Monday, October 31, 2005

Plame Outed by Co-Worker(s)?

I think some (or someone) in Val's group outed her themselves just to be rid of the Wilsons.

The Kristof and Pincus articles and Wilson's op-ed were embarrassing for them because it showed how casual they were about sending an ex ambassador to do a spook's job and they hadn't even bothered to put him on a leash.

Wilson's mouth was a liability for them and they suspected Val was telling him more than she should about Company business.

Val wasn't going on junkets anymore because of a previous outing. She was doing good work, but she wasn't able to do much of what she was trained for. Damage would be minimal, so screw them.

They were the ones who slipped 'Valery Plame' into the gossip stream to punish the Wilsons.

Beyond that they didn't much care how it played out or who would be blamed.

Unless Fitzgerald is hiding it on purpose, there is little in the public record regarding who knew the actual name 'Valery Plame' (Miller's notebook and Novak's article) and nothing showing anyone in the administration knew or related that specific datum to anyone else in the administration. How did the fact of Mrs. Wilson's CIA employment get from Mrs. Wilson/Wilson's wife to Valery Plame?

I doubt we'll ever know.

Samuel Alito will have no trouble being confirmed

The confirmation battle over Samuel Alito is effectively over. This is my gut feeling. I cannot imagine any significant obstacles. The postmodernist liberals are upset---but the general public could care less. Alito seems to have the necessary credentials and does not come across as a crazed madman. That’s enough for the citizenry living in the hinterlands. The Harriet Miers fiasco exhausted those normally indifferent about politics. They don’t want to see any further yelling and screaming unless there’s a damn good reason. Do you have pictures of Alito mugging an old lady? If not, your complaints will go unheeded. Did you think that John Roberts had a relatively easy time? You haven’t seen anything yet. The process to confirm Judge Alito should put you to sleep.

A new aggregator of milblogs. Looks interesting.

Seneca the Postmodern

You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the postmodernists, you collect avant-garde Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal articles for breakfast. You ositively live for theory. It really doesn't matter what kind, as long as the words are big and the paragraph breaks few and far between.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

Get Me Brendan Sullivan; I don't want no potted plant

If I were Lewis Libby, I would get Brendan Sullivan if he would take my case. Ollie North was in a lot worse shape than Lewis. Brendan's good counsel finally essentially exhonorated Lt. Col. North. North has parlayed that vindication into a second career which has been far more financially rewarding and probably less pressured than his first. Trust me, Libby's case is far more winnable than was Ollie's. If it were me, that would be my first choice.

Pomegranates and the Turkmenbashi

This month's Orion has an article, No Two Alike, about an an agricultural research station in Turkmenistan called Garrygala. The forests and orchards of Garrygala once contained some 1,100 varieties of pomegranates and were tended by a Soviet researcher named Dr. Levin. The collapse of the Soviet Union meant an end to funding for Dr. Levin and Garrygala. Of course the Turkmenbashi had better things to do with his natural gas wealth, like erecting statues of himself, than to support the research station. As a result the facility has fallen into disrepair.

The article starts with the author, Barbara L, Baer, first hearing about Garrygala on a public-radio program. Interested in the plight of the facility, she progressed from fund raising efforts to an eventual depressing trip to Ashgabat. Ultimately, the bizarre politics of Turkmenistan prevented her from ever reaching Garrygala.

As I've said before, my interest in this obscure Central Asian Rebublic is partly the strange personality of its leader, the Turkemnbashi, and partly because it is precisely the sort of place that deeply challenges the Bush Doctrine. In the lead up to the war to oust the Taliban, Turkmenistan provided a needed entry point into northern Afghanistan. As a result, the US entered into an alliance of sorts with Turkmenistan.

I mention all of this because of one line in the linked article, "Despite massive infusions of dollars for rights to natural gas and oil paid by U.S. and international corporations, the national bank is insolvent, university degrees are no longer accredited abroad, official unemployment is listed at 25 percent but is more likely 50, and most recently, the school year has been shortened to stem budget deficits." The emphasis added is mine.

First, the claim so casually made that implies the US is a major investor in Turkmenistan is patently false. Russia, the Ukraine and Germany are the primary investers in Turkmenistan. In fact, Russia is the principal buyer of Turkmenistan's plentiful natural gas, with a pipeline being built to connect the two countires. Secondly, in spite of its needs to access Afghanistan, the US has led pressure against the Human Rights abuses, particularily concerning freedom of the press and religion, of the Turkmenistan government.

The Turkmenbashi leads a brutally repressive regime. It is difficult to believe that the winds of democracy blowing in the region won't eventually lead to eruption in Turkmenistan. When that happens, as the line quoted above hints, the realpolitiks of the needs of access to Afghanistan will blow back on the US. The US needs to be firm, and public, as they hold other country's feet to the fire in their dealings with Turkmenistan. At the same time the regime of the Turkmenbashi is an issue that needs to be addressed, and again in a public manner, before the eventual street demonstrations.

I fear the State Department is juggling the balls in this arena, and the black eye of hypocrisy is not what the US needs as it promotes the Bush Doctrine in the region.

A Tale of Two Papers

October 31, 2005
Clarice Feldman

Reprinted with permission of The American Thinker

Physicians have the term “iatrogenic” to describe illness caused by physicians. There is now a need for a new word, “mediagenic,” to describe scandals which have their origin in malpractice by the mass media. The indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby is a mediagenic scandal.

A review of the origin of the Wilson/Plame firestorm provides insight into the operations and integrity of two leading member of America’s elite press corps – the New York Times and The Washington Post. Neither comes off well, though the Post comes off marginally better than the Times. Both, however, launched a serial liar, Joseph Wilson IV, on the public scene and credited him long after prudence would have suggested less credulity, and after independent investigation proved his story not credible.


Black Death the Cure for AIDS?

Do the descendents of certain plague survivors have a gene conferring immunity to HIV? Such is the startling conclusion of Dr. Stephen O'Brien of the National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C.

Local tales in the small, central-England village of Eyam tell befuddling stories of plague survivors who had close contact with the bacterium but never caught the disease. Dr. O'Brien's with HIV and the mutated form of the gene CCR5, called "delta 32," led him to Eyam. In 1996, research showed that delta 32 prevents HIV from entering human cells and infecting the body. O'Brien thought this principle could be applied to the plague bacteria, which affects the body in a similar manner. To determine whether the Eyam plague survivors may have carried delta 32, O'Brien tested the DNA of their modern-day descendents. What he found out was startling ...
Read the whole thing.

Happy Hallowe'en!

(With thanks to 5th Circle of Cubic Hell.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Will It Be Alito Or Luttig?

If I were in charge of political announcements for the administration, I would strongly suggest tomorrow morning as a fine time to announce the next candidate for appointment to the Supreme Court. It would put the Plame Game on the inside pages where it belongs and throw the Demsm into a tizzy trying to determine which story required more attention. A red meat candidate will generate a blizzard of stories.

I don't have any preference among the short list candidates although I believe that Garza would be the most helpful pick from a political point of view. The intricacies of determining the conservative purity of the entire list have become too byzantine for nonpuritans to follow. The part of the show that I am most interested in watching is the reaction of the Seven Dwarves. It will generate a frisson of delight if Dopey does something with which Bill Kristol disagrees. Particularly if he does it in his typically bombastic manner. If McCain declares a red meat conservative nominee to be "outside the mainstream", therefore signaling the Dems that they have a free hand at a filibuster, his presidential aspirations will never be realized and Little Billy will never have the position within an administration that he so desperately seeks. That's an outcome that would truly warm the cockles of my heart.

Alternatively, should Dopey support a red meat candidate, he will find himself no longer the media's maverick heartthrob and the Straight Shooter Express wil remain in the garage (or do they keep it in the blimp hangar next to McCain's ego)? Either outcome is fine with me. The main thing that must be achieved is to hold the Seven Dwarves up to the light as the self-serving undisciplined party disloyalists that I believe them to be. There must be a price paid for playing the weathervane and damaging the party.

Modern tintype photography

The internet is a wonderfully strange place at times. Via the Taiwanese blog robot action boy, I discovered Revealing Character, the website of a photographer who is doing old style tintype photography. On the site is a fascinating series of portraits of modern Texas cowboys and girls. To the right is a sample of one of the tintypes he's taken.

A description of what a tintype is from the website, "In 1856 Hamilton L. Smith of Ohio patented a new photographic method that came to be known as tintype. These one-of-a-kind images are made directly on a thin iron plate that has been coated with chemicals, exposed in a camera while still wet, and developed on the spot. Because the plates are iron, not tin, the more proper term is ferrotype, but the photographs have been commonly called tintypes from the beginning."

Since no negatives are involved, each photograph is unique as well as a mirrored image. The photographer can control the look of the tintype during the development and finishing stages of creating the photograph. He finishes each tintype by heating the plate and applying varnish to protect the plates. At the website there is a nice description of the entire tintype process, with modern photographs illustrating the steps, that the photographer used.

More modern tintypes can be seen at Studio Q.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is an Imprudent Man

Some people contend that the law must always be enforced. Nothing could be further from the truth. The exact opposite is the reality of the situation. No society can survive if a hyper legalistic approach to the law is the norm. Every prosecutor must occasionally take a chill pill and cut some slack. If nothing else, many statutes remain on the books that have not been enforced for years. A number may even contradict each other. Prudence is mandatory. The spirit of the law must dominate its letter. This is especially true when dealing with matters as nebulous as state secrets. Daniel Patrick Moynihan blasted the temptation of intelligence agencies to even classify information that was readily available in our daily newspapers.

Patrick Fitzgerald foolishly decided to investigate, in a nitpicky manner, whether anyone might have violated the somewhat vague statutes concerning espionage. He wanted everything to be either all black or white. Every “i” was to be dotted, every “t” had to be crossed, and no shades of gray were to be allowed. Somebody inevitably was going to be prosecuted. Scooter Libby may very well feel like a victim in a Franz Kafka nightmare. Tomorrow, it might be our turn.

An Interesting Report on the Insurgency

Here is an interesting article in The Age about a developing split in the Iraqi insurgency (HT Tim Blair). The reporter is Ghaith, who did some great reporting on the insurgents in Fallujah back before the assault. I have always liked Ghaith's work, going back to when he blogged as G and hung out with Salam Pax of dear_raed. Worth a read.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I Love The Smiley

Ok, I just had to put the picture up. I have no idea how good the book is going to be, but I think the subject is full of possibilities. I always thought that certain of Roosevelt's programs, the CCC for instance, were reminiscent of some of the fascist and communist programs of the era. Not that I think the CCC was evil, there are trails and dams here in Utah that were built by the CCC and my dad dreamed of joining up, but it would be interesting to see the genesis of those programs examined and put into historical context. I'm not sure Goldberg is up to it though, he might be too partisan and concerned with recent events to render a balanced judgement. We will see.

The Memoirs of Churchill's Bodyguard

were found in the loft of a Somerset farmhouse and have been published. Walter Thompson guarded Churchill from 1921 to 1945. Go read the review, it is full of interesting little tidbits.

Gender Genie

Can writing be intrinsically male or female? According to this site it can. Take a 500 word or better piece of writing, cut and paste it into the Gender Genie, hit the button and you'll have an instant analysis of the gender of the writer. I tried it on a few of our favorite bloggers with the following results: Rick Ballard is overwhelmingly male; Syl is female, although one post came up slightly male; Vnjagvet, Contrary Pelican, and RogerA came up more male than female. Andrew Sullivan is overwhelmingly male. Try it on your own writing.

This brings up interesting possibilities. Are we more male some days than others? On certain subjects more than others? At different times of the day? Around different people?

(HT Catherine Johnson at KitchenTableMath)

[Oh, and for the above post the results were:
Female Score: 123
Male Score: 305
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is:

Shifting Sands 5 - and so it began....

I’m going to be following a number of Senate races over the next year on an irregular regular basis – no set schedule but I will get through the ones that I find interesting as time permits. Since my own party (Rockingham Whig) has not as yet chosen to enter the lists, I will be following the races from the Republican viewpoint as the Republican Party offers the only viable simulacrum to a real political party extant.

Maryland is the state chosen for this first pass at actual political punditry. It was chosen because of the level of fear shown and interest taken by the Democratic Party and its minions in Michael Steele. I cannot remember the last time the Dems put operatives at risk of serious jail time so early in the game. The fact that the Clinton’s favorite opposition research operator is currently a Federal “guest” may have pushed Schumer to use inept operatives as dumpster divers.

Maryland is properly classified as a ‘blue’ state. It has a VAP of 4 million and had 56% voter participation in the ’04 election. It went 58/41 Kerry. 28% of the VAP are black which places Maryland fifth nationally in that regard. Interestingly, it is the only blue state in the top ten ranking by percentage of blacks in the total population. Maryland ranks fourteenth with regard to adult participation in the work force and forty-sixth with regard to the number of people below the poverty level. Its unemployment rate at 4.3% is twenty percent below the national average and the Bethesda area has the lowest unemployment rate of any metropolitan division in the US. It ranks third in median income and twenty-fourth in home ownership.

Congressional districts in Maryland have been well gerrymandered to the point where the lowest victory margin among eight races was 63/34 (Cardin’s district). There are two Republican fiefdoms and six Democratic ones. The Ehrlich/Steele ticket won the governor/lt. governor’s race in ’02 by 51.5/47.6. Steele’s run for the Senate makes Ehrlich’s retention of the governor’s post problematical.

The Dems are correct to fear Steele’s run for this Senate seat. He is going to be well funded (Ken Mehlman is chair of the RNC and was born in Baltimore), Steele has run statewide and won, the state’s economy is perking along very nicely and Michael Steele’s acceptance speech shows the polish and focus necessary for a Senate race. He will be running on "ownership society" themes that test very well accross racial lines and are integral to the Republican platform. I doubt that he will touch the voucher issue but he will also stress education. There is no way that the Dems can hang a winger label on him - he is a moderate through and through. A very strong candidate and worthy of financial support for those inclined.

I won’t be making any predictions about races until next August but I can guarantee that this one is going to be a barnburner – barring successful dumpster diving on the part of the Dems.

Note: The Senate races that I intend to focus on are: TN (open), VT(open), PA(Santorum), MN(open), FL(Nelson),NE(Nelson),WA(Cantwell),MI(Stabenow) and NJ(Corzine?). If you have suggestions concerning additions to this list or suggestions concerning the type of coverage that you would like to see – leave a note in comments or send me an email.

Libby Guilty of Being Inarticulate

My conclusion after having eaten, slept, and reread parts of the indictment is

Libby is only guilty of being inarticulate in his statements to investigators and the Grand Jury.

Libby knew that Wilson's wife was CIA. He also knew it was protected information. He got this information from official sources.

If you're someone who knows classified information, and Libby certainly knew a lot of it over the period of time he was doing his job, you are very aware that you must be extremely careful when speaking with people who are not authorized to know, especially when conversations often involve the very subject to which the classified information applies.

Unofficial and Official data compartmentalization

Different people may have different ways of dealing with this. It is not unreasonable to assume that one method would be to compartmentalize the data in your brain by pretending to yourself you don't know certain details. You 'forget' them so you can't accidentally confirm information to someone else. It doesn't mean you really 'forget' them, you just tell yourself you've forgotten them so they stay in your head and don't come out your mouth.

And this compartmentalization would be dependent on your source for the information. Data from official sources goes one place, data from unofficial sources goes in another. You neither confirm, nor deny, nor pass on to others data that you learned from an official source. You, in essence, 'forget' that information.

The first time Libby 'learned' this information

So this was what Libby was doing and he explained it horribly. He would be surprised at Russert's knowledge of Wilson's wife's employment by CIA because Libby didn't 'know' that information. It's not that he lied about not really really knowing it. He didn't know it in the context of his conversation with a person who was not authorized to know it. In essence, this was the first time Libby heard it...from an unofficial source.

Libby couldn't simply say 'I heard that too' like he did later with Cooper. Because this was the first time the unofficial gossip that 'Mrs. Wilson works for CIA' had reached him from an unofficial source so he could not honestly say he had already heard it because that would be crossing the barrier in his mind between official and unofficial sources.

Libby's testimony to investigators and the Grand Jury

Reading Libby's statements to investigators and the Grand Jury in that light shows that he did not lie to them, he simply did not explain his method for keeping classified data to himself thoroughly enough.

For example:
"I was very clear to say reporters are telling us that because in my mind I
still didn't know it as a fact. I thought I was – all I had was this information
that was coming in from the reporters."

And that information coming in from reporters was the only information he could acknowledge. That was the only fact he could know publically.


What Libby testified re Russert conversation:
". . . . And then he said, you know, did you know that this -- excuse me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA? And I was a little taken aback by that. I remember being taken aback by it. And I said -- he may have said a little more but that was -- he said that. And I said, no, I don't know that. And I said, no, I don't know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said, because at that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was first learning. "

Again, if Libby's method to guard himself from revealing classified info from official sources was that he had to forget what he knew so he wouldn't actually confirm classified info, then this is not saying he (Libby) didn't know. It is saying that in his mind he would not recall what he knew officially, he would purposefully block it.

Libby is guilty of being inarticulate!

All those conversations with reporters

As for the timing and identity of who first told Libby unofficially that 'Mrs. Wilson worked for the CIA' the testimony is murky. There's no way for sure to know from the testimony we've seen.


Russert claiming he never spoke about Wilson's wife is he said/she said. It's also possible Libby misremembered and he actually heard it first from Miller. Possible that Russert misremembered. Possible that Libby is confusing Russert with an as yet unnamed reporter who has never come forward. Lots of reasonable doubt here.

'I heard that too'

And for the Cooper conversation, late in the process, read what the indictment says Libby said about it and what Cooper said. They are essentially the same. I don't see a problem there. 'I heard that too' is not confirmation, doesn't reveal where Libby heard it, and gives no information as to its veracity or even whether Libby believes it. And by that time Libby had heard it from another reporter. And because Libby had heard it from other unofficial source(s) it is a true statement. Fitz is wrong here.

(Not to mention reporters are incorrect when they consider 'I heard that too' as a confirming source, like Novak did with Rove. It is not. May explain why a lot of nonsense is reported. 'But I got my two sources!')


The Miller conversation in June with some clandestine guy doesn't mean much. In July it's not clear from Miller's testimony what Libby said anyway. And nothing is really clear about what Judy said to Libby.

So what we're really left with is...

The basis for all the charges is that Libby misled the prosecutor by claiming he heard the information first from reporters, not from official sources.

But Libby did hear the (unofficial) information first from reporters. The official information was locked away.


Why was Libby so inarticulate? I surmise because of all his years of dealing with classified information, his method of compartmentalization of data is almost subconscious. It is a habit.

Note: Edited for clarity.

Why would Scooter Libby Lie?: Can Anyone Answer this Question?

It is roughly twenty four hours since I first heard of the indictments to be handed down concerning Scooter Libby. The same question continues to haunt me: why in hell would he lie? What could he possibly gain by doing so? Libby is not an idiot. On the contrary, he is a well educated attorney who has probably earned millions of dollars over his lifetime. The man would have known he was under no risk of being convicted on the alleged “outing” of Valerie Plame. I can only conclude that he didn’t consciously try to deceive. Libby simply does not possess a perfect tape recorder memory. How many of us do? I also agree with those who point out the difficulty of obtaining a conviction in a court of law. Indeed, only one dissenting member of the jury is sufficient to make it impossible. Libby’s criminal defense lawyer will repeatedly remind the jury that his client had no reason to deceive. I can only speak for myself, but I would never vote to convict.

In the final analysis, Patrick Fitzgerald’s labors are essentially a waste of time---and taxpayer dollars. One suspects that this overly zealous prosecutor lacked the common sense to know when to put a stop to the proceedings. Fitzgerald wanted to go out of his way to prove his independence from the White House. His assignment should have ended immediately after realizing no law was initially broken. The rest of this nonsense has been similar to a witch hunt. And yes, it seems like Fitzgerald's may have listened too closely to the screaming jackals comprising the MSM. I am greatly irritated by Fitzgerald’s sole public concern for the safety of CIA employees. Why isn’t he also upset by Valerie Plame’s apparent attempt to harm the Bush administration? Are members of the CIA given a free pass to slime those they disagree with? Does this mean that one is powerless to protect themselves without jeopardizing their freedom?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sooo... how do you test dog food?

From MSNBC comes the item Anna Nicole Smith's dogs boycott Iams. Our, or at least my, favorite gold-digging bimbo and her three dogs, Marilyn, Sugar Pie and Puppy, are going to be featured in a PETA ad decrying conditions at the Iams lab.

PETA is demanding not just better conditions for the allegedly abused dogs, but ceasing using any dogs in Iams labs. This does beg the question -- how exactly do you test dog food without feeding it to dogs?

Perhaps Anna Nichole would volunteer to go on an all new Iams celebrity diet?

PETA on Iams
Iams response to PETA

The Indictment Instapundit Calls A Rabbit

I just skimmed it and checked out a few lawblogs for first impressions. I heard parts of the Fitzgerald press conference. My impression is that it is a well-crafted indictment that depends entirely on the credibility of three people to convict. Without the testimony of Judy Miller, Tim Russert and Matt Cooper holding up on cross examination as to three separate conversations, this case cannot be won.

With all due respect to Mr. Fitzgerald, this case does not hang together.

This is a classic credibility question with the only evidence against him on the critical issues in the case being the eye witness testimony of three individuals about three ten- to fifteen-minute conversations. Libby testified before the Grand Jury as to his recollection of each of those conversations. Apparently the testimony of Miller, Russert and Cooper either did not corroborate Libby's versions of those conversations or contradicted them. Each of the three conversations was one on one.

The indictment alleges pretty convincingly that before the reporter conversations, Libby was told by a number of people that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. At least one of those conversations was recorded in notes Libby provided to the grand jury. There is therefore plenty of testimony that Libby was at the very least dissembling to the reporters.

But the indictment does not allege that Libby testified before the grand jury that he did not know that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA before he spoke with these reporters. Rather, the indictment alleges that Libby lied to the FBI agents by telling those agents:

(a) Russert asked Libby on July 10 if Libby knew that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and told Libby that all reporters knew it;

(b) That Libby was surprised to hear from Russert that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA;

(c) That Libby told Matt Cooper on July 12 that he had heard that other reporters were saying that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and that Libby did not know whether that was true;

(d) That Libby "advised" Judy Miller that he heard that other reporters worked for the CIA, and that Libby did not know whether that was true.

According to the indictment, Russert made no such assertions and Libby did not tell either Miller or Cooper what he said he told them. The indictment says in fact Libby "confirmed" to Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

The first perjury count alleges that Libby lied when he gave the underlined testimony under oath before the grand jury, which the indictment claims is false:

And then he said, you know, did you know that this – excuse me, did you knowthat Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA? And I was a little taken aback by
that. I remember being taken aback by it. And I said – he may have said a little more
but that was – he said that. And I said, no, I don't know that. And I said, no, I don't
know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in
any way confirming what he said, because at that point in time I did not recall that
I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was
first learning. And so I said, no, I don't know that because I want to be very careful
not to confirm it for him, so that he didn't take my statement as confirmation for him.

Now, I had said earlier in the conversation, which I omitted to tell you, that
this – you know, as always, Tim, our discussion is off-the-record if that's okay with
you, and he said, that's fine.

So then he said – I said – he said, sorry – he, Mr. Russert said to me, did you
know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the CIA? And I said, no,
I don't know that. And then he said, yeah – yes, all the reporters know it. And I said,
again, I don't know that. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't confirming anything
for him on this. And you know, I was struck by what he was saying in that he
thought it was an important fact, but I didn't ask him anymore about it because I
didn't want to be digging in on him, and he then moved on and finished the
conversation, something like that.

The second perjury count relates to Libby's testimony about his conversation with Matt Cooper and is too long to include here verbatim, but essentially tracks what Libby told the FBI he told Cooper.

As noted above, the entire case is about three short conversations that happened on two days in July.

I think a trial will be very hard for the prosecuter to win unless Russert, Cooper and Miller are much better witnesses than Libby under cross examination. I am doubtful that they will be. Reporters are not used to being challenged by skillful counsel. Lawyers are.

Let's Pretend

...this will just go away if we don't pay too much attention to it:
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cheered by thousands of supporters, signalled on Friday he stood by his call for Israel to be wiped off the map, while Iran's foreign ministry sought to defuse a diplomatic storm.

After all, Bill Clinton successfully pretended Osama Bin Laden wouldn't do any serious harm to our country, and it worked, more or less, through the full eight years of his two terms in office.

Besides, maybe they will only destroy Israel, and will stop there.

(Once you start pretending, it's hard to stop.)


Note: Please see also ContraryPelican, below.

Just some embarrassment

A citizen rightly/wrongly accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to make a case for war. The administration in response/retaliation outed/revealed a CIA agent's identity accidentally/on purpose.

The Democrats and the New York Times were sceaming that the outing of a CIA agent was an extremely serious issue during time of war and must be investigated. A Special Prosecutor was called for. Nay screamed for. Our national security had been compromised and those responsible for the outing must be punished.

The mosquito-level buzz had become a traffic helicopter roar after the CIA's referral to the Justice Department had been leaked to Andrea Mitchell. (Somebody subpoena her to reveal her source!)

And now, after almost two years of investigation by special prosecutor Fitzgerald, we are awaiting the indictment(s) of administration officials.

On Larry King Live last night, Bob Woodward was one of the guests discussing the Plame Outing case. Woodward, who has a knack for finding and using credible sources that, it seems, nobody else has access to, dropped a little bombshell:

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.
Two years, unknown cost to the taxpayer, an administration distracted (in time of war, no less), possible criminal charges against administration officials, for "just some embarrassment?". Oy.

The political question, which isn't Fitzgerald's job to answer, still hasn't been settled in the minds of the public. Well, at least in the minds of the media: Was Wilson's wife outed for political revenge? or was it all a mistake made by an administration in its attempt to set the record straight because it was Wilson who twisted the truth?

And it's this political question that has been behind the countless conversations in the blogosphere these past two years which, to me, have been a positive corollary to the process of the investigation. But these discussions, which brought to light several intriguing questions concerning the case for war, have been totally ignored by the press. The discussions in the blogosphere were beneficial to all participants and raised the level of awareness, on both sides, of factors in play prior to the war. This raised awareness could have been beneficial to the public at large as well.

But the press never seemed to be all that curious about factors behind the so-called outing, choosing instead to continuously air their preferred narrative of revenge and look no deeper. The investigation gave them the perfect opportunity to do some investigating of their own but they shrugged their shoulders. Perhaps they were simply lazy, or perhaps they knew what they'd find and simply didn't want to go there.

Just the Superficial Facts, Ma'am.

We, the citizens, deserve better.

Indicting a Ham Sandwich?

It is often joked that a overly zealous prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. The New York Times is reporting that Scooter Libby is about to be indicted for making false statements during an investigation. Isn’t it illegal, first of all, for anyone to be leaking information in this matter? More importantly, if this report is indeed accurate---Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is almost certainly persecuting the innocent. Common sense dictates that Libby would never deliberately deceive investigators. He simply had no reason to do so. No crime was initially committed and therefore it would not behoove him to lie about anything. Nevertheless, no one possesses a perfect memory. We know, for instance, that police officers often get different versions of the same car accident from the interviewed witnesses. No, the odds are overwhelmingly high that Libby is in trouble merely for not having a memory as accurate as a tape recorder. This means that virtually none of us are safe if a prosecutor is intent in making our lives miserable. In a few hours, it may be Libby who is unjustly indicted. Tomorrow, it could be our turn.

Iran was the most dangerous threat, not Iraq?

On 9/11 +1 I began advising anyone who would listen (i.e., no one) that the US government had an opportunity to attack the sources of major dangers in the Middle East and I recommended (to empty air) that the first target ought to be Iran.

Governments of democracies surely, and probably nations having other kinds of governments as well, have, in most times, difficulty moving the nation to war. A good example of this is given in Churchill's "Gathering Storm." Churchill tells us that, in English politics, he ranted and raved, warning of the rise of Nazism in Germany, and insufficiently many people listened. Had Great Britain and France, or just France alone, acted when Hitler occupied the Rhineland in March 1936, in breach of the Versailles Treaty (forced) and Treaty of Locarno (freely-negotiated), Hitler's career might have been forced into a quite different path than it actually took. Perhaps Mein Kampf was not a sufficiently obvious warning to the French of Hitler's intentions and capabilities. Without France, Great Britain could do nothing.

By the time Hitler went after Czechoslovakia, it was obvious to some that this was likely to be the last time France and Great Britain, assisted as they were by the USSR and Czechoslovakia, would be able to have a clear military superiority over Germany. Yet, Neville Chamberlain, leading the others, caved in and bought, so he thought, "peace in our times."

Avoidance of war even when war seems the rational course, seems a pattern of democracies. I suspect that the pattern is modulated by biology. War is avoided, by the populace, when its proportion of warrior-aged men is low enough. War being more likely otherwise. But, we, in the West, have been in a long period of low birth rates, and getting the US to go to war takes something like a Pearl Harbor. And we see today that even that is not enough to sustain a war mood for long.

Had I been imperial consul of the US forces on 9/12, I would NOT have wasted time, and the limited duration of war mania, on Afghanistan or Iraq. I would have PRETENDED to go after Afghanistan. I would have, assuming of course that clearer and superior minds had not dissuaded me, issued an ultimatum to Iran to clear the way for US troops to move from the Persian Gulf into Afghanistan. And, by the way, open your nuclear facilities to inspection by US experts. Had Iran complied, and been found to not have a significant nuclear program, well and good, on to Kabul. But, more likely, Iran would have spat in the face of the US ambassador and I would have had my war. And I would have moved the US as swiftly as my kicking of ass could make it move (probably I would have had to fire Colin Powell). One of my eyes would have been on the clock. War moods do not last forever. Not in a population which is fat and happy, having insufficient fears to re-stir martial, patriotic emotions.

My attack would have been, initially, more costly than was the invasion of Iraq. But, the main danger would have been dealt with first. Afghanistan hardly counts and Iraq would have been more easily intimidated once its much stronger neighbor had been humbled.

Attacking Afghanistan was the weakest of the three options. Weak not only in required effort but in results. Iraq was second weakest. In my present understanding, it seems to me that the US moved in the wrong order, squandering the period of martial emotions on the easiest problem. And now, we cannot complete the job because the will of the people has, as predicted, waned.

Iran can shut down the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf, the jugular vein of the hated West. With nuclear armed missiles some crazy Iranians (do you think, possibly, some of them are?) might think they can do this with near impunity. I do not know what we can now do about this growing threat.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Very possibly one of the most offensive things I've ever seen

... at least published under someone's own name. What am I talking about? This image, a photoshopped caricature of Maryland Lt Governor Michael S. Steele (R). The caption? "I's Simple Sambo and I's runnin' for the Big House."

What's the source? A Ku Klux Klan website? No. Aryan Nation? No. Neo-Nazis? Nope.

It's a blog called The News Blog, in an article entitled "Simple Sambo wants to move to the big house". A blog that blogrolls, erm, Daily Kos, Atrios, Iraq Casualty Count, and Uggabugga.

Now, I realize this is a cliché, but can you imagine the furor if, say, RightWingNutHouse had run an article last year calling Kweisi Mfume "Sambo"?

But that's okay ... I'm sure some of their best friends are ni --- er, African-Americans.

Update: Spelling fixed thanks to flenser's notice.

Looking In On The Left

I have to admit that I spend less and less time looking ar the left wing blogs and web sites as time goes by. The same goes for the various "paleo-right" blogs, like Lew Rockwell. Virtually all of these people no longer seem to have anything worthwhile to say about the pressing issues affecting the country and the world. Still, I feel a certain obligation to check in on them every few months, just in case they have come up with an interesting answer to some question, or even some interesting question to be answered.

When I heard that The New Republic, which has the reputation as being a little more moderate and reasonable than other publications across the aisle, had begun a new group blog, I headed on over. The Plank, as its called, seems to be trying to follow the format used at NRO's The Corner, although it's less a comment string than The Corner is. As at The Corner, no commenting is allowed.

The group blog format seems to grow more and more popular. It allows individual bloggers to take a day or two off, of course. It also allows for the many members to support each other, in contrast to the poor solitary blogger who may by turns feel ignored or beleaguered. The warm camaraderie of our own humble blog is an example of this support system. And a group blog can be a place where opposing ideas are thrashed out in one place, without having to search the web for a different opinion.

So how does The Plank rate? This is from one of the first posts, and is something of a "mission-statement".

The New Republic has done its fair share to invent and reinvent opinion journalism in this country. And we've had our share of success in the blogoshpere. But blogs, like TV shows, can't (or perhaps shouldn't) live forever. So, we're trying to mix up the lineup. You can expect The Plank to satisfy your procrastination jones about six times a day--and a few times more when we can gloat over the jailing of political enemies.

That they mean this seriously is shown in an early post, How You Can Help Scooter And Karl, in which Franklin Foer pleasures himself with the thought of Libby and/or Rove going to jail. Another post, Scooter On Ice, follows on in the same vein.

Elevating the tone a little, Noam Scheiber surveys the state of journalism and notes the following;

People who work at conservative think tanks or receive conservative foundation money, even people who work at conservative media outlets, risk having the plug pulled if they deviate too far from the party line. All it really takes is a phone call from Karl Rove's office to a wealthy right-wing philanthropist and you could wind up on the street. But when you work at, say, The Washington Post, you know you're going to get that next pay check whether Rove likes your latest column or not.

Of course, this is nonsense. If you work for the Washington Post and Karl Rove likes your work, you will probably not work at the Post very long. Witness all the hard hitting exposes the paper has done on "The Lies of Joseph Wilson".

Giving us a more useful insight into the thoughts of our sinister friends, Michal Crowley discusses the different tacks being taken on Iraq by the Democratic presidential contenders.

Viewed through a 2008 presidential political lens, that places the two of them [Kerry and Feingold] both on the fomenting left flank of Hillary Clinton, who continues to infuriate anti-war liberals with her stubborn stay-the-course position. As more and more Democrats adopt the Kerry-Feingold slow-withdrawal line, will Hillary be able to hold out? No one knows. But the answer may largely define the 2008 Democratic primaries.

While The New Republic magazine endorsed the Iraqi war, The Plank is strongly opposed to it. Several print magazines have an online presence or blog, but none that I know of have such a fundamental difference in opinion between the two.

So whats the overall verdict on The Plank? It is clear that the left has yet to "move on" and that they are content to recycle old and discredited ideas to each other. That is, I don't see any evidence that ideas are bubbling and fermenting over there. And the general tone is pretty juvenile - a PG rated version of Democratic Underground. On the other hand, it does give a glimpse into the mindset of the people who make up the intellectual/activist base of the Democratic party, which will be useful information as we approach the next elections.

The Miers Nomination: Reviewing the Blogosphere As A Gauge of Important Public Opinion

I had a thought this morning as I was absorbing the news that Harriet Miers bowed to the inevitable and submitted her letter of withdrawal to the White House.

The thought was that the Blogosphere is now an important tool for the sophisticated and accurate measurement of important public opinion and is potentially much more valuable in this regard than traditional polling.

I have neither education nor experience in statistics or public opinion sampling techniques. What follows has only the Yogi Berra stamp of approval, "You can see a lot just by looking".

Any practitioner of the art of Political Science who followed Yogi's first law of observation would have seen the following phenomena after the nomination of Harriet Miers:
  • An immediate and nearly simultaneous expression of disappointment and outrage from a plethora of influential bloggers who have made their bones since September 11, 2001 as fervent supporters (albeit not uncritically so) of George W. Bush. This was either orchestrated by some hitherto unseen diabolical hand or was genuine and sincere.
  • An expression of caution from a smaller coterie of similarly supportive bloggers and commenters on the above-mentioned outraged bloggers' sites, urging the outraged to keep their powder dry and give the nominee a chance.
  • Two (count em, that is two) bloggers of stature with unblemished Bush-supporting credentials, to wit, viz Hewitt and Beldar, who valiantly and positively supported the nominee.

This state of affairs did not change during the several week period between nomination and withdrawal as more and more information surfaced on the heretofore somewhat obscure nominee.

Anyone having a familiarity with the personalities, geographic distribution, political leanings, age, and gender of the bloggers in question had information on a very interesting segment of the population: Those who take time to read about current affairs and articulate their reactions to what they read about them. Generally a cross section of opinion leaders throughout the country.

This is far more information than gleaned from reading leading Washington Pundits and even local editors. One sees variations on themes in the blogosphere, not lock step letters to senators written by lobbyists and their P.R. firms.

You get grass roots exchanges of views if you want to look for them. And you can evaluate them qualitatively as well as quantitatively. No push polling and no other shenanigans by the pollsters.

Pretty valuable information it seems to me.

Be careful what you wish for ...

... because Harriet Miers might just withdraw. I make no judgement about Miers per se; I've got no idea how I'd pick a nominee, nor any opinion about her legal skills. But observe the politics: within minutes, there were statements from the usual Democratic Party suspects to the effect that the President had given in to the extreme right wing --- statements against which it will be very difficult to argue. If the President's next nominee is anywhere to the right of Noam Chomsky, expect a "Borking" like nothing ever seen before. The "gang of 14" compromise may or may not come apart, but it's going to be very difficult for, say, Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to vote for the "nuclear option".

Since I don't have an informed opinion about Miers, I can't have an informed opinion about whether this was the best thing to do. All I can say is that these other consquences, now, follow as inexorably as billiard balls, click-click-click.

* * *

The word "karma" is widely misunderstood in the West. It doesn't mean "fate" or predestination in some theological sense; it means "action" and is best translated as "causation" or "cause and effect." One acts, and the consequences follow, not because of an outside force, but because that's the nature of things.

If those consequences are undesirable, well, that's just karma.

Harriet Miers is no longer a Supreme Court nominee

The Bush administration is very fortunate. Harriet Miers will no longer be a nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. A number of people like myself changed their mind about her. We are the type of individuals who go out of our way to be fair and worried about the possible repercussion’s of the candidate’s withdrawal. In other words, when Miers lost my support---her candidacy was in real bad shape.

Ms. Miers was not taken to task for being a woman, or somebody who did not attend one of so-called elite universities. I was far more concerned about her apparent lack of interest regarding Constitutional law matters after she graduated. Miers also seemed to be an intellectual chameleon who changed her mind to simply satisfy those around her. I do not trust her. And I strongly believe that I’m justified in doing so.

Let us hope that President Bush will pick someone far less risky. He’s been giving a golden opportunity. I think his next nominee will have little difficulty in getting confirmed.

Apparently, I'm a coward.

Hehehe... via Three Rounds Brisk I found the Which Historic General Are You? Test. In light of MeaninglessHotAir's Grant v Sherman thread there was no way I could pass up taking it.

Turns out I'm a cowardly Julius Ceasar. I scored 15% on unorthodoxity (is that a word?), 55% on ruthlessness, 86% on tactics and a whopping 0% on Guts. Look at the bright side, if we ever share a foxhole together you'll have plenty of elbow room after I skeedaddle.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Recursion: see "recursion"

We recently got a nice mention from neo-neocon, who found us from Dymphna's kind article in Gates of Vienna, which led neo-neocon to read ambisinistral's post on the "girl from Ipanema". This led us to blogroll Gates of Vienna as well as mentioning the post itself.

And, of course, to posting about the whole chain of associations.

All of which is perhaps only vaguely interesting, but the thought of some poor web spider coming along to this post amuses me so much that I couldn't resist.

Those Crazy Iranians

One of my regular stops on my visits around the internet is to Pastorius at CUANAS.

He is America's answer to Melanie Phillips for his relentless pursuit of stories on the new antisemitism. Today he has a post on the latest statement from the President of Iran, a call on Muslims to "wipe Israel off the map", given to a group of "students" at a World Without Zionism conference.

While we've heard such rhetoric from Iran on a regular basis, it always steals my breath to hear this from a top leader. He means it, doesnt' he?

Pastorius obviously thinks so. He notes:

Previously, one of the highest ruling clerics in the state of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, said the following:

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world. Jews shall expect to be once again scattered and wandering around the globe the day when this appendix is extracted from the region and the Muslim world."

He means that, folks. You know how I know? It's not just because I'm some crazy neocon. It's because, in threatening Israel with nuclear annihilation, he also speaks of the consequence to his own people. In other words he's not just idly thinking about nuking Israel. He's in the planning stages.

This is why we must put an end to the Iranian regime. There are no if's, and's, or but's about this. We can not allow such a government to exist.

This got me wondering if others would agree with Pastorius' psychoanalysis.

I also wanted to see if the major news services I sometimes visit are reporting this story. It appears Pastorius picked up the story from Yahoo news. What about elsewhere?

CBC: could not find any story
Drudge: could not find any story
CNN: could not find any story. Though on Oct.24 they posted this baby:
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) -- U.S. special forces dart through Iran's underground nuclear facilities, gunning down any hapless Iranians standing between them and centrifuges that must be blown to bits.

Much to Tehran's relief, this crack team exists only in a new U.S. computer game. But even these animated saboteurs are too close for comfort, downloadable into Iranian living rooms at the click of a mouse.

The cyberspace troopers have sparked bitter press comment in Iran and a petition asking that the game be shelved.

"Americans have a deep craving for an attack against Iran, but they are going to have to settle for this make-believe assault," wrote the Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed directly by Iran's Supreme Leader.

BBC News: story not on front page; you must find it by going to the Middle East page where
The story is presented from the Israeli perspective as if an accusation is being made against Iran. BBC reports that:
Correspondents say this was the first time in years that such a high-ranking Iranian official had called for Israel's eradication, although such slogans are still regularly used at regime rallies.

Can anyone verify this last claim - "first time in years"?

Google News: story not on front page; story presently on the World News page, with lead link to BBC story, headlined "Israel warns of Tehran 'danger'" Those scare quotes around danger appear in the original BBC headline.

Fox News: Story appears on front page Iranian Leader: Israel Will Be Destroyed

So dear reader, it is easy to gain some understanding how the various news organizations react to such stories. Some clearly don't take the threat too seriously. Maybe they think the Iranians are just crazy; or perhaps certain journalists and editors concerned have just given up any concern or hope for Israel.

My advice is to keep an eye on Pastorius for news. But the larger question: how seriously do you take Iran, and would you support the US in destroying Iran before it destroys Israel? Or do we have to begin thinking about saving Jews from a world without Israel?


I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. - Thomas Jefferson

VDH Blows It

While in the bookstore the other night I picked up a book on military history of some sort by Victor Davis Hanson. He has many; I've never read any of them. I know VDH from his Internet persona as one of the few remaining sane intellectuals of national prominence. A man who doesn't believe, for example, that the need for military preparedness is a figment of our imaginations. As a blogger/columnist, he's one of the greats. How is he as an historian? I had to find out.

The page I happened to open contained a discussion of Union generals in the Civil War. I like VDH, but the scientist in me wants proof of all assumptions. My assumption was that he is historically astute. But I have little knowledge of his specialty, ancient Greece, and cannot judge his historical acuity there. I was therefore all the more eager to read his assessment of the Union war strategy, a subject upon which I have significant knowledge and my own considered opinions. I discovered that what I was reading would be more acurately termed a paean to General Sherman. Now I agree with VDH that General Sherman was a great man. That is in contradiction to the received wisdom that he was an early version of Adolph Hitler. But we live in a fatuous age and mere opposition to that fatuity cannot confer authority. VDH and I agree that General Sherman was absolutely essential to the winning of the war. But VDH and I disagree sharply beyond that, because VDH paints a portrait of Sherman as the great victor of the war, all by himself. That's just wrong.

Grant, Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, Sheridan, and Sherman were all working together like clockwork at the end of the war. In my view, it was that teamwork itself which won the war. Each of these men had a part to play, each of these parts was an essential part, and the war effort would probably have failed if any one of these men had failed in his tasks, but it was the formidable combination of all of them working together in disparate ways which ultimately spelled the doom of the Confederacy.

The great enigma of the Union effort--of the war itself--is General Ulysses S. Grant. He is a difficult figure to get ahold of historically. Undoubtedly drunk in his early career, a clear failure at business before the war, probably still drinking during his exemplary western campaign (although this point is controversial), the "butcher" of Cold Harbor, and by many accounts a failure as President, it is rather difficult for many to impute any good to him at all. The human mind is ever grasping at simplifications lest it drown in the pool of reality. The human mind balks at complicated characters who are both good and bad, who are heroes in one domain whilst they are zeroes in others. Yet such are many of the real people in history and we do ourselves and our humanity a grave disservice when we avert our eyes from this truth. The easiest way to view Grant is as a failure through and through, a man who simply got lucky here and there and happened to be at the head of a vast legion when that legion won the war (that's a paraphrase of Grant's own assessment of himself in his memoirs, by the way). That's the easy path, but it's fatuous, it's wrong, it's a model that cannot account for all of the facts. Yet it's the exit chosen by VDH when he decides to pin the winner's star on Sherman.

One simple proof that there had to be more to General Grant than luck piled upon failure lies in his memoirs themselves. They are one of the crowning achievements of English literature. Not just American literature, English literature. If you haven't read them you should go out and buy a copy today. Probably no greater military memoir written by the victorious general has ever been written in any language, barring Julius Caesar's History of the Gallic Wars. Say what you will of the shallowness of writers, the truth is that almost all great writers are great thinkers on some level and General Grant was no exception.

VDH's account of Sherman's later campaigns plays a game with which I am familiar from our friends in the MSM. The facts are all there, and they are all correct. But everything has been passed through a proverbial distortion filter. What was unimportant is blown out of all proportion and what is important is trivialized. For example, Sherman's march to the Atlantic coast was Sherman's idea and Grant did initially oppose it. Fact. However, VDH fails to note that similar ideas had been proposed by Grant to the War Department for years, falling inevitably on deaf ears, in the form of a march on Mobile. After a brief discussion, Grant was persuaded of Sherman's point of view. And to my mind this is the significant point here, namely, the remarkable relationship between these two men, a relationship formed by complete and implicit trust and the highest mutual respect. Neither man ever uttered a word that did not contain the highest praise for the other. It was that rock-solid bond of trust and respect which formed the backbone of the final Union effort, which allowed widely disconnected Union armies to cooperate on a continental scale for the first time in history. The Confederacy simply couldn't withstand the hammer blows coming from both sides simultaneously. Their effort was noble, but no country could have managed it. It was the first and best example of the sheer mind-blowing power of the modern American army when it fires on all cylinders in sync.

I would have to write a book to justify my beliefs about General Grant and Sherman. Suffice it to say that VDH, while highly intelligent, factual, and honest, doesn't always get it right. Read him with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Just a reminder...

It is not criminal to lie to the press.

Whether it's Cheney, 'sources close to the investigation', or Wilson.

Just saying...

More: There's something else to keep in mind.

Not only is there fibbing, lying, spin, and misrepresentation, there is also disinformation for a purpose.
Everything we know about Valery is from the press, and a little about her involvement in Joe's being sent to Niger from the SSCI report.

That's it.

Even the 'fact' that she's not worked outside the country in over 5 years could be disinformation. Nobody official has confirmed it.

It's stuff like that which is keeping everyone on edge. Because very little we think we know about this whole affair do we actually know.

And I'm not implying that we should be super cynical about everything we read. We have to build our own narratives from the only sources available to us, and the majority of facts we come across can be independently verified.

So that's not really so much of a problem.

It is the situations where there's no real method of independently verifying something where we can be misled.

Shifting Sands 4 - Good News From Maryland

Maryland has an open Senate race coming up in '06. Michael Steele announced today that he would seek the Republican nomination. While Maryland is a strongly Democratic state, Steele has already won a statewide election to his current position of Lt. Governor. His probable opponent will be either Kweisi Mfume or Benjamin Cardin. Cardin has the probable edge and would be a tougher opponent.

I've been hoping that Steele would seek this seat. As this WaPo article indicates, Steele is a man with many talents and the ability to articulate a coherent vision. Given that Ken Mehlman is a Marylander with strong interest in this seat, it is very probable that Steele will not have any problems raising money.

It's no accident that Shumer's staff broke privacy laws in order to try and dig up dirt on him. Hopefully the staff members will be watching his election from nice comfortable cells.

Mr Tenet, a candlestick, in the library.

Dr Sanity and Michael Barone have more to say about the "Plame name flame blame game."

Never underestimate the power of sucking up.

Gates of Vienna.

Things one doesn't hear much about

From the All disaster all the time DeMSM.

I dropped in to the Jim Miller On Politics blog and noticed his brief comments on this NYT Letter to the editor, Industry, Not In Decline, submitted by David Huether who is the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.

In his brief letter Mr. Huether states that

...United States manufacturers last year set records for both production and exports...

So I went poking around the NAM site and found this little table and chart of Total Manufacturing Production (presumably US totals) which seems to indicated quite healthy levels of US manufacturing growth in the period 9/03 through 9/05.

So I did a quick google scan to see if there were many reports about a two year period of growth in US manufacturing. Nothing I could easily detect other than some articles about productivity growth in US manufacturing. Is the focus on productivity growth more important or is it simply a way for the DeMSM to position manufacturing growth as "jobless"?

Was anyone aware that between 2000 and 2003 US exports of steel rose from 5.5 million tons to 8 million tons (+~2/3)? It did, or at least so reported SFGate in May of 2004 (the most recent news report of growth in US exports of steel).

Did you know that the US is the world's third largest producer of cement (behind China and India) yet typically imports cement and rarely exports more than 1% or national production? Cement exports are, however, growing. (Well, the "hydraulic" variety anyway - pretty sure that means cement that isn't yet concrete and needs water added which is, to the best of my limited knowledge, pretty much all cement.) The US is apparently feeling the pinch in cement supply due to the building boom in China. Is there some reason US cement producers don't seem to be ramping up exports?

Well, anyway, in this climate of all disasters all the time we rarely hear about little matters like growing (record setting) manufacturing, large rises in steel exports, or the world's third largest cement industry that seems uninterested in exporting to meet global demand.

Update: Here's a somewhat related article in the Economist, From accelerator to brake, that suggests that China has become such a huge consumer and producer of commodoties that her economic hiccups have large ramifications.

Too Real

I have a neighbor who is worried about Avian Flu. Lots of people are; it's in the air and on the airwaves. There's just one thing: plague, endemic among rodents in the Rocky Mountains, has now broken out among the prairie dogs living cheek by jowl among the people right in the city limits of Boulder. Plague is a real disease that kills real people. And it's right here, right now. Want something to worry about? If you live in Boulder, it's rational to worry about plague. Avian Flu is a hypothetical disease which might at some point in the future cross the species barrier and might or might not be virulent. And it's on the other side of the world. And that's the point.

There was an outbreak of plague in Santa Fe that killed a bunch of people some years ago, coming into the human population from the critter population. You don't hear too much about that. Nor, I expect, did you hear about the plague breaking out among the prairie dogs right next to people's houses in Boulder. Like the Oklahoma City possibly Muslim bomber, certain facts seem to get suppressed. Not necessarily because the press is nefarious but because the audience really doesn't want to hear it. Being scared of things far away and highly implausible is far more satisfying than contemplating the dangers that lurk right around the corner or right at our feet.

This excellent article in today's New York Times by a physician makes the same point. Instead of the danger of plague, she focusses on dangers more endemic to New York, such as AIDS and emphysema.
Just in time for Halloween, the usual yearly ritual of terror by headline is now playing itself out in medical offices everywhere. Last year it revolved around flu shots; a few years ago it was anthrax and smallpox; a few years before that it was the "flesh-eating bacteria"; and before that it was Ebola virus, and Lyme disease and so on back into the distant past. This year it's the avian flu....

A few years ago, a young woman waited patiently to be seen in our office after hours. She was a patient of one of my colleagues, but she couldn't wait for their scheduled appointment; she needed to see someone right away.

"I'm worried I have Lyme disease," she said. "I have all the symptoms. I think I need to be treated."

"But you have AIDS," I said.

"I'm tired and weak and I have fevers and sweats. I've lost my appetite. I can't think straight. I'm losing so much weight!"

She had seen a TV news report on Lyme disease, and then she had checked the Internet. All her symptoms were right there.

"But you have AIDS," I said. "And you don't want to take meds. That's why you're feeling so bad."

"I'm really scared about Lyme disease," she said. "I really need to get treated."

"If you want to be scared, how about that untreated AIDS of yours?"....

Eventually she coerced my colleague into testing her for Lyme disease and treating her despite negative tests. Then she decided her symptoms might actually be due to a brain tumor, instead. And so it went, until she died of AIDS.....

If you want something to be scared of, how about the drug-resistant Klebsiella that is all over this very hospital, an ordinary run-of-the-mill bacterial strain that has become so resistant to so many antibiotics that we've had to resurrect a few we stopped using 30 years ago because they were so toxic.

That Klebsiella is one scary germ. It's in hospitals all over the country, and by now it's probably killed a thousandfold more people than the avian flu.

But you don't hear much about our Klebsiella. Like our bad habits and our dismally insoluble health insurance tangles, our antibiotic-resistant bacteria are with us, right here, right now. Apparently they all lack the drama, the suspense, the titillating worst-case situations that energize our politicians and turn into a really newsworthy health care scare.

They're all just too real.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Gödel's Theorem Invalid?

A paper recently made available on Arxiv claims to have found a contradiction in Gödel's proof of his most famous theorem, that the metamathematical system of Whitehead and Russel is incomplete (ie, there exist sentences that can neither be proven true nor proven false.)

I haven't read the paper, and I've got to admit that it seems very unlikely. But it's interesting to consider it at least.

It's Bernanke

A new man has been chosen by President Bush for the position of most-powerful-man-in-the-world, Ben Bernanke.

My question is, how long will it be till: a) charges of "cronyism" are spread all over the internet by perfidious Democrats (or will they avoid that in this case because he's a man, one with the requisite elitist credentials?), and b) he is character-assassinated by countless bloggers who have no particular knowledge of him or his background but who believe that they worked hard for Bush's nomination and are therefore entitled to overrule Bush on this matter?

Shall we start a betting pool?

Darn! I hate when this happens

Tests of Fabled Archimedes Death Ray Fail.

If you aren't familiar with the legend of Archimedes and his Death Ray just click that link back there. Well, at least the ol' boy is still well and truly screwed.

Mr Gobley on our "Far-flung family"

We know, in our hearts --
Those very hearts
That dance to signals
From beyond --

That we are not alone.

What will we say?
What will we think,
When we open our books
For the first time
After our far-flung family

( Mr Gobley on 2005/10/24.)

Bird Brain Queries Bird Lovers

This could be just a wild statistical outlier but I thought I'd ask here since there are several bird lovers among the Yargbian contributors.

Over the past roughly 15 years I've noticed approximately 10 or fewer instances of birds crashing into windows on my house. It is an unusual event but I've learned the sound of it. It typically, if not almost exclusively, happens in the spring on very lovely days when I've recently cleaned the windows.

I have a picture window at the front and another at the rear that, during excellent weather conditions combined with clean windows (a rarity - I am not a compulsive window washer) produce the effect of being able to look in one side of the house and out the other as if it were a tunnel. All the bird strikes to date (well, prior to the past few days anyway) that I have been aware of are from birds attempting to navigate this "tunnel".

Over the course of the past weekend, however, no fewer than five birds have crashed into windows on my house and only two of those have been into the windows that create the "tunnel effect". The others have been into windows I have never before noticed birds crashing into. (I realize it may have happened hundreds of times that I am unaware of.) This means that roughly one third of the birds strikes of which I am aware have happened in the past 72 or so hours with the other two-thirds scattered over 15 or more years. This is not a case of being home for a larger number of hours or paying any greater than normal attention.

Lest the ladies and gents become overly concerned, these bird strikes almost never result in avian death. IIRC I've only had to bury one of the feathery critter crashers (from window strikes anyway - we won't talk about the one summer I tried to use netting to save my blueberries from the sharp-eyed, feather-wearing flocks). They normally fall to the ground and twitch about dazed and confused for a minute or two and then resume their flighty lives.

If anyone can offer a clue about this I'd be interested to hear it.

From Commenter Pan to Blogger Fire

Valery is the only agent in the world who has been officially outed three

Some people just don't know when to quit.

Is that a joke? Well, obviously not. It is a comment I left in some thread at Tom Maguire's place. Granted, my comments are usually longer and a bit more thoughtful. But, the deal is, I'm trying to become a blogger instead of just a commenter.

And I'm finding it difficult.

Except for the occasional flight of fancy, a blog post that consists of only the first two sentences up there is not what I'm aiming for. They'd make a good introduction to a little screed but wouldn't cut it as an entire post.

Well, sometimes a post with limited words works. 'Indeed' has already been claimed though. (But, please note, I've been using 'heh' in email and forum postings for 18 years and I'm not going to stop now.)

I'm afraid of an overly breezy style for my blogging and tend to over work each and every blog post I've ever written. So worried about all the prepositional phrases, I find I've missed something important.

Like a point.

Like flow.

This happens with my artwork too. Overworking a scene is a bad habit of mine. I think I'm in the process of doing these things right here right now.

And it's like I feel I should back up every sentence with a link to prove I'm not making it up, and give readers something to do besides look at my words. Yes, a little exaggeration, but putting the occasional link in a comment is quite different from the way links are usually used in blog postings. The main difference is blog postings often have more of them. Now where the hell did I see that article?

What's worse, I now preview before I post. What a concept. But I rarely preview when commenting....I just type and post. Preview is scary. It's a psychological ploy to force you to do even more editing. Because it's the final ultimate last chance before your typos are shown to the world. It keeps you in the vicious cycle of preview-edit-preview-edit-preview until the cat demands her dinner and you finally, holding your breath, hit the 'Publish Post' button.

But a true blogger wouldn't dare not preview. I guess this trial-by-preview-fire is simply part of the transition from commenter to blogger.

But, even though it doesn't sound like it, this isn't about me. And I'm not fishing for anything. All of us here at YARGB started our lives as commenters only. And we've all been commenting in the blogosphere for quite a while. This blog posting stuff is/was new to all of us.

Just wondering how the transition feels to you all, and anyone else who might be interested.

Note: Aaarrrghhh. I never had to come up with titles before.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Will "Fitzmas" be a Disappointment?

It seems a little to nice, and pat, to be true, but macsmind has a very interesting line of speculation going. His notion: that Fitzgerald is not going to indict Libby or Rove, but might indict CIA people involved in a purposeful attempt to run a rogue operation intended to contravene the aims of the President's foreign policy and prevent his re-election.

It sounds crazy, but think about it:
  • The President's father is a former DCI. He knows what the CIA bureacracy can do.
  • The late DCI, George Tenet, insead of becoming the "fall guy" for 9/11, was allowed to retire and even received a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Despite the fact that he was appointed by the previous president, and had Democratic political connections.
  • The notion that "outing Valerie" was the major issue depends on increasingly narrow, peculiar interpretations of various laws, not the least of them being the "Agee law" --- the "identities protection" provisions of the Intelligence Act of 1980. Syl and I have had a running discussion on this elsewhere, but I persist in thinking that Plame was not "covert" under the terms of the Act. Mark Kleiman seems to feel that the Espionage Act applies, but …
  • the example of Daniel Ellsberg and a thousand leaks by a hundred legislators seem to suggest that applying the Espionage Act to a leak to a member of the press would be nearly impossible. (Judges, whatever else they may be, are still men. The political pressure would be intense, bipartisan, and bicameral.)
  • However, the possibility that indictments might be made against CIA members under the Espionage Act seems rather better. Cliff Kincaid at the National Ledger makes a similar argument.
If one were writing a political thriller, it would have some attractive aspects. The President, under attack by a cabal of politically connected CIA members and activist Democrats, maybe motivated by a combination of outrage at a "stolen" election, a strong sense of their superior understanding of the situation, and a narcissistic sense of entitlement. The President's father, ex-Director of Central Intelligence and as much of a bureaucratic insider as his son is an outsider. The then-current DCI, given a choice of aiding the President by becoming the president's "mole" and getting to retire, or opposing him and being fired and blamed for 9/11 --- and very possibly just as personally angry about it as the President would be, since it appears he was blindsided by the Wilson op-ed as much as anyone else.

A pseudo-scandal initially arising from a CIA request to the Justice Department.

A "covert operative" who turns out to be an analyst in WMD areas --- and her husband, who lied about the way he got the assignment, lied in print about his findings, and who was apparently a source for many poeple at the New York Times.

In a novel, the denouement of this story would be when the Marshalls and FBI arrive, arresting the rogue diplomat, his beautiful co-conspirator wife, and one or a few more people higher up in CIA, along with some powerful political operatives of the opposing party --- on testimony of the ex-DCI, a journalist who was burned by her sources, and with circumstantial evidence provided by disinformation injected into information flow and nicely tagged to reveal who learned it and from whom.

It's neat. Almost too neat. Unlike fiction, real life is often neither dramatic, nor believable.

But the rumors persist that the indictments won't be what's expected.

Update: Chris Matthews, who's as connected as anyone in Washington I'll bet, is making the Ellsberg connection. He does so in the context of what Nixon's people did to discredit Ellsberg, but ... why Ellsberg and not McGovern?

Further Update:JustOneMinute has more interesting ideas and speculation.

How important are the pundits?

Recently a friend of mine said she was not interested in political news because when it got right down to it, there was a not a dime's worth of difference between these people...they all had more in common with each other than with us.

It is hard to argue with that these days.

In the midst of the Miers cat fight I have to wonder who these "critics" are.

George Will was the man who called Bush 1 a lap dog and through sheer disdain helped make Bill Clinton president.

Krauthammer and Kristol were [not so long ago] McCain supporters. That would be the McCain of the McCain Feingold Act and the infamous Gang of 14.

Bob Novak helped create the whole Plame/Flame/Wilson debacle.

I am old enough to remember when the pundits loved Souter and had "grave doubts" about Thomas. So much for consistency.

Has the internet with its political blogs made the pundits more important and how many people really care what they say?

In other words when we hear the words "fury and tempest" from pundits..who are these people and who elected them to anything? Where exactly does their influence come from?

I know right now I think that maybe my friend was a lot more right than I gave her credit for at the time.

I think George Will and Maureen Dowd...Charles Krauthammer and Paul Krugman have a lot more in common with each other than they do the rest of us. In fact I would say their most enduring quality is ego.

And I think the internet, this medium right here has a lot to do with giving them an authority and a power they really do not deserve.

Bill Keller Confused About What To Do

The Times is still obsessed over WMD.

In a memo to staff, leaked to the AP, Bill Keller reveals a problem and a scapegoat.

I wish we had dealt with the controversy over our coverage of
WMD as soon as I became executive editor.
And along came Wilson. He was their hero. Wilson claimed he had debunked the Niger uranium claim and that the administration had ignored his report. He further claimed that Bush had hyped the intelligence and
misled us into war. While quietly blaming Judith Miller, who had done most of the WMD reporting, the paper could worship Wilson. See! This is how the Times could have printed all those WMD articles that turned out to be wrong. It's Bush's fault!

"Oh, you're the one who saved our paper!". Remember that?

The Times was so concerned with criticism over WMD reporting, that they ignored criticism from the other direction (Look at Wilson! Explain Kristoff!) and it seems to have fubarred their judgment.

Wilson's right! The Administration is being vindictive! Judy betrayed us by not sticking it to Libby!

And this blame of Judy boils over and out into the open after her testimony in the Plame affair. The staff begin to sound like little Dowd clones. Both Maureen in her piece (firewall), and the Times reporters who dissed Judy a week ago, insinuate that Judy wasn't forthcoming and was too vague with her testimony.

But what is alarming from our newspaper of record, and to First Amendment proponents, is this quote from Keller's memo:
But if I had known the details of Judy's entanglement with Libby, I'd have been more careful in how the paper articulated its defense, and perhaps more willing than I had been to support efforts aimed at exploring compromises.
Is he willing to entertain the possibility of throwing a source to the dogs if he learns that a reporter actually, you know, had a source?

That a source was government friendly, that he didn't know Judy was talking with him, that his reporter is more of an independent cat than an obedient dog, means that this particular source need not be protected?

He's perfectly willing to assume as fact that Judy was in essence lying to Taubman when she told him she was not on the receiving end of what he calls "an anti-Wilson whispering campaign."

Mr. Keller, if there was no whispering campaign, Judy couldn't have been on the receiving end.

Oh, you're relying on her notes too?

The first 'lesson' you should learn from this is: train your reporters to take better notes.

The second is that your anger is directed at the wrong person. Are you afraid of taking a critical look at what Wilson told Kristoff and wrote in his op-ed? Are you willing to examine the SSCI report and take some notes on your own? The New York Times is happy to list the bi-partisan report in timelines, but are they willing to actually, you know, read it?

The Washington Post did.

But not a word from the Times.

Wilson was just too perfect as a savior and the paper is still using him as their template.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Harriet Miers should not be our next Supreme Court justice

I have changed my mind regarding Harriet Miers. She should not---and will not be confirmed. It is becoming more obvious that the well meaning George W. Bush does not have his act together in this particular instance. Previously, I thought Miers is a convinced legal originalist. This may still be the case. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t take the risk. We are now finding out that she apparently was a gung-ho affirmative action advocate. My fear is that Miers is an intellectual chameleon. She puts her finger into the wind and sees where the wind is blowing. I never held it against Miers that she did not obtain an “elite” education. This actually could be something positive. Unfortunately, it seems that she has done little informal reading of constitutional law after finishing school. Even Republican senators wanting to give her a chance are underwhelmed by her intellect. I presently can’t imagine her nomination getting out of committee.

The recent hullabaloo over Tom DeLay and the vicious attacks on Karl Rove and Scooter Libby should scare us all. In each and every case, we are witnessing a perversion of the legal process. Post modernist interpretations have replaced the original intentions of the lawmakers. There is never a solid guarantee regarding the final outcome of a Supreme Court nominee. Perhaps John Roberts may prove disappointing? Earl Warren and Harry Blackmun certainly were. President Eisenhower considered Warren one of the greatest mistakes of his entire life. It is prudent that we increase the odds in our favor. Harriet Miers is a long shot. President Bush can do a lot better.

No News Is Good News: Bird Flu, Shark Attacks, Chandra Levy and Iraq

When I was a medical student on my neurology clerkship in the early 70's, I had a number of patients suffering from post-encephalitic Parkinsonism, a condition thought at the time (though the connection has never been proved conclusively) to have been a very late consequence of the influenza pandemic of 1918. Having worked with these patients, I am disinclined to minimize the seriousness of any possible future flu pandemic.

Nonetheless, the flurry of stories in the past month about the threat of avian influenza (which may be a very real threat) seems to me possibly to indicate that we are beginning to achieve some success in Iraq.

When we begin to see heavy coverage of shark attacks, we will know we are well on the road to success in our goal of bringing democracy (I know, I know -- it won't be perfect) to the Middle East. And when we are compelled to read endless speculation about the fate of pretty interns, the battle will have been won.

In all seriousness, I am proposing a rough "metric" (and Donald Rumsfeld himself expressed a desire not long ago for such a tool) for judging our progress in Iraq, and the war against Islamic fascism in general:

Preponderance of stories about potentially real, but still speculative, threats (e.g., avian flu) = good progress

Preponderance of stories about threats which are real, but confined to those foolish enough to expose themselves to said threat (e.g., shark attack in shark-infested waters) = excellent progress.

Preponderance of stories about regrettable events which threaten no one, and affect only a few individuals and their families, but have some salacious interest to capture our attention (e.g. Chandra Levy) = more or less complete success.

Let me emphasize that I do not mean to minimize the seriousness of the threat of avian flu, and that I mean no disrespect to Jesse Arbogast and his family, still less to the late Chandra Levy and hers.

But it seems to me that a much more refined tool along the lines I suggest could actually provide Mr. Rumsfeld with his metric.

And it could provide ordinary readers like us with a kind of indirect "good news"* about our progress, which we certainly aren't going to get from our "mainstream" media.

*I once worked on a committee with a former editor of a local paper, who told me that among reporters the usual cliché is inverted to Good news is no news.