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:: Friday, June 04, 2004 ::

Why hire a lawyer?

John Dean has a good take on Bush's hiring an outside lawyer. (I'm particularly amused at the fact that he's forced to use outside counsel because of Kenneth Starr. What goes around, comes around):
It is possible that Bush is consulting Sharp only out of an excess of caution - despite the fact that he knows nothing of the leak, or of any possible coverup of the leak. But that's not likely.

On this subject, I spoke with an experienced former federal prosecutor who works in Washington, specializing in white collar criminal defense (but who does not know Sharp). That attorney told me that he is baffled by Bush's move - unless Bush has knowledge of the leak. "It would not seem that the President needs to consult personal counsel, thereby preserving the attorney-client privilege, if he has no knowledge about the leak," he told me.

What advice might Bush get from a private defense counsel? The lawyer I consulted opined that, "If he does have knowledge about the leak and does not plan to disclose it, the only good legaladvice would be to take the Fifth, rather than lie. The political fallout is a separate issue."

I raised the issue of whether the President might be able to invoke executive privilege as to this information. But the attorney I consulted - who is well versed in this area of law -- opined that "Neither 'outing' Plame, nor covering for the perpetrators would seem to fall within the scope of any executive privilege that I am aware of."
If Bush authorized the leak, he's screwed. If Bush found out later who leaked, but didn't come forward, he's screwed. If Bush helped cover up the leak, he's screwed. Hell, he's probably screwed even if all he did was ensure he didn't know who leaked. If he didn't know anything and still doesn't, I'm a bit unsure why he needs a lawyer. It's not like he's facing Kenneth Starr.

Hell, I'd hire a lawyer if Kenneth Starr came after me, and I know I've never diddled a Washington intern.

(Note: The original version of this post referenced some speculation that "Bush knew". Upon closer examination, the source was Capital Hill Blue, which I don't trust. Pending corroboration, I retracted it).

:: Morat 7:34 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 03, 2004 ::

Interesting few days..

Well, I've been a bit busy lately -- I'm sure you can tell. However, I would like to sum up the last few days, just for a feel of the "Big Picture". So, without further ado -- and in no particular order -- are the highlights of the last few days.Wow. That's, well..that's bad, really.

Our President is happily embroiled in two cases of treason committed by members of his Administration (burning a CIA operative and telling a foreign national some sensitive signals information).

Things in Iraq are going so swimmingly that we're extending the stop-loss order (looks like that June 30th handoff is going to be long on symbolism, short of effectiveness) and we've managed to get one Iraqi President blown up...and the other chosen over the wishes of the one guy over there who isn't blinded by ideology or greed.

Yeah, I can feel the honor and dignity Bush is restoring to the White House. And, man, the sweet smell of victory is just hovering over that place.
:: Morat 10:32 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 ::

U.N. envoy urges Iraqis to back government

I'd say this is not the best sign:
A special U.N. envoy urged Iraqis on Wednesday to accept the new interim government and to work toward national elections -- the next major step in the country's advance toward democratic government.
I suppose how much of this "urging" is typical government-speak (after all, you can't please everyone, and interim government's like this are even worse) and how much is worried speculation remains unknown.

I'd imagine it will boil down to how well the Iraqis (Shia, Sunni, and Kurds) feel this interim government represents them, and whether they like the looks of where things are going.

I -- obviously -- don't share Bush's faux enthusiasm for the handover date. Symbolic gesture or not, I'd expect that ethnic tensions will begin to rise in Iraq as the new government takes shape. Few Iraqis are going to be thrilled with the interim puppet government. I'd imagine even fewer will be happy with the proposed permanent one.
:: Morat 12:39 PM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 ::

Brad DeLong, Health Care, and You

Brad DeLong takes a glance at Kerry's Health Care proposal and likes what he sees:
The Clinton health care reform effort is a decade dead. But now the Kerry campaign has dusted off and brought forward a very clever idea from Brandeis's Stuart Altman to not eliminate but at least diminish the magnitude of these two ways that market-based health-care reforms self-destruct. The idea? Have the government take its task of social insurance seriously, and reinsure private insurers and HMOs: construct a 'premium rebate' pool to pay annual health-care bills over $50,000. This greatly diminishes the cost to insurers and HMOs of covering the really sick. The cost of treating the really sick will then be on the taxpayer rather than on the insurance-purchasing consumer. Insurance rates will fall. And the incentive for the young without many assets to go naked and uninsured will diminish as well.

Thus two of the big problems with our health care system become smaller problems. If this plan is enacted, we will no longer have to worry as much (i) adverse selection--the enormous financial incentives HMOs and insurance companies have to figure out some way not to cover the sick people--and (ii) cost shifting--the fact that those who buy insurance have to pay not only their own routine costs and their own catastrophic costs but the catastropic costs of others and the uninsured as well. The first means that--often--those who need health care the most have a hard time getting it. The second means that--often--those who could afford or would buy insurance if it were priced at its fair actuarial value don't because of this cost shifting.

It's a serious and clever proposal. It's a proposal for the government to do something--risk spreading--for which it has, potentially at least, a powerful comparative advantage. And it's a government program that would significantly diminish the market failures that gum up the private sector health care market.
I don't really have much -- or anything -- to add to this (story of my life, it seems) but figured it was well worth pointing out. I'm more than a little lost when it comes to navigating the health care issues in America.

About all I know is my premiums seem to go up every year, and seem to cover less. And that's with good insurance, through a major corporation. Every time I look at the plans offered by smaller companies (or, God forbid, many school districts) I tend to shudder...
:: Morat 1:21 PM :: ::

John Kerry intern scandal - Alexandra Polier's account

Even though I wasn't a fan of Kerry's at the time (I'm still not, really. But God knows he'll be about ten million times more competent than Bush could even dream of), I'm glad to see this went nowhere, and glad to see someone is finally publishing her side of the story. I wasn't quick to dismiss it when it came out (Drudge does occasionally -- well, at least once in a blue moon -- get things right) and I admit my support of Dean undoubtably made me more likely to wonder if it might be true (at the time, I was still pretty sore over Iowa....)

But, in the long run, I'm glad to see this went nowhere. And I feel quite sorry for Ms. Polier and the crap Drudge and his ilk put her through, and think they owe her -- and Kerry -- a big apology.

As for myself: My apologies to both of you for not dismissing it out of hand. I should have realized earlier that Drudge was talking nonsense again.
:: Morat 12:58 PM :: ::

Really bad Apples...

David Adesnik makes a nice catch:
The WaPo has an interesting analysis of the time stamps on the Abu Ghraib prison photo. One fact that really struck me was that soldiers in the 372nd began to abuse prisoners within two days of arriving at Abu Ghraib.

That being the case, it's very hard to imagine how the abuse could have taken place without some sort of green light from either military intelligence or superior officers. Yes, it is possible that these few soldiers were so sadistic that they leapt at the opportunity to commit human rights violations. But the alternative is too compelling to be ruled out.
Looks like those "Few Bad Apples" soured pretty damn quickly, eh?

Seriously, I wonder how long the Pentagon will push the "few bad apples" theory? And I wonder who had control of that section of Abu Ghraib before the 372nd? (Link via Political Animal)
:: Morat 10:54 AM :: ::

Dooh Nibor Economics

Krugman writes about the latest leak from Washington. You know, the one where the OMB is directing agencies to prepare for post-election cuts? Cuts in Head Start, Homeland Security, and other fun programs?
Does Mr. Bush understand that the end result of his policies will be to make most Americans worse off, while enriching the already affluent? Who knows? But the ideologues and political operatives behind his agenda know exactly what they're doing.

Of course, voters would never support this agenda if they understood it. That's why dishonesty -- as illustrated by the administration's consistent reliance on phony accounting, and now by the business with the budget cut memo-- is such a central feature of the White House political strategy.

Right now, it seems that the 2004 election will be a referendum on Mr. Bush's calamitous foreign policy. But something else is at stake: whether he and his party can lock in the unassailable political position they need to proceed with their pro-rich, anti-middle-class economic strategy. And no, I'm not engaging in class warfare. They are.
Credit Card conservatives. There really isn't a better term for the Bush fiscal plan. Free money now, stick us with the bill later. Except most of the money is going to those already wealthy, and most of the bill is going to those who can't afford it.
:: Morat 9:31 AM :: ::

3rd of detainees who died were assaulted

I think we're officially at an entire barrel of bad apples:
More than a third of the prisoners who died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were shot, strangled or beaten by U.S. personnel before they died, according to death certificates and a high-ranking U.S. military official.

The military official, who has direct knowledge of ongoing Pentagon investigations of the deaths, said that 15 of 37 prisoners who have died since December 2002 appear to have been killed or put in grave danger by U.S. troops or interrogators. In some cases, the immediate cause of death was listed as a heart attack, but that was in turn caused by a beating.
The article goes onto note that some of the cases have been cleared. Four of the deaths, for instance, occurred when guards shot prisoners during a riot at Abu Ghraib in November of 2003. USA Today doesn't speculate on why the prisoners were rioting, but I'd imagine that the sexual abuse, beatings, dog attacks, and torture might have had something to do with it.

The article catalogs the death: 6 dead from "blunt force trauma" (beatings), 4 from poor airflow (asphixia, strangulation, smothering), 9 from heart disease or heat-related problems.

So far one soldier has been disciplined. He was dishonorably discharged.

I wonder how long the military will continue to vote for Republicans? Most officers (the ones I've met, leastwise) take pride in the professionalism and standards of the military. I don't think this is the sort of service they'll take pride in.
:: Morat 9:12 AM :: ::

Texas Tuesdays: Chet Edwards

Texas Tuesdays is profiling Chet Edwards (17th District) today. Go check it out!

For the record, I think Texas Tuesdays is a great resource to those of us living in Texas, and hope similar sites spring up for the other 49 states. Nothing beats an informed electorate.
:: Morat 8:40 AM :: ::

:: Monday, May 31, 2004 ::

Just a note..

One day, I am going to hunt down the person responsible for the browser hijack I spent all weekend cleaning off my system.

Then I am going to personally beat seven kinds of hell out of him, then appeal to the general internet community to pay for my legal bills.

And you know what? If I can capture the beating on video, I think I'll get it. Those things are annoying as all hell.

On the other hand, if you're facing a nasty browser redirect (like a fun home-page hijacking), email me. I've had to do a lot of research this weekend....
:: Morat 6:18 PM :: ::

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