Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Senator Joe Biden Has a Blog

Senator Biden is one of the most able and well-informed senators in Washington. Biden is certainly thinking of running for president in 2008 and, for a year now, he has had a website and blog, both called United Our States. The website itself has slick graphics and the news section is easy to use but the kind of people who come to political websites usually want issues and discussions and not necessarily a campaign ad with numerous pictures of the candidate looking straight into the camera; nevertheless, the website can be useful for a national audience that would like to know more about Biden's statements and policies. I'm not sure, however, that Biden's staff understands what a blog is. The posts are infrequent (7 posts in May) and there doesn't seem to be anything in the way of a dialogue going on (no comment section, etc.).

Biden's staffers should look at John Edwards' One America blog which has been on the internet for some time. It is an active site that covers Edwards' activities and has active discussions on the issues by members of the blog. Both John Edwards and Elizabeth have diaries on the site that they add to every few weeks. This is dialogue and it's something that other Democratic candidates need to catch up on.

Some Say Hillary Clinton Is Too Cautious

Hillary Clinton is considered the frontrunner for the 2008 Democratic nomination but there are growing concerns about where she is positioning herself politically. Some would argue that instead of showing leadership, she watches the polls too much; and others argue she's trying too hard to be Republican lite.

There are other issues that are not explicitly talked about but that are going to have to be discussed in terms of what Clinton's election to the White House would mean: what, for example, would Bill Clinton's role be? If the former president stays too close to the White House, some will argue that a Hillary Clinton presidency is just a gimmick to get Bill Clinton back in the White House for a third term. But if Hillary's husband stay too far away from the White House, the tabloids will have a field day claiming Clinton's marriage is in trouble (this side of the issue the media has no trouble focusing on).

Steve Thomma of the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau has an article on the growing concerns about Hillary Clinton's cautiousness:
As she kicks off her campaign Wednesday for a second term, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York carries the image of a leader of her party and the expectation she'll be the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Yet many Democrats and analysts think she's failed to lead at a pivotal time for her party and the nation, complaining that she's been overly cautious and timid in her first term. They contend that she's remained a backbencher on major issues such as the Iraq war and immigration. And they say she's squandered the unique platform her celebrity gives her to put other issues in play, such as expanding health care.

The approach may help or hurt her political career. But it's angered or frustrated some Democrats who want more from her, and has contributed to the buzz within the party for former Vice President Al Gore as a more forceful champion heading into the 2008 campaign.

I wish Hillary Clinton well and I promise to find some favorable articles on her in the near future since I've been posting on other possible Democratic presidential contenders. There's no question that Clinton is doing a good job of representing New York but sooner or later she needs to answer the many questions that Democrats have about her. I should add that the times have changed very much in the last six years and what worked for Bill Clinton in the 90s might not work for a Hillary Clinton presidency, and she may need to show that she understands the times and the many new problems facing the nation.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

How to Drill for Cheap Oil in the Suburbs

America's biggest oil reserves may be in our suburbs. We won't actually have to drill for oil and pollute our neighborhoods and so on but the amount of our oil dependence can be reduced by millions of barrels. At the TPM Cafe, Nathan Newman writes that such metaphorical drilling for oil is already taking place:
Instead of looking in Alaska for a massive source of energy, look at New York City.

It doesn't look to most people like an oil geyser, but every day New York City residents consume just one-third of the gasoline used by other Americans and one-half of the residential energy use of a typical American. They drive fewer cars because of a well-developed mass transit system and their multi-unit buildings use less energy per household.

That adds up to the equivalent of between 221,000,000 to 296,000,000 barrels of oil saved per year by New York residents -- just a bit less than the 320,000,000 barrels per year that would be produced by the ANWR field in Alaska at its peak production....


...While New York City's outstanding energy efficiency is a product of its unique history, every urban and suburban area could be producing energy savings with better transit and more energy-efficient buildings, leading to BILLIONS of barrels of oil saved across the country.

I thank Mr. Newman for a great metaphor. Unfortunately, he doesn't go into details (though he does offer a couple of links) and I doubt New York City is a model that can be extended as well as he claims but there's no question enormous savings can be found in our overall energy bills if we start thinking about what we're doing. Ideas and technology that have been around for decades are still excellent resources for reducing our dependence on foreign oil; and they're a much cleaner way to 'drill' for crude.

Significant funds for research into energy efficiency and alternative fuels have languished for years but a new infusion of money into research is likely to be far more cost-effective than rushing to empty the world's remaining fossil fuel reserves so that executives of energy companies can make their maximum buck (believe me, they're going to make money anyway).

Another Review of George Packer's Book

In the years to come, there will be more books that provide definitive accounts of what went wrong with Bush's Iraq policy. For now, the essential book is George Packer's, The Assassin's Gate. Here's part of a good review by the Armchair Generalist:
I've been finishing up George Packer's "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq" this week. What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said in other places (also see here)? I thoroughly enjoyed it, as the author examines the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the subsequent occupation of that country from many different perspectives. He has what I believe may be one of the best discussions of the pre-war Iraqi exiles' strategy and manipulation of the State Dept and DoD, really discussing their motivations and arguments over how they intended to rebuild Iraq after the invasion. Packer talks with the Coalition Provisional Authority and how they struggled to pull together a working government, without much assistance and possibly with great interference from the Bush administration. The savage infighting between State and DoD is clearly illustrated, and you have to wonder why Pentagon officials continue to force their view of foreign policy over that of the diplomatic professionals today. The whole transition from Garner to Bremer discussion is particularly enlightening.


I was trying to find a good paragraph in this book that might summarize its overall mood, but that's a tough thing to do, given this long story with many characters. I think what Packer really resents is the casualness in which the Bush administration executed this war, so I'll close with this paragraph in his epilogue.

The long view of history made this war possible, and the long view of history made this war costly. Out of government, Drew Erdmann dwelled on the institutional character of the administration's mistakes, but in Baghdad in the summer of 2003 he had said that success or failure would largely depend on the judgment of individuals. I came to believe that those in positions of highest responsibility for Iraq showed a carelessness for human life that amounted to criminal negligence. Swaddled in abstract ideas, convinced of their own righteousness, incapable of self-criticism, indifferent to accountability, they turned a difficult undertaking into a needlessly deadly one. When things went wrong, they found other people to blame. The Iraq War was always winnable; it still is. For this very reason, the recklessness of its authors is all the harder to forgive.
The Armchair Generalist does a good job of listing the key elements of The Assassin's Gate.

As excellent as Packer's book is, I have deep reservations about his assertion that the Iraq War was winnable. On one level, Packer may be right but a great deal would have needed to happen and the inherent flaws were many, the presence of Cheney and Rumsfeld perhaps being the greatest handicap of the war. And if the war in Iraq had succeeded, where would Bush's military adventurism have ended? In Damascus? In Tehran? Where? But the details of Packer's book make it well worth reading.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Remembering the Dead

Here's another perspective on Memorial Day that I found on Donklephant; I include the first two paragraphs but the whole piece is worth reading:
Memorial Day began not in one place but in many. Hilltop cemeteries across the North, behind old stone churches and meetings, with long views across the farms. On the grass where fathers and mothers — the ones who could find the corpse among the slain — laid their boys.

After the war, everyone wanted to forget. Was there ever a war everyone didn’t want to forget after it ended? But in the springtime the veterans, still boys themselves in ‘66 or ‘67, walked up the hill to the graves of their buddies and remembered. As a later generation of veterans walked to a long black wall in a gash in the earth in Washington, D.C., and remembered.
A friend of mine who lived all over the Midwest and South when he was young said that rural families often had picnics on old family cemeteries. The family cemeteries were often in a pretty spot on a hill surrounded by trees and were excellent places for a picnic and remembrance.

Just Because We Can Build It Doesn't Mean We Should

The United States is by far the most powerful military power in the world and yet Pentagon right wingers seem to be itching to make more trouble for ourselves not less; Raw Story explains when weapons systems are more dangerous than they're worth:
"The Pentagon is pressing Congress to approve the development of a new weapon that would enable the United States to carry out nonnuclear missile strikes against distant targets within an hour," reports The New York Times in a story slated for the front page of Monday's edition.


This "nonnuclear version of the submarine-launched Trident II missile" could "add to the president's options when considering a pre-emptive attack," The Times reports.

"There is great concern this could be destabilizing in terms of deterrence and nuclear policy," Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), an Armed Services Committee member, tells The Times. "It would be hard to determine if a missile coming out a Trident submarine is conventional or nuclear."

There are other ways to deliver a conventional weapon without creating confusion. I'm for a strong defense but I'm not for a Pentagon-driven beefed-up military that loses sight of what its goals and responsibilities are. And beyond a certain point money is truly better spent elsewhere. I keep thinking how a single missile launched from a unmanned aerial drone that kills women and children can undo months of hard work by special forces and nongovernment agencies in some of the regions we need to reach. We need to get people like Rumsfeld and the other cowboys out of Washington. We have plenty of military power. What we don't have are officials in Washington who are competent; we have spent the last four years losing friends rather than gaining friends. We are already paying a terrible price for our president's arrogance and shortsightedness.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Rep. Jefferson (D-LA) and the FBI

I haven't been following closely the troubles of Rep. Jefferson (D-LA), but Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo points to this interesting speech by Rep. Franks (D-MA):
Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I disagree with the bipartisan House leadership criticism of the FBI's search of a Member's office. I know nothing specifically about the case, except that the uncontroverted public evidence did seem to justify the issuance of a warrant.

What we now have is a Congressional leadership, the Republican part of which has said it is okay for law enforcement to engage in warrantless searches of the average citizen, now objecting when a search, pursuant to a validly issued warrant, is conducted of a Member of Congress.

It should be noted that a warrant was obtained. I have to admit that I also haven't been following closely the objections of Hastert and Pelosi to the search by FBI of a representative's office. It would not surprise me, however, to learn that Hastert and Pelosi objected to the searches for different reasons. House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, for example, might be objecting because a traditional procedure was not followed for investigating a Congressional office; and Hastert might be objecting because he doesn't want Congressional Republicans inspected too closely in the wake of the Cunningham, DeLay and Abramoff scandals. Hopefully, in coming days, we'll learn more what this controversy is all about.

Gasoline Prices in Recent Years

The blogger, Oil CEO, has an excellent graph on the general rise in gasoline prices over the last ten years. Oil CEO is part of The Oil Drum community and also posts on Daily Kos.

Living in California, I can tell you that our gasoline prices are generally 10 to 25 cents higher for regular unleaded.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Shooter in the Rayburn Building

Just maybe it wasn't jackhammers or a backfire after all that closed down Congress yesterday. Cartoonist J Macdonald shares his suspicions of why red-faced Republicans don't want to discuss the latest incident.

Republicans Not Relying on Bush in Fall Elections

As Bush's poll numbers continue to fall, it's not surprising that Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the president as noted by Paul Bedard in US News & World Report:
Congressional Republicans and GOP political strategists said today that they don't believe President Bush will make a dramatic upward move in the polls by the fall, forcing members who face re-election to push their own agenda at home instead of hoping to ride Bush's coattails to victory.

"He might come back—who knows?—but we've got to do this on our own. In fact, it's irrelevant if he comes back. He probably will, he's got 2 ½ years — but we don't," said a key GOP official. As a result, Republican officials said, the GOP leadership will step up its plans to tackle issues that are important back home, such as high gas prices, expensive college tuition, and medical care.
These are the same Republicans who gave Bush carte blanche for the last five years. They never challenged Bush on any major issue until his poll numbers became toxic. These are the same Republicans who fought for fiscal responsibility in the 90s, then changed their minds and have since put every boondoogle, tax cut and corporate favor on the national credit card. These are the same guys who spent years ignoring the growing energy crisis of this nation and they still do not have a solution except to loosen pollution controls in every community in America. These are the same guys who let the oil companies, pharmaceuticals, the insurance industry and others write legislation that has nothing to do with dealing with major issues or providing better products or services but a great deal to do with bigger profits without having to work for them.

The Republicans in Congress may distance themselves from Bush but they can't distance themselves from their own failed record. And then, there are the growing corruption scandals from the billions unaccounted for in Iraq to military contracts to.... well, I think the reader gets the general idea.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

A lot has changed in our country in the last twenty-five years during the period when the American right has been rising to power. I've been thinking lately about some of the promise of our nation that we have left behind on this strange journey we as a nation have been taking. Maybe it's against my better judgment, but I keep writing in an effort to bring back some of that promise.

Tonight, I'm posting another poem by the Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz. The upheavels he witnessed were much greater than the ones we have experienced but his poem carries well into our time. He wrote the following brief poem in 1936 but he published it nine years later, after World War II, when it clearly took on a diffferent meaning.


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive.
Not the hare, not the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

—Czeslaw Milosz (1936)


Why Bush Keeps Failing

Having ideas isn't enough. Examining ideas to see if they make any sense and then, if they do make sense, finding a way to implement them is how a lot of government works. Bush never got the picture. Clinging to his unique, cock-eyed view of the world has done enormous damage to the United States. Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly puts it well:
...all presidents rely for their decisions on a complex stew of ideology, interest group pandering, and political calculation. So what is it that makes Bush so different? Just this: until Bush they also all cared about serious policy analysis. This was obviously more striking in some (Clinton) than in others (Reagan), but they all paid attention to it and it informed their actions.

But not Bush. He's subject to the same stew of competing interests and factions as any other president, but what truly makes him unique is what's missing: a respect for policy analysis. After eight months of working in the Bush White House, John DiIulio reported that "the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking." Paul O'Neill described Bush in cabinet meetings as "a blind man in a roomful of deaf people." A senior White House official told Ron Suskind that the Bush White House is "just kids on Big Wheels who talk politics and know nothing. It’s depressing." The meltdown at FEMA, the war with the CIA for being insufficiently hawkish, the lack of a serious plan for Social Security privatization, the staffing of postwar Iraq with inexperienced ideologues — all of these things have the same root cause: a belief that ideas are all that matter.

Of course, that also means that President Bush's initiatives fail at a truly spectacular rate. After all, policy is all about figuring out how to implement ideas so that they actually work...
Having ideas is useless unless there is problem or issue that the ideas address. A president has to understand the problem he is addressing beyond talk show posturing. And just because a president has an idea doesn't mean he has the facts that will enable him to assess if his idea can work. He has to dig for the facts and look them square in the face. And if a president refuses to even look at facts that contradict his notions, the problems are further compounded.

Of course, with Bush, there is the added issue that he will bend the rules and take shortcuts in the belief he can still, somehow, implement his ideas. As has been said elsewhere, Bush just manages to dig a deeper hole for himself and our nation. If George W. Bush were not the son of a former president, it is doubtful, given his record before he became governor of Texas, that he would ever have gotten as far as he has.

The Republicans will be spending the next decade explaining how they let Bush get so far and why they never held him in check.

The George W. Bush and Kenneth Lay Connection

Kenneth Lay is actually partly correct that crookedness wasn't the reason Enron went down. Sometimes one crooked part of Enron didn't know what the other crooked part of Enron was doing so indeed some 'bad' business decisions were made. But clearly Kenneth Lay has much in common with George W. Bush: both oil men have a charm that disguises what they do behind the scenes and both have a knack for spinning stories.

Truthout has a post by Robert Parry of Consortium News on the curious relationship between Bush and 'Kenney Boy':
As Enron's crisis worsened through the first nine months of Bush's presidency, Lay secured Bush's help in three key ways:

• Bush personally joined the fight against imposing caps on the soaring price of electricity in California at a time when Enron was artificially driving up the price of electricity by manipulating supply. Bush's resistance to price caps bought Enron extra time to gouge hundreds of millions of dollars from California's consumers.

• Bush granted Lay broad influence over the development of the administration's energy policies, including the choice of key regulators to oversee Enron's businesses. The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was replaced in 2001 after he began to delve into Enron's complex derivative-financing schemes.

• Bush had his NSC staff organize that administration-wide task force to pressure India to accommodate Enron's interests in selling the Dabhol generating plant for as much as $2.3 billion.


By the 2000 presidential campaign, Lay was a Pioneer for Bush, raising $100,000. Enron also gave the Republicans $250,000 for the convention in Philadelphia and contributed $1.1 million in soft money to the Republican Party. Not only was Lay a top fund-raiser for the campaign, but he helped out during the recount battle in Florida in November 2000.

Lay and his wife donated $10,000 to Bush's Florida recount fund that helped pay for Republican lawyers and other expenses. Lay even let Bush operatives use Enron's corporate jet to fly in reinforcements. After Bush secured his victory, another $300,000 poured in from Enron circles - including $100,000 from Lay and $100,000 from Skilling - for the Bush-Cheney Inaugural Fund.


Once in the White House, a grateful Bush gave Lay a major voice in shaping energy policy and picking personnel. Starting in late February 2001, Lay and other Enron officials took part in at least a half dozen secret meetings to develop Bush's energy plan.

After one of the Enron meetings, Vice President Cheney's energy task force changed a draft energy proposal to include a provision to boost oil and natural gas production in India. The amendment was so narrow that it apparently was targeted only to help Enron's troubled Dabhol power plant in India. [Washington Post, Jan. 26, 2002]

Other parts of the Bush energy plan also echoed Enron's views. Seventeen of the energy plan's proposals were sought by and benefited Enron, according to Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. One proposal called for repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, which hindered Enron's potential for acquisitions.

It's a long article. And although Robert Parry does an excellent job of covering the relationship between Bush and Lay, I'm sure there's even more to the story. The Bush we know now is not the same Bush much of the country thought they knew when he was first elected. Americans are no longer willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt as they did five years ago.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bush's Self-Serving Interpretation of the Law

Bush's many 'creative' interpretations of the laws are consistent with being a radical right winger but they are not consistent with our nation's democracy. John Dean of FindLaw gives us a history lesson on the abuse of power in our nation:
Lately, the Bush Administration has been talking of using the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute the New York Times and the Washington Post. Yet these veteran newspapers' "crimes" consist merely of publishing Pulitzer-Prize-winning articles on the CIA's secret prisons, and the NSA's secret surveillance programs.

Not even Nixon sank so low. He might have initiated criminal prosecutions against the Times for printing the Pentagon Papers, yet did not.

And in other respects, the Bush Administration makes Nixon look like a piker when it comes to free speech, as well as other civil liberties issues: Its electronic surveillance of American citizens has been done in utter defiance of the law.

Does the "war on terror" justify the Administration's incursions on civil liberties? Putting this Administration's actions in historical perspective suggests the answer is a resounding no.


More generally, Bush and Cheney have surely topped all their predecessors in their unbridled support for and use of torture. They have outdone all their predecessors, too, in their high-tech, relentless fear-mongering. In their claim of strengthening the presidency, they have shown they are cowards hiding behind the great power of the offices they hold, the prerogatives of which they are determined to abuse.

Using the work of Professor Geoffrey Stone, Dean reviews five previous episodes when our rights were threatened, and shows that the Bush Administration has been violating our rights and abusing the law far more than previous administrations.

I should add that it appears to me that sometimes when the Bush Administration violates the law it's for no other purpose than to hide its own blunders, lies and wrongdoing. Those who still support Bush are supporting a disgraceful record at odds with the best that America has been.

Hastert May Sue ABC

With the growing investigations of various Republican members of Congress, including Hastert's colleague, Tom DeLay, who as Majority Leader shared leadership responsibilities with Hastert, it is not particularly surprising that Hastert's name should be mentioned, at least in passing, in the widening investigation that over the last year has included now convicted Jack Abramoff, convicted Randy Cunningham, and various members of Congress who one way or the other have had affiliations with the scandal figures that must be clarified and explained. ABC News carries the news of Hastert's threats against them:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert might sue ABC News for libel and defamation for a news report that said he was "in the mix" in a corruption investigation, according to a letter sent by Hastert's lawyer on Thursday.

The letter from Hastert counsel J. Randolph Evans said statements in ABC's report constitute libel and defamation, and asked who could "accept service of process to remedy this intentional falsehood."

Citing anonymous law enforcement sources, ABC News reported on Wednesday that Hastert was under scrutiny in an FBI corruption investigation centered around former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Forget the lawyers for a moment. Don't Americans have a right to know why so much crookedness was taking place right under House Speaker Dennis Hastert's nose? Shouldn't he be runninng a clean House? And why have House Republicans left him in power?

Hastert's lack of interest in House ethics and interest in how the scandals are damaging the House seems puzzling. Perhaps, instead of rushing bills through Congress and giving everybody else little time to read the provisions of complex legislation, Hastert should take things slower and let the public see the bills for a week before a vote takes place. That way, the public, the Democrats and various experts can take the proper time to help Hastert find those suspicious provisions that manage to mysteriously find their way into legislation that poor, busy Dennis Hastert is unable to see.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hillary Clinton and Ethanol

I generally like Hillary Clinton but some of her policies worry me. Her support of ethanol, which sounds as if she is supporting energy independence, the environment and renewable energy, overlooks growing concerns about the ethanol bandwagon; making ethanol from corn is beset with considerable problems and mythologies (see Donkey Path on the 60 Minutes ethanol story). Many of us have spent the last five years criticizing the Bush administration for failing to base their decisions on the facts rather than ideology. Democrats need to be careful not to fall into the same trap. This country clearly needs alternative energy but the alternatives have to make sense.

Robert Rapier (who has his own blog, R-Squared) has done a post on The Oil Drum showing the truly poor results we will get if our country tries to use the E85 version of ethanol (E85, as I understand it, is simply fuel that's 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline):
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, our annual gasoline consumption is up to almost 140 billion gallons. That means on a BTU equivalent basis, converting the entire corn crop into ethanol would amount to 13.4% of our annual gasoline demand. Putting all of that ethanol into the gasoline supply would mean ethanol could comprise 19% of the gasoline supply on a volumetric basis (while consuming all of our corn production). In other words, all of the gasoline in the country could be E19 if we wanted to use 100% of the corn crop. Of course if we only want to turn all of our current exports into ethanol (ignoring the many implications), that would amount to 2.5% of our annual gasoline demand. In that case, E10 could make up about a third of our gasoline supply on a volumetric basis. If we want to convert all of the corn exports into E85, it could make up 3.3% of our total gasoline pool.

Keep in mind that a gallon of ethanol has less energy than a gallon of gasoline. If we stopped using corn for export and stopped using corn for domestic consumption and converted all of it into ethanol, ethanol would only amount to 13.4% of our annual gasoline demand. That's not a long term energy solution though it sounds like a large dent in our near term energy consumption. But it's not. Mr. Rapier gives the bad news (bold emphasis mine):

According to the previously mentioned USDA study, it takes 77,228 BTUs of fossil fuel inputs to make 83,961 BTUs of "green, renewable" ethanol. Ignoring co-products for a moment, that means the created energy was a mere 8% in excess of the input energy. Given that the fossil fuels (primarily natural gas) that went into making the ethanol can usually serve as transportation fuels, the amount of transportation fuel that is displaced is only the 8% that was "created". That means that in reality, using our entire corn crop would only displace 1% of our annual gasoline consumption.

Even if it were feasible to convert our entire corn crop into ethanol (thus ignoring corn as a food source as well as the range of products made from corn), one percent is not a solution, not even a near term solution. We need much better solutions and we don't have one at this time unless we count conservation and better fuel mileage. If we look at ethanol production more as a pollution issue and continue pouring money into ethanol research (this would assume a modest increase in the production of ethanol), that is probably justifiable. But converting our entire economy to E85 at this time makes very little sense. We need major research in all areas of alternative energy and we need the research now.

Given the failures of the Republican Party, Democrats have a golden opportunity to get things right. Hillary Clinton needs to go back to the drawing board. And her staff needs to do their homework.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Senator Dodd Considering Run for President

I want to keep giving space to different possible Democratic candidates for president, and Senator Dodd should now be added to the list. The three potential candidates who interest me the most are John Edwards, Wesley Clark and Russ Feingold. I have a high regard for Al Gore and John Kerry but we'll see how things go. There are other candidates, of course, and I'll be posting on them as well. Hillary Clinton is currently seen as the front runner but I see a lot of obstacles for her just to get the nomination not to mention winning the November 2008 election.

My impression of Senator Dodd is that he's a solid and straightforward Democrat, maybe a little too much on the conservative side of the party, but there's no questioning his ability and intelligence. Here's an article on Dodd from CNN (hat tip to The Huffington Post):
U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd said that he is eyeing a presidential bid in 2008, joining a packed field of Democrats considering a White House run.

The Connecticut Democrat outlined his decision in Tuesday editions of The Hartford Courant, his state's largest newspaper.

"This is the right time for me," he told the paper. "This is the right thing to do."

Dodd, who turns 62 Saturday, is serving his fifth term in the Senate.

The lawmaker has flirted with the idea of a presidential run before. He briefly considered a bid in 2004 but chose instead to back Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the junior senator from Connecticut, in his ultimately unsuccessful quest for the Democratic nomination.


Dodd told the Hartford newspaper he plans "to do all the things that are necessary to prepare to seek the presidency in 2008," such as hiring campaign staff and traveling to key states to gauge support for a potential candidacy.
By 2008, right wing Republicans will have so damaged this country that I doubt any Democrat can win who tries to be Republican lite. I don't know where Senator Dodd will position himself. I assume his endorsement of Lieberman had more to do with being from the same state. But this time around, a Democrat who is a true moderate or even liberal who knows who they are and speaks more from the heart than based on the latest readings of the polls will have the best chance. When a nation feels a strong need for reform, and that feeling is building, conventional, mainstream politicians of either party might not have the best chance unless they distinguish themselves in a way that is consistent with who they are.

There's one thing I hope Democratic candidates remember above all else: the more a candidate gets clever in the way they positon themselves or the way they articulate their positions, the more they'll remind the nation of a George W. Bush who never quite tells the truth. And no matter who the Republicans run, no candidate on their side will be able to seperate themselves from the record of the current president. And that includes Senator John McCain.

Some Chemicals More Toxic Than First Thought

Back in the 1950s, when I was about nine, I had an itch one day to be a chemist. I went out to the garage where my father kept cans and jars of various paints, oils, paint removers, shoe polishes and a dozen other chemical concoctions that hadn't been touched in several years. I found a chipped bowl my mother was throwing out and started putting different 'chemicals' into the bowl, mixing them up as I went along. Soon I had a foul-smelling brownish-yellow sludge that I didn't know what to do with. It was obvious I was no chemist so I found some plastic wrapping and then paper sacks to wrap up the sludge in its bowl and I dumped it all in the trash barrel thinking I had taken care of the problem.

Perhaps a nine-year-old can be excused but there is no such excuse for chemical companies, the oil giants and pharmaceuticals who would rather not know what their chemicals are doing downstream or in the nation's water table. Scientific American has an article that suggests things are even more complicated than we thought:
One chemical alone may do no harm in low doses, but in conjunction with a few of its peers, even in doses that are individually safe, it can inflict serious harm. New research in frogs shows that a mixture of nine chemicals found in a seed-corn field in York County, Nebraska, killed a third of exposed tadpoles and lengthened time to metamorphosis by more than two weeks for the survivors.

Biologist Tyrone Hayes and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, have spent the past four years testing four herbicides, two fungicides and three insecticides commonly used in American cornfields. Individually, the chemicals had little effect on developing tadpoles at low concentrations, such as about 0.1 part per billion. But when Hayes exposed them to all nine at the same low level in the laboratory--the lowest level actually found in the field--the future frogs fell prey to endemic infection. Those that survived ended up smaller than their counterparts raised in clean water--despite taking longer to mature into adults. "In humans, this is like saying, 'The longer you are pregnant, the smaller your baby will be,' which means the womb is no longer a nurturing environment," Hayes notes.

Now some might wonder why we should care about frogs but that's like asking coal miners who used to take canaries down into the mines why they cared what happened to their birds. Later in the Scientific American article, there's a discussion of studies that show rats start having problems with some of these unintended mixtures. The physiology of rats starts getting uncomfortably close to that of humans. We need to think a great deal more about pollution and how the effects can be minimized. The United States should be leading the world in environmental technology and polllution control, but that would require leadership and vision and there's too little of that in Washington at the moment.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cost of Producing Ethanol Rising

It would be great if ethanol becomes a good alternative fuel but there are growing concerns about the economics and benefits. One of the problems is that fossil fuels are currently heavily used in the production of ethanol. And the costs of producing ethanol are rising. Gristmill has the story:
That's right: The oil-based products and services used to raise everyone's favorite "alternative fuel" are getting more expensive.

How does Big Ag want to respond to this crisis?

Earlier this month, Iowa agribusiness leaders called on the U.S. Congress to loosen restrictions on oil and natural gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. law prohibits exploration of fields within 200 miles of the Gulf Coast. The newly formed Iowa Consumer Alliance for Energy Security wants Congress to change that.

"High energy costs are a hardship on all of us," Heartland Cooperative's Coppess said during a May 9 press conference at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. The group is part of a national coalition pushing for increased domestic production of energy sources. Iowans involved in the effort are calling for passage of a bill pending in the U.S. Senate that would allow production inside the 200-mile barrier. [Des Moines Register]

Oh, the delicious bitter irony! The feedstock for everyone's favorite alternative fuel can't be grown without oil and natural gas. So rising demand for that liquid-fuel alternative is raising demand for ... the very liquid fuels it's an alternative too.

I'm for whatever solutions work but it sounds like those who push ethanol are a long ways from solving all the problems. The purpose of ethanol is to provide an alternative to fossil fuels, not to stimulate more fossil fuel production that leads to Global Warming, more pollution and more dependency on foreign oil. Eventually ethanol may be the solution, but it looks like there's a major need to go back to the drawing board.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

John Edwards Sounds Like He's Running

It's early and I'm not committed to John Edwards but I hope he runs for president. His voice is getting stronger and I suspect he's capable of putting Republicans on the defensive simply by stating the facts in plain, straight-forward terms. Here's what he had to say today on ABC:
Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., says George W. Bush is the "worst president of our lifetime," and "absolutely" worse than Watergate-tainted President Richard M. Nixon.

In an exclusive appearance on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the former presidential and vice presidential contender said of Bush, "He's done a variety of things — things which are going to take us forever to recover from.

"You have to give Bush and Cheney and gang credit for being good at politics — you know, good at political campaigns," Edwards added. "They're very good at dividing the country and taking advantage of it. What they're not good at is governing, and it shows every single day in this administration. And the country is paying a huge price for that."

The Democrat who is likely to win the presidency in 2008 will be someone who has had it with business as usual. Conservative Republicans will do their song and dance but their refusal to hold Bush accountable for doing enormous damage to the United States will largely destroy any chance in 2008 of holding on to the presidency. In fact, I predict that within a few years the Republican Party will have no choice but to rebuild its foundations. But the Democrats still have a lot of homework to do. By 2012, both parties could cease to exist if they don't get their acts together.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Misrepresenting Climate Scientists

If Think Progress has it right, it appears one of the experts the oil companies are quoting doesn't appreciate the misrepresentation of his work:
On Wednesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute – a front group funded by ExxonMobil and other big oil companies – launched two advertisements in response to Al Gore’s new movie about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

One of the advertisements attempts to show that the scientific evidence for global warming is in dispute, claiming a study found the “Antarctic ice sheet is getting thicker, not thinner.”

The primary author of that study, Curt Davis, has issued statement blasting CEI’s use of his study.
If the oil companies would cooperate in developing alternative energy, and if they were to slow down the production of oil as other forms of energy come online, they'll still be making huge profits for many decades to come. Maybe it's time for oil company executives to give it up and join the human race.

Talk of Al Gore for 2008

I take Al Gore seriously and admire much of what he has said in the last three years. He's one of the few politicians who has been willing to call it like it is. But I'm not sure I could go through another race with Al Gore. And I admit that I want a prominent name who can come out from time to time to speak the truth to the American people, and that's much harder to do once you start running for office again.

But I've been meaning to highlight more potential Democratic candidates for president. Al Gore is being considered, whether he likes it or not. Here's an article from Raw Story:
Does Al Gore want to do it again? Hard as it is to believe, the question is suddenly under serious discussion.

The former vice-president is the subject of a new documentary about global warming that opens on Wednesday. And the buzz he has been generating is fuelling speculation that he may want to return to politics.

A poll released this week by National Journal, a Washington magazine, showed Mr Gore moving into fourth place when Democratic “insiders” were asked who had the best chance of winning the party’s 2008 presidential nomination – up from ninth place in December.

Mr Gore insists he has “no plans” to run again and that he is committed to his campaign to protect the planet.

But for some Democrats he represents a viable alternative to Hillary Clinton, the 2008 frontrunner, who they fear is too polarising a figure to be elected president. With a network of activist supporters and financial backers and an aura of celebrity, he is one of the few politicians who could enter the race late in the game and be able to wage a national campaign.

Al Gore would make an excellent president and he's a better speaker than he was six years ago. And yet, I believe the next president needs to be someone who can get the message across clearly. Hillary Clinton (not necessarily my first choice), John Edwards and Russ Feingold are better and more natural speakers. Wesley Clark is up there as well. But if Gore can overcome the baggage the Republican PR machine has saddled him with, he could be a force. Already, Gore's image is better than it was in 2000 when he was running for president. And it's hard not to admire him.

Friday, May 19, 2006

King George

British democracy went backwards in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. King George III was a lousy king but the British had to wait until he died of old age before they could move on. I suppose we should be grateful for the 22nd Amendment which limits an incompetent president to two terms. Things are not good in our country these days but here's a poem from the truly bad old days:

England in 1819

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king—
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn—mud from a muddy spring;
Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling,
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow;
A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field—
An army, which liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield;
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless—a book sealed;
A Senate—Time's worst statutes unrepealed—
Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

Congressional Republicans Still Pandering to Those Who Need Help the Least

In the 1990s, the wealthy did very well without any tax cuts. So Bush and his Republican friends in Congress have once again applied their peculiar brand of logic to the problems of the wealthy. Former Clinton adviser, Robert Reich briefly explores the strange universe of Republican economics in the American Prospect:
Here we are six months before a mid-term election, with polls showing only about 20 percent of the American public approving the job Congress is doing. Small wonder. The federal budget deficit is still out of control. We’ve got a war going on that’s not going well, and the military is spending over a half a trillion dollars a year. Meanwhile, public services are being slashed. So what’s Congress about to give us? A $70 billion tax cut.


...It turns out a whopping 87 percent of the benefits of this tax cut will go to the 14 percent of American households earning above $100,000 a year. Twenty-two percent of the benefits will go to the richest two-tenths of one percent of American households earning more than a million dollars a year.


What is the public need? Some administration apologists, including the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, claim repeatedly that the rich are paying a larger-than-ever share of income taxes, so it’s entirely fitting that they get the lion’s share of any tax cut. This logic conveniently leaves out two facts. First, the rich are now paying a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than at any time in the last seventy-five years. That they pay a lot of taxes nonetheless is a by-product of the mind-boggling increase in their income and wealth relative to most other Americans.

Second, if you consider not just income and capital-gains taxes but all the taxes people pay -- including payroll taxes and sales taxes -- you find that middle-income workers are now paying a larger share of their incomes than people at or near the top. We have turned the principle of a graduated, progressive tax on its head.

A second justification given by the White House and the Journal for continuing to cut taxes on the wealthy is that the wealthy invest their extra money in the economy, and that extra investment trickles down to everyone else. The inconvenient missing fact here is the recent real-world impact of such supply-side economic theory. To date, the administration’s capital gains and dividend tax cuts have not reaped what their proponents promised. The rate of new investment during this recovery has trailed the rate of investment during the three previous recoveries.

President Bush is borrowing money from America's children to cover up his own incompetence. And the Republican Party is going along with the charade. When I see very young children, I wonder what it's going to be like for them in the coming years. But one thing is for certain: the children of the 21st century deserve better.

Better Batteries for Hybrids May Be Coming

Increasingly, oil presents a number of challenges to the United States. Oil is nonrenewable. Oil is getting more expensive and harder to find. The United States is heavily dependent on foreign oil. Oil puts too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and appears to be leading to Global Warming. Another issue that needs to get more attention is simply that many fossil fuels products are making the earth more toxic. Anything that can reduce our oil consumption is going to have benefits.

Electric cars would seem to be a good way to reduce oil consumption but there are a number of reasons why electric cars have not taken off. For one thing, the infrastructure for supporting electric cars is not extensive. That's one reason why hybrids may be a bridge to electric cars. But the technology needs to continue to improve. Here's a story from the Technology Review about new powerful, light-weight batteries that may be a step in the right direction:
Last fall, Watertown, MA-based startup A123 Systems announced that its advanced lithium-ion batteries would make rechargeable circular saws and drills more powerful than plug-in tools (see "More Powerful Batteries"). The company, having delivered on its promise (the tools will be available at The Home Depot this weekend), has now built a battery pack that Ric Fulop, one of the company's founders and its vice president of marketing and business development, says could make hybrid vehicles cheaper and more convenient, while maintaining or improving performance.

The new hybrid battery pack was unveiled this week at the Advanced Automotive Battery and Ultracapacitor Conference in Baltimore. It could be appearing in vehicles within three years, Fulop says. The pack weighs about as much as a small laptop computer, yet fits into a case smaller than a carton of cigarettes. Ten of them would replace the 45-kilogram battery in the Prius, Fulop says; and if one failed, the consumer could continue to drive the car using the remaining batteries, then replace the faulty one as easily as changing the battery on a rechargeable tool.

One thing to keep in mind about new technology is that the corporations that provide the new technology are too often just interested in making a profit. Corporations are not designed to change a culture. Americans need to start thinking about these things. We need major investment in new technologies. But we also need a broad discussion concerning where we go from here. As just one example, we have built a culture based too much on planned obsolescence. Decreasing our oil usage will also mean building things that last longer. It's not enough to build things more cheaply. If we can pay an extra 10% to build something that last twice as long, that is a savings in energy and eventually oil. Building batteries that last much longer would be a step in that direction.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bush a Lousy Poker Player

When George W. Bush was in the oil business, he kept gambling with other people's money. Curiously, Bush walked away with a million dollars despite the fact that his investors had a net loss of some $4 million. As a poker player, Bush lost big but when you're the son of a president it's possible to walk away with a piece of change. But now the stakes are much higher. And soon, Iran may be in the mix. Here's an excellent article about Bush the lousy poker player by John Memory, writing in the Asheville Citizen-Times:
Many American presidents have been excellent (military) poker players. Lincoln, with giant advantages in cards (troops and weapons) and chips (ability to sustain losses without being defeated), played power poker in the Civil War and won. General Eisenhower, with great ability to read his opponent (having broken the German codes), used a brilliant and elaborate bluff (suggesting the main D-Day invasion would not be at Normandy), which allowed the Allies to win that hand. Kennedy, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, correctly read the Russian opponent and went “all in.” The Russians “folded.”

Those presidents could see, understand and read their opponents (with military intelligence).


In the present Iraq War, President Bush has, with disastrous results, failed to play with these elementary aspects of (military) poker skill. Also, in this game, Bush cannot “go all in” or win a hand by bluffing.

In early 2003, President Bush learned he could win a poker hand without combat when Hans Blix announced that weapons inspections could be completed in two years. Bush should have won that big pot. Instead, he decided to play poker in Iraq against an opponent he could not see (with intelligence), did not understand and could not read or predict. Expert (military) poker players told him it was a mistake. Bush won the invasion hand of poker when the Iraqi military folded. He claimed to have won a giant pot. Bush lost the next hand, the post-invasion disorder and looting hand, a very costly loss.

Over about three years, the opponents (insurgents and al Qaida) played thousands of hands and won many “small” pots with suicide bombers and IEDs (improvised explosive devices). Because of the low cost and inexhaustible supply of cards (troops and weapons) and chips (ability to sustain losses without losing) for the opponents, Bush cannot make them “go bust.”

Extra cards (weapons and troops) and chips (troops and equipment that can be destroyed or damaged) cost the U.S. much more than the opponents, so Bush cannot “win” a final hand without using the Iraqi military and police cards, which do not have assured continuing value. Even if he wins a last hand, he will not “win” the poker game. He has already lost far too much.

The whole article is worth reading. One thing is clear: not only is Bush still gambling with other people's money, he's now gambling with other people's lives. And this lousy poker player, not very competent and not very credible, is thinking of switching to another game and rolling the dice on Iran: double or nothing.

House Speaker Hastert Out of Touch

House Speaker Dennis Hastert has always struck me as one of those superficially pleasant clubhouse types who isn't what he appears to be. One thing is certain: he doesn't understand what life is like for most Americans. Think Progress has the story:
During a late session last night, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made a stunning claim on the House floor:
Well, folks, if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two children, you don’t pay any taxes. So you probably, if you don’t pay any taxes, you are not going to get a very big tax cut.

Think Progress goes on to point out the many ways a family of four does pay taxes, thus contradicting the ignorant statement of our House Speaker, second only to Bush in leading the Republican Party at the moment.

Let me add another common way working families pay taxes. Many people who earn $40,000 a year pay rent; Republicans like to think that landlords pay the property tax on the place a renter is living in but the money almost always comes from the renter. Every dime of it. Landlords are not shy about passing on 'their' costs to renters. In fact, one can argue that renters are paying a percentage of the landlord's federal income tax given the significant amount of money involved. As many of us know and have experienced, if a landlord gets a tax reduction, it's almost never passed on to the people paying the rent.

Personally, I'm surprised Dennis Hastert isn't being examined more closely these days. A lot of the corruption going on in Washington these days is happening under his nose in the final conference sessions that settle on what goes in a bill. Our powerful House Speaker is either not doing his job very well and he's perfectly well what's going on.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Story on Major General John Batiste

From The Wall Street Journal, here's a story from a few days back about Major General John Batiste, one of the retired generals calling for Rumsfeld to step down:
Military officers, like Gen. Batiste, are constantly reminded that their role is to advise civilian leaders and execute their orders -- even if they disagree with them.

Now he was stepping way out of that culture. Gen. Batiste and his wife, the children of career military officers, had spent their entire lives in the Army. He fought in the first Gulf War, led a brigade into Bosnia, and in 2004 commanded 22,000 troops in Iraq, losing more than 150 soldiers.

"I was shocked at where I was," he says. "I had spent the last 31 years of my life defending our great Constitution." Over the course of the war in Iraq he says he saw troop shortages that allowed a deadly insurgency to take root, felt politics were put ahead of hard-won military lessons and was haunted by the regretful words of a top general in Vietnam.

The war in Iraq should have been a decisive victory for the U.S., Gen. Batiste told himself, as he paced in the parking garage. He blamed Mr. Rumsfeld for his "contemptuous attitude" and his "refusal to take sound military advice." As he got into his car to drive home, he recalls thinking: "If I don't speak out, who the hell else will?"

Before Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld drag us into more of their costly adventures, many more Americans need to speak out.

Americans Catching on to George W. Bush

Steve Soto of The Left Coaster reports a poll showing that Americans by a 2 to 1 margin are opposed to bombing Iran, meaning Americans do not want a third war:
Add to these looming economic problems what Bush may be about to do in Iran, where there are now open discussions of bombing plans. Raw Story has reported recently that the administration appears to be setting in motion a plan to strike Iran in June. Yet, such a strike is now opposed by a 2-1 margin, and a large majority would rather the UN and leading nations implement tough economic sanctions instead of America attacking Iran.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

America Is Still an Idea

I know what the postmodernists say and I know what the right wingers are saying, but America is still an idea and those ideas have good proud faces from one end of the country to the other. The American Pundit has a fine post called: It's still a Melting Pot.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Bush's Plans for Memorial Day

Karl Rove has apparently planned an event for President Bush once the National Guard is deployed along our borders. The desperate attempt to turn around Bush's falling numbers is being planned for Memorial Day. Here's the latest from the blog, The Annals of Frat Boy Bush:
President George W. Bush is about to launch another of his famous public relations campaigns. On Memorial Day, President Bush will begin the new campaign in the Arizona desert near the border with Mexico. The preliminary name for the campaign is believed to be: The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. Although reminiscent of successful campaigns in the 1950s, it is assumed the name for the campaign will be revised by Memorial Day. The highlight of the stunt, er, photo op, er, important appearance will be the TV cameras watching a group of circling turkey vultures; as the cameras zoom in, one of those vultures will break away and the National Guard troops will be forced, er, will spontanenously applaud as they discover the vulture is President Bush descending in a hang glider trimmed in red, white and blue. No doubt, the event will inspire Americans everywhere to start thinking about impeachment.

I would gladly provide a link to the blog, The Annals of Frat Boy Bush, but they have chosen to remain anonymous and fictitious.

Cheney's Politics of Convenience

Sometimes, the brazenness of the Bush administration is staggering. When Condi Rice last year praised Egypt for its 'progress' in democracy, she didn't say much when Mubarak later threw his closest political competitor in jail. Now Cheney is getting into the democracy business again but as E.J. Dionne points out, Cheney has trouble staying on message longer than 24 hours if it concerns a subject that doesn't really interest him:
It came as something of a shock to have to agree with Vice President Cheney, but what he said last week about human rights in Vladimir Putin's Russia was accurate, even laudable.

Then Cheney went to Kazakhstan and you wondered if it was the same guy talking.

Speaking to Eastern European leaders gathered in Lithuania, Cheney made the essential point about Putin's government: that “opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade.”

“In many areas of civil society, from religion and the news media to advocacy groups and political parties,” Cheney said, “the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of her people.” Amen to that.


...Nazarbayev, who has been in power for 15 years, is a former Communist Party hack who has been accused of large-scale corruption. Writing in the Financial Times last week, Isabel Gorst summarized the situation compactly: “Kazakhstan's judiciary is corrupt. The independent media is stifled.”

But did Cheney challenge the Kazakh government? On the contrary, the vice president said of Nazarbayev that “we met some years ago and I consider him my friend.” How nice. Kazakhstan itself, Cheney said, “has become a good friend and strategic partner of the United States” for help in Afghanistan and Iraq and “cooperating with us in the global war on terror.”

When pressed by reporters about Kazakhstan's record on democratic reform, Cheney replied: “Well, I have previously expressed my admiration for what has transpired here in Kazakhstan over the last 15 years. Both in terms of economic development, as well as political development, I think the record speaks for itself.” Indeed it does.

We went to Iraq and Afghanistan partly with the purpose of bringing them democracy. Or so our president has claimed. Bush's talk about democracy will never be taken seriously until Dick Cheney is gone.

Bush Cut Border Patrol Last Year

It appears President Bush has created his own 'crisis.' Tonight, he'll appear on TV in his latest effort to save his presidency—and the country—from his own bungling. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster has the story:
As you listen (or avoid listening) to Bush pander to his right wing tonight by redirecting 5,000 burned out National Guard troops to patrol the southern border “temporarily”, remember that it was this same president who eliminated nearly 10,000 new border patrol agent positions because there wasn’t enough money after his tax cuts.

Illegal immigration is a problem that can be handled with an honest bipartisan commission, not Republicans trying to hide from their scandals. Bush's frantic arm-waving is getting to be a tiresome routine.

There's an executive style that I've despised all my life: that's the problem solver who tries to get credit for 'solving' a problem he created in the first place. I'll be watching a ballgame tonight.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

John McCain Taking Page from Bush

John McCain has chosen to complain about bloggers and their youthful self-importance. As it happens, I'm only a few years younger than McCain and I consider my youth some time ago. If McCain is growing sensitive to the comments being made about him, it is probably because his reputation is not the same as it was two years ago when there was plausible speculation about a Kerry/McCain ticket. Since then, McCain's politics have become a more 'convenient' variety.

Think Progress has the excerpt from McCain's self-important speech:
When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people. I believed that to be especially true with many of my elders, people whose only accomplishment, as far as I could tell, was that they had been born before me, and, consequently, had suffered some number of years deprived of my insights…It’s a pity that there wasn’t a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.

These days, McCain is moving in safe right-wing circles trying to follow what was once considered the Bush blueprint for success. Perhaps McCain should spend more time looking at the failures of the administration he is so anxious to imitate. It would be a useful exercise.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Americans Don't Like Being Spied On

If there's one thing Democrats, independents and Republicans agree on, it's that they don't like being spied on. A poll done by the Washington Post a few days ago seemed to imply that most Americans found it acceptable. But polls depend on how the questions are framed and the Washington Post's question favored Bush's spin too much. The reality is that NSA spying program is huge and is too easy to abuse.

Once again, Bush is asking the American people to trust him but he has betrayed that trust numerous times now in his administration. Here's a Newsweek poll that says a majority of Americans are not happy with the NSA spying:
May 13, 2006 - Has the Bush administration gone too far in expanding the powers of the President to fight terrorism? Yes, say a majority of Americans, following this week’s revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of U.S. citizens since the September 11 terrorist attacks. According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA’s surveillance program “goes too far in invading people’s privacy,” while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism.

President Bush tried to reassure the public this week that its privacy is “fiercely protected,” and that “we’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans.” Nonetheless, Americans think the White House has overstepped its bounds: 57 percent said that in light of the NSA data-mining news and other executive actions, the Bush-Cheney Administration has “gone too far in expanding presidential power.”
I wish the pollsters would ask more pointed questions such as: the NSA has secretly been collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans; do you believe there are tens of millions of Americans who are al Qaida suspects?

Or, if you send an e-mail, would you be uncomfortable if you knew the government had some knowledge about the content of that e-mail?

Or, do you trust Bush and Cheney not to play politics with the phone calls and e-mail information the government is collecting? Or, do you believe Bush is being straight with the American people when he talks about the NSA spying program?

Or, do you believe the government needs a warrant before it looks at your e-mail or listens in on your calls? I can think of other questions that aren't going to get the phony numbers that The Washington Post got.

Everybody should keep in mind that there have been no investigations and what we know about the programs is going to change very rapidly if there are investigations. The fact that this issue appear to scare Bush speaks volumes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Night Poetry

Sometimes, the old generals knew what they were talking about. Below is an ancient Chinese poem. Crooked Castle is apparently the name of a famous general.


When I was young I learned fencing
And was better at it than Crooked Castle.
My spirit was high as the rolling clouds
And my fame resounded beyond the world.
I took my sword to the desert sands,
I watered my horse at the Nine Moors.
My flags and banners flapped in the wind,
And nothing was heard but the song of my drums.

War and its travels have made me sad,
And a fierce anger burns within me:
It's thinking of how I've wasted my time
That makes this fury tear my heart.

Yuan Chi (translated by Arthur Waley)


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bush Breaks 30% Barrier and Still Falling

Bush's approval ratings continue to fall. He's now in Nixonian territory. Here's an article from United Press International (I went hunting for more news but original hat tip to Suburban Guerilla):
WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- U.S. President George W. Bush's job approval rating has fallen to 29 percent in a new Harris Interactive poll.

It is the lowest job approval rating of Bush's presidency, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed by telephone, 29 percent said Bush was doing an "excellent or pretty good" -- down from 35 percent in the Harris Interactive poll conducted in April. Bush's job approval rating had been 43 percent in the Harris Interactive poll conducted in January.
Until Bush has the courage to fire Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld and ask Vice President Dick Cheney to step down, his numbers will continue to fall. The current Republican Congress needs to stop defending the most inept president we've had in over a hundred years.

Reagan Said Trust But Verify But NSA Spying Leaves Too Many Questions

In the waning days of the Cold War, President Reagan said trust, but verify. The United States is reaching a point where the American people can neither trust nor verify anything that President George W. Bush or his advisers say. The NSA scandal just leaves far too many questions unanswered, literally. Here's a story from Editor & Publisher:
At a press briefing this afternoon aboard Air Force On en route to Mississippi, a White House spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny that the president had tried to halt today's USA Today bombshell report on the National Security Agency collecting records of tens of millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls.

The spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said she would not comment when a reporter posed that question, and declined again on a followup.

A USA Today spokesman told E&P he would check to see if the White House approached the newspaper before publication.

President Bush this morning did not take issue with the USA Today story, but did not deny it either. Earlier, the White House did try to halt the groundbreaking New York Times article on NSA domestic spying.


Q If you're fiercely protecting Americans' rights to privacy, why would you need a database of tens of millions of American phone call records?

MS. PERINO: Well, not confirming or denying or acknowledging the substance of the story this morning in USA Today, what the President said today, all intelligence activities of the United States are limited and targeted and focused solely on al Qaeda and al Qaeda's affiliates. They are the enemy.

So, Ms. Perino, are you saying that tens of millions of members of al Qaida reside in the United States? I don't trust what you're saying and I doubt you can verify it.

Media Credibililty and Colbert's Roasting of Bush

Wise kings used to have jesters in their courts to remind them of their fallibility. One of the wisest jesters is the one in King Lear who kept trying to rekindle the conscience and good sense of the king. The jester in King Lear had the help of half the king's court. Lear did not live in a bubble like our president currently does.

One of the embarrassments of this age is that the mainstream media has too often cooperated in maintaining the special, self-delusional bubble around Bush. So, it was a breath of fresh air to hear someone poking the president hard enough to get through. Here's an article in the Chicago Sun-Times by Doug Elfman that talks more about the media's role in ignoring Colbert and the enormous attention Colbert's routine has received elsewhere:
A "blogstorm" is thundering across liberal Web sites. Many liberals are furious at the White House press corps for virtually ignoring Stephen Colbert's keynote speech at the press corp's own White House Correspondents' Dinner last Saturday. To non-liberals, this may seem like an isolated complaint. To liberals, it further justifies their belief that the media, particularly TV news, is a big stinking cabal of conservatives.

The truth is many in the media wrote about Bush's stand-up routine at the dinner as if they had just watched the coming of a comic genius, but they didn't report much on Colbert's funnier, harsher jokes. This may have been a case of the press corps following a standard motto: to the winner goes the spoils, and Bush got more laughs (out of copy written for him) than Colbert did.

How did Bush tickle reporters? He made fun of the fact that he can barely speak English (he is quite simply the worst communicator of all U.S. presidents), that our vice president is a heartless face-shooter, and that Bush is basically an idiot.

Ha ha, our "war president" knows he's a village idiot? To members of the White House press corps, that's some real funny stuff. To non-insiders, this looked like another example of good old boys and gals slapping each other on the back.

Quote of the Day

I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends...that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop tellling the truth about them.

—Adlai Stevenson (1952)

NSA Spying Numbers Are Staggering

I'm reading all over the place about the tens of millions of Americans who are being spied on. Come to think of it, ten of millions of people voted for John Kerry—59 million, to be exact. And Bush wants us to trust him?

Republicans and at least three of the phone companies have a lot of explaining to do with it comes to giving Bush a free pass.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rumsfeld Desperate to Rewrite History

Rumsfeld is at it again. Actually, George W. Bush, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Condi Rice and Scooter Libby are all desperately trying to rewrite history but let's stick with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who knew where all the WMDs were in March 2003 but can't remember saying so.

Here's a post by Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly giving another example of Rumsfeld's self-serving memory:
In a purely artistic sense, you almost have to admire the guy: Why, he was just an innocent victim of an intelligence effort gone awry! You'd almost think he wasn't the guy who instructed his aides to "judge whether good enough hit S.H" a mere five hours after the Pentagon was hit on 9/11. Or that he wasn't the guy who created the Office of Special Plans inside the Pentagon because "Rumsfeld and his colleagues believed that the C.I.A. was unable to perceive the reality of the situation in Iraq."

Nope, he was just an innocent bystander. And by golly, the CIA's failures give him pause. I'll just bet they do.

See the original post. Kevin Drum posts a document that someone obtained from the Department of Defense via the Freedom of Information Act; the document is dated at 2:40PM, just hours after the 9/11 attack. The idea that the CIA somehow, on its own, misinformed the president about WMDs and an al Qaida connection is a Bush Administration fiction designed to protect Bush and his inner circle. I suspect Rumsfeld also has the added motivation of bringing American intelligience operations under his exclusive control and he is using the Porter Goss resignation to discredit the CIA and advance his own agenda.

Ray McGovern on His Confrontation with Rumsfeld

There's nothing the members of the Bush Administration hate more than somebody at a speech who has done their homework and asks a question that isn't a part of the right wing groupthink. Ray McGovern who recently reminded Donald Rumsfeld that the Secretary of Defense had claimed to know where the weapons of mass destruction were in March 2003 writes about the confrontation:

The fact that my presence there was pure coincidence turned out to be a huge disappointment for those who began interviews later that day by insisting I tell them why I had stalked Rumsfeld all the way from Washington to Atlanta. Especially people like Paula Zahn, who asked me on Thursday evening "what kind of axe" I had to grind with him.

To prepare for my presentations, I took along a briefcase full of notes and clippings, one of which was a New York Times article datelined Atlanta, Sept. 27, 2002, quoting Rumsfeld’s assertion that there was “bulletproof” evidence of ties between al-Qaida and the government of Saddam Hussein.

This was the kind of unfounded allegation that, at the time, deceived 69 percent of Americans into believing that the Iraqi leader played a role in the tragedy of 9/11. Rumsfeld’s “bulletproof” rhetoric also came in the wake of an intensive but quixotic search by my former colleagues at the CIA for any reliable evidence of such ties.


Rumsfeld brought up bête noire terrorist al-Zarqawi as proof of collaboration between al-Qaida and Iraq, but that was a canard easily knocked down. It appears that Rumsfeld thinks no one really pays attention. Sadly, as regards the mainstream press, he has been largely right—at least until now.

When Rumsfeld broadened our dialogue to include the never-to-be-found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, saying, “Apparently, there were no weapons of mass destruction,” I could not resist reminding him that he had claimed he actually knew where they were. Anyone who followed this issue closely would remember his remark to George Stephanopoulos on March 30, 2003:

We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

As soon as the event was over, CNN asked me for my sources, which I was happy to share. The CNN folks seemed a bit surprised that they all checked out. To their credit, they overcame the more customary “McGovern said this, but Rumsfeld said that”—and the dismissive “well, we’ll have to leave it there”—kind of treatment. In Rumsfeldian parlance, what I had said turned out to be “known knowns,” even though he provided an altered version on Thursday of his “we know where they are.” Better still, in its coverage, CNN quoted what Rumsfeld had said in 2003.


...In some press reports I was described as a “Rumsfeld critic” and “heckler” who was, heavens, “rude to Rumsfeld.” Other accounts referred to my “alleged” service with the CIA, which prompted my wife to question—I think in jest—what I was really doing for those 27 years. I believe I was able to convince her without her performing additional fact checking.

All in all, my encounter with Rumsfeld was for me a highly instructive experience. The Center’s president, Peter White, singled out Rumsfeld’s “honesty” in introducing him, and 99 percent of those attending seemed primed to agree....

It seems the few people who still support Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld can be found at these largely canned events. The full article is well worth reading.

Monday, May 08, 2006

MSNBC: Karl Rove in Trouble

Think Progress has a report from MSNBC that at least one of their reporters believes Karl Rove will be indicted:
Tonight on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, MSNBC reporter David Shuster said he was “convinced that Karl Rove will, in fact, be indicted.” He made three points to support his position:

1. Rove wouldn’t have testified for the 5th time unless he believed it was the only way he could avoid indictment. At this point, according to Shuster, the burden is on Rove to stop it.

Shuster goes on to make a couple of more points that support his belief Rove will be indicted. But many of us have been following this story for almost three years now; longer, if you count the WMD bamboozlement from its origins in 2002. I'll believe it when I see it. To be honest, I don't understand how Karl Rove has escaped indictment so far. And why has Congress failed to investigate the intelligience manipulations in the first place?

Bush's Crony Problem Continues

You've done a heckuva job Foggo. Porter Goss was appointed CIA Director primarily because of his loyalty to Bush. Porter Goss appointed Kyle Foggo to be the number three man at the CIA despite a mediocre midlevel career. Once more, the crony problem has struck President Bush. Here's the story that ran last March 3 on ABC News (via Think Progress):
A stunning investigation of bribery and corruption in Congress has spread to the CIA, ABC News has learned.

The CIA inspector general has opened an investigation into the spy agency's executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and his connections to two defense contractors accused of bribing a member of Congress and Pentagon officials.

The CIA released an official statement on the matter to ABC News, saying: "It is standard practice for CIA's Office of Inspector General — an aggressive, independent watchdog — to look into assertions that mention agency officers. That should in no way be seen as lending credibility to any allegation.

"Mr. Foggo has overseen many contracts in his decades of public service. He reaffirms that they were properly awarded and administered."

The CIA said Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, would have no further comment. He will remain in his post at the CIA during the investigation, according to officials.

Two former CIA officials told ABC News that Foggo oversaw contracts involving at least one of the companies accused of paying bribes to Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham. The story was first reported by Newsweek magazine.

And now, two months later, here's today's story from ABC:

ABC News has learned that Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the hand-picked executive director of the CIA under Porter Goss, has resigned — the same day as his boss's replacement was announced by the White House.

Foggo is at the center of a swirling storm of corruption allegations — and there are suggestions that the scandal, which involves poker parties, sweetheart contracts and prostitutes — could spread, further tainting the agency. His resignation may serve to tamp down some of the damage to the agency itself as an FBI criminal probe and a CIA inspector general's investigation continue.

Obviously, this is an evolving story and no doubt the White House will be working overtime to minimize the political damage while ignoring many of the urgent problems facing our nation. But make no mistake: there are signs that Bush's problems have once again been self-inflicted. It's bad enough when the officials at FEMA don't know what they're doing. But Americans need to think seriously about the implications as it becomes clear that Bush appointees at the CIA don't know what they're doing. In both cases, a number of professionals, the kind of people who know what they're doing, have resigned in disgust. And that is not a good thing for America.

Problems at the CIA Will Continue

Spencer Ackerman of The New Republic has an article on the problems at the CIA. It's seems to me the problem with the CIA is not what George Tenet or Porter Goss did; it's what George W. Bush has done and is continuing to do. Here are the two key paragraphs:
Goss's bon voyage revealed an essential truth about his turbulent 19 months as CIA director. Though he was sent to clean up Tenet's mess, he ended up falling victim to the same trap Tenet did: being unable to serve President Bush while faithfully leading the CIA. Tenet's approach was to appease Bush where it mattered (Iraq, most notably) in order to preserve the CIA's tenuous bureaucratic position. Goss's approach was to act as Bush's enforcer while calling it reform. In the end, Goss couldn't satisfy Bush and he had no allies left in the agency he ostensibly led. If General Mike Hayden--whom Bush is expected to nominate today as Goss's replacement--is to do better, he'll have to find a way to solve a problem that has now destroyed the last two CIA directors.


With Hayden, the White House has a loyalist as a leading candidate to replace Goss, as he proved earlier this year with his vigorous public defenses of Bush's warrantless surveillance program at NSA. But Goss's calamitous tenure proves that loyalty to Bush, even at the expense of the distrusted CIA, isn't enough. Whoever leads the agency will also have to contend with institutional bureaucratic rivalries that have left the CIA in a suspended state of eclipse. Hayden, as Negroponte's man, may preside over one solution--one that Tenet found agonizing and that Goss never quite was prepared to choose. That's the outright dismemberment of the CIA, whereby Langley becomes more of an exclusively human-intelligence shop and analytical functions go to the new issue-driven centers like those set up for terrorism and nonproliferation, and where Negroponte's Office of the Director of National Intelligence is unchallenged....

Negroponte won't be the only one unchallenged. Cheney and Rumsfeld will henceforth be free to shape intelligience and operations in secrecy without contradiction. That increases the likelihood that intelligience will be politicized for a right wing ideological agenda. That is not good for America. Republicans and Democrats in Congress had better think long and hard about a process whereby the president has used the CIA as a scapegoat for his own policy failures and misconduct, thereby weakening American intelligience and our ability to act effectively in the world.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bush Getting Poor Marks from Republicans

The string of bad news for George W. Bush, most of it self-inflicted, continues. As his poll numbers sink and scandals continue despite the fact that Republicans dominate Washington, some Republicans are saying the Bush presidency is finished. Here's a story from The Washington Post (via the Huffington Post):
The recent White House shake-up was an attempt to jump-start the administration and boost President Bush's rock-bottom approval ratings, but have those efforts come too late to salvage the presidency? A prominent GOP pollster thinks that may be the case.

"This administration may be over," Lance Tarrance, a chief architect of the Republicans' 1960s and '70s Southern strategy, told a gathering of journalists and political wonks last week. "By and large, if you want to be tough about it, the relevancy of this administration on policy may be over."

A new poll by RT Strategies, the firm headed by Tarrance and Democratic pollster Thomas Riehle, shows that 59 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, while 36 percent approve -- a finding in line with other recent polls.

Libby is under indictment. Iraq is going nowhere. Karl Rove is under a legal cloud. Cheney's rating are lower than Bush's. DeLay's legal troubles are only getting worse. Dennis Hastert has to explain why so much nonsense has been happening under his nose. Billions are missing that were earmarked for Iraq's reconstruction. The federal government is dragging its feet on the aftermath of Katrina. Porter Goss resigns under strange circumstances. And the Republican National Committee keeps doling out money for legal fees. The list goes on.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

John Dean Writes on Bush-Style Reasoning

Alone on a Limb reminds us to take a look at John Dean on FindLaw. Former White House Counsel under Nixon, Dean has been writing a series of articles (and 1 book) critical of the Bush Administration:
For some time, I have wondered how the best and brightest of the young lawyers of the Bush/Cheney Administration manage to remain untroubled by the conspicuous lawlessness inherent in the policies they embrace and promote, regarding matters such as indefinitely imprisoning enemy combatants, torture, and warrantless wiretapping - to name only the most conspicuous. Recently, I had an opportunity - in a public setting - to learn more about the nature of their thinking firsthand.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bush: General I'm the Decider

I was thinking of posting "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Lord Tennyson. But the relevant lines are simply these:
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.

In the late 1970s, I stopped worrying about the possibility of an accidental nuclear war being started by our side. I was aware of major changes that had been made by the U.S. Air Force involving safeguards and training that largely made it much more difficult for some sort of first strike, accidental or not.

The rumblings are out there that nuclear weapons might be used by the U.S. sometime in the next year or two. Maybe not, but the mere idea of talking about nuclear weapons being used against Iran is not a proud moment in American history.

I supported the war in Afghanistan, but given Bush's incompetence and his willingness to run off to Iraq before the job was finished, maybe the war in Afghanistan was also a mistake. But Iraq? And now possibly Iran? This has become a nightmarish era. In a dangerous season of optional unneeded wars led by incompetent officials, let me offer a poem from half a century ago:

The Fifties

The wretched summers start again
With lies and armies ready for
Advancing on that fast terrain.

Like those of China, Poland, Spain,
With twenty territories more,
The wretched summers start again.

The rumors and betrayals stain
The helpless millions of the poor
Advancing on that fast terrain.

Asian and European rain
Falls from between the blue of yore;
The wretched summers start again.

And rubble and the jungle gain
A foothold on the cultured shore,
Advancing on that fast terrain.

Short youth was shortened by the pain
Of seasons suitable for war:
The wretched summers start again,
Advancing on that fast terrain.

—Roy Fuller (1954)

Appointing Cronies to CIA May Be Another Bush Fiasco

The more I learn, the more the resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss gets curiouser and curiouser. It should be remembered that Porter Goss was appointed primarily because he is a through-and-through Republican loyalist, not because he was the best man for the job. The CIA is famous (or infamous depending on the perspective) for its clandestine operations but its primary purpose has been to make sure our president gets the unvarnished facts on what is going on in the world. But President Bush lives in an ideological universe and prefers to hear his own version of the facts. But appointing cronies can create problems and it may turn out that Goss has been creating more than one problem for the White House. Naturally, the White House would prefer to finger the problem that creates the least scandal. Here's a post from Firedoglake on various developments related to the director's resignation:
Color me confused. Everyone on TV seems to be buying the line that the Goss resignation has been planned for weeks. No natural curiosity about the fact that it takes effect immediately, or that there is no replacement, or that he had a meeting scheduled this afternoon he didn’t show up for. Not to mention the fact that as Professor Foland pointed out in the comments, the White House would’ve probably sacrificed its collective left nut to avoid stepping on a drunk Kennedy story.

But has the entire press corps turned into such a pile of humorless prudes that they can’t connect the dots in the Brent Wilkes hooker scandal?

Here's a less colorful earlier post from Firedoglake concerning Tim Russert:
Russert reporting that conversations with Goss began several weeks ago with John Negroponte, with the full knowledge of the WH. Goss began changes previously, but that there needed to be a new person to oversee those changes so that there could be "healing" within the CIA after those changes.

Russert says Negroponte will be deciding on the person to be appointed to the Director of the CIA job, recommend that person to the President and that Bush will then appoint. Remind me again, who is in charge of this government? The CEO model of governance continues. Heckuva job, Bushie.
Oh my, the spin is a bit heavy-handed today. But maybe the White House is telling the truth for once, slanted though it may be. Maybe they've been getting inside information on the Cunningham/Wade/Wilkes scandal, after all. Today they made their move, but they didn't expect a Friday afternoon firestorm.

CIA Director Porter Goss Resigns

Porter Goss either resigned or was fired. It will be interesting to see what the story is. However, there has been a growing story that is an offshoot of the Randy Cunningham bribery case. Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo says the director's resignation might be related to Hookergate:
As I said a short time ago, we don't know definitively yet that Porter Goss resigned over the Wilkes-Cunningham Hookergate story. But on the assumption that that is the case, let me give you a bit of background on what we've been following in recent weeks.

The hookers in Hookergate are, of course, the sizzle. But there's a bigger story. It stems directly from the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal, which many had figured was over. But it's not. You may have noticed that while Duke Cunningham is already in jail and Mitchell Wade has already pled guilty to multiple charges, Brent Wilkes has never been touched. Wilkes is the ur-briber at the heart of the Cunningham scandal, you can see pretty clearly by reading the other indictments and plea agreements. Wade was Wilkes' protege.
If the resignation of Porter Goss is related to Hookergate, I have a question, but keep in mind that it's speculative at this point. Is the White House getting inside information on some of these investigations revolving around Cunningham, Wade, Wilkes, Abramoff and even Libby?