Here's the background you need for this story. The FBI is reportedly investigating Nevada governor Jim Gibbons, a former Congressman and House Intelligence committee member, for possible corruption. The crux of the corruption probe centers on alleged evidence that Gibbons accepted trips, gifts and cash from a Nevada defense contractor, Warren Trepp, of eTreppid, in exchange for throwing eTreppid defense and intelligence contracts - many of them apparently from the black budget. Trepp, in turn, has enlisted the help of the FBI, in going after a former employee, Dennis Montgomery, who provided his firm key technology and took it with him when he left the company. There's been lots of spooky stuff about the legal process playing out between Montgomery and Trepp, with an Air Force special investigator apparently having enlisted the FBI to help Trepp go after Montgomery, the sealing of documents, and other mysteries suggesting the Air Force really really doesn't want a court process to uncover just what it hired eTreppid to do.

Got that?

Ok. Today, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports:

In a ruling that could make it difficult for former eTreppid software designer Dennis Montgomery to argue his lawsuit against the company, a federal judge Wednesday granted a Department of Defense request for a protective order to ensure no material involving national security is released.
All sides in the lawsuit involving eTreppid Technologies, the Reno company Gov. Jim Gibbons is accused of helping obtain defense contracts in exchange for gifts and trips, are prohibited from sharing certain information that is subject to the state secrets privilege, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro said in his order.
The information also cannot be used as evidence at trial, Pro said. Disclosure of certain materials "could be expected to cause serious, and (in) some cases exceptionally grave damage to national security," he said.
Pro made a number of exceptions. He said the two sides can discuss the "Big Safari" contract between eTreppid and the Air Force, "including but not limited to the fact that the Big Safari contract required eTreppid to perform data analysis," and involved "image identification technology."

Here's the court order (.pdf).

Nevada is home to a lot of U.S. Air Force real estate, among it Nellis Air Force base and reputed Area 51.

Today Reason magazine ran the exploration of its first "Myth of Hurricane Katrina," an article refuting that there's not enough money to deal with the disaster's aftermath. There's plenty of money, it explains. The problem is the systems in place for doling it out. To wit:

So it's not a lack of funding that's the problem. It's spending the money. Under existing laws, FEMA can't simply write checks to Katrina victims. Some recipients would undoubtedly squander their funds, and there would be widespread fraud. This isn't idle speculation. According to the Government Accountability Office, immediately after Katrina hit, about a billion dollars of emergency aid—16 percent of the total—was lost to fraudulent claims. Even legitimately obtained pre-paid debit cards given to aid Katrina's victims were used to buy champagne, guns, tattoos, and porn.

FEMA, or somebody—anybody—should indeed be able to simply (that's the best way, isn't it?) write checks to Katrina victims. I left New Orleans two days before the storm with a pair of flip-flops, a deck of cards, and an extra pair of underwear, and couldn't go back until four months later. Like a million others, I desperately needed money for food and clothes and toiletries. Despite hours of sobbing and begging on the phone with FEMA and dozens of paperwork filings and faxes, I still somehow never managed to "legitimately obtain" my debit card. If I had gotten it, I very well may have spent a large portion of that $2,000 on champagne, tattoos, and porn (I'm not really into guns), and I would have had every right to do so. It's none of the government's business what indescribably distressed adults who've been suddenly and forcibly displaced with no job, no place to live, and no reliable information about the state of everything they own or their foreseeable future choose to do with the aid money given them. The government's business is to make sure they get it.

Big news day for Burma yesterday. First, there were reports that the ruling junta cracked down on protesters objecting to an astronomical hike in gas prices. Then Jim Carrey released a weirdly earnest but genuinely important message on YouTube (below) urging people to stand up for the often-ignored country just to the left of Thailand.

In a brief video, Carrey lists some of the military regime's offenses—mass displacement, wholesale village destruction, systematic rape, child-soldier recruitment—and points out that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country's rightfully elected party, is still under house arrest after more than a decade. The spot ends with information about a couple advocacy groups. Perhaps Carrey hopes that with enough international attention, the country will finally catch a resolution.

I've been blogging a lot about the changes to the primary schedule, and maybe I'm the only one who cares. But I think it's fascinating that what we have on our hands is a complete failure of the prisoner's dilemma. Every state knows that maintaining some degree of sanity in our primary system is good for American democracy, but every state also knows it can get some cheap recognition if its primary is super-duper early. And instead of being mature about it and taking the communal route, everyone's basically grabbing for the brass ring.

The latest such sinner: Wyoming. The least populous state in the nation, Wyoming (and its three electoral votes) deserves no special attention. Regardless, Wyoming has leapfrogged Iowa and New Hampshire and has placed its primary at January 5. "We're first in the nation," State party County Convention Coordinator Tom Sansonetti told the AP. "At least for the next couple, three weeks until New Hampshire and Iowa move, which I expect they will."

Exactly, you jerk. Now we're going to have Iowa on Christmas Eve, and then Florida will move its primary to the day after Thanksgiving and old geriatrics will have a choice between shopping and voting. And then New Hampshire will choose Halloween and then South Carolina will choose Labor Day, ruining your travel plans. As Wonkette noted, "Idaho is having a primary right now, in the men's room!"

The only good that can come of this is if these idiot state parties, state legislatures, and secretaries of state just drive the whole primary system off a cliff and it becomes so hopelessly f-ed up that the DNC and RNC have to reconstruct it from scratch. That's the only chance for sanity here.

Previous angry coverage of the primary calendar's shifts: regional primaries, insufficient candidate responses, South Carolina gets in on the act, someone finally pays a price.

Some of you may recall the recent discovery of a 103-page White House manual on how to "handle" protesters. The "Presidential Advance Manual" goes into great detail about how to prevent protesters from showing up at a presidential rally, and how to curtail their activities if they are pesky enough to show up, anyway.

Jeff and Nicole Rank, you will also recall, were two protesters who showed up at a presidential rally in Charleston, West Virginia, in 2004, and they were arrested for wearing T-shirts that had a line through the ersatz president's name on the front, and on the back of one were the words "Love America, Hate Bush." The Ranks were arrested for trespassing when they were asked to leave and refused to do so.

The city of Charleston, suddenly remembering the U.S. Constitution, later apologized to the Ranks. Jeff and Nicole Rank, however, did not believe that the Charleston police were the masterminds of their arrest, so, with the ACLU, they sued the director of the Office of White House Advance for violating their First Amendment rights. The ACLU recently announced that the case has been settled and the U.S. government will pay the Ranks $80,000. Sometimes, it's a pleasure to see your tax dollars at work.

Acknowledging a mistake, U.S. forces have released eight Iranians, including two diplomats, seized at the Baghdad Sheraton Ishtar hotel yesterday. The Iranians from the Ministry of Electricity had been working at the invitation of the Iraqi authorities.

"Iraqi Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari told the British Broadcasting Corp. the Iranians were released after Iraqi officials intervened and told the Americans they were part of an official delegation on a legal visit to discuss electricity cooperation," the AP reports.

The seizure came hours after President Bush delivered a speech to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada in which he had threatened to confront Iranian operatives in Iraq.

"I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," Bush was cited. "The Iranian regime must halt these actions."

An Iraqi advisor to U.S. Iraq commander General David Petraeus, Saadi Othman, insisted there was no connection between the two events. "Othman ... told British Broadcasting Corp. television that the detentions were 'regrettable' and had 'nothing to do' with President Bush's remarks on Tuesday," the AP reports.

Ugh.

President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.
The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

Actually, Petraeus and Crocker won't be assessing anything. As the White House plans make clear, it is a foregone conclusion that Petraeus and Crocker will present only good news. So the White House will write (or has already written) the September report, then the White House will send Petraeus and Crocker out to publicize the report, then the White House will use the report it wrote to justify increased war spending. Fantastic. Escalation forever!

Keep this in mind when you argue with your Republican friends:

[T]he cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds $3 billion a week.

If, as an open-minded liberal, you are somewhat uncomfortable with the idea that an individual, gay or otherwise, can be arrested for repeatedly tapping his foot in a public bathroom, I would suggest the Slate article up today that contains an email dialogue between the magazine's editors.

Among other excellent points raised, there is this question: since when is propositioning someone illegal, even if done in a public place? Doesn't there need to be more "conduct" involved for a lewd conduct charge?

Update: As you may have seen on today's internets, Larry Craig held a press conference saying that he pleaded guilty — even though he is not really guilty — in order to make the situation go away. (That plan does not seem to have worked out for the senator.) Craig also said, "I am not gay."

No, senator, you are not gay. You just like sex with men. And that's fine. We just wish you would own up to it so young, gay Idahoans don't think being homosexual is the worst thing in the world.

Turkey has a new president. The military appears to have accepted him, at least for now... See my previous post on this issue here.

Here's a sidebar to the Cobell v. Kempthorne case—the long-running lawsuit over the government's admitted mismanagement of the Individual Indian Trust (MoJo Sept/Oct 2005). An Interior Department attorney who revealed his agency's bungling of Indian properties faces the federal boot for disclosing these problems to a newspaper. According to documents released by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the government is invoking an obscure criminal statute known as the Trade Secrets Act (TSA).

Robert McCarthy, responsible for overseeing management of properties of individual members of Indian tribes held in trust by Interior, has documented massive losses due to agency missteps. Yet the problems persist, costing Native Americans millions of dollars a month in lost revenues. His concerns were validated by an Inspector General report that has yet to be finally released.

So, McCarthy provided a reporter for the Palm Springs Desert Sun a copy of his Inspector General disclosure with individual names blacked out. The reporter wrote a story in April, and four months later, Regional Solicitor Daniel Shillito proposed that McCarthy be fired for violating the TSA, which prohibits the release of "confidential" financial or commercial information. PEER suggests the TSA doesn't apply since McCarthy revealed no names or any information that could be considered confidential, and since the TSA only prohibits releases which damage the economic interests of the submitter. McCarthy's disclosures were designed to benefit property holders by identifying and ending unjustified losses.

Significantly, Shillito was supposed to clean up large-scale asset mismanagement and losses identified back in 1992. McCarthy found these had never been addressed. JULIA WHITTY