Saturday, September 30, 2006

Casualty Rates

One of the allegations in Woodward's State of Denial asserts that US forces come under attack in Iraq, on average, 100 times a day. Now, I'm no math wiz and I am certainly no statistical genius but I don't think US casualty rates support that.

A rolling average of the last three months figures at reveals a US casualty rate of 2.06 per day. According to Woodward's book, in any given month we're suffering 3000 attacks on US forces (30 days x 100/day = 3,000) and yet the casualty rate over the last few months is a number so small that my calculator doesn't want to figure it.

Either the number makes no sense or we've gotten so good at repelling, resisting and/or surviving such numerous attacks as to make the number near meaningless. So what else in there doesn't make sense?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Coming full circle

Iraq-as-Vietnam has come nearly to the end of it's long promised self-fulfilling prophesy with the strained sounds of Matt Lauer's voice echoing the latest words of Bob Woodward today.

We've got everything after all--body counts and a liar in the WH. All we need is for Congress to defund the war and the circle will be complete.

Jihadi Classifieds


Al-Qaeda seeks motivated Jihadists with specialized training. Are you a physicist? Nuclear scientist? Resident Explosives expert?

Tired of the same old grind in your government-run labs? We need you and will pay handsomely for your expertise!

Apply in person, no phone calls or emails accepted. Ask for Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, a.k.a. Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

On a serious note, this is the one part of the piece that irritated me most. It's one thing to be condescended to, it's another to be condescended to by a murderous thug:

On the tape, al-Masri offered amnesty to Iraqis who cooperated with their country's "occupiers," calling on them to "return to your religion and nation" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which Sunnis began observing in Iraq on Saturday and Shiites on Monday.

"We will not attack you as long as you declare your true repentance in front of your tribe and relatives," al-Masri said. "The amnesty ends by the end of this holy month."

If I were an Iraqi, that would have me phoning these people in to Security Forces left and right.

Pie Fight

Blog-style. Watch Michelle Malkin and Dean Esmay going at it.


Personally, from what I could tell it seems Dean was maybe asking the wrong questions. Like most similar fights--literal and figurative--by the end, it's a god-awful mess and nobody looks good.

Senate in Play?

Hugh doesn't think so. Others do.

Me? I suppose it's possible but with a general reversal in the trends that have been running against Republicans for months now, I'm beginning to think they will hold both houses of Congress.

The War on Terror is too important and every time people are reminded of it, as they have been by the summer's developments in Europe and in watching the Congress pass responsible legislation to deal with detainees at Guantanamo Bay, they realize one party gets it and the other does not.

'Tis the Season

Ramadan in Europe, the holiest month of the year in Islam sees European youths celebrating in style:

It looks as if immigrants youths want to turn nightly rioting during the Islamic holy month of ramadan into an annual tradition. Around 8:30pm last night violence erupted again in Brussels, the capital of Europe. The riots centered on the Brussels Marollen quarter and the area near the Midi Train Station, where the international trains from London and Paris arrive. Youths threw stones at passing people and cars, windows of parked cars were smashed, bus shelters were demolished, cars were set ablaze, a youth club was arsoned and a shop was looted. Two molotov cocktails were thrown into St.Peter’s hospital, one of the main hospitals of central Brussels. The fire brigade was able to extinguish the fires at the hospital, but youths managed to steal the keys of the fire engine.

During the month of ramadan Muslims are required to fast during the day and are only allowed to eat after sunset. As Esther pointed out “What should be noticed about the riots is that they start after sunset. Besides the fact that they start after dark, it also gives the rioters enough time to break their fast and enjoy the traditional family meal. Sunset is around 7:30pm.” Tuesday’s and Monday’s riots began around 8:30pm.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What they said couldn't happen


And, just moments ago, the Senate invoked cloture on the Secure Fence Act of 2006 by a vote of 71-28. Tomorrow the Senate will pass this legislation and send it to the President’s desk for his signature.

Combined with the passage of the Detainee Bill and suddenly we seem to have a "Do Lots" Congress on our hands. Too bad it takes an election to get these people off their duffs.

The dark, seedy underbelly of Independence

Jonah reads today's David Broder offering and draws some interesting conclusions:

Broder goes on and on. The translation: Stand for nothing. Get rolled by liberal interest groups. Call yourself a Republican while you do what liberals want. And you will be a guiding light for your party and your country.

Arnold came up in my discussion yesterday with the local Republican Committee man. He does not at all appreciate Arnold's left-turns and describes it all thus:

"He knows folks like you and I would never vote for Angelides. He knows we're trapped."

So he tacks left, picks up what he can there and assures himself of a victory over a very mediocre challenger. Politically smart, but at what price?


Quip of the day.

At the heart of Gobsmacked

It would seem to me that any serious discussion of US policy in regards to torture and any abuses of foreign detainess at the hands of US forces starts with an understanding of what exactly torture is and isn't. But maybe that's me.

Yesterday, Jonah Goldberg examined this concept in his Tribune column:

In other words, context matters.Not according to some.

Led by Time magazine’s Andrew Sullivan, opponents of the CIA’s harsh treatment of high-value terrorists have grown comfortable comparing Bush’s America to, among other evils, Stalin’s Russia. The tactic hasn’t worked, partly because many decent Americans understand that abuse intended to foil a murder plot is not the same as torturing political dissidents, religious minorities, and other prisoners of conscience. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was not asked to renounce his faith or sign a false confession when he was reportedly waterboarded. His suffering wasn’t intended as a form of punishment. The sole aim was to stop an ongoing murder conspiracy, which is what al Qaeda is. If accounts from such unbiased sources as ABC News’ Brian Ross are to be believed, his suffering saved American lives.

Comparing CIA facilities to Stalin’s gulag may sound righteous, but it is a species of the same moral relativism that denounces all pushers of old ladies equally.

Recently the Guardian published a "detailed" list of techniques used by the CIA in collecting information from detainees and labeled incessantly and routinely as 'torture.' Before we continue, a quick disclaimer from yours truly:

My blogging partner is and has been much more gobsmacked by these things than I. He was very distressed by Abu Ghraib and still thinks that it ought to have cost Rumsfeld his job. However, I beleive that we're both on the same page in saying what happened there was not torture and it most certainly was not torture-as-policy.

That is not to say that those men were not abused and in ways they should not have been. But it wasn't torture. And for administration critics to continue bleating about 'torture' when it is clear that the techniques specifically being mandated do not rise to that level, is absurd.

The Guardian listed seven techniques in it's piece: The techniques sought by the CIA are: induced hypothermia; forcing suspects to stand for prolonged periods; sleep deprivation; a technique called "the attention grab" where a suspect's shirt is forcefully seized; the "attention slap" or open hand slapping that hurts but does not lead to physical damage; the "belly slap"; and sound and light manipulation.

If sleep deprivation is torture, every University in the country is a gulag at least twice a year as zombie-eyed students roam the campus during finals week(s). No fun as I remember but hardly torture.

Likewise, sitting in a cold room is not torture. The coldest I've ever been was our Christmas 2003 visit with my in-laws here in Lompoc. Coming from Arizona where we lived at the time, my thin blood couldn't handle the cool, damp air. Nor could it take the near sub-arctic temperatures in the house.

My in-laws don't run the heat unless it is bone-chilling cold, which rarely happens here. They leave their thermostat in the mid-60's (barely) year round. For the four days we were here then, it was warmer outside than it was inside the house.

Was I uncomfortable? Of course. Cold as I've ever been inside...anywhere. Was I being tortured, were my in-laws running a gulag? Of course not.

And neither are detainess subjected to sitting in a cold room for an extended period of time.

I cannot commend Jonah enough for, at the very least, attempting to tack the issue of definition. How can we have a meaningful discussion about it if we're not talking about the same thing?

If we don't, he rightly points out what we get: Sullivan complains that calling torture “aggressive interrogation techniques” doesn’t make torture any better. Fair enough. But calling aggressive interrogation techniques “torture” when they’re not doesn’t make such techniques any worse.

Still, there is a danger that over time we may not be able to tell the difference.

Taboos are the glue of civilization because they define what is beyond the pale in ways mere reason cannot. A nation that frets about violating the rights of murder-plotters when the bomb is ticking is unlikely to violate the rights of decent citizens when the bomb is defused.

I suspect this is what motivates so many human-rights activists to exaggerate the abuses and minimize their effectiveness. Slippery-slope arguments aren’t as powerful as moral bullying. Still, their fears aren’t unfounded. Once taboos have been broken, a chaotic search ensues for where to draw the new line, and that line, burdened with precedent and manufactured by politics, rarely holds as firmly as the last. But that is where history has brought us.

In the recent debate over torture, everybody decided to kick the can down the road on what torture is and isn’t. This argument will be forced on us again, no matter how much we try to avoid it. We’ll be sorry we didn’t take the debate more seriously when we had the chance.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Victor Tognazzini For Congress

In the course of my work day, today I made a stop at the local Republican committee offices. As a favor, I took a sign for Victor's campaign at the behest of my contact there.

Only problem is, I don't live in the 23rd Congressional District. I live in Elton Gallegly's 24th District.

According to my contact, Victor is a stand-up guy. A guy that should have no trouble getting elected. Whatever the reason, my guy lamented this afternoon, the big guns in the party aren't getting behind him and big money is ignoring him.

"He needs all the help he can get," I was told.

So you go: Victor Tognazzini for Congress!

And No, it wasn't Me

Keith Olbermann received a plain envelope in the mail the other day and upon opening it, discovered it full of an unknown white, powdery substance. As described in the NY Post, it was almost comical:

MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who's a frequent critic of President Bush's policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick. The caustic commentator panicked and frantically called 911 at about 12:30 a.m., sources told The Post's Philip Messing. An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to Olbermann's pad on Central Park South, but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder. However, that wasn't enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup. He asked to be taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known. Olbermann had no comment.

The only problem is, it isn't comical. Far from it as a matter of fact. The Captain is right to call it inexcusable and appalling both.

It ought to be condemned from the left and the right both. Despite my differences with the man and my surrender of any interest in any thing he has to say, even in his supposed area of expertise, this kind of thing goes beyond the pale.

The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out.

And no, it wasn't me!

The Root of the Problem

Speaking to the Powerline criticism of the NIE as mush-mouthed and useless, comes this:

Ms. Lopez,

I am the former CIA analyst whose email was posted by Mario Loyola yesterday on the Corner. I'm not surprised by your reaction (and the reaction of your readers) to the NIE. The CIA long ago stopped trying to provide top-notch analysis to policymakers. Instead, the focus is on not being wrong. As a result, the analysis that comes out of Langley tends to be nothing but mush that can be interpreted to mean almost anything to anybody, or, if you prefer, means absolutely nothing. That is why I am no longer at the CIA.

I guess we'll find out if it's possible to win a war while routinely shooting ourselves in the foot.


"I do not think that NIE means what you think it means."

Poor Vizzini...played again!

Double Standard?

Me thinks James doesn't watch a lot of Sunday morning television if he thinks Bush Administration officials get free passes on the question of pre-9/11 anti-terrorist policies.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I've seen Good Night and Good Luck

And Edward R. Murrow you aint. Everything I've ever said in defense of you outside the political arena...I take back. You sir, are an idiot.

And as for this:

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist, and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

Talk about cajones...

If she could, she would

If it were possible for a dog to do this, mine would:

Jack Neal briefly became the proud owner of a pink convertible car after he managed to buy it for 9,000 pounds ($17,000) on the Internet despite being only three years old.

Jack’s mother told the BBC she had left her password for the eBay auction site in her computer and her son used the “buy it now” option to complete the purchase.

“Jack’s a whiz on the PC and just pressed all the right buttons,” Rachel Neal said.

Not to mention his good taste.

Last of the pre-Google Liars

Not mine, I could only dream. No, that belongs to this commenter at Tom Maguire's house. Read the post and the discussion that follows.

Meanwhile, at RealClearPolitics Dennis Byrne weighs in with this:

Bristling at evidence that Clinton and his administration were wavering and indecisive, the letter asserted that the president aggressively tried to "take a shot at Bin Laden." It cites the 9/11 Commission Report for supposedly giving credit to Clinton for approving "every request made of him by the CIA and the U.S. military involving using force against Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

This is close enough to the truth to make the "I-didn't-inhale" and "I-didn't-have-sex-with-that-woman" Clinton think he can get away with it. But it is far enough away from the truth to be classified as, if not a bold lie, an artless equivocation.

As usual, Clinton figures that the rest of us are too stupid or lazy to look it up for ourselves. And having read the complete report when it came out more than two years ago, I think it is an inescapable fact that a vacillating, equivocating administration had more than one opportunity to take out terrorist mastermind Bin Laden, but blew it.

And as TM points out, plenty of folks have:

The Bill Clinton - Chris Wallace interview has brought out the fact-checkers:

Patterico finds that, contra Clinton, Fox News has asked a Bush official the same "connect the dots" questions that were put to Clinton;

Jim Geraghty at NRO pummels Clinton's notion that Osama was not part of the Somalia story;


MORE: Jake Tapper of ABC News sets Clinton straight on the notion that evil righties did not support his cruise missile attack into Afghanistan abd the Sudan in 1998.

But let me add this! Mr. Tapper presents the "next-day" reaction to the attacks; as questions emerged about just what target we had hit in the Sudan (pharmaceutical factory? milk factory?), critics also emerged. Chris Hitchens certainly comes to mind, as does Jimmy Carter; Clinton's defenders will want to probe a bit to support his assertion that the criticism came from the right.

This summary from Ryan Hendrickson, written in 2002, agrees with Mr. Tapper's point that the Republican leadership was on board and reinforces his point that Clinton's real problem was with the press...

So what accounts for the inaccuracies in Mr. Clinton's tirade? Was he caught up in the moment, saying what comes to mind, minus the certainty of proper research? No, that doesn't play to type.

If he were an amateur pundit (think 99.9% of bloggers for instance), I could buy that. But remember, Bill Clinton is one of the smartest men to hold the office of President in quite some time. Not to mention the fact that he was defending his policies...eight years worth in which you'd assume he's a primary actor.

So what accounts for the inaccuracies in his defense?

Behind Every Deceitful, Intellectually Dishonest Man...

...there's a spinning, polarizing, intellectually dishonest woman.

As the controversy ignited by Bill Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace continues, Hillary is standing by her man:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton D-N.Y., defended her husband. "I just think that my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take this," she told Newsday on Monday.

Democrats aren't going to take, what, exactly? Direct questions about their policies, decision-making, action, inaction, intelligence, use of intelligence, etc with regards to the terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda prior to 9/11?

I rest easier knowing that my former Senator is a passionate hypocrite.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Last week's news Today

Matt Lauer covering last week's non-revelation about US pressure on Pakistan post-9/11. Or you can watch it here.

Equal Opportunity Finger-Pointing

This is great, though long overdue. The Left's annointed Bin Laden expert thinks there's blame to be had all the way around:

Harry Smith: "Elizabeth Palmer live in Pakistan this morning, thank you. I'm going to go back now to Michael Scheuer once again. Let's talk about what President Clinton had to say on Fox yesterday. He basically laid blame at the feet of the CIA and the FBI for not being able to certify or verify that Osama bin Laden was responsible for a number of different attacks. Does that ring true to you?"

Michael Scheuer: "No, sir, I don't think so. The president seems to be able, the former president seems to be able to deny facts with impugnity. Bin Laden is alive today because Mr. Clinton, Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. Richard Clarke refused to kill him. That's the bottom line. And every time he says what he said to Chris Wallace on Fox, he defames the CIA especially, and the men and women who risk their lives to give his administration repeated chances to kill bin Laden."

Harry Smith: "Alright, is the Bush administration any less responsible for not finishing the job in Tora Bora?"

Michael Scheuer: "Oh, I think there's plenty of blame to go around, sir, but the fact of the matter is that the Bush Administration had one chance that they botched, and the Clinton Administration had eight to ten chances that they refused to try. At least at Tora Bora our forces were on the ground. We didn't push the point. But it's just, it's an incredible kind of situation for the American people over the weekend to hear their former president mislead them."

I was honest a few weeks back in saying that I still have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to all the Blame-Bush 9/11 criticism that we were all subjected to in the 9/11 Commission hearings. To say that the Bush administration was to blame while any consideration or criticism of the previous administration's record on the matter were somehow off-limits was absurd. And it made me angry.

To see the Left's favorite CIA analyst throw the former President's remarks right back in his face is rather satisfying. Though in a very discomfiting sort of way.

Still Falling

Oil goes beneath $60 a barrell early today:

Oil prices fell below $60 a barrel Monday amid signs of growing petroleum inventories and after BP PLC said it had permission to restart the eastern half of Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field.

"Hedge funds and investors have been bailing out because geopolitical tensions have eased and they also realize that inventories are high during this period of seasonally weak demand at the end of summer," said Victor Shum, an analyst with Purvin & Gertz.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery fell 84 cents to $59.71 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by afternoon in Europe. November Brent crude on London's ICE Futures exchange dropped 85 cents to $59.56 a barrel.

As oil prices have fallen, so have prices at the pump. The Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations across the United States showed Sunday that retail gasoline prices dropped nearly 24 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, the third consecutive decline since a mid-August peak. The national average for self-serve regular was about $2.42 on Friday, according to the survey.

Debunking the Defense

Bill Clinton made more than a few assertions in his interview yesterday about the way he was treated in office by the Right and how he and his policies were criticized. To say the man has a thin skin is putting it mildly.

On a couple of notes though, it seems he was very much wrong. Here we see, again, that Congressional Republicans were very supportive of his 1998 retaliatory strikes against Al-Qaeda.

And here, we see that Chris Wallace has in fact asked similar questions of Bush officials as he was attacked for asking the former President.

More tarnish on an already less-than-stellar performance from the 42nd President of the United States.

He's a Leader, not an Actor

Phil Angelides' campaign is a joke:

“Democratic gubernatorial challenger Gov. Phil Angelides promised Saturday `to do everything in my power’ to bring California National Guard troops home from Iraq if he is elected governor.” He’d face three obstacles.

The first is Article II of the Constitution, which makes the president the commander-in-chief of “the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”

The second is a federal law forbidding governors from withholding consent to National Guard activation “because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty.”

The third is a Supreme Court decision upholding that law.The Bee continues: “`The governor can't countermand him [the president] — it's not a realistic possibility’ said Joseph Grodin, a former state Supreme Court justice and constitutional law expert at the University of California's Hastings College of Law. `It's not a legal possibility, either.’”

Of course, Angelides is not making a serious policy proposal, just trying to salvage a campaign that's circling the drain.

That's not just stupid pandering, it's transparently stupid pandering.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Interview

Having seen it now, I marvel that a former President has such thin skin. It's one thing to take exception to a question and answer forcefully. It's another to invade your interviewer's space, to finger-jab his knee and ridicule his network and finally make snide comments about him.

There was a better way to handle all that. Whatever you might think of the question, Bill Clinton's answer made him look defensive, thin-skinned and almost petty. If in fact the factual record backs him up as strongly as he asserts it does, his response looks even more ridiculous.

I'm not the only one who didn't get it. From Ann Althouse: Now, Clinton has an answer to this question, and he could have just given it. But he aggressively inserts challenging complaints about Fox News.

What Wallace asked just doesn't seem to be enough of a "hit job" to justify attacking the interviewer like that. For people who hate Fox News already, it might make sense, but he's on Fox News, being seen by the regular Fox News viewers. How is it a good strategy to rant on the assumption everyone knows Fox News is unfair? He gets irked at Chris Wallace in a personal way: "And you’ve got that little smirk on your face and you think you’re so clever." I hadn't been planning to think about Richard Nixon, but I got a Nixon vibe from this. He lets it show that he thinks about how his enemies are persecuting him.

Clinton leans way forward into Wallace's space. He even jabs him in the knee a few times with his finger.

On Richard Clarke as as final arbiter of all things truthful: First, Clarke's insistent theme is that the national security establishment, particularly the CIA and the FBI but also the State Department and the uniformed military, resisted and stymied Clinton's various directives to go after Bin Laden. This is surely true to some great degree. In this regard, Clinton should (and may) have some sympathy for his successor. It will be interesting to see whether in retirement George W. Bush also takes refuge behind the excuse -- valid as it may be -- of bureaucratic obstruction.

Second, I wonder how much of the bureaucratic opposition to the Clinton's directives regarding bin Laden reflected a concern by operatives and their agents that the very heavily lawyered-up and legalistic Clintonites would turn on them at the first light of publicity. Supposedly, many of these same people worry that they will face prosecution if the Democrats get the White House back in 2008. Perhaps there is a basis for this concern rooted in their experience with the Clinton administration.

Third, there is another bit in Clarke's book that bears mentioning: Clinton and his "Principals" group resisted bombing Afghanistan because Iraq was a higher priority:

On these three occasions and during the presentations of the PolMil Plan, I tried to make the case to the Principals that we should strike at known al Qaeda camps whether or not bin Laden was in them. "I know that you don't want to blow up al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan trying to get bin Laden only to have the bastard sow up the next day at a press conference saying how feckless we are. So don't say we were trying to get bin Laden; say we were trying to destroy the camps. If we get him, so much the better."

The response I received from all the other members of the Principals usually went along the lines of: "So we spend millions of dollars' worth of cruise missles and bombs blowing up a buck fifty's worth of jungle gyms and mud huts again?" Sometimes I heard, "Look, we are bombing Iraq every week. We may have to bomb Serbia. European, Russian, Islamic press are already calling us the Mad Bomber. You want to bomb a third country?"....

It was ironic that people had once worried whether Bill Clinton would use force and now there was criticism that he was using it too much. In the Islamic world, there was criticism that Clinton was still bombing Iraq.... (AAE, p. 201 - 202, bold emphasis added)

Finally, even a casual reading of Clarke's book reveals that it was one of the more important sources for "The Path To 9/11," the ABC miniseries that so irritated the Clintonites. For that reason and many others, I wouldn't want more people reading Clarke's book if I were Clinton.

And reports that undermine the "Wag the Dog" assertions are found here and here.

Byron York's piece today at NRO closes with this: But the bottom line is that Bill Clinton, the commander-in-chief, could not find the will to order the military into action against al Qaeda, and Bill Clinton, the head of the executive branch, could not find the will to order the CIA and FBI to act. No matter what the former president says on Fox, or anywhere else, that is his legacy in the war on terror.

As I watched that portion of the interview where Clinton complains of the criticisms of being too obsessed with Bin Laden and then wagging the dog, I was left with this thought, much like York's close:

Even if his efforts were met with the kind of resistance he describes from the Congress and from his Executive agencies, he was still the President. What he says goes.

For everything else associated with this topic, it seems to me reasonable to think that Clinton lacked the courage of his convictions when it came to getting Bin Laden.

Why the Conventional Wisdom on Afghanistan is What it Is

The conventional wisdom on Afghanistan reads something like this: The Bush Administration's preoccupation with Iraq caused the United States to shift attention away from the main theater in the War on Terror to topple Saddam's regime. As a result, the United States has effectively given up the search for Osama bin Laden and allowed the Taliban to reconstitute. Reports emanating out of Afghanistan speak of a weak grasp on power by the Karzai government in Kabul, continued roles for various militias, record poppy production financially fueling bad elements and of course, the ever-occurring Taliban reconstitution. In short, the United States has failed in Afghanistan and in short order, the strides made will be plowed asunder by that country's radical elements. Now, some say, it behooves us to enter into negotiations with the Taliban to resove politically that which cannot be resolved militarily. Sue for peace. Am I right? Isn't that what you pretty much hear?

Take this article from Reuters for example. In it, we learn that Tony Blair has admitted the Afghan War is "tougher than expected." We also learn that the Helmland Province in the south is the site of some of the "fiercest fighting" since the toppling of the Taliban in 2001, ostensibly evidence of a reconstituted Taliban. We also learn of reports from British soldiers in theater that things are not going so swimmingly for NATO during this fighting. Just the other night on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams lead off the telecast with ITN video showing a British helicopter landing in the region and then immediately coming under fire in an ambush orchestrated by Taliban or jihadist forces.

OK. That's essentially the conventional wisdom. Now, time for the reality check. A few weeks ago, I made an accidental, surprising discovery while listening to a BBC broadcast featuring a British general. Seems this Taliban "uprising" we've been reading about is nothing of the sort. Rather, the intensified violence in southern Afghanistan is the result of a NATO offensive.

Take a minute and let that sink in. OK, good.

So it seems that the southern region around Kandahar had intentionally been left alone since 2001 due to the heavy concentration of Taliban and Muslim radicals. They were largely contained, they couldn't project power, etc. Now NATO has decided to go in and clear that area out. The violence and attacks coming from the bad guys are their natural responses to being the targets of the NATO offensive. I don't know about you, but this small distinction in reporting makes a world of difference for me. An uprising and increased attacks make it sound like it's a Taliban insurrection or offensive. That their power is ascendant. But flip the angle and turn it into a NATO offensive and it sounds more to me like NATO has the upper hand and is simply taking the next logical military step in trying to finish the job.

Aside from the interview with the British general, I have not heard ONE mention of the NATO offensive in any reports I have come across. Not a single one. The Reuters article I posted actually came closest when it referred to the "Afghan War" (which no one has referred to since 2001 or 2002) and when it included this referential Tony Blair quote:

The whole reason we've gone into that as part of the NATO force under the U.N. resolution is because it is essential for the Taliban and al-Qaida to come back into the southern part of
and it's essential for us to keep them out," Blair said.

But still, nowhere can the words "NATO offensive" be found. Is it just sloppy journalism? Perhaps. But that ITN video from southern Afghanistan I mentioned? The reporter described the ambush executed in southern Afghanistan against the British helicopter landing in dramatic fashion. He spoke of heavy gunfire and RPGs. The herky-jerky video showed British troops under fire and firing their weapons at an unseen enemy. One got the sense that this was a major battle. And it probably was pretty hairy. But later in his breathless and urgent report, the ITN reporter slipped in the fact that the opposition forces numbered between 5 and 10. Yes, you read that correctly.

Is Afghanistan an ascendant Sweden? No. Does it still have major challenges and difficulties? Yes. Do the narcotics trade and nationalist militias represent thorns in the side of those who seek to revitalize the country? Certainly. Is the Taliban still capable of pulling it together from time to time and blowing up sixteen people or mounting an ambush using 5-10 guys? You bet. Are they capable of wresting control from Karzai? Absolutely not. Is Afghanistan in far better shape than at any time in the last 30 years. Yes.

I just want to know when we are going to get balanced, accurate reporting on Afghanistan.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Clinton redux

Sim is not the only one questioning the timing, the wisdom and just about everything else related to Bill Clinton's recent and pending temper-tantrums over the recent spate of anti-Clinton (or more appropriately, not glowing-pro-Clinton) commentary. Glenn Reynolds gives us a number of such takes.

Tom Maguire wonders why: Bill Clinton does the finger-wag again, this time with Chris Wallace of Fox News (transcript). And what has vexed Mr. "It's All About Bill"? The same thing that vexed him just before the airing of ABC's controversial "Path to 9/11", namely, the suggestion that his Administration was lax in pursuing Osama Bin Laden.

And does debating this topic really benefit the Democratic Party just now? In his current melt-down Bill Clinton demands that we read Richard Clarke's book, which lays out the pro-Clinton case.

Read Clarke's book? Please - maybe we can ask President Kerry how the Richard Clarke attacks worked for the Dems in 2004.

Not so well. Going for the jugular, Tom opines: And I will take this opportunity to repeat what I think was my only original contribution to this sprawling brawl about Clinton's priorities - Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam delivered "War in a Time of Peace - Bush, Clinton, and the Generals" in May of 2001. Although he covered Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, there is not a hint of a mention of Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden. That suggests that, in all his digging and interviewing on the topic of Clinton at war, Halberstam never uncovered Clinton's war on terror, or did not experience Clinton's people pounding the table and emphasizing its importance.

Well, if Bill Clinton wants to spend the next month discussing his slack pursuit of Bin Laden as we run up to the election, let's everybody blow the dust off their archives and get it on.

What is it about Democrats that can't control their anger? In Clinton's case, it's long been known that he's publicly pleasant but privately difficult. Ask anyone who's been on the receiving end of a dress-down or witnessed it.

In Clinton's case though it's also his own insecurities. I suspect the 'Clinton Legacy' that is not a legacy of anything historically meaningful eats at him. As a man with little self-control, should it be any wonder that it finds it's way out?

What to Think?

Via the French, the Saudi's are claiming Osama Bin Laden is dead of Typhoid...a month ago:

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) - Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden may have contracted an illness and may be dead, according to several news reports Saturday, including Time Magazine. Time, citing unnamed Saudi sources, said officials have received "multiple credible reports over the last several weeks" that Bin Laden is suffering from a water-borne illness. The source said there is a high probability that Bin Laden has died from the disease, according to Time.

However, the source said there is no "concrete" evidence Bin Laden is dead, according to the report. And Reuters reported that government officials in the United States and France could not confirm details, but French officials did say they had launched an investigation into how a government report making the claim may have been leaked.

French President Jacques Chirac, speaking at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Compiegne, France,, said the Bin Laden's death was "in no way whatsoever confirmed," according to the Associated Press.

A French newspaper reportedly said that report concluded Bin Laden had contracted a serious case of typhoid fever in August and developed partial paralysis as a result. The report said the information came from a "usually reliable source."

So what to think? Afghan President Hamad Karzai thinks it's bunk: AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai said overnight that a French newspaper report that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has died was mere speculation but that it would be good news if it turns out to be true.

Other of the usual suspects are being very circumspect about the report:
World leaders reacted cautiously today to a French newspaper report that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has died, while the French government probed the leak of an intelligence brief cited by the daily.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, when asked before meeting here with Sri Lanka's foreign minister whether she gave the report any credibility, said only: "No comment, and no knowledge."

Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Sherpao, told AFP in Islamabad: "No, we do not have any such information with us."

Security officials hunting Al-Qaeda in Pakistan rejected the report.

Pakistani intelligence is throwing cold water on the whole thing: Pakistani intelligence circles have strongly refuted a French newspaper report claiming that al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden had died of typhoid in the country some time between August 23 and September 4 this year.
“Based on the information gleaned from several arrested al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, we can say with authority that Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman Al Zawahiri and the former Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar are very much alive and in good health,” said a senior intelligence official in Rawalpindi.

“We are sure that bin Laden is hiding somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “We believe that his deputy sometimes moves back and forth between the two with the help of Mullah Omar and his associates.”

So...if it's true, I say "Great!" Not quite as satisfying as seeing him hang in Times Square from his toes but there is a certain satisfaction that comes from the thought of such a man dying in a cave somewhere.

If it's not what? The War on Terror is bigger than Osama, always has been. His capture or death would be a welcome development but does nothing about changing the bigger picture.

On the political front, it's essentially a win-win. If he's dead, the Democrats main talking-points on the War on Terror (Where is Osama? Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time) died with him. The Party of No Ideas insists getting OBL is their main priority. So what's left when he's gone?

If he still lives, it only serves as yet another reminder of the stakes involved and the committment necessary for success. Neither are something the Democrats enjoy talking about.

What Saturdays are For

Legos rock

Ween. For your viewing pleasure.

He Doth Protest Too Much

Remember the last time Bill Clinton was so adamant about something? His latest vein-popping excoriation of someone questioning, well, anything about his actions should give pause to those who single W. out for his hubris and imperious nature.

On the question of Bin Laden, missed opportunities and The Path to 9/11 the real Clinton emerges for all to see. If one reads Bob Woodward's The Agenda, for example, the publicly-controlled, lip-biter who feels our pain gives way to a tempestuous, vain, tortured and self-absorbed man primarily focused on his legacy. This short clip reminds us of the true nature of William Jefferson Clinton.

Here are some facts: Bill Clinton's foreign and national security policies generated illusory and mixed results which were often papered-over by the so-called peace dividend and a gangbusters domestic economy. Kick-the-can was the name of the game. While we were playing "It's the economy, stupid" it really wasn't the economy, smarty pants. We're paying the price today. Here's a reality check: the "golden years" weren't so golden. They only seemed that way.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I don't care (but boy when I do...)

Dean Barnett makes some interesting observations on the Kos phenomenon.

He's shrewd, he's angry and apathetic all at once:

Number one, he’s a shrewd guy. Number two, he’s all about the politics of any and every situation. His book candidly acknowledges that he himself is agnostic on most every issue. The only unbreakable rule in his political canon is that he hates his opponent. And number three is that while he may be the owner of the Daily Kos and the chap that the community is named for, he doesn’t control it. Believe me, he wishes he could.

Such are not earthshattering observations if you've watched things in Kos-land at all. His 2004 indignant outburst about the killing of American contractors in Fallujah was only the first of a number of such bursts of anger and bitterness.

But where does it come from when he's a self-admitted 'agnostic' on most issues? Does he really have anything to contribute or is it all anger, all the time? Based on his record in candidate endorsements and political prognostications, I do tend to think he's a one-trick pony.

Barnett goes on to discuss Kos' non-reaction reaction to Hugo Chavez's comments this week at the UN. The post just oozes apathy:

I just got a call from an MSNBC booker. She wanted to know if I wanted to go on the air to talk about Hugo Chavez. Apparently, he went off on some rant at the UN.
I said, "Why would I? Who cares about Hugo Chavez?"

The booker said, "well, it's all over talk radio and the blogs." Talk radio, of course, being Rush Limbaugh and company. The blogs, of course, being the wingnutosphere, happily promoting the latest Horrible Dictator Who Says Mean Things About Bush (unlike the ones in the Middle East, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan who are our "allies").

I said, "Well, this is a stupid topic. It means nothing. I am focused on things that actually matter to us."

Dean posits (if I read it correctly) that the reaction is calculated: Given his position, that’s the best he can do. I bet he would like to say something like, “We on the left condemn the rhetoric of Hugo Chavez. Politics ends at the ocean’s edge, and our country stands behind our Commander in Chief.” That would be good politics, which explains why Nancy Pelosi tried to clumsily execute just such a gambit yesterday.

But Markos can’t do any such thing, because he knows his community would turn on him as surely as it turned on the reliably rabid partisan Charlie Rangel. The best he can do is opt not to play, and even offer a little consolation to the peanut gallery by saying, “P.S. Memo to Chuck Rangel -- if you don't like world leaders saying mean things about the United States in your congressional district, then perhaps it's time to move the United Nations somewhere where people aren't such wilting flowers.”

Essentially, the Daily Kos has become something so big, so unwieldy that it now has a life of it's own. One that not even it's creator has the power to control anymore. I suppose one could argue that he's become a victim of his own success.

A reader responded to Dean's post with a not so flattering analogy: "Kos is in danger of being outflanked, of losing control like a latter-day Danton in the face of a chattering army of keyboard Robespierres. At least he risks only metaphorical beheading."

It's become kind of a theme around here lately, but Kos is no different than some other folks on the left and even ostensibly the right who find themselves reaping the consequences of their excess.


Even if true, I don't care:

"60 Minutes," the CBS weekly newsmagazine, will air an interview with Musharraf on Sunday - as part of the publisher's book promotion. In that interview, according to CBS, Musharraf recounts what his intelligence director told him of a conversation with Richard Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, `Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,'" Musharraf told CBS.

Armitage has acknowledged delivering a strong message to Pakistan - but not that strong.
"There was no military threat, and I was not authorized to do so," Armitage told The Associated Press. "It did not happen," he said, adding that he asked the State Department on Friday to read him a cable of his conversation with the intelligence chief. "There was, in no way, that threat," he said, allowing that "it was a strong, straightforward conversation."

The point has always been their co-operation--unprecedented co-operation for a country in that region. It still is the point...

The Pre-Deal

Wednesday night, ABC's Brian Ross declared in a TV interview that the CIA techniques used in interrogating the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other detainees in the much-maligned 'Secret prison' arrangement produced good, hard data.

In otherwords, it worked:

Not only did they break Khaled Sheikh Mohammed; not only was the information he gave them valuable; not only did it save lives; but Ross’s sources include people within the CIA who are opposed to the practices.

Which only underscores, for me at least, the rightness of last night's deal. Color me gobsmacked.

I look forward to the coming explanations from Andrew and the rest of the folks who've told us otherwise then stared at us like we were Green men from Mars when we told them they were wrong.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Deal or No Deal

No, it's a deal. Personally, I think as good a one as you could want given the circumstances:

The White House and dissenting GOP senators settled a disagreement Thursday on a bill setting out procedures for interrogating terror suspects and trying them in front of military tribunals.

The deal, reached after three days of intense intra-party negotiations, satisfied the concerns of three Republicans on how the measure would affect U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

While the agreement does not redefine the Geneva Conventions, as the White House originally proposed, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said it would provide enough "clarity" to allow the CIA's interrogation program to go forward.

More than anything, seeing that all the right people are ticked off about it leaves me feeling good about the Senate compromise:

-Are we Cool with Cruel and Degrading Treatment for US Troops?

The only problem is that whatever we agree is acceptable interrogation tactics, we obviously have to accept can also be done to our troops when they are captured. It's one thing when we tell other countries to treat our soldiers by the Geneva Conventions when we are following them, it's another to say that when we are not. As Colin Powell tried to explain, we would have lost our moral standing.

This is the point when conservatives start screaming about how terrorists cut people's heads off. Yes, congratulations, you win -- you are slightly better than Al Qaeda. Maybe that should be the slogan of the Republicans supporting the White House position on "tougher interrogations" -- Republicans: Slightly Better than the Terrorists.

And Democrats, clueless as ever.


Following announcements that an agreement has been reached between the White House and Senators John Warner (R-VA), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on military commissions, the American Civil Liberties Union today said the compromise agreement does not protect due process, fails to meet international treaty obligations and urged lawmakers to reject the deal.

Is this supposed to bother me? Just about anything the ACLU is for, too much of the time I end up landing on the other side.

-Take up your Rubber Stamp

The "very important program of interrogation" that they have agreed to preserve is torture. Torture is at the heart of this program and is what the administration has been fighting for since the Supreme Court handed down Hamdan. What's more, Frist's statement makes clear that the Uniform Code of Militart Justice, which guarantees that defendants have the right to see the evidence against them, is going to be gutted in this "compromise."

That's no compromise, all you "principled" GOP rebels. It's capitulation. Lay down your much vaunted "integrity" and take up your Rubber Stamps.

Inside folks say no, and your caricatures of the President take a beating when you look at some of the details involved in this compromise.

-Sell Out!

Yes, McCain sells out the country and Democrats look like crap.

Shame on me for allowing myself to get a tiny bit optimistic just for a moment.

Have you ever seen so much righteous indignation!? Not in a long time.

Meanwhile, in answer to the charges of selling out and rubber stamping I'd offer an 'inside' account via Byron York at The Corner:

"I think there is every reason for both sides to be happy," he said. The key part of the deal seems to be that Congress has defined "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions. "We recognized that the president has the authority to interpret treaties," the source said, "but Congress now has the authority to define 'grave breaches.'" Those are what might be called the Big Nine: torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, performing biological experiments, murder, mutilation or maiming, rape, causing serious bodily injury, and sexual assault or abuse, and taking hostages. According to the source, the proposed legislation has a section defining some of the less clear categories; there was a lot of negotiation, as you might expect, over the meaning of "cruel or inhuman" treatment.

The source stressed that "grave breaches" of Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions have long been a crime in U.S. law. "We've enumerated what a 'grave breach' is," the source said, "but Jesse Helms and Jim Inhofe made 'grave breaches' of Article Three a war crime back in 1997."

The source said the McCain/Graham/Warner camp realized that the White House had a point when it raised the possibility that "a liberal jurist would say that a female interrogator of a Muslim male is a 'grave breach.'" So after outlining the Big Nine, the negotiators recognized the authority of the president, in the words of the agreed-to draft, "to promulgate higher standards and administrative regulations for violations of treaty obligations which are not grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

"'Grave breaches' are crimes," the source said. "Non-grave breaches are something else. We are going to spell out grave breaches, and then it is up to the administration to come up with sanctions for violations that are less than 'grave breaches.'

"One key aspect of the deal is that it calls for the president to use an executive order to issue his interpretations of what would be non-grave breaches of the treaty, and then --this is the important part-- to publish the executive order in the Federal Register. "That means it is subject to public scrutiny," the source said. I asked whether the White House resisted on the issue of publishing the executive order, and the source said, "No, not at all."

I think the Senate rightly understood the need for the President's retention of authority in defining 'grave breaches,' and likewise the President was wise to allow for some transparency here. That certainly should put a sock in some of the criticism about the 'most super-secret Administration in history,'.

Though judging by some of the early returns, perhaps not.

The Office

Just finished watching the season-premiere a bit ago. Things have shaken up a bit but the worst fears were not realized.

The one thing you could always count on was that train-wreck moment. And there it was, like clock-work.

It's not even that we like it, we just can't not watch.

Understatement of the Week

Ousted Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra in London:

"I left Thailand as the prime minister and now I am a jobless man," the official Thai News Agency quoted Thaksin as telling reporters on the flight from New York.

October Surprise

Found this floating around this morning. A new, bright and shiny package with only the same stale talking points wrapped inside:

To: Subject: The Gulf of Tonkin Has Moved --- URGENT & SERIOUS

I have learned this morning from a most reliable source, Retired Col. Ann Wright, that the US/Israel will attack or provoke Iran, before the Nov. Elections -- for the elections!

The US Navy is now getting ready to deploy and will do so probably between Oct. 5 and 21, 2006.

I promise to check on this information for changes or reiterations or inaccuracies --even though this information verifies my sources and my prediction of such an attack this fall, back in April, 2006.

Here is the scenario already in place:

1) Raise the level of false* fear.
2) Force UN sanctions against Iran.
3) Demand that the sanctions be immediately enforced by the UN.
4) When that fails, demand that NATO enforce sanctions.
5) When that fails demand the the "coalition" enforce sanctions.
6) Deploy US Navy to supposedly "protect our interests", to "enforce UN sanctions" off shore of two or more Iranian oil ports.
7) To never call this a "blockade" -- even though that will be its purpose.NOTE: Any blockade is an "act of war" according to international law.
8) Sooner or later through blockade or air space violations Iran will respond (as is their international right).
7) GWB will then declare WE have been attacked.
8) War in Middle east will expand HORRIBLY!

*FALSE Fear. IAEA has verified that Iran is producing only enriched uranium for nuclear energy - 3% enriched versus 90%? enriched for weapon grade.

CIA has confirmed that Iran would be 5-10 years from producing nuclear weapon - IF that's what they were doing.

NOTE this also fits all previous GWB policy:Mislead public.Respond only with force.Escalate as needed.Win (whatever that means) at ANY costs.

I doubt it, but we might be able to stop this eventuality if we call our congressmen/women and candidates NOW and say "do not approve or fund any such action without full, independent, public, investigation.

If this action proceeds . . . the chaos and terror has only just begun . . . PLEASE pass this information on . . .

PS Why has price of gasoline decreased, now? Anybody note a big decrease in demand

Looney-Tunes stuff, but Justin took the time to respond. Read and enjoy.

Navel-gazing on Plame

The American Journalism Review takes a whack at explaining the overwhelming chorus of crickets from the Big Media on the recent Plame revelations:

There are many ways to characterize the media's response to the news that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was responsible for outing CIA operative Valerie Plame. "Feeding frenzy" isn't one of them.

"Collective yawn" is more like it.

A classic understatement if there ever was one. But we must press on...

After all the blanket coverage of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, after all the speculation about Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, after all the allegations of dastardly doings by the Bush White House, you'd think IDing the leaker would be big news.

That's particularly true when it turns out the villain wasn't an angry neocon bent on revenge against a critic of the Iraq war – Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson – but a Colin Powell ally who was at best a lukewarm supporter of the invasion.

Far from being part of an orchestrated plot or a vast White House conspiracy, Plame's unmasking was simply the handiwork of that Washington, D.C., staple, an insider with a big mouth. The culprit was gossip, not political gunslinging.

The irony is killing me...

The big national papers were all over the Plame story for months. But after Armitage's attorney weighed in, the New York Times played the story inside on page 12 (it ultimately ran an Armitage piece out front on September 2), and USA Today ran a brief. As of mid-September, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, like many other newspapers, still hadn't given the story page-one treatment.

Back in the day, when Wilson was demanding that Karl Rove be frog-marched out of the White House, Plame was a cable extravaganza. But the denouement never came close to receiving equal time, let alone a place in the JonBenet/Missing White Women pantheon.

Bob Woodward held forth on CNN's "Larry King Live" at the height of Plame frenzy, belittling Fitzgerald's investigation (Woodward was later embarrassed when it came out that he had his own inside knowledge about Plame but had not disclosed it). But King convened no panels on Armitage.

In a column agreeing with readers that his paper had underplayed Armitage and that the story belonged out front, Kansas City Star Readers' Representative Derek Donovan put it well: "Questioning – even suspicion – of those in power is a dearly-held American tradition, and many critical eyes have long, and I think rightly, focused on Rove's political influence at the White House.

"But that's not the issue here. From a simple standpoint of reporting news equitably, I think the Armitage revelation merited more prominent play." So why the lame response? The easy answer, and a popular one on the right, is that much-ballyhooed liberal bias of the media. And there's no doubt an episode like this gives great ammunition to those who see the press as a bunch of card-carrying, fire-breathing lefties.

But I'm not buying it. Is that the same bunch of pinkos who were so cowed after 9/11, so credulous in their coverage of WMD? The same ones who brought us the Monica Lewinsky circus? (OK, lying about sex under oath is bad, but worse than leading a nation into an optional war with a dubious rationale, far too few troops and no plans for what to do after the fighting stops?) Or, speaking of long-running, high-profile "scandals" about not so much, the ones who wallowed in Whitewater?

Maybe it's simply a matter of embarrassment. After so much breathless coverage of supposed White House character assassination, maybe the MSM just kind of hoped the whole thing would go away.

Whatever the reason, it was a curious and disappointing performance.

We round out with book-end understatements. Meanwhile, I must continue to laugh at the licks David Corn is taking:

I think Corn believed that his personal role in helping launch this entire beltway soap opera was gonna' raise him to the iconic status of a Woodward and Bernstein. And why not? A gaga-eyed MSM was just swallowing the script whole. The self-righteous drivel of that dreamily coifed, bunko yellowcake debunker. The "Behesting" Dick Cheney and his villainous cabal of frogmarching co-conspirator's, hell bent on revenge. The cheesecake photo-shoots of the fetching (and privacy loving) Agent Valerie, so wrongfully revealed in all her tender vanity as the Who's Who of Foggy Bottom victimettes. And to top it all off, a baseball talking Inspector Javert, whose sense of Justice is dwarfed only by his stench of Injustice. Shakespeare would kill for such a cast of Shylock's and Desdemona's. Toss in a couple numbers from Leonard Bernstein and this thing'd be on Broadway till our grandkids are speaking Arabic.

And to think, that Corn's dream of becoming Woodward got shot down by none other than Woodward himself. Betch'a Bernstein would'a kept his mouth shut. Damn the bad luck. Ah well Dave, that's Hubris.

As I said, he earned it...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Olbermann, Jr.

Dean Barnett highlights the latest from political neophyte Mike Lupica. Still, Dean is right; Mike is a wonderful sports talent:

So Lupica became part of the circle that as an 8 year-old I worshipped. He seemed like a great guy, and still does.

Still, he should consider sticking to sports writing, and dip his toe into grand political announcements only when he has a clue as to what he’s talking about.

And while we're on the subject, read Lileks on Olbermann's most recent screed.

What they said couldn't be done

Got going in the Senate today:

The Senate, meanwhile, voted to take up a bill that would build a fence along one-third of the U.S. Mexican border.

Action on the fence, which could cost billions of dollars, comes four months after the Senate approved legislation that, along with tightening border security, created a guest worker program and outlined how people in the country illegally could work toward legal status and eventual citizenship. President Bush has supported this broader approach, but it met strong resistance in the House, where opponents said it was tantamount to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"While I've made it clear that I prefer a comprehensive solution, I have always said we need an enforcement-first approach to immigration reform," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Fris. "Not enforcement only, but enforcement first."

Republicans got it right finally. The only question is, is it too late to win back the base?

"I'm Sorry"

Today while walking through the newsroom, I caught part of a conversation about the Pope's remarks about Islam last week.

"Why won't he just say 'I'm sorry,'...just two words!"

Which prompted me to wonder, what exactly is it this writer wanted him to apologize for: Quoting a Byzantine Emperor about Islam's history of violence, or that said Emperor was right?

Why Conservatives hate the UN

Example #1:

The French general commanding U.N. peacekeeping forces in Lebanon said Monday his troops would not intervene to disarm Hezbollah, even as French President Jacques Chirac said the militant group should not keep a military wing. Maj. Gen. Alain Pelligrini told reporters the main task of his U.N. force is to ensure southern Lebanon cannot be used as a base for attacks on Israel. "The disarmament of Hezbollah is not the business of UNIFIL. This is a strictly Lebanese affair, which should be resolved at a national level," he said.

Then, with all due respect, why the hell are you even there?Why do I hate the UN? Because most of the time they don't actually accomplish much. And when they do, it's likely it could have been done more effectively and cheaper by somebody else.

Blue helmets parading around Southern Lebanon doing nothing all day will not secure any sort of real peace between Israel and Hizbollah. It just won't. You can bank on it.

For those of you curious as to how Hizbollah stood up so effectively to Israel in July, they knew what was coming:Hezbollah fighters reportedly used Iranian-supplied technology to tap Israeli radio comms during last month's war in southern Lebanon. The intelligence gleaned from these intercepts helped frustrate Israeli tank attacks, according to Hezbollah and Lebanese officials.

UPDATE: Example #2.That this clown can even get through the front door much less take the podium and speechify simply screams irrelevance.

It's the stuff of SNL skits, not 'serious diplomacy' (which is in itself a glaring oxymoron).

You can't make this up

In any sane world, if you tried, no one would believe you:

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, the controversial president of the World Bank, was forced into an embarrassing climbdown yesterday over his aggressive anti-corruption drive in the developing world, as the governments of rich nations insisted on overseeing it in detail.

In an effective rebuke to Mr Wolfowitz amid accusations from inside and outside the bank that he has pursued his anti-corruption strategy in a high-handed fashion, ministers from around the globe, who are the ultimate governors of the world’s leading development body, moved to assert control.

After lengthy haggling behind closed doors at the World Bank’s ruling Development Committee, the ministers approved Mr Wolfowitz’s strategy to fight Third World corruption. However, they insisted that their representatives on the bank’s Washington-based executive board would oversee its implementation.

“We stressed the importance of board oversight of the [anti-corruption] strategy as it is developed and implemented,” the committee said.

The clear reproach to Mr Wolfowitz came after months of mounting tensions between the bank’s president and the governments of its key donor countries, mainly in Europe, over his zeal in undertaking his crusade. Concern among European governments, including those of Britain, France and Germany, has grown since Mr Wolfowitz suspended World Bank loans to several countries, including Kenya, Bangladesh, India and Cameroon. Critics charged him with acting arbitrarily and setting up the bank as judge and jury of poor countries’ governments.

This report from 2004 estimated corruption at the World Bank exceeded $100 Billion dollars. Yes, that's with a 'B'.

It's no small problem and certainly not one that can or should be ignored. So when the new President shows up intent on doing something about it, what's the response? I have to laugh:

Yet, amid simmering discontent among World Bank officials, other ministers were openly unhappy. Palaniappam Chidambaram, the Indian Finance Minister, said that the bank’s new stance carried the risk “of governance becoming a conditionality for development . . . Development cannot wait for improved governance and a corruption-free world. Both must go hand in hand.”

You can't make this up.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tired of Stupid People

My patience is running out. I'm beginning to ponder the usefulness of 'Stupidity' laws...

So says USA Today in a story called "Prices at the pump keep tumbling." Gas stations are beginning to have price wars to lure customers. But surely the strangest detail in the story is a reference to the possibility that the White House is manipulating the price of gas: "A hefty 42% of Americans polled over the weekend said they think fuel prices are being manipulated by the Bush administration to help Republicans in an election year." Yes. That must be it.

Straight from USA Today: A hefty 42% of Americans polled over the weekend said they think fuel prices are being manipulated by the Bush administration to help Republicans in an election year. The USA TODAY/Gallup Poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

And though you'd think common-sense might be enough to instruct otherwise, you even have people in the know quoted in the next paragraph: Petroleum analysts say the reasons are less Machiavellian: Supplies are above average, partly because summer's high prices attracted record imports. Hurricanes haven't knocked out Gulf of Mexico production. U.S. regulations permit a cheaper-to-make fuel blend in fall and winter.

"Without a shadow of a doubt, there is not any manipulation, and it has nothing to do with the approaching election," says Peter Beutel, head of energy-price consultant Cameron Hanover. The petroleum market is "too big a market to manipulate. The price just could not sustain itself."

And yet, assuming these results are statistically sound and the results can be inferred across the general population (a logical assumption for such a study, but still just an assumption) than 42% of America is stupid. Or woefully ignorant.

And I fail to see a practical difference.

As if on Cue

France throws up the STOP sign on the way to UN sanctions:

President Jacques Chirac last night provoked a diplomatic showdown at the UN when he broke ranks with America and its allies and called on them to stop threatening Iran with sanctions.

To the barely concealed fury of American and British officials, who have been calling on the UN Security Council to confront Teheran over its nuclear ambitions, Mr Chirac argued for more negotiations.

"I don't believe in a solution without dialogue," he said. He added pointedly that he had never noticed that sanctions had been effective.

Mr Chirac's comments shattered the shaky consensus between America and the EU-3 - Britain, France and Germany - which have been leading the diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

Somehow that sounds familiar...

Crazy Talk

James Joyner goes out on a ledge with a discussion about Gerrymandering of congressional districts:

It would make a lot more sense to have these lines drawn by objective professionals with no stake in the outcome, taking into account longstanding geographical, county, municipal, and other logical boundaries. A few states have delegated the process with that goal in mind.

I'll win the lottery first. And I don't play.

Words Fail...

It doesn't happen often, but words failed me as I nervously "watched" developments in San Diego via ESPN's GameCast and caught up on e-mail last night. The LA Dodgers capped a miraculous comeback victory in what could only be described as an epic, climactic game in a great series.

Five home runs in two innings against a decisively superior bullpen may not stoke the competitive fires of our erstwhile host, but they ought to. There's a reason baseball and the networks ought to be ashamed of showing us meaningless Red Sox-Yankees games this late in the year and ignoring this series. And this game showed why. Although I think watching it live would have been left me in a worse state than I already am. While my X's and O's analysis proved absolutely wrong, I was right that it would be a great series. And it obviously was.

I have to go now.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Speaking of Reputations

David Corn's reputation is not faring overly well in some circles these days. From today, here is more from Cliff May:

Patrick Casey helpfully writes that Corn “is attempting to put the Rove 'outing' canard back together” but he “can't run away from what he wrote.” Casey suggests anyone who is not yet clear on what happened read.

1) Novak's original column of 7/14/03: Mission to Niger

2) Corn's column two days later on 7/16/03: A White House Smear

3) And Cliff May's NRO column of 7/15/05: Who Exposed Secret Agent Plame?

Casey adds:

David Corn attempted to shatter the reputations of several important Republican political operatives in time for the 2004 presidential elections. Now it's his reputation and honesty that is irrevocably damaged. No one 'in the know' will ever be able to hear his name again without chuckling out loud. The irony is sweet.

Even big names are getting into the act. Corn himself describes Robert Novak's comments here and is none too pleased with them. But the concept is the same in speaking of Corn as it is for Sullivan.

David worked hard for this and he's earned every bit of it.

Gobsmacker's Delight

Mickey Kaus hits a home-run today:

Andrew Sullivan has decided to give out a Nancy Grace Award. Criteria (suggested by Sullivan's readers) include "a nauseating level of absolutist self-righteousness," an "unflappable self-assurance that [the nominee's] outrage represents the true moral high ground on any issue" despite a propensity to "flip flop"--and a habit of "excessive personal attacks." [Emphasis added]... You mean like righteously bullying anyone who fails to support a war in Iraq, then turning around and righteously attacking the people who are prosecuting it? ... Can you think of any nominees? I'm stumped. ...

It's just too easy these days, but Andrew worked hard for it and who am I to deny the man the fruit of his labors?

I am, most devoutly, an American.

Cyrus Nowrasteh defends himself and his mini-series.

My Fantasy

No, not that kind of fantasy. Fantasy sports and a couple of observations...

-They play the game in Halves

The Rams showed up at Candlestick yesterday with an offense that had yet to find the end zone and a defense that dominated in Week 1. Both took the field against the 49ers and played pretty much to form in the first half. It was a good half, not a great exhibition but the offense got on track and the Rams owned the clock in controlling the first half of the football game.

Then they forgot to show up for the second half and lose 20-13.

-We want Drew!

With Drew Brees at Quarterback, San Diego TE Antonio Gates has averaged over 10 points a game as a Fantasy keeper. Through two games with Philip Rivers at the helm, he's averaging barely more than half that. And the Chargers have still managed to score nearly 35 points a game through the first two weeks of the season. This could be a long year.

-This is me not caring

And then there's this. I'm claiming a special moratorium when it comes to this sport. Last year I wrote extensively of my woes in trying to follow up on two Fantasy titles in three years. You might have called it a pre-occupation.

Not so this year. I drafted two teams. One I haven't even looked at since May, the other I haven't touched since June nor bothered to even look at in a month.

So you're a regular Jimmy the Greek...a modern sports-prophet! Celebrate if you must, but know that your feeble attempt at stoking the rivalry will not work. Well, sort of.

Baseball is dead to me!

Save me from myself

Absurd. Arnold should know better.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Expert 1, Journalist 0

Victoria Toensing responds today to David Corn's response. The whole argument revolves around meanings...'covert', 'operative'...what does it all mean and who spilled the beans?

To recap, here is Corn responding to Toensing's WSJ piece of Friday: "I am disheartened to see her embracing a rather idiotic conservative talking point and ignoring basic facts to tag me as the true culprit in the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. It is an argument that defies logic and the record. But it is an accusation that pro-Bush spinners have used to defend the true leakers and columnist Bob Novak, the conveyor of the leak.

"This is a canard that has been previously advanced by other conservatives--all to absolve Novak and the actual leakers (mainly Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, not Richard Armitage). And you see the suggestion: that Joe Wilson told me that his wife was an undercover CIA officer and that I then disclosed this information to the public. I've debunked this before. But for Toensing's benefit, I'll go through this again--though I doubt it will do much good."

Toensing focuses on the question in her response today: Beginning in July 2003 and through today in hyping his book, Corn uses the technique of interchanging various intelligence employee and agent status terms, presumably attempting to make them appear as synonyms to the uneducated in national security. This approach told me that for some reason he was attempting to obfuscate the issue. For example. Corn asks today, “[H]ow can you out a CIA operative who has already been identified as a CIA operative...?” Novak’s use of the term “operative” to describe Plame had nothing to do with revealing a “covert” status, only that she worked for the CIA, two distinct concepts. On September 5, 2006, Corn wrote, “Plame was an operations officer working on a top priority” and that in the “early 1990s, she became what is known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA’s frontline officers.” A NOC is not necessarily “covert,” and Corn’s using them as synonyms does not make them the same. Whatever she was in the early 1990s, she was not covert within five years of Novak’s 2003 column. “Covert” is a legal term requiring numerous factors, including a foreign assignment at time of publication or within five years. Another factor is that the CIA had to be taking affirmative measures to protect the covert person’s identity. Hardly the situation here where Plame went daily to Langley, and where the CIA press person admitted to Novak she was employed by the agency.

Corn could have attempted to counter me on the merits but foolishly made up a fact that I had not read his article. I read it and others by him quite thoroughly, thank you.

I find it amazing that Corn argues around this point at all; Toensing has forgotten more about how CIA works than he will ever know. To call her flat out wrong is absurd.

This reminds me of the Bush AWOL meme back in 2004. The left got caught arguing over meaning. Their problem was simply that AWOL didn't apply.

AWOL is a term with specific meaning that applies in specific circumstances. The only problem for the left was that the term had no meaning vis-a-vis a National Guardsman. Bush--as is every other member of the Guard--was required to accumulate a requisite number of points for every 12-month period of service. Something that Bush did during the year in question and something that the left refused to understand, much less acknowledge.

Likewise, they are ignoring the perhaps subtle but distinct differences between 'operative' as mentioned by Novak and words like 'covert' and 'classified'. They have specific meanings and Toensing gets the nod as to which applies to who when.

The Heart of the Investigation

Clarice Feldman, writing in the Weekly Standard, cuts at the Fitzgerald investigation none too kindly:

The theory of the case in which a "thuggish" White House set out to punish Joe Wilson simply wasn't true. Instead, as noted by the astute observer Tom Maguire (who reported on the case in great detail at his website, Fitzgerald seemed "to be investigating 'Did the White House conspire to out Ms. Plame?' rather than 'Who outed Ms. Plame?'"

This may explain the odd focus of Fitzgerald's investigation, including his outrageously prejudicial remarks at the October 28, 2005, press conference in which he announced Libby's indictment for perjury, false statements, and obstruction, as well as his decision to proceed with such a thinly justified indictment. Fitzgerald had obviously bought the Corn-generated Emma Peel-on-the-railroad-tracks fable.

Later, she suggests that Fitz too-eagerly bought the 1x2x6 meme that was pushed at the outset of the 'scandal': Barely a month into his investigation, in February 2004, Fitzgerald sought and quickly received from Comey an expansion of his mandate to cover process crimes such as perjury and obstruction. In retrospect, this should have been a tipoff that Fitzgerald was changing focus from the underlying "crime"--which was nonexistent. Judging from the parade of witnesses who would eventually be called before the grand jury, it seems he and his team of investigators were under the impression that before Novak's column ran, a senior administration official had told two White House officials to leak the Plame story to six reporters. This notion might well have been gleaned from a poorly written, later edited, account in the Washington Post. This inaccurate, thinly sourced story--which might well have been told to Fitzgerald's investigators as well as to the Post--somehow seems to have become the template for the investigation, which from then on focused on who those presumptive two White House officials were.

The source of this claim, which so distorted the prosecution's view of the matter, has not been revealed. In discovery, Libby's defense team made clear that they think it was Marc Grossman, Armitage's undersecretary for political affairs, who they contend has been a friend of Wilson's since the two went to college together. That Fitzgerald bought into the left-wing typology of bad leakers (defenders of the Iraq war like Libby) and blameless leakers (Armitage) is evident in his August 27, 2004, affidavit to the court seeking to compel the testimony of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who had discussed the Wilson story with Libby but never published anything about it. At the time he filed the affidavit, he of course knew that Armitage had been Novak's source.

He knew better but didn't stop. Overcoming the force of inertia, afterall, requires somewhat of an effort:

...the prosecutor fixed his course on determining whether Rove or Libby said anything to any reporter prior to Armitage's conversation with Novak on July 8, 2003. His lodestar was a June 10 memo prepared by Carl Ford Jr., assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, detailing a meeting of INR and CIA officials at which Plame had introduced her husband and explained the mission the agency intended to send him on. To Fitzgerald, the source of any "bad" leak had to be found among the recipients in the White House of this memo.

Marc Grossman plays a role in this as well. The memo was originally written for him. He says that when Vice President Cheney asked who Nick Kristof's unnamed ambassador was, and how and why he had been sent to Niger--remember, Wilson had suggested to reporters that he'd gone at Cheney's "behest," and Cheney most certainly had not "behested" this--Grossman asked Ford to prepare the memo. It was redated July 7, 2003, and while it never was distributed to the White House, it was faxed to Armitage and Powell. Why the original memo was not given a new cover, instead of being redated and readdressed, is still a mystery. The memo never suggests that Plame was covert or even classified, which seems odd, too, given that, were her identity to be kept secret, there'd be no reason to identify her in the memo and even less reason for her to have attended a meeting at which she introduced her husband to State Department officials. As Armitage put it earlier this month, in an interview with CBS News, while the document was classified, "it doesn't mean that every sentence in the document is classified. I had never seen a covered agent's name in any memo in, I think, 28 years of government."

So is bad-lawyering or something else? Knowing for sure is difficult, if not near impossible but Feldman offers this as an attempt at answering the question: If the prosecutor had asked and Armitage had failed to reveal the conversation with Woodward, and Armitage had then for years refused to allow Woodward to reveal this information to the prosecution, Armitage obstructed the investigation. If, as seems more likely, the prosecutor, with Armitage's notebooks and calendar in hand, never asked him about his conversations with other reporters, Fitzgerald would now seem to be trying to disguise his own mishandling of the investigation as obstruction by others. You cannot wear blinders and suggest someone kept you from seeing the whole picture.

Feldman refers back to the preceding paragraphs where she insists that Fitzgerald relied too heavily on Grossman's recollections of events. The conclusion reached is one of two things; either Fitz is too easily confused by bright and shiny things or he went where his preconceived ideas took him.

We end with the "case" against Libby, which condenses down to this:

In any event, that's the case against Libby. Two reporters whose testimony is not likely to stand up well under cross examination, and one reporter who says that he and the only charged defendant (Libby) never discussed the woman at all.

And as for Armitage, who did tell a reporter, and who told a second reporter, Woodward, whom he kept from coming forward in a timely fashion with the truth--that Armitage had told him long before Libby spoke to any reporter about the matter--well, Fitzgerald calls him an "innocent accused." The prosecutor who directed Armitage not to tell the president or anyone else that he was the source dares to charge another man with obstructing his so-called investigation.

Meanwhile Libby, who fully cooperated with the prosecution, told what he recalled as best he could recall, and promptly gave waivers of confidentiality to all reporters known to have talked to him in this period, is charged with crimes for which the prosecutor is seeking a 25-year prison term.

Were it not reflective of an unacceptable level of negligence and/or incompetence, it would be funny. Instead, it's just sad. Three years and hundreds of thousands of our dollars, for this?

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