Monday, October 31, 2005

France: Creating 1000's of New Bin Ladens

One of the common refrains we hear from our friends in Europe is that by taking the fight on terrorism to Iraq, we are "creating thousands of new Bin Ladens." Of course, the banning of Muslim headscarves in French schools and get-tough policies with already-alienated Muslim populations in Europe win hearts and minds, right?

Well, I suppose that's what the French would tell us in light of recent unrest in a Paris suburb which a police union spokeman described as "civil war."

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy defended his tough crime policies on Monday after a fourth night of riots in a Paris suburb in which tear gas was fired into a mosque. Sarkozy, addressing police officers, vowed to find how tear gas had been fired into the Muslim place of worship, an incident which had helped fuel the disturbances. Youths hurled rocks and set fire to cars in the northeastern Clichy-sous-Bois suburb of the French capital, where many immigrants and poor families live in high-rise housing estates notorious for youth violence.

Apparently, the French government, like many others in Europe still has not come to terms with the challenges posed by large, poor, disaffected Muslim minorities in their countries. And that is an unfortunate reality because it is those populations which have spawned more violent Islamic terrorism than perhaps the entire Middle East itself. Disaffected locals were responsible for the 3/11 attacks in Madrid and the 7/7 bombings in London. And the masterminds of our own 9/11 attacks? They became radicalized not in Saudi Arabia, but in the Turkenviertel of Hamburg, Germany.

While our friends in Europe are right to raise questions about the impacts of American policies in the Middle East, would it not behoove them to get a better handle on their own policies vis-a-vis Muslim immigrants living in their own midst? Should they not understand and address reasons why Muslims who come to Europe seeking opportunity and freedom instead become poor and disaffected; often turning to crime or in some cases far worse? And surely these societies can find a better way to address outrage than by engaging in inflammatory tactics like firing tear gas into mosques.

While it is convenient (and possibly even fair) to criticize American policy, some self-examination is in order. Prime Minister Blair has taken the initiative on this following 7/7 and many of the other governments have outreach efforts in place. But the riots in Clichy-sous-Bois demonstrate that there is still a long way to go.

Good News for W

After a brutal couple of months, it looks like the second bit of light for Bush is emerging from a Supreme Court nomination. His nomination of John Roberts to the high court essentially sailed through the Senate. Now it's looking very good for his new nominee, Samuel Alito.

I know precious little about Alito and will have to bring myself up to speed on his qualifications. But I believe this nominee will do well on the basis of one simple fact:

Harry Reid is unhappy about the selection.

Since Harry Reid had critical input which lead to the ridiculous nomination of Harriet Miers, the fact that Reid is unhappy really bodes well for Alito.

In a statement released after the President introduced Judge Alito, Reid stated

"I am disappointed in this choice for several reasons. First, unlike previous nominations, this one was not the product of consultation with Senate Democrats. Last Friday, Senator Leahy and I wrote to President Bush urging him to work with us to find a consensus nominee. The President has rejected that approach...Second, this appointment ignores the value of diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the Supreme Court. The President has chosen a man to replace Sandra Day O’Connor, one of only two women on the Court. For the third time, he has declined to make history by nominating the first Hispanic to the Court. And he has chosen yet another federal appellate judge to join a court that already has eight justices with that narrow background. President Bush would leave the Supreme Court looking less like America and more like an old boys club. "

Yeah, it's a real shame that Bush didn't listen to political opponents who really have his "best interests at heart" this time. If he had, perhaps Joe Wilson might have been the choice. Or maybe even Michael Brown. Meanwhile, I love how Reid tries to play racial and gender politics with a president that has made minority and female appointees all over his administration. But I guess if you have quotas for the composition of the Supreme Court, you can be pretty much be assured that nominees who arrive on the Court as a result of that system can be counted upon to vote the "right way" on affirmative action...

Joe Wilson: The Guest Who Would Never Leave

Jason Zengerle over at TRO extends the thinking on Wilson's media whoring. Money quote:

At the end of the day, Scooter Libby's the one who's under indictment for telling lies, not Joe Wilson. But it would be a whole lot easier to focus on Libby if Wilson would just shut up and go away. Alas, that's not going to happen. He clearly loves the attention too much. Wilson's op-ed was entitled, "Our 27 months of hell." A better title might have been, "How to turn your 15 minutes into 27 months."

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.

Why lawmakers are dangerous

They wield the power to tax. Anyone else catch this on Today this morning? Congressional lawmakers are considering a Federal excise tax on oil companies in wake of record profits and record-high gas prices.

The story's sub-text was clear; people want action on the issue of high prices and 'getting' the oil companies is the easy target. Meanwhile, when did the fundamentals of economics change?

Are consumers now setting prices in the oil market? Exxon/Mobil, Shell and Atlantic Ritchfield all purchase oil from our good friends in the ME, with some help from traders in the middle.

The price of oil, down now some from record highs, is set as a function of the market over which these firms have no control. But punishing them with a tax on every barrel of oil they purchase over $40 ought to do wonders for their fiscal health and the economy over-all.

Earth to Congress: if you want to do something about gas prices, incentivize these folks to expand their refining operations.

Hi! Lets Eat

Greasy spoons and dumpy dives. Every town has 'em. You know, the place you go for your heaping helping of artery-clogging cholesterol with a hot side of grease.

In Phoenix, our choice was the Waffle House at 27th Ave. and Deer Valley. Eating there was like stepping into Mel's Diner replete with an updated version of Flo. She never told us off though, but we'd tip her well regardless--the service is bad but the food is that good!

Hi!'s has been a fixture on Ocean for decades. The sign dominates the south side of the street as you approach from the east. I fell in love with the place before I'd ever stepped foot inside. And once I did, I knew I'd be back. Any place with a country-fried steak that good will keep my business until the last of my arteries harden and crack.

The building, the restaurant and the experience have a long history in Lompoc and it's become woven into the fabric of the city. In 2003, the place changed hands and closed for a short time before re-opening under new ownership.

This piece recounts that and captures some of the sense of civic history this greasy spoon embodies:

Hi Let's Eat, part of Lompoc's history since 1959, is set to reopen soon in its familiar unpretentious atmosphere with the kind of service associated with small towns where most everybody knows your name.

That's the way it's always been at the downhome eatery and new owners Lou and Judee Domingos want to keep it that way. A little piece of Americana and a big piece of Lompoc.

"I want to restore it to its old glory," Judee said. "It's an icon. Everybody has a Hi's story. One gal told me the story of how she was proposed to in here."

As in decades past, Hi!'s is a weekly meeting place for local luminaries like the mayor and members of the city council:

Some believe the city's future was imagined and developed by town movers and shakers at Hi's counter and in its generous leather booths.

"The whole town was built in this restaurant," said former owner Bill Blackford Sr. in a 1994 article in the Santa Maria Times.

MoDo's Dating Woes

Seems New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has had some bad dates recently. I would respond but the internal logical contradictions are so obvious as not to require commentary.

And then there's this.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Our 27 months of hell (Or, "Just when you thought it was safe to pick up a newspaper...")

Whose hell? His, or ours? As part--apparently--of a publicity blitz, everybody's favorite opportunist has written a piece to whine and cry about the vagaries of his un-sought-after fame. Pardon me while I hurl.

"Like being punched in the stomach!"

But on July 14, 2003, our lives were irrevocably changed. That was the day columnist Robert Novak identified Valerie as an operative, divulging a secret that had been known only to me, her parents and her brother.Valerie told me later that it was like being hit in the stomach. Twenty years of service had gone down the drain. She immediately started jotting down a checklist of things she needed to do to limit the damage to people she knew and to projects she was working on. She wondered how her friends would feel when they learned that what they thought they knew about her was a lie.

Sounds odd when you juxtapose it with this: I'd allow the reporter to reveal that I "live in the Palisades, an affluent neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on the fringe of Georgetown." And if that kind of information weren't enough to really ensure my security, I would point out for the benefit of would-be evildoers that "the back of [my] house has a stunning view of the Washington Monument."

Or this: WOODWARD: ... They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldridge James or Bob Hanson, big spies. This didn't cause damage.

And especially this: Plame's "cover," a company called "Brewster-Jennings & Associates," was so flimsy that she used it as her affiliation when she made a 1999 contribution to Al Gore for president. She identified herself as "Valerie Wilson" in this case. The same Federal Election Commission records showing her contribution to Gore also reveal a $372 contribution to America Coming Together, when the group was organizing to defeat Bush.

The Wilson's are wonderfully adept at painting the picture of horribly-victimized patriots, it's just a shame that many facts don't quite do the story justice. What else does the champion of truth have to say?

Denial aint just a river in Egypt

Clinging to his meme like a hapless victim floating at sea clings to a life preserver, Wilson regurgitates his Niger story:

It was payback -cheap political payback by the administration for an article I had written contradicting an assertion President Bush made in his 2003 State of the Union address. Payback not just to punish me but to intimidate other critics as well.

Why did I write the article? Because I believe that citizens in a democracy are responsible for what government does and says in their name. I knew that the statement in Bush's speech- that Iraq had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium in Africa- was not true. I knew it was false from my own investigative trip to Africa (at the request of the CIA) and from two other similar intelligence reports. And I knew that the White House knew it.

Sorry Joe. The WH knew that British intelligence had independently sourced intel that confirmed the suspicion that Hussein was trying to buy weapons-grade material. An assertion that the British government still stands by today, two and one-half years later.

What I wonder is if you knew that. If you didn't know it at the time, I suppose I can forgive the mis-statement. But have you never heard of, much less read, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that completely disproves your storyline?

From this bit of selective memory, we move into an even more stupefying bit of mental gymnastics. To this point Wilson has clung to the meme, asserting that what he stated was true and right and never refuted. From here he cranks it up a notch or two, moving to a bit of obtuse rhetoric that is stunning:

Although there were suggestions that she was behind the decision to send me to Niger, the CIA told Newsday just a week after the Novak article appeared that "she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment." The CIA repeated the same statement to every reporter thereafter.

Thats fine as far as it goes, but it just doesn't go very far. I refer you and Joe back to the SIC report where it is learned that the CIA's own documentation makes it clear that Valerie worked to get her husband the assignment to Niger. Facts 2, Joe 0.

All light and no heat

As any good writer does, Joe saves his best for last. His close is bold and strong, asserting the rightness of his position. But once you get past the light, you realize there's no heat coming from this argument:

The grand jury has now concluded that at least one of the president's men committed crimes. We are heartened that our system of justice is working and appreciative of the work done by our fellow citizens who devoted two years of their lives to grand jury duty.The attacks on Valerie and me were upsetting, disruptive and vicious. They amounted to character assassination.

Senior administration officials used the power of the White House to make our lives hell for the last 27 months. But more important, they did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime.

A bold and strong statement to say the least, it sounds horrific until you understand what we're talking about. The 'crimes' in question more resemble this than they do this.

In 2004, Martha Stewart went to prison for obstructing justice in an investigation into a charge that could not be proven. Now we're watching the same movie with a slightly different cast. Seems to me--as well as a whole lot of other people more informed and knowledgeable on the subject--that if in fact Rove, Libby or anyone else committed an actual crime in their discussions of Ms. Plame's name that we'd have heard about it on Friday.

Instead what we got was a lot of pontificating about the alleged but apparently unprovable crime that no one will be charged with, coupled with an exacting explanation of tgenerallylly-accepted default indictments from a prosecutor who has nothing else to work with.

Yes, Joe! It's been a long time coming, but vindication at last!

Every day that he or any of his fellow travelers choose to speak on this, I become more convinced of the argument for the leak's status as proxy-fight over the Administration's Iraq policy. After 27 months of hearing how the WH had criminally persecuted this poor man and his wife and how this would be the tipping point for exposing the lies, deceit and wrong-doing of the Bush Administration, you can color me unimpressed.

Unimpressed with Joe's willfully obtuse re-telling of his story and wholly unimpressed with a two-plus year investigation that nets us no charges for the crime under investigation.

The Future is Here IKEA, anyway. I was surfing around on Lileks and stumbled across this link to an interesting advertising microsite for IKEA. The download takes a bit of time but is worthwhile. Once it is complete, navigate around within the image by rolling over it and clicking.

The microsite is an advertising unit which demonstrates not only IKEA's design sensibilities, but a clever use of technology which hints at the long-term potential of the Internet as an e-commerce channel. I agree with Jim that while visually stunning, the microsite doesn't necessarily do much to make you want to buy. It certainly presents IKEA products in an attractive manner and within a context. The use of music and the integration of people and "scenes" intensifies brand image. But from a pure sales standpoint, the "call-to-action" is weak. Simply showing products and listing prices remains "old economy." However, one can see where this revolutionary technology can be not only visually arresting but also a closer of sales.

When married with other IKEA standards like the ability to put in room dimensions and include existing furniture, one might have the ability to see their own kitchen with the new products in place. Or with a greater use of rollover, one might be able to glean more information about products and product dimensions. Or to open a drawer and survey its interior. Or when enough data is input by (or appended to) customers, that personalized offers or installation information might be generated. In other words, if the technology is empowered to anticipate and address customer concerns as they arise, the skids can be greased to close the sale.

Nonetheless, quite something to see.

"Station 51..."

Santa Barbara County Fire Department Station 51 is getting some new digs. New to the tune of 9500 sq. ft., adjacent to a new sheriff's sub-station at 5500 sq. ft:

A replacement for the county's aging fire and sheriff's stations is under way, as officials begin plans for the construction of a new building three times the size of the Lompoc Valley's existing facility.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors recently purchased 15 acres at the northeast corner of Burton Mesa Boulevard and Harris Grade Road in Vandenberg Village from Caltrans for $120,000. The below-market price reflects the county's guarantee that the land will be used for a public-service building.

The county plans to build a shared sheriff's substation and fire station approximately 15,000 square feet on a couple acres, said John Green, capitol projects coordinator.
An adjacent five acres is home to a joint 5,000-square-foot building considered inadequate to serve the growing Lompoc Valley communities.

“That building was built in the 1960s, and is literally falling apart,” said Tom Franklin, deputy fire chief.

Plans for the new building are still being finalized, but initial estimates call for a 9,500-square-foot fire station and a 5,500-square-foot sheriff substation at the new location.

Boring local news you say? Well, not to me.

That's my fire protection we're talking about. Build on!

Obligatory Sports Post

Somebody in Dodgertown has grown a brain. John DePodesta is gone:

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt fired general manager Paul DePodesta on Saturday.

No GM, no manager and no chemistry. Looking forward to a sizzling '06. For other Dodger-watcher takes on this, go here.

More Plame

Even long-time chronicler of the CIA Bob Woodward disputes the assertions by Joe Wilson that his wife (or anyone else for that matter) was endangered by the still-just-alledged-but-increasingly-likely outing:

WOODWARD: ... They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldridge James or Bob Hanson, big spies. This didn't cause damage.

Tom Maguire discusses this aspect of the case more here.

When Will This End?

When will Joseph Wilson and his wife go away? That's what I want to know. I've really had quite enough of these ego-maniacal, dissembling, faux-patriots and media exploiters. Today, I ran across a preview of Wilson's upcoming appearance on 60 Minutes. Wilson is now playing the injured, put-upon do-gooder in claiming that his wife Valerie has been threatened due to the leaking of her identity as a CIA agent.

“There have been specific threats [against Plame]. Beyond that I just can’t go,” Wilson tells [Ed]Bradley. Wilson says he and his wife have discussed security for her with “several agencies”... Upon finding out about the leak of her name, “she felt like she'd been hit in the stomach. It took her breath away,” said Wilson. Then she methodically went to work, he says, “making lists of what she had to do to ensure that her assets, her projects, her programs and her operations were protected.” Wilson tells Bradley, contrary to reports that many knew Plame was in the CIA, that only he and three other people knew. “Well, very few people outside the intelligence community [knew she was CIA]. Her parents and her brother, essentially,” says Wilson.


Yes, I suppose that if I had been an exposed CIA operative, one of the first things I would put on my list of to-dos to "ensure that my assets, projects, programs and operations were protected" is to be profiled in Vanity Fair magazine replete with a splashy photospread.

Next I would make an appearance at "the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C.," where I would appear "wearing a sharp cream pantsuit" at a "lunch given by The Nation magazine's foundation and the Fertel Foundation to present the first Ron Ridenhour Award for Truth-Telling to [my] husband, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV." During the luncheon, Joe as I call him, would weep "openly on the podium as he looked [ me] straight in the eye and declare, "If I could give you back your anonymity ... " He would swallow, unable to speak for a few seconds. He would then continue by saying "You are the most wonderful person I know. And I'm sorry this has been brought on you." I would also tear up. And the the room would be electrified. Moments later Joe would recover. He would conclude his remarks with the climax everyone had been waiting for. "Let me introduce you to my wife, [Sim]," he'd say. And then the crowd would roar and Joe and I would stand together at the podium, basking in the glow of its approval. This is what we'd always secretly wanted but never thought was possible. I'd whisper to Joe that he ought to write a book to exploit the pecuniary bonanza that surely awaits. Yes, I think that would be one of the best ways to protect national security, myself, my family and the intelligence assets I had been cultivating while at the Agency.

But let me be a little more specific. In the Vanity Fair article, I'd be sure to mention my three-year-old twins, Trevor and Samantha. I'd say that my father, Samuel, lives with my mother in a suburb of Philly. I'd mention friends like Janet Angstadt and Todd Sesler. I would also be sure to invite the reporter over for dinner and she would observe that my "kitchen was undergoing renovation, but, like the rest of [my] house, it was immaculate. A plate of Brie, French bread, and grapes [would be] left to nibble from while [I] prepared pasta and salad in the kitchen." I'd allow the reporter to reveal that I "live in the Palisades, an affluent neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on the fringe of Georgetown." And if that kind of information weren't enough to really ensure my security, I would point out for the benefit of would-be evildoers that "the back of [my] house has a stunning view of the Washington Monument." Additionally, I would reveal something that might surprise some of VF's readers in light of the scandal surrounding the exposure of my identity. Yes, I would explain, when Joe and I were on our third or fourth date and involved in a "heavy make-out session," I stopped and said that I had something to tell him. I was very conflicted and very nervous, thinking of everything that had gone into getting me to that point, such as money and training. But I was, I explained, undercover in the C.I.A. Indeed. So I blew my own cover on a third or fourth date in the heat of passion. Is there a way we can simultaneously schedule the ceremony for my Medal of Freedom and the awarding of my settlement check from Scooter Libby and Official A? I'm just worried that I won't have time to get home to set the Brie out and bring it to room temperature before everyone arrives for the soiree. So if we could combine the two, that would be really convenient.

If Scooter Libby or anyone else knowingly worked to blow Plame's cover or misled or impeded the investigation of such an act, he (and/or they) should be punished and condemned in the harshest possible terms. I have no problem with the the application of justice in such matters. But spare me the "wife's been threatened" faux victim crap. The Wilsons don't come out smelling much better in all of this. Going the high-profile route would seem antithetical to serious concerns about the security of Plame, her family and intelligence assets. But it's not just that red-herring. The Wilsons have exploited the situation at every turn, passing themselves off as patriots when in reality they are media whores who have become a version of Cindy Sheehan re-packaged for a different target audience. They're better dressed and more intellectual, but their antics aren't any less transparent or cheap than Sheehan's or Tanya Harding's.

If Libby and others have broken the law or acted unethically, then let the chips fall where they may. But could we please stop the nauseating hero-worship of these frauds?

Building (or Re-Building) the MyDogs Community

Google and Google-offshoots are continually coming out with cool new applications. Blogger, Google Blog Search, Google Earth and Google Scholar are some of my favorites. Here's a new one that we can use to map our reader base.

Of course, this might have been more exciting / interesting when we were getting 3K hits a month, but in light of all of the disruptions around here over the last month, maybe a link to Frappr! will drive traffic and rekindle that long-forgotten MyDogs feeling? Anyway, click here and locate yourself on the global map. You can remain anonymous, include a picture, write a brief message, etc. In short, you can raise your hand and say..."Hey, I wear it loud and I say it proud! I'm a MyDogs fan!"

Maybe this will be sad. Perhaps it will be inspiring.

Please keep us appraised of any love connections or civil unions, and we'll be sure to give you a mention deeply embedded in a post about the Padres, Oklahoma, why we hate fantasy baseball or Paul's canine friends.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them

OK, Libby's indicted. But Paul Begala's stretching things just a tad, here, dontcha think?

And third, because the ultimate result of the alleged criminal conduct was to march 2,000 young heroes off to die in an unjust, unwise, unprovoked and unwarranted war.

The alleged criminal conduct was in outing a CIA agent. The actual current criminal charge is repeatedly lying to a grand jury, admittedly a serious crime. But thus far, I've heard no allegations by the special prosecutor that the criminal conduct at issue is the administration's case for war. In fact in today's press conference, Fitzgerald thankfully said that that subject was not under his purview. But Begala just glosses over that like so many in the MSM who gloss over the meme that the yellowcake from Niger claims have been "disproven."

The plain fact is that after a seven year non-stop investigato-rama, no senior Clinton White House official was ever even charged with wrongdoing. Much less indicted. Much less convicted. In fact, the highest-ranking Clinton official to be convicted of wrongdoing in connection with his public duties was the chief of staff to the Agriculture Secretary. Betcha five bucks you can't even name the Clinton Agriculture Secretary in question, much less his chief of staff. Unlike Nixon (whose Watergate crimes were manifest), unlike Reagan (whose White House was corrupted by the Iran-Contra crimes), unlike Bush 41 (who pardoned White House aides and Cabinet officers before they could testify against him), Bill Clinton presided over the most ethical White House staff in decades.

Since I doubt he's on crack, this is a pack of lies. Clinton was a fairly senior Clinton WH official, wasn't he? Oh but we're just talking about the White House staff. Gotcha. He was impeached although he deserved to be indicted since he was guilty of the same crimes of which Libby is accused plus civil contempt of court. I can name the Agriculture Secretary, Mike Espy, where's my five bucks?

On August 27, 1997, Espy was indicted on charges of granting favors in exchange for thousands of dollars in gifts such as sports tickets, lodging, and airfare.

So Espy himself was indicted, Mr. Begala. Just like Scooter Libby. Espy was ultimately cleared of all wrongdoing in his trial. Just as Libby theoretically could be. And you're really proclaiming the "most ethical Administration in decades" line? First of all, we've dramatically reduced expectations from Clinton's first Executive Order declaration of the "most ethical administration in history," haven't we? But I can understand why. In addition to Mike Espy's indictment, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros was indicted on 18 counts conspiracy, giving false statements and obstruction of justice. Cisneros was later pardoned by Clinton. But the "most ethical WH staff in decades" was also involved in questionable dealings with Chinese influence peddling and illegal campaign contributions, the pardon of Mark Rich, Whitewater, the Lincoln Bedroom scandal, etc. And this doesn't even include Clinton's high crimes. How can he even say this with a straight face?

Then Begala goes on to lie and smear with no support, though he rightly points out that this is the first investigation of wrongdoing in five years of this Administration. But what's the upshot? For Begala it's downplaying and lying about the ethical failures of the Clinton Administration and whining about how "Innocent people were impoverished, reputations were damaged, careers derailed" at the same time that he hypocritically engages in the same kind of behavior he decries. That Begala would even attempt to draw such a baseless comparison is laughable. Definition of a hack.

Watergate Moment

Sitting here watching MSNBC as Andrea Mitchell and Chris Matthews discuss the CIA leak case. Wild speculation about the case for war and expansion of the investigation. Andrea and Chris in a small window. Most of the screen devoted to a live shot of Marine One taking off from Andrews AFB and heading off into the distance as it makes its way back to the White House. Eerily reminiscent of watching Nixon fly off on the presidential helicopter into the sunset after resigning the presidency in 1974.

They're so giddy. I think I am gonna hurl.

Not so much of an upgrade

Rumor has it the NFL is considering moving the Saints from New Orleans to Los Angeles. As a longtime advocate now of an NFL-free Los Angeles, let me explain why that's a bad idea.

Inevitably the city will run to dust off one of it's already inadequate 15+ year-old plans to 'renovate' the LA Coliseum, calling it the 'key' to any deal to bring the Saints to Southern California. The city council is married to this idea, and frankly it has been and always will be in this matter, their un-doing.

What's wrong with the Coliseum you ask? Ask the Rams, who left it in 1980 or the Raiders who left it a decade ago even after a partial remodeling of the venue. It is 70+ years old and if the worn facade and huge-capacity that will never be sold out isn't enough of an issue, consider it's incredible lack of parking.

It shares parking with the Sports Arena, an area woefully inadequate for either venue. If you are planning on attending an event at either you can count on having to park on the streets or an improvised spot on someone's lawn. Though perhaps that's part of the attraction for the city council--$10 bucks a pop for every home-owner within a mile radius of the Coliseum for every car they put on their lawn adds a considerable punch to the underground-economy of South Central LA, an area that needs it badly.

But the Coliseum is worn, it is old, it is ugly and it cannot be re-made into something competitive in today's world of new stadiums. Right now the only upside I would see over the Superdome is that the roof doesn't leak. And thats because it has none.

If Tom Benson- who has talked about leaving New Orleans for years- signs on to this deal, I firmly believe he will come to regret it just as the Raiders did. He will find himself and his team trapped in a bad stadium in a city that doesn't support championship football teams, much less the mediocre.

He will long for the days that he played in the beautiful confines of the Alamo dome.

Blood in the Water

The CIA leak case has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime.

With the predicted indictment of Scooter Libby not yet announced, the Looney Left smells blood in the water and the feeding frenzy has begun. An obvious place to go for an inspection of the Looney Left's thinking is the blog of my favorite hysteric, Katrina Vanden Heuvel. And what does dearest Katrina have to say about the matter? Well, in her opinion, now is the time to expand the investigation to include...*drumroll please*...the Administration's rationale for war.

But of course.

Katrina writes of the Democratic Congressional caucus' discussions of such an expansion and supports it.

"The CIA leak issue is only the tip of the iceberg," Congressman Jerry Nadler told me when I ran into him on the street near our offices on Friday afternoon. He was quick to tell me of a call--led by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Nadler, along with 39 of their House colleagues--for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation to be expanded to examine whether the White House--President, Vice-President, and members of the WH's Iraq War Group--conspired to deliberately deceive Congress into authorizing the war. And, as Nadler reminded me, lying to Congress is a crime under several federal statutes.

The MSM has now picked up on the thread and it appears this is where things are heading. On what legal basis could Patrick Fitzgerald move from a specific investigation regarding an asserted attempt to smear Joseph Wilson for the yellowcake story to an overall questioning of the case for war? In my opinion, none. If such an expansion does take place, I believe that this will be yet another special prosecutor run amok. The question before Fitzgerald was whether there was a coordinated attempt to reveal a CIA agent's identity, not whether the president lied about Saddam's weapons programs. However, for critics the Wilson case has always been a proxy fight about the the administration's WMD case. In recent weeks, Bush opponents have begun a parallel effort to re-examine the forged documents which formed the basis for the administration's Niger-yellowcake claims. If Fitzgerald really does move in this direction, I believe it will be in response to the masturbatory fantasies of the unhinged Lefties who perpetually over-shoot the mark. In this case, we are talking about ONE pre-war which the President has already suggested should not have made it into his 2003 State of the Union address. He's already taken the heat for that. Moreover, according to the Butler Report, the claim was not wholly based on the forgeries which emerged in Italy. Are we just going to continue to ignore this point as reported last year in the Financial Times?

The claim that the illicit export of uranium was under discussion was widely dismissed when letters referring to the sales - apparently sent by a Nigerien official to a senior official in Saddam Hussein's regime - were proved by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be forgeries. This embarrassed the US and led the administration to reverse its earlier claim.But European intelligence officials have for the first time confirmed that information provided by human intelligence sources during an operation mounted in Europe and Africa produced sufficient evidence for them to believe that Niger was the centre of a clandestine international trade in uranium.Officials said the fake documents, which emerged in October 2002 and have been traced to an Italian with a record for extortion and deception, added little to the picture gathered from human intelligence and were only given weight by the Bush administration.

That said, why should Fitzgerald even embark on such a course? As Christopher Hitchens wrote in July, this is a non-storm in an un-teacup. The Butler inquiry addressed these issues in Britain and although it focused on the Blair government's case for war and the "sexed up dossier" it did result in examinations of American intelligence and coalition claims. The 9-11 Commission concluded that elements of Joe Wilson's original NYT op/ed were suspect at best. The Commission on Pre-War Intelligence further addressed the efforts of the American intelligence community in the run-up to the war. And Congress has agreed that a second inquiry, dubbed "Phase II," would address the use of intelligence by the Administration in building the case for war. It's fair to say that that process has not gotten off the ground, but it is in the works. Thus it seems to me that there have been significant investigations of the WMD claims and that Phase II will address the issue in greater detail in the future. So why is Fitzgerald's expansion either justified or necessary?

In my opinion, if the reported extension of the grand jury does take place, such an expansion is very possible. And in my mind, provides yet another example of why these special prosecutors are inherently bad. Should this be the course of action, America will be dragged through another Clintonian year of speculation, talking heads, divisiveness and a weakened, paralyzed presidency. Under a special prosecutor and the secrecy of a grand jury chamber the American people get none of the transparency and all of the speculative, witch-hunt atmoshere which to me seems deeply anti-democratic and actually conterproductive. It's nothing short of unhealthy. In these cases, does the investigation drive the media frenzy? Does the frenzy influence the investigation? Or is there some twisted symbiotic relationship? I vote for the latter.

If we really want to investigate the administration's pre-war claims--and I have long though that would be a worthwhile endeavor--then don't the American people deserve full transparency? Shouldn't Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, George Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld be in front of the cameras along with Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Judy Miller, David Kay, Richard Butler, Ken Pollack, Scott Ritter and others? If we want accountability shouldn't it be full accountability? Or is this just a way to extract a pound of political flesh and a way to drive advertising revenue? Buckle up. This is going to suck.

How Flat is the World?

In his best-selling book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century , author Thomas Friedman argues that globalization and demographics are conspiring to doom the United States to eventual surrender of its economic lead to burgeoning economies in India and China. I won't get into his implicit argument for a neo-con-like American economic hegemony, but one of Friedman's key arguments in support of his thesis revolves around the explosion in the numbers of highly educated Indians and Chinese in the science and engineering fields compared to stagnant numbers in the US. Friedman's book has become either emblematic of the conventional wisdom that we're "losing our edge" or has contributed mightily to it. Reminds me of Robert Reich's 1992 contribution The Work of Nations : Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism, when we were told that we needed to be more like Germany and Japan. Remember that? Right on the brink of the 90's economic miracle? Ahhhh, the good old days.

Anyway, Daniel Drezner once again helps to disabuse us of the weaknesses in the conventional wisdom's argumentation in citing some deeper research.

But others told me that the 600,000 figure for China in 2003 included engineering graduates who had received less training than their U.S. counterparts. Richard Freeman, a professor of economics at Harvard University who has studied the issue, told me in an email that the Chinese numbers include graduates of two-to-three-year programs who would be comparable to engineering technicians in the U.S. (recipients of an associate's degree). "The number getting full course degrees is around 350,000, which is what we would compare to U.S. graduates in a year," Dr. Freeman said.

His editor's note from McKinsey Quarterly is also interesting.

Despite this apparently vast supply, multinational companies are finding that few graduates have the necessary skills for service occupations. According to interviews with 83 human-resources professionals involved with hiring local graduates in low-wage countries, fewer than 10 percent of Chinese job candidates, on average, would be suitable for work in a foreign company in the nine occupations we studied: engineers, finance workers, accountants, quantitative analysts, generalists, life science researchers, doctors, nurses, and support staff.
Consider engineers. China has 1.6 million young ones, more than any other country we examined. Indeed, 33 percent of the university students in China study engineering, compared with 20 percent in Germany and just 4 percent in India. But the main drawback of Chinese applicants for engineering jobs, our interviewees said, is the educational system's bias toward theory. Compared with engineering graduates in Europe and North America, who work in teams to achieve practical solutions, Chinese students get little practical experience in projects or teamwork. The result of these differences is that China's pool of young engineers considered suitable for work in multinationals is just 160,000—no larger than the United Kingdom's. Hence the paradox of shortages amid plenty.

So maybe we shouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves in declaring ourselves screwed. Certainly, we need to do a better job in math and the sciences. We need to incent teachers in those fields, revitalize curriculums and to encourage more of our young people in those directions. In time, the current trends are problematic for retaining our lead as an industrial power, and consequently our standard of living. All true. All worthy of serious consideration and action. But China's enormous population and growth trends are not the sole determinants of economic success.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

According to the New York Times, Scooter Libby will be indicted today in the CIA leak case. But the bad news for George Bush doesn't stop there. Additionally, the Times reports, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will move to extend the grand jury to continue information gathering relative to Karl Rove and perhaps Vice-President Cheney.

The Libby indictment would be very damaging to an already weakened presidency. But even more damaging to Bush politically is the extension of the grand jury and continued negative headlines. With an uncertain exit strategy in Iraq, expensive and challenging recovery from this year's hurricanes, misplaced blame for rising gas prices, the aftermath of the Harriet Miers snafu and possible nomination dogfight, a continued scandal--no matter how overblown, mischaracterized and just plain unfair--threatens to crater Bush's second term.

If the Times report is accurate, I believe Bush has to proactively cut ties with Libby and that Karl Rove has to tender his resignation. The scandal's attachment to the Oval Office has to be severed for political reasons. Moreover, it will take all of the energies of senior staffers and possible replacements to get this presidency--and the nation--out of the ditch. Otherwise, George W. Bush is a lame duck a year into his second term and the nation will be drifting at a time in which it simply cannot afford to be drifting.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Follow the Money

Perplexed by what to believe about Iraq?

Bamboozled by the Bush Administration's pre-war hype and spin about WMD? Bewildered by the Left's exploitation of the CIA leak case as a proof of Bush's lies? Baffled by the opposition of allies like France, Russia and Germany? Bewildered by the positions of people like Scott Ritter, David Albright, Wes Clarke and others who have to-and-fro'd about the presence of Saddam's stockpiles? Befuddled by the Downing Street Memos, Ahmed Chalabi, Halliburton, Operation Desert Fox, yellowcake, David Kelley, the Dodgy Dossier, aluminum tubes, Mohammad Atta in Prague, the Sarindar Plan, Iraqi-held Russian night vision goggles and jamming equipment?

Well, your discombobulation might soon experience at least a tinge of relief. Since the beginning, I have argued that the story of Iraq is far more complex and multilateral than the ossified "oil war" and "neo-con" memes we've come to know and love. And I've also argued that many answers to our questions will emerge through a deep analysis of the UN Oil-for-Food program. In short, I've urged that interested parties follow the money.

The New York Times previews today's release of the Volcker Commission's fifth and final report which further underscores the way in which Iraq had become a pawn in a geopolitical struggle involving many more parties than the Bush Administration, neo-conservatives and Halliburton.

More than 4,500 companies took part in the United Nations oil-for-food program and more than half of them paid illegal surcharges and kickbacks to Saddam Hussein, according to the independent committee investigating the program. The country with the most companies involved in the program was Russia, followed by France, the committee says in a report to be released Thursday.

Yes, the report will also feature corrupt American companies who engaged in illicit dealings with the Baathist regime. However, the report will also likely show how some countries and the UN engaged in dealings which didn't just involve lining their own and Saddam's pockets, but also with the weakening of the inspections and sanctions regimes that had been put in place.

The investigators said Thursday's report would detail how Mr. Hussein first steered the program to gain political advantage with political allies and countries in a position to ease the United Nations sanctions. Both Russia and France are veto-bearing members of the Security Council. "Then it got corrupted with a capital C when Saddam figured out how to make money off of it by putting on the surcharges and kickbacks," one investigator said. At first, he said, companies balked at paying the extra fees, and the oil sales slowed. At that point, "less orthodox companies" came forward and accepted the terms, opening the way for the program's full scale exploitation and allowing legitimate companies to buy oil from illegitimate ones.

It will be interesting to see if there are any direct mentions of Tariq Azziz's attempt to bribe former UNSCOM chief inspector Rolf Ekeus to the tune of $2M as well as the reported bribes paid to Russian Foreign Ministers Primakov and Ivanov. We already know that Friend of Saddam George Galloway and former French envoy to the UN Jean-Bernard Merimee are in hot water over their dealings with Saddam. And we also have strong evidence linking French positions on sanctions, inspections and the war to potential petroleum spoils.

Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told the ISG that the "primary motive for French co-operation" was to secure lucrative oil deals when UN sanctions were lifted. Total, the French oil giant, had been promised exploration rights.

It is important to note yet again, that the economic ties are being documented via the Volcker Report as well as those of Norm Coleman's Senate sub-committee and the work of the Iraq Survey Group. The documentation of those facts is important. But they must be viewed within the context of the positions taken by France and Russia (as well as China) in the UN Security Council. While each of those nations worked to weaken the sanctions regime, none of those nations voted to extend UNSCOM's inspections mission after it was forced to leave Iraq in 1998. None of them voted to create UNMOVIC and re-deploy inspectors to Iraq in 1999. Yet they were all nations who strongly urged that Hans Blix's UNMOVIC team be given more time to conduct inspections in 2003.

A coincidence? Not likely. In time, even stronger evidence will link the economic benefits to the policy positions. And the world, including those who suggest that the United States acted out of pure economic self-interest, while their opponents acted out of concern for peace, will experience a major re-orientation in their understanding of the facts. That is, if they bother to read stories on page D26.

Revising Revisionist History

Robert Kagan takes the initiative to remind us that former-patriot-turned-Rovian-shill Judith Miller, much less the Bush Administration itself, was solely responsible for the "bogus" WMD case in Iraq.

Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller's eagerness to publish the Bush administration's line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events. There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. A quick search through the Times archives before 2001 produces such headlines as "Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say"(November 1998), "U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan"(August 1998), "Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort" (February 2000), "Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration" (February 2000), "Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program" (July 2000). (A somewhat shorter list can be compiled from The Post's archives, including a September 1998 headline: "Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported.") The Times stories were written by Barbara Crossette, Tim Weiner and Steven Lee Myers; Miller shared a byline on one...As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.

The Void That is Boxer

California Senator Barbara Boxer speaking of the Miers withdrawal just now on MSNBC:

"I think this is happening because this President is arrogant. He didn't follow the Constitution in terms of utilizing the advise and consent role of the Senate."

The arrogant President who is withdrawing the nomination. The President who chose Miers at the behest of Democrat Harry Reid. Could she be less credible?

"We have a war in Iraq with no end in sight with 2000 dead and thousands more wounded. We have spiraling gas prices. We have thousands of displaced citizens as a result of the hurricanes. Now is not the time for another war on the home front. Slow it down. Talk to us. And let's march forward together with a nominee we can all support."

Spoken like a true non-partisan.

Oh, please!

Joe Wilson in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had the audacity to say: was "a sad day for our country."

Wilson said Wednesday he took little comfort that the men he believes have engaged in a campaign of character assassination against him for the past two years -- Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff -- may soon be facing charges and possible jail time.

Two words for you, Joe: Frog march.

Sleazy opportunist. And that's the nicest thing I can think of to say about the man.

Short and to the point

One man's opinion on the Miers withdrawal:

She and the president deserved much better from his allies.

That didn't take too long

Say it here and it happens there.

I knew they wouldn't let me down. I'm stunned, though I shouldn't be, at the lefty pre-occupation with only one side of this equation:

The only democratic landmark that really matters to them--the only one capable of reversing the spiral into more chaos and war, the only one that would create the conditions for real compromise--is an end to the occupation. Yet this is the one step the Bush Administration is unwilling to consider.

No attempt to address the vacuum we'd instantly create by leaving the new government to fend for itself. Are they that blind, dumb or just oblivious?

The Longest Day?

With the spectre of possible indictments hanging over President Bush's top advisors, now Harriet Miers mercifully "withdraws" her nomination to the US Supreme Court. Today promises to be a very long day at the White House.

I wonder where she / they came up with the face-saving rationale for this development? Because Miers' withdrawal letter sounds an awful lot like this.

Finally, a way out: irreconcilable differences over documents. For a nominee who, unlike John Roberts, has practically no record on constitutional issues, such documentation is essential for the Senate to judge her thinking and legal acumen. But there is no way that any president would release this kind of information -- "policy documents" and "legal analysis" -- from such a close confidante. It would forever undermine the ability of any president to get unguarded advice. That creates a classic conflict, not of personality, not of competence, not of ideology, but of simple constitutional prerogatives: The Senate cannot confirm her unless it has this information. And the White House cannot allow release of this information lest it jeopardize executive privilege. Hence the perfectly honorable way to solve the conundrum: Miers withdraws out of respect for both the Senate and the executive's prerogatives, the Senate expresses appreciation for this gracious acknowledgment of its needs and responsibilities, and the White House accepts her decision with the deepest regret and with gratitude for Miers's putting preservation of executive prerogative above personal ambition. Faces saved. And we start again.

Early chatter is suggesting that Solicitor General Ted Olsen may be under consideration. Olsen might make some sense. He's a heavyweight who will light up the hearings just like Roberts. Olsen also passes the "Friend of Bush" test in the sense that he lead the Bush legal team in the 2000 Florida recount. While he would certainly come under scrutiny for his role in the 2000 Florida case and would still be a polarizing figure in some circles, Republicans would unanimously be in his camp and his skills and qualifications would be largely self-evident and unquestionable.

It seems to me that Bush cannot afford another snafu on a SC nomination. He really can't allow himself to get hung up on gender and race quotas. He has to pick someone that even critics will be forced to defer on. So, W, do yourself a favor. Unlike Iraq, hurricanes and the CIA leak case, you have complete control over who you nominate. Start vetting candidates, ignore their gender and race, don't listen to Harry Reid, and pick the best conservative available. In short, send us another John Roberts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A second voice

Cliff Kincaid serves as a second voice telling us of the CIA effort aimed at undermining the Bush Administration is the big story of the Wilson-Plame affair. Much like the other-Victoria Toensing for Human Events-has pointed out, the CIA was incompetent at worst and just sloppy at best on Iraq's WMD's and so the choice of a Joe Wilson for a sensitive investigation appears to lead to only one conclusion: They were covering their collective ass at the expense of the WH.

From Toensing: Savvy Washington journalists scratched their collective heads, questioning, “Why Wilson?” Why would the Vice President send a person to Niger on a mission about WMD who was not an expert in that subject, had never served in a senior capacity in Niger, had not worked for the CIA, and was known to oppose the White House Iraq policy? Wilson, in addition to all that, was known around town as a grandstander and a bit of a flake.

The “Why Wilson” question was being asked by the Washington Post, New York Times, Time Magazine, and columnists such as Novak. Reporters were not the only ones asking. Cheney was surprised that Wilson had claimed the mission was at his request since it was not true. It probably was not a pleasant call that went from Cheney’s office to then CIA Director George Tenet.

Perhaps Tenet was also asked why a person sent on such a sensitive mission, unlike the rest of us, did not have to sign a confidentiality agreement and was permitted to publish an account of that mission. Was the CIA trying to put the blame on the White House for the State of the Union misstep?

From Kincaid: We are still left with the mystery of why Miller didn't write anything based on what Libby told her. She says she proposed a story. Miller and/or her editors may have been persuaded to drop it by other sources, who may have been in the CIA. It makes perfect sense. The CIA had been behind the Wilson trip from the beginning and, as Libby told Miller, had been trying to undercut the administration's Iraq policy and divert attention from the agency's poor performance on Iraqi WMD. The CIA did not want the full extent of its role uncovered and decided that the best way to divert attention from its own shabby performance was to accuse Bush officials of violating the law against identifying covert agents. This was one covert operation by the CIA on top of another. Miller watched the whole thing play out and refused to tell her own paper and the public what was really happening.

2000 American Deaths in Iraq

Andrew Sullivan marks the "milestone" with some balanced perspective. I would only add that we should also not lose sight of the deaths of Iraqis who are fighting for democracy in their nation.

Just the facts, ma'am.

Or at least that's what I'd always believed were the mantras of news services like AP and UPI. But I seem to have been way off base. Check out this concluding paragraph in a piece regarding the CIA leak case:

The marketing is over but the war goes on. The press is baying and the law closes in. The team of Bush loyalists in the White House is demoralized and braced for disaster.

When did UPI start editorializing? Did I not get the memo? Is this all in the name of "analysis," "adding value," "entertaining" and "sexing up" the news?

Then again, I suppose I always considered UPI a notch above this kind of reportage:

At a meeting of CIA and other officials, a CIA officer working under cover in the office that dealt with nuclear proliferation, Valerie Plame, suggested her husband, James Wilson, a former ambassador to several African states, enjoyed good contacts in Niger and could make a preliminary inquiry.

And could this "timeline" of events relating to the case be anymore misleading? The forged documents appeared long before Joe Wilson's NYT op-ed. In fact, they appeared in the press prior to the war.

He did so, and returned concluding that the claims were untrue. In July 2003, he wrote an article for The New York Times making his mission -- and his disbelief -- public. But by then Elisabetta Burba, a journalist for the Italian magazine Panorama (owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) had been contacted by a "security consultant" named Rocco Martoni, offering to sell documents that "proved" Iraq was obtaining uranium in Niger for $10,000. Rather than pay the money, Burba's editor passed photocopies of the documents to the U.S. Embassy, which forwarded them to Washington, where the forgery was later detected. Signatures were false, and the government ministers and officials who had signed them were no longer in office on the dates on which the documents were supposedly written. Nonetheless, the forged documents appeared, on the face of it, to shore up the case for war, and to discredit Wilson. The origin of the forgeries is therefore of real importance, and any link between the forgeries and Bush administration aides would be highly damaging and almost certainly criminal.

And to the extent that no one, not even Fitzgerald, seems to be arguing that members of the Administration forged the documents, are we a bit far afield here?

There is also an uncomfortable sense that the press had given the Bush administration too easy a ride after 9/11. And the Bush team is now on the ropes and its internal discipline breaking down, making it an easier target.

Of course you hear this all the time, but people really believe this? Has there been one moment since 9/11 when anyone believes Bush wasn't in hot water with the press? Using the word "crusade?" "Wanted: Dead or Alive?" Not bombing Afghanistan heavily enough? Letting Osama escape Tora Bora? "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists?" The Axis of Evil? Shifting the focus to Iraq? Hussein isn't a threat? Bush is unilateral? There are no WMD. Aluminum tubes? etc. Like the ongoing ruse about the supposedly pervasive questioning of patriotism by Republicans, the supposed "pass" that the media had given Bush in the wake of 9/11 seems like another fairytale that liberals tell themselves to go to sleep at night.

And then there's this old favorite that has more lives than Rasputin:

and Card revealingly explained why he chose September, saying "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

As if any political initiative that required a persuasive communications effort weren't basically "marketing." But I suppose we should be outraged that anyone in the Administration would admit that reality. And it's more than that. It's that the word 'marketing' itself implies deceit.

No, really, my esteem for UPI is growing.

Keeping the meme alive

As an introduction to an interview with Joe Scarborough, Today ran a brief news 'recap' of the Plame leak and the investigation of Patrick Fitzgerald. Can't tell the players without a program you know...

It was very reminiscent of something I'd seen before, but that's not entirely the point. What is the point is that it was yet another in a long string of Big Media reports that don't tell the whole story.

It assumed that Bush's SOU mention in 2003 of Niger was based on the infamous forged docs, regardless of the fact that it was sourced to another independent piece of intel. One that the British government still stands behind.

Further, there was no mention of the fact that the eminent Mr. Wilson proclaimed that he'd de-bunked the aforementioned forged docs, even though his trip to Niger occurred a full 8 months before anyone in the administration even heard of the documents at all. No mention that he lied about how he was appointed for the trip in the first place.

All in all, a fine piece of no-perspective reporting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


David Aranovitch gives us a healthy dose. For a change. He spoofs coverage of an Adolph Hitler war crimes trial. Here's a sampling:

Comment, Jonathan Steele, The Guardian October 21, 1946
“Along comes a second big German event: the trial of Adolf Hitler. Important though it is as a catharsis for the former dictator’s hundreds of thousands of surviving victims, it has little political significance since only a small minority of Germans still support him. "

“Of course, it could backfire on the Allies if Hitler is humiliated in court by unfair or high-handed treatment. To a wider circle of Germans and other Central Europeans, he might then become a symbol of wounded nationalist pride. “But manipulating the trial’s timing is the real story. Why is the trial being started suddenly this week? The date was fixed, conveniently diverting reporters’ attention from the problems of occupied Germany and the hotly disputed local elections. Was the trial a Special Action to get vote-rigging out of the headlines?”

BBC Today programme. October 20, 1946
Presenter: “In the studio we have international lawyer Renee Rock, who has written a book about something to do with the legal basis of the war and therefore, by association, might know something about this. Mr Rock, why have they chosen to press charges based on this one death camp — Treblinka — and not on all the other invasions and atrocities?

RR: “They’ve clearly decided, at the request of the occupying powers, not to include charges that might be embarrassing and might indicate complicity in earlier crimes. Who, after all, allowed Hitler to remilitarise the Rhineland? To occupy Czechoslovakia? Who divided Poland with him?”

Sound familiar? Utterly foolish and contemptible?

The Castle of Arab Dignity, Murder and Hope

Last week, the UN released a preliminary report suggesting that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri and twenty-two others in a terrorist bombing last February. This story, which went largely ignored here in the United States, may prove to have significant impacts on the Global War on Terror, Iraq, democracy in the Middle East and constructive roles for the United Nations.

The report, released by German-born UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis reaches some rather dramatic conclusions:

Mehlis stressed that an investigation like his required more than the five months, and he admitted his that work was "not complete." However, he felt confident enough to affirm that "there is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act." He described former security officials in Lebanon as "appointees" of the Syrian Military Intelligence service that ran the country and underlined that "given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge."

While the conclusions simply confirm what many already suspected, they are significant to the extent that there now appears to be concrete evidence that the Syrians were not only behind the assassination, but that members of the government actively impeded and mislead the UN investigation. And this ties into the larger regional and global context because it was Hariri's assassination which lead to the massive demonstrations seen in Lebanon earlier this year and, ultimately, Syrian military withdrawal from that nation. Many have pointed to developments in Lebanon as a proof point that democracy is stirring in the region. And as Michael Young points out, Mehlis and the UN have created a unique mechanism for facilitating democratic ideals through institutionalized pressure on Syria's Baathists over this matter.

But Mehlis did more than just point a finger: His investigation, created by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1595, was designed to buttress a Lebanese judicial inquiry into the assassination, culminating in a trial. That's why an important aspect of the report was Mehlis' call for a "sustained effort on the part of the international community to establish an assistance and cooperation platform together with the Lebanese authorities in the field of security and justice." Mehlis' deadline was extended until mid-December, but he made it clear in his report that even more time was needed, in particular to question Syrian officials outside Syria, away from the intimidating eye of the intelligence services. Effectively, Mehlis sought to institutionalize a more long-term judicial effort that, in theory, could last for years.

Today, the UN Security Council will discuss the Mehlis Report and determine next steps, which could possibly include sanctions. Mr. Young argues that while sanctions are unlikely, it is not unrealistic to expect the Security Council to grant Mehlis the ability to speak to Syrian witnesses outside of Syria. And this prospect would likely be a very glum one for Mr. Assad.

But the Mehlis Report serves to further isolate an already-isolated Syrian regime. And it has given the United Nations a unique opportunity to support democracy in the region. One cannot understate the importance of any and all demonstrations of due process, transparency and accountability in a part of the world that very rarely sees any of them. To the extent that Syria continues to house Iraqi Baathists and serves as a base of operations for insurgents moving into Iraq, that it continues to be one of the most notorious supporters of international terrorism, and that its political influence compromises Lebanese sovereignty, it is one of the leading contributors to the instability of the Middle East. Increasing and ongoing pressure on the Castle of Arab Dignity, particularly of the type being pushed by Mehlis' investigation, has a real chance to be a catalyst for positive change in the region.

At the heart of it

The Plame affair serves as a proxy for continued debating, raging and flailing about over the Iraq war. So writes the WSJ in a piece from yesterday:

All the more so because this entire probe began and has continued as a kind of proxy for the larger political war about the Iraq War. In July 2003, Joseph Wilson used his insider status as a former CIA consultant to accuse the Bush Administration of lying about Iraq WMD as an excuse to go to war. A political furor erupted, and Mr. Wilson became an antiwar celebrity who joined the Kerry for President campaign.

Amid an election campaign and a war, Bush Administration officials understandably fought back. One way they did so was to tell reporters that Mr. Wilson's wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame, had been instrumental in getting him the CIA consulting job. This was true--though Mr. Wilson denied it at the time--as a bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee documented in 2004.

As it does many times each year following a press report with classified information, the CIA routinely referred this "leak" about Ms. Plame's status to the Justice Department for investigation. Only after someone (probably at the CIA) leaked news of this referral to the media in September 2003 was there another political uproar and calls for a "special prosecutor." Three months later, the panicky Bush Administration relented, and Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed.

Those opposed to Bush's policy on Iraq have seized on anything and everything in repeated attempts to discredit the war they believe shouldn't have been fought (in and of itself still an honorable position), and to damage politically a President they dislike- at best- or hate, at worst. It began with pimping stories of disaffected CIA employees being "pressured" and eventually moved to a lame attempt to force the Downing Street Memo to mean something it clearly did not.

In between and still continuing today, came the leak of Valerie Plame's name by Bob Novak and the furor of the Big Press fueled by anti-war and anti-Bush critics. First the angst was fueled by the surety that someone in the Administration had outed the woman maliciously to injure her husband.

When that was not borne out, next came the moral indignation over endangering this woman and her work as a political machination. All of it ignoring the facts as revealed in the SIC report and essentially corroborated in the much-less publicized House report into pre-war Iraq intelligence reporting on the issues of the CIA-Cheney dynamics and Joe Wilson's lies.

I have no qualms agreeing with the Journal's editorial position on this; I saw it everyday from this collection of big-brains. If you've kept up with the rhetoric, even in passing, it's a pretty clear dynamic and one easily spotted.

In a delicious bit of irony, the Journal begins it's close with this observation:

Media reports say Mr. Fitzgerald is also exploring violations of the 1917 Espionage Act, for leaking classified information. This law has rarely been enforced, and if leaking classified information was routinely prosecuted half of Washington would be in jail. That September 2003 story about the CIA referral to Justice to investigate the Plame "leak" was itself a disclosure of classified material. You could hardly pick up a paper in 2004 without reading selectively leaked details from classified documents leading up to the Iraq War--an obvious attempt to discredit the war and elect John Kerry. An indictment based on this statute would be an egregious case of selective prosecution.

Much like Michael Barone and others have commented, the Journal also wonders about the wisdom of criminalizing political disagreements and policy fights, concluding that "...Mr. Fitzgerald's larger obligation is to see that justice is done, and that should include ensuring that he doesn't become the agent for criminalizing policy differences. Defending a policy by attacking the credibility of a political opponent--Mr. Wilson--should not be a felony."

The next question


That's the reported margin by which the new constitution has passed in Iraq. The next number of interest is how many days before The Nation publishes a story discrediting the results?

Fresh Galloway Allegations

The U.S. Senate has raised fresh allegations against British MP and Friend of Saddam George Galloway in its investigation of the UN Oil-for-Food scandal.

One of the main allegations raised by the senate sub-committee was that Mr Galloway received oil allocations with the assistance of Fawaz Zureikat. Mr Zureikat, who was chairman of the Mariam Appeal set up by Mr Galloway to help a four-year-old Iraqi girl with leukaemia, has strongly denied making any arrangements linked to oil sales on behalf of the MP. The senate committee's new report accuses Mr Galloway of personally soliciting and being granted eight oil allocations totalling 23 million barrels from the Hussein government between 1999 and 2003. It also says that his estranged wife received £85,000 in connection with one allocation of oil. The committee alleges that at least £252,000 was funnelled to the Mariam Appeal through several allocations.

Of course, none of this would come as a surprise to Christopher Hitchens, who maintains that Galloway has misrepresented his financial ties to the Hussein regime. A close reading of source documents and actual contracts granted by the Iraqi Oil Ministry clearly buttress this argument:

1. We have been informed by our Jordanian friend Mr Fawaz Abdullah Zureikat (full information about him attached appendix no. 1) who is an envoy of Mr George Galloway because he participated with him in all the Mariam Campaign's activities in Jordan and Iraq, the following:(a) The mentioned campaign has achieved its goals on different levels, Arabic, international and local, but it is clear that by conducting this campaign and everything involved in it, he puts his future as a British member of parliament in a circle surrounded by many question marks and doubts. As much as he gained many supporters and friends, he made many enemies at the same time.(b) His projects and future plans for the benefit of the country need financial support to become a motive for him to do more work and because of the sensitivity of getting money directly from Iraq it is necessary to grant him oil contracts and special and exceptional commercial opportunities to provide him with a financial income under commercial cover without being connected to him directly. To implement this Mr Galloway gave him an authorisation (attached) in which he pointed out that his only representative on all matters related to the Mariam Campaign and any other matters related to him is Mr Fawaz Abdullah Zureikat and the two partners have agreed that financial and commercial matters should be done by the last (Zureikat) and his company in co-operation with Mr Galloway's wife Dr Amina Abu Zaid with emphasis that the name of Mr Galloway or his wife should not be mentioned later.

When confronted with Sen. Norm Coleman's renewed accusations, Galloway responded in predictable fashion.

I am demanding prosecution, I am begging for prosecution. I am saying if I have lied under oath in front of the Senate, that's a criminal offence. Charge me and I will head for the airport right now and face them down in court as I faced them down in the Senate room. Because I publicly humiliated this lick-spittle senator Norman Coleman - one of (President George) Bush's right-hand men - in the US Senate in May, this sneak revenge attack has been launched over the last 24 hours.

Since his inexplicably heralded showdown with Coleman, "Gorgeous George" has spent a good chunk of the last five months riding a wave of personal and pecuniary popularity in this country facilitated by the useful idiots of the fanatical Left. He's done book tours, traveled with Jane Fonda, appeared on Bill Maher's Real Time program and done a series of debates with Hitchens. He's become a Cindy Sheehan-like hero of the anti-war crowd because he supposedly "spoke truth to power" back in May. But when it comes to George Galloway, the only truths are that he is a friend and business partner of murderous thugs. Just this past July, Galloway bolstered these credentials when he traveled to Damascus and after declaring his support for the 145 "daily martyrdom operations in Iraq" made this incredible statement:

Syria is about to be subject to a great deal of international pressure because I am sure the report on the killing of Hariri went very negative for Syria and this will go to the Security Council. The Security Council will be asked, I am sure, by the US and France to take action. What action? I don't know. This is the reason for the timing of my visit because in advance of this new pressure on Syria, I want to help rally people to the side of Syria, to defend Syria...They are attempting to pressure Syria not because of bad things but because of good things; that is because Syria is the castle of Arab dignity, because she is refusing to sever ties with the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, because she refuses to transform herself into an American base to kill more Iraqis. These are the reasons for which they want to punish Syria. And we have the reason why we should defend her.

This guy just needs to go away.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Political candy-store (Or letters to the editor, California-style).

Politically speaking, a discussion of money and Federal government programs might best be described as a Liberal candy-store. So many choices, and all of them deserved treats. The best part? Mommy and daddy are paying for it all!

That was my first impression of this letter to the editor:

How and when to get out of Iraq is on everybody's mind. Donald Rumsfeld says training and deploying Iraqi counter-insurgency troops may take four, eight or 12 years.

Public support for the war is down. Military recruiting has hit a wall. The coalition of the willing is disintegrating. America's reputation is tattered. Iraqization is failing.

The ever-stronger Iraqi resistance has been inflicting 65 attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops per day. U.S. casualties are about 2,000 killed, more than 13,000 wounded, half of them seriously, plus thousands to come home with serious mental health problems.

Billions of dollars a week could provide Head Start for millions of kids, millions of four-year college scholarships or infrastructure, like the New Orleans levee or building up the below-sea-level areas. Tending to our country's needs, including real homeland security measures, would be a wiser investment for America's future than the misguided Iraq war.

To exit Iraq successfully will require that the U.S. not have permanent military bases there or future control of Iraq oil. An immediate declaration to end the occupation should be followed by an immediate initial limited draw down. A request needs to be made to the U.N. to take responsibility for military monitoring and economic reconstruction.

An independent peace envoy should undertake a shift from military to conflict resolution.

We need to get out of Iraq.

Just look at the laundry list of things we could be doing if not for the evil of the Iraq war! Never minding the assumptions that all these things ought to be the Fed's job, what really gets me is the myopic nature of the plea to leave Iraq.

What happens after we've gone? To us and them? Where's the critical evaluation of those issues?

Great minds thinking alike

Michael Barone also wonders why there should be indictments if there is no crime. Only he does it more thoroughly and far more eloquently.

Time-worn garbage

Newsweek attempts to recount the run-up to war and the Wilson op-ed in preparation for their sure-to-be-front-cover story on pending indictments in the Plame investigation. My first impression?

What a pile of crap. Serves as not much but another avenue for the now time-worn journalistic sport of denigrating everything related to the Administration and continued pimping of anecdotes about "pressuring" the CIA and such(see Victoria Toensing comments).

Fact is, the people at CIA who felt the most strongly that WMD's were not present as the Administration argued did a poor job of making their case. That is their fault. Meanwhile, I've waited eagerly two-plus-years and counting now for some actual evidence that the Administration actually a) lied, b) co-erced, c) pressured, d) fabricated or e) any combination of a-d.

On top of it all, the Newsweak team blatantly ignores the factual record surrounding the Wilson trip in an effort to pummel Cheney and his embattled chief, Scooter Libby: Libby and other administration officials were quick to denounce Wilson's claims, and to allege that it was his wife who had chosen him for the African trip. (Wilson and Plame say she merely recommended him to her supervisor when asked.)

And my other favorite: Behind their backs, their detractors dubbed Cheney and his minions "the commissars." The vice president and Libby made three or four trips to CIA headquarters, where they questioned analysts about their findings. Agency officials say they welcomed the visits, and insist that no one felt pressured, though some analysts complained that they suspected Cheney was subtly sending them the message to get in line or keep their mouths shut.

Have they forgotten everything they read in the SIC report last year? It's a fact, one they dare not spend a lot of time on for fear of having their story's legs knocked out from under them, that Wilson got "the job" as a result of his wife's influence. Of course the other thing not mentioned is the interviews with numerous CIA analysts, none of whom produced any evidence of having been pressured to "get in line."

There is nothing new here, and frankly that's to be expected. It's a recap, not a ground-breaking exploration of the matter. What would have been nice though was at least making an effort at not rehashing the same old crap the same old way.

All in all, not Newsweek's best effort.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Fog

No, not this. The real thing.

I haven't seen it in 3-and-a-half years, much less driven in it. Taking quite a lot of getting used to. A bit un-nerving in some places for a few reasons but I have little doubt it will eventually become old hat.

The thing is though, and I can't believe I'm saying this--I miss the sun. Haven't seen it since Friday at lunchtime. It hasn't come out here once in the last two days. I assume it's still there, but I can't say for certain.

On an occasional basis, such days are welcome and a nice change. Especially as we near the holiday season. In fact, today would have been a terrific November day! But it's October...where is the sun!?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Moving the target

Things are winding up, and down, in the Plame investigation. The grand jury's term ends in a week and as we approach that deadline things are moving at a pretty good clip. Depending on who you ask, there will be indictments handed down on this matter. But on what charges?

Moving the Target

As the NY Times reported this week, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is contemplating indictments against both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby: Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have been advised that they may be in serious legal jeopardy, the lawyers said, but only this week has Mr. Fitzgerald begun to narrow the possible charges. The prosecutor has said he will not make up his mind about any charges until next week, government officials say.

With the term of the grand jury expiring in one week, though, some lawyers in the case said they were persuaded that Mr. Fitzgerald had all but made up his mind to seek indictments. None of the lawyers would speak on the record, citing the prosecutor's requests not to talk about the case.

Associates of Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby continued to express hope that the prosecutor would conclude that the evidence was too fragmentary and that it would be difficult to prove Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby had a clear-cut intention to misinform the grand jury. Lawyers for the two men declined to comment on their legal status.

Though he's not saying much it appears Fitzgerald may in fact indict two key members of the Administration--but not under the auspices of his original appointment: The possible violations under consideration by Mr. Fitzgerald are peripheral to the issue he was appointed in December 2003 to investigate: whether anyone in the administration broke a federal law that makes it a crime, under certain circumstances, to reveal the identity of a covert intelligence officer(the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act).

"Where's the Crime?"

Victoria Toensing who co-authored the act has publicly stated that she believes no law was broken in the matter. In a radio interview this week, she made the case that the CIA was undermining the Administration and the whole affair boils down to politics (something I said three months ago):

VT: Because Fitzgerald's not going to write a report, that means he might indict? He can't write a report. He could stand up an down, turn on his head, wheel around. It's illegal for him to write a report. There's no independent counsel statute, which was the only thing that trumped the secrecy of the grand jury.

JB: So there's no report, and that's meaningless, the fact that he's not going to write a report.

VT: It's absolutely meaningless. It's unsophisticated legal reporting, and I'm embarrassed that the New York Times wrote that kind of story. The Washington Post, you know, I'm not going to let them off, talking about well, there may be a conspiracy to discredit Joe Wilson? Tell me what crime that is?

JB: Yeah.

VT: That's called politics.

JB: Well, yeah.

VT: That's part of the business of Washington.

JB: Well, and if people are attacking you politically, can't you fight back? Is that a crime?

VT: Well, then is it a crime for Joe Wilson, who lied and told people that the vice president sent him on the mission? He told people he had viewed the forged documents, which he had not? He put out all kinds of lies, and so what happened to people in the White House? I hope they got together. I hope they got together and said, well who is this guy? What does he do? You know, where did he come from? What's going on? And so then it's logical that they found out...when they found out his wife recommended him for the job, which we now know is true that she recommended him for the mission to Niger, why wouldn't they want to put that out? What's the crime?

Indeed. To underscore the point, she offers something at the end of the interview that was, incidentally, left out of her Post piece:

VT: This was the CIA doing a covert action against the president.

JB: Yeah. I believe that.

VT: Now why is it that they would allow Joe Wilson to go over, do this mission, not sign a confidentiality agreement, and then allow him to write about it in the New York Times.

The Finer Point

If the scuttlebut about Fitzgerald's investigation is true, he likewise doesn't believe the act was violated. What then is he going after?

If the Times is correct, it's an after-the-fact attempt at mis-leading the investigation. A complete and utter change in direction.

I'm reminded of many an indignant comment made about the Starr investigation of Whitewater and how that ultimately led us to an impeachment proceeding for perjury, something far afield of the original aim of the investigation. So I'm left wondering whether the same cast of characters and their fellow travelers will miss the finer point in all this.

Is it okay for a special prosecutor to pursue criminal acts outside the scope of the investigation he's charged to make?

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