Monday, December 29, 2008

Obama's Chemistry Lab


The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism

Graphic for Geopolitical Intelligence Report

By George Friedman

Mark Felt died last week at the age of 95. For those who don't recognize that name, Felt was the "Deep Throat" of Watergate fame. It was Felt who provided Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post with a flow of leaks about what had happened, how it happened and where to look for further corroboration on the break-in, the cover-up, and the financing of wrongdoing in the Nixon administration. Woodward and Bernstein's exposé of Watergate has been seen as a high point of journalism, and their unwillingness to reveal Felt's identity until he revealed it himself three years ago has been seen as symbolic of the moral rectitude demanded of journalists.

In reality, the revelation of who Felt was raised serious questions about the accomplishments of Woodward and Bernstein, the actual price we all pay for journalistic ethics, and how for many years we did not know a critical dimension of the Watergate crisis. At a time when newspapers are in financial crisis and journalism is facing serious existential issues, Watergate always has been held up as a symbol of what journalism means for a democracy, revealing truths that others were unwilling to uncover and grapple with. There is truth to this vision of journalism, but there is also a deep ambiguity, all built around Felt's role. This is therefore not an excursion into ancient history, but a consideration of two things. The first is how journalists become tools of various factions in political disputes. The second is the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society.

Watergate was about the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. The break-in was carried out by a group of former CIA operatives controlled by individuals leading back to the White House. It was never proven that then-U.S. President Richard Nixon knew of the break-in, but we find it difficult to imagine that he didn't. In any case, the issue went beyond the break-in. It went to the cover-up of the break-in and, more importantly, to the uses of money that financed the break-in and other activities. Numerous aides, including the attorney general of the United States, went to prison. Woodward and Bernstein, and their newspaper, The Washington Post, aggressively pursued the story from the summer of 1972 until Nixon's resignation. The episode has been seen as one of journalism's finest moments. It may have been, but that cannot be concluded until we consider Deep Throat more carefully.

Deep Throat Reconsidered

Mark Felt was deputy associate director of the FBI (No. 3 in bureau hierarchy) in May 1972, when longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover died. Upon Hoover's death, Felt was second to Clyde Tolson, the longtime deputy and close friend to Hoover who by then was in failing health himself. Days after Hoover's death, Tolson left the bureau.

Felt expected to be named Hoover's successor, but Nixon passed him over, appointing L. Patrick Gray instead. In selecting Gray, Nixon was reaching outside the FBI for the first time in the 48 years since Hoover had taken over. But while Gray was formally acting director, the Senate never confirmed him, and as an outsider, he never really took effective control of the FBI. In a practical sense, Felt was in operational control of the FBI from the break-in at the Watergate in August 1972 until June 1973.

Happy Holidays from Dick Cheney

Jeb Bush Ready to Roll For US Senate?

Politico is reporting that former Florida Governor and brother to President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, is poised to run for the United States Senate seat in Florida.  The Florida seat is help by Sen. Mel Martinez, but Martinez recently announced he will not seek reelection.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – the son of one president and the brother of another – has been working the phones since Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) announced earlier this month that he won't seek reelection in 2010. Sources say Bush hasn't made up his mind yet about running for Martinez' seat yet, but that he's getting green lights from would-be contributors and blessings from Republican Party leaders.

Strategists and political observers take it as a sign that Bush will run.

"Everything indicates that he's in," said David Johnson, a Republican Strategist and the CEO of Strategic Vision. "You're not making calls and laying the ground work for fundraising unless you're clearing the field for your candidacy."


The Frugal Life

The best Web sites to help you scrimp through the recession.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker. Click image to expand.In our not-so-distant time of plenty, the word frugal might have conjured images of hardscrabble folks who've deliberately divorced themselves from modern pursuits. The Amish live frugally; the rest of us may cut back when times get rough, but when the world takes off again, we'll be right there to grab our share. With a historic recession affecting virtually every industry, we are all Amish now, and frugality has become a necessity. In search of tips on austere living, a couple of months ago I stumbled upon Wise Bread, an entertaining two-year-old group blog and user forum whose slogan is "Living large on a small budget." From there, an entire frugal world opened up to me—Frugal Dad, Frugal Village,'s Frugal Living blog, and many personal journals documenting lives of cultivated asceticism.

These sites brim with advice ripe for the times: what to do when you suspect you'll soon be laid off, what to do after you've been laid off, and how to spend next to nothing and still have a classy Christmas. (For instance, it's within the bounds of good taste to buy someone a second-hand gift.) But frugality blogs offer more than just a few useful tips—many are on a mission to create a new American money culture, to make scrimping seem not just necessary but normal. "In a country where common sense left the financial world long ago, I felt a calling to remind people of some very basic principles," writes Jason White, whose onetime job in a credit-card call center inspires his work at Frugal Dad. "Spend less than you make; save money for a rainy day; live debt free. I know, I know, earth-shattering ideas here, huh?"

Consumer advice is nothing new online, but the most popular sites have traditionally focused on telling you how to buy stuff cheaply. Behold, for instance,, which is flooded with news of sales from around the Web. Sites espousing frugality also push deals, but they do so with advice to remain cautious. A deals site will tell you where to find a high-def TV; a frugality site asks you to consider cutting your cable subscription.

Cheney biographer: VP’s view of presidential power is ‘more radical’ than Nixon’s.»

By Satyam Khanna

On Sunday, Vice President Cheney made the astounding claim that if the President does anything during wartime to protect the country, it is legal — echoing Richard Nixon. Yesterday, Cheney biographer Barton Gellman told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that Cheney's claim is actually "more radical" than Nixon's because Cheney said it while serving in office:

It's actually I think more radical than what Nixon said, because Nixon never enunciated that as policy during his administration and neither did his Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department. And this administration, they did. Cheney was asked, doesn't Congress have any say here? He said, Congress can pass statutes, but he said, we don't have to obey them — we don't need no stinkin' statutes.

Watch it:

Gellman also disputed Cheney's claim that members of Congress who were briefed on Bush's illegal surveillance program wholeheartedly endorsed it. "Now, I talked to four people who were in that meeting…and all of them dispute that that's the way it happened," he said.

Merry Christmas from Israel to Gaza

How to Prepare for a Layoff

By Erin Huffstetler

Worried a layoff may be in your future? Here are things that you can do to prepare:

Get Organized

You can't assess what a layoff will do to your financial situation, if you don't know what your financial situation is; so, now's the time to find out:

Start an Emergency Fund

If you've been meaning to set aside three to six months living expenses, but still haven't gotten around to it, now's the time to play catch up. Open a money market account or a high-yield savings account, and get that emergency fund going post haste:

Cut Your Spending

Find ways to spend less on necessary purchases and delay all unnecessary purchases until you feel the layoff risk has passed:

Create a Bare-Bones Budget

Make a list of your necessary expenses, and total them to determine how much money you really need to survive:

Merry Christmas from Turkey to Israel

Saudi court rejects plea to annul 8-year-old girl's marriage to 58-year-old man

A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty.

The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometres (135 miles) north of Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.

"She doesn't know yet that she has been married," the lawyer said then of the girl who was about to begin her fourth year at primary school.

Relatives who did not wish to be named told AFP that the marriage had not yet been consummated, and that the girl continued to live with her mother. They said that the father had set a verbal condition by which the marriage is not consummated for another 10 years, when the girl turns 18.

The father had agreed to marry off his daughter for an advance dowry of 30,000 riyals ($8,000), as he was apparently facing financial problems, they said.

The father was in court and he remained adamant in favour of the marriage, they added.

We Owe Sarah Palin An Apology

As much as it pains me to admit it, we owe Sarah Palin an apology. And not only Sarah Palin, but, the entire state of Alaska.

It all stems from announcement last week that Sarah Palin's daughter's baby's father's mother had been arrested in Wasilla.

If you haven't been following along, or have misplaced your Palin scorecard, Sherry Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston. Levi Johnston is the father of Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol's unborn baby.

So, when I heard that Johnson had been arrested at her home as part of an undercover narcotics investigation, I thought what I'm guessing 95% percent of those reading this thought. She was arrested for crystal meth. In fact, I bet she's running a meth lab in her house. All of my friends thought so. In fact, 23/6, Huffington's comedy site, even ran a poll about the likelihood of her house being a meth lab.

Little did we know how wrong we were. It turns out, she wasn't running a meth lab. In fact, it wasn't meth at all. The drug in question was the prescription pain killer Oxycontin.

And what led me to believe that Sherry Johnston was a toothless, drooling meth junkie/ dealer? Prejudice. My own prejudice towards small towns and the goobers that live in small towns.

Sarah Palin actually addressed this prejudice in an interview. Take a look.

Sarah Palin is right. It was wrong of me to automatically assume that it was crystal meth. Of course Alaskans can be addicted to other drugs! And they should be! I mean, what else is there to do in Wasilla other than drugs? And residents of Wasilla should be especially addicted to Oxycontin! I mean, it's known on the street as "Hillbilly Heroin". So, it's marketed right to them.

Minnesota Supremes Shoot Down Crucial Coleman Lawsuit, Making A Franken Win Nearly Certain

Norm Coleman just got a Christmas present from the Minnesota Supreme Court: A giant lump of coal.

In a unanimous decision handed down just now, the state Supremes denied Coleman any relief in a lawsuit he was waging to deal with allegations of double-counted absentee ballots, which his campaign says have given an illegitimate edge to Al Franken. The Coleman campaign was seeking to switch 25 selected precincts back to their Election Night totals, which would undo all of Franken's recount gains in those areas and put Coleman back in the lead.

The court, however, sided with the Franken camp's lawyers in saying that a question like this should be reserved for a post-recount election contest proceeding, as the proper forum to discover evidence -- and which also has a burden of proof that heavily favors the certified winner.

Simply put, Coleman is in very big trouble right now. With Al Franken leading by 47 votes, this lawsuit was Coleman's best shot at coming from behind. And it just failed, making a Franken win nearly a foregone conclusion when this recount finishes up in early January.

Happy New Year from Pink Floyd

Why Al Franken should NOT be riding private planes

The Free Press: Speaking Truth to Power

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
The tragic and suspicious death of Karl Rove's election thief in chief should send a clear message to Al Franken and other key liberals: don't be riding in any small private planes.

Death by air crash now seems to be the favored means of ridding the Rovian right of troublesome characters.

The most recent is Michael Connell, who died Friday night when his private plane crashed near his northern Ohio home. Connell was the information techology whiz kid who helped Rove steal the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, along with a few in between---possibly including the 2002 senatorial campaign in Minnesota that followed the death of Paul Wellstone.

Connell was an expert pilot whose plane crashed in clear weather. He held virtually all the secrets to how George W. Bush was illegally foisted on the American people---and the world---for eight horrifying years. By manipulating computerized results in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 Connell made history. By some accounts, he was about to tell the attorneys in the on-going King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal civil rights lawsuit how he did it. He also approached expressed a willingness to appear under oath before Congress. But now he is dead.

Current cover stories include the possibility that his plane ran out of fuel. But its crash was accompanied by a very large fireball explosion that burned for more than ten minutes. A trooper on the scene immediately identified Connell, but newspaper accounts say his body was charred beyond recognition.

Connell told various sources that he was being threatened by Rove. He canceled at least two previous flights due to mechanical failure. A father of four, his decision to fly from a highly restricted airport in Maryland remains a mystery. Connell reportedly did contract work for security-industrial agencies, like the CIA. Connell also openly acknowledged that he was the first IT contractor to move his servers behind the firewall of the US House of Representatves where he oversaw the websites of the House Judiciary Committee, Intelligence Committee, Ways and Means Committee, and Administrative Committee, arguably the four most powerful committees in the House.

He now joins such critical players as Paul Wellstone, Mel Carnahan, Ron Brown, Mickey Leland, John Tower, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and many more critical public figures who have died in small plane crashes at questionable moments.

In all cases there are non-nefarious potential explanations for their deaths. Conspiracy theories can, indeed, be frivolous.

But so can their out-of-hand dismissal by coincidence theorists.

The Bush Legacy...