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The reactions to President Bush's forthcoming long-term security guarantees to Iraq just keep on piling in. Here's Jim Manley, spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Democratic leader in the Senate. He's reacting in particular to General Lute's statement that Bush doesn't need Congressional buy-in for any security deal with Maliki:

"Nearly six years into the war, the President still fails to understand that 'go-it-alone' is a not a successful strategy. Just as he ignored facts and the world community in getting us into this war and is ignoring the demands of Congress and the American people to get us out, President Bush is now trying to unilaterally negotiate an agreement with Iraq on security -- an area [where] the President has absolutely zero credibility."

Speaking of going it alone, it's worth noting that with the end to the United Nations Security Council mandate for the occupation -- which Maliki heralded in a televised address -- the remaining members of the Coalition of the Willing will no longer have a legal basis for staying in Iraq. After 2008, it's just us and the Iraqis. (And the insurgents. And the Mahdi Army. And the other militias. And whatever al-Qaeda in Iraq remains.)

Who else would he raise money for? From ABC:

A Pennsylvania man convicted in a notorious corruption case played host to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a fundraiser last night, despite the Giuliani campaign's public efforts to distance itself from the man.

Bob Asher, a major Pennsylvania Republican player as a national party committeeman, was one of four hosts for the $2,300-a-person event. Asher was convicted in 1986 on charges stemming from a bribery scheme intended to win a $300,000 state government contract. The case gained national attention when his co-defendant in the case, Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, committed suicide at a televised news conference. Asher was sentenced to serve one year in prison....

"That's 21 years ago, so we'll let that go. I did what I did, and I've paid may dues for it," Asher told ABC News outside the event last night....

Asher announced earlier this year he had agreed to be Giuliani's Pennsylvania political chairman, according to the New York Times, although the Giuliani campaign disputed that.

When asked about his role in the campaign last night, Asher said, "There's been no one named in Pennsylvania to any post here at all."

It may not be the most compelling argument to an Iraqi civilian, but it surely resonates within the private-security industry. One of Blackwater's competitors, the London-based ArmorGroup, anticipates a lackluster quarterly profit report -- something the company blames, in part, on the Iraqi government's hostility to private security contractors after the Nisour Square shootings.

ArmorGroup International PLC, a British private security company, warned Tuesday that profits will fall this year because of the fallout from competitor Blackwater Worldwide's involvement in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians.

The news sent the company's share price plunging 40 percent on the London Stock Exchange.

ArmorGroup also announced that David Seaton was stepping down as chief executive, effective immediately, as the company reorganizes.

"The award and mobilization of a number of major contracts in Iraq has been severely affected by the Blackwater incident in Baghdad on 16 September," the company said in a trading update to the London Stock Exchange.

Imagine that: shooting civilians is bad for business.

Yesterday, General Douglas Lute, a top Iraq adviser to President Bush, said that the administration didn't require Senate ratification for its forthcoming long-term security guarantee to the Iraqis. It's unclear whether that's true, and I'll tell you more as soon as I know it. But even if it is, the Iraqi constitution stipulates that Iraq's parliament has to ratify any such agreement. And the Iraqi parliament is a lot more hostile to the idea of hosting U.S. troops indefinitely than the U.S. Senate is.

Take a look at Article 58, Section 4 of the Iraqi constitution. It stipulates that the Iraqi parliament shall ratify "international treaties and agreements by a two-thirds majority." Whether or not President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki can finagle the deal so that it's not a treaty -- as Lute suggested yesterday -- it most certainly is an "agreement."

And it's hard to see the votes for a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

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Of all the campaign strategies available, perhaps this wasn't the best one.

Last spring, Gary Dodds was trailing in the Democratic primary for New Hampshire's 1st District Congressional seat when his crashed car was found empty. He went missing for more than a day, creating a national story about the missing candidate. He later explained that following the collision, he'd stumbled into the woods, crossed the river, and then lay down under a pile of leaves, where he was eventually found. Police were immediately suspicious of Dodds' story, a suspicion that later led to charges for false public alarms and falsifying physical evidence. Now prosecutors are saying he made all that up to gin up publicity:

In a motion filed at Strafford County Superior Court last week, prosecutors seek to introduce evidence that Dodds had taken out two mortgages on property without the approval of his wife, Cynthia, to fund his campaign and that his campaign had received letters from the Federal Election Commission indicating they were contemplating instigating an audit into discrepancies in campaign finance reports.

"It would be argued that Mr. Dodds fabricated the story he told police and falsified his physical appearance in an attempt to gain publicity to help propel his campaign for the United States Congress," the motion reads. "The state would argue that Mr. Dodds believed the publicity garnered from this accident would increase the visibility of his campaign, allowing him to pay back the mortgages, avoid further FEC investigation, and right a campaign that was lagging."

Police have earlier said that Dodds seems to have faked a head injury and lied about swimming across the river. When he was found, his feet were so wet that police had to pour water out of his shoes, but the rest of his body was dry. And when they questioned him about how the water had tasted, he'd gotten the answer wrong (it's brackish). The list goes on.

It's still unclear to me whether police think Dodds staged the whole thing from top to bottom, or whether the idea struck him after he'd had his private fender bender. In any case, other campaigns should be wary of adopting a similar strategy: Dodds got little more than a 1,000 votes in the primary (Dem Carol Shea-Porter went on to win the general election).

An arcane section of a bill passed last December grants special rights to just three crab fishing companies. All of them have heads who have made substantial contributions to Representative Don Young (R-AK), and two of the three also have ties to Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK). According to the watchdog group Public Citizen, the earmark is “typical of Don Young-style legislating” - it “smacks of political favoritism, sidestepped the normal process for changing federal fishery rules, wasn't subject to a public debate or hearing, and was inserted into a major bill at the last minute.” (Anchorage Daily News)

Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) was scheduled for trial this week over allegations that he assaulted an airline employee at Dulles. But Filner has avoided the public spectacle by entering an Alford plea to trespassing, which means that Filner does not admit guilt but acknowledges that sufficient evidence existed for a conviction. (New York Times)

The Army is retrofitting 1 million combat uniforms because soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan reported "crotch durability problems." Ripped inseams can be a serious distraction for an unlucky soldier, and Army officials promise the new pants will be more durable. (USA Today)

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Saved! That's one less trial Bernie Kerik -- and Rudy Giuliani -- have to worry about.

Granted, Kerik still faces trial on a sixteen-count criminal indictment for accepting bribes, cheating on taxes, and lying to the federal government. But no doubt it's good news for the Giuliani camp. Every little bit counts!

Yesterday, Eric DeRavin, a former New York City Correction Department officer, settled his discrimination lawsuit against the city. He'd charged that Kerik, when he led the department back in the 90's, had passed him over for promotions because he was African-American -- and because DeRavin made the mistake of crossing Kerik's mistress, Correction Officer Jeanette Pinero (one of Kerik's two mistresses who later visited Kerik at his 9/11 love nest). The court dismissed the claims about Pinero, but the city settled on the race discrimination claim for $125,000. The trial was due to begin soon, and Kerik was sure to testify. "I'm going to accept $125,000 and go away," DeRavin said, but added: "I hope Mr. Kerik gets his just desserts."

So Giuliani is spared the spectacle of Kerik testifying about why he'd passed over an African-American officer six times for promotion, the renewed focus on Kerik's romantic liaisons, and questions about why he hadn't been concerned about the fact that two different correction officers had sued the city, alleging that Kerik had retaliated against them because they'd crossed his mistress.

Because this wasn't the only suit, and it isn't the first time that the city has settled. Another correction officer, Herbert Reed, sued the city, claiming that Kerik and his underlings filed bogus disciplinary and sexual harassment actions against him after he wrote up a friend of Pinero's for insubordination. The city settled that one for $250,000 in 2003.

These were both longstanding suits (DeRavin filed in 2000, Reed in 2001), filed long before Giuliani was forced to break with Kerik in the wake of his disastrous nomination to be Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security in December, 2004. But Giuliani would probably say that we should file it away as just another aspect (click here for all the aspects) of Giuliani's admitted "mistake" in supporting Kerik for the nomination (after first appointing him commisioner of corrections, then the NYPD, then making him his business partner). Everybody makes mistakes, right?

If you're like most Americans and most Iraqis, chances are you think a normal state of affairs between the two nations is not one in which, say, U.S. troops walk the streets of Baghdad. Well, all you've done is prove your unfitness to serve in the Bush administration. Today, the administration has spun the forthcoming permanent U.S. troop presence as amounting to a "normalization" of relations.

Here's the White House fact sheet on the deal:

[T]his Declaration is the first step in a three-step process that will normalize U.S.-Iraqi relations in a way which is consistent with Iraq's sovereignty and will help Iraq regain its rightful status in the international community – something both we and the Iraqis seek.

And here's National Security Council staffer Brett McGurk:

“It sends a signal to the region … that the United States is committed to Iraq for the long term -- that we’re not packing up and leaving,” McGurk said. “But that nature of our commitment over time will transition, as it should, and that we will have a normalized, bilateral relationship with Iraq.”

Credit the administration with a sudden candor. For the first time in four years, it's admitting that its conception of a normal Iraq is one in which the U.S. military operates there forever and ever and ever. It's not quite 6 p.m. Are there any other conspiracy theories sure to arouse anti-American sentiment in the Middle East that the administration would like to confirm before quitting time?

Here's the full text of the joint Bush-Maliki agreement on principles for a long-term U.S. security commitment to Iraq. There's some hilarious obfuscatorese on the question of bases and troop levels. ("Support will be provided consistent with mechanisms and arrangements to be established in the bilateral cooperation agreements mentioned herein" -- in context, I promise, that translates to "let's worry about defining the U.S. troop presence in the final agreement.") But take a look at this key economics "principle":

Facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq.

In fairness, it's the job of the U.S. in bilateral negotiations to try to win the most favorable investment environment for American business. But that's not so difficult when your military is keeping your negotiating partners, you know, alive. Already $6 billion worth of Iraq contracts are under criminal review. How much more Iraqi business could flow to Americans? It's hard to say, but it looks like Stuart Bowen will have a long, long career ahead of him.

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Bernie Kerik had a talent for making wealthy friends -- and then hitting them up for money. It was a talent that prosecutors say crossed the line into bribery on at least one occasion.

Over the weekend, The New York Times revealed the details of another one of those deals. In 2003, while Kerik was on his short stint with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, Israeli billionaire and industrialist Eitan Wertheimer loaned Kerik $250,000.

But it wasn't what you'd call a straightforward loan. The money went first to Kerik's friend and Brooklyn businessman Shimon Cohen, who then passed it on to Kerik. It was provided with no interest, no conditions, and seemingly no questions asked.

There's even more grounds for suspicion. The loan only came to light after the Bronx district attorney's office and New York City’s Department of Investigation launched an investigation of Kerik's personal finances in 2005. They interviewed Cohen in June of that year about the loan -- he fessed up to having given the money, but said nothing about the fact that Wertheimer had financed it. Nine days later, two years after the loan was originally given, Kerik paid off the loan in full -- with interest.

The indictment of Kerik earlier this month included a charge of lying to the Federal Government about the loan (Both Wertheimer and Cohen are identified only as John Does in the indictment.). That's because when Kerik filled out a financial disclosure form that covered his time in Iraq, he didn't report it. Prosecutors pointedly mention that Wertheimer's companies do "business with the federal government." In other words, it was precisely the sort of conflict of interest that financial disclosure requirements are designed to expose.

Now, the open question is what Wertheimer thought he was getting for his money.

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