Back when I was reflecting on why Gayle Norton resigned her position as Interior Secretary, I thought she might be resigning just three steps ahead of the Abramoff investigations. She still might. But now I think it just as likely that she resigned just before the Inspector General started investigating how her Interior Department gave away our country's wealth to the oil companies.
The Justice Department is investigating whether the director of a multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior Department has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts.
The director of the program and three subordinates, all based in
Denver, have been transferred to different jobs and have been ordered
to cease all contacts with the oil industry until the investigation is
completed some time next spring, according to officials involved.
This appears to have been the scam: Some time ago, the Interior Department introduced a "royalties in kind" program, which allowed oil companies to pay for the privilege of drilling for oil on our land in kind--in oil and gas--rather than in cold hard cash. The gimmick is that it was supposed to facilitate accounting. Up until recently (don't worry--I'm going to figure out these dates), the oil went into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).* But the SPR apparently is all filled up now, so recently the US government started contracting with companies to sell the oil on the "open market." But, as these things are bound to happen in the BushCo world, we didn't take open bids for the contracts to sell the oil. We apparently just gave companies with ties to a bunch of Interior Department employees in Denver the contracts, which of course meant we got less money than we otherwise would have.
I don't know how many have noticed it, but it hit me in the face with Russert's commentary on Ford and Watergate. This business of the US being in some sort of horrible contortion when Gerald Ford assumed the office is so profoundly a-historical it needs comment. Well more than comment, but then I have no cannon.
Russert and Kin are depending on Americans not having actually read the history of Watergate. Now, I admit, I have 3 yards of books on the subject, some of them rather minor publications, and I've downloaded stuff since then. And once I start a collection on a subject, I tend to add to it. But when Russert and his friends discount Watergate as they have done in commentary in the last couple of days, and instead talk about "The Long National Nightmare" or however they want to obscure the fact that Americans were pissed to hell and damn mad -- yea it is time to tell Russert what he needs to reflect.
The specifics are:
How did Nixon explain the resignation of Mitchell, his Attorney General and campaign manager in June of 1972? Did he tell the truth as to why? What about his jury conviction for lying? Do you discount the Watergate Jury of early 1975?
Questions like that need to be put front and center in the next couple of days, otherwise we are going to lose the issue.
Russert was about making the fact that the House Judiciary Committee on a bi- partisian basis had voted out articles of impeachment against Nixon -- and much of the country was saying, Hey yea, the Constutition works -- and for that he is going to sub the idea that the world was in a terrible state of (Chasas),catastrophy. It was not. The House has spent 6 months listening to the evidence, and it voted out articles. The full House was about to debate. Nixon had been ordered to turn over his tapes. Several were deamed "Smoking Gun Tapes" but that was debatable. After Goldwater, Hugh Scott and John Rhodes visited with Nixon and told him how hopeless things were, Nixon short changed the whole process by resigning, contending he had lost his political support. One point of the resignation was to limit debate on the particulars. And there were many many particulars.
In the political science scope of things, I am glad that Ford moved Nixon off stage, and I suspect the only way to do that was with a Pardon, but I think he was selling cheap, and should have demanded a higher price. If confession is good for the soul, Ford ought have laid on the heavy demands. But he enabled Nixon's and Kissinger's later lies, and for that he is responsible. We see the consequences when the Ford personnel (Such as Rumsfeld and Cheney and the rest of them) can now claim an odd sort of virginity.
We need to make certain this target does not get unattacked.
Last week, New Jersey decided to spend $270 million on stem cell research, with an eye on a total of a half-billion dollars next year. It joins California, Maryland, Connecticut, and Illinois in establishingstate-level funding for stem cell research. Might research funding become another case where the new federalism (if that's the right word) moves reponsibilities that have been abdicated by the US government to the level of the states?
Let me say up front that I'm ambivalent about asking the states to assume more of the burden of research funding, and this post is my way of working through the pros and cons of it. And, to be clear, I don't think the states will take up the full $30 billion per year output of the NIH -- but they may, increasingly, be responsible for growth above that level and for funding in areas like stem cell research. Would a "California Institutes of Health," a "New Jersey Institutes of Health," be good for those states? For the country? For science?
The answers, I think, are yes, maybe, and sometimes. It will fuel growth in the states that do it; it may come at the cost of increasing the disparity between high-research and low-research states; and it will decentralize funding which may weaken the quality of the science but will protect it from the harmful hands of anti-research Presidents.
Wright validates much of the speculation surrounding Prince Turki's sudden resignation with a tale worthy of Hollywood. Basically, Prince Bandar seemed to get bored with playing Saudi Ambassador so quit and returned to Saudi Arabia. But when his rival, Prince Turki replaced him, Bandar undermined him at every turn, notably by not paying the bills to support the Saudi Embassy here in the US. It must suck, being a fabulously wealthy prince, trying to run a real diplomatic program that incurs millions of dollars of debt, but your cousin has decided to cut up all your credit cards. And what does it say about Bandar that he's willing to risk the reputation of his family in order to undercut Prince Turki? Fun stuff.
But the really scary bit is that, the whole time Prince Turki was trying to conduct real diplomacy here in the States, Bandar was working the same old back channels he had cultivated over decades of work in DC. And he--and Dick Cheney--appear to be crafting yet another disastrous, back channel, probably illegal foreign policy that goes against the interests of the American people.
If you don't write about a problem, does it go away? Whether it's global warming, Afghanistan or H5N1 the answer is no. The headline is from Bloomberg:
Bird flu killed three members of a family in Egypt, pushing the number of fatalities worldwide this year to 79, more than reported in the previous three years combined...
"In the second half of 2006, there was a steep decline in the number of case reports, although similar declines occurred in 2004 and 2005, but were then followed by resurgences," the influenza team at the European Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control in Stockholm wrote in a Dec. 21 report in Eurosurveillance Weekly
Females are over-represented among H5N1 patients aged 10-29 years, possibly because it is usually young people and women who look after domestic poultry, the influenza team said.
``Human-to-human transmission, as indicated by cluster size, is still extremely inefficient, as it was a decade ago when the first human-to-human transmission took place in Hong Kong..."
The total number of infected is 261 worldwide, with the virus killing 157 as of today (a case fatality rate of 60%. In comparison, the devastating Spanish Flu of 1918 had a 2.5% CFR). So what's the big deal about a few hundred overseas cases? As John Oxford put it while reviewing Michael Greger's book on the topic:
Or, as the brick and mortar people will read it, Anatomy of Deceit, by Marcy Wheeler.
As of 9:27 EST, Barnes and Noble and Amazon don't have this pretty picture up yet ... but at least Amazon now considers the book "available." (Woohoo! don't tell mr. emptywheel the Tubes say I'm available!) I've been told I can get some copies in my grubby little paws on January 12, which is coming up really soon...though I'm going to drive across town and grab the copies from the printer myself. I imagine B&N and Amazon will take a few days longer to get their copies.
Which is to say it is at the printers. There'll be a website up, probably later this week. And more interesting news (about the book, and related issues) soon. Stay tuned.
But it has been an exciting process. And a lot of people have made incredible efforts to pull this together.
So hopefully you all--and more importantly, the big numbers of people who will just be tuning in as they wonder what Dick has to say about outing a CIA NOC--will grab a copy of the book. For regular readers of the blog, it'll be a review of some of my longer work, plus some profiles and updated work with a lot of welcome editing. For newbies to the story, hopefully we have created a something that introduces people to the story and the characters in 150 pages or less, with only the necessary deep weeds we all wallow in in Plameland (worry not though, there are footnotes). All of it without the crap that the media keeps throwing on this story.
Shew! And thanks to you all for keeping me company and setting me straight through this process. This blogging thing truly is a collective enterprise...
"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying
going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass
destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought
they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how
they should justify what they were going to do."
I don't watch a lot of teevee or violent movies, so I am less immune than most to the horrible pictures from Iraq, showing maimed children and American volunteers. But to me, one of the key pictures of the Iraq war is this one:
The Iraq War, after all, happened because the Administration--particularly Dick Cheney--attacked anyone who questioned the shoddy argument they made to justify their war. And when Joe Wilson did so, publicly, and with credibility, the Vice President himself obsessively plotted an attack on Wilson. All to prevent real discussion about the origins of the war.