop up support among countries that wanted them lifted. Which he eventually did, except that American, British and Japanese companies had also profited mightily by that point.

Now, I emphasized "Security Council" in the above quote, because it was the US and Britain who were prime movers for sanctions and who were prime movers for the oil-for-food humanitarian program in the first place. Ergo, it is incumbent upon those nations to ensure monitoring is effective and worthwhile, something they clearly did not do.

Furthermore, this from the LA Times:
The inquiry, led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, will detail how the U.N. and its member governments failed to stop the former dictator's exploitation of the $64-billion program, and will expose the participation of prominent international companies, as well as fly-by-night operations, a spokesman for Volcker's committee said Wednesday.

"There are a few marquee names that everyone will recognize," Mike Holtzman said. "Some worked with a wink and a nod with their governments. But the corruption was so widespread that literally thousands of companies were caught up in it. To play, you needed to pay."

Charges have been filed against two Texas oilmen, David B. Chalmers and Oscar S. Wyatt Jr.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Other Big Republican Scandal

DeLay Acknowledges Failure to Report Money By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Rep. Tom DeLay failed to comply with House requirements that he disclose all contributions to a defense fund that pays his legal bills, the Texas Republican acknowledged to House officials.

He wrote officials that $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 was not reported anywhere. Another $17,300 was included in the defense fund's quarterly report but not in DeLay's 2000 annual financial disclosure report — a separate requirement. Other donations were understated as totaling $2,800, when the figure should have been $4,450.

It was during that period that DeLay was the subject of several House ethics investigations.

DeLay, R-Texas, stepped aside as House majority leader — at least temporarily — after he was indicted on a felony charge Sept. 28 in a Texas campaign fund-raising investigation. He has since been charged a second time in the same case.

On Oct. 13 DeLay wrote the clerk of the House, Jeff Trandahl, that his first inkling of inconsistencies in his disclosures came last February.

"I brought this matter — which I discovered on my own — to the attention of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to alert the chairman and ranking member," DeLay said in his letter.

"Upon learning of these accounting irregularities, I immediately requested that the trust undergo a full and complete audit from its June 2000 inception through 2004 to determine if any additional accountancy problems existed with the trust."

The audit confirmed the unreported donations and the other errors, DeLay said.

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

If you recall, a week or so ago, I posted that Patrick Fitzgerald was rumoured to be meeting with the oversight judge on the Plame probe. Guess what they talked about?
The probe is far from being at an end. According to this reporter's sources, Fitzgerald approached the judge in charge of the case and asked that a new grand jury be empaneled. The old grand jury, which has been sitting for two years, will expire on October 28.

Hat tip to Agitprop for the heads up

UPDATE: The conservative newspaper, The New York Sun, has picked this story up on its website. Looks like this is far from over....

Like the White Bronco Chase....

I have a sense there are going to be a lot of stories that say nothing, but tell us everything:

UPDATEIII: This one's from former CIA agent Larry Johnson:
Aides To Be Indicted, Probe to Continue
by Larry Johnson
Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 01:44:59 PM EDT

For your background, Richard was the first to tip me last year to the developing Larry Franklin spy scandal, which proved to be right. - LJ
Aides To Be Indicted, Probe to Continue

By Richard Sale, longtime Intelligence Correspondent for UPI

This comes to us courtesy of Pat Lang at I've found Richard to always be on target in my experience. -- Larry Johnson

Two top White House aides are expected to be indicted today on various charges related to the probe of CIA operative Valerie Plame whose classified identity was publicly breached in retaliation after her husband, Joe Wilson, challenged the administration's claim that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy enriched uranium from Niger, acording to federal law enforcement and senior U.S. intelligence officials.

If no action is taken today, it will take place on Friday, these sources said.

I. Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of Vice President Richard Cheney, and chief presidential advisor Karl Rove are expected to be named in indictments this morning by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Others are to be named as well, these sources said. According to U.S. officials close to the case, a bill of indictment has been in existence before October 17 which named five people. Various names have surfaced such as National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, yet only one source would confirm that Hadley was on the list. Hadley could not be reached for comment.

But letters from Fitzgerald, notifying various White House officiials that they are targets of the investigation, went out late last week, a former senior U.S. intelligence official said.

Most press accounts emphasized that Fitzgerald was likely to concentrate on attempts by Libby, Rove and others to cover up wrongdoing by means of perjury before the grand jury, lying to federal officials, conspiring to obstruct justice, etc. But federal law enforcement officials told this reporter that Fitzgerald was likely to charge the people indicted with violating Joe Wilson's civil rights, smearing his name in an attempt to destroy his ability to earn a living in Washington as a consultant.

The civil rights charge is said to include "the conspiracy was committed using U.S. government offices, buildings, personnel and funds," one federal law enforcement official said.

Other charges could include possible violations of U.S. espionage laws, including the mishandling of U.S. classified information, these sources said.

That Vice President Cheney is at the center of the controversy comes as no surprise. Last Friday, Fitzgerald investigators were talking to Cheney's attorneys, and detailied questionnaires, designed to pin down in meticulous sequence what Cheney knew, when he knew it, and what he told his aides, were delivered to the White House on Monday, these sources said.

The probe is far from being at an end. According to this reporter's sources, Fitzgerald approached the judge in charge of the case and asked that a new grand jury be empaneled. The old grand jury, which has been sitting for two years, will expire on October 28.

Thanks to a letter of February, 2004 in which Fitzgerald asked for and obtained expanded authority, the Special Prosecutor is now in possession of an Italian parliament nvestigation into the forged Niger documents alleging Iraq's interest in purchasing Niger uranium, sources said.

They said that Fitzgerald is looking into such individuals as former CIA agent, Duane Claridge, military consultant to the Iraqi National Congress, Gen. Wayne Downing, another military consultant for INC, and Francis Brooke, head of INC's Washingfton office in an effort to determine if they played any role in the forgeriese or their dissiemination. Also included in this group is long-time neoconservative Michael Ledeen, these federal sources said.

On the Hill, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), democratic whip, are asking for public hearings to lay bare the forgeries and how their false allegations ended up in President George Bush's State of the Union speech.
Prosecutor in leak case seeks indictments against Rove, Libby, lawyers close to case say
Jason Leopold and John Byrne

Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to indict Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers close to the investigation tell RAW STORY.

Fitzgerald has also asked the jury to indict Libby on a second charge: knowingly outing a covert operative, the lawyers said. They said the prosecutor believes that Libby violated a 1982 law that made it illegal to unmask an undercover CIA agent.

Libby’s attorney, Joseph A. Tate, did not return a call seeking comment.

Two other officials, who are not employees in the White House, are also expected to face indictments, the lawyers said.

Those close to the investigation said Rove was offered a deal Tuesday to plead guilty to perjury for a reduced charge. Rove’s lawyer was told that Fitzgerald would drop an obstruction of justice charge if his client agreed not to contest allegations of perjury, they said.

Rove declined to plead guilty to the reduced charge, the sources said, indicating through his attorney Robert Luskin that he intended to fight the charges. A call placed to Luskin was not returned.

Those familiar with the case said that Libby did not inform Rove that Plame was covert. As a result, Rove may not be charged with a crime in leaking Plame’s identity, even though he spoke with reporters.
Leak grand jury meets prosecutor
Wed Oct 26, 2005 10:04 AM ET
By Adam Entous
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity met on Wednesday with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald amid signs the prosecutor was preparing to seek criminal charges.

Fitzgerald, who have interviewed many senior White House figures as he seeks the source of the leak, declined comment as they began the grand jury session at about 9 a.m.

Any charges that are brought by the grand jury could be sealed, preventing a public announcement by the court or the prosecutor until possibly on Thursday or Friday, when the grand jury is scheduled to expire.

The secret grand jury session followed a last-minute flurry of interviews by investigators with CIA operative Valerie Plame's neighbors and a former colleague of top White House adviser Karl Rove.

Plame's identity was leaked after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq.

White House officials were anxiously awaiting the outcome of the leak case since any indicted officials were expected to resign immediately. If indictments are brought, Bush was likely to make a public statement to try to reassure Americans that he is committed to honesty and integrity in government.

The White House has refused to answer questions about Vice President Dick Cheney's role in the case.

According to a New York Times report, Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, learned about Plame in a conversation with Cheney on June 12, 2003, weeks before her identity became public in a newspaper column by Robert Novak on July 14, 2003.

Libby's notes indicate Cheney got his information about Plame from then-CIA Director George Tenet, according to the Times. The White House would neither confirm nor deny the account.

On Wednesday, both Rove and Libby were at the White House senior staff meeting in the morning as usual, a senior official said.

Fitzgerald's investigation has centered on Libby and Rove, President George W. Bush's top political adviser. Other aides may also be charged, lawyers said.
Leak probe prosecutor arrives at court
Wed Oct 26, 2005 9:36 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday as a federal grand jury considers whether to bring criminal charges over the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity.

Fitzgerald, accompanied by other prosecutors, had no comment as he entered the courthouse.

Lawyers involved in the case said Fitzgerald appeared close to asking the grand jury to approve indictments, with an announcement expected as early as Wednesday, after the grand jury meets.

It's About Time

Little noticed in today's events, so I want to commemorate this:

New York Times Reporter Miller
Is in Talks Over Her Job Status

Move Follows Public Break
With the Newspaper;
Severance Package Discussed
October 26, 2005; Page B3

New York Times reporter Judith Miller has begun discussing her future employment options with the newspaper, including the possibility of a severance package, a lawyer familiar with the matter, said yesterday.

The discussion about her future comes several days after the public rupture of the relationship between the Times and Ms. Miller, a 28-year veteran of the paper. Both the editor and the publisher of the Times have expressed regret for their unequivocal support for Ms. Miller when she spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

The negotiations began with a face-to-face meeting Monday morning between Ms. Miller and the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the lawyer familiar with the situation. A spokeswoman for the New York Times declined to comment. Ms. Miller didn't return calls.

A Moment of Silence

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

An Apt Poem

by: Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveler from an antique land

Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert... Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

My name is Ozymandius, King of Kings,

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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Gort42 Holds Feet To The Fire

All I need quote is the end of his piece, and that ought to make you go read it...
Am I the only one who doesn't think it's a coincidence that the top jobs in the government are held by oil men and we're paying almost $3 a gallon for gas?

Cheney Told Libby

Because this will quickly go to archives, I'll reproduce the relevant grafs here:
Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Lawyers Report

Published: October 25, 2005

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.

I'm less focused on the facts here, that Cheney told Libby. That's almost a given anyway. I'm focused on how this document and more importantly, why it, got out.

Who does this protect?

A couple of thoughts:

1) Judith Miller - Perhaps in an attempt to salvage her job (or even get kicked upstairs...could you imagine the ruckus if she tried to return to her desk?), Miller obtained and provided for the editors at the Times a copy of Libby's notes. Plausible, plus it allows Libby to raise the argument that since Cheney talked about Plame's identity, he could assume it was not covert. Plausible.

2) Dick Cheney - Not the most likely suspect for the leak, but there are reasons to believe it might be him. For one thing, the notes trace the leak back to George Tenet, who is already out of the administration (after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, no less!). Thus, Cheney could lay claim that he was not warned by Tenet that Plame was NOC. Which is kind of silly, since Cheney and Tenet are free to discuss anyone in government and it would become incumbent on the VP to discern whether she was NOC or not prior to disclosing it to Libby, in order to warn him not to tell anyone. I mark this one "not likely". Similarly, President Bush himself could have directed the leak of the notes, for similar reasons. Less likely.

Further on in the story, there's this speculation:
The former (senior intelligence) official said he strongly doubted that the White House learned about Ms. Wilson from Mr. Tenet.
My guess? Colin Powell.

3) "Lawyers involved in the case" are cited as the source of the leak, however, that could mean anyone up to Harriet Miers (presumably, as White House Counsel, she is still both a lawyer and involved in the case). However, it is not clear that these are lawyers for the suspects or for the Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. However, Fitzgerald has been unusually circumspect in his prosecution of this case, opting to play his cards close to the vest, so it's not very likely he'd allow this to be leaked. But...

If he is establishing the case that Libby and/or Karl Rove were the source of the leak, and, as rumour suggests, he will name at least one unindicted co-conspirator, and he's seen the effectiveness of the right wing whitewash machine in action, it's conceivable that, in order to get out ahead of the story as it unfolds, he let these notes loose in order to lay down some suppressing fire while he prepares his final document. Sort of an executive summary of the substantiation of his charges. Mark this one "possible".

Interesting footnote: Dick Cheney's bloodline can be traced back to the Battle of Hastings and his ancestor, Ralph de Chesney, Sire of Quesnay.

Meaning he's actually....French!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Separated At Birth...

New Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke

...or just the evil Power Twins?

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff
General Zod

(tip of the hat to Gort for the Zod tip)

What Blogging Costs American Business

I guess the subtitle to this article could be "Why Your Boss Is In Your Browser Cookies".

Since you'll need an account to access this full article, I've transcribed it here:
In 2005, Employees Will Waste 551,000 Years Reading Them
October 24, 2005

By Bradley Johnson
LOS ANGELES ( -- Blog this: U.S. workers in 2005 will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years reading blogs.

Currently, the time employees spend reading non-work blogs is the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs.

About 35 million workers -- one in four people in the labor force -- visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them, according to Advertising Age’s analysis. Time spent in the office on non-work blogs this year will take up the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs. Forget lunch breaks -- blog readers essentially take a daily 40-minute blog break.

While blogs are becoming an accepted part of the media sphere, and are increasingly being harnessed by marketers -- American Express last week paid a handful of bloggers to discuss small business, following other marketers like General Motors Corp. and Microsoft Corp. into the blogosphere -- they are proving to be competition for traditional media messages and are sapping employees’ time.

Case in point: Gawker Media, blog home of Gawker (media), Wonkette (politics) and Fleshbot (porn). Said Sales Director Christopher Batty: “The Gawker audience is very at-work; it’s an at-work, leisure audience -- a.k.a., people screwing off on the job. “

Bosses accept some screwing off as a cost of doing business; it keeps employees happy and promotes camaraderie. Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, said blogs have become the favored diversion for “office goof-off time,” though he notes it’s hard to segregate blog time since blogs often bounce readers to professional media sites.

But at the end of the day, more blogging means less working. Jonathan Gibs, senior research manager at Nielsen/NetRatings, said at-work blog time probably comes in addition to regular surfing -- meaning more time on the Web but less time on the job.

Expansion of online behavior
“Since for the most part blog readers tend to be the most engaged readers of online content,” he said, “they do not appear, at least for now, to be sacrificing time from their favorite news sites. Instead, it looks like blog usage is in addition to existing online behavior.”

Some blogs do relate to work, but deciding just how relevant they are to the employer is open to debate. For this analysis, Ad Age chose a simple score: Count all business blog traffic, half of tech and media blogs and one-fourth of political/news blogs as directly related to work.

Based on ComScore’s tally of blog categories, this suggests just 25% of blog visits directly connect to the job. Employees this year will spend 4.8 billion work hours absorbing wisdom from other blogs that may enlighten visitors but not amuse the boss.

Wasted time
Hard and detailed data on blogging time is limited, so Ad Age’s analysis is a best-guess extrapolation done by reviewing blog-related surveys and data. By Ad Age estimates:

- Work time spent reading and posting to blogs this year will consume 2.2% of U.S. labor force hours.

- Work time spent at blogs unrelated to work will eat up 1.65% of labor force hours.

- U.S. workers this year will waste the equivalent of 551,000 years (based on a 24-hour day) or 2.3 million work years (based on a typical nearly 40-hour work week) reading blogs unrelated to the job.

There is strong evidence of workday blogging. Server traffic for Blogads, a network of sites that take ads, spikes during business hours, reflecting page views on about 900 blogs. FeedBurner, a blog technology company, also sees a jump in work-time hits.

“Traffic rockets at 8 a.m. EST, peaks at 5 p.m. EST and then slides downward until L.A. leaves the office,” said Blogads founder Henry Copeland. “You see the same thing in the collapse of traffic on weekends. … Bottom line: At work, people can’t watch TV or prop up their feet and read a newspaper, but they sure do read blogs.”

And they create and post to them. Technorati, a blog search engine, now tracks 19.6 million blogs, a number that has doubled about every five months for the past three years. If that growth were to continue, all 6.7 billion people on the planet will have a blog by April 2009. Imagine the work that won’t get done then.

More On Middle Class Misery

A recurring trope on this blog has been how tough it is for a middle-class family to make ends meet while the rich and powerful have seen their streets paved with gold these past five years.

Well, along comes The Center for American Progress' "Middle Class Squeeze"

Middle-Class Progress?

Families Work Longer to Pay for Middle-Class Items than a Quarter-Century Ago

by Christian E. Weller Ph.D., Senior Economist
October 20, 2005

I. Summary

Is the typical middle-class family doing better today than they were 25 years ago? The answer is no, according to new measures of economic well-being developed in this report. The combination of stagnant incomes and staggering cost increases for important middle-class items—housing, health care, education and transportation—have left families with less money to save and spend than just a few years ago, and working longer to achieve the same results as in 1980. According to the analysis here:

- In 2005, the average two-earner family needs to work 31.5 weeks to pay for taxes and a range of middle-class items (health care, housing, college, and transportation). That is an increase from 30.2 weeks in March 2001, and from 28.7 weeks in March 1979.

- In 2005, after paying for the items outlined above, the average two-earner family had about $19,542 left to pay for basics—such as clothing, food, and utilities—to save for retirement, to improve their economic well-being, and to spend on any leisure and recreation. That is $951 less than families had in 2000 and $1,702 less than in 1980.

- While families spend less today on taxes than in 2000—the tax cuts were real—those tax cuts do not offset the cost increases of expenditure items, particularly housing, health care, and education.

- Middle-class families have addressed the economic squeeze by working longer hours. This has meant less time to spend with children and higher out-of-pocket expenditures for child care and for food outside the home.

- Over time, middle-class families have also maintained their consumption levels by borrowing more money. Household debt soared to a record 116 percent of disposable income in March 2005. Average debt service burden levels have remained high throughout the current business cycle.

- The economic squeeze tends to be worse for minorities than for whites. Specifically, income declines have been larger for Hispanics than for African-Americans and greater for African-Americans than for whites.
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A Watershed Week

This ought to be a fun week for progressives like myself. A week when we watch as all the cards in this house-o-cards, shiver, some fall, some remain standing by dint of luck and placement.

First, Agitprop has a prediction contest. No winners except having it on the record that you predicted the precise time and number of Fitzgerald's indictments well ahead of the issuance.

Next, on top of the Tom/DeLay/Scooter Libby/Judith Miller/Iraq/Katrina-Rita-Wilma scandals plaguing the Bush White House, comes this little item about another facet of the turd that is the Religious Right:

Report: Abramoff sought out strategist
Lobbyist asked Reed for White House pull for clients, e-mails say

Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Jack Abramoff, the GOP lobbyist under investigation by federal authorities for fraud, repeatedly sought the help of Bush strategist Ralph Reed to open doors at the White House for his business clients, according to e-mails made public Sunday.

The e-mails show that Abramoff pushed for intervention from Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove on at least three occasions since 2001 to promote business opportunities.

Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and a nominee in the 2006 race for Georgia's lieutenant governor, wrote back obliging responses, according to the e-mail obtained by Time magazine. The e-mail is being reviewed by investigators, Time reported.

The e-mail shows that, 10 days after Sept. 11, 2001, Abramoff promoted a business venture to rent cruise ships to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house rescue workers off New York City.
(emphasis added)

Gee, sweet of you to step in and help us po' ol' Amurikens deal with a tragedy of unbounded nature by sending in some cruise ships...out of your own pocket, perhaps?

But the tell-tale paragraph in this story?
In a third set of e-mails, Reed acknowledges having "weighed in heavily" with the White House on behalf of Abramoff to block Angela Williams from being appointed head of the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs.
Who dat, you may well ask?

She's in charge of stuff like this:
The Department of the Interior is pleased to announce that it will be leading TWO Business Opportunities Missions in 2006, one to the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and another to the territory of American Samoa. The Missions are part of the ongoing initiative of the Department of the Interior to foster private sector-led economic development in the U.S.-affiliated insular areas. Like the Conferences and Mission that have already taken place, the purpose of these Missions is to help U.S. businesses take advantage of exciting opportunities in the U.S. territories and in nations in "free association" with the U.S.

By participating in one of these Missions, you would receive high-level briefings from government leaders from each jurisdiction describing their development priorities and the steps they are taking to encourage investment. You would also meet with local business leaders to discuss the business climate and opportunities in the islands. In addition, you would be invited to participate in a series of pre-screened one-on-one meetings with island businesspeople and/or government officials to discuss specific projects.
In other words, she'd compete directly with Abramoff, particular in the south Pacific region!

How do I know this? Let Time Magazine explain:
In December 2001 the lobbyist was eager to prevent Angela Williams from being appointed head of the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs, which oversees the government's dealings with the Northern Mariana Islands, an important Abramoff client. Williams is married to former Federal Trade Commissioner Orson Swindle, who was a Vietnam POW with Senator John McCain. The subject header of Abramoff and Reed's e-mail exchange (it is unclear who initiated it) contained a misstatement about Williams that is practically Freudian in what it reveals about their animosity toward McCain: "Were you able to whack McCain's wife yet?" Reed assured Abramoff he had "weighed in heavily" with the White House personnel office to block her appointment but had received no commitment. "Any ideas on how we can make sure she does not get it?" Abramoff asked. "Can you ping Karl on this? I can't believe they just don't get this done?" Reed replied, "I am seeing him tomorrow at the WH and plan to discuss it with him as well." Baron says, "Ralph passed the information on to the White House. He is confident the Administration's decision was based on the merit." As for Rove, White House spokeswoman Erin Healy tells TIME, "It is my understanding that Mr. Rove does not recall any of these incidents."

Williams didn't get the job. She and her husband wrote it off to hard feelings from the bruising 2000 Republican presidential primaries. "I just assumed it was my close friendship with Senator McCain and her being married to me," Swindle tells TIME.
Disgusting little chappie, isn't Reed?

If You Haven't Read Maureen Dowd's Op-Ed Piece From Saturday

Here it is, reproduced in full by

Some lovingly culled exercepts:

Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times' seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing.

At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, "I think I should be sitting in the Times seat."

It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.


She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter, but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that Judy had never broached the subject with her.

It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel comics name like "Valerie Flame." Nor does it seem credible that she doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she "did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby."

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003. This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project. (*ed note* Oops. Busted!)

I love the New York Times. It was the first newspaper I ever read, and continue to read it as often as time permits these days. I was really saddened to see that not only does it takes its archive to a pay-per-view status, but it's now taking its daily columns that route as well. Sad. Really sad.

How Some People Celebrate Hurricanes...

Jesus' General has the inside dish