Saturday, November 19, 2005


Shocker of the Day

Mr. Scanlon, 35, is a former spokesman for Mr. DeLay. News of his cooperation with law enforcement officials sent a jolt through the Republican majority in Congress. —Anne E. Kornblut writing in "DeLay Ex-Aide to Plead Guilty in Lobby Case"

Friday, November 18, 2005


Graphic of the Day: Foreign fighters in Iraq

Check out The Web of Terror as depicted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in the London Times.

Note the roles of nationals from various countries. The innocuousness of the claims against Syria stands out. (I will put online shortly a CSIS working draft by Anthony Cordesman which contains a number of interesting comments on the role of Syria.)

Saudi Arabia
Some 350 Saudis suspected of joining al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Some have already returned to carry out terrorist attacks.
Some 300 Egyptians thought to have gone to Iraq to fight for al-Zarqawi.
Al-Zarqawi's homeland and main area of operations outside Iraq. 59 killed in suicide bombings last week in Amman. Accomplices still at large.
Provides an estimated 600 volunteers for operations in Iraq; the largest component in al-Zarqawi's force.
Main transit point for fighters and funds. Al-Zarqawi thought to have visited the country on several occasions.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Bob Woodward's decline and the importance of Plamegate

Bob Woodward, reporter for the Washington Post and famed for his reporting of Watergate, has been steadily falling in my estimation to the extent I've paid him any attention at all. Any reporter who can get George Bush practically to sit in his lap for an interview can't be all good; and in the case of Bob Woodward there is now reason to ask whether he's any good at all.

Atrios has called attention to Woodward's efforts to poo-poo the CIA leak in July in an interview on "Hardball," for instance—

MATTHEWS: In the leak case involving Joe Wilson and that trip to Niger.

WOODWARD: And that case, when I think it is all told, there is going to be nothing to it. And it is a shame. And the special prosecutor in that case, his behavior, in my view, has been disgraceful.

MATTHEWS: Well, was this, then, a crime? We`re talking about a crime.

WOODWARD: I don't think there's any crime.

With his latest declaration that he has testified to Fitzgerald's grand jury that he knew that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent at least a month before anyone else, Woodward seems to be doing all he can to save the Bush administration. But I have to wonder if it's his own fame that he's attempting to preserve. After all, those who can bring down the Bush administration stand to gain even greater fame than those who brought down Richard Nixon and his band of thugs, loathsome as they were.

So while Woodwood was denigrating the importance of Plamegate, it appears that he is in some sense smack in the middle of it. And since he refuses to identify his source, we all get to play Deep Throat II, which should keep his name in the headlines for awhile. This is remarkable behavior for a journalist—or so one would like to think.

But whatever Woodward may think of the importance of Plamegate, the public isn't buying. A CBS News poll released November 2 asked how important the respondents thought the CIA leak was. The response allowed a comparison with the public's perception of other scandals and investigations. I've reordered the poll findings to get a better picture. (Note that these numbers are from polls taken at the time of each "scandal.")

Here's the breakdown of those who rated the matters of "great importance" to the life of the nation—

Very important
•Watergate 53% May 73
CIA leak 51% Nov. 05
•Iran-Contra 48% Feb. 87
•Clinton-Lewinsky 41% Jan. 98
•Whitewater 20% Mar. 94

Here are those numbers combined with those who rated the matters of "some importance"—

CIA leak 86% Nov. 05
•Iran-Contra 81% Feb. 87
•Watergate 78% May 73
•Clinton-Lewinsky 62% Jan. 98
•Whitewater 49% Mar. 94

This is the rank order that I would've assigned, though of course Clinton-Lewinsky and Whitewater had no importance at all if viewed in the context of "the life of the nation."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A most encouraging poll

What has grabbed everyone's attention in the latest USA TODAY/CNN GALLUP poll is George Bush's overall job approval, which like George himself has sunk to a new low—37% to be exact. But there were other findings that have gone unmentioned by the MSM. Too polite, I suppose.

Bush hatred

First, there is a question that I am surprised was asked. Of those who said they "disliked Bush a lot" (33%) it was asked: Would you say you hate Bush, or would you say you dislike Bush but do not hate him?

They asked this question back in May and only 2% hated Bush. That figure is now up to 6%, though with a margin of error of ±5 percentage points I like to think it's more.

Strong vs. weak President

For the first time the pollsters asked whether the repondent would describe Bush as a strong or a weak President. The results were split 49%-49%.

Watch this number. The question is significant. Americans in general—but Red-Staters in particular—can't abide a "weak" President. The ridiculous perception that George Bush was "strong" accounted for a great deal of his popularity. It is my earnest hope that he will be caught on camera as he really is—drunk and sniveling—before he is impeached or his term in office ends, whichever comes first.


This is a fun one. The pollsters nowhere mention "lying," but you will see that that is what this question is about.

The respondents were divided into two groups. Half were asked if they trusted what George Bush says more, the same, or less than "previous presidents." The other half were asked to compare him with ... Bill Clinton!

Though Bush came up better against Bill Clinton than against the generic "previous presidents," he didn't do well when compared with either. When compared with Bill Clinton, 48% said they trusted him less; 15% said they trusted him about the same; and only 36% trusted him more. Against previous presidents, 53% trusted him less; 16% about the same; and 30% more.

The Kiss of Death

And here's the killer question: If George W. Bush supported a candidate for political office in your area, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for that candidate?

56% said they would be less likely to vote for a Bush-supported candidate, and only 34% said they would be more likely to support such a candidate.

If that figure holds steady for the 2006 midterm elections, think of what this will mean for Republican candidates—(1) there'll be no national leaders flying in to build interest and raise money for the candidate and (2) the candidates will have the uphill fight of explaining why they're running on the Republican ticket but don't support the party's President.

Have a pleasant day!


News of the Day

The insurgency that has been worsening while the world's attention has been focused on Iraq has now reached Kabul.
—Justin Huggler in "Afghanistan: The war with no end"

Monday, November 14, 2005


Impeach Tony Blair

British subjects may wish to visit to sign this plea—
I wish to see Tony Blair impeached and required to answer in the Court of Parliament that he repeatedly and substantively misled the people into the Iraq War of 2003 while choosing to remain in office when he is in clear violation of the traditional convention of ministerial resignation.

Hear! Hear!


Musician of the Day

John Bull, Elizabethan composer, 1562(?)-1628

The man hath more music than honesty and is as famous for marring of virginity as he is for fingering of organs and virginals.
—George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1611-1633


Understatement of the Day

Presidents, most recently Bill Clinton, have drawn strength from foreign trips and basked in the approval of American-flag waving crowds. But Bush has drawn muted responses from many world leaders and a larger-than-usual share of anti-American demonstrations.

He never was particularly well-liked overseas, to begin with.

—Tom Raum for the AP in "Bush Slump May Hobble World Role"

Sunday, November 13, 2005


You may have the body

Paul Craig Roberts, as conservative as they come, has once again written an impassioned and brilliant essay on the relationship between habeas corpus—our right under the Constitution not to be detained (as in "imprisoned") without charge—and the very notions of democracy and freedom.

You may have heard that Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Carolina, introduced and had passed an amendment that strips the right of habeas corpus from any soul that George Bush decides to label an "enemy combatant." It does this by forbidding the federal courts to hear a habeas application by the unfortunate detainee.

Roberts writes,

Nothing more effectively undercuts the image that Bush paints of America as the land of freedom, liberty and democracy than the Republican Party’s destruction of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is essential to political opposition and the rise and maintenance of democracy. Without habeas corpus, a government can simply detain its opponents. Nothing is more conducive to one party rule than the suspension of habeas corpus.

It is heartbreaking to watch the Republican Party overthrow the very foundation of democracy in the name of democracy. The name of Lindsey O. Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, the sponsor of this evil legislation, will go down in infamy in the book of tyrants.

Let us hope that this insult to all decency can be reversed before Sen. Lindsey Graham's name can sink any lower in the ideological cesspool he represents. He doesn't deserve the fame of infamy.

Two days ago filmmaker John Cusack came up with a timely quote from Churchill—

The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.

It is time for people on the so-called American Left to pay attention to some of the conservatives in this country. Roberts is as alarmed by the direction taken by the Bush administration as any on the Left can claim. And, at least in the South, many ordinary voters who label themselves conservative really have a much more nuanced position, though they've been conned by the Republicans into adopting the conservative label. Liberals need to listen and connect wherever possible.

Meanwhile, Senator Graham is eager to hear from you—

Senator Lindsey O. Graham
290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5972
Email: Contact form

8:51 pm

I should have mentioned that Graham's amendment could not have passed without the support of 5 Democratic Senators. They are—

These people are so overdue their retirement.


The cost of intelligence

The annual intelligence budget of the United States? $44 billion. As in $44,000,000,000. The unexpected and apparently accidental release of this figure shows a sharp rise in the expenditure since 1998, one of the few years for which the intelligence budget has been revealed. Back then it was $26.7 billion.

Over seven years intelligence funding has increased by $17.3 billion or 65%. The Law of Diminishing Returns must have set in because there is no indication that the government now knows 2/3 more about the rest of the world than it did in 1998. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest it knows less.

Scott Shane reports in the NY Times,

At an intelligence conference in San Antonio last week, Mary Margaret Graham, a 27-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and now the deputy director of national intelligence for collection, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.

The figure itself comes as no great shock; most news reports in the last couple of years have estimated the budget at $40 billion. But the fact that Ms. Graham would say it in public is a surprise, because the government has repeatedly gone to court to keep the current intelligence budget and even past budgets as far back as the 1940's from being disclosed.

In court and in response to inquiries, intelligence officials have argued that disclosing the total spying budget would create pressure to reveal more spending details, and that such revelations could aid the nation's adversaries.

That argument has been rejected by many members of Congress and outside experts, who note that most of the Defense Department budget is published in exhaustive detail without evident harm.

The national commission on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, recommended that both the overall intelligence budget and spending by individual agencies be made public "in order to combat the secrecy and complexity" it found was harming national security.

"The taxpayers deserve to know what they're spending for intelligence," said Lee H. Hamilton, the former congressman who was vice chairman of the commission.

Actually the taxpayers deserve to know what they're getting for all the money they're spending on intelligence.

The debate over whether the intelligence budget should be secret dates to at least the 1970's, said Loch K. Johnson, an intelligence historian.... Mr. Johnson said the real reason for secrecy might have less to do with protecting intelligence sources and methods than with protecting the bureaucracy.

"Maybe there's a fear that if the American people knew what was being spent on intelligence, they'd be even more upset at intelligence failures," Mr. Johnson said.

That last sentence suggests to me that the number may have been released to make it easier for the Republicans to go fishing for red herring. Now that the Senate Democrats have forced them to agree to investigate the use of prewar intelligence leading to the invasion of Iraq those same Republicans will be wanting to point an angry finger at the intelligence services in an effort to divert attention from the administration's abuse of intelligence. The Republicans will be working once again to convince us that the Iraq debacle was the result of an "intelligence failure"—and an expensive one at that!

Related post
KidSpy — Sold out! (8/2/2004)

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