Saturday, October 29, 2005
If you're not aware of the hunger problem in the U.S., read this:
HUNGER: DO YOU KNOW THE FACTS?
It is estimated that one billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. That's roughly 100 times as many as those who actually die from these causes each year.
About 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourths of the deaths are children under the age of five.
Famine and wars cause about 10% of hunger deaths, although these tend to be the ones you hear about most often. The majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition. Families facing extreme poverty are simply unable to get enough food to eat.
In 1999, a year marked by good economic news, 31 million Americans were food insecure, meaning they were either hungry or unsure of where their next meal would come from. Of these Americans, 12 million were children. The Hunger Site began on June 1, 1999.
And these assholes want to cut food stamps. Go Compassionate Conservatism.
Also, I grew up in the Harrisonburg area, where Bob Goodlatte is headquartered. That he would say this when his own constituency will be so hard-hit by this is unsconsionable:
"Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte defended the decision, saying only a sliver of food stamp spending was affected and, for the most part, the cuts would eliminate people not truly eligible."
Once upon a time I voted for you, you fucking asshole. You weren't always like that; once upon a time, you helped my wife get into this country, though you probably don't remember it. And now you spit on the people who put you there. Nice.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - On a party-line vote, a Republican-run U.S. House of Representatives committee voted to cut food stamps by $844 million on Friday, just hours after a new government report showed more Americans are struggling to put food on the table.
About 300,000 Americans would lose benefits due to tighter eligibility rules for food stamps, the major U.S. antihunger program, under the House plan. The cuts would be part of $3.7 billion pared from Agriculture Department programs over five years as part of government-wide spending reductions.
Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte defended the decision, saying only a sliver of food stamp spending was affected and, for the most part, the cuts would eliminate people not truly eligible.
"This is not a giveaway program that results in windfall profits," said North Carolina Democrat G.K. Butterfield in opposing the cuts. "That is not moral. That is not American."
Antihunger activists said hunger rates were up for the fifth year in a row, so the cuts were a mistake.
"It is hard to imagine any congressional action that is more detached from reality," said James Weill of the Food Research and Action Center.
"Cutting food stamps now is a scandal," said David Beckman of Bread for the World, pointing to losses from hurricanes.
Approved 25-20, the committee package now will become part of an omnibus budget-cutting bill.
The House plan would also cut U.S. crop supports by $1 billion, land stewardship by $760 million, research by $620 million and rural development by $446 million.
The Senate's budget reduction plan would not touch food stamps, but would cut $3 billion from other USDA programs.
On food stamps, the House committee agreed to require immigrants to wait seven years, instead of the current five, to apply for aid. That would affect an estimated 70,000 people.
It also would deny food stamps to people who automatically get food stamps because they receive help through other welfare programs but whose income is above food stamp levels. About 225,000 people fall in that category.
North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy complained that 40,000 children would lose free meals at school because of that provision.
"You have not even come clean that kids are going to lose school breakfast and school lunch under this," he said.
Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said states unfairly "have taken the opportunity to expand food stamp eligibility" beyond what the federal government intended. Democrat John Barrow of Georgia said Goodlatte was punishing states for using welfare reform laws to respond to local needs.
A new Agriculture Department report found 38.2 million Americans "were food insecure" in 2004, an increase of nearly 2 million from the previous year. Tufts University food economist Parke Wilde food insecurity "now equals the worst levels" since recordkeeping began a decade ago.
USDA said 11.9 percent of households, "at some time during the year, had difficulty providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources."
Food stamps help poor Americans buy food. About 25 million people get food stamps monthly.
The USDA had an overall budget of about $85 billion in fiscal 2005. Food stamps and other nutrition programs for the poor accounted for about $51 billion, with the remainder going to crop subsidies for farmers, food aid to foreign countries, farmland conservation, meat plant inspections and other farm-related programs.
Anyway, Hunter on Daily Kos has a nice piece up today on what the chances are of any more indictments, what the investigation may have uncovered, Libby's role in obstructing the view into the motives of the Administration (which seems obvious to me, but of course they need a high level of evidence to lay charges, especially in such a high-profile case), and what Libby's trial may mean to the possibility of further indictments. Great, great read. Here's a sample:
Will There Be More Indictments?
Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 10:44:56 PM PDT
I've been playing things close to the chest, at the moment, content to post the various sometimes-well-sourced, sometimes-questionably-sourced reporting of various outlets. But the obvious question on everyone's mind is this: will we see more indictments?
That's a very, very difficult question. More difficult than I think the vast majority of people -- in the media, in the punditry, and on the blogs, and on both sides of the partisan divide -- are giving proper credit. The only proper answer is maybe, and anyone laying out odds in either direction is almost certain to be burned.
To shoot down a talking point: Fitzgerald has said, both a year ago and today, that the vast bulk of the investigation is over. There is no reason to doubt his word. However, saying that the investigation is largely over is not the same thing as saying the potential implications of that investigation are over.
From the text of the indictment itself -- and I, like everyone else, have been going over it with a finetooth comb -- it is very clear that the investigation was able to drill down into who knew what, and when, and in front of who, with perhaps more accuracy than the White House was willing to give them credit for. Fitzgerald has a very good idea of the surrounding facts of the case. He also, from reading between the lines of the indictment, has excellent witnesses as to the motives of various officials. And that likely happened very early in the investigation.
What Fitzgerald is saying, and no doubt correctly, is that the investigation has uncovered the facts of the case. But he also said, today, in no uncertain terms, that Libby's repeated obstruction has hampered further efforts to explore the underlying legality of the actions being investigated. He asserted quite clearly that the obstruction in this case has hindered investigative attempts to determine the applicability of statutes to those underlying, already known actions.
That's both an end to the investigation, and a fuse. It means the investigation is over, for the purposes of determining necessary motives and nuances of knowledge required by the IIPA or Espionage Act... unless something else comes along. And the tricky thing is that, in gathering evidence and testimony for public trial, the odds are very, very good that a "something else" may indeed appear. Indeed, the thoroughness of the indictment itself would seem to suggest that there is much, much more evidence perhaps not directly applicable to this indictment in the hands of the special counsel. How much of the rest of it may surface?
The indictment makes a compelling case that Libby himself was the (an?) original leaker, to Miller and others. But it only barely touches on what made other White House officials call other reporters in an attempt to maximize the damage of the leak. Are those actions by other White House officials crimes? Fitzgerald seemed to argue fairly openly that Libby's false testimony was a major factor in obstructing special counsel efforts to analyze any of those actions and find out.
Most importantly, Fitzgerald broadly suggested today -- through his "baseball" analogy and other statements -- that Libby's obstruction was most damaging to determining the intent of the White House leaks, and whether or not Plame's classified status was explicitly known by Libby and others at the time they made their statements, which likely pertains to not only the IIPA, but also to Espionage Act based charges. It seems hardly credible that Libby, and the others did not know that the information was classified, given the apparent sources of the information, unless we imagine a scenario in which classified information was routinely widely distributed and mishandled by the upper levels of the White House. Unfortunately, given what we already know about the handling of intelligence in this administration, that scenario does not necessarily seem farfetched.
The White House is largely forced -- though as of yet, remarkably few reporters are actually calling them on the implications of this defense -- to rely on a defense of wholesale, administration-wide incompetence in the handling of Plame's classified status, in which none of the administration figures with reporter contacts were aware of the provenance of the information they were so methodically sharing.
That's the defense. It's either widespread incompetence in the mishandling of a piece of highly classified information, or an overt conspiracy to distribute that classified information. So at this point, they're going with incompetence.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove was the mysterious 'Official A' named in the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, lawyers close to the case have told RAW STORY.
Friday's indictment identified "Official A" as a "senior official in the White House who advised Libby on July 10 or 11 of 2003" about a conversation with conservative columnist Robert Novak about an upcoming column where Plame would be identified as a CIA employee. Novak's column ran Jul. 14, 2003.
Rove is expected to be identified in several newspapers Saturday. The Associated Press is also close to naming Rove as 'Official A.'
In one of the boldest moves yet in the 22-month investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent to a handful of top reporters covering the White House, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is extending his probe and pursuing much more serious charges against senior White House officials, specifically President Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, lawyers directly involved in the case told RAW STORY Friday.
While many people were left confused by news reports that said Rove wouldn't be indicted Friday, the lawyers said that Rove remains under intense scrutiny and added that Fitzgerald is betting on the fact that he can secure an indictment against Rove on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, the misuse of classified information, and possibly other charges, as early as next week.
“This investigation is not yet over,” one of the lawyers in the case said. “You must keep in mind that people like Mr. Rove are still under investigation. Rather than securing an indictment on perjury charges against Mr. Rove Mr. Fitzgerald strongly believes he can convince the grand jury that he broke other laws.”
The lawyers said that in the past month Fitzgerald has obtained explosive information in the case that has enabled him to pursue broader charges such as conspiracy, and civil rights violations against targets like Rove. Specifically, the lawyers said Fitzgerald is focusing on phony intelligence documents that led to the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity: the documents that claimed Iraq was attempting to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger.
A court filing posted on Fitzgerald’s website last week was the first such confirmation that the prosecutor has in fact decided to pursue the broader claims that intelligence the Bush administration used to build support for the Iraq war was flawed and, as a result, the reason many officials inside and outside of the White House went out of their way to out Plame, whose husband was a vocal critic of the Iraq war who was sent on a mission to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq had attempted to buy Niger from the African country.
"On August 12 and August 20, 2004, grand jury subpoenas were issued to reporter Judith Miller and her employer, the New York Times, seeking documents and testimony related to “conversations between Miller and a specified government official occurring between on or about July 6, 2003 and on or about July 13, 2003, concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.” the filing made by Fitzgerald last year states.
NATO sources told United Press International Monday that Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.
This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House."
Fitzgerald will draw on another grand jury that is already empaneled. Federal law says that a grand jury’s term cannot be extended more than once, which is the case with the grand jury that has been hearing testimony in the case.
MORE INFORMATION FORTHCOMING THIS EVENING...
* This is why accurate, honest testimony is so important.
* FBI interviewed Libby in 2003; Libby told FBI he was at "end of long chain of phone calls"; got info from Russert, then passed on to Cooper and Miller. He claimed to FBI he didn't know whether info was true.
* Under oath, he repeated same in testimony to GJ. "Just info he received; might be gossip." It is not true; Libby talked about Plame half dozen times before Russert. He did not learn from Russert.
He's VERY clear that the investigation of the leak is not over - this is just to get past Libby's obstruction.
* Plame status was classified in 2003; she was not well known.
* Novak not the first reporter told; several others were told as well.
* Libby first to leak (to Miller on June 23, 2003).
He's nervous, but hell, the guy probably has about half a billion people watching him. It's understandable.
The Under Secretary of State at the time was John Bolton.
Also: Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, said the investigation will continue but with a new grand jury. The term of the current grand jury cannot be extended beyond today.
This means a good three, four months of reintroducing all the evidence from this grand jury before he even gets started on new stuff.
The good news is this will probably be picking up steam just in time for the '06 midterms.
* White House was concerned about Wilson; had discussions on how to rebut his claims.
* Libby told someone (before Novak leak) in WH he couldn't discuss Plame "on an insecure [phone] line."
* Libby was trying to blame reporters for leak, when he was actually a source.
* Libby found out about Plame from State, then asked CIA to give him more info on Wilson/Plame.
* He then went to white house counsel (Miers? May be counsel to VP; who's that?) to see what else could be done to tarnish Wilson.
* Rove thought to be "Official A."
Those close to the investigation say inquiry expanding... State Dep't and National Security Council figures probed... Rove may be in hotter water: Sources say he was offered a perjury deal and was told he would be indicted but Rove's lawyer provided information to Fitzgerald that made him change his mind.... At least three officials in the case have agreed to provide additional information, setting the stage for an explosive, continuing probe... Lawyer for Wilson plans 3 p.m ET press conference...
Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been indicted by the federal grand jury investigating the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame for perjury, obstruction of justice, and other charges, RAW STORY can confirm.
Libby will resign. ABC News, citing a White House source, said his "boxes are packed." According to the New York Daily News, his post will be filled by Cheney's chief counsel David Addington. The announcement will be made at 2 p.m. ET.
The only sitting Cabinet member to be indicted in recent history was President Reagan's labor secretary, Raymond J. Donovan. Accused of grand larceny in 1984, he was acquitted in 1987. H.R. Haldeman, chief of staff to President Nixon, resigned before being indicted -- and convicted -- in the Watergate coverup.
No story yet...
CNN just reported that the President has just arrived in Norfolk, Virginia where he is going to give a SPEECH. A speech on TERROR. Isn't this shocking news? What a silly mix up, to schedule a speech on TERROR the same day that the indictments are due to come in."
The papers are apparently being released at noon. Rubbing my hands together now...
CNN is reporting:
"Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, has been told he could face indictment in the CIA leak probe, a political source familiar with the situation told CNN.
"We have believed he will be (in jeopardy of indictment) for a week or more," the source said.
President Bush's top political strategist Karl Rove will not be indicted Friday by the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. But, the sources said, Rove is not out of legal jeopardy as the matter is still under investigation.
Two lawyers involved in the case also have told CNN that the prosecutor is focusing on whether Rove committed perjury. Rove testified four times in front of the grand jury.
The New York Times reported on Friday that lawyers in the case said Libby will be charged with making false statements to a federal grand jury.
An attorney involved in the case told CNN that Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the investigation, is to announce the results of his probe Friday, including whether the grand jury will issue any indictments.
More as the day unfolds...
Thursday, October 27, 2005
In the closing hours of the grand jury probe, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald paid a visit yesterday to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, prompting speculation that a plea bargain could be in the works for the deputy White House chief of staff.
It was the latest of several one-on-one meetings between Fitzgerald and Luskin, the Daily News has learned.
Investigators also turned up at the White House for yet another round of questions for Rove's subordinates.
A secret meeting Fitzgerald held yesterday with Judge Thomas Hogan, who presides over the case, suggests a grand jury extension also could be under consideration, according to legal sources.
As the investigation moved toward its high-stakes finale, Rove has exhibited several mood swings.
Two weeks ago, at a political event in Texas, Rove brushed aside concerns from anxious pals. "He said he was fine and he said it with gusto," one of the well-wishers recalled.
A week later, however, Rove seemed down and distracted to some of his White House colleagues. More recently, however, he was in better spirits, dashing off business-as-usual handwritten notes to acquaintances that made no mention of his travails.
"He remains upbeat and optimistic," according to an associate. "He's convinced in his own mind that he's done his best to assist the investigation at every stage."
The News learned that Rove's lawyers hope to persuade Fitzgerald that inconsistencies in his grand jury testimony were because of poor recollections, not attempts at obstruction.
Meanwhile, FBI agents quizzed outed CIA agent Valerie Plame's neighbors, who told them they did not know she was a CIA employee before her cover was blown.
At the U.S. courthouse, the grand jury heard evidence for three hours, but Fitzgerald did not make any announcements about indictments related to his two-year probe. Fitzgerald emerged an hour after adjourning the panel and offered no comment.
While White House staffers were tense, Fitzgerald's team relaxed from their stoic, all-business demeanor. The cheery prosecutors shared an elevator ride with a News reporter and cracked up over a private joke. Miers is gone...what nutbag will take her place?
Oh, a prediction: if no indictments come down today, he's going to nominate a super right-wing conservative tomorrrow.
Miers withdraws Supreme Court nomination
Thursday, October 27, 2005; Posted: 9:12 a.m. EDT (13:12 GMT)
In her letter to the president, Miers said she was "concerned that the confirmation process presents a burden for the White House and its staff and it is not in the best interest of the country."
"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Bush said, according to The Associated Press.
"Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers -- and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her."
Miers, the White House counsel, was nominated earlier this month by President Bush to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the high court.
On Wednesday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan had dismissed the suggestion that senators were reluctant to come out in support of Miers because they are unimpressed with her as a nominee.
"I think you're seeing a lot of members of the Senate saying, 'We want to hear what she has to say in the hearings,' before they make a judgment," he said.
"With Harriet Miers, there are many in the Senate that simply did not know her previously, although she is widely respected within the legal profession."
Senators had hoped to begin confirmation hearings next week. Palestinian human shields.
Israel strikes Gaza, plans offensive after bombing
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli aircraft struck the Gaza Strip on Thursday and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved a major ground offensive in the West Bank after a suicide attack killed five Israelis.
The bombing in the coastal city of Hadera -- the first such attack since Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last month -- dealt a serious blow to an eight-month-old truce and international hopes for a revival of peacemaking.
Security sources said Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided on a major military operation in the northern West Bank against Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the bombing to avenge the killing of a top commander on Monday.
Israel would also target Islamic Jihad leaders in the Gaza Strip, but there were no immediate plans for a ground offensive there, the sources said.
"We will do everything we can to strike out the infrastructure of the organization that carried out this act of terror," Mofaz told reporters.
No timetable was given for the West Bank offensive.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005Wal-mart.
Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
and MICHAEL BARBARO
An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.
In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.
To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."
The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefit costs because critics had attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Ms. Chambers acknowledged that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid.
Wal-Mart executives said the memo was part of an effort to rein in benefit costs, which to Wall Street's dismay have soared by 15 percent a year on average since 2002. Like much of corporate America, Wal-Mart has been squeezed by soaring health costs. The proposed plan, if approved, would save the company more than $1 billion a year by 2011.
In an interview, Ms. Chambers said she was focusing not on cutting costs, but on serving employees better by giving them more choices on their benefits.
"We are investing in our benefits that will take even better care of our associates," she said. "Our benefit plan is known today as being generous."
Ms. Chambers also said that she made her recommendations after surveying employees about how they felt about the benefits plan. "This is not about cutting," she said. "This is about redirecting savings to another part of their benefit plans."
One proposal would reduce the amount of time, from two years to one, that part-time employees would have to wait before qualifying for health insurance. Another would put health clinics in stores, in part to reduce expensive employee visits to emergency rooms. Wal-Mart's benefit costs jumped to $4.2 billion last year, from $2.8 billion three years earlier, causing concern within the company because benefits represented an increasing share of sales. Last year, Wal-Mart earned $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion.
A draft memo to Wal-Mart's board was obtained from Wal-Mart Watch, a nonprofit group, allied with labor unions, that asserts that Wal-Mart's pay and benefits are too low. Tracy Sefl, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Watch, said someone mailed the document anonymously to her group last month. When asked about the memo, Wal-Mart officials made available the updated copy that actually went to the board.
Under fire because less than 45 percent of its workers receive company health insurance, Wal-Mart announced a new plan on Monday that seeks to increase participation by allowing some employees to pay just $11 a month in premiums. Some health experts praised the plan for making coverage more affordable, but others criticized it, noting that full-time Wal-Mart employees, who earn on average around $17,500 a year, could face out-of-pocket expenses of $2,500 a year or more.
FITZGERALD ASKS JURY TO INDICT ROVE, LIBBY, SOURCES SAY.... DEVELOPING...
"They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said. "You can't tell soldiers that inhumane treatment is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that C.I.A. personnel are allowed to engage in it."
This is what you voted for, people: an administration demanding that the CIA be exempted from a law stipulating that the United States doesn't torture prisoners.
Here’s the disgusting, disgusting story:
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - Stepping up a confrontation with the Senate over the handling of detainees, the White House is insisting that the Central Intelligence Agency be exempted from a proposed ban on abusive treatment of suspected Qaeda militants and other terrorists.
The Senate defied a presidential veto threat nearly three weeks ago and approved, 90 to 9, an amendment to a $440 billion military spending bill that would ban the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" of any detainee held by the United States government. This could bar some techniques that the C.I.A. has used in some interrogations overseas.
But in a 45-minute meeting last Thursday, Vice President Dick Cheney and the C.I.A. director, Porter J. Goss, urged Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who wrote the amendment, to support an exemption for the agency, arguing that the president needed maximum flexibility in dealing with the global war on terrorism, said two government officials who were briefed on the meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the discussions.
Mr. McCain rejected the proposed exemption, which stated that the measure "shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party, if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack."
Spokesmen for Mr. McCain, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Goss all declined to comment on the matter Monday, citing the confidentiality of the talks.
Human rights organizations said Monday that it was unclear whether the language in the changes proposed by the White House meant that the president would decide exemptions case by case or whether there would be more of a blanket authority. But they said the administration's proposal would seriously undermine Mr. McCain's measure.
Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the administration had interpreted an international treaty banning torture to mean that a prohibition against cruel and inhumane treatment did not apply to C.I.A. actions overseas.
"That's why the McCain amendment is important, and that's why this language they're floating now would gut it," said Ms. Massimino, who provided a copy of the administration's proposed changes to The New York Times.
Human rights advocates said that creating parallel sets of interrogation rules for military personnel and clandestine intelligence operatives was impractical in the war on terrorism, where soldiers and spies routinely cross paths on a global battlefield and often share techniques
"They are explicitly saying, for the first time, that the intelligence community should have the ability to treat prisoners inhumanely," Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said. "You can't tell soldiers that inhumane treatment is always morally wrong if they see with their own eyes that C.I.A. personnel are allowed to engage in it."
First up, Steven C. Clemons of the Washington Note reported:
October 25, 2005
Indictments Coming Tomorrow; Targets Received Letters Today
An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN (since confirmed by another independent source):
1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.
2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.
3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.
4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.
The shoe is dropping.
Okay. On the surface only five indictments might seem like a bad thing, but it could also mean that the bigger fish are about to fry. Kos put it best:
But for those of you who were seeking quantity, remember that quality is better. We know that many of the smaller fry have been flipping, which in turn works to bolster the case against those at the top ultimately responsible for the wrongdoing.
Kos also connected the dots on a fairly major drama bomb:
Fitzegerald (sic) still working hard according to the LA Times.
As his investigation nears a conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has returned his attention to White House adviser Karl Rove, interviewing a Rove colleague with detailed questions about contacts that President Bush's close aide had with reporters in the days leading up to the outing of a covert CIA officer.
Fitzgerald has also dispatched FBI agents to comb the CIA agent's residential neighborhood in Washington, asking neighbors again whether they were aware -- before her name appeared in a syndicated column -- that the agent, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA.
Reuters talked to one of those neighbors:
Marc Lefkowitz, who lives across the street from Plame, told Reuters two FBI agents asked him on Monday if he knew about Plame's CIA work before her identity was leaked to the press in 2003. Lefkowitz said he told them: "I didn't know."
Two lawyers involved in the case said such questioning could indicated that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald intended to charge administration officials for the leak itself, in addition to possible charges for easier-to-prove crimes like perjury and obstruction of justice.
So Fitzgerald is still looking at the leak itself, not just the perjury and obstruction of justice stuff.
Then, less than two hours later, Kos came up with this from Roll Call:
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was spotted Tuesday at the law offices of Patton Boggs paying a visit to Robert Luskin, the eccentric (for Washington, D.C.) lawyer who represents Karl Rove.
Though HOH heard about the visit from a well-placed source, Luskin refused, if politely, to confirm why or even whether Fitzgerald visited him.
The rumor floating around Patton Boggs Tuesday was that there "may" be no indictments this week because Fitzgerald "may" need to seek an extension from the presiding judge to wrap up his investigation of Flamegate (or Plamegate for those of us who aren't Judy Miller).
An extension would be little wonder, given The New York Times' whopper revelation that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby first heard about the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame not from journalists, as he initially claimed, but from his boss, Vice President Cheney. Of course, anything would be little wonder at this point.
Sources, by the way, report that Rove himself was spotted visiting his lawyer on Friday.
Indictments may or may not be coming this week, and they may or may not be coming today. Fitzgerald seems to still be investigating something, but what…well, let’s review, shall we? According to the Washington Note story, the targets of the indictments have already been sent letters, which could explain Fitzgerald’s visit to Patton Boggs; he could be attempting to make a deal with Rove, which would also explain the extension…if there are bigger fish in the pond, say, a Cheney, for example, he may need time and a deal from someone like Rove to flip on Cheney. I know party discipline and loyalty is everything to these folks, but I wouldn’t put it past Rove to flip on Cheney. At least it wouldn’t be his boy.
I don’t know. I suppose we will see what happens in the next few days.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005Jerks! >:(
Poll: Bush would lose an election if held this year
Tuesday, October 25, 2005; Posted: 3:37 p.m. EDT (19:37 GMT)
In the latest poll, 55 percent of the respondents said that they would vote for the Democratic candidate if Bush were again running for the presidency this year.
Thirty-nine percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Bush in the hypothetical election.
The latest poll results, released Tuesday, were based on interviews with 1,008 adults conducted by telephone October 21-23.
In the poll, 42 percent of those interviewed approved of the way the president is handling his job and 55 percent disapproved. In the previous poll, released October 17, 39 percent approved of Bush's job performance -- the lowest number of his presidency -- and 58 percent disapproved. Huh. Makes me wonder how many of these people getting screwed used to work at local shops.
In short, this still doesn't make me want to shop there.
Wal-Mart calls for minimum wage hike
CEO Lee Scott tells executives he's urging congressional action in a bid to help 'working families.'
October 25, 2005: 9:22 AM EDT
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said he's urging Congress to consider raising the minimum wage so that Wal-Mart customers don't have to struggle paycheck to paycheck.
Scott told Wal-Mart (Research) directors and executives in a speech Monday that he believes "it is time for Congress to take a look at the minimum wage and other legislation that can help working families."
"The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times," Scott said. "We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. Our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks."
Given increasing gas prices and other economic pressures on Wal-Mart customers, Scott went on to say that Wal-Mart shoppers will further be challenged to "support themselves and their families."
"While it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families," he said.
Wal-Mart maintains that it pays above the current $5.15 an hour minimum wage to its employees.
As the world's largest retailer and largest U.S. non-union private sector employer with more than 1.3 million "associates" in its U.S. stores, Wal-Mart has been a lightning rod for criticism about its wage and benefits policy as well as lawsuits alleging gender discrimination. It continues to draw fire for allegedly stifling small businesses and squeezing its vendors.
Scott also discussed a new health-care package with lower premiums for Wal-Mart workers.
The new "Value option" plan, which will be introduced Jan. 1 2006, offers insurance coverage of $23 a month "and kids covered for less than 50 cents per day ... no matter how many children," Scott said.
"We will offer this plan for $11 a month, with children covered for less than 30 cents per day in some markets -- and we are working to offer these savings nationally," he said.
Said Scott, "We want to drive out as much as 25 percent of the cost in the healthcare system through leading a coalition of business, government and industry leaders in applying standards and technologies for efficiency."
He also touted the retailer's efforts to present itself as a more environmentally friendly company.
Whether it is jobs, health care, product sourcing or environmental impact, "it is clear to me that in order to build a 21st century company, we need to view these same issues in a different light," Scott said in the speech.
"Our environmental goals at Wal-Mart are simple and straightforward," he said. "One, to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. Two, to create zero waste. Three, to sell products that sustain our resources and environment."
In energy-saving moves that will save Wal-Mart money, Scott said the company plans to increase the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet -- among the largest in the country -- by 25 percent over the next three years and double it within ten years.
"If implemented across our entire fleet by 2015, this would amount to savings of more than $310 million a year. Compare that to doing nothing," he said.
In addition, Wal-Mart said it will show preference to factories in China that participate in a "green company program" where the company will show preference to those suppliers and their factories involved in such a program.
"We are also committed to reducing our solid waste from U.S. stores and clubs by 25 percent in the next three years," Scott said. "We're replacing PVC packaging for our private brands with alternatives that are more sustainable and recyclable within the next two years."
Scott delivered the speech on the eve of the company's annual two-day conference for analysts at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. least two folks...but the Grand Jury isn't expected to meet today, so it's not today...
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has decided to seek indictments in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and has submitted at least one to the grand jury, those close to the investigation tell RAW STORY.
Fitzgerald will seek at least two indictments, the sources say. They note that it remains to be seen whether the grand jury will approve the charges.
Those familiar with the case state that Fitzgerald likely will not seek indictments that assert officials leaked Plame's name illegally. Rather, they say that he will focus charges in the arena of lying to investigators.
Any possible indictments are now in the hands of the grand jury. They are expected to be made public later this week.
Cellar Door, and it made a bad day worse.
Here's to everyone who will be attending candlelight vigils tonight. We have to do something to stop the killing; your action is at least a step in the right direction.
US troop death toll in Iraq hits 2,000
Two US marines killed by improvised explosive device near Al-Amariyah, bringing death toll to 2,000 mark.
This whole idea seems to have been borne from the super-secret army intelligence unit ISA, which later developed into grey fox (both of which are excellent reads, btw).
What bothers me about the whole thing is that it continues the Administration's focus on "pre-emption", which to me just means naked aggression, only this time a naked aggression that is beholden to no one but the administration; they are not even held by the checks and balances of American law. The idea of such a tool in their hands is chilling. Read up on the "Proactive Preemptive Operations Group"...
The Secret War
Frustrated by intelligence failures, the Defense Department is dramatically expanding its 'black world' of covert operations
by William Arkin
SOUTH POMFRET, Vt. -- In what may well be the largest expansion of covert action by the armed forces since the Vietnam era, the Bush administration has turned to what the Pentagon calls the "black world" to press the war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised. Spy planes and ships are being assigned new missions in anti-terror and monitoring the "axis of evil."
The increasingly dominant role of the military, Pentagon officials say, reflects frustration at the highest levels of government with the performance of the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and much of the burgeoning homeland security apparatus. It also reflects the desire of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to gain greater overall control of the war on terror.
Insulated from outside pressures, armed with matchless weapons and technology, trained to operate below the shadow line, the Pentagon's black world of classified operations holds out the hope of swift, decisive action in a struggle against terrorism that often looks more like a family feud than a war.
Coupled with the enormous effort being made throughout the government to improve and link information networks and databases, covert anti-terror operations promise to put better information in the hands of streamlined military teams that can identify, monitor and neutralize terrorist threats.
"Prevention and preemption are ... the only defense against terrorism," Rumsfeld said in May. "Our task is to find and destroy the enemy before they strike us."
The new apparatus for covert operations and the growing government secrecy associated with the war on terrorism reflect the way the Bush administration's most senior officials see today's world:
First, they see fighting terrorism and its challenge to U.S. interests and values as the 21st century equivalent of the Cold War crusade against communism. Second, they believe the magnitude of the threat requires, and thus justifies, aggressive new "off-the-books" tactics.
In their understandable frustration over continued atrocities such as the recent Bali attack, however, U.S. officials might keep two points in mind.
Though covert action can bring quick results, because it is isolated from the normal review processes it can just as quickly bring mistakes and larger problems. Also, the Pentagon is every bit as capable as the civilian side of the government when it comes to creating organization charts and bureaucracy that stifle creative thinking and timely action. Iraq Constitution seems to have passed, though with a disturbing schism between different religious factions:
The figures show that the tally failed to get a two-thirds "no" vote in at least three of the 18 provinces that would have been required to defeat the measure.
Sunni Arabs were highly vocal in their opposition to the constitution ahead of the October 15 vote. Shiites and Kurds have largely backed the constitution.
The western province of Anbar -- with a large Sunni population -- overwhelmingly voted against the document, with a "no" vote of 96 percent. In Salaheddin province, 82 percent rejected the charter.
If I was a Sunni Muslim, I'd be feeling pretty put out with the results, especially with the lack of involvement and consideration in the whole process, though leaders seem to be somewhat mixed on the constitution:
- "We do not tell the Iraqi people how to act, but we are against this constitution because we think it encourages the sectarian division of this country," said Isam al-Rawi of the Association of Muslim Scholars.
- ...One influential Sunni, Mahmood al-Mashhadani, stated his endorsement and said he would urge Iraqis to approve the constitution: "It's a hard fact that if we want to achieve our demands of freeing the country from occupation, we have to engage in the political process to do so," Mashahadani said in an interview. "We will call on all the voters to say yes, because there is no meaning in saying no."
Oh, And all the stories of vote tampering? Well...there's still a civil war to get back to.
Monday, October 24, 2005seeing here.
WASHINGTON - Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter, his associates say.
With a seemingly uncontrollable insurgency in Iraq, the White House is bracing for the political fallout from a grim milestone that could come any day: the combat death of the 2,000th American G.I.
Last week alone, 23 military personnel were killed in Iraq, and five were wounded yesterday in a relentless series of attacks across the country.
This week could also bring a special prosecutor's decision that could shake the foundations of the Bush government.
The President's top political guru, Karl Rove, and Vice President Cheney's right-hand man, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, are at the center of a two-year criminal probe into the leak of a CIA agent's identity. Many Bush staffers believe indictments are likely.
"He's like the lion in winter," observed a political friend of Bush. "He's frustrated. He remains quite confident in the decisions he has made. But this is a guy who wanted to do big things in a second term. Given his nature, there's no way he'd be happy about the way things have gone."
Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it. Lately, however, some junior staffers have also faced the boss' wrath.
"This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help," said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. "This is the President of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight."
The specter of losing Rove, his only truly irreplaceable assistant, lies at the heart of Bush's distress. But a string of political reversals, including growing opposition to the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and Harriet Miers' bungled Supreme Court nomination, have also exacted a personal toll.
Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the "blame game." They describe him as beset but unbowed, convinced that history will vindicate the major decisions of his presidency even if they damage him and his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
At the same time, these sources say Bush, who has a long history of keeping staffers in their place, has lashed out at aides as his political woes have mounted.
"The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider. "Andy [Card, the chief of staff] gets his share. Karl gets his share. Even Cheney gets his share. And the press gets a big share."
The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.
Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."
A second senior Bush loyalist disagreed, saying Bush knows "some of these things are self-inflicted," like the Miers nomination, where Bush jettisoned contrary advice from his advisers and appointed his longtime personal lawyer. BBC:
The current front runner to succeed Mr Greenspan is Ben Bernanke, a Princeton economist who was appointed chairman of the council of economic advisors in June, and is therefore the government's chief economic advisor.
Mr Bernanke spent most of his career as an academic economist at Princeton University before becoming a member of the Fed's board of governors in 2002.
He is a leading advocate of "inflation targeting", the idea that central banks should set a target for inflation - in the UK it is 2% - and stick to it.
This approach was opposed by Mr Greenspan, who believed central banks needed to keep the markets guessing on how tough they would be on inflation.
Mr Bernanke's approach is widely adopted in Europe, by both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank, and supporters say it has helped to lower expectations of inflation among the public.
His appointment would be widely welcomed by financial markets - who have become familiar with his approach - but might raise hackles among Republican loyalists who don't see him as a team player.
Mr Bernanke, like Mr Greenspan, believes that it is difficult for central banks to intervene to prevent "asset bubbles" like house price booms from taking place. surprise, surprise.
President Bush said Monday that he will not release any records of his conversations with Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers that could threaten the confidentiality of the advice that presidents get from their lawyers.
"That would breech very important confidentiality, and it's a red line I'm not willing to cross," Bush said.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are demanding more documents on Harriet Miers, including from her work at Bush's counsel.
"People can learn about Harriet Miers through hearings, but we are not going to destroy this business about people being able to walk into the Oval Office to say, Mr. President, this is my advice," Bush said after a meeting with his cabinet.
On Friday, Common Dreams posted a great article written by James Moore (he of Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential) that detailed the importance of this trial and just what it means for the country as a whole. I think this is the most powerful of passages, though the whole article is worth reading:
Patrick Fitzgerald has before him the most important criminal case in American history. Watergate, by comparison, was a random burglary in an age of innocence. The investigator’s prosecutorial authority in this present case is not constrained by any regulation. If he finds a thread connecting the leak to something greater, Fitzgerald has the legal power to follow it to the web in search of the spider. It seems unlikely, then, that he would simply go after the leakers and the people who sought to cover up the leak when it was merely a secondary consequence of the much greater crime of forging evidence to foment war. Fitzgerald did not earn his reputation as an Irish alligator by going after the little guy. Presumably, he is trying to find evidence that Karl Rove launched a covert operation to create the forged documents and then conspired to out Valerie Plame when he learned the fraud was being uncovered by Plame’s husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. As much as this sounds like the plot of a John le Carre novel, it also comports with the profile of the Karl Rove I have known, watched, traveled with and written about for the past 25 years.
We may stand witness to a definitive American moment of democracy. The son of a New York doorman probably has in his hands, in many ways, the fate of the republic. Because far too many of us know and are aware of the crimes committed by our government in our name, we are unlikely to settle for a handful of minor indictments of bureaucrats. The last thing most of us believe in is the rule of law. We do not trust our government or the people we have elected but our constitution is still very much alive and we choose to believe that destiny has placed Patrick Fitzgerald at this time and this place in our history to save us from the people we elected. If the law cannot get to the truth of what has happened to the American people under the Bush administration, then we all may begin to hear the early death rattles of history’s greatest democracy.
A highly-recommended read.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
NEWSWEEK: Vice President Cheney and Close-Knit Group of Advisers Aggressively Advanced Case for Iraq War, Chasing Down Critics and Setting the Stage for the CIA Leak Case
After 9/11, Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby Would 'Pump' Intelligence Officials for Raw Information on Iraq
Cheney Aide John Hannah, Speculated to Be Key Figure In Leak Investigation, Is Not a Target, Says Lawyer: Hannah 'Knew Nothing...This Is Craziness'
Soon after 9/11, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, began routinely calling intelligence officials, high and low, to pump them for any scraps of information on Iraq. He would read obscure, unvetted intelligence reports and grill their authors, but always in a courtly manner, report Newsweek's National Security Correspondent John Barry and Investigative Correspondents Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball in the October 31 issue (on newsstands Monday, October 24). The intel officials were often more than a little surprised. It was extraordinarily unusual for the vice president's office to step so far outside of channels and make personal appeals to mere analysts.
"He was deep into the raw intel," one government official tells Newsweek.
Libby was the most relentless digger in Cheney's close-knit group of advisers, which also included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, Rumsfeld's under secretary for policy. Together, the group largely despised the on-the-one-hand/on-the-other analyses handed up by the intelligence bureaucracy. Instead, they went in search of intel that helped advance their case for war, Newsweek reports. Central to that case was the belief that Saddam was determined to get nukes -- a claim helped by a report that Saddam had attempted to buy uranium from Niger, which the White House doggedly pushed. Ambassador Joseph Wilson damaged that claim with his landmark New York Times op-ed piece, printed on July 6, 2003, about his trip to Niger to investigate the story, during which he concluded it was not credible. Within the White House inner circle, Wilson's op-ed was seen as an act of aggression against President Bush and Cheney. Someone, perhaps to punish the loose-lipped diplomat, let it be known to columnist Robert Novak and other reporters that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was an undercover CIA operative, a revelation that is a possible violation of laws protecting classified information. This week the two-year-long investigation of that leak could finally end. It is widely expected that Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor appointed in the case, may issue indictments for one or more top administration officials, possibly including Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.