Observations on the world today.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

It's the Credibility, Stupid 

Yahoo! News - Pakistan: al-Qaida Official Hurt, Hiding
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A senior al-Qaida leader has been seriously wounded and is on the run, Pakistan's military spokesman said Saturday, while claiming that an operation to rid the western border areas of suspected terrorists has been a success.
Of course it has. We believe this. Why shouldn't we? After all, the Pakistani authority has been so reliable up to this point. *coff coff*

And just who is the senior al Qaida Official? Is it bin Laden? Al-Zawahri?
Recently gathered intelligence and eyewitness accounts indicate that al-Qaida commander Tahir Yuldash was badly wounded and is in hiding, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said. He admitted, though, that Pakistani forces are not close to capturing Yuldash.

"He might have slipped away, he's on the run," Sultan said.
Yuldash, also known as Tahir Yuldashev, is the leader of an Uzbek terror group — Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan ...
Wait, didn't they just say that he was al Qaida? Let me check back.
A senior al-Qaida leader has been seriously wounded and is on the run, Pakistan's military spokesman said Saturday
That's what I thought they said. Oh, wait, there's more to that last paragraph.
Yuldash, also known as Tahir Yuldashev, is the leader of an Uzbek terror group — Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — which Pakistani officials say has been subsumed by al-Qaida since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Ahh, I see.

Kudos Pakistan on almost getting a terrorist we never heard of in a group that probably doesn't mean too much anyway, but which you claim is now part of al Qaida. Keep up the good work. At least until George is ready for the big unveil in October.

Prioritizing the Presidency 

White House 2004

Look at these two graphs:

Graphics from pollingreport.com
I have no idea why Bush scored so well on National Security issues on the first poll. It really makes no sense. And if the Kerry people are good enough at using the spoils of the recent 9/11 hearings to their favor, hopefully even those numbers will change.

But the thing I want to note is that according to the second poll, national security and the war in Iraq are not as important to voters as the economy and healthcare respectively, and Kerry scored much better in both of those areas than Bush did. So if we weigh the issues on a sliding scale giving incremental points according to each issue's significance, we should see that Kerry should clearly be elected president on the merits alone. Right? Well, you'd think so anyway.

But let's see how the points play out. For the sake of this comparison, I'm calling terrorism and national security the same issue.

Jobs 35 points

Kerry 50% = 17.5 points
Bush 39% = 13.65 points

Terrorism/National security 22 points

Kerry 35% = 7.7 points
Bush 56% = 12.32 points

Health Care 16 points

Kerry 53% = 8.48 points
Bush 37% = 5.92 points

War in Iraq 11 points

Kerry 38% = 4.18 points
Bush 53% = 5.83 points

Education 8 points

Kerry 46% = 3.68 points
Bush 43% = 3.44 points

Taxes 5 points

Kerry 44% = 2.2 points
Bush 45% = 2.25 points


Kerry = 43.74 points
Bush = 43.41 points

That's too close.


Friday, March 26, 2004

How Specific is Specific Enough? 

Salon.com News | "We should have had orange or red-type of alert in June or July of 2001"
"President Bush said they had no specific information about Sept. 11, and that's accurate," says Edmonds. "But there was specific information about use of airplanes, that an attack was on the way two or three months beforehand and that several people were already in the country by May of 2001. They should've alerted the people to the threat we're facing."
Sibel Edmonds has been flying under the press' radar for long enough. It's time for them to start taking what she has to say seriously. CBS had her on the record last July but failed to follow up on her information. Probably because they failed to realize what the story was really about.
This is the story of hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign language documents that the FBI neglected to translate before and after the Sept.11 attacks because of problems in its language department - documents that detailed what the FBI heard on wiretaps and learned during interrogations of suspected terrorists.
Ummm, no. The story is not about what they failed to translate. It is about what they failed to do about what they had translated.

This story first broke yesterday on Tom Flocco:
Incredibly, Edmonds said "The Senate Judiciary Committee and the 911 Commission have heard me testify for lengthy periods of time time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weapons, and specific individuals and activities."
I wonder what terrible dirt Karl Rove will dig up on poor Sibel in the coming weeks.

Reason - We Don' Need No Stinkin' Reason  

Booking Bush
It is difficult to fault Clarke for arguing that administration officials, especially Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, sought to use Sept. 11 to advance an agenda of war against Iraq. This was amply documented in Bob Woodward's book Bush at War. However, what Wolfowitz's critics have ignored is that his effort to implicate Iraq was the cornerstone of an ambitious strategy for how to respond to the Al Qaeda attacks that, in his mind, addressed the fundamentals of the terrorism problem.

For Wolfowitz, the threat posed to the United States came less from Al Qaeda per se than from the environments allowing such groups to form. As the Bush administration gauged the impact of Sept. 11, policymakers split into two camps: those who argued that the US must respond narrowly against Al Qaeda and its supporters, namely the Taleban in Afghanistan; and those who sought a broader mandate to reshape Middle Eastern countries regarded as terrorist breeding grounds.
Later in the same article:
The last pillar, however, was the most interesting, and went to the heart of the strategy adopted by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and, ultimately, Bush. By intervening in the relationship between the brutish Iraqi regime and its long-suffering subjects, the US adopted a policy of enforced democratization. As far as the Bush administration was concerned, a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Arab world could become a liberal beacon in the region, prompting demands for openness and real reform inside neighboring states. Ridiculous you say? The Syrian regime, faced in the past two weeks with protests by individuals seeking greater freedom and a revolt by disgruntled Kurds, would surely disagree.
Herein lies the rub.

IF we are to believe that the Bush administration's best and truest reason for Invading Iraq was to start some dominoes theory of capitulation to democracy region-wide, should we not have first had a plan for how to democratize the region in place before the invasion?

Also from the article:
The weak link in the argument was, and remains, Palestine. If the American objective is Arab liberalism, then presumably the Palestinians deserve a share. However, insisting on this should not detract from the validity of the larger message, namely that the future of the Arab world, and its long-term stability, lies in a pluralistic Iraq.
Actually, I would say that this is more than a weak link. It is the lynchpin that has been pulled out allowing the whole chain to collapse. Especially in light of this:
The United Nations Security Council today failed to adopt a resolution that would have condemned the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, with the United States vetoing what it called a one-sided text.

The resolution, sponsored by Algeria and Libya, garnered 11 tallies in favour, with the United States casting the sole vote against it. Germany, Romania and the United Kingdom abstained.

Nice Trick 

Yahoo! News - GOP Moves to Declassify Clarke Testimony
In a highly unusual move, key Republicans in Congress are seeking to declassify testimony that former White House terrorism adviser Richard Clarke gave in 2002 about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Friday.

Frist said the intent was to determine whether Clarke lied under oath — either in 2002 or this week — when he appeared before a bipartisan Sept. 11 commission and sharply criticized President Bush's handling of the war on terror.

"Until you have him under oath both times you don't know," Frist said.
I smell the handiwork of Karl Rove.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and forecast that the testimony will not be declassified. They don't even want it declassified. They are doing this simply to plant the seed of doubt. The implication is all that they want, and the implication is clearly that there is a contradiction in Clarke's earlier testimony and his recent claims of Bush incompetance.

The democrats should jump on this NOW. "Yes," we should shout, "let's DO declassify his earlier testimony! Let's do."

UPDATE: I was watching CNN earlier, and it was reported that Bob Graham and John Kerry have both come forward doing exactly as I suggested.
Former Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham, D-Florida, who worked with Goss on the inquiry, supported the declassification of Clarke's testimony in its entirety and suggested the administration open the door even wider to include documents -- including Clarke's January 2002 al Qaeda plan -- that could help resolve issues in dispute.

"To the best of my recollection, there is nothing inconsistent or contradictory in that testimony and what Mr. Clarke has said this week," Graham said.

Smearing for King George 

From a Neal Boortz editorial entitled RICHARD CLARKE EITHER IS .. OR WAS .. A LIAR
Let's start with a statement Clarke made to the 9/11 Commission yesterday. Clarke told the commissioners that early on in the Bush administration he told the president: " ... and I said, well, you know, we've had this strategy ready ... ahh ... since before you were inaugurated. I showed it to you. You have the paperwork. We can have a meeting on the strategy anytime you want."

So .. there's Clarke telling the media and the commissioners yesterday that he had presented paperwork to Bush on a strategy for dealing with Al Qaeda and was ready to discuss it. But what did he say to Jim Angle in 2002? This: "I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush Administration."

Lying then? Or lying now?

And what about this "Bush did virtually nothing" claim?

In the 2002 background briefing Clarke said: "When President Bush told us in March to stop swatting at flies and just solve this problem, then that was the strategic direction that triggered the NSPD (National Security Presidential Directive) from one of roll back to one of elimination." "NSPD" is National Security Presidential Directive. So Clark was telling reporters in August of 2002 that the directive from the president in March of 2001 was to stop swatting at flies ... to eliminate Al Qaeda. This is what calls doing virtually nothing?

In the 2002 briefing Clarke also told Angle and the rest of the reporters that Bush had ordered an increase in CIA resources by five times .. .including funding for covert actions against Al Qaeda. Again ... doing virtually nothing?

Here's the kicker. It comes from the transcript of the 2002 Clarke briefing ... near the end.

Jim Angle: "So, just to finish up if we could then, so what you're saying is that there was no -- one, there was no plan; two, there was no delay; and that actually the first changes since October of '98 were made in the months just after the administration came into office?

Richard Clarke: "You got it. That's right.

So .. while the terrorist threat was increasing Clinton made no changes in his plan of action against terrorism during the last two years of his presidency, but Bush got on the stick immediately. That is what Clarke is now describing as "doing virtually nothing."

Obviously Clarke is lying. We just have to figure out which statements are the lies? Was he lying in 2002 when he was working in the Bush White House? Or is he lying now when he's trying to sell a book?
Okay, Boortz is a fool, but that's been established. However, even occasionally a fool can have a flash of insight.

But not today.

Boortz tries unsuccessfully to characterize two separate apparent conflicts as lies. The first is Clarke saying in 2002 that no plan was passed from Clinton to Bush, and then supposedly "contradicting" himself in 2004 when he says that the Bush people refused to accept the plan.

Where is the contradiction?

In the second supposed contradiction, here is what Clarke said about that under oath in the commission hearings:
THOMPSON: Well, let's take a look, then, at your press briefing, because I don't want to engage in semantic games. You said, the Bush administration decided, then, you know, mid-January -- that's mid- January, 2001 -- to do 2 things: one, vigorously pursue the existing the policy -- that would be the Clinton policy -- including all of the lethal covert action findings which we've now made public to some extent. Is that so? Did they decide in January of 2001 to vigorously pursue the existing Clinton policy?

CLARKE: They decided that the existing covert action findings would remain in effect.

THOMPSON: OK. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided. Now, that seems to indicate to me that proposals had been sitting on the table in the Clinton administration for a couple of years, but that the Bush administration was going to get them done. Is that a correct assumption?

CLARKE: Well, that was my hope at the time. It turned out not to be the case.

THOMPSON: Well, then why in August of 2002, over a year later, did you say that it was the case?

CLARKE: I was asked to make that case to the press. I was a special assistant to the president, and I made the case I was asked to make.

THOMPSON: Are you saying to me you were asked to make an untrue case to the press and the public, and that you went ahead and did it?

CLARKE: No, sir. Not untrue. Not an untrue case. I was asked to highlight the positive aspects of what the administration had done and to minimize the negative aspects of what the administration had done. And as a special assistant to the president, one is frequently asked to do that kind of thing. I've done it for several presidents.
So Clarke is saying that in that episode, he was putting a pretty face on some criticism for the president. He say's he wasn't lying, but that he was saying what he hoped would turn out to be true. We know that he quit because it did not turn out that way.

So, the answer to Boortz's question of whether he was lying then or now is that it depends on how broad a definition of lie you want to use. If you use a very broad definition, he wasn't lying at all. If you choose a very narrow definition, he was lying then in 2002 when he said that the Bush administration was going to act on the recommendations.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Hindsight is 20/20 

The Washington Monthly
Madeleine Albright, testifying before Congress today, says the Clinton administration "did everything we could, everything we could think of" to fight al-Qaeda during their time in office.

This, of course, is the party line for everyone, but you know what I'd like to see? I'd like to see just one person fess up and admit that, in retrospect, we obviously didn't take them seriously enough.
I disagree. Here's why.

When they made the movie version of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears, they changed the bad guys from Islamic terrorists to Neo-Nazis. This was a calculated move to take into consideration the very real concern that many Arab-Americans had at the time that they were more often than not the goat in movies that had to have a distinct villain. But many reviewers said that the Nazi angle was not convincing.

But suppose that it had been Nazis or - say - Timothy McVeigh who had organized the plans to fly those planes into the World Trade Center. Or suppose Klebold and Harris had followed through on their plans to do it. (Yes, they had the same plans.)

If there was a problem, it was not that everybody failed to take Islamic fanatacism seriously enough. It was that they failed to take the threat that anybody could have done this seriously enough. But what was the alternative? We had the Gore commission and Hart-Rudman. The republicans shot them down. Don't ever forget that.

Polling for God & Country 

Yahoo! News - Supreme Court Takes Up 'Under God' Case
Americans overwhelmingly want the phrase "under God" preserved in the Pledge of Allegiance, a new poll says as the Supreme Court examines whether the classroom salute crosses the division of church and state.

Almost nine in 10 people said the reference to God belongs in the pledge despite constitutional questions about the separation of church and state, according to an Associated Press poll.
Herein lies the fundamental problem with this case. It's about fifty years too late.

Congress should never have voted to put this phrase in the pledge. Hell, there shouldn't even be talk about a pledge in congress at all, but that's another issue. However, it is patently obvious that when Congress put this phrase in the pledge, they were advancing i.e. promoting monotheism, an act specifically prohibited by the first amendment.

But now, here we are five decades later finally getting around to arguing the propriety of something that a bunch of mostly dead guys did. It's too late. The pledge no longer belongs to Joe McCarthy. It's been re-written and the present version stands in the hearts and minds of a traditionalist society.

Look, the original version of "A Visit From St. Nick" probably called the seventh reindeer Donder, not "Donner," but try convincing people that there is a need to correct the mistake they have been making since childhood...

The real issue is not whether or not the pledge should be changed. Who cares if the pledge has God in it? The real issue is "Should children be required to recite it?" Actually, the real issue is even more specific. "Should schools even be allowed to make the reading optional?" Even if the "offending" reference to God were stripped from the pledge, my answer would be "No." However, I doubt that THIS supreme court will see it that way ... even without Scalia.

Another Tweak to the Cabinet 

John Kerry for President - A Note from Rand Beers, John Kerry's Homeland Security advisor
“One year ago yesterday, I resigned from the Bush Administration to protest the Administration’s rush to war.

George Bush may have declared “Mission Accomplished,” ten months ago, but yesterday’s horrific bombing in Iraq shows that American soldiers and Iraqis are still very much in harm’s way. But while Baghdad was bombed, Dick Cheney emerged from his bunker to engage in partisan attacks. It’s time for the President, the Vice-President, and the Secretary of State to stop playing politics with national security. We need to fix their failed go-it-alone policy that is making Iraq more dangerous for our soldiers and harder for them to secure the peace.

I signed up with John Kerry because I know his values, experience and toughness will make peace a reality.
I recently learned a lot about Rand Beers because of his association with Richard Clarke. I've decided that he deserves a spot on the cabinet, so I have adjusted my picks as follows:

President John Kerry
VP Max Cleland
National Security Advisor Wes Clark
Deputy National Security Advisor Rand Beers
Sec. of State Lt. General Claudia Kennedy
Chief of Staff Gary Hart
Sec. of Homeland Security Al Gore
Sec. of Defense Leon Fuerth
Deputy Secretary of Defense Joe Wilson
Co-Deputy Secretary of Defense Karen Kwiatkowski
Attorney General John Edwards
Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin
Surgeon General Howard Dean
EPA Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Fed Chair Paul Krugman

Beers is currently serving in the Kerry campaign in the titular capacity of NSA, however, I think on the cabinet, Wes Clark has really earned the right to be the out front guy. And given the weasely way Stephen Hadley (Condaleezza Rice's current deputy) was brought out to begin the smear machine in the Clarke 60 Minute's interview, I think it only fitting that Clarke's good friend Rand get to be the guy to tell Hadley, "Yeah, yeah, don't let the door hit ya, pal."


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

All We Said Was No Arafat 

Daily Press Briefing for 3/22/04
Q Does the White House condemn the attack?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, again, what we have said is that Israel has a right to defend herself, but all parties, including Israel, needs to keep in mind the consequences of their actions. Again, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Sheik Yassin is someone who was personally involved in terrorism. That's very well-documented.

Q But if I could just try and spell it out here, the administration's policy remains unchanged concerning targeted assassinations. The United States government opposes that. This was a targeted assassination. So this was wrong in the view of the United States government?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, again, during this time period, we want to continue to urge all parties to show restraint. That's where our focus is, so that we can get back to moving forward on the peace process. Again, we've made it very clear this is not something we had advance warning about.

Q But I'm just wondering, is there some kind of exception to the policy of opposing targeted assassinations for terrorist leaders? Or is that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, keep in mind what I said about Hamas -- Hamas is a well-known terrorist organization. They have carried out atrocious attacks on innocent men, women and children. That's very well-known. And we need to keep in mind the importance of trying to get everybody focused back on working together on the peace process. And that's where our focus is, and that's where it will remain.

Q While the United States government and others had identified Sheik Yassin as a terrorist, obviously, many people in the Palestinian Territories saw him as a patriot and a leader from their point of view, and so his killing changes the security situation there somewhat. Given that, and given that Israel had tried to kill him in the past, had the administration ever communicated to Israel anything about Sheik Yassin? We know that the President has asked that Yasser Arafat not be killed. Was there any kind of message like that concerning Sheik Yassin?

MR. McCLELLAN: What I can tell you is that we had no knowledge that they were going to carry out this effort that they did over the weekend. And I think we've made that very clear. Dr. Rice made it clear earlier on the shows, as well. But she also emphasized that there's always the possibility of a better day in the Middle East. And certainly, Israel has offered some interesting ideas in that respect. And so that's where our focus remains, so that we can get all parties moving back on the peace process.
Earlier, Condaleeza Rice had said that we are troubled by the killings and that we had no advance warning.

The British, on the other hand were very critical.

"What has happened this morning is clearly a setback -- there is no point pretending otherwise," a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites) told a press briefing.

"We have repeatedly made clear our opposition to Israel's use of targeted killings and assassinations," he said Monday.

"We recognise Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, but equally any steps should be within international law and should be neither disproportionate nor excessive."
Why can't we just say that?


Monday, March 22, 2004

Against All Enemies 

Yahoo! News - White House Rebuts Ex-Bush Adviser Claim
The White House, fuming over a former aide's charge that President Bush gave short-shrift attention to al-Qaida while obsessing over Saddam Hussein, branded the fighting-terrorism flap as "Dick Clarke's American Grandstand."

"When you compare Dick Clarke's current rhetoric with his past comments and actions, the bedrock of his assertions comes crumbling down," said chief presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. He called Clarke's new book, criticizing the administration's handling of the post-Sept. 11 terrorism environment, "more about politics and book promotions than it is about policies."
The grandstand comment is funny, but not as funny as the administration's desperation.

Now we have two former whitehouse insiders independently making the same exact charge. And it's a charge that seems perfectly reasonable given all that we know about these people and the neo-con agenda. How could anybody not know that this is the truth?

One thing that I think deserves to be noted. This is the best title for this book that there could possibly have been. In the oath of office, the president promises to defend the US and the constitution "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Clarke's primary charge here is that Bush failed to even see the al Qaeda threat as a threat, let alone to defend us from it. And here the guy is running on the idea that he has been a great protector of the American people.

Grandstanding or not, in my house last night, Dick Clark hosted the new cheers rockin' eve.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Laos-ing It Up. 

Yahoo! News - US plan to grant trade privilege to Laos may fizzle out again
The Bush administration's plans to grant special trade privileges to Laos may fizzle out again in Congress where a growing number of legislators are demanding the tiny Southeast Asian nation be sanctioned for alleged rights abuses.

Spearheading the effort to deny Laos the "normal trade relations" status is a member of President George W. Bush's Republican party who is proposing legislation on "the urgent need for freedom, democratic reform and international monitoring of elections, human rights and religious liberty" in that country.

Congressman Dan Burton sent a note Thursday to the House of Representatives seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the legislation amid claims by rights groups that the Lao military was practising "Kosovo-like" ethnic cleansing on rebel and civilian minority groups.
So lets see if I've got this straight. Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Burmese sweat shops, and Laos are okay by Bush, but somehow Spain is appeasing terrorists by electing a government that plans to be honest and consistent in the fight against corruption and terrorism. Okay, got it.


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