Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's the size of the problem

Rich Lowry at NRO's The Corner is at the point of frustration over what's going on in New Orleans. He relays another email that recounts some heart-breaking details about what's happening to people on the ground:

I know people are sick of this, but one more e-mail:

'A lot of Bush fans are frankly aghast at how tone-deaf the president is at this moment. They just showed clips of New Orleans prisoners sitting in a huge group, some of them handcuffed together with plastic cuffs with flood water lapping at their feet. They have been there for two days. Prisoners have their shirts pulled over their noses because the stench is too overwhelming.

Fox News is the only news crew along a particular stretch of highway downtown. Hundreds of people are standing around, wanting to know where they should go to get water and food. They have not had either for days. Shep Smith showed a 3-year-old boy who was sitting in his mother's lap. He was sick and barely conscious. Dehydrated. Hungry. Not a single authority figure was anywhere around. Shep had to turn his interview with a state police spokeswoman into a plea to her to send help to his location for those poor people.

The scenes I'm seeing on Fox are things you'd think you'd only see in Somalia or Bangladesh. This is the United States of America. We can't get a single truck full of water to these people? We can't get a single helicopter to fly over and drop supplies? A cop car and a military truck roll up from the distance, giving the suffering people hope. Do they stop as the desperate wave? No. They drive through. They can't even stop to tell them where they should go to get any life-saving water or food.'

I am starting to feel a mixture of outrage and shame...

From where I sit this is more indicative of the scope of the problem than it is the nature of any individuals involved in trying to help. I can only imagine the frustration brewing in those who are stuck in the middle of this and those trying to help. Where do you start?

Update: Katrina's Waves

Here is the first article I have seen referencing the international response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. A couple of key snippets:

Throughout Europe, concerned citizens were keeping a close eye on events as they lamented the loss of life and the damage caused to New Orleans, often described as one of the North America's most "European" cities. French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sent messages of sympathy to U.S. President George W. Bush. Chirac, who has famously quarreled with Bush over the Iraq war, addressed his letter, "Dear George." Pope Benedict XVI said he was praying for victims of the "tragic" hurricane while China's President Hu Jintao expressed his "belief that that the American people will definitely overcome the natural disaster and rebuild their beautiful homeland."


"We are getting calls from the Swiss public looking to express their condolences (and) people are also asking for an account number where they can make donations," said spokesman Daniel Wendell. Earlier this week, the American Embassy donated US$50,000 (euro40,990) to help Swiss relief groups. Several communities in Switzerland remain virtually cut off from the outside world and reliant on air transport for essential supplies. The international oil company BP PLC's foundation donated US$1 million (euro819,806) for Katrina victims. The Internet-edition Vienna daily Der Standard recorded 820 postings commenting on a front-page story on the hurricane. One of the postings, signed "Emerald," asked where donations could be sent, sparking debate about whether a rich country such as the United States needed such aid.

This situation definitely bears monitoring. Of course, while appreciated, condolences and prayers aren't equipment, food and medicine. But as I said in my previous post, we are not without friends around the world. 9/11 and other calamities have witnessed great generosities conferred by others upon America. And certainly, the United States is more prepared to help itself when such disasters arise, thus limiting the need for outside aid.

But the emphasis in my thinking is on what this says about us as a donor. Understanding that we demand fewer international resources to deal with our own disasters, we also manage to be among the first to lend a hand when others are in need. This combination results in a net generation of aid available for others. And this is important, because it means that our aid efforts are rarely ever expected to be reciprocated. They are truly, no-strings gestures. The notion of American "stinginess" as a donor is rarely ever viewed through this lens, but perhaps this unfortunate event will open some eyes.

That said, it is nice to see that no matter the political climate, many of our friends around the world are compelled to do something to alleviate human suffering.

Why didn't we protect the museum?

The catastrophe along America's Gulf Coast is a devastating kick to the groin for this nation, and its impact is going to be felt by all of us soon enough. The more I read and see, the more the ramifications multiply in my head. So many elements of our society are; or soon will be, taxed by this massive event.

I feel almost guilty, therefore, in writing something which politicizes the damn thing but I'm so struck by the proliferation of ironies that I would feel somewhat remiss in letting them go by without at least calling attention to them.

Like this one:

Blanco acknowledged that looting was a severe problem but said that officials had to focus on survivors. "We don't like looters one bit, but first and foremost is search and rescue," she said.

Granted, we're talking jeans and DVD players rather than cultural antiquities, but the similarity in focus by authorities on higher priorities wasn't lost on this observer.

It will also be interesting to see how the international community responds to this disaster. In the wake of the unprecedented response to the Banda Aceh tsunami, what, if any international response will be forthcoming? Most international media seem to be giving the story a high level of attention, but in some corners it's just another case of roosting chickens. To date, I've come across no mentions in the media of international offers of logistic or financial aid. Not even a paltry $35M, although maybe we should give it another couple days. To be fair, the U.S. is in a stronger position vis-a-vis logistics and economic wherewithal, and the number of casualties looks to be significantly lower. But, even so, in reporting on the disaster the BBC did manage to make this critically relevant point

President George W Bush, whose ratings have fallen to an all-time low in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, has cut his holiday two days short.

As I said previously, I feel guilty mentioning these ironies at a time like this. We need to focus on the situation at hand.

I don't expect significant help or financial support from the international community. However, at such a time the American response to others' crises stands in stark contrast to the international communiy's responses to ours. That is not to say we are without friends and the international community shows no compassion for the woes that can befall the U.S. However, we often hear of the unequal and hypocritical application of American might in picking and choosing its responses. (Of course, we're not allowed that luxury. We must respond to them all) This is almost always an above-the-fold, page A1 story. But if it's ever reported at all, the unequal and hypocritical application of international responses to American misfortune is always a back-pager.

Rebuilding lives

Bloggers across the spectrum are rallying to raise money for relief efforts in Louisiana, Mississipi and Alabama. Here are a list of agencies--by no means comprehensive--that are involved and where you can be sure necessary resources will be delivered to those in need.

I'm throwing my hat in the ring with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Lets do our part and remember that, in the words of Austin Bay, "There is no America out there waiting to bail us out. We have to be our own America."

Manipulating the Market

As word comes down that the Bush Administration is planning a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to counter lost production from the Gulf, oil companies started assessing damage to their facilities on Tuesday. At least initially, the news wasn't all that bad:

Oil companies are getting their first glimpse today of facilities battered by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico.

On a reconnaissance flight, Shell found damage to at least one of its facilities, its Mars platform, which it said "sustained topside damage" -- the structure above the ocean housing controls, production equipment and quarters.

The company said it plans to send crews via helicopter today to several of its facilities to perform detailed inspections.

BP started helicopter flyovers of several of its facilities today, and so far, the news has been good.

"No damage was observed from these aerial overflights, but we'll know more when we get the folks on board to complete their more detailed onboard inspections," said Hugh Depland, a spokesman for BP.

BP has already started to move small crews to some of its platforms. The crews will restart generators and inspect the facilities for damage prior to bringing them back on line.

The company did discover a mobile drilling rig that had become adrift and ended up next to its Holstein platform.

As for our take on releasing oil from the Strategic Reserve, we've already made our position known; it's the refining capacity, stupid!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Absolutely worth the read

My Dogs will not be the first blog to link this incredibly compelling post by embedded reporter Michael Yon who writes a lengthy piece about a close encounter between American soldiers and terrorists in Mosul, Iraq. Michael's story has been hailed all over the blogosphere, so I can hardly take credit for an original find or spin on it.

But for those who haven't run across it, please take a look because it is without a doubt worthy of the time investment. It is the kind of anecdote that won't make the nightly news, which is rather odd when you think about it. It's a micro-level story involving a handful of terrorists and soldiers. So in that sense, it is neither different in size nor scope than the micro-level anecdotes we hear about an IED killing four in Nasariyah, etc. What is different, is that the soldiers are ultimately successful in capturing their target. They are brave and heroic, which is to say that they were also scared. They are skillful in applying lessons-learned in battling the insurgents. They shoot to kill, but they also show intelligence and restraint during their pursuit of the enemy. Yes, we occassionally hear the faint praise of the "great job" the troops are doing, but rarely do we hear or read the anecdotes which bear this out and three-dimensionalize the effort.

As I've written this, I guess that is my spin on this thing. If the media believes the appropriate way to report the war is on an anecdotal level (and frankly, that is the only option currently available to them), why is it that we generally receive only one type of anecdote? And is it fair to draw sweeping policy-level conclusions from them? As I have argued before, it is impossible for anyone; be it Rumsfeld, Sistani, Zarqawi, Bush, Blair, or even Juan Cole and Cindy Sheehan, to really have an aggregate view of how the conflict is "trending." It can only be viewed through an aggregation of anecdotes to build a "mosaic". And as such, when you read and listen to the mainstream media, you typically only get one type of anecdotal story, and it inevitably involves dead Americans and Iraqi civilians, weeping Iraqi mothers, exploitable ethnic strife, and rare mission success.

I would argue that there are other types of anecdotes out there. There must be. Read Yon's account of this shootout in Mosul and let me know if it is the kind of thing you ever come across in the mainstream media. Ever. And if it isn't, ask yourself why. Part of the answer lies in most correspondents' unwillingness to go out on dangerous ops. Another part lies in editorial biases about what constitutes news in Iraq. That's a pretty lethal combination when you consider the implications that media reporting and public opinion have on our policies. This is an important post for a number of reasons. But among them are the questions: Why don't we see more like it and should we really base our opinion of the war and policy options on that which we do see?

Next in the series

Sim likes to illuminate euro-think for all us ignorant Americans. I would like to offer this piece of..well, anyway, this piece as the next installment:

Hurricane Katrina is big news for German commentators, whatever their ilk. For some, the powerful storm which slammed the Gulf Coast on Monday, is a symbol of the sort of environmental terrors awaiting the world thanks to global warming and proof positive that America needs to quickly reverse its policy of playing down climate change. For the more conservative, it is simply another regrettable natural catastrophe.

Filling the Bowl

With this in mind, and recalling that our worship pastor's family resides in the vicinity of New Orleans, comes word that the worst may still be yet to come. As reported by blogger Brendan Loy, the breach of the levee system surrounding New Orleans could potentially lead to disastrous flooding:

WWL-TV: "Break in 17th Street Canal Levee is now 200 feet wide and slowly flooding the City of New Orleans. Huge sand bags are being airlifted to try to stem the rush of water in that area. The expectations are that the water will not stop until it reaches lake level."

In other words, the worst-case scenario -- flood waters completely filling the bowl, turning Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans into one big toxic lake -- will happen, unless the airlift works or officials can find some other way to stem the flood.

Later updates are more hopeful:

It's not quite the worst-case scenario, because "much of the water that was in the Lake due to storm surge receded after the storm passed. It's still bad, but (a) the level isn't as high as it would have been if it occurred during the hurricane and (b) you don't have additional water being pumped in from the Gulf by a storm." So say the LSU researchers, according to reader/commenter Andy Simpson."Also, they explained that there is a ridge, the Gentilly Ridge, that runs East-West through New Orleans, that will likely keep the water mainly North of the ridge. Unfortunately, couldn't really tell from their graphic exactly where the ridge is located, but it seems that it is protecting the uptown area (at least for now)."I just want a rough number on how deep the water in the city is ultimately likely to get, once everything balances out.

UPDATE 3: "The LSU researchers indicated that they thought the breech could be sealed," according to another commenter.

Regardless, lots of prayers and lots of tangible support are the order of the day!

UPDATE: The Governor is now saying that the entire city must be cleared out:

With conditions in the hurricane-ravaged city of New Orleans rapidly deteriorating, Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Tuesday that everyone still in the city, now huddled in the Superdome and other rescue centers, needs to be evacuated.

"The situation is untenable," Blanco said, pausing to choke back tears at a news conference. "It's just heartbreaking."

The breach of two levees Tuesday meant the city was rapidly filling with water and the prospect of having power was a long time off, the governor said. She said the storm also severed a major water main, leaving the city without drinkable water.

"The goal is to bring enough supplies to sustain the people until we can establish a network to get them out," Blanco said.

Gulf Coast Devastation

Having recently been in New Orleans and having a close friend who resides there, I feel a special connection with the catastrophic event which has devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast. I've been trying all weekend to reach my friend Julia, but the phone lines are down. I'm hopeful that she is safe, though, as she typically gets a big jump on the storms before they are even remotely close to New Orleans.

That said, in looking at the pictures of the flooding, I am concerned about her apartment and belongings. Much of it is probably just "stuff," but even so, I cannot even imagine the empty feeling of devastation which she and so many others are suffering. As new video emerges, it is hard not to feel a sense of awe at the power of this storm. I pray that the death and injury tolls remain at a minimum. But it's clear that the cost of destruction to infrastructure, property, etc are very high. And the worst has not been felt yet, as the high waters will surely exact a heavy toll in the days and weeks ahead.

Update: For some reason when I posted this, I failed to mention that I also have three relatives who reside in the region most affected by the storm. Fortunately, two evacuated prior to the storm making landfall. The third, my cousin Scott, inexplicably decided to ride the thing out. After putting his mother through many hours of concern when she couldn't reach him, it was finally discovered that he is safe. But the way my aunt found out was rather curious. Today she received a call from a woman who lives in Utah saying that she had walkie-talkie communication with her husband, who is working construction with Scott down in the area. He asked his wife to call Helen and let her know that Scott was alright. But there won't be any more details or updates, because the battery on the man's walkie-talkie has now run out. I imagine we will be hearing more such stories in the days ahead. Meanwhile, I hope that all affected will get the relief they need as quickly as possible.

It's the refining capacity stupid!

Outside the Beltway looks at refining capacity as affected by Hurricane Katrina's rampage through the Gulf of Mexico. Creates an interesting problem (one way of putting it) for the industry and also for the Federal Government as it faces more calls for direct intervention in the form of releasing oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

As I sit here and hear folks like Jon Corzine prattle on about what they know little of (economics of oil for one), I wonder at the wisdom of such a release. Anybody else got thoughts?

Monday, August 29, 2005


I've been a multiple-cups-a-day coffee drinker for years. Maybe even decades. Now comes word about the benefit of such an addiction:

Coffee not only helps clear the mind and perk up the energy, it also provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet, according to a study released Sunday.

Antioxidants, which are thought to help battle cancer and provide other health benefits, are abundant in fruits and vegetables.Vinson's team concluded that the average adult consumes 1,299 milligrams of antioxidants daily from coffee. The closest competitor was tea at 294 milligrams.

When I ponder the idea that has been touted by some about the effects of so-called "free radicals" in diabetics and their development of serious complications, I smile to learn that my habit (and I mean that in the best sense of the word, as if referring to the hardest of hard-core narcotics junkies!) has a potentially beneficial effect!

Wait 'til my wife finds out...

It's a plot!

I's like someone is out to get us.

Lasting damage to vital U.S. oil and refining assets would further strain an industry that has struggled to keep up with two years of rapidly rising oil demand.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it had received early reports of oil platforms adrift in the gulf. Shell Oil said Monday two of its drilling rigs under contract had drifted off location following the storm.

"Nobody knows the full extent of the damage," said Marshall Steeves, analyst at Refco Group. "The speculation is that it will be worse than Ivan but we won't really know for days, until oil companies get personnel out there and survey the damage."

Hurricane Ivan last September wiped out a total of around 45 million barrels of U.S. oil output over six months.

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Minerals Management Service said that more than 90 percent of the gulf's oil production and 83 percent of its gas output was shut.

"The price floor for the market will be higher than it was before Katrina," said Frederic Lasserre of SG Commodities.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Or so they say. This one may be worth a million or so, and pretty much represents everything that Sim and I have had to say on the subject of Cindy Sheehan.

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to me! My wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary with a trip up the coast to San Luis Obispo and a night here at the always-enchanting Madonna Inn.

Every room is unique and you never quite know what you've got until you walk in. Word of advice, don't stay in the 'Dot N Daisy' room if you have an aversion to bright colors, particularly yellow!

Now, if only my return flight on Southwest had gone as well as the rest of the weekend...

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Great Texas Redistricting Non-Scandal of 1984

Last week, Hugh Hewitt issued a call to the blogosphere to assist in the review of the hundreds of pages of documents relating to Supreme Court-nominee John Roberts that were recently released by the Reagan Library. We decided to join the “Adopt-A-Box” project and hurl ourselves headlong into the discussion and analysis of the released documents as they relate to the nomination.

We chose to analyze a 31 page document relating to Roberts’ involvement in the Reagan Justice Department’s 1984 review of the Texas Legislature’s redistricting plans circa 1982-83. Beginning with high hopes, your intrepid MyDogs crack legal staff, endeavored to analyze the documents to uncover some deep insights about the nominee. Instead we found the following:

Roberts’ role was minimal and we glean almost nothing about his thinking on issues such as federalism or civil rights. Based upon the documents, it appears that the sum total of Mr. Roberts’ involvement in this matter constitutes his editing of a letter drafted on behalf of White House Counsel Fred Fielding to Texas State rep. Patricia Hill by William Bradford Reynolds, Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division.

Insights about Roberts are generally limited to conclusions we might draw about his personality and judicial temperament.

Thus, there are precious few tools in this case for analyzing Roberts. So neither those looking to skewer him nor his supporters will find much to hang their hats upon. What follows is a brief summary of the case and our thoughts about what the documents reveal about Roberts’ skills and temperament.

1. Case Facts & John Roberts’ Role
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act mandates that the State of Texas obtain pre-clearance by the DOJ for any changes in its laws affecting voting, including redistricting.

On January 25, 1982 the DOJ posed objections to the redistricting plans for the Texas state House and Senate districts that were submitted to the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ in 1981. In both instances it was feared that certain districts were drawn in a way that would “have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.”

DOJ’s objection would stand until such time as either 1) they withdrew it or 2) a judgment from the DC court is obtained as outlined above: “the effect of this objection is to render the redistricting of the Texas Senate as authorized by the Legislative Redistricting Board’s Plan Number 1 legally unenforceable.”

Ditto for LRB Plan 3 for the Texas state house on the same grounds.

From here, things get a bit complex so we are forced to summarize a fair amount of information as succinctly as possible. If you are interested in more than the barest of facts, click on the link above and read the specific documents.

Subsequent to the Section 5 objection, the US accepted the invitation of the Federal Court then hearing Terrazas v. Clements (Civil Action #3-81-1946-R) to participate as amicus curiae. In the course of that, the DOJ reviewed evidence from both parties pertaining to this same fight over redistricting. Based on that new information, the Department withdrew its objections to the plan.

As a result of the Terrazas action, both the House and Senate plans were ultimately revised and the court approved both concluding like the DOJ that the state had satisfied its “burden of proof.”

The Non-Scandal

Enter Republican State Representative Patricia Hill from Dallas. Hill alleged that the Department’s decision to pre-clear the revised redistricting plans was inconsistent with their prior objections. In her request she stated that these two plans “have had the further result of making the Justice Department the subject of great criticism by knowledgeable legal and political observers in Texas.”

The Department’s reply states, in part, that, “Reapportionment decisions generally do create considerable controversy, but the only role of the Department of Justice is to assure that the plans do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or language minority status. The Section 5 responsibility is a particularly difficult one since the decision must be made on the basis of information supplied to the Department by the State and other interested parties. As this instance demonstrates, the quality and quantity of the information provided can affect the pre-clearance process.”

As we stated earlier, it is painfully obvious that there is precious little of a controversial nature here, and we stand by that assessment; everybody did their job the way they were supposed to and all parties arrived at the same conclusions: with modifications, both plans were acceptable. DOJ’s involvement in the actual process was minimal and consisted of nothing more than oversight.

2. Insights About Roberts’ Skills & Judicial Temperament
While Roberts’ role in this matter appears to be negligible, we can at least impute some thoughts about his character and style.

A side-by-side comparison of Roberts’ final version and Bradford Reynolds’ draft shows Roberts to be very aware of sensitivities in defusing potentially acrimonious political showdowns while at the same time deftly repudiating Hill’s argument. Reynolds’ draft, on the other hand, flatly states the legal modalities and essentially tells Hill that her argument lacks substance.

Additionally, it is rather ironic to note the political climate in which Roberts was operating relative to this matter. Democrats occupied both the Governor’s mansion (Mark White) and dominated both houses of the Texas legislature during the ‘82-84 period. So you have a Republican State Representative appealing to a Republican DOJ re: a Democratic state government’s re-districting proposal on the basis of unfairness to blacks and Hispanics.

The Republican DOJ originally rejected the proposal on the basis of said unfairness. And once the situation was clarified / rectified, the Republican DOJ repudiates the charges of the Republican plaintiff.

So it seems that a) those nasty Republicans actually did care about balanced ethnic representation (in a state whose districts had been gerrymandered to the benefit of Democrats for decades), and b) a DOJ which seemed principled in its application of the Voting Rights Act because it alternately called the Democrats to account on the "burden of proof" aspect and later rebuffed Republicans that maintained that the plans were still flawed.

Again, this particular Box-of-Docs is anything but controversial. Yet, as far as it goes it does offer a look at Judge Roberts that serves as yet another data point for evaluation of his qualifications and fitness for serving on the Supreme Court.

It's a bloggers world!

And here's how to be successful at it! (Courtesy of Outside the Beltway)

So, here are my tips for becoming a top blogger: be a celebrity academic or journalist and start your blog in 2000 or before. Be outrageous. Attract attention. Throw red meat.

Actually, there's more to it than that. Follow the links for more tips than you can read in a day...

Gratuitous self-promotion, Part II

Again with that "other" blog...

With all apologies to Sim. See what happens you leave town?

Taking a trip in the way-back machine

The only thing different is the name of the Governor. So called 'Rolling blackouts' hit parts of California yesterday when high temps and an unexpected loss of power converged to force the Cal-ISO to cut power to nearly half-a-million folks throughout Southern California.

It's as if I never left...

The blackout affected a wide swath of the Southland, including Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Long Beach, Torrance, Huntington Beach, Irvine, San Bernardino, Ontario, Fontana, La Puente, Cathedral City, Chino Hills and Palm Desert, said Southern California Edison.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why do people write stuff like this?

Tim in Phoenix discusses the Wal-Mart shooting in Glendale in a letter-to-the editor today:

The collective mantra of bystanders of murderous rampage Tuesday at a West Valley Wal-Mart was "It does not happen here." Well, it did, and it's proof that violence does not respect city lines.

Pretending that your neighborhood is immune to crime because of the income level or value of the homes is just short of foolish. That mind-set is what hampers effective planning to deal with crime issues because people choose to be blind to the potential of it happening.

There was no way of foreseeing what occurred, but to imply that this type of violence belongs in a lower socio-economic neighborhood is simply wrong. Maybe this double murder would not have been so bad if it took place in Maryvale or south Phoenix.

Excuse me?! "Maybe this double murder would not have been so bad if it took place in Maryvale or South Phoenix,"...!?

First off, it's horrible because of what it is. That it happened in an upscale area of the NW Valley is irrelevant as to whether or not the act is abhorrent.

As to the comments of people like David Kost, factually speaking they are correct. Things like this don't happen there. Least not with any sort of frequency. That's why it is considered upscale, that's why people want to live there.

But regardless, such an act is horrible whether it happens in the worst part of Maryvale or in the middle of Paradise Valley doesn't matter.

The other Moms

Lots of people have kids serving in Iraq. Some have kids and husbands in various stages of coming and going and year-long tours in-between.

Charmaine Yoest has comments about one that caught the attention of the President.

"It might save the country."

Q: So which Bush supporter said it? A: None.

David Brooks in the NY Times discusses the Iraqi constitution with frequent Bush critic Peter Galbraith with some rather astonishing conclusions:

Yesterday, after reading gloomy press accounts about the proposed Iraqi constitution, I thought it might be interesting to hear what Galbraith himself had to say. I finally tracked him down in Baghdad (at God knows what hour there) and found that far from lambasting Bush, Galbraith was more complimentary about what the administration has just achieved than anybody else I spoke to all day.

"The Bush administration finally did something right in brokering this constitution," Galbraith exclaimed, then added: "This is the only possible deal that can bring stability. ... I do believe it might save the country."

Read on. Note that Brooks is right to say that when people as diverse as Peter W. Galbraith and Reuel Marc Gerecht essentially agree on this point, something unusual is going on!

Talk about stupid

Now President Bush is being attacked for using too much gas. I kid you not...

Almost every vehicle Bush uses is custom-made to add security and communications capabilities, and the heavier weight of these guzzlers further drives up gas and jet fuel costs.
The White House declines to discuss travel costs related to the presidential entourage, and did not respond to a request for the overall effect of higher fuel prices on its budget.

It is not Bush's choice to be ferried around in a less than fuel- efficient manner. Those arrangements are dictated by tradition and the Secret Service, whose mission is to protect him.
But Bush is one of the nation's most-traveled presidents.

He has visited 46 countries, some of them several times, during his presidency. He has been to all states except Vermont and Rhode Island.

So far this year, he has made 73 domestic and foreign trips, including crisscrossing the country on a 60-day, 60-city tour to promote his Social Security plan. He was on the road Wednesday, speaking to a military audience in Idaho, before returning to his Texas ranch to resume his summer vacation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I call it 'perspective', but 'context' works too

The guys at Powerline weigh in with a great post about casualties in Iraq. So good in fact, that I may use it in a post I'm developing on the concept of heroes and heroism. But I digress...the money quote, far as I'm concerned is this found near the end:

Sometimes it becomes necessary to state the obvious: being a soldier is a dangerous thing. This is why we honor our service members' courage. For a soldier, sailor or Marine, "courage" isn't an easily-abused abstraction--"it took a lot of courage to vote against the farm bill"--it's a requirement of the job.

Even in peacetime. The media's breathless tabulation of casualties in Iraq--now, over 1,800 deaths--is generally devoid of context. Here's some context: between 1983 and 1996, 18,006 American military personnel died accidentally in the service of their country. That death rate of 1,286 per year exceeds the rate of combat deaths in Iraq by a ratio of nearly two to one.

That's right: all through the years when hardly anyone was paying attention, soldiers, sailors and Marines were dying in accidents, training and otherwise, at nearly twice the rate of combat deaths in Iraq from the start of the war in 2003 to the present.

I've made this point repeatedly in the real world. Sadly, most of the time it falls on deaf ears. People fixate on the numbers, especially if they're prone to believing that we shouldn't have gone to Iraq.

Problem is, fixating just on the number precludes any context, any sense of perspective and ignores everything that helps you understand what the numbers mean. I fear that in the case of anti-everything-Bush types, that said focus trumps any other concern.

Meanwhile, ask yourselves why nearly 1,300 dead U.S. service members a year is okay when we're living in peace and prosperity but when we're actually at war, 600 combat deaths a year is unacceptable.

Moronica or Bust!

They just keep moving in!

Kathleen in Phoenix is the most recent arrival:

The "noble cause" could be the lucrative no-bid contracts for Haliburton and other war profiteers. And there's all that Iraqi oil.

We're fulfilling President Bush's dream to be the "war president." And we're saving face by not backing down from a horrible mistake.


Way too close to home

We shop here. It's a bit less than 3 miles from the house. And the fact that a man would drive into the parking lot for no apparent reason and shoot two employees without cause is beyond disturbing!

A northwest Valley man seething with anger turned a Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot into a shooting gallery Tuesday, police said, leaving two store employees dead and investigators stumped for a motive.

"He just went crazy," said Chuck O'Leary, 26, of Peoria, whose wife, Kara, 28, witnessed part of the mayhem as she walked into the store shortly after 1 p.m. "

She said the guy just went ballistic and starting firing off shots."

The suspect, identified by police as Ed Lui, 53, was tracked to a nearby retirement community and arrested a few hours later.

David Kost, 25, said he was in his vehicle in the parking lot when he heard about seven shots fired. He ducked to the floorboards and came out when the firing stopped.

He said he saw one man, clearly dead, lying half under a car. Then someone shouted that there was another injured man, he said.

Kost and two other men, one who asked for rubber gloves and an emergency medical kit, rushed over to the man.

The victim was still alive when they found him in the shopping cart corral. Kost said he asked the man if he could hear him or if he was all right.

"He just looked at me," Kost said. "Every couple seconds, he would quiver."

Kost, a resident of Arrowhead Ranch, was horrified that the shooting happened in his community. "I live in a nice area of town," he said.

"This doesn't happen here."

The one and only serious Scrappleface post in the world!

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin. In it's entirety and without commentary, for it needs none:

An internal White House memo, leaked today, indicates how President George Bush initially planned to address
Cindy Sheehan's question: What "noble cause" did my son die for?

The draft memo includes suggestions from White House communications staff, followed by several paragraphs apparently handwritten by the president.

While handwriting experts from CBS News continue to pore over the document to verify its authenticity, here is the text of the president's alleged response to the grieving Mom whose protest has captured the hearts of America's journalists.

'Dear Mrs. Sheehan,

You have asked me to identify the noble cause for which your son died. I have not answered you personally out of respect for the nobility of your son's sacrifice.

Being president forces me into the spotlight, but I would rather stand in the shadows of men like Casey Sheehan.

Directing national attention on my response to your protest creates a distraction from what matters. The focus of our attention, and our admiration, should rest on people like Casey Sheehan, who stand in the breach when evil threatens to break out and consume a helpless people.

The running story on the news networks should be the valiant efforts of our troops -- the merchants of mercy who export freedom and import honor. They trade their own lives for the sake of others.

As a result, we live in a nation where a woman can camp outside of the president's house and verbally attack the president for weeks on end without fear of prison, torture or death. And the number of nations where such protest is possible has multiplied thanks to the work of our military.

You ask for what noble cause your son died?

In a sense he died so that people like you, who passionately oppose government policies, can freely express that opposition. As you camp in Crawford, you should take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground. This land was bought with the blood of men like your son.

Now, 25 million Iraqis cry out to enjoy the life you take for granted. Most of them will never use their freedom to denigrate the sacrifice of those who paid for it. But once liberty is enshrined in law, they will be free to do so. And when the Iraqis finally escape their incarceration, hope will spread throughout that enslaved region of the world, eventually making us all safer and more free.

The key is in the lock of the prison door. Bold men risk everything to turn it.

Mrs. Sheehan, everyone dies. But few experience the bittersweet glory of death with a purpose -- death that sets people free and produces ripples of liberty hundreds of years into the future.

Casey Sheehan died that freedom might triumph over bondage, hope over despair, prosperity over misery. He died restoring justice and mercy. He lived and died to help to destroy the last stubborn vestiges of the Dark Ages.

To paraphrase President Lincoln, the world will little note nor long remember what you and I say here. But it can never forget what Casey Sheehan did during his brief turn on earth. If we are wise, we will take increased devotion to that cause for which he gave the last full measure of devotion.

Our brave warriors have blazed a trail. They have enstrusted the completion of the task to those of us they left behind. Let's, you and I, resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

Let's finish the work that they have thus far so nobly advanced.


George W. Bush'

Well, 99.9% serious anyway...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

More about the numbers

Sim and I have discussed the issue of Army recruiting. Ralph Peters addresses it again today in his NY Post column. If his numbers are right, I'm not sure what we're debating:

* Every one of the Army's 10 divisions — its key combat organizations — has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date. Those with the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its target, the 3rd Infantry Division at 117 percent.

* What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess not every young American despises his or her country and our president.

* The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and women away from their families and careers on short notice. Well, Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements.

* And then there's the Army National Guard. We've been told for two years that the Guard was in free-fall. Really? Guard recruitment and retention comes out to 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30. (I've even heard a rumor that Al Franken and Tim Robbins signed up — but let's wait for confirmation on that.)

On a side note, Peters appeared on C-SPAN's Book TV Sunday evening. The topic was Peters' newest book, New Glory.

Peters has many strong things to say about the Pentagon and it's war leadership, yet saves his strongest and harshest criticisms for the opponents of the war. All in all, a very interesting interview and one worth your checking out.

UPDATE: Stephen Spruiell at NRO's Media Blog makes an important distinction:

According to a Pentagon spokesman, Peters apparently got the overall Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard re-enlistment numbers instead of the first-time enlistment numbers.

Just so we're all clear...

What I like about Arizona

  1. Monsoons. Even when they do this to my house.
  2. Daylight Savings Time is rightly understood for the evil that it is.
  3. I can buy milk for less than $3-gallon.
  4. The Great Southwestern Pig-Dog.
  5. Good food.
  6. Happy Trails. Skunk Creek, 51st Ave. to 59th and back equals tired but happy dogs.
  7. Obligatory Golf comments. I mean, aside from being half-a-mile from the sun what exactly is Arizona known for? Of course it's abundance of country clubs and golf courses! Disclaimer: I can count the number of golf games I've played over the course of my 39 years on one hand. Know that all commentary on the subject emanates from a severe lack of personal experience and is acted upon at your own peril.
  8. The biggest hole in the world.
  9. Red Rocks.
  10. The original Coen brothers masterpiece!

Mad rush to the polls

Arthur Chrenkoff paints a picture so very different than anything we're seeing in American media that I'm forced to ask whether we're all talking about the same country. According to a range of sources, Sunnis are, at the very least, talking a good game about the October election that will ratify the Iraqi constitution:

One of the interesting aspects of the new "no Sunni left behind" campaign is its overtly religious trappings. At Iraq the Model you can check out the flier being distributed by the Islamic Party, convincing Sunnis that voting is a religious duty, supported by Koran and religious tradition. What a difference a few months can make.

Even the dreaded Fallujah is catching on:

'Falluja's clerics council advised the Imams of the mosques and the people not to miss this historical chance and to take part in it through the four centers opened there. Community leaders and clerics organized lectures to educate the people about the importance of their participation and that the constitution is for the interests of all Iraqis, which will decide their identities."'

As this report explains:

'In Fallujah, considered one of the major hotbed of Iraqi insurgency, clerics of mosques called on the residents in the city to participate in the constitution referendum scheduled to be held in mid October.They urged the residents through loudspeakers to participate and say "no" to those who want to isolate them from the political process.The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni party, also distributed handouts calling on the people to participate the referendum. Many of the residents showed support and desire to participate.'

Four registration centers have now been open in Fallujah, and apparently they're doing great business.

Most bizarrely, both the main Sunni insurgent group, Ansar Al Sunna, as well as Shia radical Muqtada al Sadr, have been calling on supporters to register to vote in the constitution referendum[.]

That sure doesn't sound like the Iraq Chuck Hagel was talking about last week.

"Nice...very nice..."

That was all the doctor could say in response to my declaration that we're moving to the central coast of California. That and that I appear to still be alive and doing relatively well.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Accidentally Right

Kurt Pitzer writes a piece for Mother Jones this week entitled In the Garden of Armageddon in which he inadvertently makes an argument in support of the Bush Administration's actions in Iraq. How so you say?!

Well, read here: They were Iraq's only real WMDs. The U.S. refused to secure them. Now Saddam's nuclear and bioweapons scientists are dispersed and more dangerous than ever.

As it happens, Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program during the late 1980s was one of the most efficient covert nuclear efforts the world has ever seen. The scientists who pulled it off are very gifted men and women, many of whom are now out of work. Their names are still being kept secret by the international agencies familiar with their work. But a source close to one of those agencies recently said that of the 200-some scientists at the top of its nuclear list, all but three remain unaccounted for. In a country with porous borders, where everyone -- but especially those associated with the former regime -- is in danger every day, many experts say at least some scientists are bound to be tempted to sell their knowledge to the highest bidder. And as the Pakistani network exposed last year shows, the nuclear black market is alive and well.

"Weapons don't make themselves," says Anne Harrington, director of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academies. "Somebody has to interpret how to take military doctrine and intent and make it real. Materials, particularly nuclear materials, are not something you scoop out of the dirt. The human element is critical in all of this

Now I'm not certain whether Mr. Pitzer realizes it or cares one way or another, but the tacit admission here is that the uncertainty about what was going on inside Iraq in the 90's and into the 21st century posed a serious threat to the West in general and the United States specifically.

The human capital and the work represented by the teams of scientists was at the core of the program--not the centrifuge buried in the rose garden or any documented progress in the creation of a nuclear weapon.

People love to argue that inspections, had they played out their full course, would have revealed whether or not there were truly "stockpiles" of weapons and weapons-grade materiel. I always disagreed with this.

Anyone who has more than a cursory knowledge about Sadaam and the inspection regime of the 90's, knows that they were played for years by a leadership that had no intention of coming clean, ever. Maybe if we're lucky, we can prompt Sim to post on the topic for he has a mastery of that history that demonstrates clearly what I'm talking about here.

Combine that with the uncertainty raised by the likes of Ken Pollack after the regime fell--where questions were asked about whether or not the regime fully knew what it did and didn't have--and you have a bubbling cauldron of confusion and uncertainty.

Such a scenario was, for better or worse, judged unacceptable by the Bush Administration in a post-9/11 world. So while Pitzer and Mother Jones hack away at the Administration's handling of the invasion and post-invasion security (and rightly so), understand that tacit in their very own arguments is the idea that there was a threat in Iraq. Now go home and think about that for a while.

Separation Blogging

Separation anxiety can be problematic for those who suffer from it. And while I do not suffer from such, I must say that I'm not enjoying this back-and-forth, I'm here-she's there thing we got going on with my wife in California.

This was just too short. By the time we were done with everything that needed doing on Saturday, we were both too wiped out to spend the evening the way we had planned. Talk about ridiculous...dinner out and a movie became pizza-to-go with the dogs at our feet. Perfectly enjoyable in the proper context yet somehow unsatisfying when the goal is spending time with your wife because she leaves for out-of-state the following evening.

The silver-lining in all this is that we will spend next weekend together, celebrating our anniversary. The following weekend we will be here loading up the house and she will be on her way back to the Village where I'll join her the following Saturday after one more week of work.

In the meantime...the dogs are nice and all, but I'd really rather be living with my wife.

Pacing Myself

Sim Blog-age will be light over the next few days. I will be leaving tomorrow for another journey into the dark, twisted underbelly of red-state America. This time, I will make a foray into the heart of darkness: the reddest state of them all and wellspring of all universal evil, Texas. And the global headquarters of Evil Oil (TM), Big D, no less.

Lots of prep for the trip today and tomorrow is a travel day. But upon arrival in the Lone Star State, I will commence with some red-state blogging as time permits. So look forward to some analysis of sweltering temps, pretty girls, LEGIT mexican food (!), gun racks, a hi-tech golden corridor, and hopefully a live text message from Highway 190, the George H.W. Bush Expressway (though odds are better I will have more time sitting in traffic on the LBJ). I thus leave you in the capable hands of a trusty dog owner, California boy, neocon bootlicker, and all-round good fella, Paul Hogue.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

X Man Returneth?

As I mentioned earlier this week, neither Paul nor I feel much like writing about baseball these days since the NL West is such a slovenly division. But a couple of bust-out offensive days by my Padres against NL East leaders Atlanta has buoyed my spirits, at least temporarily.

Of course, no buoyed spirit in Padreville is buoyed without a healthy dose of bitterness. Which brings me to today's topic: Xavier Nady.

The talented Nady has been blocked from a roster spot on the Padres for a couple of seasons by such "luminaries" as the since-departed Phil Nevin and Jay Payton, as well as Ryan Klesko and Sean Burroughs. He's been promoted to San Diego several times over the last few years to caddy for the aforementioned jokers, but manager Bruce "I Never Met a Talented Young Player I Would Play Over a Career Bench Jockey" Bochy just refuses to give the kid at-bats. I've mentioned this miscarriage of justice several times this season, most recently in my Bon Voyage Phil Nevin post but also in June with my The X Man Cometh post.

When Nevin was dealt on July 30, I was optimistic that Nady would get more ABs. But alas, career back-up and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney (who is a fantastic role-player) is basically splitting time with X. While I have no problems with Sweeney (save his bone-headed base-running errors), Nady is clearly the better offensive player. And this matters on a team which struggles to score runs.

So Bochy gave all Padres fans a treat the last couple days in Atlanta by starting Nady both days. The result? On Friday, Nady had three hits in five at-bats and scored a run to key a Pads 12-7 win. Today, the Nady was 0-5 as the Pads battled the Braves to a 2-2 tie in regulation play. But in the top of the thirteenth, the X Man clubbed a grand-slam which propelled the Friars to a 7-2 victory over the NL East leaders.

Look I'm a simple man. I like simple pleasures. Like the lilting scent of freshly mowed grass at a baseball diamond. In particular, I like the sight of well-played baseball. But if there's one thing I want in this life it's to watch winning Padres baseball. Is it too much to ask Bruch Bochy to play his most talented players every day? Difference makers? Anyone? Bueller?

Friday, August 19, 2005

A hint of normal

My wife arrives back in Phoenix at 6:05 P.M. tonight. Life get's normal for a day or two, so don't expect to see any blogging from me until Sunday night at the earliest.

Sad but true

Work is kicking blogging's butt. If I can I will but in the meantime somebody wake up Sim and tell him to start hitting the keyboard...

"It's about the war."

Says Cindy Sheehan in her open memo to so-called right-wing rumor-monger Matt Drudge:

The issue is a disastrous war that's killing our sons and daughters and making our country less secure. They attack me because they can no longer defend this war.

I've come to Crawford to bring to the president's doorstep the harsh realities of a war he's been trying so hard to avoid. But no matter what they say or how many shotguns they fire or how many crosses they destroy, they're not going to stop me from speaking out about a war that needlessly killed my son.

Frankly, what use is there in defending anything when your critics will call the President a terrorist and tell you every inane and utterly implausible reason for going to war.

My Dogs are Smarter than some of these folks.

P.S. RealClearPolitics has a commentary that examines Cindy's new-found friends and their underlying operating assumptions.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reasoned Arguments

Nothing better. Which is why I loved this:

That's the problem with you hooray for the President spoke holes, your talking about playing and we Liberals, yes ya Bush whore, LIBERAL, are talking about young people sent off to die, ostensibly for the freedom of the Iraqi people. Read my lips chicken hawk, or should I be corrected, did you ever serve you country Jonah? not one twenty something American soldiers life is worth the freedom of the Iraqi people. Write some truth talking points slag, we've already lost the war in Iraq, not because of the failing of our fine military, of which I am a alum, and you, the only thing you'd fight for is for the rights of the rich to get richer, It's the colossal failing of leadership coming from this Administration, and you know it! I can't wait to see how the whores of Bush, of which, you certainly have to be a star receiver, blame the Iraq war on Clinton and those bleeding heart liberal. Oh, by the way coward, I am for winning this debacle, and I'd do it by calling for a military draft, and maybe just maybe, when you son or daughter or niece or nephew, maybe when they send you a letter talking about how scared they are, possibly a cold hearted ass like yourself might fear the phone ringing, or a knock on you door. EVERY AMERICAN WITH A SON OR DAUGHTER IN IRAQ HAS THE MORAL AUTHORITY TO DEMAND ANSWERS!

Jonah just has a knack for attracting the best and the brightest in the anti-war, anti-neocon-cabal, Die-Bush-Die! crowd. How does he do it!?

Stop the abuse of a grieving mother! I mean it!

Nope. Cindy Sheehan has NOT become a left-wing version of Paula Jones. Seriously. Stop snickering. I mean it, people.

In his article, "Deploying Cindy's Anti-War Army", The Wahington Post's Dana Millbank writes is leaving nothing to chance as it tries to make Sheehan into a national icon. It supplied demonstrators with advice on media relations. ("When talking to reporters, it is OK to keep repeating the same message over and over. It may feel strange to do that, but the reporters are used to it.") designed printable placards for participants proclaiming "Dogs for Cindy" and "Moms for Peace." It directed vigil hosts to declare "if you have pets your guests could be allergic to." "We're also asking that you bring pictures of children," requested, and it didn't matter "whether or not you have a child serving in the military." "Every movement has a moment when it torques up," said Tom Matzzie, the group's Washington director. "Cindy is the Rosa Parks of the peace movement in 2005. Cindy, Rosa Parks, Paul Revere -- they're people who try to start something."

So remember, Sheehan has been bestowed with "absolute moral authority" by MoDo and MoveOn wants to make her Rosa Parks ... or failing that, at least a minor American hero like Paul Revere. So, she's definitely not been co-opted and is not playing politics when she mentions PNAC, impeaching Bush, or our policies in Israel. With this kind of absolute moral authority, those of us who supported the invasion of Iraq must simply defer to her on all matters of national security, for to refute her arguments is to simply be conservative BlogoBullies and smear her and the memory of her dead son.

Brief Media Scrum Interlude on Able Danger

Although your favorite primate will continue to bang the drum on the real lessons of Able Danger, it is also important to get the history surrounding 9/11 right. And while I am not much for blaming Clinton or Bush or Tenet or anyone else because I subscribe to the belief that the failures of 9/11 belong to each and every one of us, it should be noted that the Able Danger revelations do give us reason to question our assumptions about the record of events surrounding 9/11. In addition to The Wall, Jamie Gorelick's role on the 9/11 Commission and failure to testify, the testimonies of Richard Clarke and Phillip Zellikow, as well as the Sandy Berger snafu, Able Danger may also give us reason to re-open the Mohammad Atta meeting in Prague case files. The implications of possibly placing Atta in Prague for a meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official (which the Czechs still maintain happened and which the MSM and 9/11 Commission completely discount) would be far-reaching.

Captain's Quarter's, which has been all over the Able Danger story, filed a missive on the Atta angle which includes this analysis

If Able Danger supports Czech intelligence, which at the moment remains just speculation, it will prove tremendously explosive. The ramifications will affect not just the careers of the Commissioners and their staff, but a deliberate attempt to suppress Able Danger might well result in criminal prosecution. It will also force a recalculation of the war in Iraq and its place in the war on terror. The involvement of Jamie Gorelick on the Commission will once again cause people to ask why such a conflict of interest was allowed to occur -- only this time, Congress won't be able to avoid the answers. Congress needs to hold public hearings to get to the bottom of these questions. The deliberate deceptions of the 9/11 Commission this week has set off alarms about their motives and preconceptions which may have seriously perverted our knowledge of 9/11 and the forces which stood behind the attacks -- by far the most complicated and well-coordinated al-Qaeda operation, before or since.

Did he really say that?!

Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney unveiled part II in their blog-vestigation of Air America. Follow the links for a look at Sheldon and Anita Drobny, the Illinois couple who had most to do with the creation of the radio network last year.

I on the other hand, am going to camp on something in Michelle's post. A comment from New York Times Ombudsman Byrone Calame:

[I]t seems to me that this story is still unfolding, and The Times, for the sake of all its readers, needs to get to the bottom of any improper conduct and assess Air America's future.

That strikes me as more ironic even than an anti-war lefty quoting Henry Kissinger's latest warnings on Iraq. Maybe that's just me though.

Tony Schaffer Goes on the Record on Able Danger

Prior to going on the record with The Washington Post, Lt. Col. Anthony Schaffer was posting anonymously about his experiences with Able Danger at Intel Dump (grudging hat tip: The Cauldron). Although the discussion in the MSM and in most of the blogosphere will continue to center around Jamie Gorelick, "The Wall," Executive Orders and all matter of legalese, the Simian Logician continues to maintain that the real story here is data mining and its potential application in the Global War on Terror. So while the media scrum will be about getting the history right and to a greater extent playing politics and ascribing blame, I would encourage My Dogs readers to be future-oriented and to follow the data because this is where the true value in the Able Danger saga resides.

So what do we learn about the AD data mining initiative from Schaffer?

Oh - and as to your opinion that ABLE DANGER was a precursor to the IDC - you are flat out wrong - and obviously not keeping up with what is coming out in the press. ABLE DANGER partnered with LIWA/IDC to use the LIWA/IDC capability to obtain the data on Atta and the other 9-11 terrorists. I brokered the relationship... And - wrong again on the IDC using only "classified" databases - IDC used 2.5 terabytes (a whole hell of a lot of data) - all open source - to identify Atta and the others that have been identified. Classified data bases were only use to "confirm" the links subsequent to the open source data runs. Oh - and DATA MINING is not overt or clandestine - it just "is" - it is something that is done with either open source or classified information. ABLE DANGER used an array of both open and close databases...

We learn first that Able Danger partnered with other military intelligence teams to conduct the data mining activities. Able Danger was charged by Gen. Hugh Shelton with identifying potential al Qaeda personnel operating in the US and likely leveraged the technology infrastructure and data resources / techniquesof The Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) / Information Dominance Center (IDC). So existing technologies and analytics capabilities which currently exist within DOD can potentially be applied effectively to Homeland Security efforts.

Second, Schaffer explains to us that Able Danger was able to identify the four hijackers with open source information that could be obtained from all matter of public databases including DMVs, Lexis-Nexis, etc. This should be of particular interest to civil libertarians who feared the use of more invasive data by the now-shuttered Total Information Awareness initiative. In other words, AD was successful with largely non-classified information that was gleaned in a manner wholly consistent with protecting civil liberties. Of course on the other hand, had open-source data been married with classified information, who is to say that 12 of the 19 hijackers might not have been identified? And when coupled with surveillance and action 19 of 19 and a total disruption of the plot? Again, personal freedoms and the right to privacy must be respected, but data mining can be a tool used to tighten domestic security. Getting the full scoop on Able Danger is therefore a very high priority.

In another post on the story, Phillip Carter at Intel Dump concurs with my argument on data mining:

Of course, pitfalls remain for the use of these systems. The U.S. must implement robust control measures to ensure systems like Able Danger don't evolve into an extra-Constitutional menace. Some of those control measures might include the use of ex ante and ex post judicial review for these programs; the appointment of a bipartisan commission to monitor these systems; and a procedural mechanism which would allow citizens to learn of the data held by the govenrment about them (similar to what exists now under FOIA, but better). Ultimately, however, I think the potential promise outweighs the risk. The government's primitive passenger screening system in place on 9/11 identified 9 of the 19 hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report. Other data mining systems have helped bigtime in the efforts to combat terrorism financing. We need these systems, and we need to find ways to mitigate the legal, policy and political risks so that we can put them into action.

More thoughts on data mining and Able Danger are provided by Intel Dump's Jon Holdaway here.

When does the camp out start?

Grieved father Ronald Griffin writes in today's Opinion Journal:

I lost a son in Iraq and Cindy Sheehan does not speak for me.

I grieve with Mrs. Sheehan, for all too well I know the full measure of the agony she is forever going to endure. I honor her son for his service and sacrifice. However, I abhor all that she represents and those who would cast her as the symbol for parents of our fallen soldiers.

When will the media circus begin?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cindy Sheehan Officially Part of the Unhinged Left

I guess we can give up the notion of her being a noble mother of a son fallen in Iraq, eh?

Per Drudge:

"We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We’re waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush!" So declared Cindy Sheehan earlier this year during a rally at San Francisco State University. Sheehan, who is demanding a second meeting with Bush, stated: "We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now. That country is contaminated. It will be contaminated for practically eternity now." Sheehan unleashed a foul-mouth tirade on April 27, 2005: "They’re a bunch of fucking hypocrites! And we need to, we just need to rise up..." Sheehan said of the Bush administration. "If George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bullshit, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free?" "The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it’s so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go to this war." "We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog shit in Washington, we will impeach all those people."

I'm deeply sorry for her loss and I value the sacrifice made by her son, Casey. I can empathize with how difficult this must be for her and I have no problem with her speaking her mind about her opinions. But she's now a shill of Michael Moore and Bob Shrum and the MoveOn people. However, she's not very smart and she could use a reality check or two.

Mindless musings late in the day

Wholly unrelated to anything else- even this from earlier in the day- Sim and I have concluded that "oil prices issue isn't coming from scarcity of raw supply. It's being driven by a number of other issues."

Now that we've settled that, what next? World Peace?

Beginning to hit the fan?

Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney continue to pound the hell out of the Air Ameriscam story. What do we have in today's entry? Lots and lots of legal stuff...

It's not just the Gloria Wise Boys & Girls that's knocking on Air America Radio's door looking for lost money. According to court records obtained by Radio Equalizer/, another major creditor has been demanding that Air America pay up. The liberal radio network has refused to do so, despite a court order and scathing words from a New York judge overseeing the case. Now, the creditor--Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc.--has filed a new complaint, accusing Air America and Piquant LLC (Air America's current owners) of engaging in a "sham transaction" and "fraudulent conveyance" of assets in order to avoid paying its debts.

Oopsie. Michelle's post also includes excerpts from the legal complaint itself. It just gets fishier and fishier...

PMS: Potty Mouth Syndrome

As is the case for many conservative bloggers, I was drawn to this through the encouragement and exhortation of Hugh Hewitt. Hugh had a vision of what the blogosphere could be and ought to be while the rest of us were still trying to get our brains around the concept.

Hugh wrote his most recent tome with us in mind. Blog is a primer, for all intents and purposes, on the subject of the blogosphere.

One of Hugh's strongest admonitions to young bloggers of whatever political stripe is, "Watch your tongue." Fight the temptation to let your tongue wag freely.

Write maturely and people will think you are, in fact, mature. More concisely, reputations are quickly built on the Internet. Build the best one you can, and when we're talking about communicating that means using language appropriately. As a corollary, it also means using appropriate language.

At the risk of generalizing very broadly, it seems in the blogosphere that most of the potty mouths live on the left. I generally read conservative bloggers; my contact with left-leaners consists of an occasional visit to Josh Marshall's TPM and TPMCafe.

When I do have reason to read a Kos or other liberal blogger, I'm often struck as Dean Barnett was, by their choice of writing styles:

Basically, you want to realize what prejudices might be working against you and address them.

So if I were a young left wing blogger, I’d know pretty damn well what prejudices might be working against me and work to show that those prejudices are unfounded. What are those prejudices? I would say the maturity and propriety of left wing bloggers are in question. So if I were writing a left wing blog, I would bend over backwards to not fuel those prejudices and to show that in my case they don’t apply.

Barnett eventually moves to a real-world example. A young lefty blogger, Brigham, responded to a Barnett piece in The Weekly Standard, with the usual lefty-blogger flare:

I know his response was just a manifestation of the angry young blogger shtick, but it’s tired. All the obscenities, all the rage – what do Brigham and his ilk think they accomplish? Do they not see how pathetic such antics make them look?

LEFT WING BLOGGERS LIKE BRIGHAM are often guilty of confusing and conflating “straight talk” with vulgar talk. Look, I’m no prude, especially when it comes to coarse language. Those who personally know me, and especially those who have played golf with me, view me as a uniquely unlikely champion for obscenity-free communication.

But politics is different from one’s rec-room or the golf course. There are a bunch of people who find obscenities offensive. In politics (and bloggers like Brigham are in politics), there is no need to gratuitously offend a segment of the voting society with coarse language. And yet Brigham and many of his cohorts insist on writing like they’re politically obsessed Quentin Tarantino characters.

I started this essay by talking about shoring up one’s perceived weaknesses. For left wing bloggers, the doubts they have to overcome is whether they are mature enough and sophisticated enough to take their act public. Some of them seem to know this. Chris Bowers at MyDD is doubtlessly one of the brightest liberal bloggers around, and he eschews a constant stream of obscenities in favor of well thought through and maturely expressed postings.

Bowers is also seeking office, and he’s smart enough to understand all of this. The bigger question is, why aren’t all of them?

I admit that it is a rather broad generalization that we make here. But, as Dennis would say, that's not so much a problem when it's true!

Didn't We Used to Post About Baseball?

Yeah, this year's repellent performances by the clubs of the NL West have largely tempered our enthusiasm for the season. But there's nothing like broad, sweeping generalizations, The Simpsons and some witty snark to bring us (at least temporarily) back in the fold.

Dan McCarthy over at Barstool Sports has taken some time to compare every major league franchise with a character from The Simpson's. The result is perhaps a little uneven but includes some pretty solid yuks, nonetheless. Here are a few samples:

Baltimore Orioles - Maggie Simpson - Never says or does much of anything, but constantly brought up in discussions by virtue of their close associates. Stubbornly hanging onto something disgusting despite other people's well-meaning efforts to take it away (pacifier, Sidney Ponson).

Minnesota Twins - Santa's Little Helper - Scrappy and quick; comprised mostly of parts that were rescued from a terrible existence elsewhere. Trapped indoors most of the time. Series of poorly timed medical problems (canine gastroplexy, Torii Hunter's ankle). Abused by an incredibly old, very wealthy man who is the very definition of greed and selfishness (Mr. Burns, Carl Pohlad). Nearly abandoned by their families (Bart gave him away; the near-contraction).

Cleveland Indians - Apu Nahasapeemapetilon - Identity entirely based on a ridiculous stereotype of Indians. Jovial ongoing relationship with a big fat guy who underperforms a lot (Homer, C.C. Sabathia). Soldiering on gamely despite a terrible workplace environment (the Kwik-E-Mart, Cleveland). Used to play a much bigger role in the grand scheme of things, but now they make only occasional appearances, and they're usually getting abused.

New York Mets - Krusty the Klown - Close ties to Judaism. Ongoing love-hate relationship with their audiences, and they have a tendency to lend their names to bad products (Krusty Brand Non-Narkotik Kough Syrup, Jose Offerman). Have had some substance-abuse problems in the past that they would prefer to keep out of the public eye (chain-smoking, Darryl Strawberry/Doc Gooden).

San Diego Padres - Dr. Julius Hibbert - Sported a parade of laughable fashions in the past. A little shaky at what they do, but they look stellar given the alternatives in the region (Dr. Nick, the rest of the NL West). Bizarre tendency to lose their composure at inappropriate moments.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Disco Stu - Overconfident and forever predicting the return of their glory days. Brought up by devoted fans more often than is probably reasonable, considering their sporadic appearances. Haven't been relevant since the '80s.

...and my personal favorite...

Cincinnati Reds - Principal Seymour Skinner - Spent much of their existence under the hand of a domineering, insane woman who was impossible to please (Agnes Skinner, Marge Schott). Possessors of a dirty little secret that they would rather sweep under the rug (Skinner's true identity of Armand Tamzarian, Pete Rose). Their lives were given meaning in the '70s (Vietnam, the Big Red Machine) but now all they have to escape the monotony of their everyday existence is the flashbacks.

Oil, oil, toil and trouble

A couple pieces talking about oil:

First off, Austin Bay blogs about one man's pain being another man's gain:

The London Times reports:

'…Iraq still has good economic prospects, thanks to the high price of oil, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday.

In its first assessment of the Iraqi economy in more than 25 years, the IMF reported that the interim Government needs to tackle chronic security and political problems if it hopes to rebuild the country. The cost of security and insurance cover swallows 30 to 50 per cent of reconstruction funds.'

One man’s irony will be another’s nifty conspiracy theory — a jack in oil prices rescues Baghdad.

On the not-so-encouraging front is this from Irwin Seltzer at The Weekly Standard:

So as Greenspan prepares to exit the scene, he sees an economy that is growing rapidly, a labor market that is tightening, an intractable trade deficit and a dollar that is weakening, house prices that are in his view "frothy" in some areas, and fiscal policy that is loose and getting looser. He also faces his now-famous "conundrum"--the failure of long-term interest rates to keep pace with the increases he has mandated in short-term rates.

So he will want to continue raising interest rates, not only to the "neutral" level that neither heats nor cools the economy, but to a level that will actually cool things down. But high oil prices make it more difficult to decide just what to do, since they can act as a drag on economic growth as well as a source of inflationary pressure. That's called stagflation--not the legacy that Greenspan cares to leave as he gives up life at the Fed.

Did he really say the 'S' word?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Even the big guys aren't safe

Snark is everywhere. Getting good at it takes work which of course involves mostly time. That and a little wit.

Even big-name guys are victims of snark, as these comments at Kudlow's Money Politic$ make clear:

CapitalGain said...
Oh, I forgot...I also made a couple of million bucks in between.
4:04 PM

itsmypartytoo said...
i could see how that is the case . You stay at home and post on this blog site all day long. How can an increase in gas prices matter to someone who never leaves there house ?
4:10 PM

CapitalGain said...
Quite frankly, having made mine, I hire folks like you to do my shopping for me.
4:13 PM

itsmypartytoo said...
shopping list:

1. bush juice
2. neo-con vitamins
3. t-shirt"i hate all poor people "
4. more bush juice
5. right handed rubber gloves
6. t-shirt " defecits-- thats my kid's problem "
7. 2 liter bush juice
8. Club for growth membership
9. another t-shirt "Thou shall not disagree w/Kudlow "
10. Ted Kennedy dolls for voodoo
11. t- shirt "I dont trust the US government "

Like as is the case with most snark, what degenerated into ridiculous Talking Point Regurge started as a legitimately asked question about an actual, real-life issue. In this case, gas prices:

Are high gas prices keeping you out of stores? Vote and see the results here.

Professional snarks do not allow questions about legitimacy and honest discussion get in the way of good sarcasm. Would-be big-time bloggers beware!

Pointing out the obvious again

The Bush Administration doesn't have much going when it comes to border enforcement. Michelle Malkin discusses the flanking maneuver being pulled off by Dem's on the issue in this post today:

Now, two Democratic governors have pulled off bold political moves that go beyond lip service: declaring border emergencies. First, Bill Richardson in New Mexico. Followed by Janet Napolitano in Arizona. The gestures boost government funding for--and, yes, political credibility on--an issue long festering in the Southwest and spreading to the interior.

I pondered a post on this topic after Janet made her announcement that she was following in Governor Richardson's footsteps. For all my conservative-ness though, I don't have the same fire on this issue. But I digress...

At least one radio report this morning has made clear that some are not so hip on the Governor's decision. Open-border activists are already busy accusing Governor Napolitano of political grandstanding and vote-fishing.

Today's Republic gives us another look at what exactly this means: Gov. Janet Napolitano on Monday declared a state of emergency along Arizona's border with Mexico, freeing up $1.5 million in disaster funds to help border counties combat booming illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

Napolitano criticized the federal government for "moving too slow" on border security, evolving into a hot-button, election-year issue in Arizona and across the country."

This is a federal responsibility, and they're not meeting it," Napolitano said. "I've just come to the conclusion (that) we've got to do what we can at the state level until the federal government picks up the pace."

It seems though that certain political activists and advocates aren't the only ones accusing the Governor of playing politics:

State Rep. Russell Pearce, a Republican, accused Napolitano of bowing to public and political pressure."This governor clearly is very good at reading polls," Pearce said. " It's a start, but much more has to be done.... This nation is under siege."

Damned if you, damned if you don't.

UPDATE: Free publicity courtesy of Outside the Beltway.

It's making my brain hurt

Dennis Prager is discussing Cindy Sheehan's appearance on Hardball, point-by-point.

She's got nothing but talking points and couldn't even justify the US attack on Afghanistan as an attack on Al-Queda in direct retribution for 9/11.

It's making my head hurt...

The relative importance of Madrassas

Former reporter for CNN and terrorism expert Peter Bergen, a man who has actually met and interviewed Osama bin Laden, penned an opinion piece in June which I recently stumbled across. I stumble a lot. It makes the argument that madrassas should not be viewed as the primary breeding ground for terrorists. Indeed, a conventional wisdom has arisen which views these religious schools as a critical source of terroism. But Bergen challenges this assumption in writing that

While madrassas may breed fundamentalists who have learned to recite the Koran in Arabic by rote, such schools do not teach the technical or linguistic skills necessary to be an effective terrorist. Indeed, there is little or no evidence that madrassas produce terrorists capable of attacking the West. And as a matter of national security, the United States doesn't need to worry about Muslim fundamentalists with whom we may disagree, but about terrorists who want to attack us ... Like the view that poverty drives terrorism - a notion that countless studies have debunked - the idea that madrassas are incubating the next generation of terrorists offers the soothing illusion that desperate, ignorant automatons are attacking us rather than college graduates, as is often the case. In fact, two of the terrorists in our study had doctorates from Western universities, and two others were working toward their Ph.D.

But his survey of seventy-five terrorists involved with some off the most notable attacks against Westerners concludes that "only nine" had attended madrassas. That's 12%. He also points out that 53% had attended college or had college degrees.

While Bergen has forgotten far more about Islamic terrorism than I will ever know, and I agree with his argument in general, I would question his conclusions along two dimensions. First, while madrassas may not serve as training centers for attack-ready terrorists, they seem to provide terrorists with a support network. For example, the schools seem to have tight linkages with Muslim charities which help fund terrorism. Second, in becoming centers of inflammatory rhetoric, madrassas are influential in helping to proliferate hate among the masses by sending rabid, vocal and educated graduates out into their respective societies.

Madrassas are not terrorism factories as Bergen correctly points out. However, they are influential in the spread of the fundamentalist ideology, funding for terrorism and the creation of anti-Western support networks upon which terrroists depend.

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