Tuesday, August 31, 2004

on winning against terror

Regarding whether Bush policies can win the war on terror, I've been thinking that Edwards needs to follow up his excellent riff on "catastrophic success" like this...

"President Bush has given us several different interpretations on what he meant when he said he thought the war on terror can't be won, all of them attempting to say that he didn't mean what he said. But I think there was a nugget of truth in his response. It has become painfully obvious that his approach to fighting terrorism is not the path to victory. So it it not surprising that, with his stubborn adherance to the same failing policies, President Bush is now beginning to doubt whether we will prevail. He has shown himself to be neither willing nor capable of adjusting to the reality on the ground. In contrast...."

This would nicely play into the whole optimism/pessimism dialog, and Kerry's stump message that "Bush says we're doing the best we can and its pesssimistic to say that American can't do better".

UPDATE: Turns out a Kerry spokesman had the same idea: "George Bush might be able to read a speech saying we can win the war on terror, but as we saw (Monday), he's clearly got real doubts about his ability to do so, and with good reason."

Monday, August 30, 2004

in your face ethics

In Shocker, 'St. Pete Times' Pulls Candidate Endorsement:

The Times originally backed [former U.S. Housing Secretary Mel] Martinez in the Republican primary. But that was "before Martinez took his campaign into the gutter with hateful and dishonest attacks on his strongest opponent, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum," the paper said on its editorial page. "The Times is not willing to be associated with bigotry. As a result, we are taking the almost unprecedented step of rescinding our recommendation of Martinez."
The editorial continued: "No matter what else Martinez may accomplish in public life, his reputation will be forever tainted by his campaign's nasty and ludicrous slurs of McCollum in the final days of this race. The slurs culminated with Martinez campaign advertisements that label McCollum, one of the most conservative moralists in Washington during his 20 years as a U.S. representative, 'the new darling of the homosexual extremists' because he once favored a hate crime law that had bipartisan support."
Here's the full St. Petersburg Times editorial: McCollum for GOP, which concludes: "McCollum is a better choice for Republicans who care about producing their strongest ticket for November. He also is a better choice for Republicans who care about the soul of their party."

Meanwhile, in another St. Pete article breaking down the Florida Senate race:

Martinez has been viewed as the White House favorite in the race, a conservative who could win a general election and draw Hispanic voters to support President Bush. His strategy has been to emphasize his ties to the president.
Looks like Martinez is taking campaign tips from Bush as well as support (Bush appeared in ads with Martinez).

Let the repudiations begin!

bush--war on terror can't be won

From AP: "When asked 'Can we win?' the war on terror, Bush said, 'I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.'”

Update: McClellan trying to spin Bush's words: "White House spokesman Scott McClellan sought to clarify the president's remarks, telling reporters aboard Air Force one, "He was talking about winning it in the conventional sense ... about how this is a different kind of war and we face an unconventional enemy." Looks like Bush misread a talking point.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

catastrophic success

Our success was so supreme it caused us to fail?

Bush on Sunday: "Had we to do it over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

bike against bush confiscated

Just saw a story by Ron Reagan (MSNBC) on an interview with Joshua Kinberg yesterday, during which he was arrested for "graffiti writing". Anyone who has gone to Kinberg's site BikesAgainstBush.org knows that Kinberg uses his computerized bike to paint messages on the sidewalk--using the same biodegradable chalk used on athletic fields. But Reagan might end up being supoenaed in the case, because apparently the first street cops who showed up claim they saw him painting the messages, while Reagan was with him from before the police appeared. Oops.

Reagan portrays the arrest as a bit of keystone cop action--taking over an hour during which a sergeant was called followed by a captain. Its pretty much a no-brainer that the MSNBC presence had something to do with the careful arrest. [Its not surprising that police view the act of protest videotaping as "intimidation".]

Kinberg is out now, as are most of the bicyclers arrested Friday. But Kinberg's high-tech bike is sitting in an evidence locker somewhere, after getting a thorough going over by an NYPD bomb squad.

Friday, August 27, 2004

seattle times endorses kerry

In Early Move, 'Seattle Times' Endorses Kerry

Hmmm. I may have to go back to regular reading of the Times. I'd switched to the Seattle P-I after the Times endorsed Bush in 2000 (a case of a final straw).

(For locals, yes I know about the connections between the two, of course. I'm just making a facetious point.)

truth talk

Is there one single person in the entire country who believes this is true?
From Bush's Brain via TPM:

"'Mr. Bush,' I said. 'How did you get into the Guard so easily? One hundred thousand guys our age were on the waiting list, and you say you walked in and signed up to become a pilot. Did your congressman father exercise any influence on your behalf?'

'Not that I know of, Jim,' the future president told me. 'I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time.' "
Is there a single person in this country who believes that Bush thinks this is true?

prka manifesto

Manifesto - A press release from PRKA. By George Saunders

"Since the world began, we have gone about our work quietly, resisting the urge to generalize, valuing the individual over the group, the actual over the conceptual, the inherent sweetness of the present moment over the theoretically peaceful future to be obtained via murder. "

bush hypocritical, kerry principled

Kerry starts today talking about a substantive idea: new legislation to counter "unfair credit card lending" and preditory lending practices.

Bush's rapid response?
"John Kerry is the number one Senate recipient of banker donations over the past 15 years, and his attacks today are completely hypocritical," said spokesman Steve Schmidt.
I had two immediate thoughts as I was reading this rebuttal.

1.Kerry's hypocritical for advocating legislation that doesn't help a group he's accepted money from? What an insight into Bush's world!! Apparently Bush can't grasp that someone would accept money from a special interest group and then not do that group special favors. In fact, Bush seems to view the act of blocking your donor as a grievous sin. Hmm. Why would that be?

2. And what does it say about the fact that, in this presidential campaign, Bush has taken more than 3 times the amount Kerry has ($28.2M to $7.9M) from the the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate sector? In contrast to Kerry, Bush has no trouble standing up for his donors--calling legislation not in their favor "attacks".

But then maybe Bush has some evidence that Kerry did do some special favor for his patrons. What dirt did he dig up from Kerry's 20-year Senate record?

"This is another example of Kerry's willingness to say one thing and do another. If John Kerry really cared about bank customers, he wouldn't have skipped the vote on the fair credit legislation that the president signed to ensure fair treatment of credit applicants and to prevent identity theft."
There you have it, Gentlemen! What more evidence do we need!! Kerry skipped out on a crucial vote. Presumably, the Bush campaign is talking about the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, which passed late last year and was signed into law in December 2003. So the vote must have been a close won fight, right, in which Kerry's presence would make or break the vote? Not exactly. The Senate passed the bill by 95-2. Then after conferencing with the House on an amendment, the Senate passed the final verion by unanimous consent. Wow! Sure was lucky Kerry wasn't there to stand up for his donors and in the way of justice!

Bottom line:

In Bush's world, standing up for a good cause in spite of taking money from a group opposed to the cause is hypocritical.

In Kerry's world, it's principled.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

whoreness supreme

Forgive my language, but this one really deserves it.

Seen on Talking Points Memo, CNN anchor Miles O'Brien said yesterday, when reporting on the Cleland event in Crawford:

OBRIEN: All right, we are listening to Max Cleland, former senator from Georgia and former Lieutenant Jim Rassmann, a former Green Beret whose life was saved by John Kerry in the Mekong Delta in 1969. Although, that is a point of dispute, given what has all transpired here with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Amazing! O'Brien manages to peddle a lie that even the swiftees didn't stoop to! Apparently O'Brien thinks that someone other than Rassmann might know more about whether Rassmann's life was saved and who saved it.

Go tell O'Brien and CNN what you think of them

UPDATE: Atrios has a direct email address: miles.obrien@turner.com

bush bonds--with 9/11

New York Daily News - Politics - W wants to bond with Bravest:

"President Bush wants to watch the Republican convention from a New York City firehouse and "bond" with the city's Bravest, officials said yesterday.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is also scouting out firehouses so he can watch it with the heroes of 9/11."

It'll be interesting to see if Bush can find one who'll have him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

god doesn't care about politics

For the faith-inclined, check out this petition at www.takebackourfaith.org.

"Sign our petition and send a message to America that God is not a Republican, or a Democrat and that the Religious Right does not speak for you. Remind America that Jesus taught us to be peacemakers, advocates for the poor, and defenders of justice."

bikes against bush

Check this out!

second string in the us

Apparently, those of us on cable modems in the US are chugging along on turboprops while Europe has invented the jet engine. America supreme.

pierce and start values

Charles Pierce's piece in today's American Prospect makes me want to pack up my keyboard and leave the field. I should print out this column and pin it up on my board, and whenever I think I've written something mildly clever I can look up there and know what it takes to win that Olympic gold. Pierce could have begun with a start value of 1 and he'd still be bringing it home.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

nader dogged by unreasonable threats?

I've avoided posting anything on Nader so far, in fact I pretty much avoid reading anything about him. I don't intend to vote for him, although I do support the concept of 3rd party candidates (I'd rather people vote for someone than not vote at all). Also, I think there's been a very deliberate blogosphere slime machine churning out rumors and innuendos for the past 4 months, which has really left me cold. Call me soft, but I'm with McCain on the subject of hardball politics: "Everything isn't politics."

Having said that, I had to laugh at this comment in todays WaPo: In Oregon, today's the Nader campaign deadline to turn in 15,000 signatures, and "it has accused local Democrats and union officials of threatening petition gatherers with jail time if they turn in names that prove fraudulent." So now this campaign is reduced to complaining that they're not being allowed to break the law without consequences. For those who think maybe jail time is too harsh a punishment for a few fake signatures, I say jail time is not too harsh for election fraud. Just look at the consequences of those actions.

moral courage

Josh Marshall gets it just about right. Go read.

Monday, August 23, 2004

dole admits lying for political purposes

The AFP just posted a story entitled: "Dole defends attack on Kerry's military record as 'political hardball'". I could only find a Yahoo link, which will disappear within a day, so here is a substantial reprint:

"This is presidential race. We're 70 some days away. It's political hardball, and certainly Senator Kerry understands that," Dole told CNN.

"There's respect there," Dole said Monday. "We were in the Senate together. But we're talking about the presidential race, and I tweaked him a little on the Purple Hearts."

"I just wanted him to get off Bush's back and have his people get off Bush's back," Dole said.
So let me get this straight. Kerry endured over two weeks of increasingly public attacks without stooping to that level. But when he finally did lash back, within two days Dole appears onstage to try and take some heat off Bush. Exactly how tender is Bush skin?

those nasty shadowy 527s

Bush in March 2002 (about McCain-Feingold):
I believe individual freedom to participate in elections should be expanded, not diminished; and when individual freedoms are restricted, questions arise under the First Amendment.

I also have reservations about the constitutionality of the broad ban on issue advertising, which restrains the speech of a wide variety of groups on issues of public import in the months closest to an election. I expect that the courts will resolve these legitimate legal questions as appropriate under the law.
Bush today:

“ I don't think we ought to have 527s. I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying, condemning these activities of the 527s. It's the -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold. I've been disappointed that for the first six months of this year, 527s were just pouring tons of money, billionaires writing checks. And I spoke out against them early. I tried to get others to speak out against them, as well. And I just don't -- I think they're bad for the system.”
Is Bush lying when he says he spoke out against them early? Maybe he just mispoke--he actually meant that he'd spoken out against restricting them early? Or perhaps he is just misremembering the details of his position--after all, it was over two years ago. Or--could it be--could this be a flip flop? Say it ain't so! Which position are we supposed to assign to him now, the flip or the flop? And which is which?

Yes, people, this is all about changing the rules when the rules ain't breaking in your favor anymore.

dems get 2nd chance in rodney's district

From Reuters: Ballot registration reopens in Louisiana's 5th District, after a judge determines Rodney Alexander "sought to manipulate the ballot system". There was a tough call! The judge could have removed Alexander from the ballot or offered no remedy, so this is a bit of middle ground. It remains to be seen if Dems will be able to take advantage of it. The district is more conservative than liberal.

This lawsuit may be one reason the Dem party hasn't fallen in behind Tisa Blakes--there may be someone else on their radar. We'll soon see.

guard dodger!

A bit of tongue in cheek from MSNBC's Andy Borowitz.

BTW, I'm going to be a bit of a link monkey this week. My boss is once again unreasonably demanding a full day's work for a days pay.

Friday, August 20, 2004

kerry's swiftee lawsuit

Just heard on Air America (paraphrased): "how dare Kerry try to suppress allegations against him by suing the SBVT group over their ads, blah blah blah, if Bush had tried to do the same thing he would have been excoriated in the press."

Media Matters is all over this: Bush did indeed threaten to sue to suppress an unflattering biography that came out in 1999 (over a year before the election). This bio got almost no media coverage, in contrast to the swiftees--but the swiftee ubiquitousness is partly a result of their massive publicity campaign (buoyed by some serious donations). As with the swiftees, the purveyor of the questionable allegations had a pretty questionable background of his own. After Bush's threats, and after negative information about the author surfaced, the publisher pulled the book.

But the two cases are not comparable. Bush threatened to sue to prevent the book from being distributed, aiming to suppress the contents as much as possible. In contrast, no one could honestly claim Kerry is suppressing the swiftee's story, which has dominated the news for nearly two weeks.

Instead, Kerry has filed an FEC complaint, not only accusing the swiftee ads as "inaccurate", but also claiming that the organization has "illegally coordinated with the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and Republican National Committee".

Thursday, August 19, 2004

keynote zell

I'm a little surprised the RNC considers Dem senator Zell Miller to be their highest value speaker. I'm not really sure what they think it accomplishes.

The general media opinion seems to be that Zell on the speaker list is an attempt to show how big the Bush tent is. But it strikes me more as fingerpoke in the Dem eye, possibly in response to the perceived coup of Ron Reagan at the Dem convention. And unlike Reagan, less of a substantive statement than a cheap prank. It may be that they plan to use Miller's standard refrain to underscore some message about the irrelevance of the modern Democratic Party. But if that rises to the level of a keynote message, I really have to question their strategy.

As far as I can tell, there are very few Democrat voters crossing--or likely to cross--over to the Repubs in this election. The migration seems much stronger in the opposite direction. (While several congresspeople have gone over to the dark side recently--just kidding!--their timing alone makes me suspect their decision is driven more by desire for power in Congress than ideology.)

And speaking of going over to the dark side...anyone taking bets on when and in what circumstances Miller will switch sides after the election? I think its a pretty sure thing if the Repubs retain control of the Senate or if the Dems regain with a margin of 1. If the Dems regain with a greater margin (taking into account Edwards as VP tiebreaker), the situation gets more problematic.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

hyping intelligence

Juan Cole has an excellent interim summary in the Khan story, acknowledging the errors in the original reports (supported by Condi Rice's initial confirmation) yet still managing to make it Bush's fault.

While I'm not sure I completely agree with his premise, it certainly does look like the administration plays pretty close to the line whenever releasing sensitive or classified material is politically expedient. Toward the end of Cole's column he mentions that the Brits are ticked at us not only for our role in outing Khan, but also for publicizing the name of one of the suspects they did manage to catch in the botched sting operation.

In addition, it's becoming very clear that the forces of counter-terrorism would be in a far stronger position had Ridge not made his big announcement. According to Cole, "after the Ridge announcement, the level of 'chatter' among radical Islamists fell off dramatically." If Al Qaeda were still chattering unaware of our listening ears, if Khan was still in place helping to track communications, if the operatives in England were going about their business, making contacts, etc., all under surveillance, it's possible our side could have had a major victory. As it is, the Brits were able to capture and charge fewer than half of the cell they knew about, and find themselves with a much more limited scope for further investigation.

(Cole does not mention yesterday's Salon column that suggests Pakistan officials had a vested interest in exposing Khan's arrest and blaming it on the US. Hopefully his comments are forthcoming.)

absentee ballots no panacea

In the past few months, as we've heard more and more potential horror stories about ballot error and fraud--particularly in Florida--the general advice has been distilled down to one safe way to make sure your vote has a verifiable paper trail: use an absentee ballot. The most recent proponent of this solution was Paul Krugman in his NYT column.

However, the St. Petersburg Times has a different perspective. In an article dated August 8, 2004, the St. Pete Times provides information that suggests an entirely new set of horror stories. For example:

  • The new laws in Florida governing absentee ballots say that ballots no longer need to be postmarked at all. They merely need to be "dated" by election day, and be received by 10 days after election day. Although this provision was originally intended to accommodate military ballots, which may arrived unpostmarked, there is no restrictions. This provides a hugh avenue for fraud to take place after the election. And if the levels of absentee ballot use skyrockets as expected, a sudden influx of ballots after election day may be harder to detect.

  • With absentee ballots, there is no way to tell who has filled out the form. Prior to this year, ballots were required to be witnessed or notorized, but this requirement led to large numbers of ballots disqualified, so it was dropped.

  • Absentee ballots make it much easier for people who maintain residences in multiple states to vote twice. Florida's voter registration requirements have fairly lax residence requirements. As a result, people whose primary residence is outside Florida can still vote there.
So lets be a little more heads up about the ramifications of the various voting methods. Otherwise we're going to have a rude awakening come Nov 3.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

tisa blakes

The Democrat running for Rodney Alexander's House seat in Louisiana's District 5 has her web site up and running. Go take a look.

Tisa Blakes was reported to have registered with the term "domestic engineer" for employment. However, her bio say: "Tisa has a degree in broadcasting as well as a triple minor concentrated area in Public Relations, Criminal Justice, and Sociology... After she married and began her family, she and her husband made a joint decision for her to stay home with her children. She has said that 'Too many children are raised by television. I did not want that for my children.' "

She has a pretty good announcement speech. The issues section is still under construction.

A commenter on this site, elepet, had a short conversation with her: "she's been getting alot of love and support from people all over the country, but nothing from the Democratic party."

more khan nefariousness

I should have read my talking points before the last two posts. Seems Salon has a new article out today suggesting that the Pakistanis official(s) involved in outing Khan might be playing toward a more shadowy end game. It seems Pakistani intelligence personnel aren't always on the opposite side of the Al Qaeda they're tracking.

The author, Husain Haqqani, described as a visiting scholar and "advisor to former Pakistani Prime Ministers" can be viewed as either exceptionally well connected or someone with an axe to grind re the current PM--or both.

on the record

And yes I certainly did notice that glaring qualifier in today's NYT piece referenced in the last post: "No officials in Britain, Pakistan or the United States have told The Times on the record that identifying Mr. Khan had such an impact."

I just figured it was so obvious as to not require comment.

continuing khan

The NYT has a story out today with some additional information on the arrest of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, the suspected Al Qaeda communications expert who possessed the detailed surveillance records that prompted the elevated terror alert two weeks ago.

Of course, the meat of this story is not so much the records, but the fact that Khan's name and his role as "a kind of clearinghouse of Qaeda communications" was published in the NYT on August 2, blowing what had been an international operation to expose other Al Qaeda operatives, using Khan as a mole.

Unfortunately, the NYT story is a bit of a puff piece touting the triumph of international cooperation on terrorism, with some LeCarre-esque action scenes and pats on the back for everyone involved. Only in the final three graphs is the commentary of Britain's home secretary, David Blunkett, mentioned, in which he condemns the hyping of terror alerts.

And the only reference to the leaking of Khan's name was in this graph:

The release of Mr. Khan's name - it was made public in The New York Times on Aug. 2, citing Pakistani intelligence sources - drew criticism by some politicians, like Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who charged that this leak might have compromised the search in Britain and Pakistan for Mr. Khan's Qaeda partners. (No officials in Britain, Pakistan or the United States have told The Times on the record that identifying Mr. Khan had such an impact).
Looking back at the August 2 story, it isn't clear where the leak of Khan's name came from; the story cites both US and Pakistani official sources. However, it does seem like the meat of the information came from a "Pakistani intelligence official".

This Reuters article lays out a bit more detail, as well as providing information on the fallout in England. It looks like descriptive information (such as the suspects role in the organization) provided by the US and the Pakistani official, helped the NYT reporters put 2 and 2 together and come up with a name, which the US then confirmed. This scenario fits with Condoleezza Rice's admission to Wolf Blitzer that the US had released Khan's name "on background":
RICE: Well, I don't know what might have been going on in Pakistan. I will say this, that we did not, of course, publicly disclose his name. One of them...

BLITZER: He was disclosed in Washington on background.

RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.
(According to journalist Josh Marshall, "on background" means that the information is public--as opposed to off the record--but cannot be attributed to a specific individual. Hence the attribution to "a senior US official".)

In any case, in terms of news the Khan story has seemingly been reduced to a triumphant illustration of "the dividends based on the president's counterterrorism policies" (according to Bush's homeland security adviser Fran Townsend).

The question of whether the Khan information was prematurely leaked, and whether a potentially useful sting operation was skunked, has migrated to the opinion columns. Perhaps, like me, everyone was waiting for some intrepid investigative reporter to break the story wide open. Now that two weeks have passed and Sy Hersh seems to be off on other pursuits, we're now reduced to saying "hey--what was up with that, anyway?"

Here are a few relevant columns from the past couple of days:

Washington Post David Ignatius
NY Daily News Richard Schwartz
Center for American Progress Eric Alterman

Monday, August 16, 2004


The New York Times: FBI Tracks Potential GOP Protesters:

Recent FBI bulletins about anti-war protests have urged local police to ``be alert'' and report ``potentially illegal acts'' to federal terrorism task forces. Illegal activity -- such as bombings, vandalism or trespass -- ``falls outside the scope of the First Amendment,'' the Justice Department concluded.

In recent weeks, several people linked to anarchist groups in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and elsewhere have reported being "harassed'' by federal agents about the convention.

Many activists fear a repeat of the last Republican convention, in Philadelphia, where authorities were accused of rounding up protesters on trumped-up charges before they could take to the streets. Police raided a warehouse and seized puppets that protesters planned to use as props, and arrested an organizer on misdemeanor charges and held on $1 million bail before his case was dropped.

Authorities in New York say no pre-emptive strikes are planned.
When was the last time a protest event featured a bombing? When was the last time a protest event resulted in serious physical injury or death--not meted out by authorities trying to suppress the event? Since when does the FBI concern itself with cases of vandalism or tresspassing?

You'd think the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), the group actually doing the surveillance, would have something more important to work on these days. Sheesh.

measure of the man

This Seattle P-I article, Bush camp controlling admission to events, is good news in more ways than one.

Not only is Bush getting some of the bad press press he deserves, this article also shows that Kerry's people are on the right track...

By contrast, most of Kerry's events are open to the public, though there have been some town hall events that are invitation-only. For certain appearances, the Kerry campaign has distributed tickets to the local party, unions and other supporters.

But Kerry spokesman David Wade said that any member of the public can get a ticket from a local campaign office or from the affiliated groups on a first-come, first-served basis. Many people are admitted without any ticket.

"I think America deserves a president who is willing to talk to anybody, I don't care if you are Democrat, Republican or independent," Kerry said Friday.

Kerry's more open approach carries political risks. Sometimes protesters show up and try to disrupt his appearances. To get across their point that Kerry is a flip-flopper, they often clap flip-flop sandals over their heads, and chant, "Four more years!"

Such dissent is never a problem for Bush.
As I've mentioned before, I don't think it's necessarily wrong to screen campaign rally attendees, although it certainly does show the measure of the man. What I objected to is when they used the same tactics at a presidential (not campaign) event on the Fourth of July.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

seattlelites love their pets

Seattle P-I: Man jumps off ferry to rescue his dog: "'We obviously do not encourage people to jump into the water from the ferry,' said Patricia Patterson, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries. 'But I understand the reaction. If it were my dog, I likely would have done the same thing.'

Fisher didn't need to jump, though. Ferry crew members are trained to stop to rescue any pet that goes overboard."

Good to know!

Friday, August 13, 2004

friday night follies

Reuters.com: US to Pull 70,000 Troops from Europe, Asia

"The British newspaper, citing people briefed on the plan, said two-thirds of the reductions would be made in Europe, mostly in Germany."

us baseball team didn't qualify??

Man that is just sad. I'm sure the entire city of Seattle would have been glad to donate the Mariners for the summer.

swift perfidy

The Island of Balta goes into great detail about the validity of the swiftee claims that Kerry couldn't possibly have gone into Cambodia.

He provides a link to the relevant book excerpt, and after reading its almost laughable assertions, I'm amazed Balta felt the need to spend almost 2000 words refuting it.

Shorter Swiftee:

Kerry couldn't have gone into Cambodia because:

  • There were US boats patrolling the Mekong river.

  • There was a large sign at the border "prohibiting" entry. ("Foils! That sign is far too big for us to ignore!")

  • Some swiftee commanders say Kerry would have been severely disciplined if he'd ventured into Cambodia, because of course the US wasn't operating in "neutral" Cambodia. That would have been a crime. (This is part and parcel with their argument that no atrocities were perpetrated by the US in Vietnam--which ties in with their true beef with Kerry--that he blew the whistle on returning to the US.)

  • Documents suggest Kerry was "based" 55 miles away from the border, and Kerry was supposedly at base on Christmas.
Balta doesn't directly address Kerry's ability to (1) navigate past patrols, (2) avoid the dreaded sign, and (3) not be court-martialed, but it's amazing how easy it is to sneak by your own people when you're on a mission for your own country controlled by superiors in your own military. Kerry, whose missions regularly involved insertions of personnel into enemy territory, might even have enjoyed the luxury of friendly intelligence on the locations of patrol boats.

Balta does do a painstaking job of parsing and refuting the swiftee arguments, and if you are really concerned about this issue, go read his well-documented points. But here's a shorter Balta:

Kerry could too have been in Cambodia because:

  • The US boats patrolling the Mekong River couldn't possibly have effectively patrolled all the side channels and byways that the river takes around the border (he has maps).

  • Balta doesn't address the serious sign issue, so I will. There is almost no evidence at all that in 1968 the US had the technology necessary to erect a force field (using a power source hidden by the really big sign) preventing border crossing.

  • The US was indeed operating in Cambodia by 1969 (he has historical links), deemed necessary by the fact that the VietCong were using Cambodia already, and they were killing us.

  • Both the range and speed of swift boats (a detail you might actually expect a swiftee to know) make it quite possible that Kerry's boat could have been both in Cambodia and at base within a 12-hour period.
About the original swiftee accusation, it is interesting to note that, tacked onto the end of their wholly uncompelling "Cambodia" case against Kerry, there is a wholly unsubstantiated and spurious slur against Kerry's judgment and skills as an officer. That seems to be their MO. Drum up some weak case about a true event, and use the miniscule amount of credibility from that argument to drive home some fairy tale whose sole intent is to cast doubt on Kerry's character. It's amazing that anyone reading the fairy tales retains any trust in these people at all.

Yeah, I guess you could say I'm ticked. Because these kinds of tactics drag down the potential of the entire country.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

spinning the question

Bob Somerby over at the Howler
(scroll down to Spinning Nuance) points out that Kerry continues to be so consistent in his answers about his October 2002 war authority vote, critics have had to resort to spinning the question instead of the answer.

"According to Wilgoren, Kerry said he would have voted the resolution if he knew there were no WMD and no al Qaeda connection! Again, Kerry didn’t actually say this—this is Wilgoren’s assessment of what he meant. But you can’t determine if that’s what he meant unless you’re shown the actual question. And we can’t find a single source that does that." That's right. Howler says he can't find a single transcript of the actual question.

invasion of the antz

Argentinian ants take over (or under) Melbourne, Australia: Ants Form Supercolony Spanning 60 Miles. It seems in Argentina the ants are highly aggressive and territorial, so they kill each other off. In Australia, however, they've lost their aggressive edge, so now they cooperate and as a result build huge supercolonies.

The same thing has happened in Europe, where the largest supercolony in the world (extending over 3700 miles) has formed.

So it begins....

truthful kerry

Another perspective on what I said yesterday--that the swiftees were basing many of their accusations on potential openings in Kerry's own accounts--Kerry's own words about his experiences contain unvarnished truths.

When Kerry said he headed out of the "kill zone" (quotes from Kerry's journals, Tour of Duty) and only returned when Sandusky pointed out there were wounded behind them, he's not trying to hide any questionable action. Someone who was actively trying to hide cowardice would certainly not take the trouble to point out Sandusky's role.

When Kerry said, about the circumstances of his third Purple Heart: "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass from one of the rice-bin explosions", he is not making any claim on nobility. He's speaking facts. The swiftees are merely taking Kerry's own account and trying to put the worst spin possible on it--by implying that Kerry had told a different, more pumped up story. Also, the swiftees here are shooting for a bit of ridicule, claiming that the "fanny injury" wasn't even shrapnel, but rice, which ignores the fact that to this day Kerry carries a piece of metal around in his ass, a fact that has been proven in countless x-rays.

In contrast we have Bush, who has no qualms about taking credit for any good action around him (so long as it remains good in the eyes of the public). Bush, the champion of the Texas Patient Bill of Rights, who fought it and sabotaged it and ultimately, when faced with a veto-proof fait accompli by his own legislature, refused to put his signature on it. Bush, who repeatedly called Enron the "one bad apple" (in the months before WorldCom, Global Crossing, etc.) and resisted any attempts to reform corporate oversight legislation--until confronted with polls indicating popular anger on the issue, and the Sarbanes-Oxley bill. Bush, who resisted implementing the 2000 terror task force recommendations, including setting up a Dept of Homeland Security, until after 9/11, and continued to resist until after polls showed majority support for the measure. Bush, who violently opposed the 9/11 commission, until the 9/11 victims families went public and gathered popular support to their cause.

I'm sure the swiftees would love to catch Kerry in a lie, but they have yet to do it. The best they can come up with is to offer some unsubstantiated alternate story, contradicting Kerry and others (and existing documentation), and call it a lie. It is worth noting that some of the more peripheral swiftees, such as George Elliott, admit that their own opinions of Kerry, initially positive, were changed, not by actual facts, but by being presented with these stories as facts. Elliott admits that he had no problem with Kerry until he was told, by the swiftees, that Kerry had shot a fleeing VietCong in the back, a patently untrue story.

For some of the best coverage of Kerry's accounts and the swiftee claims, go to FactCheck.org. They've got the meat. Also check out Snope's de-mythology site.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


See this fascinating article--The New Republic Online: False Positive--about the radical increase in financial instability recently. We've been talking the past few years about income inequality (rich get richer while the poor get poorer) and how it seems to be the end goal behind the Bush Admin policies.

But in this article, Jacob S. Hacker says inequality hasn't been the big winner. At least not yet. Instead, while people in the middle class haven't lost a tremendous amount of ground (haven't gained any either) over the years, what they have lost is a sense of security in their ability to maintain their ground. Significant amounts of risk has been shifted from the government and corporations to the individual, and as a result, more people are living closer to the edge than ever before. Not because they don't make enough money, but because the consequences of losing their ability to make money are so much greater.

So why has instability been a target for this administation? Partly its the obvious--corporations hate to gamble, and removing risk makes them more stable. But also, without safety nets, without a government that looks after its people, individual are vulnerable. And vulnerable people can--and will--be taken advantage of.

swift perspective

I heard Steve Gardner on a local talk show today, and I'm sorry to report that he sounds extremely believable. I may be a pushover, but I'm nearly convinced that he believes he's telling the truth.

Gardner is particularly damaging because he actually served as the gunner on Kerry's boat for the first 2 month Kerry was skipper. He tells very detailed stories that show Kerry in an extremely unflattering light, the common refrain is always that Kerry's a coward and he panicked, he always cut and run, he always shied from danger, etc.

Not being completely clueless about this issue, I was able to catch some blatant untruths. For example, he claimed, several times during the interview, that his group had "proven" that Kerry's first two Purple Hearts were the result of self-inflicted injuries, that Kerry had twice "turn[ed] a self-inflicted injury into a Purple Heart". He claimed that in spite of their "proof" they're getting shut down by everyone. As far as I can tell, the proof he's talking about is the sort of alternate interpretation of documents and personal recollections that only serve to convince the already inclined.

However, one thing they're being extremely clever about. On several occasions I've researched a particular accusation and discovered that Kerry's own accounts provide an opening for these alternate interpretations they're offering. For example, one story I heard concerned the Bronze Star incident, in which several boats were traveling together, 3 on the left and two (including Kerry's) on the right. The SBV story was that when the left lead boat hit a mine, Kerry immediately hightailed it away from the "kill zone", but then somehow reappeared after the fact to rescue Rassman. If you read Kerry's account, he also says he directed his boat away from the explosion, until Sandusky, who was piloting the boat, pointed out that the damaged boat's passengers were in trouble, at which point he directed Sandusky to turn around and go back to the scene, at which point they rescued Rassman.

If I were a suspicious person, I'd wonder if this new book was the result of exhaustive research into Kerry's statements and records over the past 30 years, looking for likely openings.

In the end, though, what I know--because they keep telling us--is that Gardner and others feel absolutely betrayed by Kerry's actions after returning from Vietnam. They consider him a traitor and, as Gardner mentioned, directly responsible for POW suffering at the end of the war. Whether Gardner believes his stories, or whether he believes Kerry deserves to be taken down for his post-war actions, his belief lends an unfortunate credibility to his stories that facts cannot.

update on Louisiana switcheroo

More on Alexander's competition, John W. "Jock" Scott. Seems Scott also switched parties, from Dem to Repub, back in 1985. Before that, Scott (according to an unsubtantiated source) served as Gary Hart's Louisiana campaign coordinator during Hart's first presidential campaign in 1984.

Actually, as far as I can make out, Scott has never been the Republican favorite in the district. According to a local political forum PoliticsLA.com, scuttlebutt had it that one or two other heavyweights, Fletcher and Holloway, were expected to qualify at the last minute. Neither did, which at the very least suggests they might have been given a heads up. In which case we can expect to see the NRCC support Alexander whole hog.

Another interesting tidbit about Louisiana politics: according to a recent editorial in the Baton Rouge Advocate, there have been a number of switches in LA the past few years. This includes Governor Mike Foster (switched in 1995 as he was entering the governor's race) and current Majority Whip Billy Tauzin (switched in 1995 or 96--perhaps not coincidentally right after the House switched to Repub control for the first time in his now 24-year stint--the guy likes to be in power).

more on rodney alexander

Atrios has a bit more on the Louisiana congressman who chose to switch from Dem to Repub in the least honorable way possible. MyDD has more.

I had assumed that Alexander's Repub challenger would be running to the right of the former Dem, but apparently that's not true, at least according to Alexander. He claims that he is MORE conservative than Scott, a long-time Repub. This is actually good news for Dems, who might have felt the need to vote for Alexander as the best of the worst, regardless of his machinations.

Kos has a bit more info on the remaining Dem challenger in this race, Zelma "Tisa" Blakes, of Monroe, LA, who has been described as a "domestic engineer" (the term she used on her registration) and a "businesswoman". Kos advocates sending money, but I'd like to see a bit more about her first. Maybe that's because I come from a state where the Repub leadership recently put up a guy for State Attorney General only to find out a few days later he'd been arrested 19 times (and something about exotic dancing??). Way to go Vancie! Anyway, here's a link to Tisa's upcoming website, which is supposed to be up and running in in the next couple of days.

bush says kerry is right--again

Kerry says: He hoped to begin reducing U.S. troop strength in Iraq within six months of taking office, if elected, but it will depend on broader international assistance, better stability in Iraq and other factors.

Bush says: Kerry's plan is politically driven. But--"The key is not to set artificial timelines."

Apparently Bush is regreting his own politically driven timelines, and jumping on the Kerry bandwagon that says decisions should be made based on circumstances in Iraq. Glad to have you aboard, Mr. President!

And mustn't McCain be having a good-old time touring the ranch and saying things like: "I just don't know how you do that. I just don't know how you achieve it without knowing the facts on the ground six months from now." Thanks for the nuanced endorsement, John!

Monday, August 09, 2004

new polling feature

PollingReport.com has a new feature: the National Trial Heat Summary, which compares several polls taken during the same period of time. It's a snapshot picture of a moment in time, rather than a trend tracker, so you can get a good view of the spread across all polling organizations. Its makes it really easy for us laymen to spot the outliers.

For example, today's snapshot shows a spread among likely voters as between -4 and +7 for Kerry (in 5 polls). It's easy to see that the -4 is way off, but there are two 7s and a five, so the numbers are definitely weighted on the higher end. For registered voters, the spread is 0 to +8 for Kerry (in 8 polls), with both the extremes obvious outliers.

Thanks Polling Report!

protecting sources--what the experts say

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a First Amendment Handbook containing legal background on rights pertaining to protecting confidential source.

Go there for all the scoop. Some relevant tidbits include:
  • Many, but not all, states have "shield" laws allowing reporters to protect their sources, under varying circumstances
  • With regard to reporters in the greater DC area, Maryland, Delaware, and DC have shield laws. Virginia does not. New York does, Illinois does not. Washington (State) does not.
  • A US Supreme precedent case (from 1972) lays out a specific 3-part "balancing test" to determine whether the reporter has the right to protect a source.
  • In most state laws, and in the Federal precedent, reporters cannot refuse to testify if they witnessed criminal activity.

protecting sources

Sure would like to see some honest discussion of the merits of reporters protecting their sources (AP via Seattle P-I).

Think of it this way, fellow lefties. Say the issue involved leaking classified information to uncover high-level sanctioning of torture at Abu Ghraib. Would we want a reporter giving up his or her source, resulting in prosecution of that source for leaking classified information?

I included some disparities between the Plame case and my hypothetical to raise some pertinent points. Is a reporter's right to protect a source--which of course has always been up in the air--an absolute right? A non-existent right? A subjective right depending on circumstances? If subjective, what is the criteria?

Does the intent behind the leak matter? In Plame, the reason was political payback and maneuvering. In my hypothetical, the reason would be to uncover a crime, in effect an act of whistleblowing.

Or maybe it's the outcome of the leak that matters. In Plame, the cover of a possibly valuable asset and her associates was blown (regardless of un-informed speculations on the right, no one except the CIA and Plame herself really knows the true impact of the outing). In my hypothetical, the result, in most people's eyes, would be the uncovering of a crime and exposure of criminals--although some would see the outcome as a compromising of an ugly but necessary operation.

These two examples are obviously worlds apart. But if our acceptance of the right to protect a source is subjective, who decides? In reality, it seems that subjectiveness has little to do with fact and everything to do with which side of the political spectrum you fall into.

And think about this. If reporters know that their choices on protecting sources will be subject to hindsight judgment, using information the reporter likely didn't have access to at the time, what impact will this have on their choices to report the story or not? More important, what impact will it have on potential leakers?

On the other hand, what responsibility does the reporter have to make judgments about intent and ramifications. Isn't there an obvious world of difference between the intent behind exposing a crime and scoring political points? And what about Time's Matthew Cooper, found today in contempt for refusing to testify? He chose not to report the leaked information, for whatever reason. What right or responsibility does he have with regard to a source whose information he obviously found unnewsworthy?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

the ingrid syndrome

Lambert, over on corrente, takes those of us to task who didn't jump on the "wag the dog" bandwagon last week. And he uses one of my favorite movies (Gaslight) to illustrate the point.

According to Lambert, by lamenting the resounding "we don't believe you" response to last week's terror alert, we must necessarily be ready blame that response for forcing Bush into the despicable act of outing an asset (Khan) and blowing a British counterintelligence operation. Well, not exactly.

In my mind, at least, the outing is definitive proof that Bush et al puts reelection before all other priorities, including the welfare of this country. This is not an easy indictment to make, although I have rarely found myself willing to defend this administration.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I think the driving force behind my comments last week was the sense that a large segment of the left was automatically discounting the alert, putting no thought or analysis into their belief, merely using it as a tool to ridicule the administration. This is a bad thing for at least three reasons:

  1. Merely spouting off a preformed opinion without real evidence, following some script of conventional wisdom, is just generally sloppy thinking. Following scripts--sound familiar? It's exactly what we excoriate in our newspapers and other media.
  2. It divides the country into the panicked and the ridiculers, two groups utterly incapable of communicating on this subject. Equally important, the ridiculers are setting themselves up to fail and fail big when the next terrorist attack happens. Which means their credibility is totally shot--for good reason, but it will also taint those of us who are politically aligned with the ridiculers but who show some basic respect for the issue of terrorism, if not this Chicken Little administration.
  3. It virtually ensures that the ridiculers will be completely unprepared to deal with a real terrorist attack when it happens. Which again damages credibility.
I thought that the media coverage last week was a mostly good balance of respect and skepticism, covering the alert and what it meant, but also asking hard questions, and reporting negative information when it leaked. I sincerely hope that some good journalists are keeping their mouths shut because they're putting together solid reports on the Khan outing.

For the rest of us, I think we have a responsibility to have respect for the capabilities and intent of terrorists around the world, including our own home grown variety. This doesn't mean having a blind faith in whatever Homeland Security chooses to announce. It does mean being prepared to deal with an event with something more than self-justifications.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

dope on polls

Just in time for the serious campaign season, Salon publishes a guide to polls: Court of Public Opinion, by Stephen W. Stromberg.

One comment that caught my attention was Stromberg's observation that Fox News polls, contrary to popular belief, do not have a particularly Republican bias. He quotes Robert Blendon, of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, saying " The Fox bias that some pollsters allege might come from the way numbers are reported, not gathered." This has been my observation also, looking at the bare numbers on pollingreport.com.

I was disappointed to learn that the Zogby polls, shown on the Wall Street Journal site, are generally considered controversial. Although I'd heard this opinion several years ago, I'd thought the WSJ connection indicated greater reliability. Damn.

wacky conspiracy theory of the day

Seen in comments on Political Animal, in response to speculation on why Colin Powell isn't attending the Repub National Convention:

"Will Hastert and Ted Stevens be at the convention? If so, then you'll have the top four guys in the line of succession there at the same time. If there's a terrorist attack that kills all four, Powell is the President."

Posted by: Greg on August 7, 2004 at 4:36 PM
I'm pretty sure Greg was joking....

cowards and turncoats

When I first heard the Rodney Alexander (?-LA 5th CD) had switched parties from Dem to Repub, and then read that Dems, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), had called him a coward and a turncoat, I thought, well that's a bit much. After all, our two parties aren't static; it's not surprising that moderates find themselves on the wrong side of the dividing line. And the fact that Alexander made his choice before the election--as opposed to after using Dem funds to get re-elected--sounded honorable.

Then I heard that he changed his affiliation within minutes of the registration deadline for the November elections. After months of reassuring Dems that he had no intention of switching parties, Alexander made the switch at the last possible moment, virtually ensuring that no viable Dem candidate could be found and put forward.

He did so two days after initially registering as a Dem, saying "I qualified as a Democrat. I'm not ashamed to be a Democrat. But I vote what I think the people of the 5th District want me to represent."

Stacking the deck to knock out your competition before the game--sounds like cowardice to me.

Remember Sen. Jim Jeffords? Back in 2001 he switched from Repub to Dem-leaning Independent in just about the most honorable way possible. After he announced his switch, he went out of his way to do the fair thing, commiting to voting Repub on some crucial upcoming bills, including the 2001 tax cut (which was actually a watered down version of the original, thanks to Repub Jeffords efforts on the Senate Finance committee). He also notified key Repub players before announcing his switch. One thing he did not do was use his switch to gain unfair competitive advantage.

In the Louisiana "open primary" system, the top two vote getters in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, are the only two on the ballot in November. Since there was already a strong Republican candidate in the field, Alexander's switch means that voters in November will have to choose between a conservative Repub and a moderate Repub. So the Repubs have pretty effectively locked up that seat no matter what happens.

It will be quite interesting to see what the Repub party does, now that they have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. Will they continue to back their original Repub candidate, or will they abandon him and pump up Alexander. His primary usefulness was to hand over his seat, and he's done that now. Will the Repub party make good on their promises (and they must have made some)? Or will they reckon a longtime party member is a safer bet than a newcomer who showed himself so willing to be played in such a cheap way?

Friday, August 06, 2004

kerry's tax plan

From Kerry campaign literature:
This week, I have been writing to you each day from the road about a different piece of the plan John Edwards and I have laid out for a stronger America. Today, I would like to talk about our commonsense plan to cut the deficit in half, make health care affordable, support small business, and improve our schools:

  • Cut middle class taxes: Let me be very clear: I will not raise taxes on middle-class Americans by one dime -- I will cut them, including tax cuts to make health care and education more affordable. 98 percent of Americans will pay less taxes under my plan, period.

  • Repeal Bush's tax cuts for the elite to pay for health and education: I will make health care affordable and accessible for all Americans and invest in education by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for individuals making over $200,000 per year.

  • Get government spending under control: I will restore the spending caps of the 1990s to ensure that spending -- outside of education and security -- does not grow faster than inflation.

  • End corporate welfare to reduce the deficit: I will push the McCain-Kerry Corporate Welfare Commission to eliminate wasteful and unnecessary corporate subsidies, and I will use the savings to reduce the deficit.

  • Reduce the corporate tax rate by 5 percent by ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

  • Provide significant relief to employers who offer their employees quality health coverage. Our plan will cover certain high-cost health cases and save families up to $1,000 per year.

View our full plan here: johnkerry.com

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

how to go to war

Hermann Goering, at the Nuremberg trials, 1946:
'Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship....Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.'

rhapsody strikes again

Just opened my rhapsody music player and got hooked by an "album spotlight" (read advertisement), for "Target and a Bullet". Anyone heard of Citizen Cope? Am now enjoying his debut album. Nice stuff. But then I'm a blues fan with an underfed taste for rap.

case of the missing secretary

For those of us who like a little noir with our news: Where's Rumsfeld? (washingtonpost.com)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

filling in the blanks

Something I've been noticing recently is that that left and right leaning blogs focus on different sets of stories or issues. Some stories, of course, are big enough for both, but many stories discussed ad nauseum by one side don't get even a ripple on the other. As a result, bloggers on the left or right tend to fall into a habit of shortcuts and obscure references, assuming that readers know what the heck they're talking about.

I think I did that in my last post with my "oh please" snide remark about Ridge not playing politics with the terrorist alerts. So here's the background.

Today Ridge said this: 'We don't do politics in the Department of Homeland Security.'

Sounds good, but is it true? Unfortunately no. Ridge apparently forgot the statement he made two days ago announcing the elevated terrorist alert, in which he included the following statements:

'But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the President's leadership in the war against terror. The reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan. Such operations and partnerships give us insight into the enemy so we can better target our defensive measures here and away from home.'

Legitimate point or not, it is 100% pure politics.

homeland security

I personally don't have a problem with terror alerts based on "unspecified" information. Although I do think there is an element of politics in the timing--notwithstanding Ridge's "we don't do politics" disclaimer today (oh please!!)--there's also a strong desire not to be caught flatfooted and napping the next time around. And I really think the latter is the stronger. We've told our government in no uncertain terms that we want to be kept informed (9/11 commission), so its pretty rude to complain when they do.

About this most recent alert, I can think of several scenarios why a valid threat might include information from 2 or 3 years ago. I, at least simply don't have enough information to support or condemn. So I guess the bottom line for me is that I give HS the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, heightened terror alerts don't really panic me. That doesn't happen to be part of my nature.

That doesn't mean there aren't problems. First, Ridge really has to stop the "rah rah brought to you by the amazing BushCo" endorsements tacked on to an alert announcement. It just weakens and cheapens the whole thing. Second, HS needs to realize that these alerts will bring to light weak spots in security caused by lack of federal funding, and they need to respond appropriately. Third, HS needs to deal with the inevitable widespread panic by doing more than just inform people of an alert--give us specific instructions on what to watch for, what to be ready for.

I wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea to have something like a national fire alarm program. If it was random and no one knew whether it was real or not, it would not only serve to give people practice in dealing with an alert, it would also allow HS to slip in a real alert without broadcasting what kind of intelligence they've acquired, which is another argument against these alerts. If the program laid out very specific and practical tasks for citizens to do, and if there was always the possibility that it was a drill, this would lessen the sense of general panic. At the same time, I think people are motivated to want to join in, practice. So I don't think, at least at the moment, that people would just brush it off. People overall would feel good about having a purpose, being able to take some small amount of control over the situation, and it would serve a practical purpose that over time people would do the right things at the right times. At the same time a national program would help us evaluate gaps and holes in infrastructure. It would be important to have a public analysis period afterwards, to learn from each exercise. And of course, the process would need to evolve over time as technology and targets change.

Something to think about, maybe.

Monday, August 02, 2004

kerry's education plan

Go here: "Hot For Teachers" by Jonathan Schorr

did novak act alone?

I've been having an intriguing exchange of views on Just One Minute regarding the Plame affair and the most recent news on a State Department memo. As I mentioned in a previous post, I think this memo will provide a sufficient escape route, because it provides the information that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and was involved in the Niger trip (however minimally) without identifying her as a covert operative.

I still maintain that Novak is still in the hot seat, however.

And I'll just say one more thing about Novak. At the same time we were hearing a lot of rhetoric in the this country about what should and shouldn't be reported for the safety of the country as well as troops abroad, when media organizations had been censoring themselves left and right to minimize the vision of a divided nation before the war--Novak makes his own judgement about the potential harm to Plame and her work? Does he really have that level of arrogance?

In fact, and here's a new thought--is it really credible that Novak would take it on himself to make that judgement about Plame? Or is it more likely he received assurances from someone he considered higher up the food chain than the CIA personnel he talked to?

Again, I think this will all come down to whether Novak finds it preferable to take his punishment (if any) and keep his mouth shut, or whether he rolls.

perfidy of polls`

The new Gallup polls was ugly, but ABCNEWS.com : ABC News' The Note tells us to take heart:

"With all due respect to Newsweek and Gallup, hold onto your hat and hair for tonight's ABC News/Washington Post poll. And please say 'boost' or 'bump,' and not 'bounce.'"

Sunday, August 01, 2004

plame paraphanelia

Check out this site Just One Minute with a somewhat more conservative (can I say neocon?) bent. Tom Maguire obviously does a lot of research and provides plenty of links to point you in the right directions. Doesn't make his arguments correct (grin) but it does inspire thought, which is always a good thing!

Here's an interesting example: Footnotes: The Joseph Wilson / Valerie Plame Timeline

questions on Niger forgeries

Re Josh Marshall's Niger post today: YAY that this story is finally coming out. I'd begun to think it, whatever it was, had passed its sell by date.

[BTW--absolutely do not spend money to read the London Times report. Josh's post is longer and contains infinitely more information. The only piece of new info is that the "security consultant" calls himself "Giacomo".]

One issue I hope gets cleared up is the timing. As far as I can tell, based on Josh's information and the Senate IC report, here's the timeline:

late 2000
SISMI sets up link between "Giacomo" and Niger embassy contact.
late 2001
SISMI gives forgeries to Niger embassy contact to pass to "Giacomo".
SISMI also summarizes the info in the forgeries and disseminates to other countries including US & Britain.
Oct. 2002
"Giacomo" gives the forgeries to Elizabetta Burba.
My questions:

1. When the SISMI set up the Niger embassy contact in late 2000, was it specifically to funnel these forgeries? If so, why the year-long lead time? Unless there is some much larger plan of which the forgeries are only a small part, this seems excessive. Especially considering how bad the forgeries reportedly are--could SISMI really not see this for themselves? (Unanswerable question, of course.)

1b. A related question: what possible long-term use would a Nigerien conduit have for the SISMI--that is, what amount of useful information could credibly originate from a Nigerien Embassy employee? At first glance, it seems obvious that the conduit was set up specifically for the forgeries. On the other hand, "Giacomo" couldn't possibly know about the forgeries, and he was willing to pay ~$500 a month for info. So what's the context behind these relationships? (I am trying to point out that some serious questions come up here when evaluating plausibility from the point of view of a specific individual and point in time.)

2. When did the Niger conduit give the forgeries to "Giacomo"?

3. Why did an entire year pass between when the Niger conduit gave the forgeries to "Giacomo" and when he gave them to Burba?

4. What prompted "Giacomo" to pass them to Burba at the exact moment he did?

plame escape route?

This Newsweek story says that Powell recently testified for the Fitzgerald grand jury investigation of the Plame outing.

In the midst of reassurances that the probe is comprehensive ("sources say the decision to question Powell shows the thoroughness with which Fitzgerald is conducting the probe") there are two statements that will concern people anxious to see heads roll over this issue.

1. "The [State Department intelligence] report stated that Wilson's wife had attended a meeting at the CIA where the decision was made to send Wilson to Niger, but it did not mention her last name or undercover status."

The significance of this report is apparently that Powell had it with him when he traveled with Bush to Africa in July 2003. The implication is that Powell may have diseminated info from this report to Bush.

Now, before you start jumping up and down screaming "It was Bush! It was Bush!", think again and realize that it is highly unlikely Bush personally picked up the phone and called Novak. It's far more likely that he told someone else to make sure the involvement of Wilson's wife got out to the public. The obvious bad news is that this report provides for the possibility that someone high up might know "wife" without knowing "undercover operative".

This does not in any way clear Novak, however. Josh Marshall analyzed last year that Novak's use of the word "operative" to mean "undercover agent" was 100% consistent. Although this point is unlikely to sway a grand jury to an indictment, the fact that Novak was contacted by CIA and asked not to reveal Plame's identity should do some swaying.

2. "Though most lawyers thought the investigation was nearly complete, sources say Fitzgerald has recently recalled witnesses before the grand jury—apparently to ask about issues raised by a new Senate intelligence committee report that seemed to contradict some of Wilson's public statements about Plame's role in his trip to Niger."

In the face of a recent barrage of commentary that Plame's involvement in Wilson's trip is somehow supposed to make outing her acceptable, many people pointed out that the issue was wholly irrelevant from a legal standpoint. Surely Fitzgerald would not be swayed by these clever sounding but erroneous arguments? Well, perhaps not.

The only real good news in this article is that virtually every item of information and analysis in it comes from anonymous "sources". Perhaps these unnamed sources are trying to get ahead of any Powell testimony buzz.