Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Get Off It

My 3rd CSM story of the day, this one is a late-breaking entrant for the 2003 Most Nauseating Column Award that has jumped ahead of the pack and looks like a front-runner. How can a person be so completely wrong. I particularly like the part about the Osama bin Laden followers killing the 18 Americans in Mogadishu. Wrong. Try again. And Libya as a response to the Iraq war. That's a hell of stretch. Ugh....

Politics in the Era of the MTV Attention Span

I wanted to comment on this, because I've seen a number of similar stories to this one on CSM essentially predicting doom for the Democrats because the economy is doing so well and we got Saddam. These people clearly don't follow politics much. Or if they do, don't pay attention. If they had they would have realized that anything that happens right now is utterly irrelevant to the general election. This will be ancient, ancient history by November of next year. The political attention span of this country is about 3 months. And that is being really generous. What happens this December means nothing. What happens next September, on the other hand, is everything. If there is still fighting and bloodshed in Iraq by next fall, if we're still seeing domestic and international terrorist activity, it will be obvious that Saddam's capture didn't buy us much, and nobody will care. If there is peace and prosperity in Iraq and the new government is off to a roaring start, it wouldn't have mattered if we had never caught Saddam. Either way, whether things are good or bad, Saddam becomes irrelevant. The economy is no different. If the economy is headed south by the fall, this will look like a fool's rally in a long string of poor economic performances. If a strong recovery is taking hold by next fall, then Bush has a strong accomplishment to run on. In either case, voters will be thinking about the fall 2004 economy when they go to the polls, not the fall 2003 economy. It all comes down to what happens when the campaign for the general election is running.

The Triumph of Buddy Jesus

CSM has a story on the odd phenomenon of churches services transformed into large arena shows complete with rock music, flashy videos, and politically correct, easy to process McSermons. We've got a couple of these things around here. It's bizarre, on saturday nights you'll see this huge traffic jam, they'll have cops directing traffic, lanes blocked off by cones, the whole deal. I guess it's better than having people go to some Christian right, hellfire and brimstone church, but it's kind of sad to see one of the remaining strongholds of culture in this country wiped out by a repackaged version of itself stripped of all meaningful cultural elements.

Monday, December 29, 2003

A Beef with Ann Veneman

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today (online edition) that Federal investigators now estimate that 81 cattle across the US may have been exposed to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as BSE or Mad Cow Disease. Relatively little seems to be known about the first cow to test positive for BSE in the U.S. Discovered in Washington, the cow was 6.5 years old when slaughtered and may be from Canada. All beef slaughtered in the same plant as that cow on that day has been recalled.

The administration has been quick to downplay the health risks associated with this case. In an interview with CNN, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman goes so far as to say that "...I want to make sure that everyone understands that we have a safe beef supply and no one should hesitate. "

I realize that the federal government wants to avoid causing a panic in the American beef-eater and protect the American beef industry, but such statements are dangerous. The fact is, some 37 million cattle are slaughtered each year in the United States. Of these, an average of 20,000 are tested. How, then, can we possibly know the extent of BSE present in the population of American cattle? Until we do know, the government should not be so quick to dismiss the risk to our beef supply and therefore the beef consumer. Veneman also claims that because the brain and spinal cord were removed, there is little risk of contamination from this cow. Yet, studies (see Stanley Prusiner and others) are beginning to show that the muscle of infected animals contains prions (the infectious agent) as well, although it is still unclear whether muscle prions are as infectious as nervous system prions. Again, the government should not be so quick to dismiss potential health risks.

To their credit, the government has taken the good steps of banning ruminant-to-ruminant feed (1997) and the CDC has a national monitoring system for Creutzfeld Jakob Disease, the human equivalent of BSE (variant CJD is the result of "infection" from contaminated cattle). Unfortunatley for epidemiology, vCJD does not develop clinically until years, perhaps decades, after exposure to contaminated beef. This monitoring system will clearly be inadequate for preventing an outbreak of BSE/CJD.

I, for one, will be avoiding beef products until the status of American cattle becomes clear. Perhaps we should require testing of every slaughtered cow as in Japan. While I agree that the health risk posed by BSE in the U.S. is probably low, we simply do not know enough to be sure one way or the other. Until we do know more, I'll be sticking to non-beef and soy meat. But if any of you out there must have your beef, you may want to consider organic. Organically fed cows are fed with diets that avoid all animal products.

Osama Bin-Krar

Kudos to CSM for finally highlighting an intended case of domestic terrorism that was glossed over earlier by the national media. William Krar had a sodium-cyanide bomb (among other things) that could have killed thousands according to the article. What may shock most Americans is that this man is a home-grown white supremacist that hates the government. Perhaps not so surprising, he is from Texas...

Going Down?

The dollar continues to sink..

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Tony Blair's Red Herring

Here's a bit of a bizarre story. Tony Blair claimed in an interview that the Iraq Survey Group had found "massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories, workings by scientists, plans to develop long range ballistic missiles". Paul Bremer, commenting on the quote, not knowing that it came from Blair, responded, "I don't know where those words come from but that is not what (ISG chief) David Kay has said. ... It sounds like a bit of a red herring to me. It sounds like someone who doesn't agree with the policy sets up a red herring then knocks it down." Doh! And can anyone explain why this WMD thing has apparently fizzled out? I always thought it put Blair at more risk than Bush, but it doesn't appear to have done any significant damage to either...

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Sometimes Satire Isn't Even Necessary

Today's poll on Fox News: On Guard. Question: "Are you taking a 'business as usual approach' now that the nation is on high alert?" Answers: "Yes, otherwise the terrorists would win", "No, I'm altering my plans", "I'm not sure". Results: 96% yes, 3% no, 1% not sure. You may have to scroll down past the ad for the George W. Bush Top Gun action figure to see the poll. You can't make this shit up...

Monday, December 22, 2003

The Inside Story

I've recently become aware of George Washington University's National Security Archive. The archive actively pursues government information through the Freedom of Information Act, analyzes the data and makes archives of FOIA material available to the public. It's really great to be able to cut through the bullshit and see what the government actually knew and thought about some of these issues. Their Saddam Hussein report is particularly popular these days. There are some fascinating things in this report. You can see where the US government learns about Iraq's use of chemical weapons. You can see how the US largely ignores this issue in subsequent communications with the Iraqi government. You can see the administration skirting policy rules that barred the export of military equipment to Iraq. You can see the DIA favoring the sale of dual-use nuclear materials to Iraq. You can see the US's efforts to keep the UN's actions on the matter under control. It's an impressive bit of journalism. It certainly calls into question W's claim in the interview with Diane Sawyer that the invasion of Iraq was justified by Iraq's use of chemical weapons.

"But the fact that he is not there is, means America's a more secure country."

I sure feel more secure. Orange is safer than yellow, right?

Friday, December 19, 2003

What's the Difference?

Here's a bit of an inverview transcript between our Commander In Chief and Diane Sawyer:

DIANE SAWYER: But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still —

PRESIDENT BUSH: So what's the difference?


Wow! But wait, there's more...

DIANE SAWYER: What would it take to convince you he didn't have weapons of mass destruction?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Saddam Hussein was a threat and the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.

DIANE SAWYER: And if he doesn't have weapons of mass destruction [inaudible] —

PRESIDENT BUSH: Diane, you can keep asking the question. I'm telling you — I made the right decision for America —

DIANE SAWYER: But-

PRESIDENT BUSH: — because Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction, invaded Kuwait. ... But the fact that he is not there is, means America's a more secure country.

Wow. Somebody ought to get this interview to those folks making the moveon.org ads. There's some good material there.

The Numbers Hurt

Look at the pretty, pretty graphs.

A Dying Breed

Articles like this make me ever so happy to be getting out of the software industry. Forrester Research is predicting that the already hurting software development sector will lose another 25% of its jobs in the next 10 years. Ouch.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Watch Commercials, Defeat Bush

You guys may have already gotten an email from moveon regarding this, but moveon.org has a new initiative where they solicited fans and members to create their own 30 second anti-Bush TV add. They've now received over 1000 of them and so have requested moveon members view and rate the ads for them. What a great way to a) gather some data on the ads, b) give your members an easy way to participate and do something useful, c) expose them to your propaganda. Nicely done, moveon.

Civil Rights Make a Comeback

Thanks to our judiciary for slamming the brakes on the Guantanamo/Camp Xray/enemy combatant scheme to bypass Constitutional protections. The 2nd circuit decided that US citizen, Jose Padilla, cannot be held indefinitely without trial, which seems like a no-brainer, but I guess you never know these days... Meanwhile the 9th ruled that even the internationals held in Guantanamo must have access to lawyers and the courts. Hooray for the good guys!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Fun Things to Do At Return of the King

This is one of those things that just bounces around the internet. Best source I can attribute it to is here.

1 Stand up halfway through the movie and yell loudly, "Wait...where the hell is Harry Potter?"
2 Block the entrance to the theater while screaming, "YOU.....SHALL NOT..... PASS!" - After the movie, say "Lucas could have done it better."
3 Play a drinking game where you have to take a sip every time someone says, "the Ring."
4 Point and laugh whenever someone dies.
5 Ask everyone around you if they think Gandalf went to Hogwarts.
6 Finish off every one of Elrond's lines with "Mis..ter Ander-sonnn."
7 When Aragorn is crowned king, stand up and at the top of your lungs sing, "And I did it.... MY way...!"
8 Talk like Gollum all through the movie. At the end, bite off someone's finger and fall down the stairs.
9 Dress up as old ladies and reenact "The Battle of Helms Deep," Monty Python style.
10 When Denethor lights the fire, shout "Barbecue!"
11 In TTT when the Ents decide to march to war, stand up and shout, "RUN FOREST, RUN!"
12 Every time someone kills an Orc, yell: "That's what I'm Tolkien about!" See how long it takes before you get kicked out of the theatre.
13 During a wide shot of a battle, inquire, "Where's Waldo?"
14 Talk loudly about how you heard that there is a single frame of a nude Elf hidden somewhere in the movie.
15 Start an Orc sing-a-long.
16 Come to the premiere dressed as Frankenfurter and wander around looking terribly confused.
17 When they go in the paths of the dead, wait for a tense moment and shout, "I see dead people!"
18 Imitate what you think a conversation between Gollum, Dobby and Yoda would be like.
19 Release a jar of daddy-long-legs into the theater during the Shelob scene.
20 Wonder out loud if Aragorn is going to run for governor of California.
21 When Shelob comes on, exclaim, "Man! Charlotte's really let herself go!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Spreading Christmas Spirit

I particularly like the picture of the mosque...

Spreading Christmas Spirit

I know I'm getting carried away with the satire lately, but this was too good not to post.

Who's The Man!

We like satire...

Fulfilling the Promise of America

Flipping through channels while eating dinner I came across Howard Dean delivering a speech on his foreign policy to The Pacific Council on C-SPAN. I thought it was a pretty good speech, you can find the text here, though a bit more verbose than necessary in some spots. After the speech he took some questions from the audience, and they asked some very good questions, and I found him to be more impressive there than in the prepared material. I don't see it in the C-SPAN archives right now, but I'll check again tomorrow to see if it's added. He handled the questions on Iraq and Saddam very deftly, did ok on Israel (he's still a bit more conservative on that than I'd prefer), and had some very thoughtful and intelligent things to say about US relations with China. There is a lot in common in his remarks with the Wesley Clark article I posted earlier today.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Lieberman's Logic

Joe Lieberman has outdone himself in his statement regarding the capture of Saddam Hussein. Let's focus on two quotes by this Joe (who does a great disservice to our Joe's name):

"This evil man has to face the death penalty. The international tribunal in The Hague cannot order the death penalty, so my first question about where he's going to be tried will be answered by whether that tribunal can execute him."

First of all, shouldn't the Iraqi people be the primary decision makers in how and when Hussein goes to trial? Second, while Lieberman doesn't directly call for Hussein's execution, it comes close enough. Apparently Lieberman doesn't even want to go through the pretext of a trial before offing Hussein. Next:

"If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would still be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a more dangerous place. "

Let's look at this from another perspective: If Howard Dean had his way, Hussein would likely still be contained by sanctions and weapons inspections, he would still not represent an imminent threat to the United States, over 500 coalition troops would still be alive today (and how many innocent Iraqi citizens?), our international alliances would be strong, and our federal deficit wouldn't be exploding due to the tremendous costs of war and reconstruction in Iraq. It is good news for the entire world that Hussein is now detained, but let us not forget the grave costs of this endeavor.

Wesley Clark: Foreign Policy Guru

Someone on a forum I read pointed out this column Wesley Clark wrote for Washington Monthly. I continue to be very impressed by his foreign policy knowledge and analysis. I also greatly appreciate seeing something written on this intellectual level by a candidate, where you can actually tell that he wrote it, and it wasn't slopped together by some PR hack. If someone beats Dean, I sure hope it's Clark. Whichever one wins, it would be very cool to see them both on the same ticket.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Is This Progress?

The release of this year's trade figures exposes the dark, seamy underbelly of the recovery. We've set a new record trade deficit to go along with our record federal budget deficit. Personal debt levels are also setting records. And based on our previous conversations I think we are generally in agreement that the dollar is substantially overvalued, generally speaking. To top it off, our good friends at the Heritage Foundation point out that the federal government has generated these record deficits despite a $247 billion/year windfall of reduced interest payments on the national debt due to low interest rates. Now, I'm still not sure how much of the mises.org fiat currency doom and gloom to buy, but it is absolutely clear to me that these trends are unsustainable. Given the general tendencies of economic systems (read massive feedback loops), I suspect when they reach the limits of their sustainability they will not sort themselves out gently. Particularly given the dire circumstances of the impending baby boomer retirements. Even if the political establishment starts to recognize this problem, public inertia and the rapid onset of fiscal catastrophe will likely prevent them from having the necessary impact. It is becoming difficult for me to see a scenario where we do not suffer a major economic meltdown sometime in the next 15-20 years. Maybe buying gold is not such a bad idea...

Friday, December 12, 2003

Howard Dean and the Power of Infomation

Phenomenal column by Everett Ehrlich on the Washington Post today on the subject of the importance of information in organizations. Ehrlich hits points I have mentioned as to why I don't see Dean's outsider status as having the sort of impact that it did for McGovern or Goldwater, and also speaks cogently about the difference in Dean's relationship to the party as compared to the other candidates. I think much of this is equally applicable to MoveOn.org. A very worthwhile read.

US Calls Afghan Convention - Democracy Breaks Out

In June, 2002, the US called for a loya jirga in Afghanistan to rubber-stamp their decision to put Hamid Karzai in charge of the new government. They thought they would do the same to have their newly written constitution approved. Not so. The warlords that the US chose to leave governing the provinces have figured out how to play this democracy game and have their own ideas for the constitution. It seems nobody actually knows what is going to happen when this loya jirga assembles, but it does appear the warlords have a clear upper hand. If the mujahideen wrest control of the government and Karzai resigns it would be a disaster for American policy in Afghanistan. Lesson: driving a bunch of thugs out of a country by helping a different bunch of thugs defeat them.. not such a good idea, particularly when half of the first group of thugs just switches uniforms and joins the second group.

Beyond the EU

An article on CSM details the EU's struggle to pass a new constitution, and the possibility of France and Germany peeling off to form their own union. It's a very interesting idea, and I think more than a small possibility. I would look for increasingly close ties between France and Germany in any case.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Going for the Gold

Henry's not the only one worrying about the state of the dollar. Even Clinton labor secretary Bob Reich is concerned about the possibility of a run on the dollar. I still suspect that the Euro may not be the best place to hide from dollar instability. If the dollar collapses, the Euro may well come with it..

Finalist for the "Well, duh" award:

And they would know...

Pretty Much Fucked

The Onion has once again come through as the most canny and accurate news outlet with their recent report on the state of America's poor. On the bright side there are some new employment opportunities for immigrants.

AP: Iraq to Stop Counting Civilian Dead

Yahoo News has this story.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Supreme Court Upholds Campaign Finance Law

The 298-page opinion is available here, if anyone is interested (the first 19 pages provide a summary).

Collateral Damage

Geez, we're getting good at this. But then we're learning from the best.

No Contracts For You!

The Pentagon announces that businesses in countries that didn't support the war will be shut out of contracts in Iraq. I love the quote from Paul Wolfowitz in the article: "Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international co-operation in Iraq." Um, yeah, Paul, that's exactly what it will do. I'm sure the EU and NATO will be real excited to sign on with you now...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Snus to the Rescue

BBC has a story about health researchers and anti-tobacco activists lobbying the EU to lift their ban on snus. There's a step in the right direction.

Monday, December 08, 2003

So much for all the "the Democratic establishment hates Dean and will never support him" stuff

I think it's hard to get more "establishment" than Al Gore. Hopefully his announcement will do two things: 1. narrow the field and get the naysayers to quit piling on Dean--at least on the charge that he is a fringe wacko (the stuff about him being too much of a centrist fiscal conservative actually helps, I think); and 2. on the other side, get the Dean camp to quit dumping on the party as out of touch and focus exclusively on the real opponents.

Declining Global Influence

CSM has a story about how shrewd foreign policy moves by China and policy mistakes on our part have allowed China to become the dominant political force in the Far East.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

GOP House Members Proposal to Replace FDR with Reagan on the dime

The AP issued this report on December 5 (as found in the San Francisco Gate). According to this story from the UPI (covered by the Washington Times on December 2), 80 Republican House members co-sponsored the bill. The text of the Ronald Reagan Dime Act (H.R. 3633) may be found here. Nancy Reagan is reportedly against the bill, according to this AP story (from San Francisco Gate). Rep. Souder (R, Ind.)--the chief sponsor of the legislation--has stated in this press release on his homepage that he maintains his support for the bill despite the former first lady's comments. According to this article on today's Chicago Tribune webpage, Rep. Souder is open to compromise, suggesting that they could put Reagan on one side and FDR on the other, or they could alternate the image each year.

Some excerpts from the bill:
President Ronald Wilson Reagan, through his efforts as the 40th President of the United States, created policies that renewed economic growth, strengthened the resolve of the free world together to oppose totalitarianism, and restored pride in the United States.

President Reagan, through his simple republican dignity and sense of personal responsibility to the United States of America, brought pride and honor to the Office of the President
.

(Thanks to Joe Conason's Journal on Salon.com for raising this issue.)

Friday, December 05, 2003

A Banking Intro

Henry has been delving deeply into the world of global banking systems. He has many interesting theories on the subject, which I'm sure he'll enlighten us with once he's through with finals. He has concerns regarding fiat currencies, particularly with the overextension of the US's fiat currency, and seems to be mostly in agreement with the "Austrian school" of economics as established by Ludwig Von Mises. He assures me that although mises.org has been hijacked by intellectually inbred libertarian lunatics, there is much merit in Mises's economic theory. So in order to better equip myself for these discussions I've dug through the Asia Times archive to find a large, multi-part banking system primer written by Henry C K Liu (if he ever wrote any sections beyond 4c, I haven't been able to find them). If anyone else wants to get a head start on this topic, there ya go...

Thursday, December 04, 2003

The Long, Slow Slide

News from Iraq gets uglier and uglier. I think we are at the brink of a point of no return, after which point it will be impossible to repair our relationship with the Iraqi people and we will be powerless to help their new government succeed. We'll be left with no option but to pack up and go home and hope for the best. Or we may have already stepped off that precipice and started the long slide down, it's hard to say... And if we have gone over the edge, if past history is a guide, it may take us years to realize it..

CSM has a great roundup of coverage on the newly infamous battle at Samarra. To cover some highlights:

A supposed US officer who fought in the battle wrote to an ex-military blogger:
"During the ambushes the tanks, brads and armored HUMVEES hosed down houses, buildings, and cars while using reflexive fire against the attackers. One of the precepts of "Iron Hammer" is to use an Iron Fist when dealing with the insurgents. As the division spokesman is telling the press, we are responding with overwhelming firepower and are taking the fight to the enemy. The response to these well coordinated ambushes was as a one would expect. The convoy continued to move, shooting at ANY target that appeared to be a threat. RPG fire from a house, the tank destroys the house with main gun fire and hoses the area down with 7.62 and 50cal MG fire. Rifle fire from an alley, the brads fire up the alley and fire up the surrounding buildings with 7.62mm and 25mm HE rounds. This was actually a rolling firefight through the entire town."

With typical understatement, the BBC wrote:
"The Americans were using enormously powerful weapons, including 50 mm cannons mounted on Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and 120 mm tank rounds from the Abrams. Used in a densely populated urban area, built with flimsy mud-bricks, it is almost inconceivable that people well out of sight of the gunners were not also injured in the battle. "

The US military take:
"We have been very aggressive in our convoy operations to ensure the maximum force protection is with each convoy, but it does send a clear message that if you attempt to attack one of our convoys, we're going to use our firepower to stop that attack."

Response of a Samarran emergency room worker:
"All the people in town today are asking for revenge. They want to kill the Americans like they killed our civilians. Give me a gun, and I will also fight."

Conclusion of our anonymous US combatant:
"Since we did not stick around to find out, I am very concerned in the coming days we will find we killed many civilians as well as Iraqi irregular fighters. I would feel great if all the people we killed were all enemy guerrillas, but I can't say that. We are probably turning many Iraqi against us and I am afraid instead of climbing out of the hole, we are digging ourselves in deeper."

< nelson > Ha Ha! < /nelson >

For an amusing diversion, go to google and run a search on "miserable failure".... :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Ask the White House a science question

Dr. John H. Marburger, President Bush's Science Advisor, will be answering questions on the White House's webpage today at 3:30pm ET. You can submit a question here.

Cyber-Security

The Washington Post has this article on the failure of the Bush administration to fund its own National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace , which the administration released over a year ago. I have not yet had an opportunity to read the document (indeed, the article was the first time I had heard about it) but I expect it will be an interesting read.

Worms For You

BBC has a curious science article suggesting we may all be better off with a few hookworms in our guts. These guys leave no stone unturned..

The Anti-Rove

Christopher Lydon, a Harvard Law fellow, has a great interview with Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi on mp3. It's a very fun listen. I think this guy has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Karl Rove. The secret? His habit of "dipping Skoal snuff and drinking Diet Pepsi non-stop". As I've said before, I'm voting for this guy and the campaign he's put together as much as I am for Dean. If you do nothing else intellectual-like for the next month, listen to this interview. We ought to send him a Boys' Weekend invite, he would fit right in.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Experiment In Community Building

Also covered on CSM today a story about an experiment on how to rebuild decaying communities. There are some very simple ideas here that appear to effectively promote active civic participation. I think sometimes the answers can be simpler than we imagine. A little leadership to open the lines of communication can go a long ways.

An End to Progressive Taxes

CSM is running an insightful story on how Bush's tax cuts are moving US policy towards a flat tax. I knew that the cuts were top-heavy, but I hadn't realized how far they went. If the Democratic candidates can't figure out how to make this play with the electorate they deserve what comes to them. They normally get scrared off by accusations of "class warfare". At some point they have to realize that, yes, it is class warfare, and they, along with 90% of the US population, are getting their asses kicked.

At Least We Impress Ourselves

I love the headline on this one. I guess Europe is not as familiar with the Bush Legislative Strategy, as highlighted by Dave, of taking a useless symbolic action then launching an expensive media blitz to promote it. They'll get used to it.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Consumer Culture

I cannot find words adequate for this story. To add insult, Wal-Mart's concern for her was couched in their desire that she "come back as a shopper." Ugh....

Friday, November 28, 2003

A Karl Rove Production

Starring our President George W. Bush, the latest production features a clandestine fly-in by the president to the bowels of Baghdad. Braving the chaos and violence of Baghdad, from car bombs to rocket attackes, the valiant Bush defies the evil Iraqi terrorists and serves turkey to the American troops. Don't miss this sequel to the awe-inspiring aircraft carrier landing! Coming soon to a theater near you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Bush Legislative Strategy

From American Prospect's Matthew Yglesias (as reported by Howard Kurtz):

"The architects of Bushism . . . don't really believe that the government can or should solve problems. But they don't want too come out and say that, or they'll lose elections. So instead they see that the public wants a prescription drug bill and decide they'd better write something called "the prescription drug bill." Then they call up their friends on K Street and ask what the prescription drug bill should say, write the thing, and launch a PR campaign designed to convince people that their bill does whatever it is people wanted the law to do. Sometimes, as with the energy bill, they just take a lobbyist-written piece of legislation and start casting about (terrorism! blackouts!) for some kind of problem it can pose as a solution to."

Thanksgiving's Shadow Side

I have to say, when I saw this headline, I immediately thought of the poor toilets on Turkey Day. Enjoy.

Clean Up Your Own Mess

The International Red Cross has announced that it will discontinue its food aid to the occupied Palestinian territories. The program was an emergency one begun in mid-2002 after violence escalated between the Palestinians and Israelis. I think this is a good decision on their part. I hope other agencies will follow, at the same time putting pressure on Israel to maintain stability and health in Palestine, as should be its obligation. My only concern is that Israel, content with its wall, will refuse to step in, and other agencies or countries (like the US) will fail to notice it or care. Should that be the case, the Palestinians will suffer unduly.

More on the Memo

Stephen Hayes, the author of the Weekly Standard article, has this commentary in the L.A. Times.

And in their effort to be fair and balanced, the L.A. Times posted this counterpoint commentary by Christopher Scheer, author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq.

And William Safire published this article in The Day (A Connecticut Newspaper, I think).

Holy Spam, Batman!

Well this just takes all. Here and I thought the energy and medicare bills were both tilted a bit heavily in favor of commercial interest. But how about this, an anti-spam bill that leaves spammers celebrating! Not only is this bill completely broken and ineffective, but it will also preempt the non-broken anti-spam laws that have been passed in 35 states. Of course this thing passed the House in a landslide and its counterpart flew through the Senate on a 97-nil vote. And how could such a lousy piece of legislation be so popular with congress-people? It has a snappy name, the CAN-SPAM bill, and all congress-people know that a catchy name is the hallmark of quality legislation. Unfortunately they all seem to have misinterpreted the intended meaning of the word "CAN" in that name... Sometimes politics in this country are about enough to make me ill.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

God Bless America... Or Else!

Apparently substantial portions of the bill previously known as Patriot II have been inserted into an intelligence funding bill which was passed by both houses of Congress last week. If their goal was to get under the public radar, this bill is apparently the stealth bomber of oppressive legislation. After all the uproar about the Patriot II back when it was first circulated, I can't find a single major media source that is covering this. Wired has it, slashdot grabbed it from there, Asia Times has it, even the AP has a story on it, but it doesn't look like anyone much picked it up, and those that did didn't pay any attention. By tying this crap onto an "intelligence" bill they apparently get a pass by the press to keep everything hush-hush. In any case the feds now have more freedom to collect records on us all while forbidding anyone from whom they acquire those records from letting us know about it. And also the requirements for numerous reports to Congress have been eliminated. More power, less oversight, yeehaw! That sounds like a recipe for a lot of wacky and wild fun times. It's a good thing we know that the FBI always shows such good judgment.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The Ghost of Philip K. Dick Conquers Hollywood

Wired is running a story, covered by slashdot, on the phenomenon of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick's novels and short stories being made into major Hollywood productions. I thought it was a good read, but of course Blade Runner is still my all-time favorite movie. It's really too sad that the David Cronenberg/William Hurt version of Total Recall never got made. That could have been very cool. The article includes the following snipped from a Dick essay:

"We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

The Dollar Drama

Also on CSM today, the latest installment of the ever-gripping dollar drama. In today's episode a number of experts propose that now may be an "optimal time to achieve the inevitable dollar correction". If so, hopefully he means sometime before next fall. :)

Watching Over Us

CSM's daily update today rounds up a lot of good coverage of all the creepy tricks the feds are up to. I don't understand how we can still give power to government agencies, without narrowly defining it, under the assumption that they will never use it in any way other than it was intended by Congress. Haven't we had ample proof by now that this doesn't work? Have we not figured out yet that if there is room for power to be abused it is simply a matter of when, not whether, that abuse will occur? Is that not the entire reason why our founders insisted that we have a government of laws not of men? I guess naming a bill some bit of jingoistic nationalist pap exempts it from any rational scrutiny.

re: Washington Post on Leaks

The column missed what I'd regard as the more obvious explanation:

4. Access. This administration has been famously aggressive and combative in limiting press access. Now they decide to leak, but only leak to a conservative news outlet who, as far as I can tell, has refused to share the actual memo with anyone. The major mainstream news sources have to be pissed. Particularly as the material seems to be of questionable value and appears to be a cynical political ploy rather than a disclosure of critical new material. I imagine they see the scenario as a) this administration has treated us like shit from day 1, b) they leaked this material to some pissant conservative advocacy magazine who won't share it, c) the memo appears to contain no new information and is only leaked to pump the old info back into the forefront of public attention (ie propaganda). Result: they bury the story and send a note to the White House saying next time you want us to propagandize for you, cut us in on the scoop, you wankers.

Washington Post on Leaks

The Post in this article (posted today) wonders why mainstream media has not carried the Memo story and concludes it must be one of three possibilities:
1) Mainstream reporters are sulking about having been beat.
2) The stories aren't all that great.
3) The establishment press reacts differently when conservatives break stories, assume it's part of the vast right-wing conspiracy and try to knock down the allegations.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Our free trade hypocrisy

With all the promotion of free trade by the Bush administration, I am continually amazed by how protectionist it is. The EU, supported by the recent WTO ruling against American steel tariffs, is threatening sanctions of its own on politically sensitive American products unless those tariffs are repealed. The Bush administration is taking time to think things over, as if the WTO ruling were ambiguous. Ironically, the steel tariffs, while perhaps saving a few steel worker jobs, have hurt American consumers of steel with higher prices.

As if that weren't enough, the administration has announced that it will impose quotas on the imports of certain Chinese textiles and clothing. This is technically legal under the WTO agreement with China (I can't find the specific text, but I believe that the US can impose product specific quotas on hyper-increasing imports for 12 years - aren't we sneaky?) . Strangely, these quotas are likely to do little for the virtually nonexistent textile manufacturing industry in the US. Will someone tell me what this administration means by free trade?

Re: Did you get that memo?

With all my efforts to chronicle the news (or paucity thereof in the mainstream press) regarding the memo, I have yet to offer much in the way of my take on the whole matter. It appears to me that this was deliberately released by the administration--or at least some segment of it--that was concerned a number of Bush supporters were losing faith in the Iraq effort. I am deeply concerned that this has estabished a trend of releasing highly sensitive information that benefits the administration and harms its opponents. And I am surprised that the immediate rebuke by the Department of Defense has not received attention from the mainstream media, and I am surprised that only a few journalists have risen to the task of addressing the substantive points raised in the Weekly Standard piece.

I would wager that few other media sources have actually obtained a copy of the memo (this seems to be the case with the Newsweek journalists who tried to address the points that were raised in the "Case Closed" story but had no knowledge of the remaining points of the memo). This story is essential to understand what the state of the evidence was at the time Bush asserted to the American public and the rest of the world that Saddam must be overthrown. And the public (particularly those whose eyes and ears are affixed to the Murdoch sources) must be accurately informed. The coverage by the websites that openly speak with the conservative voice have provided only half-truths (at best) regarding this memo and the surrounding circumstances and someone must deliver the rest. I doubt our pint-sized blog can serve this role--if only there were others with a louder voice who could take up this issue.

Did you get that memo?

Upon finally checking in to BWJ (yes, I've been delinquent lately), I was surprised to notice all this talk/news about Feith's memo. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal (which I read almost daily) hasn't even mentioned this story to my knowledge. Indeed, a search of the site brought up nothing regarding this story. Apparently this story, as many of the commentators note, wasn't relevant or important enough to merit time or space in some of the major press. I noticed that Fox News failed to mention that the Wall Street Journal didn't carry this story as well. Looks like a Murdoch special to me.

Addendum: Should anyone wish to revisit the Bush administration's case for war more thoroughly, I recommend FP's informative and interactive Between the Lines analysis of Bush's 10-7-02 speech making the case for war. They are apparently updating it as more information/evidence becomes available.

Fox News: War Support Slightly Up

You're all going to love this. In this article, Fox News claims:

Short-Term Memo-ry?

Over the weekend, the Weekly Standard published a "top secret U.S. government" memo detailing more than a decade of intelligence indicating an operating relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The Pentagon has since confirmed the memo's authenticity, but it has been almost entirely overlooked by major media.

USA Today has completely ignored it. The New York Times has yet to mention it on its news pages, though a column today mentions it. And The Washington Post got around to mentioning it on Sunday, dismissingly in the sixth paragraph of a much broader story.


Now let's look at a few of those statements a little closer:
The Pentagon has since confirmed the memo's authenticity, but it has been almost entirely overlooked by major media.

Here's what the DOD statement on Nov 15 said, in part:
News reports that the Defense Department recently confirmed new information with respect to contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee are inaccurate.
* * *
The items listed in the classified annex were either raw reports or products of the CIA, the National Security Agency or, in one case, the Defense Intelligence Agency. The provision of the classified annex to the Intelligence Committee was cleared by other agencies and done with the permission of the intelligence community. The selection of the documents was made by DoD to respond to the committee’s question. The classified annex was not an analysis of the substantive issue of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and it drew no conclusions.

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.


And what about the Washington Post? I found articles mentioning the memo here, here, here and here--and this op-ed here.

Weekly Standard's Latest

Here is the Weekly Standard reply to Newsweek's article responding to the Weekly Standard article on the Feith Memo.

Apparently, the Weekly Standard had not included a complete description of all the "data points" in the memo, for when the Newsweek reporters observed that "The Pentagon memo pointedly omits any reference to the interrogations of a host of other high-level al Qaeda and Iraqi detainees--including such notables as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Zubaida, and Hijazi himself," Stephen Hayes replied with "bullet-point 39," summarizing an interview with none other than Hijazi himself. Hayes continued, "either Isikoff and Hosenball have not seen the memo or they misreport its contents."

Hayes concludes:

It is, of course, possible that the information in the Feith memo is "cherry-picked" intelligence. It's also possible that some of the bullet points listed won't check out on further analysis. But Feith isn't alone in his conclusion that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden had a relationship. CIA Director George Tenet said more than a year ago that his agency had "solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade," that the CIA had "credible information" about discussions between Iraq and al Qaeda on "safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression" and "solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad," and "credible reporting" that "Iraq has provided training to al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs."

How Not To Stage an Occupation

CSM has an interesting article where they discuss Iraq with former Soviet personnel involved with their invasion of Afghanistan. Some of it is obvious, other parts very insightful.

NYTimes weighs in on Memo

See here. The article doesn't really add much but an anonymous Pentagon official who was quoted as follows:

"If you don't understand how intelligence works, you could look at this memo and say, `Aha, there was an operational connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda,' " a Pentagon official said Wednesday. "But intelligence is about sorting what is credible from what isn't, and I think the best judgment about Iraq and Al Qaeda is that the jury is still out."

The article also observes that the memo and the Weekly Standard have revitalized the claim about Atta in the Czech Republic that has already been widely discredited. But see this Slate article from yesterday the 19th that attempts to bolster the Atta in Czech claim.

Very Critical Coverage of Memo

Asia Times has this story (entitled, "The Truth Leaks Out") with intriguing analysis. Two paragraphs stand out:

This week's blockbuster leak of a secret memorandum from a senior Pentagon official to the US Senate Intelligence Committee has spurred speculation that neo- conservative hawks in the Bush administration are on the defensive and growing more desperate.
* * *

''This is made to dazzle the eyes of the not terribly educated,'' Greg Thielmann, a veteran of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) who retired in 2002, told Inter Press Service. ''It begs the question, 'Is this the best they can do?' If you're going to expose this stuff, you'd better have something more than this,'' he said, adding, ''My inclination is to interpret this as probably a very good example of cherry-picking and the selective use of intelligence that was so obvious in the lead-up to the war.''

Dean's Doubters

The problem here with the electability issue is that I am hard-pressed to see how anyone taking an outsider's view of things can think that any of the other candidates can beat Dean on this. In these claims from Democratic party insiders, who as the CSM story says "kept him at arm's length, hoping that one of their own, such as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, would catch fire", it seems they refuse to recognize that their approval is not the key determination of electability. In the polls you refer to generally they poll only Democrats on the primary, but the full public on the general election. Gephardt, Kerry, and Lieberman serve in the federal government and Clark is a TV personality. Outside of the party, Dean is not well known. But governors tend to have an advantage in presidential politics, and who the hell had ever heard of Bill Clinton before 1992? I don't put too much stock in those poll numbers. As the Democrats are the ones actually following the primary race and learning about the candidates at this point, it's the question of who is exciting them that seems more relevant. The argument that Democrats like Dean because he's a liberal extremist has to deal with the fact that his record is actually pretty moderate, a fact that has been completely ignored by proponents of this view.

With regards to their typical views of what constitutes electability, who could be more electable that Al Gore? An upbeat and friendly moderate southerner with loads of experience and inside party connections who presided over one of the most prosperous and peaceful periods in the nation's history. And he lost to a coke-head alcoholic draft-dodging born-again business failure whose sole distinction is that he's the deadbeat son of a mediocre one-term president. If their measures of electability were accurate Gore should have slaughtered Bush with hardly an effort. Moreover the press loves Dean, just as they loved McCain. The doom and gloom is emenating from party insiders, not the press. The criticism of the press, as noted in the Howard Kurtz column I linked to earlier, is that they're already heralding him as the winner.

I even see Dean in good shape where the regional politics are concerned. The South is a puzzle the Democrats haven't worked out yet. If Gore couldn't deliver any of the south, I don't see Clark or Edwards doing much better. And Lieberman and Kerry are no better off than Dean. Dean's proven record of fiscal conservatism and his straight shooter attitude match up better with midwestern values than any of the competition. Gephardt may also have done well in the midwest, but with the defection of unions to Dean, I think he's nearly a non-factor at this point. None of the candidates have any great claim on the West.

No, I don't think there is a legitimate point to be made that Dean trails in any serious measure of electability. Arguments to that effect strike me as being in a state of denial. The game has changed, they just refuse to admit it. The comparisons to Goldwater and McGovern miss out on the critical role that the internet has played in this campaign and the manner in which it is redefining the way politics operates in this country. Prior to this election party insiders truly did have immense power, the power that comes from controlling the party purse strings and the party machinery. Dean has gone over their heads directly to the party activists. Even as the party apparatchiks worked to push Kerry and Edwards, Dean has raised more money, mostly in small contributions, and has created his own grass roots machinery, in many way superior to theirs. He has successfully made the jump from yuppy activists to picking up Jesse Jackson and major labor unions. The game has changed. Dean's campaign and the likes of moveon.org are doing what many internet entrepreneurs have done before them: cut out the middle men. And like all the other middle men, the party establishment reaction fluxuates between rage and denial. That Dean has accomplished all that he has in spite of them speaks volumes. What could he do with them? Hopefully we'll find out.

The Almighty Memo

First off, Barry, I agree the Reason Mag article is quite good. Aside from that I have a couple of reactions to the story. First, is that these guys are awfully clever, and damned good at what they do. I think it would be safe to say that this leak is a direct response to the pressure that forced Bush and company to state publicly that there was no known connection between Iraq and 9/11. These admissions had caused the widespread public belief to the contrary to waiver, but now Feith has muddied the water again. This crap doesn't have to hold up to intense scrutiny, nor do I think it was ever intended to. It's just there to confuse an issue which, if clarified, could do them a lot of damage. They knew that the conservative press and grassroots offshoots would take it as gospel and would give it enough exposure to serve their purposes. Whether or not anyone else bought it was of no great importance. It was very slick, and I think it worked.

My other interest in the story is the coverage itself. It's interesting to see some stories like this that spread like wildfire across blogs and partisan news sources and then are slowly, almost reluctantly, handled by the mainstream press. You can almost see the paradigm shift before your eyes. I think it's a good one. It's the democratizing effect that we always hoped the internet could have on the media. If they don't cover it, we'll damned well cover it ourselves. And Barry will call them up and let 'em know about it. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Michael Jackson

Somebody shoot me, please. I'm already sick of this goddamn story...

Reason Magazine on the Memo

Sorry if y'all are bored with this issue, but I am intrigued as to how this is all playing out in the media (particularly after our conference. Here is Reason Magazine's take. It is probably the most unbiased reporting I have seen thus far.

Progressive Analysis of Al Qaeda-Iraq links

The Center for American Progress (an admittedly left-leaning group) ran this story on November 13.

Newsweek examines some of Memo's claims

Check out this article on MSNBC (and presumably, soon to be found in Newsweek) entitled, "Case Decidedly Not Closed."

Dean

E.J. Dionne had an interesting column about the dilemma Dean presents: The upshot is that Dionne draws comparisons between Dean and Barry Goldwater; on the plus side, Goldwater set in motion a conservative movement which is now dominant 30 years later. On the minus side, he lost miserably to Johnson in 1964 and his party got spanked in Congressional elections that year. I think that Barry's series of posts on the administration and their allies in the right wing press's machinations regarding the war in Iraq are a great demonstration of why the country cannot afford another four years of Bush. I think that this is why there is so much hand-wringing on the part of Democrats--not some selfish desire on the part of the "establishment" to keep down an "outsider."

Speaking as someone who considers themselves an establishment Democrat, whatever that means, I would be happy running anyone from Bernie Sanders to Ralph Nader to Howard Dean to Martin Sheen to John Breaux as long as they beat Bush. I'm not convinced that Dean cannot; I'm not even convinced that he has less of a chance than any of the other contenders. However, there are three factors that concern me:

1. Dean has no geographic advantages whatsoever. He comes from a small Democratic base state in liberal New England. Fine, his nomination may increase Democratic chances of picking up neighboring New Hampshire and hanging onto Maine, but the South is as difficult for Dean, if not more, than for "generic Democratic candidate," and he has the same road in the all-important Midwest. This is not to say he can't win in each of the 19 battleground states: New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. He just does not start out with any advantages with the exception of the two small states I mentioned.

2. Dean has fairly consistently fared worse than Gephardt, Clark, Kerry, and Lieberman against Bush in the same national polls that put Dean at the top of the Democratic pack. The conclusion: the perception is that Dean is more liberal than the average Democratic candidate. Thus, his dash to the center for the general election may have more ground to cover.

3. All the gloom and doom prognostications may become self-fulfilling prophecy. Kind of like the Gore-the-liar phenomenon: the media doesn't like Gore and doesn't think he's quite honest, so everything he has ever done or said gets the utmost scrutiny, and lo and behold there are some trivial misstatements or exaggerations, so the media reports them to death and the people decide he's dishonest. Dean has that potential with the liberal-who-can't-win-outside-the-coasts label.

I hope he does win--that the model is Reagan rather than Goldwater or McGovern. But I can't fault political insiders for seeing danger signs or ascribe ulterior motives to them.

Rumsfeld on Memo

This is from Sunday:

Q: Quoting a DoD memo which says that they are detailing contacts between al-Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein?

Rumsfeld: Haven’t seen the article.

Q: Can you comment on your view of Iraq Saddam contacts with al-Qaeda?

Rumsfeld: Nothing to add. My understanding from Larry (Larry Di Rita, acting assistant Secretary of Defense for public affairs) is that the article is just the article that it may have a reference – be a reference to some testimony that DoD representatives had before Congressional Committees many, many weeks and months ago. And that some questions were asked and they require that their responses be submitted for the record and that those responses may have just gone in recently but there is nothing new there.

Q: Secretary on the council, while you say there’s no direct link?

Rumsfeld: I haven’t seen the article so I shouldn’t say there’s nothing new. I don’t know of anything.

White House Statement on the Weekly Standard Memo

Scott McClellan had this to say on Monday:

Q There's an article in the Weekly Standard outlining something like a 13-year relationship between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, based on intelligence reports, and how they were trying to coordinate or work together on terrorist activities. Your reaction to the article, and also, do you think that the administration sees this as more justification --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't had an opportunity to read the actual article. I've seen the reports. But the ties between, or the relationship between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda were well-documented. They were documented by Secretary Powell before the United Nations, back in February, I believe. And we have previously talked about those ties that are there.

Q More justification for the war, then?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Do you see that as more justification for the war?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we outlined -- the justification for the war was clear in all the Security Council resolutions that were passed. Resolution 1411 called for serious consequences if Saddam Hussein continued to defy the international community. He did, and the President acted to make the world a safer and better place by removing his regime.

Weekly Standard Responds to DOD Statement

Read it for yourself. Ok, one teaser (the article purportedly quoting James Woosley):

"Anybody who says there is no working relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence going back to the early '90s--they can only say that if they're illiterate. This is a slam dunk."

Slate Article on Feith Memo

This article calls for more media attention to the Weekly Standard's "Scoop," and calls the DOD's statement "a bit of a red herring," as it sees it because the Case Closed article "works assiduously (until its final paragraph, at least) not to oversell the memo."

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Update: News Coverage on the Memo

The New York Post ran this article on the 15th, which starts:
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gave terror lord Osama bin Laden's thugs financial and logistical support, offering al Qaeda money, training and haven for more than a decade, it was reported yesterday.
Yesterday, the New York Post ran this op-ed, "Bush Was Right."

The Fox News Network has this story, entitled "Intelligence Report Links Saddam, Osama." Yesterday, the Network ran this article recognizing that the Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking investigation over the leak, and reported of the Pentagon statement:

A Pentagon statement Saturday has said the memo did not include any new information about Al Qaeda's contacts with Iran. It said the memo provided details of intelligence reports Feith referred when testifying before the committee on July 10. It said the leak of classified material "is deplorable and may be illegal.

Notice they did not report that the memo stated the findings of the memo were "inaccurate." Today, there is no related news on the website (that I could find, anyway).

The GOP's website ("GOPUSA") has this story, which starts:
It's been terribly discouraging to hear the liberal pundits and Democratic politicos continue to spout the lie that there has never been a substantive link between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terror organization. What gobbledygook!

TownHall.com ran this article, which observed:
The unavoidable conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime had been guilty as charged – tied for over a decade to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network (among other terrorist groups) for the purpose of waging attacks on their mutual foe, the United States.

Antiwar.com has this story, entitled "Big Story: Neocons Leak Neocon Memo, Then Report On It."

The Hill has this story, entitled "The dubious link between Iraq and al Qaeda."
CNN has this story which proclaims, "Officials confirm probe of Pentagon memo leak"

The Washington Post on Sunday ran this article, entitled "CIA Finds No Evidence Hussein Sought to Arm Terrorists." Today, the Post ran this article headed, "CIA Seeks Probe of Iraq-al Qaeda Memo Leak." Senator Rockefeller, to whom the memo was purportedly addressed, had this op-ed calling for an objective evaluation of the evidence and Bush's claims for war.

And lastly, I again encourage anyone who is truly evaluating these claims about Iraq and the "War on Terror" to visit this website by the Carnegie Center Endowment for International Peace, where they have compiled the Administration's statements and the reports and analysis behind those statements.

Update: Report Debunked by Department of Defense

The Department of Defense released this statement calling the newly released information "inaccurate," based on raw reports that "drew no conclusions" and issued this sharp condemnation:

Individuals who leak or purport to leak classified information are doing serious harm to national security; such activity is deplorable and may be illegal.

New leaked report on link between Al Qaeda and Iraq

My father today informed me that the Weekly Standard has recently posted an article to be featured in this week's issue entitled, "Case Closed," detailing a memo sent by Douglas J. Feith to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the connection between Al Qaeda/Osama Bin Laden and Iraq. Interesting.

The article proclaims, that the memo is "detailed, conclusive and corroborated by multiple sources."

Dean Creates Panic Among Democratic Insiders

CSM has a sweet article about the panic and fear of Democratic insiders at the prospect of a Dean nomination. Each one has a different doom and gloom projection to make. But the way I see it they all read the same way: "We might lose our grip on the party." Dean has put the fear of god into these ass-clowns and I couldn't be happier for it.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Dissent

I'm not sure which is more impressive, four former heads of Israeli security blasting Sharon's security policies, or Senator Fritz Hollings' verbal assault on the Iraq war. While I'm not fan of Hollings, whose record on copyright issues is awful (on /. they refer to him as the Senator from Disney), that's a hell of a speech. Wouldn't it be remarkable for something like that to be carried on broadcast news? From a quick google, I can find no website larger or more mainstream than tompaine.com (which is neither large nor mainstream) which carries this speech. So Americans may never hear or read a powerful and critically important message from one of their highest elected officials. While we may not get this information, I promise that our friends in Iraq will.

Re: The Will of the People

Since I don't feel that I was entirely convincing in the previous post I'd like to elaborate on my point regarding personal weaknesses entering through back door, and add one other consideration.

In advocating that the role of a representative is to advocate the hypothetical position of the perfectly informed average-man, it is supposed that the representative should know what that is. The representative, while in a position to be considerably more informed than the average person, is still limited by imperfect knowledge. The sum of their knowledge is everything they have learned, experienced, and concluded over the course of their lifetime. So if the representative were to make their best effort to imagine an "average person" with perfect knowledge they would be obligated to project onto that person all of the knowledge that they, the representative, have acquired. While I believe that each individual person bears some unique psychological traits, I also believe that the information they've gained through their education and experiences is critical to their positions and decisions. It is not that hard to imagine that a representative would calculate that given all of their personal knowledge and experiences an "average person" would think more or less as they themselves do. And so you end up right back where you started. In this sense pretending to advocate in terms of the "average person" rather than your own personal position seems a bit dishonest.

I suppose that it could be proposed that the representative restrict the knowledge that they project onto the "average person" to only those few details directly pertinent to the issue at hand. This seems equally dishonest. If the representative had done extensive research into economic systems, and through this research had determined that supply-side economics is a bunch of crap, should they not project this onto the "average person"? Is that not an element of perfect knowledge? How is this to be managed? I think different representatives would draw this line differently; they would choose different points along a continuum, and in every case personal values, biases, and follies would enter the picture. As far as I can tell, foisting this duty onto our representatives sets an impossible standard for them, and leaves them with no good options. It does not shield us from whatever flaws the representative carries, and simply adds an additional layer of bullshit between the representative and their constituents.

My additional consideration goes toward the ideal of the Jeffersonian meritocracy. Jefferson felt that each person had different strengths and weaknesses and that through a free, equitable, and competitive system, each should rise to the level of their ability in the field of their strength. Does it not make sense that some people would be better equipped than others in leadership and public speaking? In determination of public policy? In grinding the gears of the political system to achieve effective results? In guarding the public from their transient impulses? Do you see no differences in these regards between George W Bush and John McCain? Between Russ Feingold and Michael Moore? Are we not better served by mining the populace to find those most qualified and naturally talented in the duties of a representative to serve in that role rather than the "average man"? If you are willing to trust the public to decide on policy matters, do you not trust the public to decide on these distinctions? The system as it stands surely has flaws in deciding these matters, but are we not better served attempting to correct those flaws than overthrowing it for one that still contains the same flaws and, in my view, adds deeper and more intractible flaws? I believe it should not be considered elitist or evil to think that elected public servants may be more capable than the average citizen, but rather that this should be recognized as one of the goals and strengths of a representative system.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Re: Apocalypse Now

You think funny baby names is bad, what about a crazed people bent on destroying all things McDonald?. Al-Qaida's claim of 100,000 dead is especially troubling since 100,000 plan to protest Bush's speech in London a week from now, and escpecially because Al-Qaida purportedly bought uranium in the Congo. How's that for an apocalypse?

Re: The Will of the People

I am torn on this issue more than any other. To me this debate encapsulates a host of issues related to paternalism versus populism. I do not know how to appropriately address the balance between the will of the people and the--well, will of the people. I trust the ideals of populism but I also recognize its natural deficits.

At the end of the day, the Jeffersonian idea that the power should rest with the people sits most comfortably with me. At the same time, I openly recognize that people don't always make the best choices given the information they have. For some reason, though, it seems more palatable to me that the people should err than the government in its attempt to correct for the errs of its constituents. At least the error does not run twice as deep, and it can not be so plainly coopted for nefarious goals. I can forgive an err of the public, but I can not so easily forgive the same of the republic.

Apocalypse Now

Yes, it appears the end of the world is at hand. On the other hand, I'm wondering how Blatz would go over... Ryan, you can use that if you want.

Re: The Will of the People

If everyone has the same information, why should the representatives substitute their own interpretations, biases, and follies for those of their constituents? Unless one is to argue that the ability to get elected to Congress magically bestows upon the representatives an intelligence and foresight which their constituents lack, the representative should simply follow the will of the people in a world with perfect information.

It could also be supposed that the constituents selected their representative at least in part because of her intelligence, judgment, background, and experiences, with the expectation that the representative would employ all of these tools in furtherance of serving her constituents. Further, it might be interpreted that the consistently greater interest that the public shows in the character and background of candidates rather than their policies is an indication that the public expects these things to be relevant to the duties of public service at least as much as implementing policies consistent with the constituency is.

And in any case (rehashing the old discussion), no representative has perfect knowledge of what the constituency would choose if they had perfect information, and in making that determination all of the representative's interpretations, biases, and follies enter through the back door anyway. People have the right of it now, taking it as part and parcel of the candidate and dealing with it up front through the electoral process.

Shooting In the Dark

The latest word from Iraq is that we're going on the offensive to destroy the resistance. We seem to have some remarkably thick skulls in Washington. We apparently haven't come up with a single new strategy for dealing with guerrilla attacks since Vietnam. We thought in that case that if we applied enough excessive force the enemy would have to cave eventually. However, we couldn't effectively separate the enemy from the populace, and the amount of 'collateral damage' we inflicted on them turned the war decisively in favor of the enemy. Our experience in Somalia was not terribly different either. We responded to a few guerrilla attacks with invasive offensive operations, but had a hard time targeting the right people, killed a bunch of the wrong people by mistake, and were then sent out the back door with a boot print on our ass. Now it looks like we intend to step in it again. Clearly, if we had good intelligence we would have nailed the bad guys before this. So if we're going on the attack it can easily be deduced that we are going to be striking out based on bad intelligence and we will most certainly make mistakes and kill innocents, possibly as many as we kill bad guys.

The deal is, given modern political realities (ie. genocide is a definite no-no), guerrilla wars are phenomenally difficult to win. Your opponents can effectively conceal themselves at all times except when they attack, while you are separated and visible, and at all times vulnerable to attack. Your enemy gets to choose the time and location for every battle, which gives them a decisive tactical advantage. In the old days this would be countered by wholesale destruction. The superior army would rape, pillage, and slaughter their way through the enemy populace until they submitted or were destroyed. This is not generally considered acceptable these days. The only effective counter then, appears to be to build up enough public support that the locals isolate the militants from themselves and leave them exposed to you. However, this means that you cannot strike out blindly and must patiently accept casualties while continuing to be engaged and friendly with the local population in order to build goodwill. Given the realities of morale and the human limits of your troops on the ground who don't like to be engaged and friendly while they're being shot at and killed, this is not often possible. No matter your military superiority, it is not always possible to defeat a determined guerrilla campaign. I can't think of a single case where a modern military has done so.

So the first rule to winning a guerrilla war is not to get into one. It cannot be stressed often or strongly enough, that we could very likely have avoided this if we had built a broad UN-based coalition the same way Bush Sr had for the first Gulf War. If anything good comes out of this, hopefully it will be the realization that the politics of the situation are at least as important as the military aspects of it. Winning on the battlefield is of no benefit if you don't also win in the living room. This may be the biggest flaw in the neo-con political theory. The value of military might ain't what it used to be. This is the dirty secret hidden behind the Powell Doctrine and the Rumsfeld Doctrine, and all of the other post-Vietnam military theories. Any pissant little country can send us home with our tail between our legs if they're stubborn enough.

The bad guys are starting to think they can win, and it's not hard to see why. They're building up momentum and we're standing there like a deer in head-lights wishing we could figure a way out. Unless we can think of some creative solution, and quickly, it may not be long before Iraq passes the point of no return.

The Will of the People

I think that any duty the legislature has to serve as a buffer from the people's will must necessarily stem from the disparity in information available between the people and the representatives. If everyone has the same information, why should the representatives substitute their own interpretations, biases, and follies for those of their constituents? Unless one is to argue that the ability to get elected to Congress magically bestows upon the representatives an intelligence and foresight which their constituents lack, the representative should simply follow the will of the people in a world with perfect information. Therefore, I think a representative should vote the way his constituents would vote if they had perfect information.

Dean's Endorsements

I'm sure you guys have heard about this, Howard Dean has picked up endorsements from two of the largest labor unions. Not only is this a major boost for Dean, but with two of the five major unions backing Dean it's a real blow to Gephardt whose primary selling point has been his strong union support. With the endorsements coming at the same time that Kerry's campaign is showing signs of stress, Dean may be separating himself from the pack. It would be nice if this could be wrapped up before these guys batter each other into oblivion. Howard Kurtz discusses the state of the race. Also worthy of note, John Edwards follows Dean and Kucinich onto Lessig's blog (scroll down a little).

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Will of the People, Revisited

In our earlier discussion entitled "The Great Litmus Test," Joe brought in some quotes from the Federalist No. 10 (Madison) (link here to the archives--the entry was on Sunday, September 14, 2003) to demonstrate support for his suggestion that the legislature should serve as a buffer to the public. I have just stumbled across another excerpt from the same text that perhaps goes a step further in advancing Joe's cause--Hamilton's the Federalist No. 71. This portion is particularly timely with regard to the $87 billion that Congress ran straight through Congress without too much challenge. I found this in Alexis de Toqueville's Democracy on America, Vol. I Part I Chapter 8:

There are some who would be inclined to regard the servile pliancy of the executive to a prevailing current, either in the community or in the legislature, as its best recommendation. But such men entertain very crude notions, as well of the purposes for which government was instituted as of the true means by which the public happiness may be promoted.

The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they entrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests.

It is a just observation that the people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. This often applies to their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it. They know from experience that they sometimes err; and the wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset as they continually are by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it.

When occasions present themselves in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests to withstand the temporary delusion in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection. Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this kind has saved the people from very fatal consequences of their own mistakes, and has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the men who had the courage and magnanimity enough to serve them at the peril of their displeasure.

New Gallup Poll on Iraq

According to this Washington Post article, only 1% of Iraqis believe the United States invaded Iraq to establish democracy (the number rises to 5% when asked if it was to help the Iraqi people) while 43% say it was primarily "to rob Iraq's oil."

Gallup reports that it surveyed 1,178 Baghdad residents. For more detailed information about their selection of the sample, look here. That's about all the information one can get without getting a $95 annual subscription. I recommend we get a subscription for BWJ and split the cost.

Thanks to Democracy Now! for the heads up on this story.

Re: About MoveOn

You are completely correct, Barry. The addition of Pariser was a big step for the Silicon Valley-based organization.

:)

Re: About MoveOn

Eli Pariser is more than just "staff." From the same link you pointed us to:

The MoveOn Peace campaign was founded independently as "9-11Peace.org" by Eli Pariser, a Maine native and recent graduate of Simon's Rock College of Bard. In the days following September 11th, 2001, he launched an online petition calling for a peaceful response to break the cycle of violence, which was quickly signed by more than one hundred thousand people in the U.S. and almost half a million worldwide. Eli joined forces with MoveOn soon afterward, and is now our International Campaigns Director.

About MoveOn

Just as an FYI to clear up a point of contention over the weekend: MoveOn.org was originally established by a group of Silicon valley activists. That may have something to do with why they went overboard with the Governator. They do have a couple of staff-people from Maine, and currently have people in NY and DC.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Update: Always at War With Eurasia

Time Magazine's director of public affairs emailed me to let me know that she has forwarded to Time's editor my suggestion that the table of contents online reflects this story . She is also sending websites posting information about this missing article the following email:

TIME has no rights to re-publish the book excerpt which first appeared in TIME's March 2, 1998 issue (and online that week). The book, "A World Transformed," by George H.W. Bush (Sr.) and Brent Scowcroft, was published by Alfred A. Knopf Inc., which holds the rights. The headline on the excerpt in TIME was "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam."

A notice was posted to the TIME.com website on Nov. 11, 2003, to clarify why this excerpt is not available through TIME Archives:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/1998/dom/980302/special_report.clintons_29.html
"The page you've requested is an excerpt from a book by Brent Scowcroft and George H. W. Bush titled A World Transformed, which appeared in the March 2, 1998, issue of TIME magazine under the title "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam". It has been removed from our site because the publisher did not grant us rights to sell the piece online through the TIME archive."

Re: Always at War With Eastasia

Indeed I did. Make room for BWJ in the press corps.

Re: Always at War With Eastasia

Great investigative journalism, Barry! That's almost worthy of a Chew-litzer prize! You may even rival Geraldo someday if you stick with it. Did you tell them you were a (Boys' Weekend) journalist?

Nader In A State of Confusion

I much agree with Dave's analysis of Nader's speech. He says, and I quote, "It was stolen from the Democrats. And they should concentrate on the thieves and the blunderers in Florida, not on the Green Party." That's an interesting statement. Did Ralph Nader actually believe that he was going to win the Presidential election? I don't think Ralph is an idiot, so I'll wager to say no. The two party system is a reality in this country. Nader knew that a) he would not win, and b) he would disproportionately draw voters from the Democrats. The only productive thing he could hope to get out of it was that it have some effect on the Democrats, and force them to pay attention to him. Nader's candidacy cost the Democrats the election and gave Nader a prime platform from which to try to advance the Green Party position, but instead he is deflecting attention from the Green Party. If this wasn't what he was after, why did he bother to run? And moreover, why did he refuse to drop out at the end once his point was made? As has been discussed in depth, I have no problem with people registering protest votes, but at least let's be honest about it.

Re: Always at War With Eastasia

I became immediately concerned about this so I called Time magazine's archives department, who said that it is generally their policy to delete articles over five years. I also spoke with someone in Time's PR department, who said she did not want to provide her name, that stated the publisher of the book from which the article was excerpted (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., according to the article) only extended Time a limited right to publish the article online and that time expired. She stated that Time has received a high volume of calls regarding this topic and they are considering publishing a comment in an upcoming issue.

The link where the story used to be listed provides an explanation similar to the one I received on the phone. I asked why the article was not specifically listed in the table of contents for that issue and she said she would get back to me on that one.

Always At War With Eastasia

In an event frighteningly relevant to our recent conference, slashdot pointed out a story on The Memory Hole (very interesting web site, BTW) documenting Time Magazine's effort to make one of their columns dissappear. Coincidentally the column is by George Bush Sr. and Brent Scowcroft explaining in detail why they did not attempt to invade Iraq, their reasoning still being quite relevant and valid in present contexts. I can understand why the administration might want this to go away, although how you get from that desire to AOL/TW actually erasing the article would be an interesting thing to know..

Nader redux

As to the merits of the Nader speech, we have the classic multiple proximate cause situation. He is right that had the Republicans not stolen the Florida election aided and abetted by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the complicit and lazy corporate media, and the defeatists in the Gore camp, Gore would still be President. However, it is equally true that had Nader stayed out Gore would have won and Katherine Harris would still be an obscure corrupt state official. I think his attempts to avoid responsibility are akin to the very whining of which he accuses others. He should stand up and say that this was his intent all along; as I remember it, the Green party strategy was to spoil the election for Gore so that liberals could wrest the Democratic party back from Gore and the centrists. That has happened. Nader should be doing a victory lap. Instead, he finally realizes the horror of the Bush presidency and attempts to weasel out of his role in bringing it about.

Nader article

I also direct Barry's attention to paragraphs two and three of the Nader story which speak to an oft debated point...

Monday, November 10, 2003

Transcript of Franken suit

Here is the transcript of the hearing Franken talked about--it is a good read (and Franken was accurate in his description of the events, as best I can tell).

Stay the Course

Fareed Zakaria, whose book The Future of Freedom has been mentioned previously on TBWJ, wrote this column criticizing the increasingly popular idea of Iraqification. I am quite in agreement with Zakaria. Nothing in Iraq is as easy as many in our government (on both sides of the aisle) seem to make it out to be. Look at the effort and resources we've put into eliminating crime and fixing our economy here in the US, and how far that's gotten us. Now we think we can throw a few billion dollars at Iraq and it will all magically be fixed? Iraq does not have the civil infrastructure to be a functioning independent state. Efforts to make it one before preparations are ready will negate any good that has come out of this invasion, and may very well leave them worse off than they were before we came. We went in there when everyone told us not to, now we have an obligation to the Iraqis to make sure things come out right.

Ritter: Iraq Planned For This

It was interesting to see Scott Ritter appear as a CSM opinion columnist today. He wrote a feature on the nature and preparations of the Iraqi resistance campaign based on his observations as a weapons inspector. It is the first I've seen or heard of him since the right wing launched a massive and vicious smear campaign against him before the war. Funny what being right when everyone else (even most of the anti-war crowd) thought you were wrong can do for a person's image.

"Nader Blasts Democrats as 'Whiners'"

See this article on Yahoo--with the tagline from Madison, WI (and a plug to the National Conference on Media Reform).

It's too bad we missed that speech. With the crowd in attendance, I'm sure there was an interesting reaction from the audience.

Guantanamo Case

The Supreme Court today granted cert on the question whether federal courts can hear petitions from detainees in Guantanamo. The Second and DC Circuits have held that there is no jurisdiction over these cases, and the Ninth Circuit has not yet decided the case in front of it.