Friday, April 28, 2006

The Imminence Of Iran

Today was the day the United Nations received a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding Iran's actions in regards to enriching uranium. Here's the first report from the New York Times, "Iran Is Not Cooperating, Agency Says". Without going into extreme detail, the article makes mention, "that after more than three years of an IAEA investigation, 'the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern.'" It would appear that the IAEA is looking for more information on the enrichment process, and not getting the answers they want.

Then comes this fine quote from America's representative at the U.N.:
''I think if anything, the IAEA report shows that Iran has accelerated its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, although, of course, the report doesn't make any conclusions in that regard,'' Bolton said.

His statement at first implies that the report "shows" that Iran is after nuclear weapons, and the second portion of his statement is a concession that the report does not say this. Interesting.

Further rattling of cages in the Mideast to follow.

Match this action against cooler heads that might say "not so fast", such as David Isenberg's opinion piece published at and the Center for Defense Information entitled, "Saber Rattling Backed Up by Weak Intelligence." A quick passage:
Even if all the questions are answerable, much would still depend on having excellent intelligence. And our intelligence on Iran, to put it politely, stinks. U.S. News & World Report recently reported that Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said that, “we have not made the progress on our oversight of Iran intelligence, which is critical.” Last year, the report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction stated, “From Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons to the inner workings of al-Qaida, the intelligence community frequently admitted to us that it lacks answers.”

The United States will be planning future actions that are based on insufficient intelligence, or so it appears.

These are precisely the same type of arguments that would lead the United States into a sticky civil war in Iraq. The policy driving an attack on Iran would undoubtedly not follow that model - which quite possibly would leave the door open for a uniquely different Rumsfeldian blunder in Iran.

Iran may well be doing research which would lead them to a nuclear bomb. It may also be doing research which may lead to nuclear energy for its country. How much more difficult will this confrontation be when the Administration tries to bully Iran into doing what the U.S. wants?

About as difficult as affording a barrel of oil at $100-plus.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Five Times Too Many

Just yesterday, Karl Rove returned to the federal grand jury for a fifth time. That is not good news and it only allows critics to wonder whether his change in job duties was to allow him more time to prepare his legal defenses. This is not to say that being called before a grand jury is a sign of wrongdoing, but making multiple passes makes conflicting testimony possible.

Jason Leopold puts forward some ideas on what might be going on behind the scenes in the Valerie Wilson (Plame) CIA leak case to which Rove now is becoming a more prominent figure. Leopold's sources would suggest that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald knew he the originators of the leak were over a year ago, but the process of obtaining information from reporters prolonged the case.

In addition, much more attention is being paid to John Hannah, currently a senior national security aide in the Vice President's office. It may have been Hannah that gave Fitzgerald's investigation the pointer towards Irving Lewis Libby and Karl Rove. From the sound of the entire article, it was this lead and the reporters' own testimony that led to Libby's and Rove's desks.

It remains to be seen if the Vice President's Chief of Staff David Addington will put Hannah up for promotion.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Can It Get Any Worse?

The President, his Administration, and his policies are all suffering intensely during the spring of 2006. The phrase "new low" must be recurring far too often at the White House. Poll numbers have consistently fallen over the past twelve months to the now dismal 33% level. Can it go down even further from here?

As noted in the poll, it is now a first that Republican support for the President has dipped below the 70% number. To see further movement in these polls, it will likely be from the Republican side of the polling data as 11% of Democrats approve of the job the President is doing.

It appears that there will be little in the way of legislation that a GOP-controlled Congress will take on given the certain unpopularity of the President throughout 2006. Even if the White House manages to fend off a lurch to the Left in either or both houses of the legislative branch, there might be a few state legislatures that line up articles of impeachment.

Will George W. Bush find poll numbers dipping into the 20s soon?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Democracy, Mayhem And Destruction - Not Necessarily In That Order

To be certain that things are continuing to get worse, Patrick Cockburn penned this passage about the current conditions in Iraq. Some brief excerpts:
"I have been covering the war in Iraq ever since it began three years ago and I have never seen the situation so grim. More than a week ago, I was in the northern city of Mosul, protected by 3,000 Kurdish soldiers, but even so it was considered too dangerous to send out patrols in daytime. It is safer at night because of a curfew."

"I was in Lebanon at the start of the civil war in 1975. Baghdad today resembles Beirut then. People are being murdered solely because of their religious identity. A friend called to say he had a problem because his two half brothers had been born in Fallujah, the Sunni Muslim stronghold, and this was on their identity cards. If they were picked up by Shiite militiamen, a glance at their place of birth alone could get them killed."

And the conclusion of his piece:
"Three years ago, when Saddam's statue was toppled, Iraqis were promised their lives would get better. Instead Iraq has become the most dangerous place in the world."

When the nightly news in the U.S. begins to frame the news from Iraq as coming from the site of a civil war, only then will the American public begin to understand the full brunt of the cost that this escapade has incurred to both countries. The canard that President Bush often repeated, "We're fighting them over there so we don't have to face them here," is a falacy of epic proportions. Over top of that falacious reasoning, it carries the logic of, "We'll raze your country to buy an ounce of security for ours."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Making It Up As We Go Along

It must be terribly difficult to find the sunny side of things in the White House this year. So little has gone right in the first three months that the success of Associate Justice Alito being confirmed to the Supreme Court might be measured by light years.

To wit, Americans may find it difficult to swallow that a document or state secret stays secret only until it becomes politically convenient to release it. Worse still, the decision to declassify is soley based on a need to repel a story or criticism and otherwise might just as well stay secret.

President Bush stands accused of such a ploy via Irving Lewis Libby's testimony before the grand jury. A brief excerpt:
The presidential authorisation prompted Mr Libby to disclose the information - taken from the government's secret National Intelligence Estimate - to Ms Miller at a meeting in July 2003, at the St Regis hotel in Washington DC.

It was during Mr Libby's several meetings with Ms Miller that he was accused of disclosing the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA operative married to former US ambassador Joseph Wilson.

It is always helpful to bear in mind the history of what transpired during 2003 when a war had been won, an insurgency had been birthed, and a pesky diplomat was suggesting that stories about Niger were debunked months prior to a State of the Union address.

Juan Cole provides such a timeline, with pictures no less.

The executive branch does have latitude when administering the laws of the land - it was supposed to as per Article II of the Constitution. The designers of that austere document might never have known that the Chief Executive would resort to pettiness when making decisions for the good of the entire country. Actually, maybe they did conceive of such leaders.

There is always Section 4. of Article II.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Immigration In The U.S.A.

Molly Ivins had an insightful tongue-in-cheek commentary regarding the immigration issue currently on the political talk show circuit. Titled "Immigration 101 for Beginners and Non-Texans", Ms. Ivins takes a stab at reducing illegal immigrants.

"Numero Two-o, should you actually want to stop Mexicans and OTMs (other than Mexicans) from coming to the United States, here is how to do it: Find an illegal worker at a large corporation. This is not difficult—brooms and mops are big tipoffs. Then put the CEO of that corporation in prison for two or more years for violating the law against hiring illegal workers.

Got it? You can also imprison the corporate official who actually hired the illegal and, just to make sure, put some Betty Sue Billups—housewife, preferably one with blond hair in a flip—in the joint for a two-year stretch for hiring a Mexican gardener. Thus Americans are reminded that the law says it is illegal to hire illegal workers and that anyone who hires one is responsible for verifying whether or not his or her papers are in order. If you get fooled and one slips by you, too bad, you go to jail anyway."

The point being that people from many places come here for work - to make money to send back home - because they know they can find that job. Employers are eager to save money in a capitalist-style economy, so they continue to hire cheap labor.

Hence, if one is serious about slowing down the rate of illegal immigration, one might wish to curtail the sugary nectar that is bringing the worker bees over to the field.

Groups and individuals that hire workers with little background check or desire to know the legality of their workers would not be friendly to this type of enforecement that Ivins suggests. The House Republicans likely will not be able to produce a piece of legislation that will satisfy their nativists base along with their corporate benefactors.

For the most part, the Democrats appear to be working on the margins while the Republicans try and figure out which policy will come closer to a political victory. The prediction: Immigration will be a third-rate issue come November 2006. Coming in first will be Iraq and the Administration's grand policy on nation-building as well as general security. Second on the scale may be institutional corruption of Republican making.

Democrats may well find an opportunity to claim some form of solidarity this year.