CQ Media Notes II

I’ll be appearing on RightTalk Radio tomorrow afternoon with Bill Ardolino and Jeff Goldstein on “Citizen Journalist”, from 3:10 – 3:10 pm EDT. It’ll be great fun to be a guest on someone else’s blog-based radio show, so be sure to tune in. I’ll be sharing a segment with Kate from small dead animals, so Canada’s political tribulations will definitely be one of the topics.
Jeff’s been asking his readers for some questions to ask us. This could be the toughest interview I’ve yet had to face, if their responses are any indication at all…
UPDATE: Er, that should be 3:10 – 3:30. Boy, will I catch hell for that error today!

Volcker: Annan Not Cleared At All

Contrary to Kofi Annan’s claims to the contrary, the Volcker Commission did not clear the UN Secretary-General of wrongdoing or incompetence in its written report last month. That comes directly from Paul Volcker himself, who found himself rather amazed by that statement from the head of the United Nations:

In an interview aired yesterday with Fox News, Mr. Volcker took direct issue with Mr. Annan’s insistence that he had been exonerated by investigators probing both his role in overseeing the Iraq aid program and conflicts of interest involving a key contract awarded to a Swiss firm that employed Mr. Annan’s son.
“I thought we criticized [Mr. Annan] rather severely,” Mr. Volcker said of his panel’s interim report, released March 29. “I would not call that an exoneration.”
Asked point-blank whether Mr. Annan had been cleared of wrongdoing in the $10 billion scandal, Mr. Volcker replied, “No.”

Perhaps Volcker was naive enough to think that Annan appointed him to “find the truth,” as Volcker describes his mission later in the interview. However, Annan’s spin of Volcker’s interim report — the investigation continues to this day — should clearly show Volcker that Annan used him and his reputation to hide his culpability behind a series of ambiguous findings, and claim that as exoneration. Annan created the Volcker Commission as a reaction to investigations spinning up in the US, which have subpoena power that Volcker lacks. He deftly used Volcker to capture jurisdiction and ensured that subpoenas could not be put into play, making it easier for people to hide documentation and refuse to assist with the investigation.
If Volcker is surprised that such an arrangement leaves the field wide open for Annan to play spin doctor, then he is more foolish than previously thought. That may explain why two of his three lead investigators quit in protest this month, after being overruled on the strength of language in the report that allowed Annan to spin it the way he did. Volcker should reconsider his efforts on behalf of Annan, to whom he reports, and contemplate marrying his efforts to that of Senator Norm Coleman and his investigation, which does have subpoena power and could actually find the corruption Volcker says he seeks.

No Syrian WMD Transfer? Not So Fast …

Reports based on the release of addenda from last year’s Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) report by Charles Duelfer claim that the ISG stated categorically that no evidence existed of WMD being shipped into Syria, one of the explanations given by several high-ranking officers at CENTCOM for the lack of WMD found in Iraq. However, the Washington Times reports this morning that the ISG report did not make any such categorical denial of WMD transfers. In order to understand the nuances of the ISG addenda, take a look at the wording of the original CNN report:

“ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place,” the report said.
The group also said it had been unable to complete its investigation because of security concerns and couldn’t rule out an “unofficial” transfer of material. …
“It is worth noting that even if ISG had been able to fully examine all the leads it possessed, it is unlikely that conclusive information would have been found,” the report said.

What does this tell us? First, by its inclusion in the addenda and not the main body, it tells us … nothing. The data remains inconclusive, and that’s all. ISG could not go into Syria, nor into the Bekaa Valley that until this week was controlled by Syria, to determine if any kind of transfers took place. The only conclusion they could reach is that official transfers never took place, meaning that Saddam’s files contained no records of any such movement of materiel between Iraq and Syria. The report further tells us that had the ISG had the time and resources to follow up on the leads provided, they still probably would find out nothing, given the geopolitical difficulties of invading Syria to complete the investigation.
Had Duelfer and the ISG meant to conclusively state that no WMD transfers of any kind had occurred, it would not have been left as a footnote or an addendum. That usage indicates an explanation for an unfulfilled mandate of the mission, not a positive conclusion, as a close read of the language used indicates.
The Washington Times article makes this more clear. In reading other parts of the same addenda, the ISG obviously did not intend to close the books on a Syrian transfer of WMD, and in fact still believe that such a scenario not only was possible, but somewhat likely:

Inspector Charles Duelfer, who heads the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), made the findings in an addendum to his final report filed last year. He said the search for WMD in Iraq — the main reason President Bush went to war to oust Saddam Hussein — has been exhausted without finding such weapons. Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s.
But on the question of Syria, Mr. Duelfer did not close the books. “ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war,” Mr. Duelfer said in a report posted on the CIA’s Web site Monday night.
He cited some evidence of a transfer. “Whether Syria received military items from Iraq for safekeeping or other reasons has yet to be determined,” he said. “There was evidence of a discussion of possible WMD collaboration initiated by a Syrian security officer, and ISG received information about movement of material out of Iraq, including the possibility that WMD was involved. In the judgment of the working group, these reports were sufficiently credible to merit further investigation.”
But Mr. Duelfer said he was unable to complete that aspect of the probe because “the declining security situation limited and finally halted this investigation. The results remain inconclusive, but further investigation may be undertaken when circumstances on the ground improve.”

The media spin on WMD remains in full force. The truth is that without a full reckoning and complete access to the entire Southwest Asia area, no WMD search could possibly be complete. Nor does the evidence in the report support a conclusion that the WMD did not exist, as the above quote shows. Duelfer and his team did not stop because the WMD didn’t exist; they stopped because they had run out of time, resources, and jurisdiction. Duelfer recommends further investigation, a clear indication that he believes the question remains open on WMD transfers to Syria, a recommendation that CNN and other media sources predictably leaves out of their reports.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! BTW, Sundries Shack also noticed the same point yesterday; take a look at Jimmie’s post there as well.

Did Yesterday’s Report On Brown’s Speech Do Her Justice?

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday on a speech given by Justice Janice Rogers Brown, a courageous speech given her current limbo between openly derisive Democrats and squeamish Republicans in the Senate, which I linked here. However, one of the attendees blogged about Brown’s breakfast speech and claims that not only did the Times take Brown out of context on key points, but that their “reporting” only consisted of reprinting and rewriting the original article in the Stamford Advocate.
Benedict Blog tells a more interesting tale of the Red Mass speech by Brown, one that convinced him that not only would Brown make a terrific appellate justice, but in a fair world would be headed for the Supreme Court:

Why does the Times make no mention of the breadth and depth of Justice Brown’s intellect? Profound. Thoughtful. Erudite. Those, or words like them, should have been used to describe Justice Brown’s presentation. After announcing her theme (would Abraham Lincoln still consider the United States the “last best hope of Earth”?), Justice Brown delivered a lecture which touched on the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, Stanley Fish, C.S. Lewis, Lenin, George Weigel, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Stephen Macedo, Servais Pinckaers and others (one very particular “other” is discussed in greater detail below). She wove post-modernism, atheistic humanism, “freedom for excellence”, creative design, cosmic accident, useful idiots, the Enlightenment, the Restoration, and the purported perfectability of man into her 35 minute commentary. And she was no slouch at turning a phrase: In response to a question from an audience member, she responded, “From the Garden of Eden to the Tower of Babel to [another example which I did not get down – Justice Brown speaks quickly!], any time man puts himself on a par with God the project ends badly.”
This is a woman who possesses both searing intelligence and great humility. She talks about philosophy as fluently as she does about jurisprudence (she dealt handily with a question from the audience about Immanuel Kant), and seems equally well-versed in the realms of intellectual history and moral theology. …
Why does the Times not repeat any of the historical evidence which Justice Brown offered in support of her position? Near the beginning of her remarks, Justice Brown used some logical jiujitsu to score a telling point. Just as adherents of the “cosmic accident” school of creation like to say that it was a unique and utterly specific set of circumstances which gave rise to the Big Bang and thence the formation of the universe, Justice Brown maintains that it was a similarly unique and specific set of circumstances which led to the formation of the United States. And, like it or not, a belief in God was one of the elements without which we would not have the founding documents — or nation, for that matter — we have today.

Benedict also finds the more inflammatory parts of the speech highlighted by the LAT to have been taken out of context. In discussing the notion of these times being perilous for people of faith, Brown specifically referred to Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, a book which attacks religion and its influence — and one which has received broad support from the media mainstream, as Benedict demonstrates by quoting from the book reviews at major newspapers:

“Dangers and absurdities of organized religion,” “irrationality of all religious faith,” “perfect tyranny,” “radical attack,” “ruthless secularisation,” and, best of all, “pugilistic attempt” and “sustained nuclear assault.” Note the ulra-aggressive language, all of which which would seem to confirm the truth of Justice Brown’s “war” statement. And all unreported by the Times, even though the man whose work inspired those comments was specifically identified by Justice Brown. Why do you suppose that is?

Only the editors of the Times could answer that question, of course. The article does state that it got its original reporting from the Stamford Advocate, but it apparently cherry-picked its coverage based on the story it wants to sell about Janice Rogers Brown. The intellectual dishonesty of the Los Angeles Times continues unabated, apparently.

Layton Begins Rationalizations

After having enabled a possible lifeline to the embattled Prime Minister and a Liberal Party swimming in corruption, Jack Layton defended his alliance with Paul Martin last night by claiming that getting his budget preferences passed outweighed the cost of leaving corruption in place for another seven or eight months:

Mr. Layton said it is clear there will be an election on the corruption issue either next month or in “seven or eight” months, but that he hopes to accomplish something through the budget in the meantime.
“We’ll say [in an election] that we worked for the people while all the other parties were just taking care of their own business to their own advantage. Ordinary people will make their own decisions and I’m quite confident that what we’re doing now will help us,” he said.

If the NDP leader thinks that allowing the party that stole hundreds of millions of tax dollars from the Canadian treasury to remain in power amounts to “work[ing] for the people,” I’d say that the NDP should prepare for their 19 seats as a historical high-water mark. Their small base may have a soft spot for high taxes and government spending, but they don’t have one for selling out to corruption. If Layton found a thief in his business, embezzling thousands of dollars, would he tolerate keeping him employed for seven or eight months because he didn’t like the composition of the labor pool available to replace him? Or even more to the point, would Layton allow that embezzler to stay around because he agreed to bring in more money than he steals?
It’s not as if Layton defends the Liberals on the corruption point, either. He acknowledges the corruption, but claims it pales in comparison to developing an NDP-friendly budget:

Mr. Layton said he is fully expecting accusations that he is supporting a corrupt Liberal government, but said his party will be voting in favour of a good budget, not the Liberals.
Mr. Layton said NDP voters expect his party to make sure the Liberals deliver on their promises.
“I know that there will be people who will say, ‘Ah, yeah, that’s Layton. He loves corruption. The NDP, they just love corruption. They’re really corrupt themselves because they support the Liberals.’ That’s a totally ridiculous accusation. We’re helping people. We’re opposed to corruption,” he said.

Perhaps Layton never heard the poem that reads in part, You can tell the man who boozes by the company he chooses — and the NDP has chosen its company, and named its price. Layton has tricked out his caucus to direct $4.6 billion in more taxpayer money into control of a Liberal government that has already proven itself unworthy of trust. And Layton speaks of ensuring that the current Liberal government keeps its promises? As much as Layton wants to spin this, the political machination involved is much too obvious: Layton saw an opportunity to score the tax hikes he wanted and sold out the already-victimized Canadians to get it.
Stephen Harper had a more clear-eyed view than his NDP counterpart on the transaction:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who is campaigning in Southwestern Ontario this week, said the deal was nothing more than an attempt to bury the sponsorship scandal with billions of dollars from the public treasury.
“I guess my first response is Mr. Martin and Mr. Layton think $4.6-billion worth of taxpayers’ money is the price to make corruption go away,” Mr. Harper said during a break from a late-afternoon fundraiser.
“I wonder if the taxpayers of Canada are going to think the same thing.”

Somehow, I rather doubt it. Layton may have scored a short-term budget victory, but he has now married the NDP to the Adscam corruption and any other scandals yet to come from the Martin government.

Martin Purchases NDP Votes To Retain Power

Paul Martin, whose minority Liberal government appeared to approach collapse in the wake of the explosive Adscam testimony, may have used Canadian tax money yet again to retain power — this time by spending it on NDP budget priorities in order to buy Jack Layton’s support and fend off an expected no-confidence vote next month from the Tories:

The New Democrats have reached an “agreement in principle” with the Liberals on support for a key budget vote, says NDP Leader Jack Layton.
The tentative deal could help the minority Liberal government survive. Layton said the details of the agreement are still being worked out, but it involves a guarantee of $4.6 billion in new investment in “people and the environment,” plus an increase in foreign aid.
He said Liberal promises of tax cuts for small-and medium-sized businesses will remain, while large corporations will no longer get planned cuts.

Even having the NDP on board doesn’t guarantee that Martin will defeat a no-confidence vote. The additional 19 MPs still only provides Martin with 151 votes, with 155 needed to defeat an attempt to topple his government. It does make it tougher for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to get to 155, however. Assuming that BQ will vote with Harper, he has 153 members — which means both sides will play Monty Hall with the three independents. Two come from the west, and may therefore have more sympathy for the Tories, but the sure bet on a Liberal collapse looks long gone.
Ironically, Martin may have saved his party by conducting the same kind of manipulation of Canadian tax money as Adscam, albeit legally this time. He has taken money from the tax base and used it to satisfy political allies and garner support for the Liberals. Layton, on the other hand, has deliberately bolstered a government with demonstrable ties to corruption and graft — a position that will not likely win many new converts to the NDP among Canadians.

Frist: No Deal Without Confirming Current Nominees

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called a rare, impromptu press conference on the floor of the Senate to tell the media that he will not accept any compromise which does not include up-or-down votes on all of Bush’s judicial nominations. Presumably this closes the door on the extended negotiations that had taken place between Frist and Minority Leader Harry Reid, as the Democrats have already insisted that they should retain the right to block so-called “extremists” from the bench:

Reacting to a Democratic offer in the fight over filibusters, Republican leader Bill Frist said Tuesday he isn’t interested in any deal that fails to ensure that the Senate votes on confirmation for all of President Bush’s judicial nominees.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid had been quietly talking with Frist about confirming at least two of Bush’s blocked nominees from Michigan in exchange for withdrawing a third nominee. This would have been part of a compromise that would have the GOP back away from a showdown over changing Senate rules to prevent Democrats from using the filibuster to block Bush’s nominees.
But Frist, in a rare news conference conducted on the Senate floor, said he would not accept any deal that keeps his Republican majority from confirming judicial nominees that have been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“My goal is to have fair up and down votes. Are we going to shift from that principle? The answer to that is no,” Frist said.

Fine and good. Now will someone tell me what their negotiations covered during the past three months? It cannot have taken 100 days of this session to reach the same positions that existed at the beginning of this session — that the GOP would insist on majority vote, and the Democrats would block appellate nominees any way they could. If it takes that long for both Reid and Frist to get back to square one, then maybe both caucuses need to question the efficacy of their leadership.

Adscam: The Graft In The Details

CQ reader Ed_in_Cda points out an article in today’s Ottawa Sun which delineates some interesting transactions relating to Sponsorship Program money. Ad agencies in the program spent over $600,000 on a series of soccer matches pitting three international soccer teams against Canadians in Quebec and China. Most of the money went towards gifts for the athletes, although most of that cash went elsewhere instead:

A Montreal ad firm used $120,000 in sponsorship money to offer all-expense paid trips to bring three soccer teams from as far away as Vietnam to Quebec, the Adscam inquiry heard yesterday. Groupe Everest also dipped into the funds meant to boost national unity to buy $500,000 in gifts such as parasols and Timex watches for former PM Jean Chretien to hand out during his 1999 Team Canada mission to China.
Agency VP Diane Deslauriers took credit yesterday for orchestrating the soccer match at the 1997 Quebec Games that saw French-speaking teams from Hanoi, France and Western Canada fly in for a “friendship” game.
Deslauriers said her firm billed Public Works $120,000 to finance the teams’ expenses on top of securing a $220,000 sponsorship for the Quebec Games — reaping a total $49,000 commission.

Groupe Everest made almost $50K in commissions on a contract of $220,000, while billing Public Works $120,000 for financing services. How much of those expenses can be corroborated through receipts? Obviously, flight arrangements can be expensive, but spending $120,000 to get teams involved in a $220,000 event doesn’t make a lot of sense, either economically or mathematically.
That isn’t the last of the unusual math applications discussed in Adscam testimony yesterday, either:

Benoit Renaud, an Everest subcontractor who specialized in promotional items, testified yesterday that he billed the sponsorship program almost $500,000 for 12,340 items destined for Chretien’s 1999 Team Canada trip to China.
Renaud said he only paid $166,000 for items ranging from Swiss Army money clips to pewter spoons and golf club covers.
The remaining $282,597 went toward the hours that both he and his brother Alain put into the purchase and administrative costs, Renaud said. According to his time sheet, Renaud put in 300 hours at $90 per hour — or an entire month of 10-hour days.

Renaud spent twice as much on salaries for himself and his brother as he did on the gifts he bought the athletes? Even at the rates mentioned, 300 hours at $90 amounts to $27,000. Assuming his brother got paid at the same rate, that amounts to $54,000, a huge sum for one month’s work of work — but far below the $287,000 in salary and “administrative” costs associated with Renaud’s shopping spree.
What kind of “administrative” costs can amount to over $200,000 in a single month? Perhaps administrating transfers of cash to the Liberal Party as part of the money-laundering effort that Adscam provided?

Syria Leaves Lebanon After 29 Years

The Syrians have accomplished what almost no one expected — they have actually left Lebanon without a shot being fired to chase them back across the Bekaa Valley. Even the Syrian intelligence services have packed up, or at least that’s what the Syrians say:

Syria will declare a formal end to its 29-year military involvement in Lebanon today with a “farewell” ceremony in the Beka’a valley – four days earlier than expected.
Hundreds of Syrian troops left the country over the weekend after burning documents, demolishing walls and filling bunkers. Yesterday, Syrian intelligence abandoned Anjar, the headquarters of Rustum Ghazaleh, the intelligence chief who was once the most feared man in Lebanon. He was reported to have left for Damascus last night but was due to return for today’s ceremony.

The Syrians chased themselves out of Lebanon after the idiotic assassination of Rafik Hariri, one of Lebanon’s wealthiest men and most popular as well. Bashar Assad did more to create Lebanese nationalism with one bomb than he ever did in the 29-year history of his and his father’s occupation of their western neighbor. That bomb united Christians and Muslims alike on the nature of sovereignty and gave them both a martyr.
The bomb’s shock waves continue to be felt. Lebanon’s security chief has apparently resigned ahead of being sacked for insubordination to the new interior minister. Jamil Sayyed is a known collaborator with the Syrians. Ali al-Hajj, who ran the internal security bureau and also collaborated with Damascus, has placed himself at the disposal of the Prime Minister but may have left his position. Another Quisling, Raymond Azar, has left Lebanon entirely, flying to Paris ostensibly on a “mission” for the military intelligence which he headed, but more likely a mission to escape the coming wave of retribution for the Lebanese enablers of Syrian oppression.
All of this bodes ill for Hezbollah. These high-level collaborators in the Syrian military/intelligence complex could have helped Hezbollah remain armed, a power with which to reckon in any post-Syrian political arrangement. With their best allies getting purged from the security forces, it appears that Hezbollah’s status as an armed militia has a limited future. Stripped of their miltary and intelligence cover, the terrorist group either will have to convert to legitimate political activity or fight a newly-sovereign Beirut for control of Lebanon. And with the land link between Hezbollah and their Iranian sponsors cut off by the 135,000 American troops in Iraq, Hezbollah can no longer count on winning a fight, either against Israel or even the Lebanese Army — especially if the Americans and French respond to defend the new sovereign democracy in Beirut.