Friday, March 30, 2007

Greeting from Bali

Arrived in Bali yesterday afternoon. Beautiful place, but hot. And I mean like Africa hot, but I'm adjusting pretty quickly.

The aiport was a zoo with two large planes arriving at the same time. I stood in the visa line for nearly an hour. Two seperate drivers were waiting for me outside but they had worked out who would take me to the resort. Unfortunately for me, the wrong guys won. Athough very nice, I had to listen to a sales pitch of the sightseeing tours I could buy from him while in Bali. After the long trip, the hour long wait in line, the 95 degree 110% humidty air, and the enclosed van with almost no air con, it was a challenge not to strangle him.

My one room "villa" has it's own private walled garden and 12' x 20' swimming pool just for me. Pretty easy to cool off. After 36 hours of travel, the pool was refreshing. The bed room is enclosed and air conditioned but the rest, including the kitchen, upstairs TV room and bathroom are open air.

Dave, the manager from The Villas, invited the Burgers and me to his place for dinner last night.

It was a party of expatriots, mostly Europeans, living and working in Bali. They were all young, smoked liked chimneys, and wore long pants in the hot tropical air. Not one is shorts!

Dave's house is an open air bungelow with an elevated kitchen, large living room with one wall completely open to the outside with a patio and pool. Off to both sides are bedrooms that can be closed up, but nothing is air conditioned, and gecko lizards (two very large) were everywhere eating bugs.

Got a great nights sleep and woke up completely recovered from the trip. Took a morning swim, went to breakfast with friends, and then spent the rest of the morning in the pool getting checking out the new masks I purchased for the trip and making sure both underwater camera housing didn't leak. Everything checked out fine.

We board the Komodo Dancer on Monday for a 7 day diving cruise and then I begin the long trip home.

I doubt I will post more from the trip. I'm using a computer at the resort that must be a P1. Very slow.

Denise, please let Mom know I made it fine. Thanks.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Greeting from Hong Kong

It's 8:50 AM Friday morning in Hong Kong. Landed about 90 minutes ago. 1 more flight to go.

The flight from LA took nearly 15 hours due to a head wind. The longest flight of my life. I'm pretty sure I stink at this point.

Next stop Bali. Board the plane in about 1 hour. I can't wait to get a shower.

If there is wifi in Bali, I'll post some more.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gallop has a new poll out

With all kinds of interesting data on the publics loss of confidence in Bush. For instance, only 29% believe the surge is working.

But more important is this confirmation of the earlier Pew poll.

Public Support for Congressional Actions in Iraq War

The poll also gauged Americans' support for Congress taking three separate actions in regard to the war in Iraq. A strong majority of Americans endorse a requirement that U.S. troops meet strict readiness criteria before being deployed to Iraq (80% favor, 15% oppose). Fewer, but still a majority, favor a timetable for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq by fall 2008 (60% favor, 38% oppose). Most Americans still oppose Congress denying the necessary funding to send additional troops to Iraq (36% favor, 61% oppose).

Brzezinski on The Daily Show

Matthew Yglesias brought my attention to this appearance on The Daily Show that I had missed.

He makes a sobering point about the dangers of expanding the war in Iraq into Iran and the consequences of that expansion.

Watch the video. I think he clearly lays out what we face as a nation and just how grave our current situation.

Gone Diving


This installment comes from the Admirals Club at LAX.

I'll be gone a couple weeks diving off Komodo Island, Indonesia.

It's a long haul. STL to LAX, long layover then to Hong Kong, several hour layover and then on to Bali Indonesia for a few days at The Villas. David Kearns, an Aussie I met a few years ago when he was running a place in Fiji, manages The Villas.

On Monday, we board the Komodo Dancer for 7 days of diving. Then home again.

It's 36 hours each way of travel time each with with 24 hour spent in the air.

Hopefully, I'll have some great pics from the trip.

Monday, March 26, 2007

59%

of Americans back Congressional imposed deadline to remove troops from Iraq according to the latest Pew Poll.
A solid majority of Americans say they want their congressional representative to support a bill calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by August 2008. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) say they would like to see their representative vote for such legislation, compared with just 33% who want their representative to oppose it.

Yet another milestone for the Bush administration

Gonzales aide to invoke Fifth Amendment
Monica Goodling, a senior Justice Department official involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, will refuse to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, her lawyer said Monday.

"The potential for legal jeopardy for Ms. Goodling from even her most truthful and accurate testimony under these circumstances is very real," said the lawyer, John Dowd.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Here is a grim fact

According to the GAO, half of all deaths and injuries to US military personal in Iraq is directly attributable to the failure to secure the weapons caches throughout Iraq post invasion.

Why isn't the entire nation outraged over this?

See the report here.
In our report, we concluded that a fundamental gap existed between the OIF war plan assumptions and the experiences of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, contributing to insufficient troops being on the ground to prevent widespread looting of conventional munitions storage sites and resulting in looted munitions being a continuing asymmetric threat to U.S. and coalition forces. The human, strategic, and financial costs of this failure to provide sufficient troops have been high, with IEDs made with looted munitions causing about half of all U.S. combat fatalities and casualties in Iraq and killing hundreds of Iraqis and contributing to increasing instability, challenging U.S. strategic goals in Iraq. Further, DOD does not appear to have conducted a theaterwide survey and assessed the risk associated with unsecured conventional munitions storage sites to U.S. (P. 12 of .pdf)

Here is some interesting numbers

Professors Donald Shields and John Cragan collected data on the political profiling of elected officials during the Bush Administration.

Colbert made reference to this numbers the other night on his show.

Here are the summary results, which were updated 3/17/2007.

Candidates and Elected Public Officials (Federal, State, Local) Investigated by the Bush Justice Department

Democrats 298 - 79.47%
Republicans 67 - 17.87%
Independents 10 - 2.66%

Chi Square Expected Frequencies

Democrats 188 - 50%
Republicans 154 - 41%
Independents 34 - 09%

It Wasn’t Just a Bad Idea. It May Have Been Against the Law.

I missed Adam Cohen's excellent OP/ED in the NYTs a couple days ago.

Cohen makes the important point, that while the POTUS may fire USA for no reason at all, "if the attorneys were fired to interfere with a valid prosecution, or to punish them for not misusing their offices, that may well have been illegal."

Cohen:
1. Misrepresentations to Congress. The relevant provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1505, is very broad. It is illegal to lie to Congress, and also to “impede” it in getting information. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty indicated to Congress that the White House’s involvement in firing the United States attorneys was minimal, something that Justice Department e-mail messages suggest to be untrue.

2. Calling the Prosecutors. As part of the Sarbanes-Oxley reforms, Congress passed an extremely broad obstruction of justice provision, 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c), which applies to anyone who corruptly “obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so,” including U.S. attorney investigations.

3. Witness Tampering. 18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b) makes it illegal to intimidate Congressional witnesses. Michael Elston, Mr. McNulty’s chief of staff, contacted one of the fired attorneys, H. E. Cummins, and suggested, according to Mr. Cummins, that if he kept speaking out, there would be retaliation. Mr. Cummins took the call as a threat, and sent an e-mail message to other fired prosecutors warning them of it. Several of them told Congress that if Mr. Elston had placed a similar call to one of their witnesses in a criminal case, they would have opened an investigation of it.

4. Firing the Attorneys. United States attorneys can be fired whenever a president wants, but not, as § 1512 (c) puts it, to corruptly obstruct, influence, or impede an official proceeding.
Cohen sites examples for each violation.

An historic moment

From this morning's Washington Post,
Liberal opposition to a $124 billion war spending bill broke last night, when leaders of the antiwar Out of Iraq Caucus pledged to Democratic leaders that they will not block the measure, which sets timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

The acquiescence of the liberals probably means that the House will pass a binding measure today that, for the first time, would establish tough readiness standards for the deployment of combat forces and an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline for their removal from Iraq.

A Senate committee also passed a spending bill yesterday setting a goal of bringing troops home within a year. The developments mark congressional Democrats' first real progress in putting legislative pressure on President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces.
Maybe I'm making too much of this but I see this has an historic moment. Congress has only rarely stood up to a President in matters or war.

This has been a very difficult moment for the left. Representatives like Lee and Waters have felt that any vote that allowed the war to continue was a capitulation and a betrayal of their principals. Of course, that's all well and good, but the reality is that the Dems did not have to votes to end the war. Thus, a principled stand that blocked any compromise meant that Lee and Waters and the others (Like Dennis Kucinich) would rather do nothing, and allow the war to go on unfettered with the resulting loss of life, then be a part of realistic steps to actually stop the madness. What my mother would call "cutting off your nose, to spite your face".

Apparently, Rep Lee agreed,
As debate began on the bill yesterday, members of the antiwar caucus and party leaders held a backroom meeting in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a final plea to the group, asking it to deliver at least four votes when the roll is called. The members promised 10.

"I find myself in the excruciating position of being asked to choose between voting for funding for the war or establishing timelines to end it," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). "I have struggled with this decision, but I finally decided that, while I cannot betray my conscience, I cannot stand in the way of passing a measure that puts a concrete end date on this unnecessary war."

That was the message of Democratic leaders: This is the best deal they could make, and it is better than no deal at all.


Now all the Senate need do is pass a bill and the Dems, taking a lesson from the GOP, and take care of it in conference.....

The provocation they've been waiting for?

Britain: Iran seizes 15 sailors, marines

An interesting couple paragraph buried inside the story,
The U.S. Navy said the incident occurred just outside a long-disputed waterway called the Shatt al-Arab dividing Iraq and Iran. It came as the U.N. Security Council is debating further sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program, and amid U.S. allegations that Iran is arming Shiite militias in Iraq.
_____

The seizure of the British vessels, a pair of rigid inflatable boats known as RIBs, took place in long-disputed waters just outside of the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway that divides Iraq from Iran, Aandahl said. A 1975 treaty gave the waters to Iraq and U.S. and British ships commonly operate there, but Aandahl said Iran disputes Iraq's jurisdiction over the waters.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The battle lines are drawn....

Tony Snow this morning told ABC News: "The executive branch is under no compulsion to testify to Congress, because Congress in fact doesn't have oversight ability."

I think Josh has this right. They intend to obfuscate and obstruct for 22 more months and go home.....with Pardons.

Edwards will continue presidential run

Okay, so disregard earlier reports.

Edwards will continue presidential run - Yahoo! News

Senate panel OKs subpoenas

As predicted.

Senate panel OKs subpoenas for key aides

Again, like the House, The Senate Judiciary Committee at this point has only authorized Subpoenas. They do not plan to immediately issue them, but rather continue talks with the WH on an agreed resolution.

Wow! Edwards may be out

From Politico.com
John Edwards is suspending his campaign for President, and may drop out completely, because his wife has suffered a recurrence of the cancer that sickened her in 2004, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, an Edwards friend told The Politico.

"At a minimum he's going to suspend" the campaign, the source said. "Nobody knows precisely how serious her recurrence is. It’ll be another couple of days before there’s complete clarity."

"For him right now he has one priority which is her health and the security of the two young children," said the friend.

As for the campaign, "You don't shut this machine off completely, but everything will go on hold."

The Dam has burst

On the front page of this morning's Washington Post.

Prosecutor Says Bush Appointees Interfered With Tobacco Case
The leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies said yesterday that Bush administration political appointees repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government's racketeering case.

Sharon Y. Eubanks said Bush loyalists in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's office began micromanaging the team's strategy in the final weeks of the 2005 trial, to the detriment of the government's claim that the industry had conspired to lie to U.S. smokers.

She said a supervisor demanded that she and her trial team drop recommendations that tobacco executives be removed from their corporate positions as a possible penalty. He and two others instructed her to tell key witnesses to change their testimony. And they ordered Eubanks to read verbatim a closing argument they had rewritten for her, she said.

"The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said," Eubanks said. "And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public."

Eubanks, who served for 22 years as a lawyer at Justice, said three political appointees were responsible for the last-minute shifts in the government's tobacco case in June 2005: then-Associate Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, then-Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler and Keisler's deputy at the time, Dan Meron.
Sounds like more hearings are coming, and more resignations.

And wait until they focus on the State Department.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where was Rosemary Woods?


Okay, this is becoming too much fun! And a little freaky.

Remember the 18 minute gap on Nixon's Watergate tapes erased by his secretary, Rosemary Woods? (pictured to the right demonstrating how she had inadvertently erased the tape)

There is an 18-day gap in the 3,000 documents on the U.S. Attorney purge released this week by the Justice Department.

The gap extends from mid-November to early December, “which was a critical period as the White House and Justice Department reviewed, then approved, which U.S. attorneys would be fired while also developing a political and communications strategy for countering any fallout from the firings.”

During today’s briefing, a reporter noted that one of the last emails before the gap was from Gonzales then chief of staff Sampson to Harriet Miers, asking, “Who will determine whether this requires the president’s attention?”

As I mentioned below, the president's involvement should be the key to any defense of executive privilege. Snow said today, “[Bush] has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.”

Snow's explanation for the 18 day gap? “I’ve been led to believe that there’s a good response for it.”

It sucks to be George W. Bush

Here is something to think about.

Things are as good today as G-dub can expect for the remainder of his presidency.

Think about that next time you think you're having a bad day.

Game on!

Okay, this just got interesting.

House panel OKs subpoenas for Bush aides

It's important to note that no subpoenas have actually issued. At this point, Chairman Conyers intends to use the threat of subpoenas to negotiate an agreement for testimony.

This administration's aversion to testimony under oath is interesting.

The Senate will vote to issue subpoenas on Thursday.

So who will blink first?

I'm not impressed with the WH claim of executive privilege while also claiming Bush was not briefed or directly involved in the decision making. The whole point of executive privilege is to allow the president candid advice. If the president did not get advice, what would be privileged?

And of course, with presidential approval ratings hovering around 30%, it's easy for the Dems to get tough.

U.S. forces say they detroyed another Sunni bomb factory

Saudi sponsored Sunni insurgents blow our soldiers up and we target Iran, a nation that had nothing to do with Sunni insurgents.

If nothing else, Bush is consistent. Iraq had nothing to do with the events of Sept 11, but here we are.

U.S. forces say destroy bomb factory in Iraq

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

We Got Tubed—Again

This is a story that is really not getting enough coverage.

Foreign Policy: We Got Tubed—Again
What once appeared the exception now seems the rule. Officials in U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration are gingerly walking back from claims that North Korea was secretly building a factory to enrich uranium for dozens of atomic bombs. The intelligence, officials now say, was not as solid as they originally trumpeted. It does not seem that the North Korean program is as large or as advanced as claimed or that the country’s leaders are as set on building weapons as officials depicted.

If this sounds familiar, it should. The original claims came during the same period officials were hyping stories of Iraq’s weapons. Once again, the claims involve aluminum tubes. Once again, there was cherry-picking and exaggeration of intelligence. Once again, the policy shaped the intelligence, with enormous national security costs. The story of Iraq is well known; that unnecessary war has cost thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and an immeasurable loss of legitimacy. This time, the administration’s decision to tear up a successful agreement—using a dubious intelligence “finding” as an excuse—propelled the tiny, isolated country to subsequently build and test nuclear weapons, threatening to trigger a new wave of proliferation.

94 -- 2

The Vote today in the Senate to “end the Bush administration’s ability to unilaterally fill U.S. attorney vacancies as a backlash to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ firing of eight federal prosecutors.”

Buffoonery is the only way to describe this debacle. What should have been a non-issue will end with bringing down the Attorney General.

And again, it all comes back to hubris. All the DoJ had to do was make a statement that the USAs are presidential appointments who serve at the pleasure of the president, and at the expiration of their terms, the president has chosen to replace 8 USA. The President greatly appreciates the service of these dedicated men and women, and will make no further comment as these are personnel matters. The President will fill these vacancies on an interim basis and nominate successors for Senate confirmation as quickly as possible. Who cares if the Senate ever acts on the nominations because the president has the power to appoint indefinite "interim" replacements with only two years left in his admin.

Perfectly lawful. And what would have been the option of the Senate? Get mad, make bold statements about the political nature of the firings and then what? The WH would have been in a much better political position to resist subpoenas because they had done nothing unlawful and in the process make the senate Dems look whiny and impotent.

But what do they do instead? They overplay their hand by appearing to snub the senate with their new Patriot Act power and lie to Congress about things of little consequence. Of course the WH would be involved in the firings. The USAs work for the President.

And I couldn't be happier.

Stick a fork in him,....

Gonzales is done.

According to McClatchy, support for Gonzales appears to have collapsed.
WASHINGTON - The White House began floating the names of possible replacements for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Monday as the Justice Department released more internal documents related to the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last year.

One prominent Republican, who earlier had predicted that Gonzales would survive the controversy, said he expected both Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty to resign soon. Another well-connected Republican said that White House officials have launched an aggressive search for Gonzales' replacement, though Bush hadn't decided whether to ask for his resignation.

Support for Gonzales appeared to be collapsing under the weight of questions about his truthfulness and his management ability....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Not exactly a sentimental journey

Next Monday marks four years since the invasion of Iraq. ThinkProgress has created a detailed timeline that captures the story of the Iraq war over the past 48 months.

High crimes and misdemeanors

This is a big deal.

Murry Waas, writing in the National Journal,
Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

It is unclear whether the president knew at the time of his decision that the Justice inquiry -- to be conducted by the department's internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility -- would almost certainly examine the conduct of his attorney general.

Had it not been quashed, a Justice Department inquiry into the domestic eavesdropping program would likely have examined the actions of Alberto Gonzales.

Sources familiar with the halted inquiry said that if the probe had been allowed to continue, it would have examined Gonzales's role in authorizing the eavesdropping program while he was White House counsel, as well as his subsequent oversight of the program as attorney general.
Um....I believe the name for this sort of thing is Obstruction of Justice. If these allegations are true, this is much bigger than the USA scandal.

'What did the President know and when did he know it' is to determine to what extend he committed a crime.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sununu calls for Gonzales' dismissal

First Republican to call for Gonzales head.

'Civil War'

A bleak milestone (actually many) in the Iraqi civil war we started.

The DoD released there assessment of Iraq for the 4th quarter of 2006. It's bleak. 9000 Iraqi per month fleeing the country. More than 1000 attacks a week. Average daily causalities of 140. As if this wasn't bad enough, it was believed it may be twice as bad since these figures only represent violence observed by or reported to the US coalition.

But the most significant milestone is that the DoD has for the first time described the conflict as a civil war.

From the WaPo,
"Some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a 'civil war,' including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities and mobilization, the changing character of the violence, and population displacements," it said, echoing the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq released in January.

Something to keep in mind...

As I mentioned before, what we are seeing in the USA / AG scandal is an administration completely unprepared or unused to actual Congressional oversight. They have dealt with the impotent Specter who would offer a few bitting quotes and then completely capitulate to the WH even to the point of sneaking outrageous provisions into legislation.

This is just the beginning of the WH woes.

Lying to Congress has been SOP for this WH for years.

How many times has Condi Rice lied to Congress under oath?

My guess is that she is next.

tic, tic, tic,....

The knives are out.

From today's NYTs,
....The two Republicans, who spoke anonymously so they could share private conversations with senior White House officials, said top aides to Mr. Bush, including Fred F. Fielding, the new White House counsel, were concerned that the controversy had so damaged Mr. Gonzales’s credibility that he would be unable to advance the White House agenda on national security matters, including terrorism prosecutions.

“I really think there’s a serious estrangement between the White House and Alberto now,” one of the Republicans said.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

US Attorneys timeline

Paul Kiel at TPMmuckraker has an excellent recap of the events leading to the firings of the eight.

In all the excellent coverage of this topic at TPM, no one has really given some context.

All USAs are appointed by the POTUS after taking office and serve at his pleasure. Strickly speaking, they can be fired by the POTUS for any reason or no reason at all.

It is customary for every USA to tender their resignation when a new POTUS takes office. When the POTUS is of a different party, those resignations are all accepted and replacements are found. And even when the POTUS is of the same party (Reagan to Bush, the elder) many were accepted and replaced.

So what's the big deal?

This is a WH that really is out of control from years of no Congressional oversight. What this WH did was shit on the Senate and rub their nose it. Nothing new for them, but they don't have leadership to run cover for them any more.

Here is how it works in practice. The senior senator of the president's party chooses the USAs for his or her state, the POTUS agrees and then the Senator Shepards the nominee through confirmation. This is also true of all Federal judges in a given state. If there is no Senator of the president's party, it is more complicated. The senior member of Congress of the president's party makes these choices BUT, because of the need for Senate confirmation, a deal is usually struck to allow the Senators a say.

The important thing to remember is that this system is SACRED, and this is why Sen Ensign (R - NV) is so angry. The WH fired HIS GUY, without talking to him, and stuck a party hack in his place, right under Ensign's GOP nose. It cannot be overemphasized at what a huge breach of protocol this is.

And aside from the Nevada USA, look at the other states that lost had a USA fired.

Both Arizona and New Mexico had GOP senators, but it would appear that they at least acquiesced, and in the case of Sen Domenici, were directly involved.

Otherwise, all the firings occurred in states where both senators were Dems: Arkansas, Cali, Michigan and Washington. The Specter amendment removing the need for Senate confirmation was key to these firings.

And finally, I don't believe for a minute that the WH wanted to fire all 93 USAs. That's just a BS cover story.

UPDATE: In response to some email, let me clarify. Yes, the reason we should all be concerned is that the WH replaced USA who would not use grand juries to further partisan politics. I did not mean to suggest otherwise.

My point here is to explain that, 1) it is not routine at this juncture to replace USAs, and 2) why even so many in the GOP are angry.

Gonzales Press Conference

The AG has canceled travel plans and has now called a press conference today at 2 PM EDT.

I'm guessing he will be announcing that he informed the WH in December that he would be leaving his post to spend more time with his family and that his leaving is unrelated to recent scandals.

Or maybe he's fired Robert Mueller, head of the FBI?

Monday, March 12, 2007

In Iraq, No Room at the Inn for Auditors

One word: Buffoonery

They just don't get it. The jigs up. It's oversight now. Gotta account for all those missing billions that the GOP didn't care about.

Will they get it after Gonzales is gone?

Gonzales' Chief of Staff is out

According to tomorrow's New York Times.

Gonzales isn't far behind.

It's really hard to imagine how completely unprepared these clowns were for a little Congressional oversight. It's not that this buffoonery is new, it's just that they are used to the impotent Sen Specter.

WH wants OMB To Withhold Earmark Data From Public

I just can't get enough of this kind of stuff.

Think Progress has a must read post up this afternoon highlighting the WHs change of heart of making earmarks public.

Here's a fun fact,
In 2005, Congress inserted 15,877 pork projects into spending bills. In 2006, Congress allocated a record $71.77 billion “to 15,832 special projects, more than double the $29.11 billion spent on 4,155 pork-barrel projects in 1994.”

Let's not be naive, The Dems loved the pork too but Wow! They were ametures compared to the GOP.

If the Dems are serious about Congressional reform, this is the make or break issue. They must reign in these earmarks.

Army surgeon general sacked

CNN is reporting,
Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley has lost his job as Army surgeon general, another casualty of the care scandal at Walter Reed Medical Center.

Acting Army Secretary Pete Geren asked for Kiley's resignation, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved the action, a senior Pentagon official said.

In its official announcement, the Army said Kiley had requested retirement.

Kiley had been made temporary head of Walter Reed, the Army's top hospital, after Army Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman was ousted in the wake of a series in The Washington Post that found soldiers living in deplorable conditions.

However, he was quickly replaced by Gen. Eric Schoomaker amid criticism that Kiley, who was head of Walter Reed from 2000 to 2004, had been aware of the problems at the facility.

Not exactly a big surprise, and certainly appropriate.

It was reported last week that Kiley's appointment to replace Gen Weightman was the move that did in Army Sec Harvey.

Kiley announced his immediate retirement, but it looks like he will be demoted by one rank in retirement. If even half the reports of neglect at Walter Reed are true, he's getting off easy.

Supporting the troops, GOP style

Today's TPMmuckraker must read is this Salon article describing the Army's move to force the deployment of injured troops to meet feed the surge.
Salon interviewed a number of the soldiers who were declared fit enough for deployment, including a soldier whose spine is "separating," one who "corkscrewed" his spine, one who "suffers from degenerative disk disease," and another with chronic sleep apnea.

As a captain at Ft. Benning tells him (the one with the corkscrewed spine): "It is a numbers issue with this whole troop surge... They are just trying to get those numbers."

Bug Out!

Fleeing a juridiction to avoid prosecution?

Halliburton is heading to Dubai. They assure us that they are maintaining their US incorporation and will be continue to be subject to US law and taxation.

But the CEO and top execs will be in Dubai, in case anyone needs to reach them, or serve them with subpoenas.
The Dubai announcement, which Halliburton made at a regional energy conference in Bahrain, comes at a time when the company is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations of improper dealings in Iraq, Kuwait and Nigeria. Halliburton has also agreed to pay billions of dollars in settlements in asbestos litigation.

Halliburton would not elaborate on Sunday on what the shift of its top executive might mean for some of the issues it faces. The move seemed to raise questions about whether Halliburton might gain tax advantages or other benefits.

They're spinning off KBR, the DoDs largest outside contractor and the primary subject of the DoJ inquiries regarding their dealing in Iraq, Kuwait and Nigeria. After all, they only took those muliti-billion dollar contracts for patriotic reasons, not for profit.

Iraq is now burning

The New York Times is now reporting that the latest strategy of the Sunnis and Shiites is to burn down each other's homes.

This, of course, in addition to bombing religious pilgrims going to and from shrines which have now claimed more than 200 lives in the last week.

Surge, or not, these burnings and attacks take place right under our noses. The homes of Sunnis and Shia are being burned in Muqdadiya. And this is no remote village. Mugdadiya, 60 miles NE of Baghdad, is a city of 200,000.

Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain

Today's GOP. A real class act.

From Raw Story,
Two familiar faces will soon be dogging Senator John McCain on the campaign trail, as activist Vietnam Veterans Jerry Kiley and Ted Sampley resume a campaign they have conducted for years against the Arizona Republican and former prisoner of war.

Jerry Kiley filed papers last week to establish the nonpartisan group Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain. "When people truly get to know him, there's no possibility they'll consider him for president of the United States," says Kiley, who served in the Army and completed the Internal Revenue Service paperwork to establish the "527" group.

Apparently, no Vietnam Veteran can run for office unless Kiley approves. They much prefer, I suppose, the drunk and dumb.

At least this time they're eating their own.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gonzales doesn't know it yet,.....

but he will soon be leaving public service to spend more time with his family.

First, the recap from this morning's WaPo,
...an unquestionably difficult week for Gonzales, who managed to anger lawmakers in both parties by dismissing the U.S. attorney firings in a newspaper column as an "overblown personnel matter." The description did not play well in the wake of public hearings in which several fired prosecutors alleged that they had been the targets of possible intimidation by GOP lawmakers and the Justice Department.

Then came news Friday that the FBI had abused its expanded authority under the USA Patriot Act antiterrorism law to seize the personal records of thousands of Americans and legal residents, a revelation that angered libertarian Republicans as much as liberal Democrats.

The kicker came out of a courtroom in Miami, where federal prosecutors had to admit that the government had lost the videotape of the final interrogation of terrorism suspect Jose Padilla, posing a serious risk to the case.

"It almost seems like no one's in charge at the Justice Department," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday. "There's just problem after problem after problem, and he doesn't seem to understand the seriousness of what's happened. . . . He doesn't quite understand that it's a new ballgame."
And this is what his friends are saying,
The sharpest and most telling criticism, however, has come from Gonzales's own party.

Specter said before meeting with Gonzales on Thursday that "one day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later." He added later that he did not mean to imply that Gonzales should resign.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said "there ought to be some heads that roll" over the FBI scandal, and he complained about "the ham-handed dismissal" of U.S. attorneys.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), whose U.S. attorney was one of those pushed out, told reporters: "I cannot tell you how upset I am at the Justice Department."
_____

But several Washington lawyers and GOP strategists with close ties to the White House said last week that lawmakers and conservative lawyers are nervous that Gonzales may not be up to the job.

"This attorney general doesn't have anybody's confidence," said one GOP adviser to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could be candid. "It's the worst of Bush -- it's intense loyalty for all the wrong reasons. There will be other things that come up, and we don't have a guy in whom we can trust."
Seriously, how does he survive this?

So whose job will it be to tell G-dub Gonzales is out? Rove? That would be ironic.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Something we can all agree on!


John McCain is no Luke Skywalker.

Those of us who follow politics have known for a very long time that conservatives are with the empire.

Jonathan Chait writing in today's Los Angeles Times, explains the recent comments of Sen Graham (R-Death Star) who used a Star Wars analogy to reassure Conservatives on McCain.
'THIS IS NOT Luke Skywalker here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), discussing his friend and Senate colleague John McCain's second run for the presidency. "This is a totally different campaign."

Graham was looking for a way to reassure his fellow conservatives that they no longer had anything to fear from McCain. His choice of metaphor is one of those windows into the fundamental cultural gap that separates hard-core conservatives from the rest of humanity. To most people, who think of Luke Skywalker as a hero battling an evil and immensely powerful empire, Graham's implication would be seen as an unmitigated insult. In the world of the GOP elite, though, it's a form of praise: No, no, don't worry, McCain's with the empire now.

Since this is a matter upon which we all agree, Democrat and Republican, and in the spirit of bipartisanship so recently popular with our GOP friends, Dem volunteers should shadow McCain at campaign stops with pictures of his beloved emperor to remind everyone what side he is on.

Friday, March 09, 2007

"Firefighters for Rudy"

Well this should be a scandal.

To respond to criticism of Rudy by a firefighter's union, Rudy's campaign made invented an organization and issued a press release offering interviews with the head of the organization -- Rudy's aide, Tim Brown. The phone number of the organization? Rudy's press office.

Greg Sargent has the story.

A New Low

As a lawyer I can say that you know you have problems, when the only authority you can find for your position is the Dred Scott Decision.

Washington Wire - WSJ.com : Dred-full Decision

This is crack-pot land.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

'Even a stopped clock is right twice a day"

A very insightful run-down on Giuliani.

Why Rudy Giuliani Really Shouldn’t be President

Congressional Oversight is a Bitch

I know that I tend to make too much of these things, but I find Sen Specter's comments stunning.

From The WaPo,
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that Gonzales's status as the nation's leading law enforcement officer might not last through the remainder of President Bush's term, pointedly disputing the attorney general's public rationale for the mass firings.

"One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later," Specter said at a committee hearing where a new round of subpoenas to the Justice Department was considered.
Of course, it was Specter who slipped in the little provision in the Homeland Security renewal bill that allowed the Pres and DoJ to replace USAs in this manner so perhaps he's embarrassed. He certainly should be.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Walter Reed

Dana Priest and Anne Hull at the WaPo remind us of what reporters should be. I expect they will share a Pulitzer for their work uncovering the deplorable treatment of our soldiers at Walter Reed.

From, yesterday's WaPo,
Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army's surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army's top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.
_____

In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. "When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable," said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.

Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, "I went flying down to Kevin Kiley's office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else."

Young said that even after Kiley left Walter Reed to become the Army's surgeon general, "if anything could have been done to correct problems, he could have done it."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Slavery, indeed.

I'm always amused when Republicans are anti-free market,.....which is anytime it drives their cost up, as opposed to down....

I'm a real irony addict.

From this morning's LA Times courtesy of Kevin Drum,
DENVER — Ever since passing what its Legislature promoted as the nation's toughest laws against illegal immigration last summer, Colorado has struggled with a labor shortage as migrants fled the state.
_____

"If they can't get slaves from Mexico, they want them from the jails," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which favors restrictions on immigration.

Ricardo Martinez of the Denver immigrant rights group Padres Unidos asked: "Are we going to pull in inmates to work in the service industry too? You won't have enough inmates — unless you start importing them from Texas."
Perhaps an answer to California's over-crowded jails?

McCain's officially 'in'

No big surprise that this point.

From the WaPo: McCain Says He'll Seek Presidency