Monday, July 30, 2007

Finally, the Electricity Issue Goes Big Time

I've been amazed for a while that the pathetically small - and shrinking - amount of electricity that Baghdadis get everyday has gotten about zero airtime.

Finally, with our dear Ambassador disclosing in Congressional testimony that the daily average for electricity is just an "hour or two", as we reach the worst of summer, it just isn't being ignored any more. This disclosure coming after the government had simply stopped tracking the statistic a couple months ago on the theory that, like in a marriage, if you simply don't talk about a problem, that it just goes away. (H/T Colbert)

The LA Times ran a piece earlier this week about the obfuscation, and here's some good commentary from Americablog that I won't try to outdo:
Insurgencies depend on local support. That support dries up when people feel they are being adequately taken care of by the government. Electricity is near the top of that list. Iraqis look at the U.S. and think (and frequently ask), if you could put a man on the moon, why can't you get us electricity? And after a while, incompetence tends to get interpreted as malice. But don't take my word for it that it's an Iraqi priority -- Ambassador Crocker himself recently told CBS news that electricity was "more important to the average Iraqi than all 18 benchmarks rolled up into one."

And what's the official reason for ceasing to report this metric? "The change, a State Department spokesman said, reflects a technical decision by reconstruction officials in Baghdad who are scaling back efforts to estimate electricity consumption as they wind down U.S. involvement in rebuilding Iraq's power grid." Just as the summer starts to heat up and hours of power are plummeting to near-nonexistence, we're . . . winding down U.S. involvement in rebuilding Iraq's power grid.
..And as I was reviewing my previous blog posts for references I was reminded what my congressional representative, Jane Harman (D), had to say about this topic on June 15, 2006:
Since I returned from my third trip to Iraq last September, I have been calling on the Administration to develop an exit strategy. And I believe it is now time to begin the phased, strategic redeployment of U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq on a schedule designed by military commanders, not designed by the US Congress.

"The U.S. is part of the solution in Iraq, but our large military presence is part of the problem. Beginning to reduce the "footprint," while maintaining an over-the-horizon strike force, will improve our chances for success.

"I think we have 3-6 months to advance three objectives:

"First, helping the new Iraqi government provide electrical power, particularly in Baghdad, and deliver other critical economic and social services to the Iraqi people.

"Second, supporting the Iraqi government in its effort to disarm Shiite militias and integrate them into a trained Iraqi national security force.

"Third, continuing the process, begun by our able Ambassador Khalilzad, of obtaining buy-in from Sunni political leaders.

"Achieving these objectives will enable us to leave Iraq in better shape than we found it.

"The next three months are critical. We have a moral obligation to assist Iraq on its path to democracy, but if clearly-defined minimum objectives cannot be achieved within that time frame, the prospects for success in Iraq could all but disappear. So a change of course is urgently needed.
I wonder how Jane Harman can avoid thinking that prospects for success have disappeared, given that we're now thirteen months later and Baghdad gets around one-third of the power it did when she made that statement.

Leaving Iraq better than we found it means that we will never leave...

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dems in the Gang of 8's Speak on Meeting with Gonzalez

I didn't point out before that the Gang of 8 had no authority on its own to authorize the warrantless domestic wiretap program even if it wanted to. However, the idea that Bush Co. could co-opt that group to get bipartisan cover for moving ahead is the problem, even though any supposed 'approval' by them would have meant nothing legally.

Josh Marshall at TPM sums up what the Democrats on the Gang of 8 had to say:
As Spencer Ackerman noted late in the day, three members of the group -- Democrats Daschle, Rockefeller and Pelosi -- said Gonzales' version of events isn't true. In an interview with NPR, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) said the same thing -- though she was a little ambiguous, suggesting that her ability to discuss the conversations in question were limited because they were classified.

So all four Democrats say Gonzales' story is bunk.

Harman's interview with NPR (via TPM) is here: Interview (her clip is at 3:30).

The New York Times puts things this way:
Other lawmakers who were not at the hearing but who attended the meeting on March 10, 2004 at the White House, also challenged Mr. Gonzales’s account. Mr. Rockefeller and Representative Jane Harman of California, who in 2004 was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, insisted that there was only one N.S.A. program, making Mr. Gonzales’s assertions inaccurate.

“The program had different parts, but there was only one program,” Ms. Harman said, adding that Mr. Gonzales was “selectively declassifying information to defend his own conduct,” which she called improper.

But another member of the Gang of Eight — the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and House and of the two Intelligence Committees _— supported Mr. Gonzales’s version. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he confirmed the attorney general’s testimony that the group reached a “consensus” that the disputed intelligence activity should continue and that passing emergency legislation would risk revealing secrets.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who attended the 2004 White House meeting as House Democratic minority leader, said through a spokesman that she did not dispute that the majority of those present supported continuing the intelligence activity. But Ms. Pelosi said she dissented and supported Mr. Comey’s objections at the meeting, said the spokesman, Brendan Daly.

OK, a few things can be said now:

1) Harman says Gonzalez is lying when he claims he was referring to some other program, but is ambiguous as to the claim that the group instructed him to get approval.

2) Harman's statement neither excludes her or includes her as being part of such a consensus on continuing the warrantless wiretapping and to not pursue legislation to properly authorize it.

3) Pelosi said a majority agreed with continuing the program, so unless a Republican objected to the program (not at all likely IMO), then at least one of the remaining Democrats gave the green light: Tom Daschle, Jay Rockefeller, or Jane Harman.

Political, if not legal, cover was apparently provided in this meeting. Had the Democrats of the group of 8 -- even just one of them, maybe -- simply walked out and said "No, I'm not going to let you get your fig leaf from me", then they not only could have prevented the "Gang of 8", by definition, from approving of the program, but they also would have avoided being gagged from discussing much of the matter due to it being classified. That could have blown away this as a potential cover story, but because they were all there, they area unable to discuss it, while the Bushies can disclose selectively with impunity. Much better to have simply walked out and not be there at all.

Alberto Gonzalez Claims 'Gang of 8' from Congress OK'd Domestic Wiretap Program

in 2004. This is a new explanation that Gonzalez said this morning why he invaded Ashcroft's hospital room to get him to sign a reauthorization of the unconstitutional warrantless domestic wiretap program. (That is, the program allowing them to spy on anybody they want to - suspected terrorists, reporters, Democrats - without ever having to get approval from a Court or ever say who they spied on)

Jane Harman was on that 'Gang of 8' intel group from Congress at the time.

It'll be interesting to find out if they approved it or not. Her office just said to look for a statement of some sort in the next day.

UPDATE: Here's his testimony from today's hearings.

...And to add - there are two possibilities here:

If that group did not give its approval to the warrantless wiretap program, then all of them should immediately call for the impeachment of Alberto Gonzalez.

If that group did give its approval to the warrantless wiretap program, then they should all -- including Jane Harman -- immediately resign from Congress for breach of the public's trust.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stephen Colbert Zings Ben Nelson

I was rather surprised to see Ben Nelson, the Iraq-war supporting conservative Democrat from Nebraska, would be appearing on the Colbert show. There's really nothing to gain from appearing (he's not selling a book), and he must have known that Colbert would take him apart on the war.

Fortunately, Colbert didn't disappoint.

If you watch till the end, you'll see that Colbert closes the interview by cornering the interviewee with a trick question and then says "Thank you for supporting the president" in a tongue in cheek way. However, this time, the question was no trick and he definitely meant it when he paid Nelson that 'compliment'.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Giving Bush (and Rove) the Benefit of the Doubt, Even When There Is None Left to Give

Starting from when they let Bin Laden slip away in Afghanistan in December 2001, to the diversion of military resources from going after al-Qaida to invade and occupy Iraq, to Bush saying he doesn't think much about bin Laden, the administration's consistent pattern is one of losing focus on getting al-Qaida. It's never been anywhere near the top of their priority list.

So what the heck is Jane Harman doing acting all surprised at yet another instance when the administration fails to go after al-Qaida?

Rove also faced questions from the audience on Sunday, from Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and from Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat from California who is a member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Both Mitchell and Harman asked Rove about a report in Sunday's New York Times that the CIA was prepared in 2005 to go into Pakistan to capture or kill top al-Qaida members, but that the administration called off the mission so as not to upset the government of Pakistan.

"If the New York Times story today is true, it is enormously disturbing," Harman said. "Is this administration seriously focused on getting the top al-Qaida people or is it not?"
After all this time, and she still can't make a judgment on that. Apparently, until she gets a signed letter to her from Rove and Bush that says they aren't serious about catching al-Qaida, she'll still be unsure what to think.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rain Distribution - Weather Gods, you need to work on that a little bit

Clearly y'all are not doing a good job. Otherwise, I doubt we'd be seeing six times more rain fall in one morning in Marble Falls, Texas than Los Angeles has gotten in more than a year. (19 inches vs. 3 inches)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bloomberg, the Nonpartisan Dream Candidate? Hardly

It turns out he's about as much of a solid supporter of the NY state GOP as you can get. So much for the "third way" rhetoric.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Benevolent and Reasonable Department of Homeland Security

On the plane home last night returning from a family trip to New Orleans, I watched "The Last Mimzy", an interesting kids scifi fantasy movie. The sci-fi elements were a little far fetched, but that was nothing compared to the movie's portrayal of the Department of Homeland Security.

Let me set the scene: A brother and sister find technology transported from the future which they keep with them in their home.

One day, the kids activate the futuristic thingees and cause the whole northwestern US to have a power outage. The DHS traces the outage to their house, and immediately take the family in custody. So far, that makes sense.

The Fed's subsequently analyze the futuristic items and notice nanotechnology in them that the experts say humans are decades or centuries from acquiring. Not to mention they see the girl use the items to create an energy vortex of some sort right in front of them.

Then we get the wonderfully happy ending: The kids manage to escape, use the technology to create a time vortex to return 'untainted' genetic material (a girl's tear) to humankind of the future so that they can be saved from dying out from pollution. And the girl, who was almost pulled into the future, gets saved by her brother and returned safe to her parents.

And not only that - the family doesn't get locked up again, and is free to go, despite the Fed's seeing the unexplained time vortex and the use of unimaginable technology. That, under this government, is the most unbelievable thing about the movie. If only we lived in such a place.

Congressional Repub's Just Now "Speaking Out" on Iraq: Colbert Hits a Home Run

Tired of hearing people applaud Republicans for vague language about bringing back troops, when these same Republicans opposed Democratic efforts to do things that would actually have caused that to happen?

Then you'll be glad to see this Stephen Colbert piece (via the excellent C&L) on Dick Lugar's recent words about reducing troops in Iraq.

If all it takes to get Democrats excited is a Republican who's going to talk disengagement in Iraq - but who won't vote Yes on Democratic bills that will make that a reality - then they'll continue to get a free ride.

When we hear these sweet-sounding words, the first thing out of our mouths should be, "Where the hell were you when it mattered?", followed up with a reminder of when the next Democratic bill to stop the madness in Iraq will be coming to a vote and an invitation to get on board.


Horrible Preemption Provision Dropped from Energy Bill

While I wasn't paying attention, Speaker Pelosi got Dingell and Boucher to drop the language from the bill in their committee which would have forbidden the EPA from granting a waiver allowing California to put in place its own tailpipe emissions regulations. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.