Sunday, November 20, 2005

Concrete Block


"Iraq is now a cloud over everything," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst specializing in Congress. "It's the 800-pound gorilla in the room."

"I feel like every morning, I wake up, get a concrete block and have to walk around with it all day," said first-term Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who came to the Senate with an ambitious agenda to overhaul Social Security and the tax code. "We can't even address the issues."


Iraq was ambitious enough for me, thank you very much. There's a good reason members of your party have to carry around a concrete block; a very good reason. You fucked up. Big time. Please don't whine about the negative political consequences you must now face as a result.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

CIA Mystery Flights???

Here's an interesting story from Canada:



CIA-linked plane landed in Canada: Report
Nov. 19, 2005. 07:35 PM


OTTAWA (CP) — Records show a privately owned airplane that has been linked to an alleged CIA front flew from Newfoundland to the United States on Friday, raising new questions about Canada's role in the fight against terrorism.

Flight data obtained by The Canadian Press reveals the 40-seat turboprop plane travelled from St. John's, N.L., to New Hampshire and finally on to its home base in North Carolina.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has come under scrutiny in recent months over its apparent use of civilian aircraft to ferry terrorism suspects around the globe.

Ottawa engineer Maher Arar says in 2002 he was bundled aboard a small jet that took him from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., Maine, Rome and eventually Jordan. From there, he was driven blindfolded to Syria, where he was imprisoned and interrogated as a suspected al-Qaida member.


Mr. Arar was a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen, and had every right to be in Canada. But note his final destination: Jordan.

The paper also notes this:



The flight data records obtained Saturday by CP indicate the N196D turboprop left St. John's on Friday for Manchester, N.H., then carried on to Johnston County Airport in Smithfield, N.C.

The airport has been identified as an alleged hub for covert American air operations.

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration records show the plane in question is registered to Devon Holding and Leasing Inc. of Lexington, N.C.

In late May, the New York Times published a photograph of a similar plane, with the identification number N168D, to illustrate a story about the CIA's extensive use of civilian aircraft.

According to FAA records, that plane is also registered to Devon Holding and Leasing.



Hmm...N196, Devon Holding and leasing. Now here is another interesting passage:


John Sifton, an analyst with New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in an interview with La Presse the two Devon aircraft suspected of landing on Canadian soil had the authority to land "on any U.S. military base on the planet."

He said two other aircraft had similar authorization. Those planes also landed in Canada in 2001, according to aircraft registries consulted by the newspaper.


Well guess what Canadians; I think you might have missed a torture plane.

Because here's a picture of non other than flight N196D, in Malta, taken on May 17, 2004.



And the flight path of that flight:


Routed via Halifax[Canada]-New Foundland[Canada](CYYT)-BIKF(KEFLAVIK Iceland)-Edinburgh-Frankfurt-Malta-Amman(Jordan).


So we are 1.) Secretly sending planes 2.) Through countries without asking their permission or informing them of the true nature of the flight 3.) To third countries where torture is known to be practiced so we can hand over the suspects.

I keep thinking things can't get much worse, and the Bush administration keeps proving me wrong. Sorry Canada. And victims of torture.
Woodward then:



"And, there's a lot of innocent actions in all of this but what has happened this prosecutor, I mean I used to call Mike Isikoff when he worked at the 'Washington Post' the junkyard dog. Well this is a junkyard dog prosecutor and he goes everywhere and asks every question and turns over rocks and rocks under rocks and so forth."


And that case, when I think it is all told, there is going to be nothing to it. And it is a shame. And the special prosecutor in that case, his behavior, in my view, has been disgraceful.

And that case, when I think it is all told, there is going to be nothing to it. And it is a shame. And the special prosecutor in that case, his behavior, in my view, has been disgraceful.



Woodward now:



Woodward expressed some surprise that Fitzgerald hadn't contacted him earlier in the probe, but had high praise for the prosecutor whose investigation he has openly criticized on television. During his time with the prosecutor, Woodward said, he found Fitzgerald "incredibly sensitive to what we do. He didn't infringe on my other reporting, which frankly surprised me. He said 'This is what I need, I don't need any more.'"


You mean, he didn't maul you or rip out your throat?


Fitzgerald: professional, competent.  


Woodward:

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Bush Announces Supreme Court Pick
From AP



October 31, 2005
(Washington)


The White House, reeling from several weeks of bad news, today sought to put their best foot forward at an unconventional 12 a.m.  news conference announcing the appointment of Count. V. Dracula to the Supreme Court


"I am proud to nominate Count Vladmir Dracula as my next nominee to the Supreme Court.  Count Dracula will be the first nationalized American Citizen to sit on the Supreme Court,which reflects well of the diversity that we as a nation embrace.  


"I undestand that some of you may question my choice in the Count, but I am the President, and I must make bold decisions.  I know that dracula has a good heart, and that he will make a good Supreme court candidate," said president Bush in announcing the choice.


Dracula, thanking the President, said: "I am very grateful to Bush and to bloood!!!"


He then grabbed NBC's White House correspondent David Gregory and appeared to suck blood out of his neck for several minutes while Gregory asked questions and took down notes on his notepad.

Though Bush and Dracula have long been acquaintances, the relationship blossomed over the last several years when the Count apparently shared several "secret non-disclosed locations" with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fitzgerald Has Bush in a Catch 22

Karl Rove's modus operandi has always been to savagely attack, no matter how hypocritical or false the attack may be.  


But just as Rove and Bush face their most serious political crisis ever, Rove is robbed of his political superpowers, and Bush remains seriously vulnerable.  


Patrick Fitzgerald has also demonstrated a cunning prosecutorial strategy.  Instead of announcing all of the indictments in the case, Fitzgerald only announced one, and said that the investigation would be continuing; more indictments for others could still follow.  


Apparently, according to rumors, Karl Rove narrowly escaped indictment this time around.  And although Rove may be a very splendid archetype of one of those villainous characters who would stab you in the back after you saved his life, because of the way that Fitzgerald has handled this, Rove can do very little.


He can not, as was done with John Kerry and Joe Wilson (and many others) launch a slanderous (and perhaps libelous) attack against Patrick Fitzgerald.  Because, and I may differ with our friend Tom Delay, who as I understand it is very happy to have been indicted, it is not a sound legal strategy to attack the prosecutor who has the ability to prosecute you.  If Patrick Fitzgerald is weighing in his mind whether he should bring a charge, such actions would likely piss him off.


But it gets better.  I'm studying for the bar right now, and the indictments prove an interesting read.   There is no way, even if he might have a good case, that "Scooter" is going to want to go on trial for this, if he has any loyalty in him to the Republican party.  Such a trial would bring out such scandalous information about the way that the corrupt Bush administration has operated, it would almost certainly wipe away any republican chances of power until 2010.  


The only plausible scenario that comes to mind in which Scooter might be able to escape the joy of prison life is if he spills the beans on Cheney and Rove (and who knows who else).  


So the chance is very good that Libby will go to prison, and if not Libby, someone even higher in the administration.  When Lawrence Walsh made his Iran Contra indictments, it was at the end of the Bush administration, allowing Bush time to grant post-election pardons and prevent any of indictees from being convicted.  


This option won't be available to Bush until early 2009 however (assuming he's around that long), which means that some officials in his administration will actually go to prison (which is likely to reinforce the seriousness of this scandal in the public mind).


Patrick Fitzgerald has taken on organized crime.  That is probably the optimal experience to have to take on the Bush political machine.  And today he has shown great prowess.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Did Noe Funnel Ohio Retirement Funds to Bush Campaign at Taft's Behest?

Cross-posted at dailykos.com

We know that Bob Taft and Tom Noe were very good golfing buddies. So good was their golfing friendship, that Mr. Taft was willing to risk going to jail for it.
Washington Post
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) yesterday pleaded no contest to charges that he violated state ethics laws, becoming the first governor in the state's history convicted of a crime and providing powerful ammunition to Democrats seeking to break the Republican Party's dominance in a critical swing state[...]
Taft, who cooperated with investigators, issued a public apology after being convicted on four misdemeanor counts for failing to report 52 golf outings, dinners and other entertainment gifts. He was fined $4,000, the maximum. Taft, who by law cannot run again, said he will not resign[...]
Among the golf outings were two from Tom Noe...


About that Mr. Noe...


Toledo BladeA federal grand jury has indicted Tom Noe — the former Toledo-area coin dealer at the center of a state investment scandal — on three counts for allegedly laundering money into President Bush’s re-election campaign.

The three-count indictment says that beginning in October 2003, Mr. Noe contributed to President Bush’s election campaign “over and above the limits established by the Federal Election Campaign Act."

“He did so, according to the indictment, in order to fulfill his pledge to raise $50,000 for a Bush-Cheney fund-raiser held in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2003,” Gregory White, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced at an afternoon news conference

The two other counts were for conspiracy and filing false statements.


Where could all that money have come from? The two articles, together, certainly raise a possibility. Again, the Post

Among the golf outings were two from Tom Noe, a prominent Republican fundraiser and rare coin dealer who is at the heart of a larger scandal involving the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, which invested approximately $50 million in rare coins through Noe. Investigators later found $10 million to $13 million was missing, sending GOP officials scampering to escape the taint of association with Noe.


Certainly the amount of money missing is much larger than these indictments explain, but is it possible that at least one portion of the missing money $10 million was so diverted? Perhaps the rest of the money was funneled into similar schemes?

Was Taft behind this?

Is this how Bush "won" Ohio?

In Taft's defense, I will say that he looks too goofy and stupid to pull something like this off, but still...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Miers' Mysteriously Modest Bling

Perhaps until very recently, one factor had been absent in the public discussion over Harriet Miers: her net worth, or lack thereof (and if you think I'm faulting for lack of wealth itself, see below: the point I'm raising is actually quite different.

Eleven days ago, questioning her modest net worth (possibly as low as $220,000, I noted


So this woman is 60 years old, spent two decades as a successful corporate lawyer, but has a net worth smaller than that of most state university professors at an analogous point in their careers? I smell a rat.

While such a financial situation would be at least conceivable for someone who had devoted their entire life to public service, here the case was quite the opposite. Miers spent two decades at a top Dallas law firm, during much of which she was a powerful partner. I would imagine an average mediocre attorney could expect to enter corporate law in Dallas making 60-80 thousand dollars. I'm sure it was somewhat lower during the eighties, but still, adjusting for inflation, it should be roughly equivalent, so if we estimate that Miers earned 100 gs a year in today's dollars, that would total two million dollars over twenty years. Of course, she was a managing partner, so we may safely assume she made much more than that.



I touched on the subject again two days ago in a diary


And another question involves her piddly net worth.  Nothing wrong with being of modest means, but this woman, who for a decade managed the most powerful law firm in Dallas, and who has spent another decade working for George W. Bush, at the age of 60, has a net worth of less than $500,000 dollars?



Finally, someone else has taken notice.

Writing in Slate , Henry Blodget poses the
question:


"What does Harriet Miers' money tell us about her?...She managed to work for nearly 30 years as an attorney in private practice without getting rich."



Where did all of Harriet Miers' money go? Blodget speculates that it was likely spent taking care of her mother:


So, where has all that retirement money been going? Perhaps to another expense category depressingly familiar to most Americans: health-care costs. According to the Journal and AP, Miers is the primary caretaker for her 91-year-old mother, who has required in-home and nursing-home care since the mid-1990s. That a decade of her mom's health care could consume several hundred thousand dollars set aside for Miers' own retirement won't come as a surprise to anyone who has had (or paid for) a long-term illness in recent years.



This is a plausible explanation, but it does not definitively answer the question. In my posting from 11 days ago, I had very conservatively estimated Miers' income at $100,000 a year.

But this nugget from Blodget's piece makes clear just how conservative I was.

Miers left Dallas law firm Locke Liddell in 1999—and the $624,000 salary she earned as a managing partner...

So when Miers left her firm she made more annually than her current net worth.

I understand that Miers' may have spent a great deal of money caring for her mother, and that is certainly admirable. But I still don't think it accounts for Miers modest net worth. Even if, for the last 10 years, Miers has spent $100,000 a year on care for her mother, there is no reason why her three decade career with a prestigious law firm should not have left her with millions of dollars to spare. Unlike John Roberts, who is worth much more, Miers is single, and has no children.

Blodget's article also makes clear that Mier's life has been fairly frugal, so she wasn't blowing her dough on bling.

One significant possibility was that Miers made some poor investment decisions. Is this the case? If so, the public deserves to know, because any information about her judgment is pertinent to her suitability to sit on the nation's highest court.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Did Miers practice law without a valid law license?

That's what this article appears to imply:


Ms. Miers sent the senators her own letter acknowledging a separate omission. She wrote that after submitting her answers on Tuesday, "I became aware that, as a result of administrative oversight, my Texas Bar license was suspended from Sept. 1 to Sept. 26, 1989, due to late payment of my bar dues."


And was Ms. Miers providing legal advice to the President of the United States when she did not have a license to do so?

Practicing law without a license is considered among the most serious breaches of legal ethics.

On Monday, Miers disclosed that her D.C. law license was briefly suspended last year because of unpaid annual dues.


One of the questions on the...D.C. Bar is: "Have you ever been disbarred, suspended, censured...or disqualified as an attorney..."


For example, one of the questions on the registration form to be admitted to the D.C. Bar is:

Have you ever been disbarred, suspended, censured, or otherwise reprimanded or disqualified as an attorney, as a member of another profession including the military, or as a holder of public office?


If Miers neglected to disclose her lapsed earlier lapsed Texas license when she appied to join the D.C. bar, that would present an even bigger ethical violation. If Miers ethical conduct is at best, barely sufficient to qualify her to practice law at all, how could one seriously contend that she should sit on our nation's highest court?

And another question involves her piddly net worth. Nothing wrong with being of modest means, but this woman, who for a decade managed the most powerful law firm in Dallas, and who has spent another decade working for George W. Bush, at the age of 60, has a net worth of less than $500,000 dollars?

What did she do with all her money? Not spend it on bar dues.