Monday, October 31, 2005

Tragic Joke

Go read and laugh.

Not Separated At Birth

Which Finger in the Air?

Something for potential Feingold supporters to watch, Political Wire:
Meanwhile, here are some initial reactions among the key senators:

For: Frist (R-TN), Brownback (R-KS), Hatch (R-UT)

Against: Reid (D-NV), Leahy (D-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Kennedy (D-MA)

Neutral: Snowe (R-ME), Feingold (D-WS)

House For Sale

Would you pay $1.2 million for this?

LAS VEGAS - Its front windows wish you “Feliz Navidad” in paint that won’t wash off. The landscaping consists of four shriveling cacti and a patio piled with empty cat food boxes. Inside, it’s 700 square feet of confirmed bachelor’s clutter.

And it can all be yours for $1.2 million — cash.

There’s perhaps no better evidence of the condo fever raging through Las Vegas’ real estate market than the asking price on Manuel Corchuelo’s home. Once considered deadlocked in the wasteland where the Las Vegas Strip fizzled into a decaying downtown, the World War II-era home is now happily nestled in the shadows of billions of dollars of new and proposed high-rise condominium projects. Corchuelo is sitting on much-coveted land.
Inflation? Naw. Real Estate bubble? Naw

Head Fake

Tristero over at Digby's said it well, but I'd like to pile on.

The nomination of Scalito is a classic Rovian political move. When you are down, when you are losing, when you've lost your mojo, ATTACK!

There is not a candidate on god's green earth that Bush could have picked that is worse than Samuel Alito. He's a selection to the right of Scalia, if that's possible, and he's damned proud of it. His nomination brings the right-wing loud-mouthed nutbars back into the fold despite the treason in his administration. Watch the American Taliban scream with delight and writhe in the aisle over Scalito, getting much media attention and putting Bush back up on his godly pedestal.

But this nominee does something far more important. It diverts the media's attention. Because of denial the Iraq war story doesn't have "legs" (literally/unfortunately for thousands of soldiers). The PlameGate scandal has all the perfect earmarks of a media story, but Fitzgerald plays by the rules and doesn't leak. So that story now goes dark....either temporarily or permanently. A Libby trial would be good TV, but that's months away at a minimum assuming Libby doesn't continue to impale himself to protect the mob bosses. So just exactly what do you think the media monster will consume now?

That's right. A dog fight unfolding over months between the right and left over Scalito, including the drama of an impending nuculur fight and the Presidential hopes of anyone in the gang of fourteen. A fight where Bush get's to look principled, strong, challenging and all that Rambo bullshit that the public seems to devour these days.

For Bush, public chaos equals peace. Chaos provides cover for his stupidity and ineptitude. When the eye of the Bush created hurricane shifts from right over his head, he gets blown away like a cheap tent. Scalito is the perfect choice to deftly move the calm hurricane eye back where Bush likes it, over him, while the rest of "the people" he's so fond of mentioning experience high winds and tidal surge.

It will take great skill by the Dems to play their cards correctly. Reid (pretty much alone) has generally handled Bush well. He's gonna get another chance to demonstrate that skill straight-away. I would like to hope that the media whores won't fall for it.

But then I'm not hope-stupid. Remember, I told you about cornered narcissists....

Rubber Hits Road

Bush relaunches his Presidency with Spaceship Scalito

Is it filibuster time?

Or will Dems man mission control

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Gentle Reminder Part Deux

This is the second and final part of two posts about the deaths that have occurred in Iraq. In part one, I focused on the Lancet study (free registration required) which claimed, a year ago, that there were an estimated 100,000 dead Iraqi's due to the war. It was estimated that most of those deaths were violent and due to coalition forces, primarily bombing. The study indicated that the numbers they found were likely on the low side because Falluja, the scene of intense fighting, was conservatively removed from the study conclusion as a statistical outlier. Finally, I shared some criticisms of the Lancet study.

In this part, I want to discuss the media treatment of the Lancet study; Marc Garlasco who appeared on the This American Life broadcast, and some final thoughts. Much of what I present here is information from that show which I highly recommend. The audio of these broadcasts it typically put up within a week or so.

Why was the report ignored?

Les Roberts, the John Hopkins researcher who led the Lancet study is clear that he wanted to get the results into the public debate before the 2004 Presidential election. Many think this was the key to why the report was not widely reported given the shrill, highly partisan nature of the campaign.

I think this is true. The media was notoriously gun-shy about presenting information unfavorable to Bush, particularly after CBS botched the National Guard Story. But I also think it failed to gain attention because of denial. For Americans to openly admit that they are responsible for this many deaths is to experience shame. In this time of "precise weapons" and high tech guidance systems, Americans were deluded into thinking that a heavily populated country could be invaded, that urban fighting would be in the mix, and that civilians would greet us as liberators in a short clean war. Unfortunately, the lack of media coverage about the First Gulf War and Afghanistan played a big part in our delusion. The Pentagon, having learned from the nightly front-line reporting during Vietnam, has made sure to cleanse the very real images of war from our media experience making it much easier to just believe.

Finally, I think racism plays a part. People who are different due to color/nationality/religion or economics are seen as "less than" us. It's from a stance of degrading the worth of other human beings, separating them from ourselves, that killing so many civilians can be a ho-hum national experience. And ho-hum is exactly how I would describe the American public's response to the Lancet Study.

Marc Garlasco

Meet Marc Garlasco, from a Mother Jones bio:
Marc Garlasco is the senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch (HRW), and is HRW’s resident expert on battle damage assessment, military operations, and interrogations. Marc also leads HRW’s work on Abu Ghurayb, civilian military contractors, and non-lethal weapons.

Before coming to HRW, Marc spent seven years in the Pentagon as a senior intelligence analyst covering Iraq. His last position there was chief of high-value targeting during the Iraq War in 2003. Marc was on the Operation Desert Fox (Iraq) Battle Damage Assessment team in 1998, led a Pentagon Battle Damage Assessment team to Kosovo in 1999, and recommended thousands of aimpoints on hundreds of targets during operations in Iraq and Serbia. He also participated in over 50 interrogations as a subject matter expert.
Listening to this guy is amazing. He was the Pentagon expert who participated in the targeting of air raids early in the war, including the attempt to kill Saddam Hussein and "Chemical Ali". Targeting, in this case, means that he was an expert on the targets, the buildings themselves, the munitions needed to do the damage, the methods of attack to minimize "collateral damage" and the collateral damage estimates. Just to be clear, collateral damage means the number of innocents that would be killed.

This is from the American Prospect story on Marla Ruzicka, the young activist in Iraq who was counting Iraqi deaths prior to her own death via insurgents:
Today, by almost all accounts, the U.S. military tries to minimize civilian casualties, both for moral reasons and to win over hearts and minds. According to Garlasco, the Air Force estimates the number of civilian casualties it expects particular strikes will create, often changing or calling off strikes that will kill or injure too many civilians.
Garlasco said in the interview that for reasons unknown to him, 30 deaths was the magic number. If a strike was estimated to have 30 deaths or more as collateral damage, the strike had to be signed off by Bush or abandoned. If the estimate was less than 30, the mission was a go. Garlasco doesn' t mention if this affected the collateral damage estimates by Pentagon analyst. It's not hard to imagine that it would. But Garlasco found it very troubling that Pentagon experts never checked to see if estimates were legitimate. From the American Prospect article:
“But once the war is done they never go back and check,” he added. “Marla’s[Ruzicka] work was important because the Air Force could go back and figure out if their models are correct.”
He said that to his knowledge, the Pentagon never has tried to ascertain the accuracy of collateral damage estimates. The Lancet Study and Rumsfelds public announcements would seem to indicate that the collateral damage estimates during targeting are quite inaccurate. Unless we assume the Pentagon knew there would be 100,000 civilian casualties.

Further in the This American Life interview, Garlasco discusses how he left the Pentagon stating that he never agreed with the war, but felt that he could do more to protect civilians in his job due to his expertise. However, personal circumstances ultimately necessitated that he leave. He then joined Human Rights Watch. Interestingly, it's his perspective that his job focus is the same as when the Pentagon employeed him, namely to try and eliminate civilian deaths. He later visited Iraq (pictured above) as a member of Human Rights Watch seeing many of his targets and talking to Iraqi's affected by the air raids. He reports that it was an very mixed experience to see, up close, the technical efficacy of his own target planning while also noting the human costs up close and personal.

Marc Garlasco has more recently been involved in work focusing on the military checkpoints in Iraq:
“The military should immediately take the basic steps to ensure that Iraqi civilians, as well as U.S. soldiers, are safe at checkpoints,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “The fact that soldiers who man checkpoints are at real risk is not an excuse for complacency. These risks should not be transferred to civilians.”


Checkpoints in Iraq pose dangers to both soldiers manning them and persons crossing them. The U.S. military calls the type of checkpoint where Calipari [the Italian journalist] was killed a “blocking position.” Blocking positions are checkpoints where military units attempt to turn vehicles away without searching them. According to the U.S. investigation, the military unit in question had been given the Tactical Standing Operating Procedures, but this set of procedures for checkpoints “does not provide guidance on blocking positions.” “There is no evidence to indicate that the Soldiers were trained to execute blocking positions before arriving in theater,” the Pentagon report admitted.

The investigation found that instead of following written guidelines, the unit used informal procedures that were passed from unit to unit over time. In fact, according to the investigation, the unit was never trained in the proper procedures to operate a blocking checkpoint.

“Using untrained troops for operations as sensitive as checkpoint duty makes no sense,” said Garlasco. “These practices put U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians at risk.”
What I glean from Garlasco's work is this. If the Lancet study has identified the numbers of dead, Garlasco's work has identified some of the ways vast numbers of Iraqi civilians got that way.

Does the Number Matter?

I've read in some locations individuals postulating about whether it would really matter if it's 30,000 civilians or 100,000 Iraqi dead. I find this obscene. These are both large numbers. But any resemblance beyond that disappears. As a country, we're supposed to represent the hope of all people, equal rights of the individual, and the right of each person to pursue life to it's fullest. The mentality that thinks a few thousand here, or a few thousand there, doesn't really matter smacks of the same kinds of thinking that leads to concepts like "cleansing", eugenics, and genocide. The Lancet study gives us an answer, if we choose to ask the question and believe what we read.

The 911 attacks resulted in approximately 3000 deaths, most of them Americans. It certainly matters to each and every family whether their loved one survived or not. So imagine this. Iraq has approximately 25 million people, America around 300 million. Proportionately, would Americans care if we lost 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 citizens, killed by foreign troops on our soil? Would it make a difference if the number dead was 750,000 vs. oh, say, 1.2 million? And how would we all react to the apologies of a foreign military spokesman, or a leader of the invading country talking about "collateral damage" that is "unavoidable" as we march to government change that is sometimes "messy"? Suppose a foreign Muslim invader was the attacker, pulling often innocent people out of their homes for interrogation and, yes, torture in local prisons while their leader proclaims getting messages from Allah?

I have no doubt how we would react. Frankly, it's probably an indication of how bad Saddam was that we're tolerated in Iraq at all. But of course, as the death toll has risen, the torture stories mount, the brutal interactions occur and get amplified person to person, the tolerance of Iraqis is rightly now gone. This is exactly why the window of opportunity for any chance to do good works in Iraq has passed. To stay is to inflict further atrocities and further dig a terrible propaganda hole with Arab Muslim peoples that will take even longer to repair. In short, our Iraq adventure has been an Osama Bin Laden wet dream.

And let's not forget this final little detail. By Pentagon reports, which frankly I believe are purposely low, there have been 2018 (2014 yesterday when I began this post) American military killed, and a very rough estimate of anywhere from 15,000 to 42,000 wounded. And remember, the wounded in this war are much more seriously damaged than in previous wars due to field medical advances. And who knows how many countless emotionally damaged individuals there will be when it's all over, spreading their damage to their family, friends and community at large.

Of much less importance, but important to future generations is the cost of the war in treasure. As my counter shows it's roughly $204 billion thus far. Remember when "the oil would cover the costs" and "total costs would not exceed $15 billion"? Check out the above link to get some idea of what could have been purchased with this money. It's astounding.

This is not Vietnam. Iraq has similarities to the Vietnam conflict. It also has important differences. The conclusions I draw from what I know about the war are clear. It's time to leave. The risks associated with a failure of this magnitude in the Middle East are seeds that were planted a long time ago in the decision to go to war, and have grown into weeds of ineptitude and death that are choking Americans and Iraqis. We can't begin to repair the damage until we stop inflicting yet more damage. Only then can we contend with the larger mess we've made of the Middle East due to our collective naivete' and ineptitude.

Mahatma Gandhi :
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall

The Leaves Changing

Is there another change in the wind? The Oil Drum thinks so:

U.S. refining has tanked due to the expected. It may have bottomed out, but will take awhile to get back to normal.

As expected, U.S. imports of distillates has shot up. This is primarily gasoline imported from Europe.

This chart is a 4 week moving average. That means for there to be a change, it must be a significant change. It looks like the committment by Europe to help with gasoline has peaked, and imports are falling off.

It appears there will be a time lag between when the imports run out, and U.S. refining capacity resumes (chart 1 vs. chart 3). Wonder how much and how long? I hated gas lines in the 70's. I really really don't want them again.

Unintended Consequences

Here's an example of the unintended consequences of the hysteria regarding sexual offenders. From the Seattle Times:
Man says he'll plead guilty to killing sex offenders

If the scene in Whatcom County Superior Court yesterday is any indication, Michael A. Mullen doesn't like to sit and wait for the wheels of justice to turn.

On Aug. 27, according to police, Mullen killed two sex offenders who had served their time and had been quietly living in suburban Bellingham. About a week later, police say, he confessed to the crime. And yesterday, during his first court appearance, Mullen's main concern was getting the process over with.

"Can I have a speedy trial?" Mullen, 35, asked Superior Court Commissioner David Thorn during his preliminary hearing. He didn't even want a lawyer. "I would just like to plead guilty," he said.

Mullen, who is being held on $1 million bail, is expected to be charged today with two counts of first-degree murder, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mac Setter said.

Police said the motivation behind the slayings was the highly publicized case in Idaho in which children were allegedly abducted and their family killed by convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III.

The men Mullen allegedly killed, two Level 3 sex offenders, were found dead in their home on Northwest Avenue in Bellingham. Victor Vazquez, 68, and Hank Eisses, 49, were each killed with a single gunshot to the head.

According to Bellingham police Lt. Craige Ambrose, none of the usual motives — such as money or drugs — presented themselves during the outset of the investigation. That both men were registered sex offenders fueled speculation the killer was a vigilante and might kill again. Letters sent to a Bellingham newspaper and a television station last week, purportedly from the killer, threatened other sex offenders.

On Monday, Mullen called police and turned himself in.


On July 13, Mullen examined the list of sex offenders on the Whatcom County sheriff's Web site, Ambrose said. From that list, he chose at least one of the two victims.
Ok, so some nutbar hear's of an instance of a convicted sex offender committing murder in another state and decides it's time to do away with some other random sex offender. So he goes onto the government sponsored website, gets the information he needs, enlists a friend to help, and then premediatedly murders them. Nevermind that the offenders had been convicted, served their time and were living quiet lives.



Here's a movie for ya. This is the review from the Times:

Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Calm, deliberate and devastating, Jessica Sanders's documentary confirms many of the worst fears about weaknesses in the American criminal-justice system. In examining the cases of seven men wrongly convicted of murder and rape and exonerated years later by DNA evidence, the film reinforces the queasy feelings you have while following high-profile criminal trials. The film, written by Ms. Sanders and Marc Simon, was made in collaboration with the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic founded in 1992 by the lawyers Barry C. Sheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan. The clinic handles only cases in which post-conviction DNA testing can yield conclusive proof of innocence. Its work has helped exonerate more than 160 people, and it estimates that DNA testing could free thousands more.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Gentle Reminder

The news has been completely dominated with domestic political stories for the last week or so. Is anyone aware that the American military death toll in Iraq is now 2014? We're on quite a quickening pace.

While reading about the entire PlameGate affair, I've seen a number thrown around that is disturbing and confusing. Some are estimating that the Iraqi casualties since the beginning of the war are as low as 10,000. Yet we have the Lancet study from a year ago, released amid a tidal wave of criticism, that showed the Iraqi's have suffered 100,000 dead (as of the study, which is a year old now). Why the confusing counts?

I also felt that a reminder of why PlameGate matters, and why it's so important to get to the bottom of the Niger/uranium document forgery story.

The Lancet Study

Just so happens that today National Public Radio broadcast the show This American Life with Ira Glass on Les Robert's Lancet study on the deaths of Iraqi's. The show devoted 45 mins. to the topic discussing in detail the study, it's methodolgy and the criticisms. There was also a bit of focus on why the study did not get more/better press, and a segment on Marc Garlasco. More on this shortly.

If you'll remember, the Lancet study was released during the 2004 Presidential campaign and caused a bit of a stir. Even so, the media largely ignored the story and has neglected the study's conclusions in estimating the numbers of Iraqi civilians killed during the war.

Some of the confusion on body counts for Iraqi's eminates from the Iraq Body Count study, which shows casualties at 27,000 - 30,000 dead. This study is done by counting those Iraqis killed who are reported in the news media. The originator of the study readily admits that the estimates are off on the low side. Unfortunately, it's these numbers that are often used by the media and war apologists. I find that interesting as this is no small number of dead. But I guess there's some logic to it when compared against the larger number.

So what exactly did the Lancet study find? From the summary:
Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey (via Lancet, free registration required):

The risk of death was estimated to be 2·5-fold (95% CI 1·6–4·2) higher after the invasion when compared with the preinvasion period. Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja. If we exclude the Falluja data, the risk of death is 1·5-fold (1·1–2·3) higher after the invasion. We estimate that 98000 more deaths than expected (8000–194000) happened after the invasion outside of Falluja [emphasis added] and far more if the outlier Falluja cluster is included. The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread, reported in clusters, and were in 15 of 33 clusters. Deaths were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher (95% CI 8·1–419) than in the period before the war.

Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100000 excess deaths, or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths. We have shown that collection of public-health information is possible even during periods of extreme violence. Our results need further verification and should lead to changes to reduce non-combatant deaths from air strikes.
It's important to remember that this data was released a week prior to the 2004 Presidential elections. The investigator, Les Roberts, felt it crucial that his data be a part of the debate in the election, hoping to elicit committments from both candidates to minimize civilian deaths.

In examining the study the reporter who prepared the This American Life segment, Alec Blumberg, refers to this article:
Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi Civilian Deaths Now Wonder Why It Was Ignored, By LILA GUTERMAN
This article examines the Lancet study and attempts to answer the question as to why it's received so little credibility:
The [Lancet study] paper, written by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and Baghdad's Al-Mustansiriya University, was based on a door-to-door survey in September of nearly 8,000 people in 33 randomly selected locations in Iraq.


In each neighborhood, in at least the first two households where an adult's death had occurred, the interviewers ended by asking for death certificates. They received confirmation of deaths in 63 of the 78 houses where they asked.
The researchers went to extensive pains to insure that the samples were, indeed, random. The interviews also took place under no small amount of danger particularly to Mr. Roberts, the only Westerner, who had to disguise himself.

If you've ever done research, you know that this is a phenomenal response. Not only are the deaths reported, but they are randomly verified in most cases with death certificates. This fact alone lends a high level of validity to the results. Incidently, Mr. Roberts indicates that of all the chosen samples, only five of nearly one thousand interviewees refused to answer the questions, another phenomenal result not often seen in research.

Then we come to Falluja, which had been the scene of very heavy fighting proximate to the study:
The Fallujah data were chilling: 53 deaths had taken place in the study's 30 households there since the invasion commenced, on March 19, 2003. In the other 32 neighborhoods combined, the researchers had counted 89 deaths. While 21 of the deaths elsewhere were attributable to violence, in Fallujah 52 of the 53 deaths were due to violence.
The Falluja numbers were so dramatic that they were eliminated in the final summary as an outlier. If you include the study's results from Falluja, the estimates of Iraq dead are much much higher.


As you can imagine (and may remember) the Pentagon went ballistic, as did Bush supporters. The report was roundly discredited for several reasons. Guterman takes up these criticisms. The biggest and most potent attack was that the study's statistical range was too broad:
They also acknowledged that the true number of deaths could fall anywhere within a range of 8,000 to 194,000, a function of the researchers' having extrapolated their survey to a country of 25 million.
Those who criticized the study did not understand the statistics of it. The internal components of the study determine it's range of possiblity as a predictor of accuracy. Indeed, the study could at best conclude that the true number of Iraq deaths was somewhere in between 8,000 and 194,000. Some argued that this was little better than throwing darts at a dart board.

Those critical did not understand that the high and low numbers represent the "tails" of a normal bell curve. What this means is that the probability of the true number being either 8,000 or 194,000 is statistically very very low, while the probability of the true number being about halfway in between, 100,000 or so, is 95% probable. Thus, as you move away from the high probablity number, 100,000, the probabilities of the number being accurate drop to ultimately zero. In reality, the most important number is to understand that the study found a 95% probability that there have been right around 100,000 Iraqi deaths, a pretty good bet.

Another criticism was that the study sample size was too small for the population involved. But Guterman's article had this to say:
Scientists say the size of the survey was adequate for extrapolation to the entire country. "That's a classical sample size," says Michael J. Toole, head of the Center for International Health at the Burnet Institute, an Australian research organization. Researchers typically conduct surveys in 30 neighborhoods, so the Iraq study's total of 33 strengthens its conclusions. "I just don't see any evidence of significant exaggeration," he says.


"Les has used, and consistently uses, the best possible methodology," says Bradley A. Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The gap between the Lancet estimate and that of Iraq Body Count does not trouble scientists contacted by The Chronicle. John Sloboda, a professor of psychology at Keele University, in England, and a co-founder of Iraq Body Count, says his team's efforts will lead to a count smaller than the true number because not every death is reported in the news media.

Dr. Woodruff says, "Les [Roberts] has the most valid estimate."

Dr. Toole agrees: "If anything, the deaths may have been higher [than the study's estimate] because what they are unable to do is survey families where everyone has died."
Other's claimed that Roberts was not a reliable researcher, that he had an "ax to grind". Guterman:
Indeed, the United Nations and the State Department have cited mortality numbers compiled by Mr. Roberts on previous conflicts as fact -- and have acted on those results.


Mr. Roberts has studied mortality caused by war since 1992, having done surveys in locations including Bosnia, Congo, and Rwanda. His three surveys in Congo for the International Rescue Committee, a nongovernmental humanitarian organization, in which he used methods akin to those of his Iraq study, received a great deal of attention. "Tony Blair and Colin Powell have quoted those results time and time again without any question as to the precision or validity," he says.
A final criticism cited by many was that the study was unable to determine the difference between true civilians and insurgents. In other words, there were people that that the Pentagon intended to be dead. How many of these were in the study?

Roberts acknowledges this weakness. But he also notes in the conclusion this:
Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children.
He suggests that if even half the 100,000 are innocent civilians, it's a big big number. Point made.

It appears to me that some prominent members of the scientific community do not dispute Robert's findings. Each of the criticisms that were leveled against this study and Roberts were pretty roundly shot down. This leads me to conclude that the Lancet study was accurate. And again, remember, the study is now a year old. It hasn't gotten any better for Iraqis since the study was conducted.

This is the end of part one. In part two, I'll take a look at Marc Garlasco, a pretty fasinating guy in the humanitarian efforts in Iraq. Also, have the deaths been worth it, why the media blackout on the study, and some of the other war costs.

The Squeeze

Arianna Huffington and others have been reporting on negotiations between Judy Miller and the NY Times for a serverance package. Arianna:
As a Times staffer told me, “The last thing Sulzberger and Keller want is Judy on Fox 24/7 crapping on the New York Times. And you know she would.”

Indeed, I hear that Judy is playing major league hardball. Banking on her power over Young Arthur, she is trying hard to jack up her severance package. What’s more, a source tells me that Miller is (I kid you not) trying to include in the package “‘drifting’ onto the Times masthead in some high-concept way”.
She's had Pinch by the hardballs from day one and continues to squeeze. Remember what I said here about pathological folks like the Judester. A word of advice to Pinch: it's no win so you might as well do the right thing, cause she's gonna screw you one way or the other.


This from Tim Grieve at Salon:
That said, a report in this morning's Los Angeles Times suggests that Rove may be close to clear. The Times says that "new information, reevaluation of older evidence and negotiations with Rove's lawyers" persuaded Fitzgerald not to indict Rove, at least not now. Among the evidence: An email exchange between Rove and former White House communications aide Adam Levine. The emails apparently came just after Rove leaked Plame's identity to Time's Matthew Cooper, and Rove's team is arguing that the fact that the emails don't mention the Plame leak are a sign that it wasn't particularly important to Rove and was therefore something he could have forgotten, innocently, when he was first asked about it by federal investigators.
If Fitzgerald buys Rove's explanation, then he's a lot more gullible than I thought. Rove "forget" a dirty trick that was the focus of the Vice President's office? I don't think so. And looking at emails? Does anyone really think that Rove would leave a paper trail of conversations that he knows are inappropriate (let alone illegal)? And how about "new information". Presented by Rove? Ah uh. Is Fitzgerald in the midst of "blinking" in a stare down?

There's a reason Bush has nicknamed Rove "Turdblossom". It's because Rove is always getting into shit and comes out smelling like a rose. I'm afraid he's gonna do it again. If you take Fitzgerald at his word, it looks like a 50/50 chance Rove walks and Fitzgerald goes back to Chicago.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Jay Rockefeller, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Intelligence committee via Josh Marshall:
“To date, Congress has completely failed to answer these critical questions. The fact is that at any time the Senate Intelligence Committee pursued a line of questioning that brought us close to the White House, our efforts were thwarted. If my Republican colleagues are not prepared to undertake a full and serious congressional investigation into the potential misuse of intelligence, then I regretfully conclude that we have no choice but to pursue an outside independent investigation. The American people deserve answers and they want the truth.”
Might actually get someone excited that something was gonna happen...right?

As Josh points out, then why did Rocky sign off on the intelligence report regurgitated by the committee before? And where was the outrage when Senator Roberts, the ranking chairman of the committee, did not performed the promised follow-up investigation on the involvment of the White House? Why act like you have cajones now?

I'm certainly not optimistic that anything will happen on this front.

More Hope So

Another former prosecutor weighs in.

This from Elizabeth de la Vega who has recently retired after serving more than 20 years as a federal prosecutor in Minneapolis and San Jose. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California:
Obviously, Fitzgerald is taking a "big picture" approach to this case. This mirrors his approach to previous cases. In December 2003, for example, Fitzgerald announced the indictment of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan on corruption charges in Operation Safe Road, which began in 1998. In that year, the investigation of a fatal accident revealed that truckers were purchasing commercial licenses from state officials. Indictments were announced in stages, culminating in the indictment of Ryan, who was the 66th defendant in the case. In the Libby case, the allegations suggest he was merely one of many officials—including an unnamed undersecretary of state and "Official A," a senior White House official—who were involved in revealing classified information about Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame. No other individuals are named as defendants, and they should not be considered so at this point, but the complexity of the indictment suggests that the investigation may follow a pattern similar to that used by Fitzgerald in the Illinois corruption case.
She goes on to further outline how Fitzgerald goes about his investigations in a very methodical and very quiet manner. But like his reputation as a "bulldog", once he latches on he never let's go.

So was his downplayed performance in today's news conference part of his normal style, on purpose, or signaling that he is truly "wrapping up". All the attorney's who write about the case say it's far from over.

I Hope So

From FireDogLake (Jane Hamsher), who has been very closely following the whole PlameGate story and Fitzgerald in particular:
It is clear from the indictment that there is an enormous amount of detail -- not within the four corners of it, and held back from the rest of the investigation. Fitz is making it very clear, without being specific because he cannot be according to the law, that the investigation is ongoing. And that charges can be brought before a grand jury in DC at any time, should they be warranted.

I'll say this: after watching Fitz, anyone who tries to raise the question of whether perjury is a "technicality" is going to end up looking like a moron. Because that clip of him explaining the importance and ethics of the rule of law in an investigation was exceptional. And the multiple allegations of false statements and testimony point to a considered pattern on the part of Libby.

This reaches to the very heart of how this Administration conducts itself. This reaches to the very heart of how they operate in shutting down any and all criticism -- inside and outside the government. And there are going to be some very difficult questions for them to answer.

And Fitz is not done yet. Not by a long shot. You could see in his demeanor, and you can read it in the indictment -- there is a whole lot more to this. I hope we get to know the rest soon.
That seems somewhat optimistic to me from my view of the press conference.

But who knows?

I guess Fitzgerald does....and he's not talking.

But he's not going home either.

Grand Jury's

There is one piece of information/misinformation going around the internets right now....the idea of a "new" grand jury or "extending" this one. I think I've found out the straight dope, right from the horses's mouth (via TalkLeft of course):
Reporters don't understand the grand jury process. Fitzgerald doesn't empanel a new grand jury to continue the investigation. He turns the case over to another grand jury already sitting in the District. There's always a grand jury sitting in D.C.
As long as Fitzgerald is "investigating", there'll be a grand jury to which he can present charges and receive indictments. That eliminates the confusion over the end of the term of this particular grand jury while Fritzgerald said he's still investigating.

The only reason for sticking with a particular grand jury is the continuity of complex information presented to a single group of people. But at this point, the investigation phase has mostly culminated. Transcripts are now available for any grand jury to consider. Again, the only key to determining if the investigation continues or not is whether Fitzgerald stays on the case.


Josh Marshall has this bit on the NigerGate case:
There are various other reasons to doubt that the Justice Department has made a serious effort to solve the mystery of the Niger forgeries. But the apparent lack of interest in even speaking to the man at the center of the scheme is a decent place to start.

As Chairman of the senate intel committee, Sen. Roberts is in a position to receive detailed briefings on the status of the investigation. And his spokespersons say he's received them. So what does he know? More reporting needed.
Senator Pat Roberts is in this up to his bald crown. He's covering for the administration in a big way that borders on treason. As Americans and Iraqi's continue to die, these guys cover their asses. And we know that unless the case becomes part of the justice system in some way, the Congressional Republicans will cover it up like a cat covers poop.

No news....the GOP is as corrupt or more corrupt than during the Gilded Age.

UPDATED: Now knowing what Fitzgeralds has had to say, the above is even more important. His investigation appears to be laser-like on Libby and perhaps Rove. It looks like the Niger investigation and anything having to do with the run-up to the war won't happen via him. I hope I'm wrong. But if I'm not, then Congress is back in the spotlight to investigate.

Will they? Elections are coming?

Rinse, Spin, Dry, Repeat

The conservatives continue to spin. It's Wilson's fault! It's was an itty bitty indictment! No biggie. Just wait. They'll soon throw Libby over and claim it was an "overzealous staffer" and an "isolated incident".

Fitzgerald seems to be playing it very very carefully. He seems to be unwilling to go out on much of a limb. He may epitomize the cliche, "the wheels of justice grind very very slowly and very fine". I also think he and Rove are still playing chicken. Or as Billmon puts it, cat n' mouse.

Even though Rove isn't on the looks like the case goes on and stays in the news. And I go back to my original point (which other blogger idiots like myself are finally figuring out), what happens to Rove now? A big ass cloud over him and the White House? It's a no lose for Democrats. Indictments = proof of corruption. Continuing investigation = ongoing drag on the administration.

The only thing that could happen that would be devastating is if Fitzgerald stops with Libby and goes home. I *don't think* that's gonna happen.

Aside from the politics. It would be a positive step forward to rehabilitate the country if Fitzgerald gets to the bottom of the yellowcake maze. Wilson is just the tip of the iceberg.

But stay tuned!!!!!

2 PM ET Press Conference

Well boys and girls. We'll find out where we stand today at 2pm et. I'm less optimistic than I was before, but then Fitzgerald has played it very very close.

As the results are revealed, remember this and this It's looking more and more like Jeralyn at TalkLeft was right. Rove seems to have cooperated and is getting a deal in return. He may not be getting off. But he's getting a soft touch perhaps avoiding a technical "indictment" and a plea deal.

What's Bush do now? Will he parse the lack of indictment and keep Rove around? That's my bet.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sad...Happens Every Day

I get a Gun newsletter. They had this story in today's edition:
A bullet had torn through Terry Arnold Jr.'s tiny chest, yet the 8-month-old stared in his mother's eyes during a frantic ambulance ride Wednesday morning.

"He was holding my finger," Jantisha Hambrick recalled. "I kept screaming his name. I didn't want him to go to sleep.

Eight-month-old Terry Arnold Jr. died Wednesday afternoon at Grady Memorial Hospital.

"I'd call his name when he got quiet. He'd cry, but it got lower and lower."

The baby didn't make it. Terry died shortly before 3 p.m. after hours of emergency surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The shooting happened about 8:25 a.m. Wednesday as Terry lay with his mother on a bed in their apartment on Cleveland Avenue in southeast Atlanta. The bullet passed through the bedroom wall from an adjacent apartment.

The man charged in the shooting, Gabriel Brooks, 22, lived in an adjoining ground-floor apartment and was once a classmate of Hambrick at South Atlanta High School.

"It was an accident, according to Mr. Brooks," said police spokesman Joe Cobb. "He told detectives that he had set the gun down on his bed and it went off. The baby and his mother were both sleeping, and it appears to be a tragic situation all the way around.
Because American's are afraid of their own shadows, stuff like this happens all too often. So sad.

Tenet Mr. X?

Is George Tenet the so-called Mr. X and about to be indicted?

It's reported that Mr. X is the one who leaked Plame's name. Mr. X is outside the administration. Tenet has testified.


So Much Corruption...... little time.

Here's the latest little dust-up (via Salon):
Journalist Murray Waas is now reporting that Cheney and Libby withheld "crucial documents" from the Senate Intelligence Committee as it investigated the use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. Waas says that Cheney and Libby, over the objections of some White House staffers and lawyers, withheld documents that included drafts of passages Libby wrote for inclusion in the deeply flawed speech Colin Powell would deliver before the United Nations in February 2003.
A couple of thoughts on this latest revelation:

1) Who and why was this leaked now? Looks to me like someone is really out to get Cheney...bad.

2) This behavior by Cheney/Libby is nothing new. It's likely a very small part of the whole uranium/intelligence stove-pipe scandal.

3) Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee (a big joke btw as Roberts has an IQ of <50),has been covering for Cheney since the beginning. He's part of the problem, so there's no way he can be "victimized" by the White House for not releasing requested documents. My guess? The Senate Dems scream a little bit but nothing comes of it.


4) This could be/become part of a large Patrick Fitzgerald investigation into the forged Niger documents. If so, then Fitzy might get somewhere.

Without #4 above, the story goes nowhere in my opinion and Administration officials get away with lying to Congress. Just another day in BushWorld.

Feral Fight

This is kinda a follow-up on the previous post about GOP hypocrisy and Miers.

Digby has a nice post-reminder about the coming days. In short, he reminds us that RoveCo and his operational arm, Bush, have an extensive record of successfully destroying people for gain. Digby concludes:
This is going to be a huge battle, don't ever think it won't. Pat Fitzgerald is going to be destroyed as if he were a Democrat. I hope that the real Democrats who appear on television are preparing for this and are ready to respond. It won't be pretty.
Approaching this from a slightly different angle, I'd offer this. In my work with people, and in studying personalities, I learned one really dynamic and scaring thing. People who suffer from narcissism (or Borderline personality disorder or Histrionic personality disorder) approach conflict very differently than normal people. When cornered, they will do anything to destroy you. Where other's would retreat under obvious conditions of self-destruction, they'll sacrifice themselves to destroy you if they perceive you as evil (a projection btw).

Political experience with BushCo, along with a little understanding of personalities would suggest that while Bush may be down, he's not out. Don't be surprised if the Bush administrations behavior gets much much worse. It is a dangerous time for our country and the threat is real. Rule of law doesn't matter to these people...only what they can get away with.

This is why I think this period in history is a test of patriots, particularly on the Republican side of the aisle. For the next three years, any limits will certainly have to be imposed on the Bush administration from outside forces. Do not expect voluntary acquiesence for the good of the country.

Miers Borked

Several different bloggers have been making the case that the right wing of the GOP has messed up on the Miers shoot-down. Their argument centers on the reasons that Ozzie's mom was shot down, namely that she didn't get an "up or down vote" and that she needed to pass a "litmus test". Of course, these are arguments used by conservatives against liberals during previous appellate nominations and in the Roberts nomination.

It seems to me that those liberal pundits making this claim still miss the point and they're operating on a political logic that went out of fashion a few years ago. The idea that conservatives would have some kind of shame about being hypocritical while playing politics is no longer operational. Of course they'll make any argument that is necessary to win. That's what modern conservatism does.

So don't be surprised when someone like Sam Brownback pops up and says that Bush's new to-the-right-of-Attila-the-hun court nominee deserves an up or down vote in response to a Democratic filibuster. And right on cue, watch the Democrats go into apoplexy with the hypocrisy.....while the American public yawns at it all.

Pinch and the TarBaby

Poor Art.

Like the old saying, "you fuck with the bull and you get the horn"

And Another....

The world's largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon Mobil said profits jumped 75 percent, to $9.92 billion ($1.58 a share), from $5.68 billion (88 cents) a year ago. Revenue jumped 31.9 percent to $100.7 billion from $76.38 billion.
Remember....quarterly numbers, not annual.

Laura Rozen:
"So their annual revenue is almost a half a trillion dollars." Which is, about the latest yearly budget of the Pentagon, more or less?
I think I'm about to explode.

And Another.....

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) reported a record third-quarter profit on Thursday, beating analysts' forecasts as surging oil prices outweighed losses from hurricanes which stalled production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The world's third-largest listed oil firm by market capitalization said its current cost of supply (CCS) net profit, which strips out gains from rises in the value of fuel inventories, rose 68 percent to $7.369 billion.

Excluding a gain of $1.569 billion from one-off items, mainly related to the sale of an interest in Dutch gas distributor Gasunie, Shell's "clean" CCS earnings were $5.8 billion.
The Shell folks have to be disappointed at these numbers cause the Conoco folks were able to do a double.

Ozzie's Mom Quits

Here's Bush's statement:
"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said. "Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers -- and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."
He reportedly offered reporters a bridge for sale as well, but there were no takers. They were a little suspicious of the fig leaf he was wearing.

On a serious note. The neocons and religious right want a showdown over the nuculur option. I have a feeling Bush will accomodate them and we'll find out if the Democrats in the Senate have any stones at all.

I'll Bet It's Fuel Efficient

Jage has a great post on nanotechnology, including the smallest "car" made yet.


Haven't looked around much yet today, but did run across this bit on Rove:
The New York Daily News notes that Fitzgerald’s meeting with Rove attorney Robert Luskin on Tuesday was actually the latest of “several one-on-one meetings” between the two.
You gotta wonder if there's not a game of chicken going on between Rove and Fitzgerald.

What's in it for Fitzgerald? Despite having the "goods" on Rove for charges, he likely wants bigger fish. Thus the pressure to get Rove to flip.

What's in it for Rove? Time = opportunity to spin and manipulate Fitzgerald to lesser charges or no charges.

I think Rove may have met his match. But I don't think he'll flip on Bush.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What Opposition Party?

Arianna says it so well that I simply have nothing to add.

Here It Comesssss

Here's the first of many. And don't forget boys and girls, these numbers are for ONE QUARTER:
HOUSTON - ConocoPhillips, the nation's third-largest integrated oil and gas company, said Wednesday its third-quarter profit surged 89 percent, reflecting strong prices for crude oil and natural gas.

Earnings for the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to $3.8 billion, or $2.68 per share, topping the average Wall Street estimate of $2.57 per share, according to a Thomson Financial survey of analysts. A year ago, the company earned $2 billion, or $1.43 per share.
Hey....almost double last year! It's just amazing what superior management can do! Not bad in this out-of-control, litigious, environmentally unfriendly

But wait just a minute. There was a dark cloud for Conoco-Phillips:
"During the quarter, our U.S. Gulf Coast operations were significantly impacted by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis," said Jim Mulva, chairman and chief executive.
OH NO! They were "significantly impacted"!!! Geez, you gotta wonder how they'll "weather" this difficulty. He's almost gonna get a visit from.......the Waabulance!


But maybe, just maybe they'll make it:
"Despite these impacts, our overall operating performance for the quarter was good, and we continued to benefit from the strong commodity price environment."
Performance was "good". This guy is like your worst nightmare teacher. If this is "good", his staff must be sweatin' bullets.

By-the-way, how much was that gas you bought today?

Rove To Walk?

TalkLeft continues to make the case that:

1) Rove squealed.

2) That Rove may get a sweetheart deal and either walk, or get a minimal charge.

Go read the post for the details.

My question is this. If Rove gets no charge, what will Bush do? He and the walking talking points boys would have plenty of rationale for Rove to stay in his job, technically. But what of the political fallout? And how would "mr. I'm loyal to the end" Bush feel about having someone who sold other's down the river in his administration? Wouldn't this put Bush/Rove into a position of "getting off on a technicality" and thus become a real drag on the GOP?

Perhaps even more intriguing is this. Suppose Rove is charged with the most minimal of charges and get's probation. Is he resigned?

Personally, unless Fitzgerald completely clears Rove, which looks pretty unlikely, I think Rove is still toast. But then again, Bush has never been known for having a lot of brains.

As throughout this whole matter, it should be interesting!

Here It Comes

My 19th Nervous Breakdown smothered in oil.

I'll update this as the true numbers come in. But this a peak via Suburban Guerrilla:
Pumped up by soaring oil, natural gas and gasoline prices in August and September, Exxon Mobil alone is expected to report quarterly profit of about $8.7 billion. That would be more than such titans as Coca-Cola Co., Intel Corp. and Time Warner Inc. earn in an entire year.
If this doesn't define economic obscenity, nothing does. And if it doesn't convince you that we have a fascist government (i.e. government/corporate partnership...not nazi) then I don't know what does.

As I said, I plan to update when all the numbers come out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Libby Strong Arming?

Everyone is crazy with speculation on Fitzmas....leaks everywhere and guesses about what they mean.

This one is the best of the bunch
in my opine.

If it's true, and if Bush pardons, watch know's going to either way

Stagflation II

While waiting for Fitzmas, and all hell to break loose, I wanted to post this bit of economic analysis that is under the radar. I'm not an economist, but I like to play one in the blogosphere.

I visit a number of economics and stock market blogs. The state of our economy, like so many other elements of society turning to shit under Bushco, bears close scrutiny. Particularly until we have adults in charge again.

BTW, if you only want the bottom line without reading all the economic detail, scroll down to the bottom of the post.

As some of you may remember, there's a continuing debate in the economics world between the those who advocate measuring inflation via the "core CPI" which excludes food/energy, or measuring inflation via the overall "CPI" which includes food/energy. It turns out that it may not matter. The two measures seem to be very closely related. I ran across this very interesting chart by Kash over at Angry Bear:

One thing notable about this chart is that the overall CPI, while more volatile, still seems to be a leading indicator of the core CPI.

So in short, let me suggest the following: perhaps the only reason that the core rate hasn't risen more is because we haven't waited long enough. If the core rate follows the pattern of the past 15-20 years, Ben Bernanke could have his hands full, with a core rate that will be creeping upward in early 2006, just as the economy may be slowing.
So if Kash is correct and history repeats itself, we're in for an extended period of increasing prices. Just how much is a good question. But let me suggest that the above chart is a period of very stable oil prices, even during the core CPI increase in 2000-02. OPEC did a great job of managing to keep oil prices between $20 and $30 per barrel pretty consistently.

Oil is currently trading down somewhat below it's September high of $70+/barrel, in the high $50's (still twice the previous levels). Unfortunately, it looks like the recent drop in oil prices is the result of an increase in oil stocks, which is occuring because of a lack of refining capacity due to Katrina. In short, the current price depression is likely artificial and short term providing the economy continues at the current pace. Just a short 12-18 months ago, $50/barrel oil would have been obscene. Now we see it as low.

Then in my blog travels I ran across a very interesting, in an economics sorta way, article by Bill Gross. For those unfamiliar with Gross, he's manages the largest bond portoflio in the world. He's highly respected for his perspectives on the economy and interest rates. In his article, he carefully builds the case that the current economic expansion is built on the housing boom. He sites the following cycle that is inevitable during any boom of this type:
1.) Housing prices will cool/stop going up very much/even go down in some cities, WHEN...

a. Interest rates rise to a high enough level to make the purchase of a new home a burden instead of a boon for first time buyers.

b. Mild regulatory pressure begins to reduce the amount of funny-money lending.

c. Speculators sniff the beginning of the end.

2) Home equitization should retreat shortly thereafter.

3) Consumption/the U.S. economy will then weaken when the house ATM starts running out of fresh new $25,000/$50,000/$100,000 home equity loan dollar bills.

4) The Fed will cut interest rates in order to start the game all over again.

Let me state categorically that the above sequence is barely questionable, almost inevitable, 99% unavoidable, and in modern parlance - “slam-dunk.”
Bill then goes on to show with this little chart how home equity has grown, and how the U.S. consumer has, indeed, used the increased equity as an ATM:

Greenspan states that homeowners borrowed $600 billion last year against the growing equity in their homes made possible by the annual gains in housing prices of near double-digits in recent years. That $600 billion amounts to nearly 7% of disposable personal income.


People don’t borrow money to deposit it in the bank. They borrow money to spend. If so, and using a conservative 50% figure, the chart points out that home equitization has added ½ to 1% annually to the U.S. GDP growth rate in recent years.
Please note. The above chart is not refinancing. It's borrowing against equity. Assuming a rate of spending of 50% of borrowed money is very generous. Do you know anyone who borrowed against their home to save? If this statement is true, approximately one-third of the U.S GDP has been made up of home equity spending.


Having made the case that there is a home equity boom/bust cycle that is inevitable, then making the case that the recent cycle has been a biggie, Bill then postulates this:
How weak the U.S. economy gets will depend on numerous factors: oil/natural gas prices, China’s continuing growth miracle, and of course the level of U.S. interest rates - themselves a function of the Fed and foreign willingness to buy our Treasury and corporate bonds.
Well, let's see. Energy prices on the rise and likely to stay high. China's growth miracle is dependent on our consuming. And, as per the inflation argument above, the Fed increasing rates to counter inflation. Sounds like a house of cards with headwinds.

But make no mistake about it, the froth in the U.S. housing market is about to lose its effervescence; the bubble is about to become less bubbly. If real housing prices decline in the U.S. in 2006 or 2007, a recession is nearly inevitable. If higher yields [higher interest rates] simply slow the pace of appreciation to a more rational single digit number, then we could escape with a 1-2% GDP economy.
Gross predicts a best case scenario of a dramatic slowdown to 1-2% growth.....pretty anemic. This assessment is consistent with what I'm reading virtually everywhere.

So to summarize to this point. Kash sees leading indicators of inflation rising, which generally means the Fed will be increasing interest rates to slow growth and keep inflation in control. But Bill Gross is seeing a slowing economy and is predicting the Fed will decrease interest rates in 2006.

I think they're both right...Kash on inflation and Gross on GDP.

If so, the new Fed chairman Bernanke is in for a hell of a time because it's pretty difficult to raise rates and decrease them at the same time.

I've been making the case for a future period of stagflation. If you look at the above elements put together, you see precisely that phenomena. And the reason is oil.

The long term trend of the price of oil is being affected by growing international demand and the reality of peak oil. Short term American supply and demand are becoming less of a factor in oil pricing, meaning that energy prices become more independent of the American economy. Yet, because of past policies....or lack of policies...oil remains a very important part of our economy. As oil depletes without relief in demand, prices go up. As prices go up, so do prices throughout the economy.....regardless of growth/recession. Sure, there may be brief periods of energy price decline such as we're seeing today. But again I point out that $50/barrel oil was considered very high a short time ago.

Yeah yeah. I know. Greenspan keeps saying that energy price fluctuations are not nearly the factor they were in the 1970's. Perhaps. The Oil Drum has been running a series that suggests otherwise. But even if Greenspan is correct, he still admits it's two-thirds as important as it was.....still a pretty big deal. And it's important to note that during Greenspans now waning tenure, oil prices were in that OPEC controlled price rut of $20 to $30/barrel. This price stability (as opposed to absolute price) made it pretty easy for him to dismiss energy as an important factor in the economy. Compare Greenspan's tenure to this chart:

Click Image for Larger View

Bottom Line: I think the above makes the case for the next two years to be times of higher energy prices, moderate to high inflation, lower home prices, lower consumer spending, and a recession. Personally I'd call it a period of stagflation with increasing prices and increasing unemployment. And while some growth may return with lowering interest rates (which Bill Gross is predicting in 2006), it will only fuel inflation (which Kash is predicting). Get ready for inflation to be a part of your daily life.

And who do we have to thank? Mostly BushCo. But Democrats have also been sitting on their hands through this economically destructive period of excessive government spending, chronic economic drag resulting in low interest rates created by the Iraq war and fear of terrorists, and zero in the way of an innovative energy policy. We can only hope that future administrations and Congress's will get with it and spur energy innovations that move our economy away from being petroleum based. Until then, more dramatic rising prices will be a fact of life.


Let us all remember this, so well put by tristero over at Digby's site. It's really is this simple, no matter what other bullshit the right tries to do with Plamegate:
This case, like Simpson's, is very simple, if perhaps difficult to legally prove. A CIA agent was deliberately exposed by people who had sworn never to do so. That has the potential to undermine the safety and intelligence gathering capability of the US. By exposing a CIA agent, they have aided this country's enemies. That is a betrayal of country, in a word: Treason.

Bumped Fitzmas Eve

New Stuff:
Indictments Are Coming

The Washington Note has an "uber-insider source" that says multiple [1-5] indictments in the CIA leak case will be filed tomorrow. The targets received their letters today. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday.

Meanwhile, a former high level Bush administration official told Political Wire that "people are turning on each other" at the White House. Lawrence Wilkerson is likely just the first of many to come out publicly against the administration.
Original Post:

Everyone with an opinion and a computer is weighing in on the upcoming decision by Patrick Fitzgerald. The decision has even been given a name, Fitzmas, because of the anticipated positive outcome for Democrats. So, I guess it's my turn.

Let's start at the top. Bush. I believe the recent leaks by White House staffers about Bush being angry with Rove when told about his involvement in Plamegate was, indeed, a mistake by the White House. I think they were trying to make Bush look like he was on the right side of the issue. Instead they inadvertently implicated Bush in the cover-up. Prediction? Nothing comes of this.....for now.

Next up, Cheney. I think Cheney is in the Plame scandal up to his neck. However, I think Fitzgerald will have a tough time getting at him. I predict he'll be named as an unindicted co-conspirator, getting away from legal jeopardy....for now. Although recent reports of Cheney considering resignation are an attempt by the White House to increase expectations so the ultimate indictments seem like a let down, ultimately Cheney will resign.

Libby and Rove. The big question is will upcoming indictments be just for the cover-up, or for more serious charges such as revealing a covert intelligence officer's name and/or espionage. Prediction, both will be indicted for obstruction of justice and perjury. Libby will also be indicted for a charge related to leaking Plame's name. Libby and Rove will both cop pleas and there will not be a trial. I think this is about right:

I'm still leaning towards believing that Rove and Libby will fall on their swords and have plea agreements in place by next week, to spare their respective bosses, Bush and Cheney, the ugly fallout from a protracted criminal case and from being called as witnesses.

The question is, will Bush pardon them in return for their loyalty before or after they serve any jail time required by the deals?
Bush will not pardon anyone. If he does, there will be further revolt by Republicans because of the impact on the 2006 elections of headline charges of cronyism and corruption. I think this is the most dangerous course that a moron like Bush may take due to his personal stubborness and loyalty. If he does pardon, I think it would bring on a constitutional crisis that could lead to his resignation.

There will also be various indictments of lower level officials, i.e. Hannah and Wursmer and perhaps others. These counts will range from obstruction to revealing Plame name.

I further predict that Fitzgerald will seek to either extend his current grand jury or impanel a new grand jury with the goal of exploring the uranium/Niger forged documents spectacle. It is highly possible that these investigations may lead to Bush.

At the New York Times. Miller is toast and will not return. Miller will write a book, make a couple of million, and disappear for awhile. She will re-emerge as a Republican pundit/insider. Either Times publisher Sulzberger or Bill Keller will be resigned, possibly both, in an attempt to salvage the Times reputation.

Finally, Valerie Plame will file a civil suit that will have aspects of the case that ultimately end up in the Supreme Court. Bush and Cheney will have to testify and there will be further revelations. The entire Plamegate affair, while not taking down Bush as President, will continue to erode his power making the last three years of his Presidency irrelevent, other than the government being rudderless. Ultimately, Plame will prevail and win damages.

Fitzmas may be the gift that keeps on giving, and may stay in the news for a looong time.

Brutally Sad

And funny at the same time.

Complex Addition


NY Times Bombshell Explodes Near Cheney

Big news. The New York Times is reporting that notes taken by Scooter Libby show that he learned of Valerie Wilson's employment at the CIA from his boss, Dick Cheney.





Via Digby:
"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things," one White House ally said, referring to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.
The irony in this statement is so thick you need an electric drill to stir it. Ever hear of projection? It really is quite instructive to watch the pretzel twists that political hacks will undergo to defend a position.

One thing that is definately missing in politics from a by-gone era is shame. Today, there virtually no shame in looking right into the camera (as Kay Baily Hutchinson did the other day) and making an utter and complete fool of yourself. And btw, I don't limit that observations to conservatives. And after shaming yourself,...or getting indicted....there's always a gig for you on FOX or any other cable news channel that thrives on car-wreck watching ratings.


The Hackett-Brown dust-up continues. Democracy guy has a few words to say.

In fairness to Atrios, this comes via his site, somewhat balancing his "class act" comment.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I Need My Fukitol

I'm trying to keep my chin up regarding America's response to torture. But then I run across more stories of torture, and diddy's like this from Legal Fiction via Arthur Silber (yeah, he's back), and I find I need my fukitol again:
So I was riding the train back from Boston to DC earlier today and I was listening to two Amnesty International workers at the table beside me (I was doing work in the cafe car) talking (loudly) about torture and their latest efforts, etc. One of them was essentially saying that she had given up and become totally cynical that Americans would ever care. The other tried to reassure her and explain why action was necessary. So this particular part of the conversation goes on from Wilmington to Baltimore.

At Baltimore, Sy Hersh gets on the train and sits with them at their table in the cafe car (I couldn't tell if he knew one of them or not). Anyway, after a few pleasantries, they asked him about his views on this particular question and whether there was something or someone giving him hope. Hersh replied, "We're fucked."
Sy Hersh has been right every inch of the way about Bushco and Iraq. This is worrying.

Fig Leaf Time

It looks to me like Harriet "Ozzie's Mom" Miers is a goner. Tim Grieve of Salon shares the drama with us:
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback called on Bush to turn over documents related to Miers' White House work. "Providing this type of information from the White House is almost a risk they assume when you nominate a candidate just from inside the White House," he said. "A lot of the things she worked in the White House are on their way up to the Supreme Court. I think it's totally legitimate to say, 'What did you work on? If that issue comes before the Supreme Court, what would you do?'"

At his Cabinet meeting this morning, the president all but blurted out that he wouldn't and couldn't turn over such documents without jeopardizing the ability of future presidents to hear frank advice and "to make sound decisions."

And like clockwork, the mainstream press is now reporting that a "document snag" is threatening to "scuttle" Miers' nomination. Maybe this is all just coincidence. Maybe Krauthammer was tipped off to a plan already in the works. Or maybe, with Karl Rove distracted by other matters, the president is taking advice from wherever he can find it.
This is so obviously orchestrated. Sam Brownback taking a stand? Since when....

Here, via Karl Rove, is an inside report on the deciding phone conversation:
Bush: "Hey Sam, you don't want Hurriet on the court? Cummon. Why not? She's a real nice person the way she's bee a-takin' care of her 91 yr. old momma and all"

Sam: "Naw, she's an idiot. Besides, she's a wuman. You otta keep her around the White House to make coffee. She can at least make good coffee....right?

Bush: "Naw. She keeps dropping fake eyelashes and that black goop she puts on her eyes into the coffee maker. Kinda gives a hairy taste to the coffee. What the hell am I gonna do with her now? And just how do I tell the Lord I just caaan't do it?"

Sam: "I'll tell ya whut. Me and my boys over here will make a ole' fuss about some nonsense. Like. Hey, how about that paper she wrote for know the one....the one about he she really really thought you were cool and she really really thought she'd make a super judge. We'll say we want em', you won't give em'. Then you'll can her ass because everyone knows what a big, strong, Preznit you'ar.

Bush: "Well now Sam. That's a mighty fine idear. Even better than that time it just slipped yur mind to finish off that little dust-up over that 911 commission...ya know...the investigatin' of the my spread here.

Sam: "Ya. That was a good one. Well...gotta go now and get my mean face on for Britt and the boys over there, them media flunkies...calling you out and all. But afore I go...what the hell does hairy coffee taste like?"
And with that leadership conference of top administration and Senate officials, Harriet's nomination is toast.

Bush Lament

Poor George. White House under seige. He feels so bad. He even said this:
Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."
Your personality is showing!

Slick Record

I ran across this paragraph in today's news roundup:
There's some good news on the economic front: the price of gas has dropped. Complicating that news for the White House, however: oil companies are expected to show record profits when they report their third-quarter earnings this week.
Two things strike me about this. First, there appears to be no coverage of the fact that gasoline prices have dropped primarily due to gasoline reserves being shipped from Europe....a temporary condition to help with Katrina disruptions. While oil has dropped in price and oil stocks have risen, refining capacity is still out in New Orleans and likely to stay out until the end of the year at a minimum. If gas prices stay down, it's only because the driving season is over. But watch out for those heating costs, diesel costs, and the cost of any other distilliates.

The second item is the profits on the horizon for the oil companies. Oil companies are literally drowning in cash, working diligently to try and find something to do with it. Note that the oil companies are not to any significant degree putting cash into development of alternative energies. It would seem that the intent is to milk peak oil right down to the last dollar.

I can't think of anything that is more representative of the Bush administration than the new record profits posted quarter after quarter by the oil companies. Concurrent with these obscene profit records is the lowering real minimum wage, record gas prices, record heating costs and a disappearing middle class.

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