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April 17, 2004

NY Times Notices Wonkette

Feature stories on the blogosphere in the mainstream news media always generate quite a bit of interest. Tomorrow's edition of the Gray Lady herself reports on Wonkette, a blogger who's made a name for herself by covering the more gossipy side of Washington:

With her gossipy, raunchy, potty-mouthed blog, Ms. Cox, a 31-year-old self-described failed journalist, has grabbed the attention of staid Washington, where gossip columns usually amount to little more than records of Capitol Hill staff changes and James Carville sightings. As she puts it, her mission for her blog is to write "a blend of gossip and satire and things I make up." It supports no party line, mixing gossip items from newspapers and Web sites with tips e-mailed from readers, which could be anything from guesses about which members of the Bush administration are gay to blind items on Washington luminaries. " `Famous for D.C.' should be the ultimate put-down," Ms. Cox said, drawing from her stockpile of oft-employed one-liners.

I'm not a huge fan of Wonkette; for a while I had her XML feed in my news aggregator, but quite frankly I find Washington gossip so boring that I finally dropped her off. However, I think Wonkette herself and her efforts at blogging -- and the impact she has -- is fascinating, and the NY Times report does a good job of communicating that. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:43 PM | TrackBack

Thank God For Liberal Talk Radio

Lately, my Northern Alliance brethren and I have been poking fun at the travails at the hopelessly inept Air America, who can't even get radio air time based on their talent. They have to purchase large chunks of it instead, confirming the lack of a market for their schtick, at least at this time. Despite our schadenfruede at Air America's problems, I have found a reason to be thankful for liberal talk radio in today's Star Tribune:

Stillwater DFLer Janet Robert, who lost to U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy in a heated contest in 2002 and had been expected to try again this year, said Friday that she has decided not to run after all.

Robert said she will devote her full energies to the fledgling Minnesota Production Network (MPN), a corporation she helped start to provide a liberal talk-radio alternative to the often conservative mix.

Robert made her decision at a particularly poor time for the Minnesota DFL (Democrats). She had been the only candidate seeking the DFL endorsement for the race against Kennedy, who proved to be the better campaigner against Robert the last time out. In fact, Robert ran such a nasty and mean-spirited campaign that some credit her ads for assisting the DFL to its worst statewide showing in recent memory when it lost the governorship, one Senate seat, and control of the state House.

Fortunately for Kennedy, her efforts will now focus on a new endeavor -- bringing liberal talk radio to Minnesota:

Robert said she will devote her full energies to the fledgling Minnesota Production Network (MPN), a corporation she helped start to provide a liberal talk-radio alternative to the often conservative mix.

"I made a commitment to talk radio and I realized it was such a big commitment of time that I couldn't focus on both of them," she said. "Talk radio was more important than one congressional campaign, and I have to make sure it succeeds first."

It seems to me that Roberts has her priorities a bit mixed up, or else she's not telling the entire truth. While I love being involved in talk radio, there's no question in my mind that between capturing a seat in Congress from the opposing party and setting up a radio show, I pick winning a seat in Congress every time. The entire point of political talk radio is to promote your political philosophy so that you can convince listeners to support candidates who match your positions. If you can successfully get to Congress, doesn't that matter a lot more than simply talking about it?

I'll put it another way. Let's say I have the talent and opportunity to play major-league baseball for at least a couple of seasons. Would it make sense for me to pass that up in order to start a local sports page? Of course not! A much more likely explanation is this:

The Sixth District frames the metro area on the north, extending from Washington County in the east to Stearns and Benton counties in the west. The Cook Political Report recently rated the district "solid Republican," but DFL state party Chair Mike Erlandson said the district also has more swing voters than any other in the state. Much will depend, he said, on the presidential race and the economy.

Combine the demographics with Robert's reputation from her last run -- talk was that the delegates to the convention were likely to reject her even if she was the only candidate -- and you have a much better idea why Robert has decided that radio is the better part of politics, at least for her. Typically, she's cast her decision as a crusade against those eeeeeeeeevil conservatives who appear on talk radio ... such as myself, I would assume:

"If you look at how Republicans have used their right-wing radio stations to lie about the state of the economy, the war in Iraq and health care, you know about the power of the media," she said. "We're trying to get one station dedicated full time to the truth."

Sounds like a re-emergence of Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy paranoia, but if it keeps her out of Congress, I'm all for it!

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:21 PM | TrackBack

Israel Kills Hamas Leader of the Month

Something tells me that the Employee of the Month award at Hamas won't be nearly as popular as it was before ...

Israel, obviously undeterred from the protests following the killing of Hamas founder Sheik Yassin last month, has successfully carried out a targeted killing of his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi:

An Israeli missile strike killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi as he rode in his car Saturday evening, hospital officials said. Rantisi's son Mohammed and a bodyguard were also killed in the attack. The militant Hamas leader was one of Israel's top targets after it assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin in an airstrike last month.

Rantisi's car was hit with missiles Saturday evening on the road outside his home, leaving only the burned, destroyed vehicle. After the explosion, Israeli helicopters were heard in the area.

Undoubtedly, this action will once again provoke outrage from a wide collection of hypocrites around the world, complete with much fingershaking at Israel and mutterings of UN resolutions condemning the killing of Rantisi. It certainly prompted Palestinian hypocrisy almost immediately:

"We condemn in strongest possible terms this Israeli crime of assassinating Dr. Rantisi. This is state terror, and the Israeli government is fully responsible for the consequences of this action," Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said. ... About 2,000 angry Palestinians marched through the streets carrying pieces of Rantisi's car shouting, "revenge, revenge."

Let's be clear about one thing: Hamas has categorically refused to recognize Israel's right to exist, and has always supported any means necessary to remove Israel from the map. Hamas, along with fellow Islamofascist organization Islamic Jihad and the more secular Palestinian Liberation Organization unit Fatah have done nothing to promote a peaceful solution, instead opting to fan the flames of terrorism in Gaza and the West Bank. Rantisi himself promoted the most hard-line position, making even an attempt at negotiation pointless. Suicide bombings would come whether the Israelis killed Rantisi or not, and promoting instability at the top of the organization therefore only offers positive consequences.

Since the start of public testimony at the 9/11 Commission, we have heard voices on both sides of the political spectrum ask openly why we didn't use so-called "extrajudicial" means of killing Osama bin Laden prior to 9/11. Too late did we recognize that Islamofascists were at war with the United States, and the result was a reluctance to use all of our power to eliminate a threat that was not seen as existential until the attacks on New York and Washington. But Israel has known that the Islamofascist war against them has always been existential; they want to annihilate every last Israeli in Southwest Asia.

So let us not tolerate any scolding towards Israel from the same people that claim that our failure to kill bin Laden demonstrates a lack of focus on terrorism. Israel recognizes better than anyone that they are engaged in a war, better than we do with our own. Any suggestion that Israel should be denied options we demand for ourselves hints at an attitude of anti-Semitism that certainly was aptly demonstrated in world reaction to the death of the last terrorist leader of Hamas.

UPDATE: Deacon at Power Line notes that this was probably a reaction to the killing of a border guard and the wounding of three other Israelis for which Hamas and Fatah claimed joint responsibility. Perhaps; I suspect that Rantisi would have been killed regardless, given the opportunity. But if Deacon is correct, perhaps the Israelis will also finally kill the leader of the organization to which Fatah belongs.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 4:48 PM | TrackBack

The Governator Wins Another One

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's new celebrity governor, continues to score big victories in California politics, this time by pushing through long-overdue reforms to the state's workers-comp program:

Despite enthusiasm from labor and business circles that was only muted, the final product was a significant political achievement, just the latest in what has become a growing list for Mr. Schwarzenegger. In the six months since ousting Gov. Gray Davis from office in a historic recall election, he has broken gridlock in Sacramento and delivered on a string of campaign promises, from rescinding drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants to reversing $4 billion in car tax increases to winning public approval of a state bond issue addressing the state's vast fiscal problems.

"Of course the first thing I heard when I came to Sacramento in November is that it can't be done, that it is impossible," Mr. Schwarzenegger said at the Capitol after both houses of the Legislature approved the workers'-compensation bill on Friday. "I'm trying to teach them slowly here that we should just get rid of these words `we can't' or `I can't.' Everything is possible."

The workers' compensation system in California is by far the costliest in the nation, with claims that ballooned to an estimated $30 billion last year from $6.5 billion in 1997. Yet its beneficiaries employees who are injured on the job and so are entitled to coverage of medical expenses and to compensation for lost wages receive some of the nation's lowest benefits. Business leaders, who finance the system, have complained that much of the money is going to lawyers and doctors who, the businesses say, perform unnecessary and duplicative procedures.

Despite what Arnold says, prior to his election, some of these changes were impossible. California's political culture had long stagnated into single-party rule, where the powerful state legislature routinely passed some of the nation's most radically socialist legislation, especially in workplace regulation. The workers-comp system represents the worst of the excess. Bloated beyond recognition and poorly written, with vague laws and requirements, business have been struggling under its weight for decades. Many who had the option to relocate elsewhere have already done so, undermining the state's economy and its rebound capacity.

The recall election has changed the political climate in the Golden State. California voters put everyone on notice that they expect change, and they're willing to go way out of their way to get it. Combine that with Schwarzenegger's star power and centrist policies, and the legislature suddenly has pronated itself to the executive -- a radical departure from years past, when Willie Brown as Speaker of the Assembly held the greater share of power.

Part of the change can be attributed to the natural reaction of legislators to let Arnold be Arnold and push all responsibility for the consequences onto his shoulders. But that doesn't account for the vote tallies on what looked to be an unpopular reform of a system that pandered to leftist special-interest groups, such as lawyers and unions. The combined vote in both houses was 110-6, leading the New York Times to make this observation:

Mr. Schwarzenegger, who is to sign the bill into law on Monday, had threatened to put the issue to a public referendum if the Legislature did not pass the measure by Friday. The Democratic majority, still unnerved by the recall of Mr. Davis, seemed in no mood to challenge the governor, and got the bill passed with five hours to spare.

Democrats may finally understand that the electorate has shifted well right of their policies, and a referendum on overhauling the workers-comp system would draw many voters to the polls that might be inclined to replace key Democratic legislators. For the first time in decades, the Republicans have the leverage to play power politics and someone in place who knows how and has the nerve to do play them.

Watch out in November: that combination may change California politics permanently.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:26 AM | TrackBack

But If He'd Tried It On Ice, He'd Only Get a 5-Minute Penalty

Fox News reports today on the arrest of St. Louis Blues' center Mike Danton on suspricion of conspiracy to murder, in a story where the subtext seems to speak louder than the story:

A center for the St. Louis Blues was arrested Friday in an alleged scheme to kill an acquaintance he feared could ruin his career, the FBI said. Mike Danton, 23, was arrested at the airport in San Jose, Calif., after the Blues were knocked out of the NHL playoffs in a loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Illinois, Danton told a female friend that a hitman from Canada was coming to kill him and asked the woman if she knew someone who would kill the person for $10,000. The woman, identified as Katie Wolfmeyer, passed his call to another man, described in the complaint as a "cooperating witness."

For some reason, people seem perfectly willing to believe that hitmen crawl out of the woodwork to murder people every day, and Ms. Wolfmeyer (who is only 19) belongs to that group of the perpetually naive. She may not be very happy to learn that the "hitman" was, in fact, an acquaintance of Danton's, and perhaps more:

The complaint alleges that Danton actually was trying to kill a male acquaintance after an argument Tuesday in which the two fought over Danton's "promiscuity and use of alcohol." The complaint said Danton feared the acquaintance, who is not named, would talk to St. Louis Blues management and ruin Danton's career.

In a telephone call recorded by authorities, the acquaintance asked why Danton wanted to kill him. According to the complaint, Danton broke down and sobbed, and explained that he ordered the killing because he "felt the acquaintance was going to leave him."

The FBI and Fox take care to make this as opaque as possible, but I think we can all understand what happened to Danton. At some point, sports leagues will need to grow up and face the fact that sexual diversity exists in all areas of life. Until that happens, we will continue to see athletes destroy themeselves and others to keep what should be foolish secrets. Quite frankly, I could care less with whom a quarterback, a tennis player, or a wingman spends his/her time off the field/court/rink; all I care about when I'm watching sports is whether the game is good and my team wins. Yes, yes, I'm aware that homosexuality is rejected in the Bible; lots of things are rejected in the Bible, including the unilateral breaking of contracts and working on the Sabbath, and those don't seem to get people too energized when applied to professional or college athletes.

I'm not asking professional sports leagues to promote homosexuality, but I think we need to question the culture of the lockerroom when an athlete would rather kill someone than to be outed to management.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:47 AM | TrackBack

Russia Says "Nyet" To Oil-For-Food Investigation

The New York Times reports this morning that the oft-stalled investigation into bribery and corruption allegations surrounding the United Nations' Iraq oil-for-food program has hit another roadblock. Although UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has nominated Paul Volcker to lead the committee and the other members are ready to start, Russia has refused to approve rules that would enhance the independence of the investigation:

United Nations officials said Friday that Mr. Volcker, 76, had been selected for the panel along with Mark Pieth, 50, a Swiss law professor with expertise in investigating money laundering and economic crime, and Richard J. Goldstone, 65, a South African judge who was chief prosecutor for the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia.

But the nominations stalled Friday when Russia said it would not agree to a Security Council resolution that Mr. Volcker said he needed to give him the authority to conduct the wide-ranging inquiry that Mr. Annan was seeking.

"We understand the reputation of the Secretariat is in question, but we do not think it is possible to adopt a resolution on the basis of mass media reports," said Sergei Trepelkov, spokesman for the Russian mission.

In other words, Russia denies that any of the media reports were accurate, and therefore sees no reason for a special investigation into their allegations. As I blogged back on January 30th, Russia reportedly received options on over 1 billion barrel, which included the following:

* Head of the Russian Presidential Cabinet: 90 million barrels
* Russian Communist Party: 137 million barrels
* Russian Orthodox Church: 5 million barrels

I still think that the Communist Party's participation in oil futures is deliciously ironic. Power to the proletariat and all that, but rubles are, after all, rubles!

The US GAO estimates that Saddam himself skimmed more than $10 billion from a program that was designed to keep economic sanctions on him in place. Allegations of corruption and payoffs reached the highest levels of the program, including its chief, Benon Sevan, who has denied everything. Kofi Annan at first agreed with the Russians and tried to mollify critics by having the program reviewed by internal UN auditors, a move which fooled no one. After names started being made public, especially that of Annan's son Kojo who was a high-paid consultant to one of the companies involved, Annan backed down in March and agreed to form the commission, warning that he would need the support of the UNSC:

"There is a lot that is being dumped on the Secretariat, which is not fair," he said of his own office, arguing that a wider inquiry was necessary. It was the 15-member Council that ran the program, and many of the transactions involved nationals of the member states.

In response to Mr. Volcker's request, a draft resolution by the United States circulated this week among the four other veto-bearing members of the Council Britain, China, France and Russia and Germany, which is this month's president of the Council. All but Russia agreed to the motion, and Germany then circulated a revised draft on Thursday. On Friday the Russians said they still objected.

My prediction: they will continue to object until either the investigation is returned to the internal auditors, where it can be controlled, or dropped altogether. The US should launch its own independent investigation to determine what laws were broken and whether or not corrupt officials can be prosecuted under our own laws. Otherwise, we may never know how all that money came into Saddam's hands and precisely why some members of the UNSC were so willing to allow Saddam's reign of terror to continue. (via Instapundit)

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:05 AM | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

Blogspot Difficulties?

Has anyone else noticed that Blogspot blogs seem to be crashing this morning? I went to check out my Northern Alliance colleagues at Spitbull and wound up with a screenful of garbage. But hey, I've miscoded more than a couple of times myself, so I thought nothing much of it. I went to check out Miller's Time, though, and the same problems seem to be occurring there.

Fortunately, SCSU Scholars seems unaffected, and that's great news because King just posted an excellent analysis of John Kerry's "misery index". King will be discussing this tomorrow on our Northern Alliance Radio Network show, too.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:41 PM | TrackBack

LA Times: Hunting Snipe In Minnesota?

The Los Angeles Times goes far afield this morning in order to capture a bit of voter angst towards George Bush and the war in Iraq:

For both parties, Minnesota is rich with potential; its voters are among the most independent-minded in the country. They list no political party when they register to vote.

Nationally, they are known for sending Democrats to the U.S. Senate, among them Hubert H. Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Walter F. Mondale and Paul Wellstone. But they stunned the country by electing wrestler Jesse Ventura, a Reform Party candidate, as governor in 1998.

They also lean regularly toward Republicans, choosing Richard Nixon (three times), Gerald Ford (once) and Ronald Reagan (twice) for president. In 2002, they elected Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Norm Coleman to replace Ventura and Wellstone, respectively, and the GOP picked up seats in the state Legislature.

The LA Times engages in some transparent sophistry in this article. First, the article is filled with almost nothing except anecdotal evidence; the only exception is a poll that is three weeks old and conducted by the Star Tribune, notorious for polling discrepancies (as is the LA Times). Second, the last Republican presidential candidate that Minnesota endorsed was Ronald Reagan, and it wasn't twice -- Walter Mondale took Minnesota (his home state) in 1984. Even Dukakis carried Minnesota, for Pete's sake. Since when is it news when Minnesotans lean Democratic?

Besides, as much as Bush would like to carry Minnesota, he really only needs to carry the same states he did in 2000 to win the election the next time around. John Kerry needs to convert states that Gore lost in 2000 if he hopes to win this year. I could understand if the Times had decided to focus on Bush's support in a battleground state like Florida or even Tennessee, but even though I live here, Minnesota will hardly be the front line of the election, at least for Bush.

Why the LA Times decided to go 2,000 miles to talk to a few Bush-bashers is beyond me. Why an "analysis" like this poorly thought out article got published is, unfortunately, completely understandable.

UPDATE: Heck, the Times was more wrong than I thought -- Minnesota went Democrat in 1980 and 1976 as well. (Hat tip: Jon Fellows)

UPDATE: I get results -- after sending an e-mail to the reader rep for the LA Times, I got an e-mail acknowledgement of the error and a correction in today's paper.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:55 AM | TrackBack

Shroud of Turin: New Evidence?

The enduring mystery of the Shroud of Turin, one of the oldest and most controversial religious artifacts, deepened this week when photographs of the reverse side of the shroud underwent analysis for the first time ever:

Italian scientists have found a matching image of a man's face and possibly his hands on the back of the Turin shroud, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, one of the researchers said on Thursday.

The discovery that the ghostly image on the back of the linen cloth matches the face that adorns the front is likely to reignite debate over whether the shroud is genuine or a skilful medieval fraud. "The fact that the image is two-sided makes any forgery difficult," Professor Giulio Fanti of the University of Padua told Reuters.

I watched an interesting documentary last week on this subject that aired on the History Channel. The last major Shroud research took place in the 1970s, when the focus was on carbon-dating the fabric itself. It took years to complete that research, and when it was done, the carbon-dating put the fabric's creation date in the 13th century. After that, scientists lost interest in the shroud as anything other than a curiosity. The Catholic Church, which had been careful not to take a position on it -- officially, the Church will insist that faith does not require physical tokens such as the Shroud for validation -- continues to preserve it.

However, not all of the research from that project is as categorical as the carbon-dating seems to be. For instance, one researcher used tape to trap substances in the fabric of the cloth and intended to analyze them later on. Unfortunately, he passed away before completing the work. His family eventually turned over the samples to another researcher, an Israeli who determined that the pollen on the cloth came from plants indigenous to the Holy Land -- and not found in Europe at all. Analysis of the image itself showed that the surface image on the front side of the shroud only penetrated to a one-fiber depth and that the image existed over the blood and not the other way around. Also, the image creates a three-dimensional image in certain topographical analyses, which apparently is extremely unusual.

Now, with the discovery of the image on the reverse, new research into carbon-dating will assume greater importance. The Shroud survived a hot fire in the sixteenth century, and the original NASA scientist who started the first research team is studying the effects of heat and smoke on the carbon-dating of fabrics. In fact, its rescue from a second fire recently is what led to the restoration attempt of its backing material and the new photograpy.

However it all turns out, the grip that the Shroud of Turin has on the imagination of a curious public will not likely fade any time soon.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:25 AM | TrackBack

New Nielsen Technology Shortchanging Minorities?

Wired runs an interesting article today on a new Nielsen television ratings system that eliminates the decades-old practice of using diaries to calculate viewership. The computer-based "people meter" attaches to the television, VCR, and game box to give a 24/7 report on what Nielsen families watch. This new system has brought a change that has called into question its accuracy:

Just this month, the company came under attack from television networks, minority groups and even lawmakers when a test of its electronic "people meters," newly installed in select New York homes, began reporting a sharp decrease in viewership for television shows that feature minorities. Because the current system -- a decades-old technique involving week-long diaries that are mailed to the homes -- had never yielded such a drastic swing, the critics contended that the new technique must somehow be unreliable.

For those of you with a TiVo, the system connects in much the same way to entertainment systems and dials the information back to Nielsen on a regular basis. In contrast, the journaling system data could only be collected four times a year and took long man-hours to analyze, a bone of contention for decades:

With the diaries, Nielsen is only able to do local-level metering four times a year. Not only is the system slow, it has resulted in a phenomenon known as sweeps week, a period during which television producers pursue sensationalistic news stories or introduce zany plots or celebrity walk-ons in their shows in hopes of raising their ratings.

Worse yet, with the diary system, viewers have been known to wait until the end of the week to jot down what they watched, making the diary entries less than perfectly accurate -- a point that even Nielsen concedes.

"There may be a tendency in a diary for people to forget to write down what they were watching until a couple days later," said Elliot. "With people meters you don't have to go back and remember what you watched a week ago."

Minority representatives and lawmakers have expressed outrage over the new system and have already decided that it's flawed and should be withdrawn. However, just on the face of it, it's difficult to see how a journaling system could possibly be superior to an electronic system that has no capacity for the surveyed to modify. I deal with timesheets from employees that are supposed to be filled out daily but mostly get completed at the end of the pay period, with numerous mistakes about arrival and departure times when compared to the computer-system login/logout times. It's not a question of dishonesty, it's a question of reliability.

Human nature and diary bias is the more likely explanation. Most people want to see television shows that feature minorities to succeed, especially when they're well done, like George Lopez as an example. Nielsen families must feel a lot of that pressure, along with a natural desire to demonstrate an open mind. Couple that with a system that is entirely self-reporting with no controls or quality checks for accuracy, and one in which the reporting can be done far from contemporaneously, and you have a recipe for well-meaning but significant error.

I can understand the frustration that these results have produced, but the answer isn't to bury the people meters; it's to roll them out to a much larger sample and see if the same results occur. New York is not indicative of the entire nation, after all. If the results stay the same, install people meters in homes using the current diary system. If results continue to deviate from expectations after that, we likely will have found the culprit, and it won't be the computers.

Having said that, if we find out that the most popular television show winds up being My Big Fat Obnoxious Fianc, I will be the first to lead the torch procession to Nielsen headquarters.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:57 AM | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

A Contractor Tells About His Mission

One of my friends is a Special Forces veteran who has spent decades in active service and the reserves. He took some time off to work as a security contractor with a company whose name has been in the news. After the horrible deaths and mutilations of four contractors in Fallujah, my friend sent out a long e-mail detailing his experiences in Iraq in order to set our minds at ease about his mission and the work the US is doing in Iraq. I asked him to allow me to share his experiences with you, and after a few day's delay, he gave me permission to do so as long as I edited out the pictures (for the privacy of his colleagues) and removed any references that would disclose his identity, to protect his family and himself.

Please read this very long post in order to learn for yourselves exactly what these fine Americans serving as contractors for such firms as Blackwater and Halliburton are doing on behalf of their country, regardless of whether you agree with our policy or not. Remember this when you hear people demonizing contractors like my friend as "mercenaries". Click the link below to read the entire post.

Thank you all for your continued support of me (even though I dont usually write back) and my patriotic family at home. I am healthy and looking forward to a couple weeks with [family] in a safe foreign country sometime next month.

In the wake of the tragic death and disgusting desecration of the remains of our comrades from Blackwater, I will spend my half day off today answering some of your questions ... As you may or may not know I am not on active duty as [Special Forces] this year. For the last 6 months, I have been one of the government contractors you may have heard about in the news operating in Iraq. I work with many other contractors who, like me, are on Authorized Absence (or discharged) from either Special Forces, Marine Recon, SEAL Teams, etc.

Old ways die hard among thugs. And pure thuggery is what has ruled Iraq for more than 10 years before Saddam Hussain under Al-Bakir. There are a few thugs standing in the wings around here trying to vie for power because thats all they know. It doesnt matter what variation on Islam they are spoutingthey are nothing more than mob bosses and the Iraqi people, in general are tired of it. Add some out-of-country terrorists to the mix and an American liberal media in an election year and these thugs think they are going to win. I pray American voters see that we must finish this one the right way. If we walk away now, we will be responsible for a lot more than the 2 million Cambodians and every last Montainyard that was murdered the year after we abandoned Indochina. Here is the reality I see everyday.

The Iraqi people as a wholelove us. You read it rightlove us. Terrorists may hate us and radicals in different ethnic groups within Iraq may hate each otherbut in general, the common Iraqi people, Shias, Sunis, Kurds, Chaldeans, Turkomen, all have one thing in commonFor one instant in time, they have hope for their future and the future of their childrenand that hope is centered around one group of foreignersyou guessed itAmericansthe good old USA.

And there are dozens of coalition forces who help usyoung military people from most of the free countries in the world are hereand willing to lay down their lives because America has led the way in spreading the good news of freedom and democracy to the oldest land on Earth. And we are all helping to train Iraqis to protect themselves with sound moral and ethical procedures And we know that teaching adults is importantBut educating children is the keySo there is a lot of money going to rebuilding schools in Iraq and getting rural children to attend for the first time in history.

Many of you have asked about what our response to the recent atrocity should or will be. Here is my take on it

Of all the areas to commit random acts of violence and inhumanity to Americans in, Fallujah was the wrong place for one simple reason. It is now controlled by the United States Marine Corps which is just large enough and just nimble enough and certainly motivated enough to slog it out door to door until every last criminal (caught on tape last week) is apprehended along with his Imam mob boss. As for the rest of us, we will continue to apply violence of action when our lives are threatened or to save the life of another or when impeded in carrying out a critical mission. And our ROEs (Rules Of Engagement) may change depending on the threat level we face. However we are moral and civilized and will never degenerate to the kind of barbarism that was seen in Fallujah.

Here are 3 recent examples of how we Americans deal with indigenous people and their dead and prisoners we take. All of these missions took place in the last 2 weeks, just outside the gates of my current FOB (Forward Operating Base).

Mission #1 Force Protection/Medevac

A Taxi from Baghdad approached our front gate. Unknown to the gate guards, he was carrying one of our translators. He was ordered to slow down. When he didnt comply he was forcefully ordered to stop and get out of his vehicle. In panic he floored his accelerator pedal thinking it was the brake causing his vehicle to lurch forward toward the gate. Appropriately, the gate guards fired eight 5.56 caliber rounds into the taxi.

The vehicle veered off into a field and came to a stop. Miraculously, no one inside was seriously injured by the gunfire. After the vehicle and both Iraqis were searched it was determined that the driver made a near fatal mistake but it was not deliberate.

If the guards were blood thirsty, they could have continued to fire their weapons until they were sure that both Iraqis were dead. But they are professionals and they followed their current ROEs until the car was not a threat and then safely reassessed the situation.

But thats not the end of the story. After tending to some minor wounds of our translator, I noticed the elderly Taxi cab driver was holding his chest with a clenched fist. I gave our translator a series of questions to ask and found the man was experiencing severe pressure on the left side of his chest radiating to his left shoulder and arm. He had an irregular pulse. After putting him on our EKG monitor I found him in a potentially life-threatening heart rhythm and determined he was in the beginning stages of a heart attack. Because he was outside our gates there was no legal reason to treat him. If we had hatred in our hearts, we could have let him suffer for his mistake and die. But we were not on a dangerous convoy and there were no hostiles approaching and we do not have hatred in our hearts.

So we brought him into our compound and put him on oxygen and I administered several doses of nitroglycerin and started an IV and gave him morphine and other appropriate drugs based on his changing condition. And we packaged him for flight and called in an American Dust-off Medevac Crew, and I flew with him to the closest Combat Surgical Hospital.

And for 24 hours he received the same high level of medical care that any American soldier would have received. And he was given American medications to take home and turned over to an Iraqi ambulance when he was stable. And although it was completely his fault and our guards did exactly the right thing, an American Civil Affairs officer is tracking the cab driver to help him process his claim to get his taxi cab repaired or replaced.

And one week later he returned for his cab and he made it very clear that he doesnt hate us either.

Mission #2 Civil Affairs

Iraq is a very agrarian country where you find many farmers and shepherds. Most shepherds are nomads and live like the Bedouins who still roam between all Arab countries. Some own land and stay in one place. It is important for our own safety and theirs that we get to know all of our neighbors.

A few days ago the son of a local Shepard came to our front gate and reported that the dogs had returned home but not the father and subsequently they found some of the sheep outside a nearby abandoned Ammunition Supply Point (ASP). The ASP was not secure and is full of live unexploded ordinance (UXO). Fearing the worst, the son asked us to help find his father.

Our Officer in Charge of Security carefully considered the risk and asked our input and we decided to form a search party to find him in the ASP. We found the body of the shepherd directly adjacent to a small crater which was obviously caused by the detonation of a relatively small UXO. We used a technique to roll him onto his back from a remote location in case the body was booby-trapped with an IED (improvised explosive device). On close examination we determined that in addition to entering a dangerous restricted area, the shepherd had obviously been tampering with the UXO which led to his own demise.

There were no morbid jokes (that day). If we were callous and uncivilized, we could have left the body for the dogs and wolves. No one would know. If we were barbarians with hatred in our hearts we could have done things barbarians do to bodies which perpetuates more hatred.

Because we are professionals, we carefully documented and retained his personal possessions for his family and we contained his remains in a coroners pouch, and we placed that in an American body bag. And because we dont have hatred in our hearts, we took our translator out to the family to notify them of the death and to provide grief support. They specifically requested to see the remains of their loved one. So we prepared them for what they would see and then we brought them in and respectfully showed them. And then we presented the intact right hand of the shepherd for them to touch and caress. And we waited with them while they prayed Muslim prayers ... And then the US Army expedited the arrival of the local Iraqi Police authorities so that they could bury the remains before sunset which is their tribal custom.

Mission #3 Interdiction Operation

On 31 March 04, the same day that the 4 Blackwater operators were murdered in Fallujah and their bodies were desecrated, I was activated to patrol with a Quick Response Force (QRF). We were summoned to the same ASP where we found the body of the shepherd except this time we had to go much farther in where the UXO was so thick it was like a carpet. In past weeks in the same area we encountered handfuls of looters who either scrap for metal or ordinance which they sell. When they sell intact ordinance it is used for only one purpose the base charge for the IEDs which blow someone up everyday from here to Israel. In each of the previous instances we searched and detained the individuals and turned them over to the US Army.

On this day there were 15 looters found and then there were 20 and then 20 more and soon there were more than a hundred. We started with only 8 of us contractor operators and 3 regular Army Infantry soldiers. 2 of the Army soldiers found themselves isolated with over 50 looters. They asked for our immediate assistance, so we split off two 3 man teams and patrolled in on foot.

From a distance across all the UXO at least 2 of the looters shot at us with AK47s which were extinguished by immediate suppressive fire. Eventually, my team converged on the 2 soldiers in the middle of the ASP along with various other looters we apprehended on the way in.

After adding our looters to the mix, we were then managing 148 looters. If any of them were still holding weapons when we found them we would have shot them. None of them were carrying weapons when we contacted them and almost all of them had discarded the ordinance they were stealing. However they were in a dangerous restricted area and the only reason they were there was to steal and later sell weapons that could be used against us.

Because we each were carrying more than 250 rounds of ammunition a piece, we could have lined them up and shot every one of them. Or we could have forced them to walk back through a mine field or any number of unspeakably worse things that have been done in this country by their previous government. But that is not the American way and that is not the model of behavior we wish to perpetuate here or take back home with us.

So we kept firm order and discipline and carefully searched each of them, and then we place them along a safe road out of the UXO. When we were sure that everyone was safe and we knew exactly where the arriving U.S. Army would meet us, we formed them in disciplined columns and carefully marched them out of the ASP.

When we reached the outer perimeter of the ASP we had almost 200 looters and the U.S Army realized there were too many for them to incarcerate that day. So we methodically took digital pictures of each one of them including any identifying marks, scars or tattoos. And we recorded their first name and fathers name and tribal name and the place they were born and linked them to the pictures. (And we later turned them over to Military Intelligence officers.) A few of them were incarcerated that day. By the end of the afternoon we were tired and frustrated that we could not have been more effective but we knew we did as we were trained to do and followed our current ROEs.

And then we returned that night to our FOB and we heard the news of the fate of our brothers in Fallujah and saw films of their charred remains hanging on a public bridge and people screaming with jubilation.

I dont know the future of the nation of Iraq. I do know there are some very practical missions that need to be completed before we leave this place.

God Bless America.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers, and huge thanks to Glenn for linking this.

UPDATE II: Ranting Profs has an e-mail from another contractor who pointedly refutes the current media depiction of contractors in Iraq.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 11:04 PM | TrackBack

Stealing Air: Filling In For Hugh

As most of you already know, the Northern Alliance of Blogs stepped in for Hugh Hewitt as he went on a top-secret mission at one of our nation's fine military colleges, the Naval Academy at Annapolis. (We're not entirely sure about this mission, but the Elder claims that he has the goods, complete with pictures.) The Northern Alliance took over Hugh's show on both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, driving his listeners to consider Dead-Air America as their back-up radio choice in the event Hugh takes any more time off -- even though they were playing Marcel Marceau's Greatest Hits (Dance Remix Version) all night Wednesday in LA.

I can't tell you how much fun it is to be in a radio studio with terrific guys like the Elder and JB from Fraters Libertas, King Banian from SCSU Scholars, and Big Trunk and Hindrocket (who was unfortunately out of town for our national debut) from Power Line. I got to meet James Lileks for the first time, he of the mellifluous voice and lightning-quick wit (George Soros is Ernst Blofeld? How the heck does he do that?). If you've read his Bleat, then you have a good sense of the man: friendly, intelligent, gracious, and willing to chat at length with me as soon as I bought a $25 autograph. I can only read the J, dang it! But most of all, Mitch Berg from Shot In The Dark deserves the credit for handling the center position like the pro he is. He was fabulous, and he's just as good on our weekend show, too.

The Elder posted his thoughts on the show earlier today at Fraters Libertas:

And it was a helluva lot of fun. Working with Generalissimo Duane was a pleasure. He is a true radio professional and knows his craft well. He also has a tremendous sense of humor and, as often happens on our Saturday show, many of the best lines and much of the best conversation took place off the air during breaks. Best of all Duane played his own bumps, not the musical flotsam and jetsam that Hugh usually subjects his listeners to. Thank you Generalissimo.

Duane truly made us as good as we can be -- insert your own joke here -- and not only kept us on track but kept us calm, relaxed, and focused. At the same time, he had no problem joining in the fun and foolishness of the moment and pushed us to be ourselves on the air. I thank you, Duane, and sorry about the peasants with pitchforks and torches outside your house that we somehow inspired. And thanks again for taking us out with "Tijuana Jail," a great Kingston Trio record. I wanted to cement my reputation as a world-class square, especially after endorsing "Tom Dooley" the night before.

But most of all, I want to thank Hugh, and no kidding -- we've done five local shows total and he gave up six prime-time hours to this bunch of amateurs, a real leap of faith. I challenge you to find a radio talk-show host that would turn his show over to a group of his fans like he has, or that would use his influence to create two local radio shows like he did out here this winter with us and Dwight Rabuse. I'm still amazed at his generosity, and now that I've gone through a bit of the prep that he does, I'm even more amazed at the consistently high quality of his show.

Thanks for tossing us the mike, Hugh and Duane. Hope we took good care of it for you.

If you caught the show on the air or over the Internet, I'd love to hear from you -- drop me a comment with your reviews!

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:02 PM | TrackBack

The Monochromatic John Kerry

In an unusual broadside, CNN's Carlos Watson reports on an embarassing and potentially mortal flaw within the Kerry campaign -- the striking lack of diversity among his advisors:

Seizing on the nation's diversity -- the country is almost one-third non-white -- Bush has appointed African-Americans, Asians, Latinos and women to senior and non-stereotypical roles: Secretary of State, national security adviser, Transportation Secretary, White House Counsel.

Unlike Al Gore whose campaign manager, political director and finance director were African-American, the Kerry campaign, as of yet, has no one of color in the innermost circle, including Kerry's campaign manager, campaign chairperson, media adviser, policy director, foreign policy adviser, general election manager, convention planner, national finance chairman, and head of VP search team.

This is another case of Kerry speaking out of both sides of his mouth, and a particularly egregious one at that. Democrats have long smeared Republicans with race-baiting tactics; recently, Trent Lott was forced to resign his Senate leadership position -- by Republicans -- after some poorly-chosen words honoring Strom Thurmond on his birthday. Strikingly, no Democrat ever challenged Senator Chris Dodd for much the same kind of remarks honoring former KKK member and senior Senator Robert Byrd.

Democrats count on overwhelming support from minority voters, especially in the African-American community, and for the most part they get it. However, that appears to be changing as that community continues to improve economically and become more politically independent. Questions are being asked about the true Democratic commitment to equal opportunity. Al Sharpton may have initiated Howard Dean's demise by embarassing him on national TV for the lack of diversity in his administration of Vermont, which has one of the lowest percentages of minority voters in the country. Now that Kerry represents all Democrats, he is much more vulnerable to the same complaint.

In contrast, Bush has had a solid record as Governor and President of nominating African-Americans and Latinos into key positions. Alberto Gonzales is his chief counsel; Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are two of his closest advisors. More examples will be produced on the campaign trail as Bush and Karl Rove continue to push for inroads into communities long closed off to Republican overtures.

Democratic behavior betrays a double standard, and almost worse, a condescension towards their constituencies. Despite decades of loyal party support, African-Americans will look at the people surrounding the major party nominee and wonder why key roles have been closed off to them. It won't take much wondering before they understand that what the Democrats offer is just an extension of the victimhood mentality that the far-left prizes, patronizing them with government handouts instead of opportunities to excel. A combination of better access to middle- and upper-class incomes and the stagnation of Democratic policy towards their communities will start opening doors to Republicans, especially when the Republican in question is demonstrably more at ease with them as people than their traditional allies.

UPDATE: Correcting Alberto Gonzalez, who I mixed up earlier with Miguel Estrada, hat tip to reader Dan.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:43 PM | TrackBack

LA Times: Iraqi Economy Rebounding

Proving that major media outlets can ignore news for only so long, the Los Angeles Times notes in a featured Mark Magnier article that the Iraqi economy shows signs of a strong rebound and the Iraqi middle class is gathering strength:

Wedged between the reports of murder and mayhem, the headline in the local paper was eye-catching: "Should you change your wallpaper for lighter tones?" it asked. "Do it once and you'll see the results." ...

Slowly but surely, ordinary Iraqis are redoing floors, hanging curtains, buying new pictures and feathering their nests after years of doing without.

Furniture and upholstery sellers are reporting strong demand, as are lighting firms, building contractors and plant stores. "I've been in this business a long time," said Muthana Fahawi, a carpet merchant for 25 years in Baghdad's Karada neighborhood. "Anyone who says the economy isn't improving isn't telling the truth. You can feel the money starting to flow."

Polling data from Iraq last month showed significant optimism -- 55% of Iraqis said that things were better right now, and 70% expected life to improve more over the coming year -- as a result of Saddam's downfall. Despite the constant drumbeat of bad news coming to Americans about the situation in Iraq, Iraqis are much safer than they were under Ba'ath rule, where estimates of monthly deaths run into the thousands. With new political and economic freedoms, even the poorer Iraqis have some disposable cash, as a Baghdad shopkeeper notes:

"If you don't have enough to eat, you don't go buying houseplants," said Haider Mohammed, owner of a plant nursery in the shadow of the national stadium. "Now we're even seeing poor people out for a look."

Magnier's article makes it clear that the Iraqis still have a long way to go, of course. But with the oppressive Ba'ath party out of power and its endemic corruption a thing of the past, Iraqi entrepeneurs are looking forward to a future of growth and prosperity. Optimism in Iraq appears hardier than its American cousin these days.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:24 AM | TrackBack

New York Times: 9/11 Commission Talks Too Much

Jim Rutenberg wrote an analysis for today's New York Times that questions the relentless public-relations efforts by members of the 9/11 Commission, who have appeared on talk shows and written numerous opinion pieces during their work on evaluating America's failure to predict and defend against the al-Qada suicide hijackings. Rutenberg notes growing discontent from Republicans and Democrats alike over their open discussions of the evidence and voicing their preliminary conclusions before all of the evidence and testimony has been received:

Democrats and Republicans alike have raised concerns about the degree to which commission members are discussing their deliberations on television and, even, in newspaper columns to the point that they are spinning their views like the politicians that many of them are.

Americans can hardly turn on a television or pick up a newspaper these days without seeing or reading about a member of the commission. From the Fox News Channel to ABC to newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, panel members have been providing a running commentary about the investigation as it unfolds, sometimes drawing blunt conclusions months before the final report is to be published in late July.

The accessibility of the commissioners to the news media, not to mention the openness of their views, is a departure from similar independent commissions of the past. Its members' openness troubles some officials here, who say they worry that it is giving the panel an edge that will taint its conclusions especially when coupled with what some have called a partisan tone to members' questions at the hearings here.

The issue calls into question what Congress and the President intended as the nature of this commission. In the beginning, as Glenn Reynolds has noted on occasion during debate about recusals and conflicts of interest, the expressed intent for the commission was to give it a judicial-style role in order to minimize its politicization, especially in an election year. Rutenberg contrasts this expectation with the behavior of the commissioners, which matches up better with political-style Congressional hearings on Iran-Contra and similar issues.

Why is this important? At any level, a judicial functionary would not be allowed to say on television or write in newspapers anything that would give a reasonable conclusion that the person had made up their mind well before hearing the evidence. As exmaples, Rutenberg reports on a few recent statements from some of the more visible members of the panel:

One commissioner, Bob Kerrey, has written two newspaper opinion pieces, including one for The New York Times on Sunday in which he asserted "9/11 could have been prevented." Another commissioner, Richard Ben-Veniste, said on CNN last week that before the attacks "we had some very useful intelligence." ...

Late last month, John F. Lehman, a Republican commissioner, said of Richard A. Clarke, the former counterterrorism official who has said the Bush administration did not take his warnings about terrorism seriously before the attacks, "I think he has a credibility problem."

Last week, Jamie S. Gorelick, a Democrat on the commission, was asked if she agreed with testimony from Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that there was no piece of evidence that "would have led to connecting all of those dots." Ms. Gorelick said on CNBC that she did not.

"There are dozens of pieces of information which, if they had been brought to one table," she said, "you have to believe we would have had a shot at preventing this."

I've discussed Gorelick's role on the panel in detail and I intend to return to this quote in a later post on that subject, but that example along with those others clearly indicate a bias on the part of each. For instance, how can Gorelick claim to fairly evaluate Rice's testimony before having heard from Ashcroft, Tenet, Mueller, and Pickard about the legal impediments preventing all of that data being "brought to one table"? Can Kerrey, having publicly stated that 9/11 was preventable, be open to evidence to the contrary?

Commission members offer the secretive Pearl Harbor and Warren (Kennedy assassination) commissions as a defense, claiming that secrecy created the lack of trust in their conclusions, but in fact the problem with at least the Warren commission wasn't secrecy, it was their willingness to endorse the FBI's bias, and their own, that a lone gunman was responsible for Kennedy's murder. Rather than energetically pursue other lines of investigation, the Warren Commission never challenged their own assumptions and allowed their bias to carry the day.

What we see now with 9/11 commissioners is the equivalent of the OJ jury coming out every night to debate the day's proceedings with Geraldo Rivera and Charles Grodin. National-security resources have been exposed in the media spotlight as witnesses are hauled before the camera by day and their testimony dissected every night by the people who are supposed to be listening with open minds. The process has become more open, but it's entirely inappropriate. We have rules preventing bias from affecting judicial-style proceedings in the US, for juries and for judges, for a very good reason: bias is widely recognized for producing bad results.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:06 AM | TrackBack

Osama Sues for Peace?

Something tells me that this will turn out to be a fake, but the Arab television network Al-Arabiya aired a new audio tape reportedly by Osama bin Laden himself offering European nations a "truce" if they leave Muslims alone:

In a recording broadcast on Arab satellite networks Thursday, a man who identified himself as Osama bin Laden offered a "truce" to European countries that do not attack Muslims, saying it would begin when their soldiers leave Islamic nations. ...

"I announce a truce with the European countries that do not attack Muslim countries," the taped message said as the stations showed an old, still picture of al-Qaida leader. ... This truce, the message said, was to deny "the war mongers" further opportunities and because polls have shown that "most of the European peoples want reconciliation" with the Islamic world.

As a Tory leader in Britain remarked, the tape (if authentic) offers a sign that what's left of al-Qaeda has been shaken by the campaign to wipe it out. Playing to European citizens whom they just bombed in Madrid and mentioning polling data -- such stalwarts of democracy! -- amounts to nothing more than a poor attempt to split the Coalition by pandering to the defeatists in Europe. Along those lines, Osama excluded America from the offer of truce, claiming that US support for "the Jew in Palestine" and its "invasion of the Arabian peninsula," presumably begun when we ejected Saddam from Kuwait. Osama doesn't seem to care too much that the 1990-1 Gulf War had UN backing and was, in John Kerry's words, a "true coalition" because it included France and Germany.

If authentic, Osama is playing a strategic game with the West. Four weeks after killing 200 Spaniards and changing the course of their election, he's now attempting a PR campaign to maintain that political momentum on the Continent. A serious split in the Western front against Islamofascism will result in serious political blowback in the US, where the unforeseen Socialist victory in Spain has already caused George Bush some damage. Osama knows that the key to rolling back the Anglo-American offensive against his organization and the various terrorist-supporting governments in the area isn't forcing Spain to leave Iraq and Afghanistan -- it's defeating George Bush. The Madrid bombing and the release of this tape comprises the opening volley in al-Qaeda's 2004 political campaign.

UPDATE: Europe channels General Anthony McAuliffe at Bastogne in its response, to their credit:

European Commission President Romano Prodi said there could be no negotiating under a "terrorist threat."

In Britain the Foreign Office said there was no proof the voice on the tape was bin Laden. However, the message was being taken seriously.

"We can't negotiate with al Qaeda," a spokesman said. "Their attacks are against the very idea of co-existence and conflict is their raison d'etre.

The Germans were equally adamant. CNN did not report on any reaction from France ...

UPDATE: Yeah, it's real.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:25 AM | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Drudge reports that Air America has been pulled off the air in Los Angeles and Chicago due to non-payment of fees -- which Air America hotly denies (via The Corner):

The CHICAGO TRIBUNE is developing a story, insiders tell DRUDGE, on how the network was pulled off the air this morning in Chicago and Los Angeles, the network's second- and third-largest markets, because, the owner of both stations said, the network bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million!

Air America, as I said, is not very happy about this description:

MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting's conduct in this matter has been disgraceful. To shut off a broadcast that listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of discussions is the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the media industry. In addition, it is a clear violation of their contractual obligations, and we are seeking legal remedies against them in court.

In other words, don't expect them back on the air in LA or Chicago any time soon.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 2:18 PM | TrackBack

Sensenbrenner Calls for Gorelick Resignation

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner notes that Congressman James Sensenbrenner has called for the resignation of 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick:

Yesterday, a 1995 memo written by 9/11 Commission Member Jamie Gorelick, in her former role as the second in command at the Justice Department, revealed her actions in establishing the heightened 'wall' prohibiting the sharing of intelligence information and criminal information. Scrutiny of this policy lies at the heart of the Commission's work. Ms. Gorelick has an inherent conflict of interest as the author of this memo and as a government official at the center of the events in questions. Thus, I believe the Commission's work and independence will be fatally damaged by the continued participation of Ms. Gorelick as a Commissioner. Reluctantly, I have come to the conclusion that Ms. Gorelick should resign from this Commission.

"The Commission's Guidelines on Recusals state, 'Commissioners and staff will recuse themselves from investigating work they performed in prior government service.' Commissioner Gorelick's memo directing a policy that 'go[es] beyond what is legally required' indicates that her judgment and actions as the Deputy Attorney General in the Reno Justice Department are very much in question before the Commission. Indeed Attorney General Ashcroft called this DOJ policy, 'the single greatest structural cause for September 11 ... [and] embraced flawed legal reasoning.' Commissioner Gorelick is in the unfair position of trying to address the key issue before the Commission when her own actions are central to the events at issue. The public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives.

Lopez does not provide a link to any major media outlet for this information, and not surprisingly (given the anemic coverage of Gorelick's multiple conflicts of interest) so far none seems to be carrying the news.

UPDATE: On Minnesota Public Radio, US District Attorney Tom Heffelfinger just stated that the Gorelick memo made it clear to him (at the time it was issued) that information could not be shared between intelligence and law-enforcement units of the FBI.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:05 PM | TrackBack

Caption Contest #6 Winners!

The Captain has to apologize for a delay-of-game penalty -- with all of the show prep for our fill-in appearance on the Hugh Hewitt show, I've been thrown for a loss in this game! With Bill from INDC Journal running interference, though, we've picked the winners for the latest Caption Contest. Just to jog the memory, here's the picture:

Captain's Award (Touchdown) -- Robert the Llama Butcher:

While on a tour of crucial battleground states in the midwest, Senator Kerry was unpleasantly surprised to to discover that "Punt, Pass and Kick" is not just the Democratic Party national security policy.

You Have The Conn #1 (The Bomb) -- Cassandra:

"Do I catch it, or let it go...catch it, or let it go...damn I wish those poll results were in!"

You Have The Conn #2 (Student Body Left) -- Eric:

That quarterback has thrown the most reckless, arrogant pass in pick-up football history!

You Have The Conn #3 (Field Goal) -- Rick:

Most likely thing that John Kerry actually said : * I don't drop balls...That sonofabitch clipped me!

Report to Sick Bay/Injured Reserve (On The Double) -- Pile On:

John honey, I didn't know you enjoyed football so much, I thought your ohhh ohhh ohhh face was something special just between us.--Theresa

Thanks for a whole league of great responses -- Bill and I had a tough time working our way through all of them! As always, comments will remain open on this post so that the winners can gloat, everyone else can disparage Bill's eyesight and my parentage, and others can put in post-contest entries to amaze their friends and confound their enemies.

Remember, if anyone wants to guest judge the next Caption Contest, send me a photo for the contest by e-mail ...

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:00 PM | TrackBack

Hate Speech From the Left

Florida Democrats in St. Petersburg have spent too much time in the fever swamps. They ran an ad in a weekly newspaper calling for the assassination of Donald Rumsfeld, prompting outrage from Republicans and -- to their credit -- demands for an apology from the John Kerry campaign (via Drudge):

The ad, appearing in last Thursday's edition of the Gabber, a weekly paper covering the Pinellas County community of Gulfport, included a lengthy criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and then singled out Rumsfeld.

"And then there's Rumsfeld who said of Iraq 'We have our good days and our bad days.' We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say 'This is one of our bad days,' and pull the trigger," the ad read under a banner "St. Petersburg Democratic Club."

It won't be long before the increasingly irresponsible mouthfoaming coming from what are considered mainstream sources -- such as regional Democratic groups as this -- will inspire real violence against government officials. What if someone had actually gone out yesterday and shot Secretary Rumsfeld? Would the St. Petersburg Democrats Club have run another full-page ad celebrating his murder?

When contacted, the newspaper offered this poor excuse for accepting the ad in the first place:

Ken Reichart, editor and publisher of the Gabber, with a circulation of 13,000, said the club paid $175 for the ad and has advertised in the newspaper periodically for the past two years. He considered not running the ad but chose to publish it because he felt the reference to Rumsfeld was a "figure of speech."

"I didn't get the visual of Ken Steinke, the author of the ad, standing in front of Rumsfeld with an Uzi. I got the picture of the parent saying 'Boy, I want to kill my kid.' It's just a figure of speech."

Judgment like this underscores the reason Steinke runs a small weekly rag instead of anything significant. I doubt this will serve as an entre to a professorship at the Columbia School of Journalism any time soon.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:46 AM | TrackBack

The Award For The Silliest Lead Paragraph Goes To ...

... Jason Keyser and Lourdes Navarro at the AP, whose otherwise uninteresting article on the fighting in Fallujah brings doublespeak to an entirely new level:

U.S. warplanes and helicopter gunships firing heavy machine-guns, rockets and cannons hammered gunmen as a truce in besieged Fallujah was strained by increasingly intense battles. With more troops killed, April became the deadliest month for American forces since they set foot in Iraq.

Perhaps the AP has a different dictionary than I do, but when I look up the word, the definition I read appears somewhat incongruous to other words like battles. When was the last time you heard of a truce that involved warplanes and gunships firing heavy machine guns? Based on their description, war is safer than peace, since more troops have been killed since the "truce" broke out than in any other month since we "set foot in Iraq." Vive la guerre!

Doesn't anyone edit stories at the AP any more?

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:14 AM | TrackBack

Media: Dances With Gorelick

Walter Branigin filed a report yesterday at the Washington Post on the testimony of John Ashcroft at the 9/11 Commission, as well as that of Louis Freeh, Thomas Pickard, and Janet Reno. Imagine my surprise when the Post managed to miss the most intriguing part of Ashcroft's testimony -- that commissioner Jamie Gorelick had played an integral part in defending the flawed structure that stymied counterterrorism efforts for a decade and more:

For nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, "our government had blinded itself to its enemies." He said U.S. covert action authorities were "crippled" in their ability to go after bin Laden by "a battery of lawyers" in the government who insisted that the United States should try to capture him before taking any lethal action.

Branigin never even mentions Gorelick by name, let alone discuss her memo to the FBI instructing them that their law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering units could only share information by jumping through legal hoops -- in effect, quashing any practical efforts to do so. Nor, not surprisingly, does Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen do much better in their report filed later on:

Ashcroft sought to blame the Clinton administration for many of the shortcomings in counterterrorism strategies before the attacks, taking the unusual step of publicly citing the work of a Democratic member of the commission, Jamie S. Gorelick, who served as a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. Ashcroft announced the declassification and release of a 1995 memo she wrote that outlined legal rules on sharing intelligence information, characterizing the guidelines as "the single greatest structural cause for the September 11th problem."

"We did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies," Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft's pointed remarks capped a day of finger-pointing by current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials, who defended their own roles in assessing and fighting the al Qaeda threat while generally criticizing the missteps of others.

So the only mention of this astounding conflict of interest on Gorelick's part -- one which she apparently did not disclose to other commission members -- comes wrapped in an accusation of blame-shifting against Ashcroft. Funny, but I don't recall the headlines or articles resulting from Richard Clarke's testimony being couched in terms of blame-shifting, even though Clarke led counterterrorism efforts for the US for ten years prior to 9/11. Suddenly, when Ashcroft presents evidence of structural flaws to this commission tasked with discovering what went wrong in our intelligence analysis instead of selling a book, the Post goes into attack mode and ignores the Gorelick conflict of interest altogether.

CNN mentions Gorelick in its omnibus feature article on the entire day's testimony, but it never mentions any potential conflict of interest, even though Lou Dobbs confronted her about it immediately afterward:

Ashcroft appeared to criticize the Clinton administration early on in his testimony.

"We did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies," he said. "Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions and starved for basic information technology."

Ashcroft criticized his predecessors at the Justice Department, saying a 1995 memorandum by then-Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick -- now a member of the commission -- hamstrung the FBI beyond what the law required.

However, even though CNN doesn't think it worth a mention, Lou Dobbs confronted Gorelick on his CNN show and asked her whether she thought she should resign:

DOBBS: Let me ask you as well, former Acting FBI Director Thomas Pickard has questioned your role on the commission itself. You recused yourself today because of your association and work with Attorney General Janet Reno, suggesting that you should not be on the commission at all. Your response?

GORELICK: Actually, I'm not aware of that. I'm totally unaware of that.

No one, to my knowledge, has reported on Pickard's reservations about Gorelick's participation on the commission, not even CNN itself.

The Los Angeles Times runs a feature article today on this "wall", painting it as a "scapegoat" but explaining the issue in detail rather than attacking Ashcroft:

The wall the long-standing rule prohibiting criminal investigators and intelligence agents from sharing information with each other has since been significantly lowered in a series of post-Sept. 11 reforms.

Whether that wall is dismantled completely or the FBI itself is dismantled by having its intelligence function taken away is fast becoming a central focus of the commission's independent investigation.

Again, Gorelick's role in maintaining and deepening that wall never gets any mention by Josh Meyer at the Times, nor does the article even mention Gorelick by name. Their other story on Ashcroft's testimony mentions Gorelick and the memo, but past the jump:

Ashcroft also suggested that a particularly harmful policy that prevented FBI agents from seeking secret wiretap authority and sharing intelligence information stemmed in part from a memo drafted in 1994 by one of the members of the commission, Jamie S. Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration at that time.

Ashcroft declassified what commission aides said was a 1994 memo from Gorelick instructing prosecutors and the FBI in the first World Trade Center bombing case on how to keep criminal and intelligence work separate.

The move surprised and appeared to dismay some of the commission members, although they discounted the significance of its contents.

Greg Miller and Richard Schmitt mention the commission's "despair" -- an interesting term -- but never reveals its cause. As far as I read it this morning, the Times joins the Post in its silence on Gorelick's conflict of interest.

In order to read anything about this issue, you have to turn to a surprising source -- the New York Times, which for once manages not to bury a lede on a story that puts Democratic partisans in a poor light. First, this story reports Gorelick's involvement in the wall's structure in much better detail than anything the Post or the LA Times bothered to attempt:

In his Tuesday testimony, Mr. Ashcroft pointedly blamed one of the commission members, Jamie S. Gorelick, for enacting the wall. Ms. Gorelick was the deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration who signed regulations in 1995 enforcing the wall. "In 1995, the Justice Department embraced flawed legal reasoning, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required," Mr. Ashcroft said, adding that the wall specifically impeded investigations into two of the terrorists who hijacked aircraft on Sept. 11. ...

"Somebody built this wall," he said, citing Ms. Gorelick's 1995 secret memorandum.

"Although you understand the debilitating impacts of the wall, I cannot imagine that the commission knew about this memorandum. So I have had it declassified for you and the public to review. Full disclosure compels me to inform you that the author of this memorandum is a member of the commission," a reference to Ms. Gorelick.

The appeals court that demolished the wall said, however, that it had been erected earlier and was only codified by Ms. Gorelick. The court also said that it was "quite puzzling that the Justice Department, at some point during the 1980's, began to read the statute as" requiring a separation of the two fields of counterintelligence and criminal search warrants.

And then David Rosenbaum takes on the conflict of interest issue, although not just with Gorelick -- he broadens it to the entire commission:

As most people in the hearing room knew, he was referring to Jamie S. Gorelick, a Democratic member, who has been especially aggressive in questioning Bush administration witnesses. Ms. Gorelick did not respond to Mr. Ashcroft. From 1994 to 1997, Ms. Gorelick, now a lawyer in private practice, was deputy attorney general under Janet Reno in the Clinton administration.

This is the most direct conflict between the members' responsibilities on the commission and their past positions that has arisen in the public hearings. But all 10 members were once public officials, and all bring some baggage to the proceedings.

All the ex-lawmakers on the commission former Senators Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Slade Gorton of Washington and former Representatives Lee H. Hamilton and Timothy J. Roemer, both of Indiana were members of intelligence committees when they were in Congress and had access to classified information about terrorism.

It appears that the primary culprit of the intelligence failure will be the structural hurdles placed recklessly in our counterterrorism efforts by a string of people, which neither starts nor ends with Gorelick, but certainly deeply involves her. Under those circumstances, the American public can have no confidence in any report in which she plays a significant part in shaping. No other member of the commission had this much impact on such a critical flaw. The public should demand the withdrawal of Gorelick from the 9/11 Commission, and they probably would if the media actually reported the story of the day anywhere near as well as the New York Times.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! We'll be discussing this tonight when we fill in for Hugh Hewitt on his national radio show.

UPDATE II: Let's not forget Jamie Gorelick's other major conflict of interest -- her law firm's ties to defending the Saudis against trillion-dollar lawsuits for 9/11. Why does the press continue to treat Gorelick with kid gloves?

UPDATE III: Run, don't walk, to Robert Tagorda's excellent post on Gorelick to read her Congressional testimony defending the "wall" in 1995.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:18 AM | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

Prayers for Cindy McCain

I've had my differences with Senator John McCain this year, but politics is politics -- this is reality:

Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, suffered a small stroke and was hospitalized in stable condition Tuesday.

"According to her physician, the prognosis is cautiously excellent," McCain said in a statement Tuesday.

Cindy McCain, 49, had a small bleed in her brain and her speech is mildly affected, said Robert Spetzler, director of the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Senator, just know that you have the prayers of all your fellow citizens for your wife's quick and complete recovery, and for your and your children.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:13 PM | TrackBack

Zarqawi in Fallujah?

An Australian news website reports that Abu al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda operations chief reportedly behind part of the Iraqi insurgency, may be trapped in Fallujah (via Instapundit):

THE alleged mastermind of the al-Qaeda operations in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, is believed to be in the city of Fallujah, which is under US marine siege, a senior coalition spokesman said today.

"Zarqawi is believed to be in Fallujah or nearby," said Dan Senor.

Remind me again -- why is Iraq a "distraction" from the war on terror?

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 2:06 PM | TrackBack

Jamie Gorelick: Part of the Solution, or the Problem?

Former deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick has been one of the more partisan members of the 9/11 Commission, clashing sharply with Condoleezza Rice during her public testimony, although not as rudely as her colleagues Richard Ben-Veniste and Bob Kerrey. Gorelick has been particularly critical of statements regarding the collection of intelligence and the failure to "connect the dots" by national-security agencies and the NSC themselves. However, as Andrew McCarthy points out in today's National Review Online, Gorelick is no disinterested observer to the structural problems between the FBI's efforts at coordinated intelligence with law-enforcement investigations into terrorists:

For those of us who were in the trenches of the struggle against militant Islam beginning in the early 1990s, it is jarring to hear, of all people, Jamie Gorelick now a member of the 9/11 Commission hectoring government officials about their asserted failure to perceive how essential it is that the right pieces of intelligence get into the right hands. Equally bracing is to read the account of Gorelick's star witness, former counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke that hero of the last 15 minutes who bemoans how, even though he "had asked to know if a sparrow fell from a tree" during the summer 2001, the FBI and CIA nonetheless failed to stitch together disconnected bits of information about al Qaeda operatives and flight schools. ...

Commissioner Gorelick, as deputy attorney general the number two official in the Department of Justice for three years beginning in 1994, was an architect of the government's self-imposed procedural wall, intentionally erected to prevent intelligence agents from pooling information with their law-enforcement counterparts. That is not partisan carping. That is a matter of objective fact. That wall was not only a deliberate and unnecessary impediment to information sharing; it bred a culture of intelligence dysfunction. It told national-security agents in the field that there were other values, higher interests, that transcended connecting the dots and getting it right. It set them up to fail. To hear Gorelick lecture witnesses about intelligence lapses is breathtaking.

The governing legislation guiding the FBI's use of material gleaned in intelligence gathering is FISA, which Congress passed in the 1970s as a way to allow the FBI to pursue legitimate national-security interests without descending into the kind of domestic spying it did under Hoover, especially later in his career. Civil libertarians rightly feared a return of federal snooping into legitimate areas of political activism, such as civil rights.

However, Congress never intended to require a "wall" to be built between the two functions of intelligence gathering and law enforcement within the FBI. That practice came in large measure from court decisions that were left unchallenged and from Department of Justice directives that emphasized the supposedly illegal nature of information-sharing between the two investigative tracks. As McCarthy notes, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing should have alerted the DoJ to rethink their policies on FISA:

In any event, by 1995 it should have been clear even to government lawyers that we no longer had the luxury of pretending that we were playing with the house money of pretending that we could safely saddle national-security tools like FISA with conventional law-enforcement restrictions. The time, instead, was ripe for a searching analysis of whether FISA was constitutional, whether it still made sense, and, at the very least, whether self-inflicted wounds like limitations on FISA evidence and unsustainable creations like the "primary purpose" test should be ignored, discarded, or challenged.

But the Justice Department, with Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick in the thick of important policy decisions, did not see it that way. Committed to the bitter end to the law-enforcement mindset, and overwrought at the mere possibility of violating the ill-conceived "primary purpose" test, DOJ made matters significantly worse. It imposed severe procedural barriers against competent intelligence gathering.

The FISA Court of Review reported, in its own internal investigation into the failures that led to 9/11:

The procedures state that "the FBI and Criminal Division should ensure that advice intended to preserve the option of a criminal prosecution does not inadvertently result in either the fact or the appearance of the Criminal Division's directing or controlling the FI or FCI investigation toward law enforcement objectives." 1995 Procedures at 2, 6 (emphasis added). Although these procedures provided for significant information sharing and coordination between criminal and FI or FCI investigations, based at least in part on the "directing or controlling" language, they eventually came to be narrowly interpreted within the Department of Justice, and most particularly by [the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy Review (OIPR)], as requiring OIPR to act as a "wall" to prevent the FBI intelligence officials from communicating with the Criminal Division regarding ongoing FI or FCI investigations. . . . Thus, the focus became the nature of the underlying investigation, rather than the general purpose of the surveillance. Once prosecution of the target was being considered, the procedures, as interpreted by OIPR in light of the case law, prevented the Criminal Division from providing any meaningful advice to the FBI.

McCarthy notes that since FBI agents are not practicing lawyers -- and presumably are not accomplished Talmudists either -- this was widely interpreted to mean that information-sharing between law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering activities were essentially illegal. The legal hurdles placed before agents made it clear that any attempt to rationalize information-sharing would almost certainly be rejected.

This situation preceded Gorelick and continued after her departure from the DoJ later in 1998. However, it clearly shows that Gorelick, far from being a disinterested investigator into the problems surrounding terrorism investigations, was enough of a player that she should really be testifying instead of analyzing the testimony of others. To my knowledge, no one else on the Commission had as much professional involvement in these processes, and that calls her membership into question, and also the supposedly non-partisan nature of their work.

For an example of the latter quality, the New York Times ran an article this morning detailing a preliminary report from the Commission criticizing Attorney General John Ashcroft before he even had a chance to testify before them. I am unaware of a credible process that judges people before they've had a chance to speak. This demonstrates the problem of having Gorelick as a member of the Commission; blaming Ashcroft's supposed "lack of interest" in counterterrorism very neatly shifts any potential responsibility from Gorelick herself for the structural defects of the counterterrorist effort itself.

How can any final report from this group be considered anything but a partisan effort to turn people into scapegoats?

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 12:59 PM | TrackBack

More Evidence of Economic Boom

Retail sales rose to a level that exceeded expectations by about 200% in March, demonstrating the strength of the economic expansion:

Shoppers turned out in force in March, a Commerce Department report Tuesday showed, pushing retail sales to their strongest gain in a year. The Commerce Department said retail sales rose an unexpectedly sharp 1.8% in March to a seasonally adjusted $333.01 billion, the biggest gain since March 2003. Excluding cars and trucks, sales gained 1.7%, that category's best performance since March 2000. Wall Street analysts had expected both figures to advance 0.6%.

February sales were also revised upward, to a 1.0% increase from the previously reported 0.7% gain. February ex-auto sales were revised to a 0.6% increase from a previously reported flat reading.

In a further indication of consumer confidence, home-improvement spending rose over 10%, demonstrating homeowner security in the overall economy. Wall Street expected to see only moderate growth in sales; these results should spark a decent rally later today.

John Kerry faces a difficult task: selling the notion of a failing economy to a nation that demonstrates growing confidence in its success. Sooner or later, that message will face its tipping point, and Kerry will wind up with egg on his face. Expect to see Kerry continue to find arcane methods of measuring economic performance, such as his suggested "misery index", which laughingly showed strong economic growth during the Carter presidency.

UPDATE: Power Line has some background on the creaky contraption that is Kerry's misery index. And the non-partisan Factcheck.org notes several problems with Kerry's methodology, as well as comparing the "classic" misery indices of Clinton and Bush, and another going all the way back to Carter. (Hat tip: reader Mark.)

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:09 AM | TrackBack

Autistic Man Possessed Ricin: FBI

The FBI arrested a man Friday for possession of ricin, one of the most deadly poisons known to man and one considered to be a likely agent for use in terrorist attacks:

Robert M. Alberg of Kirkland, Wash., was arrested at his apartment Friday and charged with one count of possession of a biological agent or toxin.

"It is enough that it could cause concern that it could harm someone -- could kill someone," FBI spokeswoman Roberta Burroughs told KING-TV on Monday.

Alberg was held pending a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court. He is described in court documents as having autism, a developmental disorder featuring a spectrum of symptoms including impairments in communication and repetitive behaviors such as finger tapping or head banging.

Federal criminal justice sources told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer they do not believe Alberg had political motivations for making the ricin and had no plans to use it.

Alberg first came under suspicion when he ordered five pounds of castor seeds, the base ingredient of ricin. The company alerted the FBI of the unusually large purchase, and their investigation led to his arrest. No one seems to understand why an autistic man with no apparant connection to terrorist or radical groups suddenly decided to manufacture ricin; the FBI dismisses political motives, at least for now.

However, if nothing else, this demonstrates the threat reporting with which the FBI deals with on a daily basis. They receive an enormous amount of intelligence every day, foreign and domestic, and not all of it relates to Islamofascist terror or even terror in general. Sometimes their investigations reveal nothing unusual, or in this case, something very unusual, and even threatening, but not in a national-security sense. These threats all get reported up the chain, where decisions have to be made which threats get the most focus -- and those which are uncorroborated and seemingly far-fetched will inevitably get lower priority as valuable resources are directed at more pressing and realistic threats.

Think about this when you re-read that PDB from August 6, 2001.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:35 AM | TrackBack

Why al-Sadr Was Inevitable

A statement by Iraqi Shi'ite clerics this morning demonstrates clearly why the Coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council would eventually be forced to deal with al-Sadr or another radical cleric eventually -- and why we may be fortunate that al-Sadr wound up as the opponent:

In a statement issued Monday after a meeting with radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the clerics and members of the country's religious authority also cautioned the coalition against doing battle in the holy city of Najaf -- and warned against any attempt to kill al-Sadr.

"The current crisis in Iraq has risen to a level that is beyond any political groups, including the Governing Council, and it is now an issue that is between the religious authority and the coalition forces," the statement said.

"Those who have brought on this crisis must pay for what they have done."

Shi'ite clerics have forced the issue of the nature of the future Iraqi government to the forefront, an issue that had been expected to arise at some point prior to the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis no matter when it was scheduled. Shi'ite clerics such as al-Sadr, and even moderates like al-Sistani, believe that any government must be Islamic at its core, similar to Iran, where imams rule over a severely limited parliament. Iran not only provides the inspiration for this concept, it's also providing the funding for the clerics involved, according to Fox News analyst Alireza Jafarzadeh:

By allocating vast resources, including tens of millions of dollars, to the task of building and spreading an overt network of mosques, local organizations, charity groups, medical and cultural centers, Tehran has also covertly created a number of new Iraqi surrogate groups, including the Hezbollah especially in the south. (This entity is separate from Iraqi Hezbollah, which operates openly). The group has been casing U.S. forces, gathering intelligence and building its military structure. It is headquartered in Al-Amarah, but is also active in a number of other cities including Al-Kut. Several Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents held extensive talks with Hezbollah officials in Al-Kut on February 15th to coordinate their actions.

We had to face this fight at some point; as President Bush has said since the fall of Baghdad, the potential for a free and secular Iraqi government would be too destabilizing for Iran (and Syria) to sit idly by. And in nominating Moqtada al-Sadr as the point man for the insurgency, the Coalition caught a big break, as al-Sadr's supporters are second-rate even for militias in that region. He's fallen back to the mosques and taken hostages, as have others in the region, in a bid to win politically what he now realizes he can't possibly win militarily. He's losing people at a ratio of 30-1, when in order to be militarily effective those numbers would have to almost be reversed, considering the size of the forces he's opposing. Today's hot news is that one of his key aides managed to get himself captured by the Coalition:

Sheikh Hazem al-Aaraji, a representative of Mr Sadr in the Iraqi capital, was seized as he attended a meeting of tribal leaders at the Sheraton Hotel, one day after the US military vowed to "kill or capture" Mr Sadr himself.

Mr Aaraji's bodyguards stepped aside when confronted by US soldiers, who arrested Mr Aaraji and drove him away in a Bradley fighting vehicle according to the Associated Press. Tribal sheikhs cited by Reuters said the imam had not been formally arrested but merely detained for questioning.

In short, as a general, al-Sadr's a bad politician, and as a politician, he's worse.

Now the clerics have issued a warning that the Coalition must not fight in Najaf, a statement that the Coalition must and will completely disregard. To allow al-Sadr or any other cleric of any stripe declare cities as off-limits is to cede sovereignty to the mullahs. The Coalition must make clear to those who would impose an Iranian-style theocracy onto Iraq that anywhere combatants hide is considered a war zone and fair game for military action. If they're shooting from mosques, then the mosques must come under attack. They're testing our will to win in Iraq by hostaging and threatening religious warfare. To back off now would be to demonstrate our lack of resolve in establishing a free Iraq.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:34 AM | TrackBack

Capital Punishment, la Francaise

French authorities have repeatedly refused to extradite murder suspects to the United States due to the possibility of defendants being sentenced to death. The most notorious of these cases was Ira Einhorn, the aging hippie who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, in absentia after fleeing the trial just before the conviction came in. Once he was discovered in France, Pennsylvania prosecutors and the State Department tried for years to get the French to deport him, but were met with Gallic obstinacy and disdain while Einhorn continued to live with his girlfriend in a country villa. The French refused to allow Einhorn to return to the US not only because of the death penalty but also because it believed his rights had been violated by his conviction in absentia.

Finally, after signing a pledge not to seek the death penalty and granting Einhorn a new trial 20 years after his conviction -- the Pennsylvania legislature had to pass a bill specifically allowing this for Einhorn -- the French relented and sent the murderer back to the US.

A similar case appeared headed for the same long-term struggle for resolution until last night, when the allegedly superior French law-enforcement system rendered the questions of extradition and execution moot:

Paul Eduardovich Goldman, 39, a naturalized U.S. citizen, killed himself Sunday afternoon in a prison in the suburbs of Grenoble, in the French Alps, even though he was under suicide watch, said attorney Arnaud Levy-Soussan.

"He hanged himself with a sheet in his cell," the lawyer told The Associated Press. "He already tried to commit suicide at the start of his incarceration in January. So he was classed among detainees under special surveillance."

"I don't understand because he was not meant to be left alone and to be under constant surveillance. But that wasn't the case. I think French authorities made a big mistake. That is clear," said Levy-Soussan.

Goldman fled the US when authorities discovered the body of his murdered lover, who had been stabbed to death at the end of last year. Extradition requests were initially rebuffed, but again the US promised not to seek the death penalty, and both sides expected approval for extradition shortly. On top of that, Goldman's parents had recently both committed suicide, slashing their wrists and leaving a note blaming the shame of their son's conduct for their double suicide.

French authorities feared that Goldman may be depressed from this sequence of events and had placed him on a suicide watch. However, no one can explain why Goldman was left in a cell with a drainage pipe running through it, including his attorney, who specifically asked the French to take special precautions. I hold no brief for Goldman, who committed a heinous and barbaric act, but at least Einhorn got a trial. Perhaps the next time the French take such a high-handed approach in lecturing us about human rights and the proper application of law enforcement, they'll first brush up on the basics of security within their own system first.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 7:07 AM | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Captain's Caption Contest #6!

Okay, it's Friday morning, second down, seven (months) to go ... John, you go long and see what you can do, OK?

D'OH!

Yes, it's time for the Captain's Caption Contest, and while we're cheerleading for the other side here, let's see if we can't come up with a fight song for John Fumble Kerry. Don't be afraid to go deep here -- toss up that Hail Mary and see what happens! Just remember to keep your eye on the ball ...

Put your caption for the picture in the Comments section. Bill from INDC Journal will be our guest judge for this scrimmage. The whistle blows at 6 PM CT on Tuesday, April 13!

BUMP 4/10 ... again, 4/11 ...

BUMP 4/13: The contest will stay open to 9 pm CT, due to our appearance on tonight's Hugh Hewitt show! ...

Comments closed -- thanks for some great entries! The replay booth has called for a review ...

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:00 PM | TrackBack

I Did Stay At A Holiday Inn Express

If you're listening to Mark Larson filling in for Hugh Hewitt, just an FYI -- none of the Northern Alliance are college students. I'm the father of a college student, and King at SCSU Scholars is a college professor, but none of us are students, to my knowledge.

I wouldn't mind being the oldest freshman on campus, though. I watched "Old School" with Will Farrell and Luke Wilson. I could handle that whole wrestling scene. Fraternities should contact me as soon as possible for party scheduling ...

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:58 PM | TrackBack

Guardian: It's Israel's Fault

Once again, the London Guardian doesn't miss a chance to blame Israel for the rotten state of the Middle East, including the thugocracies at work in the 22 Arab nations surrounding it. Brian Whitaker casts the Israeli-Palestinian war as the central culprit in maintaining oppressive regimes in the area:

For more than a generation, one issue has dominated political discourse in the Middle East. It has spawned militant and terrorist groups of almost every hue, from nationalist to Islamist. It has impeded peaceful change and modernisation in the region, and it has helped to keep authoritarian regimes in power.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has not only blighted the Middle East but also provided a smokescreen for that malaise, diverting the attention of Arabs from their internal problems and providing an excuse for tired governments to survive well beyond their sell-by date. "We have emergency laws, we have control by the security agencies, we have stagnation of opposition parties, we have the appropriation of political rights - all this in the name of the Arab-Israeli conflict," a prominent Lebanese Arab told a Beirut newspaper last month.

Whitaker has it completely backwards. The original partition of the West Bank created two states, Palestine and Israel, with Jerusalem as an internationally-controlled open city. Unfortunately, the various thugocracies surrounding Israel decided to make war on the new nation not once but twice, using Palestine as its launching pad, first in 1948 and the last time in 1967. After the second time, Israel occupied the West Bank as a defense against Jordan and others invading its eastern flank. (Before doing so, Israel had 200 miles of border to defend to its east; afterwards, only 40.) The displaced Palestinian refugees were repeatedly refused entry in other Arab nations, which preferred to keep the issue alive to have an excuse for continuing their belligerency and oppression.

Decades of high-pressure diplomacy has been rendered useless by Palestinian sponsorship of terrorism -- the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades works directly for Arafat via his Fatah faction -- and their refusal to drop the dream of Israel's destruction. In 1997, Israel offered the Palestinians an end to occupation and statehood over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under heavy duress by the Clinton administration, in return for official recognition of Israel and an end to terrorist attacks in Israel. Yasser Arafat, elected in a farce of an election ten years ago that has yet to be repeated (and one that Whitaker characterizes as "one of the region's more credible elections" -- there's a tough standard!), turned Ehud Barak down cold and instigated the intifada and continued years of terrorist attack against Israeli civilians.

Absent Arab despotism and aggression, including their own, the Palestinians would still have their own territory free of occupation. The notion that the Israeli occupation causes Arab governments to be oppressive is to believe that Middle East history began in 1968. It hints at the preferred solution of the European Left: the dissolution of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of the entire area of Jews, theoretically by deporting them all back into a Europe where anti-Semitism has reached peaks not seen since Hitler. It points to the devaluation of democracy by EU elite that they would sacrifice the region's only other functional democracy in order to placate terrorists like Arafat.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one symptom of a greater Arabian disease of oppression, non-secular rule, and corruption throughout the entire area. The Palestinians won't budge on the destruction of Israel as long as Arafat can partner with kleptocracies like Bashir Assad in Damascus and mullarchies like Iran. Once those crutches have been kicked out from under the Palestinian Authority and Yasser Arafat, the West Bank issues will sort themselves out nicely. Brian Whitaker should consult a history book and quit confusing symptoms for the sickness.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 1:02 PM | TrackBack

Howard Dean: Our Hate Must Unite Us

Howard Dean, who pulled the Democrats to the left-wing antiwar fringe during his abortive run at the Democratic presidential nomination by making the case that the party's Washington establishment wasn't sufficiently responsive to the International ANSWER crowd, makes a plea in today's New York Times editorial section for the support of uber-Establishment icon John Kerry as opposed to Ralph Nader. Dean argues that despite all of the party differences, Bush hatred must be the theme that unites every non-Republican:

Many Democrats also admire Ralph Nader's achievements, as I do. But if they truly want George Bush out of the White House, they won't vote for Ralph Nader in November. ... Voting for Ralph Nader, or for any third-party candidate for president, means a vote for a candidate who has no realistic shot of winning the White House. To underscore the danger of voting for any third-party candidate in elections this close, a statistic from the 2000 campaign may prove useful: a total of eight third-party candidates won more votes than the difference between Al Gore and George Bush nationwide.

Dean sings paeans to Nader throughout the editorial, praising his "remarkable legacy as a consumer advocate." However, Dean argues, the surest way to undermine Nader's work is to cast a vote for him in the election. Each vote for Nader means a vote for the eeeeeeeeeeeevil George Bush, you see, and a second Bush presidency will apparently bring this about. Dean never mentions any specifics about what Bush has done in the first term to support his contention, but then again, this argument is much more about faith than logic. In that way, his editorial parallels his own run at the nomination, and has just as much coherence.

Nader, one suspects, will disagree with much of what Dean says here, especially when it comes to the idea that John Kerry and the mainstream Democrats will faithfully represent Nader on the campaign trail or in office. Nader is much closer politically to the permafringe candidate Dennis Kucinich, who also doesn't seem interested in going away. Nader's screeds against corporations and big money influence on the electoral process will not match up well with Kerry's fundraising efforts. Nor should Dean push this notion too much; perhaps Nader garners respect as a consumer advocate, but as a candidate, his outlier status is only outstripped by Kucinich, but without Kucinich's sense of humor and humility. While Kerry has proved adept at stealing other people's message, this is one theft he'd do better to acoid.

Dean's editorial perfectly encapsulates the Democratic approach this year; their focus isn't on what they can offer the American public but simply to vent hatred as a selling point. Here's a measure of what Dean is selling: Ralph Nader is mentioned in the text of this article eight times, not counting the headline. George Bush is mentioned seven times by name.

John Kerry is mentioned once.

Think about that when you see Dean on the campaign trail this election cycle.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! If you read his later note about our upcoming guest-hosting on the Hugh Hewitt show, I've posted more about that here. Bloggers on the national airwaves! What's next, dogs and cats living together?

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 6:42 AM | TrackBack

Guardian: Labour Rolls "Plummet"

According to the London Guardian, Tony Blair's political party has bled subscribing members since the Iraq war began last year and has now dropped below that of the Tories:

A collapse in the number of Labour party members is jeopardising the party's election prospects, amid claims that the total has hit a 70-year low.

The latest published figure of 248,294 is equivalent to fewer than 390 members per parliamentary constituency but Save the Labour Party, a party group formed by activists concerned at plummeting numbers, argues that that figure has been inflated by including lapsed members, and does not take account of many who left in the wake of the Iraq war.

A shortage of volunteers to put up posters, stuff envelopes, deliver leaflets, canvass and knock on doors to get people to vote threatens to undermine the campaign in June's local and European contests as well as next year's general election. As a result Tony Blair is to write to more than 40,000 who have left since the 2001 poll to urge them to rejoin.

The article refers to paying members of Labour, not just those who indicate party affiliation during voter registration, but the implication of that is no less of a problem, and in fact may be worse. After all, those reportedly voting with their feet comprise the core of the party, the true believers whose passion any political party needs in order to inspire the masses to vote their way. This news bodes ill for Tony Blair, who faces an energized Conservative Party in the next elections, although it is doubtful that the people who left have aligned themselves with the Tories.

Tony Blair is being urged to write a letter to those who have allowed their memberships to lapse, encouraging them to return to the party and to re-invigorate the dream of the million-member party of which Blair and his allies had openly spoken just a few years ago. It's a shame that this editorial by Blair in the Guardian itself couldn't inspire his fellow Labourites; it demonstrates why Blair represents much more than just a political party and may be as timeless a leader as Churchill, in his own way (via Power Line):

[O]ur greatest threat, apart from the immediate one of terrorism, is our complacency. When some ascribe, as they do, the upsurge in Islamic extremism to Iraq, do they really forget who killed whom on 11 September 2001? When they call on us to bring the troops home, do they seriously think that this would slake the thirst of these extremists, to say nothing of what it would do to the Iraqis?

Or if we scorned our American allies and told them to go and fight on their own, that somehow we would be spared? If we withdraw from Iraq, they will tell us to withdraw from Afghanistan and, after that, to withdraw from the Middle East completely and, after that, who knows? But one thing is for sure: they have faith in our weakness just as they have faith in their own religious fanaticism. And the weaker we are, the more they will come after us.

Tony Blair will likely become a victim of his own principled stand for freedom. It may mean that the Tories win in the next general election, or it may be that Labour votes for another PM in order to pander to its appeasers in order to bring them back into the fold. Either way, it looks increasingly as though Blair will wind up out of power despite having done the right thing at the right time -- and just as when the Brits voted Churchill out of office (at more than one point in history), they will live to regret it.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:53 AM | TrackBack

McCain Finally Gets Categorical

John McCain, who stirred up so much controversy a month ago by telling reporters that he would "entertain" an invitation to join John Kerry as his running mate, has finally gotten around to making an unequivocal statement of support for George Bush:

"No, no and no. I will not leave the Republican Party. I cherish the ideals and principles of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan," he said on NBC's "Meet The Press." ...

McCain said Sunday that he believes Bush "deserves re-election."

"Have we agreed on every issue? Of course not. We didn't agree on every issue when we ran against each other in a primary," he said. "I am not embarrassed to say that John Kerry is a friend of mine, but I want George Bush to be re-elected president of the United States."

CNN notes that McCain is running for re-election to the Senate. I wonder if some of the GOP leadership had a long chat with McCain about his grandstanding and how it might affect fundraising for his campaign. Kissing up to the Democratic presidential contender and undermining the party by contradicting their campaign themes is no way to garner national support for his own run.

Don't expect to see the Republicans put McCain on the road during the next few months to help out Bush. He might just help him out the door of the White House.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 5:28 AM | TrackBack

April 11, 2004

A Few Images from the Captain's Easter

As I noted earlier today, blogging would be light due to the Easter holiday, and I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday with your friends or families. The First Mate and I spent the day with my son's in-laws. I'm a bit too tired to do much blogging now; I spent the evening doing some work on the NARN site, which we will be shortly updating and upgrading. I'll get back to work tomorrow, I promise.

Until then, here's a few pictures from today's Easter festivities ...

Here's me and the Little Admiral ...

Here's the Little Admiral finding an Easter egg ...

The Little Admiral's mom and dad, having fun on Easter ...

The First Mate and the Little Admiral's other grandmother (and gracious hostess)...

Of course, no holiday is complete without a blogger conference -- here's Sean from Everything I Know Is Wrong, my daughter-in-law's uncle!

See you tomorrow!

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 10:44 PM | TrackBack

Happy Easter and Passover to Friends and Family

Today, instead of concentrating on the minutiae of the world, we focus on the promise of life and the potential for good that resides in each of us. Easter and Passover are seasons of renewal, when we can shed the sins of our past and be renewed into our full power as the good and holy creations of a loving God.

Exodus 19:3-6 says:

Moses went up to the mountain to God. Then the LORD called to him and said, "Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites: You have seen how I treated the Egyptians and how I bore you up on eagle wings and brought you here to myself. Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation!"

Luke 24:36-41, 46-49:

While they were still speaking about this, He stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." ...

And He said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance, for the forgivenes of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem. You are the witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

Have a happy and blessed Easter and/or Passover. I'll be back later with pictures of the Little Admiral and the entire family.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:50 AM | TrackBack

The PDB, One More Time

Predictably, the major news media are treating the 8/6/01 PDB as a revelation, a document that contained startling new evidence of al-Qaeda intentions rather than the recap of well-known data that it demonstrably is. A good example would be how the Los Angeles Times headlines their story, "Memo Cited Fears of Attacks in U.S.," making it sound as though the document referred to the 9/11 strikes. However, in its lead, the Times makes the distinction a bit more clear:

The White House took the extraordinary step Saturday of releasing a top-secret intelligence briefing President Bush received five weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, declassifying a document that contained no specific warning of the looming strikes in New York and the Pentagon but provided fresh information that Al Qaeda was bent on hitting targets in the United States.

The 1-page document cited intelligence on Al Qaeda dating to the mid-1990s. But it concluded with two items that pointed to possible domestic threats just months before Bush got the Aug. 6, 2001, briefing.

One passage warned that the FBI had observed "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

Another noted that the CIA and FBI were investigating a call to the U.S. Embassy in the United Arab Emirates in May of that year "saying that a group of Bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives."

What the Times manages to elide in the third paragraph was the motivation for the hijackings, which immediately preceded that statement in the PDB and provided the context for the allegation:

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd al-Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Not only did the intelligence services tell the President that the hijackings would be a tactic to force the release of al-Rahman, but that the threat reports could not be corroborated. Bear in mind that this is one PDB from the entire year; up to this point, the President had received 199 PDBs prior to this date, all with various threat reports from all sorts of sources. Dropping everything to focus on uncorroborated reporting would have been irresponsible in the extreme. At any rate, it never gives an indication that the hijackings would be suicide missions turning the planes into guided missiles.

So what did the administration do with this data? For one thing, they warned the FAA to be on high alert for possible hijackings:

In July 2001, the FAA issued a warning to air carriers but did not mention suicide hijackings. Instead, it focused on the possibility that some terrorist groups might conceal explosive devices inside luggage.

That article, from January of this year, claims that the FAA had warned of suicide hijackings, but only as a theoretical possibility, noting that no intelligence pointed to any groups considering the tactic. The same article points out when that suggestion was made: 1998. In the intervening three years, the intelligence services apparently had also concluded that the tactic was strictly theoretical and didn't include it in its analysis to the President.

Even if, at that point, the President had a burst of foresight and imagined that such an attack would be used, what at that point could have been done to prevent the attack from occurring? All of the 9/11 hijackers were already in the US, holding valid travel documents. The only way that we could have stopped them from boarding those planes on 9/11 would have been to stop every Arabic man from August 6 to September 11 from boarding every plane and subjecting them to a search and background check -- and we don't even do that now! Perhaps we could have forced the airlines to retrofit all of their planes with bars on the cockpit doors, but that would have taken weeks without the spectre of 9/11 (and I think took weeks anyway, but I can't confirm that). We still don't have agreement on arming pilots or on mandatory air marshals on international flights.

The notion that an uncorroborated intelligence report that didn't even specify the possibility of a suicide hijacking could allow us to take all of the above steps for our protection when the fact of four suicide hijackings and 3,000 dead people haven't kept people from opposing most of them to this day renders that entire thought process ludicrous. It's not helpful, it's partisan sniping, and it's getting old.

Note: Joe Shockley at the Daily Briefing does a nice job of dissecting the PDB on a point-by-point basis.

UPDATE: McQ at QandO does an excellent analysis of the PDB as well.

Posted by Ed Morrissey at 9:15 AM | TrackBack


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