Friday, July 29, 2005

John Bolton's Faulty Memory

More on John Bolton's faulty memory:
"When Mr. Bolton completed his forms for the Senate he did not recall being interviewed by the inspector general," Mr. McCormack said in a telephone interview Thursday. Mr. McCormack reiterated that Mr. Bolton had not been questioned by the grand jury in the leak investigation.
The latest disclosure about Mr. Bolton came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice strongly hinted that President Bush would bypass the Senate when Congress adjourns this weekend and temporarily appoint Mr. Bolton to the United Nations post. Another Republican official said Mr. Bush could name Mr. Bolton as early as next week, but the official would not let his name be used as the decision is Mr. Bush's.
Bolton was interviewed by the State Department's inspector general as part of the internal probe into the use of fabricated documents to support the claim that Iraq tried to buy African uranium -- the issue that started the whole Valerie Plame scandal. Apart from getting us into war using false intelligence, Bolton does plan to put things right:
Mr. McCormack responded that Mr. Bolton would correct the form.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The State Department to Biden re Bolton: Yes and No

Joe Biden got his question answered today -- twice as it turns out. In a letter to Condeleezza Rice, Biden asked if Bolton was being truthful when he answered "no" when asked if he had "been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative (including an inspector general), Congressional or grand jury investigation within the past 5 years, except routine Congressional testimony?" The State Department first said that John Bolton responded correctly to the questionaire, but reversed itself later in the day:
WASHINGTON - John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for U.N. ambassador, mistakenly told Congress he had not been interviewed or testified in any investigation over the past five years, the State Department said Thursday.
Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general in 2003 as part of a joint investigation with the Central Intelligence Agency into prewar Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said.
The admission came hours after another State Department official said Bolton had correctly answered a Senate questionnaire when he wrote that he has not testified to a grand jury or been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over the past five years.

Yes or No: Did Bolton Give Testimony in the Plame Case?

It's not a difficult question. MSNBC has reported that John Bolton appeared before the grand jury in the Valerie Plame case. Bolton's response to a broadly worded question ("Have you been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative (including an inspector general), Congressional or grand jury investigation within the past 5 years?") from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was "no".
Joe Biden would like an answer:
In a letter to Rice, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., referenced an MSNBC report from July 21 that Bolton was among State Department undersecretaries who "gave testimony" about a classified memo that has become an important piece of evidence in the leak investigation.
Biden asked Rice to tell the committee "whether Mr. Bolton did, in fact, appear before the grand jury, or whether he has been interviewed or otherwise asked to provide information by the special prosecutor or his staff in connection with this matter."
Think Progress has the letter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tom DeLay Inserts a $1.5 Billion Boondoggle into the Bush Energy Monstrosity

You might be justified in thinking that the energy monstrosity couldn't get any uglier, but Think Progress highlights a $1.5 billion boondoggle inserted into the energy bill by Tom DeLay after the conference committee met to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the bill. A letter from Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman to Speaker Dennis Hastert sums up this particularly egregious provision:
In short, the subtitle provides that taxpayers will hire a private consortium controlled by the oil and gas industry to hand out over $1 billion to oil and gas companies. There is no conceivable rationale for this extraordinary largesse.
As if there weren't enough reasons to defeat this appalling piece of legislation.

The Plot Thickens; the Probe Widens

The Washington Post reports that the probe into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity is more extensive than previously thought:
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.
Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.
In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed. (Emphasis added.)
Meanwhile, remember John Bolton? Steve Clemons provides us with this question from the Senate disclosure statement to which Bolton answered "no":
Interviews -- Have you been interviewed or asked to supply any information in connection with any administrative (including an inspector general), Congressional or grand jury investigation within the past 5 years, except routine Congressional testimony? If so, provide details.
Not so fast. MSNBC reported last week that Bolton was called before the grand jury:
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A witness who testified at the grand jury and lawyers for other witnesses say the memo was written in July of 2003, identified Valerie Wilson, also known as Valerie Plame, as a CIA officer, and cited her in a paragraph marked S for sensitive.
According to lawyers, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and undersecretaries, including John Bolton, gave testimony about this memo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bush's Energy Monstrosity Is Alive and Getting Uglier

The Times reports that the monstrosity known as the energy bill, which went nowhere for four years, is alive and getting uglier by the day:
The final version of the energy plan is certain to come under attack by some lawmakers and conservation groups who consider it too heavily skewed in favor of traditional oil and gas companies, which it showers with billions of dollars of aid and tax breaks at a time when high oil prices are producing huge profits.
As the nine-hour negotiating session was nearing an end, Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, failed in an effort to eliminate some of the relief from drilling royalties that the industry would receive through the bill, arguing that it was wrong to let oil companies escape fees for drilling on public land. "We might as well be giving tax breaks to Donald Trump and Warren Buffett here tonight,'' said Mr. Markey. The Republican-led House majority on the conference committee quickly rejected his proposal.
What the plan won't do is actually reduce oil demand:

In a disappointment for environmental advocates, House members on Monday rejected an effort to incorporate a plan passed by the Senate to require utilities to use more renewable energy like wind and solar power to generate electricity. They also defeated a bid to direct the president to find ways to cut the nation's appetite for oil by one million barrels a day within 10 years.
Backers of the initiative to identify the oil savings said it was an alternative to the politically difficult approach of increasing automotive gas mileage standards and would demonstrate that Congress was serious about cutting the nation's dependence on oil imports.
Energy companies have been waiting four years for this grab-bag of goodies, and they've managed just fine. Why we need to pay them to sell us gas at $2.40 a gallon escapes me.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Race for the Bottom or a Race for the Top?

We are used to discussing the dynamics of globlization leading to a race to the bottom, in terms of industry seeking locations with the lowest operating costs. It may seem counter-intuitive to ponder economic factors that lead industry to seek locations that, instead of having the lowest labor costs, promote higher productivity. Paul Krugman writes of the economic forces that contributed to Toyota's decision to build a new plant in Ontario, Canada instead of Alabama:
But last month Toyota decided to put the new plant, which will produce RAV4 mini-S.U.V.'s, in Ontario. Explaining why it passed up financial incentives to choose a U.S. location, the company cited the quality of Ontario's work force.
But there are other reports, some coming from state officials, that confirm his basic point: Japanese auto companies opening plants in the Southern U.S. have been unfavorably surprised by the work force's poor level of training

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Newspaper of Record Summarizes the Valerie Plame Affair

The New York Times today lives up to its standard as the newspaper of record by publishing a trio of pieces that sum up the Valerie Plame affair, including an assessment by Frank Rich of how last week's rushed Supreme Court nomination couldn't keep the story off the front pages:
When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its "last throes."
Rich believes that the initial delay in securing records in the affair may have cost Alberto Gonzales a seat on the Supreme Court:
A new Gonzales confirmation process now would have quickly devolved into a neo-Watergate hearing. Mr. Gonzales was in the thick of the Plame investigation, all told, for 16 months.
Rich concludes by returning to the central story of this tangled affair:
Mr. Wilson's charge had such force that just three days after its publication, Mr. Bush radically revised his language about W.M.D.'s. Saddam no longer had W.M.D.'s; he had a W.M.D. "program." Right after that George Tenet suddenly decided to release a Friday-evening statement saying that the 16 errant words about African uranium "should never have been included" in the January 2003 State of the Union address - even though those 16 words could and should have been retracted months earlier. By the next State of the Union, in January 2004, Mr. Bush would retreat completely, talking not about finding W.M.D.'s or even W.M.D. programs, but about "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Plot Thickens

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note has picked up an interesting nugget on John Bolton and Judith Miller:
TWN has just learned from a highly placed source -- and in the right place to know -- that John Bolton was a regular source for Judith Miller's New York Times WMD and national security reports.

File under Get a Life

Convincing evidence that Rush wannabe Mike Gallagher is just the blowhard at the local pub who won't let go of an argument and clearly hasn't got a life comes from Dana Garrett of Delaware Watch. As if spreading his exhalations over the airwaves three hours a day isn't enough, Gallagher returned to post snotty comments on Dana's blog not once but twice last week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wes Clark Is 4 for 4 at Daily Kos and MyDD

Once again, Wes Clark has won the straw poll at Daily Kos (the June results are in parentheses):
Clark 34 (26)
No Freakin' Clue 13 (17)
Clinton 10 (10)
Feingold 10 (10)
Edwards 7 (8)
Warner 5 (5)
Richardson 4 (4)
Other 4 (7)
Biden 3 (3)
Kerry 2 (2)
Bayh 2 (2)
Vilsack 0 (0)
Clark has come out way ahead twice at Daily Kos and at MyDD. Kos comments:
Clark's improvement this month may be a GOTV victory, or it may mean that those who voted "other" last time in the hopes that Dean or Gore might enter the fray decided to be more realistic this time and choose between the pseudo-confirmed candidates.
As for GOTV, I've heard no hint of a such an effort (no email, formal or informal) from the Clark organization. Even as one who supported Clark last time around, I'm just a bit surprised at his popularity among the "chosen few who think it's fun to talk about this sort of thing 3 years out from the election," as Kos puts it.

Another Example of Technology Corrupting Nature

As if cell phones going off in public weren't annoying enough, German ornithologists say that birds are imitating cell phone ring tones. Boing Boing directs us to the story from the Indo-Asian News Service:
The birds were simply adapting to their environment in imitating human sounds in what he termed an "evolutionary playground".
Many of the more common ring tones are themselves imitations of bird calls, so the birds are in some instances mimicking another species.
There is some consolation for those who can't stand the sound of cell phones:
Mobile phone users who have ring tones from pop music will, however, not find themselves reaching for their phones in error when a bird calls. The birds cannot imitate these complex melodies, only the simpler ring tones.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

John C. Roberts Jr.: I Saw It on the Internet

MSNBC and Drudge are saying it's John C. Roberts Jr. Here's his bio from dKosopedia.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Once Again, it's General Clark

Once again, Wes Clark has convincingly won an online straw poll, in this case the second one at MyDD:
Evan Bayh 60 votes - 3 %
Joe Biden 41 votes - 2 %
Wesley Clark 584 votes - 32 %
Hillary Clinton 216 votes - 11 %
John Edwards 144 votes - 7 %
Russ Feingold 256 votes - 14 %
John Kerry 82 votes - 4 %
Bill Richardson 101 votes - 5 %
Mark Warner 193 votes - 10 %
Other 144 votes - 7 %
1821 Total Votes

Karl Rove: Fighting Back on eBay

The ever resourceful supporters of Karl Rove have turned to eBay to get their message out. These attractive stickers were put up for sale for only $5.99 +1.45 S&H. Unfortunately, time ran out and the item has not been relisted at the time of this posting.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Beyond the Karl Rove Frenzy

With the frenzy surrounding Karl Rove, The Washington Note highlights this post from by way of reminding us that there's more to come and that Rove is not likely to be at the center of the Plame scandal. The Karl Rove talking points have been about Rove himself and about tearing down Joseph Wilson, which is how this whole thing got started. As Steve Clemons points out, unlike other investigations, we are far from hearing all that the grand jury has heard:
[Special prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald has run the tightest ship that I remember among a long list of independent prosecutors.
A recap in today's Washington Post indicates that Fitzgerald is conducting thorough inverstigation:
Lawyers who have sat in on the prosecutors' interviews said Fitzgerald cast a wide net, adopting a broad view of the case. Some witnesses were asked only about the initial disclosure, others about possible misstatements during the investigative phase. Some were brought in several times. Rove, for example, was grilled by FBI agents twice in formal meetings and asked to respond to questions in informal settings, and appeared three times before the grand jury -- all between October 2003 and October 2004, said a person familiar with his testimony.
Frank Rich, in a column titled "Follow the Uranium," sees the Karl Rove frenzy as just one of several sub-plots in a larger story:
To see the main plot, you must sweep away the subplots, starting with the Cooper e-mail. It has been brandished as a smoking gun by Bush bashers and as exculpatory evidence by Bush backers (Mr. Rove, you see, was just trying to ensure that Time had its facts straight). But no one knows what this e-mail means unless it's set against the avalanche of other evidence, most of it secret, including what Mr. Rove said in three appearances before the grand jury. Therein lies the rub, or at least whatever case might be made for perjury.
Stay tuned.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Homeland Security Dept. to Rail Passengers: You're on Your Own

Evidently, the federal government's responsibility for homeland security stops when you step on a train or bus. The News Journal reports:
Called before the Senate to testify Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told senators that states -- not the federal government -- were responsible for ensuring the safety of passenger rail, bus and subway systems.
Delaware's congressional delegation (all of whom ride Amtrak to and from Washington every day) hoped they could boost rail security in the aftermath of the London train bombings:
Biden, who has had no luck pushing his own plan to pump $1.2 billion into rail security alone, said last year's deadly terrorist attack on a Madrid train station should have been a wake-up call about the vulnerability of the nation's mass transit system. But thousands of people a day still pass through Baltimore's Civil War-era tunnel, which has no ventilation or escape routes if terrorists decide to unleash a chemical weapon, and thousands more pass through Washington's Union Station without passing under a single security camera.
"Go down there, Mr. President," Biden said. "Get on a train with me, as I do every night. ... Tell me whether or not you see any security. Tell me whether or not you see any guards."
Could you imagine Tony Blair telling Parliament that protecting rail passengers is not his job?

Among the Idiots Surrounding Mike Gallagher

Folks from across the political spectrum surrounded the Ninth Street Book Shop to show their support or disapproval of Rush wannabee Mike Gallagher, who was taping his show in Wilmington to shill for his book, Surrounded By Idiots. Gallagher is not known for his nuanced positions on the issues, as you can see from this blurb from his website:
The left has targeted every value and standard, principle and idea, concept of God, family, honor, duty, country, and decency that we hold dear. As the nation battles for its very soul in this post-9/11 world, we have Mike Gallagher to help fight against the agenda-driven liberal lunatics.

Schwarzenegger Magazine Deal: "It's a contract on steroids."

The NYT reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger's consulting contract with a magazine publisher will earn him at least $5 million:
Much of that advertising is for nutritional supplements and other performance-enhancing products.
That is attracting scrutiny because Mr. Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill last year that would have tried to restrict the use of performance-enhancing supplements by high school athletes.
The Governator's spokesman, Rob Stutzman, downplayed the importance of the revelation, noting that the contract had been reviewed. "Only the compensation was new to the public, Mr. Stutzman said." No kidding.
The consulting agreement, including the amount and structure of the compensation is detailed in an 8-K form filed yesterday with the SEC by American Media Operations, Inc.:
Under the five-year contract, Oak Productions, Mr. Schwarzenegger's company, is to receive 1 percent of the net print advertising revenues of Weider Publications. But the payment must be at least $1 million a year.
Mr. Schwarzenegger has also been granted "phantom equity," a way of sharing in the growth of the value of the company. The equity could become worth 1 percent of the company's value, which was stated at the time of the contract as $520 million.
In the governor's financial disclosure form for 2004, required of public officials, American Media is listed as a source of income, but no amount is disclosed.
Disclosure of the deal also raised eyebrows in the publishing community. "It's a contract on steroids," said Chip Block, a longtime publishing industry consultant. "I have never heard of a magazine company paying this kind of money to a contributor, including a royalty on advertising."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Serious Money, Serious Time

Former WorldCom CEO Bernard J. Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years for securities fraud, conspiracy and seven counts of filing false reports with regulators stemming from the $11 billion accounting fraud that is considered the largest in history. Ebbers' attorney, Reid Weingarten, tried to downplay the significance of the numbers in this morning's hearing:
During the hearing this morning, Mr. Ebbers' lawyer said that it was difficult to put a figure on the losses to the company or investors.
The judge responded: "The loss figure in this case, it seems to me, in no way can be said to overstate the seriousness of the fraud."

Let's Surround this Idiot

Mike Gallagher--a low rent Rush wannabee--will be broadcasting his show from Ninth Street Book Store in Wilmington on Friday from 9:00 to 2:00 as part of the tour for his book, Surrounded by Idiots. Jack and Gemma Buckley, who own Ninth Street Books, don't care much for Gallagher but do believe in open political discourse. So they would love to surround Gallagher with folks who represent Delaware's good old-fashioned, mainstream blue state views.
Here's a juicy tidbit from his website:
The left has targeted every value and standard, principle and idea, concept of God, family, honor, duty, country, and decency that we hold dear. As the nation battles for its very soul in this post-9/11 world, we have Mike Gallagher to help fight against the agenda-driven liberal lunatics.
I couldn't care less about the guy. But if you're looking for some good clean fun, come out
on Friday and jeer him on.

Wes Clark on Winning against Terrorism

Wes Clark offers some cogent thoughts on fighting terrorism in yesterday's USA Today:

Relentless pressure by the CIA, Special Forces and many other national intelligence and police efforts has made the old, centralized structure of al-Qaeda unworkable.
And we need to keep up the pressure. But al-Qaeda's new threat is decentralized. Thursday's attacks in London have all the earmarks of such a "franchise" operation, locally planned and resourced with relatively modest means, emulating al-Qaeda without the vulnerabilities of centralized resourcing and direction.
Preventing attacks probably can't be accomplished by the administration's preference for taking out "state sponsors." And it's going to be very difficult to employ military means. National intelligence efforts, special police activities and local community policing efforts, which focus on identifying and targeting terrorist individuals and organizations, are required.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Why Bush Doesn't Want to Fire Rove

Marshall Wittman at Bull Moose points out why George Bush will find it hard to fire Karl Rove:
For Bush to get rid of Rove would be like Charlie McCarthy firing Edgar Bergen.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
That's Charlie on the left. (Photo credit:

Monday, July 11, 2005

Karl Rove has not credibly explained his activities.

Two years ago today, Karl Rove tried to impeach the credibility of Joseph Wilson in a conversation with Time reporter Matt Cooper. In doing so, he publicly identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative. Wilson had published an oped in the NYT that clearly refuted the claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from an African source.
George Bush made that claim in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.
Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities.
Commentators are focusing on the minutia of whether Karl Rove broke the law when he outed Ms. Plame, but the greater issue of his conduct remains. Simply put, Karl Rove has not credibly explained his activities.

Public Reports and Secret Memos

David Broder points out that Donald Rumsfeld owes Congress a progress report on Iraq--and it's due today:
Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a "comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security" two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, responding to my inquiry, said last week, "We are working toward completing the report by the due date."
I've heard no word of the report yet, but there is a secret plan to reduce troop levels:
LONDON, July 10 -- The United States and Britain are drawing up plans to withdraw the majority of their troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, according to a secret memo written for British Prime Minister Tony Blair by Defense Secretary John Reid.
The paper, which is marked "Secret -- UK Eyes Only," said "emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006," allowing a reduction in overall U.S.-led forces in Iraq to 66,000 troops.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Karl Rove Talked About Valerie Plame to Time Reporter Matt Cooper

Having reviewed Matt Cooper's notes from his conversation with Karl Rove, Michael Isikoff at Newsweek reports that Rove gave the Time reporter Valerie Plame's name on July 11, 2003:
Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by "DCIA"—CIA Director George Tenet—or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip." Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.) The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: "not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger ... "
Robert Novak's column outing Plame went on the wires that same day.

Ollabelle and Angel Band with David Bromberg in Arden

Ollabelle played to an enthusiastic crowd at yesterday's Arden Music Festival. Below we see Fiona McBain and Amy Helm singing with their characteristic intensity:
Terry O'Byrne, Candice O'Byrne and Nancy Josephson of the (aptly named) Angel Band gave the audience a demonstration of their rich harmonies:
Wilmington's own David Bromberg, who plays with Angel Band, joined Ollabelle on guitar and mandolin. Angel Band will be playing the Philly Folk Fest in August.
The Arden Concert Gild brings great music from around the world to a comfortable setting throughout the year.

Friday, July 08, 2005

On second thought...

Here's something that escaped my attention when it happened:
WASHINGTON - Three weeks before London's bus and subway bombings, a Senate committee voted to slash spending on mass transit security in the United States, a decision sure to be reversed when Congress returns next week.
Good idea. Also in the category of well-considered second thoughts, Joe Scarborough last night asked a question we should all ponder:
Have we taken our eyes off the ball again on terrorism and instead focusing on things that aren't as important?
This via The Daily Howler which, with its customary and sometimes disquieting interest in the facts of the matter, ran down Joe's show from the night before:
Full list of segments on Scarborough Country—July 6, 2005:
*Interview with NBC’s Ron Blome in Aruba.
*Bullying interview with John Merryweather, former Aruban diplomat.
*Interview with Linda Allison, aunt of Natalee Holloway.
*Interview with Paul Reynolds, uncle of Natalee Holloway. (The program was now half over.)
*Interview with Tim Miller, who is searching for Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
*Video clip of Steven Groene, speaking about his kidnapped daughter, Shasta Groene.
*Interview with “legal expert” Stacey Honowitz about the Shasta Groene matter.
*Interview with Bernie Goldberg about his latest liberal-bashing book.
*Live pictures of Hurricane Dennis.
Rarely is the question asked, is our media learning?

Catching up on Business News: AIG Hires Arthur Levitt as Advisor

The week has flown by, but here's a story I didn't want to slip by without comment. AIG, which fired its longtime CEO Maurice Greenberg in the wake of an accounting scandal, hired former SEC chief Arthur Levitt to advise the company on how to recover from its troubles:
"He will advise AIG on a wide range of corporate governance matters, work with AIG as it seeks to recruit the best qualified directors to represent all AIG shareholders and assist AIG as it reaches out to all of its shareholders," said AIG President and Chief Executive Martin Sullivan.
After reviewing questionable reinsurance contracts, AIG restated $3.9 billion in revenue over the last five years. AIG has done what any corporation needs to do in similar circumstances: acknowledge the problem, take steps to correct the problem, and convince the public that there isn't more bad news coming. Hiring Levitt, who was an unabashed champion of shareholder rights while at the SEC, is a step that is sure to create more confidence in the company. The stock has recovered some of it's lost ground since it fell from $73.46 to $49.91 earlier this year, closing at $60.05 today.
(Disclosure: I bought some AIG shares this spring after concluding that it's core business was still sound. Not that anyone cares what I think.)

Appointments with Destiny

What kind of Supreme Court appointments can we expect, and how will the debates be shaping up, given the expected resignation of Chief Justice Renquist? Josh Marshall's opinion that Bush can't push through two really awful nominees in the same season seems plausible to me:
Perhaps another way to put this is that I think it would be much easier for President Bush to push through one hard-right nominee now and another next spring or next summer than it will be for him to push twice at once.
Steve Clemons believes that John Bolton (remember him?) may never get to the UN because of the looming fights on the horizon:
There are now so many complicating factors building that the White House can ill afford to allow this nomination-ulcer to keep bleeding.
The White House must deal with Karl Rove's complicity in the Valerie Plame outing. This issue could easily backfire on President Bush who -- at the time -- demanded to know who the villain among his staff was who would compromise American national security by this petty and vindictive exposure of Plame's CIA identity.
All in all, I think the Democrats in Congress have done a pretty good job of standing up against the more extreme policies and nominees coming from the White House and are in a stronger position today than they were six months ago.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Streets of London

Here's today's front page from The Guardian:

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"The culture of unaccountability"

Over at TPM Cafe, Joe Wilson, husband of outed CIA operative Valerie Plame, reminds us that the fuss over reporters Matt Cooper and Judith Miller is at it's core a question of government officials refusing to take responsibility for their actions:
The sentencing of Judith Miller to jail for refusing to disclose her sources is the direct result of the culture of unaccountability that infects the Bush White House from top to bottom. President Bush’s refusal to enforce his own call for full cooperation with the Special Counsel has brought us to this point. Clearly, the conspiracy to cover up the web of lies that underpinned the invasion of Iraq is more important to the White House than coming clean on a serious breach of national security. Thus has Ms Miller joined my wife, Valerie, and her twenty years of service to this nation as collateral damage in the smear campaign launched when I had the temerity to challenge the President on his assertion that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa.

London Wins Bid for 2012 Olympics

London staged a come from behind victory over front-runner Paris in the competition to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Olympian Sebastian Coe led the British delegation:
"It's just the most fantastic opportunity to do everything we ever dreamed of in British sport. This was the most splendid team performance," bid leader and former twice Olympic champion Sebastian Coe said on Wednesday.
"We are taking home the biggest prize in sport."
The IOC had whittled the field down from five cities to two:
Moscow was eliminated in the first round of voting, New York in the second and Madrid in the third.
Earlier the five cities all had their hour in the spotlight before the IOC session.
London and Paris both sent their political heavyweights to Singapore to help turn the vote in their favor.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Shooting at Shooting Stars

Calling it a "smashing success," NASA reports that its 820-pound Deep Impact probe collided with comet Tempel 1 at 1:52 am July 4, creating some very cool fireworks:
This spectacular image of comet Tempel 1 was taken 67 seconds after it obliterated Deep Impact's impactor spacecraft.
This spectacular image of comet Tempel 1 was taken 67 seconds after it obliterated Deep Impact's impactor spacecraft. The image was taken by the high-resolution camera on the mission's flyby craft. Scattered light from the collision saturated the camera's detector, creating the bright splash seen here. Linear spokes of light radiate away from the impact site, while reflected sunlight illuminates most of the comet surface. The image reveals topographic features, including ridges, scalloped edges and possibly impact craters formed long ago.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

Modernizing Japanese Savings Accounts

Japan in many ways has been an effcient modern economy since World War II and earlier. But the postal system's monopoly on financial and insurance services endures, especially in rural communities. If you can imagine local post offices across the country handling 20% of all personal savings in old fashioned passbook savings accounts, you have an inkling of the amount of capital managed by Japan Post. Yesterday, the lower house of Parliament narrowly approved a measure to privatize the postal system:
The legislation calls for dividing state-run Japan Post into separate businesses for mail delivery, banking services and insurance starting in 2007. A fourth company would handle employee salaries and manage post office properties. All four companies would be grouped under a holding company at first, but the umbrella organization would then sell its shares in the banking and insurance enterprises by 2017.
The postal system's insurance and savings accounts pay low interest, even by Japanese standards. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hopes to unlock the capital within Japan Post:
Japan's sprawling postal service controls 330 trillion yen ($3 trillion) in savings accounts and insurance deposits in a nation of the world's biggest savers.

Monday, July 04, 2005

When in the Course of human events

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unaminous Declaration of the thirteen united State of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

[New Hampshire] Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
[Massachusetts] John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
[Rhode Island] Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
[Connecticut] Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
[New York] William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
[New Jersey] Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
[Pennsylvania] Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
[Delaware] Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
[Maryland] Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
[Virginia] George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
[North Carolina] William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
[South Carolina] Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
[Georgia] Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Main Event

I'm not one for watching sports (OK, I did watch the Super Bowl) with one exception: the Tour de France, which starts tomorrow. Lance Armstrong (shown following former teammate Floyd Landis and with rival Jan Ulrich on his wheel) is favored to win a seventh consecutive Tour.

Thanks to the once obscure OLN, which otherwise features fishing and bull riding, I'll be glued to the screen morning and evening for 23 days as the cyclists circle France, starting in Fromentine in the West, over the Alps and the Pyrenees, and ending in Paris on July 24.
Lance may have his strongest team yet for his last bike race. Four teammates have posted victories this season including Yaroslav Popovych in the Tour of Catalunya and Paolo Savoldelli in the Giro d'Italia.