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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

September 30, 2005 PERMALINK
She Fought The Law and The Law Won
(posted Sept. 30 2 AM ET)
(typo corrected Oct. 2 9:30 AM ET)

When Judy Miller went to jail, LiberalOasis wrote:

...today is a sad day because Miller isn’t talking. Miller in jail, while necessary at this point, doesn’t get us closer to identifying the leaker(s).

And so, today is a happy day because Miller is talking and we are getting closer to the truth.

Granted, considering Miller’s behavior throughout this spectacle – disingenuously whining about how she never wrote a Plame story when such a detail is irrelevant to the crime being investigated, and receiving prison visits from folks like John Bolton and Bob Dole who are sympathetic to those being investigated – there is no reason to assume her testimony would be on the level.

But assessing her credibility is a matter for special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to sort out. (There has already been reporting that Fitzgerald is not so sure about the veracity of Bob Novak’s testimony.)

The point is that things were stalled solely because of Miller’s violation of the law.

Now that she has paid a penalty, and was threatened with facing more prison time, she has been brought into compliance with the law, and things are moving forward again.

How exactly she was brought into compliance remains mysterious.

The stated reason from the Miller camp and the Scooter Libby camp (Libby being Cheney’s chief of staff and Miller’s source) is that Miller felt she didn’t have an personal, uncoerced waiver from Libby, while Libby insisted that she has had one for more than a year.

According to the NY Times account, it took about a month of negotiation between the two camps to figure that one thing out.

This seems highly implausible, since that’s the kind of misunderstanding that takes five seconds to reconcile (“Oh, so I do a waiver? That’s info that would have been more useful a few months ago, but thanks. Gotta run now.”)

Investigative reporter Murray Waas tells us “There is quite a backstory” and will share it at a later date.

Though Fitzgerald doesn’t seem stressed out about the possibility that Miller and Libby were talking in order to get their stories straight, as he allowed the conversations to take place, apparently promising they would not lead to obstruction of justice charges.

So LiberalOasis won’t sweat it too much, and will just remained pleased that we are closer to getting the full truth and having justice served.

Assuming there is nothing in Miller’s testimony that leads Fitzgerald to pursue a whole new avenue of investigation, the grand jury should be able to wrap up its work by its Oct. 28 deadline and determine if they have the goods to hand down indictments.

But let us not forget, regardless of the criminal investigation, top White House officials who leaked Plame’s identity -- be it proactively or by merely confirming what a reporter said to them -- have violated their SF-312 national security clearance agreements.

And Bush is required to investigate any such security breach and punish anyone involved.

It is indisputable that both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby have violated their national security clearance agreements. They have yet to be punished by their boss.

September 29, 2005 PERMALINK
Tom Friedman: Pro-Civil War
(posted Sept. 29 1 AM ET)

As there is already plenty of good DeLay blogging (see the BlogWire on the right), and anything this space had to say about the larger political impact was already said yesterday, please excuse LiberalOasis from chiming in today

Instead, LO turns your attention to yesterday’s particularly egregious Tom Friedman column in the NY Times about the future of Iraq.

In it, he essentially blames the Sunnis for Iraq’s looming disintegration, and argues that if things don’t get better soon, the US should let a civil war blossom, pick sides, and arm the Shia and Kurds.

In Friedman’s own words:

Do the Iraqi Sunnis understand their own interests, and does the Sunni world have any moral center?

Up to now the Sunni Arab world has stood mute while the Sunni Baathists and jihadists in Iraq have engaged in what can only be called ''ethnic cleansing'': murdering Shiite civilians in large numbers purely because they are Shiites in hopes of restoring a Sunni-dominated order in Iraq that is un-restorable...

...we are faltering in Iraq today in part because of the Bush team's incompetence, but also because of the moral vacuum in the Sunni Arab world, where the worst are engaged in murderous ethnic cleansing -- and trying to stifle any prospect of democracy here -- and the rest are too afraid, too weak, too lost or too anti-Shiite to do anything about it.

Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation.

That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be.

If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it.

If they won't, then we are wasting our time.

We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind. We must not throw more good American lives after good American lives for people who hate others more than they love their own children.

In Friedman’s world, the Sunnis are now the bad guys and the Shiites are the good guys, because it’s the Sunnis practicing ethnic cleansing.

But that’s factually inaccurate. Both camps are practicing ethnic cleansing.

Knight-Ridder’s Sept. 21 report on ethnic cleansing explains:

The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad neighborhoods is proceeding at an alarming and potentially destabilizing pace.

Some Shiite Muslim residents in predominantly Sunni Muslim Baghdad neighborhoods are fleeing their homes because they say the country's violence and sectarian tensions have reached their front doors, forcing them to move into more homogenous communities...

... In some areas, Sunnis are escaping Shiite neighbors, although that trend is less pronounced...

...Many Sunni families also have fled the predominantly Shiite southern city of Basra, which has become dominated by rival Shiite militia groups.

And CBS Evening News ran a Sept. 26 report on ethnic cleansing in Baghdad that pointed the finger at both camps, but focused on an incident where Sunnis were the victims of ethnic cleansing:

...there is an undeclared civil war already underway in Iraq, between the Sunni minority who ruled this country under Saddam and the Shiite majority...

...there is a secret, ruthless cleansing of the country's towns and cities.

Bodies — blindfolded, bound and executed — just appear, like the rotting corpses of 36 Sunni men that turned up in a dry riverbed south of Baghdad...

...They were targeted for one reason alone: all were Sunnis...

...And the killing isn't one-sided. An ambush in a western Baghdad suburb last month began with the execution of an entire Shiite family inside their home.

Friedman's column also accuses the Sunnis of not putting Iraq first, unlike the Shiites:

I know the Sunnis are terrified by Iran's influence in this southern region, but, as the Brits who run the Basra area, which includes Umm Qasr, will tell you, the Iraqi Arab Shiites here are obsessed with not being dominated by Iran.

Despite growing cultural and commercial ties with Iran, they are Iraqis first.

That attitude would only be enhanced if Iraqi Sunnis, rather than allowing or abetting the murders of Shiites, would instead embrace the new constitution and let the U.S. cut the Sunnis an even fairer slice of the pie.

Is that what would the Brits would say? Newsday had a different take on what’s going on in Basra:

... Islamic radicals - many with close ties to Iran - have been allowed to take root in the South.

This was painfully evident Monday [9/19], when the British Army attacked the Iraqi police force they had trained for two years, only to find the police had handed two British soldiers over to the most hardline Shia militia.

Shia radicals have imposed their intolerant views on what used to be the Persian Gulf's freest city...Basra has become like Tehran, where morals are enforced not by family but by religious militias...

...Agents of Iran - quite possibly the U.S. government's next adversary in the Middle East - have thoroughly infiltrated both the local security police in Basra and the elite paramilitary brigades sent in by the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, according to sources with access to U.S. intelligence.

They are also heavily involved in the militias of some of the governing political parties.

What is happening in Basra, until recently little noticed in the international press, is described by one U.S. diplomat as "our dirty little secret."

Apparently, Friedman ain’t in on the secret.

Back in 2003, Friedman got it wrong on the war, selling it to NY Times’ left-leaning audience as a glorious democracy-building project for the Middle East.

Now, instead of admitting his flawed arguments, exploring how to defuse the growing ethnic strife, and fixing the problem he helped create, he is trying to compound his errors by drumming up support for a second layer of carnage – based on gross generalizations and false notions of good guys and bad.

Friedman has become about as credible as the Flat Earth Society.

And his newfound cynicism should not prevail in the Democratic Party.

Just because his solution involves troop withdrawal does not make it palatable.

We need to change course in order to end the simmering civil war, not to fuel it.

September 28, 2005 PERMALINK
Do Low Poll Numbers Matter To Republicans?
(posted Sept. 28 2:45 AM ET)

The GOP is pretty much doing everything it possibly can to deplete its political capital.

GOPers are continuing to mishandle post-Katrina politics -- still blameshifting instead of truly taking responsibility, accepting an independent commission, and making concrete improvements in homeland security.

There’s been little public excitement for the few legislative "accomplishments" the GOP has had this year.

The legal problems of the GOP congressional leadership appear to be worsening, with Bill Frist under investigation, a possible Tom DeLay indictment looming – not to mention the PlameGate investigation still lurking about.

And Dubya is now channeling the worst of Jimmy Carter.

Carter responded to atrocious poll numbers with his July ’79 “crisis of confidence” speech, where he lamented that “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption,” and soon after, fired several Cabinet secretaries –moves that were seen as blaming others for his own shortcomings.

Similarly, Bush’s recent pleas for people to drive less to save gas may well have the same effect.

Instead of taking responsibility for a failed energy policy, and laying out a real strategy for energy conservation and independence, he blames the public for driving too much even though the vast majority of driving is not recreational and isn't easily given up.

(Bad omen for Bush? After the ‘79 speech, W. Post’s David Broder gave Carter good marks, saying, “Jimmy Carter found his voice again last night.” Yesterday, the W. Post editorial board praised Bush’s “Jimmy Carter Moment,” saying, “Although Jimmy Carter was ridiculed for his cardigan campaign, Mr. Bush's rhetorical U-turn is welcome.”)

So the GOP is doing everything wrong. And they have the poll numbers to prove it.

Bush is stuck in the low 40s. And the GOP is behind 9 to 12 points in the race for Congress.

In a typical dynamic, this would constitute a depletion of political capital, stalling much of the majority party’s agenda.

But we’re not in a typical dynamic.

Because we’re dealing with folks that are not terribly phased by low poll numbers.

It’s not like being down in the polls is stopping the GOP from swinging the Supreme Court to the Right.

And with Beltway conventional wisdom saying there are too few competitive districts for Dems to have a good shot at taking back Congress, GOPers won’t sweat the congressional poll numbers too badly.

So the GOP is not panicking and shelving their right-wing agenda wholesale in a desperate attempt to goose their poll numbers.

Yes, there have been some panicky moments: the temporary shelving of estate tax repeal and Bush’s belated yet superficial taking of responsibility for the slow Katrina response.

But there was no panic as they doled out the crony contracts and dropped wage standards for rebuilding.

And now, they are planning the use the hurricane devastation to justify a blitz on environmental protections. No signs of panic there.

Much like they didn’t let losing the popular vote in 2000 deprive them of political capital, they hope that their brazenness -- combined with a weak opposition and a easily manipulated media – will override their poor approval ratings and generate just enough capital to get the job done.

What does that mean for Dems?

It means that it’s not enough to crow about low GOP poll numbers. While it may make enacting their agenda more difficult, it by no means kills it with a silver bullet.

Nor does it mean that Dems are powerless in the face of the GOP machine.

It simply means that political capital must be taken, on a case-by-case basis.

The Bushies earned their capital for John Roberts, by making their case while Dems didn’t make any case at all.

But as Bush’s poll numbers remain low, that capital can’t be cashed in on anything else (aside from the next nomination, where certain arguments can be recycled).

Bush can only push through items of his agenda in the dead of night while no one’s looking (like with suspending wage standards) or the old-fashioned way, by making his case.

The lesson for Dems: get as much as of the Right’s agenda in the sunlight as possible, so it can be argued on the merits.

That means Dems must be careful not to be overly reliant on the “corruption” attacks.

Dems have fleshed out the “House of Scandal” narrative pretty well so far (with the help of the comically corrupt congressional leadership).

But while that softens up the poll numbers for the party in power, it’s not enough to kill the GOP policy agenda.

And it’s on policy matters where Dems will define who they are to the public.

The corruption narrative is important. It’s working. It should be followed through.

But it’s not enough. It’s a foundation that needs to be built upon.

September 26, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Sept. 26 2:45 AM ET)

Discussion about how to pay for our growing list of crises continued yesterday, with Sen. John McCain on ABC's This Week pushing hard for massive spending cuts in what he called “pork”:

MCCAIN: There’s a group of ... Senators and House members who are reflecting the views of our constituents, who are saying, “Look. Sacrifice. Let’s do some belt-tightening. We are mortgaging our children and our grandchildren’s futures.”

And I believe that we are wrong in Washington when we believe that somehow Americans won’t give up these...projects that are unnecessary, [won’t support a] delay [of] this Medicare prescription drug bill, except for the lowest-income people, and [won’t support] some across the board cuts...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except sir, it seems like the American people actually disagree with you across the board.

Let me show you this [Gallup] poll...They ask how should we pay for Katrina recovery.

54 percent say cut Iraq spending.

17 percent say raise taxes.

15 percent say increase the deficit.

Only 6 percent say cut the spending you’re talking about.

MCCAIN: That’s why we’re called leaders.

Actually, a real leader wouldn’t pretend there’s enough pork in the budget to pay for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, the war in Iraq, creating an annual budget surplus and retiring the $8 trillion debt.

A real leader would level with the American public and explain that while we should go after actual pork, we won’t have adequate finances unless we pool more of our resources with higher taxes (and tackle the problem of escalating health care costs.)

McCain is not the worst GOP offender in this regard, since he did oppose the Bush tax cuts.

And McCain is not unlike most Dems in flinching at proposing tax increases.

But it’s simply not straight talk to argue that all of our budget problems can be solved by rooting out pork.

At the same time, the poll numbers above should not encourage Dems to argue that Iraq War spending is the main obstacle to Katrina recovery.

Those poll numbers clearly indicate how unpopular the war has become – respondents gravitated to the option that seemed the least painful.

But the war is wrong because the war is wrong.

Because the underlying foreign policy goals are detrimental to our national security and to global stability.

Not because the war is expensive.

It’s not like the war would be a good idea if it weren’t for the price tag.

Conversely, no one would turn against a war they would otherwise support just because of the price tag.

To complain about the war’s costs, as if that’s the biggest problem about the war, is to be unserious about foreign policy and national security.

McCain is right on one thing: we should be leaders.

Dems should lead on Iraq, explain how they would have superior foreign policy goals to the GOP, and would not support a permanent military presence.

And Dems should lead on fiscal priorities, make clear what it will cost to rebuild the Gulf Coast and balance the budget, what we need to do to reform our health care system, and what has to happen for us to have fair and adequate taxation again.

But they are largely separate issues, and should be treated as such.

In other news, prisoner abuse is apparently back in style, if it ever fell out of fashion.

Time broke the story on Friday about an Army captain in Iraq that turned to Congress and Human Rights Watch when his reports about prisoner abuse were being ignored.

HRW reports that “he spent 17 months” trying to get an investigation started, going all the way “up the chain-of-command” and got nowhere, being “told that he was being naïve and that he was risking his career.”

McCain was also asked about this issue on ABC’s This Week, as he’s linked to the latest developments:

STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s a report out from Human Rights Watch this weekend alleging that more prisoner abuse in the Iraqi prisons, conducted the 82nd Airborne division.

It quotes a captain who actually came to your office with these first allegations, Captain Ian Fishback.

And he sent your office a letter on September 16 saying this:

“Despite my efforts, I have been unable to get clear, consistent answers from my leadership about what constitutes lawful and humane treatment of detainees.

“I am certain that this confusion contributed to a wide range of abuses including death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment”

...Did you find these allegations credible and what can you do about it?

MCCAIN: My staff talked with the captain, and we are investigating and there is an IG investigation.

IG refers to Inspector General. Many government and military departments have IGs that we pay to root out corruption and abuse.

Problem is, while some IGs are tough investigators, others are political hacks.

As Time reports this week:

A study by Representative Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, found that more than 60% of the IGs nominated by the Bush Administration had political experience and less than 20% had auditing experience--almost the obverse of those measures during the Clinton Administration.

McCain was not clear if he was referring to the Pentagon IG or the 82nd Airborne’s IG.

LiberalOasis can’t speak on the 82nd’s IG, but the recent history of the Pentagon IG office is pathetic.

The LA Times reported yesterday:

[After] Joseph E. Schmitz took over as the Pentagon's inspector general in 2002...[he] slowed or blocked investigations of senior Bush administration officials, spent taxpayer money on pet projects and accepted gifts that may have violated ethics guidelines, according to interviews with current and former senior officials in the inspector general's office, congressional investigators and a review of internal e-mail and other documents...

...Schmitz, who resigned on Sept. 10 to take a job with the parent company of defense contractor Blackwater USA [aka Mercenaries R Us], is now the target of a congressional inquiry and a review by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, the oversight body responsible for investigating inspectors general...

After Schmitz left under pressure, Francis Reardon was named acting IG a couple of weeks ago.

His bio is not reassuring:

... in March 1992 he was appointed as The Auditor General of the Army...

... Perhaps one of his most significant accomplishments as The Auditor General was changing the focus of the auditors from a “got cha mentality” to a customer-based organization that provides added value to the Army senior leadership and decision-makers.

Yes, we wouldn’t want to “get” anybody doing anything shady. We want to provide the shady with stellar customer service!

Perhaps that’s why Human Rights Watch isn’t so excited about the 17-months-late military investigation:

[We welcome] reports that the Army has agreed to investigate the abuses discussed in this report.

We are concerned however those investigations will only focus on low-level soldiers and officers, instead of looking as far as necessary up the chain of command.

Of course, going up the chain of command wouldn’t exactly “provide added value to the Army senior leadership.”

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Sept. 26: It has been 808 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

The Sideshow: "The majority of Americans want out of Iraq (whether they march or not), and the Democratic leadership won't even talk about it. Where are they?"

Think Progress: "Sen. Bill Frist claims that he sold his stock in HCA so he could vigorously pursue a health care agenda ... In the past, however, Frist has argued strenuously that his ownership of HCA stock did not prevent him from taking a leadership role on health care policy in the Senate."

OpTruth Blog on prisoner abuse: "... this is most certainly a systemic failure. While there was probably no single document or plan that detailed detainee abuse, there was and may still be a system-wide failure to explain to Soldiers why it is important to not abuse detainees and to supervise them with a paternal eye to insure they do not. I think it is a sad legacy that in so many of these prosecutions, only the junior troops are going to jail."

The Stakeholder connects the corruption dots between Frist, Abramoff, Rove, Safavian and Reed

The Oil Drum on how Rita may impact the oil and gas industry

Independent World TV: In the lead up to [this weekend's antiwar protest,] our new interviews with Phyllis Bennis, Phil Donahue, Amy Goodman and Danny Schechter explore the media's role in selling and covering the war."

Sept. 23: It has been 805 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Needlenose: Ethnic cleansing in Iraq watch

Latino Pundit: "I thought it would be interesting to read about Hispanic immigrants caught in the aftermath of Katrina ... from writers who are sitting at opposite ends of the [ideological] poles ..."

Sept. 22: It has been 804 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Yellow Doggerel Democrat, People's Republic of Seabrook and Off The Kuff brace for Rita

Arms Control Wonk: "You really have to read the foreign press if you want to understand the diplomacy surrounding Iran’s nuclear program ... The sense [there is] that the US and Europe are overplaing their hand on Iran."

Sept. 21: It has been 803 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

HuffPo's Arianna: "I'm now hearing that the [PlameGate] investigation may be inching closer to never-confirmed UN Ambassador John Bolton."

North Korea Zone: "So the North Koreans, at Condi's suggestion, clarify their position on what they consider the 'appropriate' time for them to get light water nuclear reactors, and get jumped on for being obstructionist jerks."

Body and Soul: "The mostly immigrant residents of a housing project in Louisiana are still living in a severely damaged building, without electricity or potable water ... Shelter for out-of-state contractors has been found, but not for immigrant residents. Here's where it really gets nasty ..."

Sept. 20: It has been 802 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Raw Story, The Stakeholder and Talking Points Memo on the arrest of Bush OMB official David Safavian

Daou Report: "the best strategy for the progressive netroots is to go after the media and Democratic Party leaders and spend less time and energy attacking the Bush administration"

Balkinization's Mark Graber: "[The W. Post] urges Senators to confirm Judge Roberts on the ground that he is unlikely to be an 'activist.' Exactly why the Post (and David Broder in his oped) make that judgment is not clear ... I think we are likely to get Mr. Justice Scalia with a smile."

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