As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Look What I Found!

"Home again, hm. What a sight to see afte 85 days. Let's just do some tidying up... These couch cushions could use a good dusting... Hey, look at this...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New York Times reporter Judith Miller discovered notes from an earlier conversation she had with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and turned them over the prosecutor investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity, legal sources said on Friday.

Miller's notes about a June 2003 conversation with Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, could be important to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's case by establishing exactly when Libby and other administration officials first started talking to reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson.

...I really need to clean out those couch cushions more often."

The notion that she "just found" these notes ranks up there with Rush Limbaugh just now finding OxyContin bottles all over the house. Who does she think she's kidding?

P.S. Murray Waas has a story up in the National Journal with a lot of juicy background on Plame-Gate, particularly with respect to Karl Rove. I'll whet your appetite with the opening line:

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove personally assured President Bush in the early fall of 2003 that he had not disclosed to anyone in the press that Valerie Plame, the wife of an administration critic, was a CIA employee, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the accounts that both Rove and Bush independently provided to federal prosecutors.

This is also what he said to the grand jury, directly contradicted by Matt Cooper, who backs up his story with emails and phone records. They call it "perjury," I'm told.


CA Special Election Update I

Over the next few weeks you'll be hearing a lot about this at D-Day. There's a special election in California, a dangerous one in which the incredible shrinking Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (I still can't get used to that), is attempting to hijack the budget process, silence his critics, redraw the legislative map, and basically consolidate power in the hands of the fuhrer (did I say fuhrer? I mean... well, you get it).

Nobody in this state wants to even hear about the special election. The only election that should have been called is whether we needed this special election at all (and it would have lost by a wide margin). Everybody is burned out on direct democracy. We hire the legislators to do this work, to separate the spin from the truth. An electorate getting most of its information from TV advertisements shouldn't be making decisions this vital.

But there's something larger at work here. After falling from grace and slipping to miniscule support in the polls, Gov. Schwarzenegger sees this election as his only chance to regain what's left of his stature. There's no doubt in my mind that if he manages to pull off a victory on his "reform agenda" (a dangerous agenda which I plan to pick apart in the coming days), he'll immediately christen himself "The Comeback Kid" and ride the wave of popularity to another term in office. Voting down this agenda is synonymous with stopping the Governator in 2006.

The public employee confederations (the nurses, teachers, firefighters and police officers) have been fighting for their rights and taking the governor down at every turn. That's the whole rationale behind the odious Prop. 75, which would subject public employee unions to an unfair, unprecendented standard of having to annually ask their members if they could use their dues in political activities. If you're a public employee, you can already opt out of having your money used for politics, per the Supreme Court; 1 out of 4 do. Shareholders don't get to opt out of having their cash used by corporations to fund initiatives like these. The point of the proposition is to slow down union money, to silence union voices.

And the Governor is simply shameless about it:

BURBANK, Calif. (CBS/AP) Firefighters who battled a 24,000-acre blaze last week say they were forced to participate in a news conference with Governor Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger's appearance at a command center in Thousand Oaks came as he pushes ballot initiatives opposed by firefighter unions, including Proposition 75, which would require unions to get members' permission before dues could be used for political purposes.

A few firefighters were bold enough to complain they were ordered to stand behind the governor against their will on the day of the news conference, KCAL 9’s Linda Breakstone reported. Seven more came forward Wednesday.

“We did not want to do it,” Los Angeles County firefighter Greg Alldredge said. “Then it came down as an order directly from above.”

Firefighters were "ordered and forced" to participate, Alldredge said. Rank-and-file firefighters were very displeased with "having to shake hands with somebody who really doesn't support us.”

According to the LA Times, this was Arnold's response:

Rather than dispute the contention, Schwarzenegger said everybody is ordered to do things at one point or another. Someone was ordered to put up the podium, he said. Someone was ordered to bring in the microphone.

"I'm a big friend of the firefighters," Schwarzenegger said once his "buddies" had gathered round. "As a matter of fact, in one of my movies, I played a firefighter."

Smile at them one minute, stab them in the back the next. Force them to stand behind you for a photo-op one second, try to silence them the next. This is the way this a-hole operates. To him, it's all about appearances. It doesn't matter how fake they are. And how ominous is the idea that "everybody is ordered to do things" at one point or another? He's pretty much advocating the crushing of dissent. There's only one way to beat this back, and that's at the polls on Nov. 8.

NO on Props. 73-78, YES on 79 and 80. I'll look at each one in depth in the coming days.


"I have a list of known communists..."

I couldn't help thinking of the McCarthy quote when I heard the President, in his BOOGA BOOGA scare speech yesterday, claim that we had foiled 10 Al Qaeda attacks since September 11. I guess it's the Boy Who Cried Wolf syndrome for me: after all the talk of WMD, all the talk of how great things are going in Iraq, how nobody could have anticipated a breach of the levees, I strain to accept what's coming out of the guy's mouth at face value.

Well, here's something from my local paper:

The White House later issued a list of the foiled plots, citing potential Sept. 11-style airliner attacks on both coasts, a plan to blow up apartment buildings and surveillance of gas stations, bridges and tourist sites nationwide. But several senior law enforcement officials interviewed later questioned whether many of the incidents on the list constituted an imminent threat to public safety and said that authorities had not disrupted any operational terrorist plot within the United States since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

And that was really the only new thing in this "major" speech. The rest was a rehashing of the same platitudes about "the evildoers," the same equating of Iraq with Al Qaeda, the same syllogisms, the same everything. Some have questioned the timing of this speech, given on the same day that Karl Rove decided to return to the grand jury in the Plame case, and in the face of lagging support for the White House. The speech was planned for quite a while, and it coincides with the referendum on the Iraqi constitution. If anything, Rove's decision to return may have been coincided with the speech, not the other way around.

And of course, we did get another TERRA ALERT!!! yesterday, but Homeland Security is playing that down while the NYPD is playing it up. I do know that the NYPD has such a large counterterrorism operation that I'd tend to believe them more. And, their mayor is in the midst of an election, so it could be a parallel phenomenon. Still, the fact that terror chatter bubbled to the surface the same day that the White House was poised to take a major hit was not lost on everyone:

OLBERMANN: Remarkably enough, Karl Rove's possible legal problems were bookended by two pieces of terror news.  Before, came a presidential speech on the war on terror.  After, came a supposed terrorist threat to New York's subway system.

Stop what you're thinking.  It is just an amazing coincidence.  The terrorists just happened to wait to make these threats until there's bad news about the administration that it needs to preempt.  Just a coincidence.

Meanwhile, 6 more Marines have died today for this war based on the bumper sticker logic of yesterday's speech. At least they died with the solace of knowing they were fighting the terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here at home. Except in the New York City subway system.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pro-Torture Government

The President hasn't used his veto in five years (that's the fiscally conservative guy who cares so much about reining in federal spending. Routinely the Congress has come in with spending bills WAY over budget, and he hasn't done a thing about it). Well, the first one could be just around the corner. Because raising the national debt to record levels is one thing, but when you try to take torture away from this guy, he leaps to action:

Responding to the Abu Ghurayb scandal and other allegations that U.S. soldiers had abused prisoners, the Senate on Wednesday night rebuked the Bush administration by setting military interrogation standards that ban torture.

The Republican-majority Senate followed the lead of maverick Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., voting 90-9 to add the anti-torture language to a $440 billion military spending bill that President Bush has threatened to veto if the anti-torture language is included. All but nine of the Senate's 55 Republicans joined 43 Democrats and one independent in supporting the measure.


Last week the White House sent the Senate a "statement of administration policy'' that declared strong opposition to the anti-torture language on the grounds that it would tie the president's hands in the war on terrorism. The statement said that if the anti-torture terms remained in the bill's final version, "the president's senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.''

There can be no other more obvious statement that Abu Ghraib was not the work of "a few bad apples" than the fact that the White House is so desperately attempting to save the policy that would allow it to happen. Some people, insanely, still believe that the United States has a policy against torture. Wonder if they've checked in with this guy lately:

An Army captain and two sergeants from the 82nd Airborne Division who were responsible for supervising prisoners in Iraq have come forward with allegations that members of the unit routinely beat, tortured and abused detainees in 2003 and early 2004.

The Pentagon announced Friday that it opened a criminal investigation of the accusations this week, after learning of the charges recently from the Senate Armed Services Committee and Human Rights Watch.

Capt. Ian Fishback, a West Point graduate, contacted the Senate panel with the charges within the last 10 days, saying he was frustrated that his superior officers had failed to respond, said committee aides.

Fishback and the two sergeants, whose names have not been disclosed, also made allegations of abuse to Human Rights Watch. The captain is the first officer to go public with allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted in April 2004.

In recent letters to several members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Fishback said he witnessed detainees being stripped, deprived of sleep, exposed to the elements and "forced into uncomfortable positions for prolonged periods of time for the express purpose of coercing them into revealing information other than name, rank and service number."

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Friday that one of the sergeants told the group, "We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day." The sergeant reportedly described the mistreatment at a base near Fallouja as "just like" Abu Ghraib, saying, "We did that for amusement."

According to Human Rights Watch, the sergeants said they saw soldiers break prisoners' legs. The group said the sergeants had related that they watched and participated in some of the violence.

That's what fucking heroism is all about. Seeing your fellow soldiers doing something wrong, refusing to go along with it, going to your superiors, getting stonewalled, but feeling that morality dictates that you must sacrifice your position in the Army (that which you've worked your entire life doing) to speak out. That's what heroes do. In opposition, this government seeks to keep the policy alive. They're essentially coming out FOR beating prisoners, FOR stripping them naked, FOR depriving them of food and sleep, FOR hooking electrodes to them, FOR punching and kicking them UNTIL THEY DIE.

And 9 Senators went along with them (Here's a list). But 90 said no. The worst scoundrel in all of this is (as usual) Sen. Frist, who argued on the floor against the bill, but ended up voting for it when he saw it would pass.

And surely DeLay's goons will try to protect their Dear Leader. From the Mercury News article:

A move is expected to be made to drop the provision during House-Senate negotiations to reconcile differences on the spending bill, but McCain said the margin of victory helped its chances.

But only the marginalized few disagree on this. We're better than torture. We shouldn't be held to the same standard as suicide bombers and callous murderers. We deserve to be held to our own standard. And we deserve to know what horrors this Administration has done in our name. For the second time, a federal judge has ordered the release of additional photos documenting abuse at Abu Ghraib. These are the ones they wouldn't let out the first time. Who knows what they might include? Administration apologists say this will only inflame tensions in the Middle East. They can be inflamed MORE? The Middle East already knows this stuff. They've interviewed the detainees who've been released. They've heard it all. That's one of the reasons why our standing in the world is so decrepit.

That brilliant logic, in fact, is what Bill O'Reilly used in a debate with Wesley Clark about the issue. In fact, he had to confuse the WWII-era 82nd Airborne with Nazis to make his point:

Clark: And let me explain something. You go all the way up the chain of command --

O'Reilly: General! You need to look at the Malmedy massacre in World War Two, and the 82nd Airborne who did it!

Not true. The Nazi soldiers massacred the US troops, not the other way around. When you don't have any moral high ground to stand on, I guess you just have to make shit up. It's interesting that what O'Reilly decided to make up in this case bears resemblance to the same lie made 50 years earlier:

(Joseph) McCarthy's first three years in the Senate were unremarkable. While he was considered friendly and likeable, he was not taken seriously. McCarthy was criticized for his defense of a group of Nazis that had been sentenced to death for their role in the Malmédy massacre of American prisoners of war in 1944. Their death sentences were commuted to life in part because of McCarthy's charges that they had been denied due process. Many charged the Senator had been duped or enticed by neo-Nazis.

I always thought Bill and Joe Mac had a special kinship. Surprised Clooney didn't hire him for the movie.

A New McCarthyism is just what we have on this issue. When repsonsible citizens ask that we not participate in torturing other human beings, they are shouted down with cries of "You want the terrorists to win!" The problem is that, after years and years of this, the Administration is running out of shouters.


Canary Clears His Throat

Whaddya want ta know, I'll tells ya everything!

Federal prosecutors have accepted an offer from presidential adviser Karl Rove to give 11th-hour testimony in the case of a CIA officer's leaked identity but have warned they cannot guarantee he won't be indicted, according to people directly familiar with the investigation.

The U.S. attorney's manual requires prosecutors not to bring witnesses before a grand jury if there is a possibility of future criminal charges unless they are notified in advance that their grand jury testimony can be used against them in a later indictment.

Rove has already made at least three grand jury appearances and his return at this late stage in the investigation is unusual.

The prosecutor did not give Rove similar warnings before his earlier grand jury appearances.

Rove offered in July to return to the grand jury for additional testimony and Fitzgerald accepted that offer Friday after taking grand jury testimony from the formerly jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Before accepting the offer, Fitzgerald sent correspondence to Rove's legal team making clear that there was no guarantee he wouldn't be indicted at a later point as required by the rules.

What's interesting is that only after Rove decided to go back to the grand jury did his lawyer decide to speak up:

"I can say categorically that Karl has not received a target letter from the special counsel. The special counsel has confirmed that he has not made any charging decisions in respect to Karl," (Robert) Luskin said.

He said that Rove "continues to be cooperative voluntarily" with the special counsel investigation and "beyond that, any communication I have or may have in the future are going to be treated as completely confidential."

It seems to me that the lawyer knows that his client is about to throw somebody under the bus. My guess is that Rove is singing in the key of Cheney (which of course would mean going after Scooter Libby, the Veep's chief of staff). It's speculation, but the two men are at competing centers of power in the Bush Administration. Cheney leds the neocon, PNAC group, whereas Rove is a "power at all costs" guy without as much of an ideological cast. These are two big egos with the ear of the President.  I don't think it's an accident that this story about the spy in the VP's office has come out.  

Rove may just be trying to drive the neocons right out of this government.

Just a theory.



If I were Canada, I'd check the borders for a Mr. Rove or a Mr. Libby. Reuters reports:

The federal prosecutor investigating who leaked the identity of a CIA operative is expected to signal within days whether he intends to bring indictments in the case, legal sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday.

As a first step, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was expected to notify officials by letter if they have become targets, said the lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Fitzgerald could announce plea agreements, bring indictments, or conclude that no crime was committed. By the end of this month he is expected to wrap up his nearly two-year-old investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say whether his client had been contacted by Fitzgerald. In the past, Luskin has said that Rove was assured that he was not a target.

Libby's lawyer was not immediately available to comment.

"It's an ongoing investigation and we're fully cooperating," said Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride.

It's almost sad to see these guys clam up. That sense of bravado was part of their charm. They're not nearly as appealing when they're sweating bullets.

I think the Republicans are just trying to get into Guinness by trying to set the world record for simultaneous indictments by a ruling party. It's just a projection of American exceptionalism.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Culture of Corruption

Get used to that phrase, because we're about to hear it for the next 13 months. First it was Congressman Rahm Emanuel (head of the DCCC) on Meet the Press; then it was Nancy Pelosi on Talk of the Nation; now it's Howard Dean on Hardball. It's pretty clear that's what the Democrats are going with to nationalize the 2006 midterm elections in Congress. This certainly works, and with the sheer amount of indictments and investigations on the GOP side it offers a clear choice. But if it's at the expense of substantive issues the American people need to hear about, it could backfire. Here's Dean:

MATTHEWS: If we haven't begun that withdrawal by next November, the election of congressmen and senators across the country, will this be a campaign issue?

DEAN: It will be, but I think the culture of corruption that Tom DeLay and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby and Bill Frist and the Ohio people are bringing to the Republican Party is a much bigger campaign issue.  You can't trust Republicans with your money.  Not only can they not handle, in terms of driving up huge deficits, but it turns out they're also putting it in their own pockets.  Nobody likes corruption.  Not conservatives, not liberals, not Democrats, not Republicans.

Absolutely, but nobody likes Iraq either at this point. Strong majorities say it was a mistake, and clear majorities favor some kind of pullout, whether immediately or in a more gradual fashion. Dean didn't duck questions on Iraq, but he didn't exactly highlight them either.

Emanuel, who had an awful appearance on MTP earlier in the year, was really good last Sunday, blowing up the myth that "Democrats don't have any ideas." He did offer substantive, specific, common sense policies. And he was completely on message with this "culture of corruption" thing. Here's the opening of the relevant part of the transcript:

REP. EMANUEL: The American people have rejected the same policies that are giving us the same results and the status quo.  They want change.  They want big ideas, big reform.  This is going to be a big election, a national election because of the challenges this country faces.  We can do better than the policies that got us into the position we have right now.  And the fact is, the Democrats have an obligation to lay out to the country what those ideas are.

MR. RUSSERT:  So, for example, should we withdraw troops from Iraq?

REP. EMANUEL:  Well, I--let me--let's take what the general just said.  Let's deal with that.

MR. RUSSERT:  But what are the Democratic ideas?

REP. EMANUEL:  I'm going to lay them out.  I here to answer it.  You know, what you guys have provided, Tom, is a set of old policies, even in this crisis we have with Katrina, that got us to this result, which is a failed set of policies, where, in fact, we've added up $3 trillion in the nation's debt, more people are losing health care, and poverty's going up.  Democrats want to offer big ideas to change the direction of this country because we can do better.

See, Emanuel clearly isn't comfortable answering the Iraq question. He's rehearsed the corruption narrative. He's ready to lay big ideas on the table. He doesn't want to get into Iraq. However, unlike many bloggers have charged, he did not completely duck the Iraq question:

REP. EMANUEL: On Iraq, we have a false choice between stay the course and get the same results and just pull up.  I think Senator Levin laid out a very good agenda, which is we're going to have measurements.  You can't say after two and a half years, like you asked the general before, two and a half years, nearly $400 billion, and we have one Iraqi battalion?  We're going to set standards every way and measurements from the political process, economic process and also on the military and national security where Iraq has to stand up.

MR. RUSSERT:  OK.  So--so...

REP. EMANUEL:  Let me go over--let's go...

MR. RUSSERT:  No, no, wait.  So if the Iraqis do not stand up, if there are not 10 battalions, 15 battalions in place, we withdraw?

REP. EMANUEL:  See, Tim, that's the wrong question, in my view.

MR. RUSSERT:  Well...

REP. EMANUEL:  I'll tell you why, because when we...

MR. RUSSERT:  But it's the question I asked.

REP. EMANUEL:  But the Congress has an obligation to hold a standard.  We have given the president a blank check.  It's been a rubber-stamp Congress that sent troops in there without Kevlar vests, without Humvees.  We have to have a standard in which Iraq and the administration measure up over the two years, and at that point we'll evaluate where we are.

And here's the big finish, the big ideas of the Democratic Party. They're actually pretty solid. Russert of course jumps in with some needling (I wonder if he would have asked JFK "Who pays for that" about the space program):

REP. EMANUEL:  Let me address, though, the future of this country.  I'll give you five quick ideas.  One, we make college education as universal for the 21st century that a high school education was in the 20th.

MR. RUSSERT:  And who pays for that?

REP. EMANUEL:  The American people, because it offers--Let me get to it. Second, we get a summit on the budget to deal with the $3 trillion of debt that's been added up in five years and structural deficits of $400 billion a year.  Third, an energy policy that says in 10 years, we cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and make this a hybrid economy.  Four, we create an institute on science and technology that builds for America like, the National Institutes has done for health care, we maintain our edge.  And five, we have a universal health-care system over the next 10 years where if you work, you have health care.  That says fiscal discipline and investing in the American people by reputting people first.  The policies that the Republicans have offered have gotten us in the ditch we have today.

MR. RUSSERT:  In order to pay for those programs, you'd consider raising taxes?

REP. EMANUEL:  I think in this time and age, when we face the challenges we have, everybody has skin in the game.  And I think the tax policies we have in place reward the type of culture of cronyism where, in fact, what we're doing is protecting the most well off while we throw middle-class families in front of the train.

See, Emanuel (who I think offers some excellent proposals here) has figured out how to fold taxes, a question that has pummeled Democrats for years, into the "culture of corruption" narrative that will clearly be the focus for 2006. He has not been able to do so on Iraq. The American people are still starving for leadership on this.

The Democrats need to hear from its constituents about this. He needs to know that it's safe to go in the water. Iraq can be folded into the "culture of corruption" theme. The missing $8B, turning Iraq into a Shiite theocracy cozy with Iran, Plame, Downing Street, soldiers continuing to die for lies and mismanagement... that's on EVERYBODY'S radar screen but the Democrats in Washington. Dean and the Dems simply have to be willing to throw the longball and come up with some coherent messaging on Iraq. It's not QUITE as crucial as it was in 2004 because the policy is not going to change so long as W.'s in the White House. Congressional Dems are not in charge of war policy. But that's no excuse. They have to tell the people what they really think about Iraq, what they'd like to see happen, and what they can do about it from the Congress.

Since there are no positive choices left, I'd argue that ANYTHING you say about Iraq can be construed as the wrong answer. But that's also no reason to ignore it. Unfortunately, for the Democrats that's PRECISELY the reason.


(Son of) The Man From Plains

Returning to the theme of the 2006 Senate races, another coup for the Democrats, as a viable candidate has stepped forward in Nevada. And he's got a pedigree:

Jack Carter, the son of former President Carter, said Tuesday he plans to run against John Ensign for the U.S. Senate next year.

Carter, 58, and his wife, Elizabeth, have lived in Las Vegas since 2003, operating the investment consulting firm Carter Global.

"I'm very seriously exploring it," Carter said in an interview Tuesday. "I had not planned to run for office. I have no infrastructure and this is new to me."

Carter said he decided to run in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He said he was offended by the federal government's response to the disaster.

"I'm more concerned than ever with the way that the country is headed," Carter said.

He said he is a social liberal with conservative Southern roots and a business background that taught him "you pay for what you spend."

I think this just popped up out of the blue for Chuck Schumer and the DSCC. I don't see how you can go wrong with the son of a former Democratic President who's new to politics: he gets to be both insider and outsider. It will be interesting to see the degree to which Ensign decides to go all the way back to the 70s to bash Carter's presidency in fighting for re-election. I don't think President Carter's image among independents is all that sullied; they know him as the guy that builds houses for the poor and monitors elections abroad.

What will be even more interesting is the degree to which "Give 'Em Hell" Harry will actually give 'em hell:

Sources told the Review-Journal that Carter will meet next week with Sen. Harry Reid's staff to discuss the race. Reid, the Senate minority leader, has had a good working relationship with Ensign, the Republican completing his first term in office. Not only do the two senators' staffs work closely on Nevada issues, the two have forged a solid and collegial relationship.

Although Ensign did technically offer an endorsement of GOP candidate Richard Ziser against Reid last year, he did not aggressively campaign against Reid.

There's been talk of a Reid-Ensign gentlemen's agreement. We'll see.


Just need to put this down on the Internet

Just so we never lose the quote:

Harriet Miers is a capable lawyer, a hard worker, and a kind and generous person. She would be an reasonable choice for a generalist attorney, which is indeed how George W. Bush first met her. She would make an excellent trial judge: She is a careful and fair-minded listener. But US Supreme Court?

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.

There, let's just remember that one over the next couple months.



Good news from Iraq:

Iraq's parliament voted Wednesday to reverse last-minute changes to rules for next week's referendum on a new constitution after the United Nations said they were unfair. Sunni Arabs responded by dropping their threat to boycott the vote and promised to reject the charter at the polls.

U.N. officials welcomed the reversal, saying it helped restore integrity to the crucial Oct. 15 referendum and urged all Iraqis to participate.

At least we're going to have a fair election (well, maybe). Of course, this means that Sunnis will now gear up even more to defeat the constitution. Every bit of good news in Iraq is accompanied by bad news.

Speaking of fair elections:

Election officials in Afghanistan have sought to downplay talk of rampant fraud and vote-tampering in last month’s parliamentary and provincial balloting.

Peter Erben, head of the UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) told reporters on Monday that reported irregularities seemed minor in comparison to other post-conflict elections.

According to the JEMB chief, 4 per cent of the 26,000 ballot boxes collected were put aside due to suspicion of vote-tampering and ballot-stuffing.

Not everyone agrees with Erben and Darnolf, however, and some observers maintain that voter fraud and intimidation have marred Afghanistan’s attempted exercise in democracy.

The EU election observer mission said earlier this week that it was worried about what it said were widespread reports of voter fraud and intimidation in some provinces.

"While these phenomena do not appear to be nationwide, they are a cause for concern,” said the EU mission in a statement.

Several Wolesi Jirga and provincial candidates expressed their own concerns of voter fraud to ISN Security Watch. In Kandahar province, birthplace of the Taliban in the mid-1990s, candidates said they had witnessed or heard accounts of voter bribery and other irregularities that had made them suspect the election process.

By the way, the expected winners include warlords and ex-al Qaeda leaders. And the turnout was right around 50%, proving that we are exporting American-style democracy across the globe.

Go freedom.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Leaders in the Senate

Elections aren't made a year out. All of this is subject to change. But at this time, the Democrats are poised to make a huge splash, and possibly take back the House and the Senate.

Sure, the GOP's splintering on several issues, plus the President's low approval ratings thanks to Katrina and Iraq, have something to do with this. But that's not the major factor. It's really that the Democratic House and Senate leadership, particularly the heads of the Campaign Committees (Chuck Schumer in the Senate, Rahm Emanuel in the House), are kicking the tails of their Republican counterparts. I'll get to Emanuel in a later post. First, Chuck.

Schumer has been able to recruit solid candidates in several battleground Senate races. Bob Casey in Pennsylvania is polling way ahead of Rick Santorum. Paul Hackett, the Iraq war veteran who narrowly lost a House seat in a strongly Republican district a couple months ago, is challenging Mike DeWine in Ohio (and Sherrod Brown might join him in a primary). Jon Tester is an appealing candidate in Montana to go up against Conrad Burns. Matt Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse will compete in a primary to unseat Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Claire McCaskill, who narrowly missed taking the governor's race in Missouri, will run against Jim Talent. All five of these races could be pickups. Plus there's an open Republican seat in Tennessee (Bill Frist is retiring to work on his stock portfolio) and Texas (Kay Bailey Hutchinson wants to be the governor).

Meanwhile, Liddy Dole, the Republican Campaign Committee Chair, must be tired of hearing the word "No." Rep. Shelly Moore Capito said "No" to facing Robert Byrd in West Virginia. Gov. John Hoevensaid "No" to facing Kent Conrad in North Dakota. Rep. Tom Osborne said "No" to facing Ben Nelson in Nebraska. Gov. Jim Douglas said "No" to facing Bernie Sanders for the open seat in Vermont. The only high-profile name that's said "Yes" so far is Florida's Cruella DeVille herself, Katherine Harris, and Bill Nelson is kicking her ass in polling. The challengers to Hillary Clinton are being pummeled as well.

There are Dem open seats in Maryland (Sarbanes) and Minnesota (Dayton). Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is in, but the Dem bench there is strong. And Minnesota's best Republican chance said no. It's very possible that the Democrats hold all of their seats in 2006.

Recruitment of candidates is essential to heading the Campaign Committee. Whatever the mood of the people, whatever the performance of the White House, in the end you're voting for and against people. And Charles Schumer is finding the best people to challenge the incumbent Republicans. Liddy Dole, er, isn't.

P.S. Proving that there are always exceptions to the rule, Senator Affleck? He'd be the worst actor on C-SPAN!


Crazy Like A Crazy Person

Remind me never to hire Tom DeLay's lawyer Dick DeGuerin. He thought he had found a legal loophole to get DeLay out of last week's indictment on a conspiracy charge (which carries a minor sentence). That DeGuerin's technicality (basically claiming that the charge of violating campaign finance laws was based on a statute that did not take effect until 2003 — after the time frame of the DeLay indictment) is legitimate is not entirely clear:

George Dix, a professor at the University of Texas law school who is an expert in criminal law and procedure, said he doesn't believe changes made to the Texas election code by the 2003 Legislature have any effect on the conspiracy charge.

The penal code's conspiracy charge allows for the charge if the defendants allegedly conspired to commit any felony, including an election code felony.

All the 2003 change did was spell out the word "election code," changing from an implicit statement to an explicit one. That didn't stop DeGuerin from thinking he had the rap beat.

Well, The prosecutor basically answered by saying "If you want to play games, we'll play games!"

AUSTIN, Texas - Rep. Tom DeLay was indicted for a second time in less than a week by a Texas grand jury looking into campaign contributions, a development the former U.S. House majority leader called "an abomination of justice."

The latest indictment, for one count of conspiring to launder money and one count of money laundering, was brought hours after DeLay's lawyers attacked on technical grounds another indictment handed down last week.

If convicted, the money laundering charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison. The charge of conspiracy to launder money is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The initial conspiracy charge carries a punishment of up to two years.

Fuck me? No, fuck you.

This story from SF Gate adds another layer of intrigue:

The backdrop for Monday's action may have been a dispute over the continued viability of a waiver of the three-year statute of limitations that DeLay granted in writing on Sept. 12 in order to keep trying to persuade Earle not to issue any indictments. After last week's conspiracy charge, DeGuerin said the waiver was withdrawn.

Monday's indictments maintained that the waiver was still in effect. But DeGuerin said in an interview that Earle may have brought the new charges so speedily because he was uncertain of his ground on that issue. A key transaction in the alleged conspiracy -- the payment of $190,000 by the Republican National Committee to the Texas Republican candidates -- occurred on Oct. 4, 2002, or three years ago today.

So Tom DeLay initially waived the statute of limitations as a gesture of good faith. The District Attorney indicts. Then DeLay's lawyers try to wiggle out of the indictment, and cancel the waiver to boot, just days before it was to expire. Could it be that DeGuerin was fishing for the conspiracy charge, knowing that he'd spring his dubious loophole and cancel the waiver, eliminating the threat?

Empty Wheel at Kos pretty much suggests that:

Deguerin may have had DeLay sign the waiver as part of a deal. He waives the statute of limitations. And then he only gets charged with conspiracy, not the more serious crime of money laundering. As Norm Pattis explains:

"So why am I so sure he'll plead [guilty to conspiracy]? A line in the indictment notes that his lawyer waived the statute of limitations on the conspiracy charge during grand jury proceedings. Why would a competent lawyer waive a complete defense? Because worse was on the way if he did not.

Initiates know the practice as charge-bargaining. You see a funnel cloud barreling at you and you ask your local prosecutor, quietly, 'on what charges are you willing to take my client if he pleads?'"

So Deguerin, thinking he's the smartest thing in Texas, waits for the first grand jury to run out, believing his guy is in the clear, then he starts attacking the lesser charge he bargained for.

Sometimes fancy lawyers can get just too fancy.



Monday, October 03, 2005

The GOP Freaks Out

Billmon has the goods on the Right's temper tantrum today:

What's happening over in Right Blogostan right now is simply amazing. It's like the political equivalent of Yugoslavia -- and Tito just died.

Suddenly all the repressed anger and resentment at Bush and Rove is boiling over. Hordes of wing nuts are almost literally howling (in ALL CAPS) about the metric tons of shit they've put up with -- the round-the-clock pork festivals, the federal entitlement for drug companies, the congressional leadership so corrupt it would make Boss Tweed blush, the bloody quagmire in Iraq, Mike Brown, the New Deal on the Mississippi, etc. etc.

We've certainly seen this coming. Every rank and file conservative I've had the pleasure of talking to over the past several weeks has voiced their displeasure at this Administration. Whether it's the nomination of Gen Myers' daughter to head the Immingration and Customs Enforcement (a particular cause célebre among the far right), the big-government spending pledges in the Gulf Coast for Katrina, the proposed hoarding of evacuees into trailers as permanent residences, the proposed guest-worker program for illegal immigrants, or this Miers nomination, which smacks of cronyism but certainly not ideological rigidity, the GOP is facing a great schism. And their leaders are too busy dodging indictments and investigations to spend any time keeping the party together.

Bush simply doesn't have the political capital he did at the beginning of the year, and as such, was in no position to ram a hard-core conservative down the Senate's throat. Nobody in the Senate, Democrat or Republican, really wants a fight of that nature, because of its inherent unpredictability for the 2006 elections. So he just went with someone he knows, someone that will be sure to fight for the REAL GOP agenda of crony capitalism, but who is a wildcard on the social issues the hardcore base cares about so deeply. (although I don't think there's any question she'll vote to overturn Roe). That Harry Reid is drooling all over her is certainly notable, but of course he's pro-life himself. Reid even seems to be claiming that he picked the nominee, which isn't exactly an endorsement of everything she believes. It just means Reid got as much as he could want out of it, avoiding the nuclear option and getting someone who could end up in the middle (although how can you expect that from Bush's lawyer, who's been working for him for over a decade?).

This really REALLY pisses off the Right, and they're taking it out on the President with a vengeance. There's no need for hotlinks, just read any conservative site today. As Atrios says, they desperately wanted to say a hearty "Fuck You" to Democrats with this nomination. They wanted to get an iron-clad ideologue and laugh while braying "There's nothing you can do about it." And they clearly didn't. Some are even talking about filibustering Miers. And not just random bloggers, but big-time conservative leaders.

The GOP is cracking at the seams on not just one, but a variety of issues. Republicans are really becoming the new Democrats, wracked with infighting and unable to carry a consistent message. Who would have imagined this 11 months ago?


The Fix Is In

I think that in Las Vegas, they call it stacking the deck:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 3 - Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders quietly adopted new rules over the weekend that will make it virtually impossible for the constitution to fail in the upcoming national referendum, prompting Sunni Arabs and a range of independent political figures to complain that the vote was being fixed.

Some Sunni leaders who have been organizing a campaign to vote down the document said today that they might now boycott the Oct. 15 referendum, because the rule change made their efforts futile. Other political leaders also reacted angrily, saying the change would seriously damage the vote's credibility in Iraq and abroad.

Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least 3 of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds would both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.

This basically means that everyone who doesn't vote is voting for the Constitution. The Shiites didn't even bother to get a two-thirds vote on this (required to change anything in the interim Constitution) because they claimed they were making a "point of clarification."

And the Americans can say they're "dismayed" by this and shrug their shoulders and claim "Iraq makes their own rules" all they want, but this is right out of the DeLay textbook of how to get things done in the US House. Change the rules, change the game, whatever it takes to get the vote passed. Monkey see, monkey do.

The truth is that this is Shiite triumphalism run amok. They sense that this is their moment to control the country the way they see fit. Of course, this will grease the wheels and slide the country even more inevitably downward toward civil war.

By the way, the Kurds could be recognizing this:

Even as the rule change angered Sunnis and some others, there were new signs of tension between the Shiite and Kurdish alliances that dominate Iraq's transitional government. Kurdish leaders threatened to withdraw from the alliance last month, and on Sunday a high-ranking Kurdish official called for the resignation of Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari. Leaders of the two blocs met tonight to iron out differences on a range of issues, including Kurdish demands for faster Kurdish resettlement in the contested northern city of Kirkuk.

It wasn't just a high-ranking Kurdish official, it was the President. That's what happens in parliamentary democracies right before the government collapses. I wouldn't be surprised if the Constitution fails in the Kurd-dominated areas as a result.

Juan Cole adds some context to this split:

The significance of Talabani's break with Jaafari is actually more serious than mere parliamentary politics. Talabani is a clan chieftain, as is his sometime rival, sometime ally, Massoud Barzani. The political parties, the KDP and the PUK, are wrought up with clan alliances. The Kurdish tribal chiefs are announcing a break with the Shiite tribal chiefs. The always troubled and uneasy Shiite-Kurdish alliance was the I-beam that kept the house of Iraq standing. Talabani has just taken a blow torch to the I-beam, and it is not clear whether there is anything to keep the roof from collapsing now.


What made the Kurdish-Shiite alliance possible was their common opposition to the old Baathist leadership of the Sunni Arab community. Both the Shiites and the Kurds were seeking a new role in Iraq, which would not be defined by Arab nationalism inflected with Sunnism. Both had petroleum resources in their areas. Both had had unfortunate experiences with strong central government.

But with the Baath defeated, the two no longer have a strong common foe. They are not afraid of anything. They do not need each other. And the Kurds absolutely insist on annexing Kirkuk to their Kurdistan confederacy, even though Kurds are probably not a majority there. Kirkuk is where the oil is. It is what would make the Kurdistan confederacy viable, even rich. That it has lots of Arabs and Turkmen inhabitants who don't want to be in Kurdistan is of no moment in Sulaymaniyah and Irbil (Kurdish strongholds).

If the Kurdish-Shiite alliance is over with, then I suspect so is Iraq.

Meanwhile they almost killed the oil minister today. How does the Administration respond to this series of dire reports? By going into the storage closet and trotting out the ol' "terra" boogeyman:

Some 149,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq and Vice President Dick Cheney warned against an early pullout, arguing this could make Iraq a launchpad for terrorist attacks on the United States.

"If the terrorists were to succeed, they would return Iraq to the rule of tyrants ... and use it as a staging area for ever greater attacks against America and other civilized nations," he told Marines recently back home from Iraq duty.

Like all those other terror attacks staged from Iraq. Oh wait, there weren't any.


Miers, You're Doing a Heckuva Job

I thought that in the post-Brownie world, people didn't like the President picking cronies and loyalists for important positions. Actually, I think people still don't like it, particularly Bush's conservative base.

Here's her bio. Maybe the thinnest for a Supreme Court justice in many a year. You have to ask yourself why the President would pick his own lawyer for the Supreme Court. COuld it be that he figures a host of cases damaging to him and his Administration are about to come bubbling up to the surface, and he needs a fox in the hen house?

Just speculating.