ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, April 14, 2006

Similarity of Message

Isn't it just great that each time our sworn enemies post their propaganda, it mirrors the rhetoric; of the Moonbats and (to some extent) one of our major political parties here at home?

al-Qaida No. 2 Says 'Enemy' Is Faltering
Apr 13 2:45 PM US/Eastern
By LEE KEATH
Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt

Al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged all Muslims to support insurgents fighting in Iraq "for the dignity of Islam" and said the "enemy has begun to falter,"; according to a video posted Thursday on the Internet.

The video was dated with an Islamic month corresponding to November 2005 _ and al-Zawahri mentions an Oct. 23 earthquake that hit Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it appeared to be the first time the 28-minute video has been made public.

In the footage, al-Zawahri appears sitting, wearing a white turban and a gray robe with a microphone pinned to it. An automatic weapon is leaning against a brown backdrop behind him.

"The Islamic nation must support the heroic mujahedeen (holy warriors) in Iraq, who are fighting on the very front line for the dignity of Islam," al-Zawahri said.

"And to my brother mujahedeen in Iraq, I say, Stay firm. Stay together. Your enemy has begun to falter, so don't stop pursuing him until he flees defeated," he said.

He called on Muslims to support his "beloved brother" Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who heads al-Qaida in Iraq. "I have lived with him up close, and have seen nothing but good from him," al- Zawahri said.

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials declined immediate comment.
[...]
Al-Zawahri _ an Egyptian who is Osama bin Laden's deputy in al-Qaida and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan _ said he was making the video to mark the fourth anniversary of the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora, in which U.S. forces besieged bin Laden and al- Qaida fighters in mountainous caves of Afghanistan.

It was not clear why the video was not released soon after the date it was allegedly filmed. Al-Zawahri has appeared in at least three videotapes filmed since November, all of them aired on the Al-Jazeera news network. Thursday's video was posted on a Web forum used by Islamic militants to issue public statements and videos.

On the tape, he denounced Bush as the "caesar of Washington" and accused him of lying about progress in the war on terror.

"Bush, son of Bush, eliminating Israel is the duty of every believer," al-Zawahri said.

"If we commit to peaceful action, they will demand we adhere to international laws and treaties that mean nothing to them. If we adhere to that, they will ask us to impose constraint on what they call terrorism and war on Israel. Then if we adhere to that, they will demand we recognize Israel and establish normal relations with it," he said.


It's also great that Zawahiri echoes his ideological counterpart, Ahmenadasdfdjad (the President of Iran) when discussing the applicability of international laws and treaties to their strategic goals.

Regards,
ARC:St Wendeler

Thursday, April 13, 2006

On the South Park & the Mohammed Kerfluffle

Jeff Goldstein is on Comedy Central's wussification of South Park.

I didn't see the episode last night, primarily because I'm traveling this week and last night was the night that my butt was stuck in the hotel working until the wee hours of the evening, but I did catch the downloadable trailer from Michelle Malkin.

Volokh has this reaction from Comedy Central execs (who remind me of the NBC execs in the Seinfeld episode where Jerry & Costanza meet to pitch their "show about nothing"):

A spokesman for Comedy Central told NRO: They reflected it accurately. That was a Comedy Central decision.

NRO goes on to say: "Just in case there was any confusion, that settles it. Comedy Central censored the image."

Comedy Central has now released a brief statement: "In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision."

Well, all I have to say is that Matt & Trey (the creators of South Park) have been trying to get kicked off TV and/or censored by the execs since their episode first aired.

After all that they have done, the fact that the one thing that accomplished their goal is the promised display of Mohammed - the very topic which they were parodying in the first place - speaks volumes to our weakness in the face of this historic battle with militant and intolerant Islam.

I'm verklempt... and about to board a plane. Discuss amongst yourselves.....

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Which Trumps: Free Speech or Multiculturalism

Is burning a Mexican flag an act of Free Speech? Or is it a racist and xenophobic act that cannot be tolerated?

City man arrested after Mexican-flag burning
By Brady McCombs
ARIZONA DAILY STAR

A Tucson man was arrested Tuesday for his role in the burning of a Mexican flag as part of a counterprotest at a pro-immigration rally.
At about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Tucson police cited Roy Warden, 58, on suspicion of assault, criminal damage and reckless burning, and then released him, according to Sgt. Decio Hopffer.

Video footage shot Monday by police and the media showed Warden assaulting a TV cameraman and a photographer, Hopffer said. Because only one of the men pressed charges, there is only one assault charge.

Warden faces the criminal-damage charge for harm done to the concrete shuffleboard court where Warden's group was burning the Mexican flag, Hopffer said.

Warden and his group, Border Guardians, arrived at Armory Park just after noon Monday to stage a counterprotest to the 15,000 marchers who were protesting what they see as unfair immigration laws. At about 2:15 p.m, they burned Mexican flags and tempers flared.

Police arrested two girls for throwing water at Warden and his group, and a scuffle broke out as police escorted them away. On Monday, Tucson police arrested six people on charges of aggravated assault on a peace officer, interfering with governmental operation, hindering prosecution and disturbing the peace.

Of course, this story would be better if the idiots hadn't had other charges against them... Because it would've been interesting to see how the whole matter would've been resolved.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Iranian Nukes

So, this story has me worried:

Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says (Update2)

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- Iran, defying United Nations Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.

Iran will move to ``industrial scale'' uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.

``Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.

Rademaker was reacting to a statement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said yesterday the country had succeeded in enriching uranium on a small scale for the first time, using 164 centrifuges. That announcement defies demands by the UN Security Council that Iran shut down its nuclear program this month.

The U.S. fears Iran is pursuing a nuclear program to make weapons, while Iran says it is intent on purely civilian purposes, to provide energy. Saeedi said 54,000 centrifuges will be able to enrich uranium to provide fuel for a 1,000-megawat nuclear power plant similar to the one Russia is finishing in southern Iran, AP reported.

Of course, assuming their 50,000 centrifuge claim is accurate, this means they could a nuclear bomb within 16 days. Let's cut the number by 1/2... 25,000 centrifuges means 32 days.

Of course, even if they had enough material to make a bomb, it would take them some time to create the device, and determine the best way to deliver it. So, let's add on some weeks... or months. We're still talking within the year, right?

Of course, some in the blogosphere see this news as just another election year trick... or, dare I say, just Another Rovian Conspiracy:
Bush administration flunky is now claiming Iran will have a nuke in 16 days. Sort of like how Iraq was supposedly just moments away from launching nuke attacks. Look, I know you guys want badly to win the election this fall, but damn it how many people do you have to kill to keep the Republican majority?

And somehow, we're supposed to think that they're serious about foreign policy and national security?

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Steyn on Iran and the Long Struggle

This is a must read... as usual. As I read it, it just kept getting better with each passing paragraph and I kept expecting him to wrap it up. But he just kept going, without pulling any punches.

City Journal
Facing Down Iran
Our lives depend on it.
Mark Steyn
Spring 2006
[...]
“Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.” Hmm. I’m not a professional mullah, so I can’t speak to the theological soundness of the argument, but it seems a religious school in the Holy City of Qom has ruled that “the use of nuclear weapons may not constitute a problem, according to sharia.” Well, there’s a surprise. How do you solve a problem? Like, sharia! It’s the one-stop shop for justifying all your geopolitical objectives.

The bad cop/worse cop routine the mullahs and their hothead President Ahmadinejad are playing in this period of alleged negotiation over Iran’s nuclear program is the best indication of how all negotiations with Iran will go once they’re ready to fly. This is the nuclear version of the NRA bumper sticker: “Guns Don’t Kill People. People Kill People.” Nukes don’t nuke nations. Nations nuke nations. When the Argentine junta seized British sovereign territory in the Falklands, the generals knew that the United Kingdom was a nuclear power, but they also knew that under no conceivable scenario would Her Majesty’s Government drop the big one on Buenos Aires. The Argie generals were able to assume decency on the part of the enemy, which is a useful thing to be able to do.
[...]
If we’d understood Iran back in 1979, we’d understand better the challenges we face today. Come to that, we might not even be facing them. But, with hindsight, what strikes you about the birth of the Islamic Republic is the near total lack of interest by analysts in that adjective: Islamic. Iran was only the second Islamist state, after Saudi Arabia—and, in selecting as their own qualifying adjective the family name, the House of Saud at least indicated a conventional sense of priorities, as the legions of Saudi princes whoring and gambling in the fleshpots of the West have demonstrated exhaustively. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue—though, as the Royal Family has belatedly discovered vis-à-vis the Islamists, they’re somewhat overdrawn on that front. The difference in Iran is simple: with the mullahs, there are no London escort agencies on retainer to supply blondes only. When they say “Islamic Republic,” they mean it. And refusing to take their words at face value has bedeviled Western strategists for three decades.
[...]
For this to be a mortal struggle, as the cold war was, the question is: Are they a credible enemy to us?

For a projection of the likely outcome, the question is: Are we a credible enemy to them?

Four years into the “war on terror,” the Bush administration has begun promoting a new formulation: “the long war.” Not a reassuring name. In a short war, put your money on tanks and bombs—our strengths. In a long war, the better bet is will and manpower—their strengths, and our great weakness. Even a loser can win when he’s up against a defeatist. A big chunk of Western civilization, consciously or otherwise, has given the impression that it’s dying to surrender to somebody, anybody. Reasonably enough, Islam figures: Hey, why not us? If you add to the advantages of will and manpower a nuclear capability, the odds shift dramatically.
[...]
Anyone who spends half an hour looking at Iranian foreign policy over the last 27 years sees five things:

1. contempt for the most basic international conventions;
2. long-reach extraterritoriality;
3. effective promotion of radical Pan-Islamism;
4. a willingness to go the extra mile for Jew-killing (unlike, say, Osama);
5. an all-but-total synchronization between rhetoric and action.

Yet the Europeans remain in denial. Iran was supposedly the Middle Eastern state they could work with. And the chancellors and foreign ministers jetted in to court the mullahs so assiduously that they’re reluctant to give up on the strategy just because a relatively peripheral figure like the, er, head of state is sounding off about Armageddon.

Instead, Western analysts tend to go all Kremlinological. There are, after all, many factions within Iran’s ruling class. What the country’s quick-on-the-nuke president says may not be the final word on the regime’s position. Likewise, what the school of nuclear theologians in Qom says. Likewise, what former president Khatami says. Likewise, what Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, says.

But, given that they’re all in favor of the country having nukes, the point seems somewhat moot. The question then arises, what do they want them for?

By way of illustration, consider the country’s last presidential election. The final round offered a choice between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an alumnus of the U.S. Embassy siege a quarter-century ago, and Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of the Expediency Council, which sounds like an EU foreign policy agency but is, in fact, the body that arbitrates between Iran’s political and religious leaderships. Ahmadinejad is a notorious shoot-from-the-lip apocalyptic hothead who believes in the return of the Twelfth (hidden) Imam and quite possibly that he personally is his designated deputy, and he’s also claimed that when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly last year a mystical halo appeared and bathed him in its aura. Ayatollah Rafsanjani, on the other hand, is one of those famous “moderates.”

What’s the difference between a hothead and a moderate? Well, the extremist Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” while the moderate Rafsanjani has declared that Israel is “the most hideous occurrence in history,” which the Muslim world “will vomit out from its midst” in one blast, because “a single atomic bomb has the power to completely destroy Israel, while an Israeli counter-strike can only cause partial damage to the Islamic world.” Evidently wiping Israel off the map seems to be one of those rare points of bipartisan consensus in Tehran, the Iranian equivalent of a prescription drug plan for seniors: we’re just arguing over the details.

So the question is: Will they do it?

And the minute you have to ask, you know the answer. If, say, Norway or Ireland acquired nuclear weapons, we might regret the “proliferation,” but we wouldn’t have to contemplate mushroom clouds over neighboring states. In that sense, the civilized world has already lost: to enter into negotiations with a jurisdiction headed by a Holocaust-denying millenarian nut job is, in itself, an act of profound weakness—the first concession, regardless of what weaselly settlement might eventually emerge.

Read the whole thing...


Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Hitch on Niger and Lyin' Joe Wilson

Christopher Hitchens has this excellent article in Slate which seeks to refute some of the atrocious reporting on the Wilson/Niger/Uranium story:

Wowie Zahawie
Sorry everyone, but Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, April 10, 2006, at 4:43 PM ET

In the late 1980s, the Iraqi representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency—Iraq's senior public envoy for nuclear matters, in effect—was a man named Wissam al-Zahawie. After the Kuwait war in 1991, when Rolf Ekeus arrived in Baghdad to begin the inspection and disarmament work of UNSCOM, he was greeted by Zahawie, who told him in a bitter manner that "now that you have come to take away our assets," the two men could no longer be friends. (They had known each other in earlier incarnations at the United Nations in New York.)

At a later 1995 U.N. special session on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Zahawie was the Iraqi delegate and spoke heatedly about the urgent need to counterbalance Israel's nuclear capacity. At the time, most democratic countries did not have full diplomatic relations with Saddam's regime, and there were few fully accredited Iraqi ambassadors overseas, Iraq's interests often being represented by the genocidal Islamist government of Sudan (incidentally, yet another example of collusion between "secular" Baathists and the fundamentalists who were sheltering Osama Bin Laden).
[...]
In February 1999, Zahawie left his Vatican office for a few days and paid an official visit to Niger, a country known for absolutely nothing except its vast deposits of uranium ore. It was from Niger that Iraq had originally acquired uranium in 1981, as confirmed in the Duelfer Report. In order to take the Joseph Wilson view of this Baathist ambassadorial initiative, you have to be able to believe that Saddam Hussein's long-term main man on nuclear issues was in Niger to talk about something other than the obvious. Italian intelligence (which first noticed the Zahawie trip from Rome) found it difficult to take this view and alerted French intelligence (which has better contacts in West Africa and a stronger interest in nuclear questions). In due time, the French tipped off the British, who in their cousinly way conveyed the suggestive information to Washington. As everyone now knows, the disclosure appeared in watered-down and secondhand form in the president's State of the Union address in January 2003.

If the above was all that was known, it would surely be universally agreed that no responsible American administration could have overlooked such an amazingly sinister pattern. Given the past Iraqi record of surreptitious dealing, cheating of inspectors, concealment of sites and caches, and declared ambition to equip the technicians referred to openly in the Baathist press as "nuclear mujahideen," one could scarcely operate on the presumption of innocence.

However, the waters have since become muddied, to say the least. For a start, someone produced a fake document, dated July 6, 2000, which purports to show Zahawie's signature and diplomatic seal on an actual agreement for an Iraqi uranium transaction with Niger. Almost everything was wrong with this crude forgery—it had important dates scrambled, and it misstated the offices of Niger politicians. In consequence, IAEA Chairman Mohammed ElBaradei later reported to the U.N. Security Council that the papers alleging an Iraq-Niger uranium connection had been demonstrated to be fraudulent.

But this doesn't alter the plain set of established facts in my first three paragraphs above. The European intelligence services, and the Bush administration, only ever asserted that the Iraqi regime had apparently tried to open (or rather, reopen) a yellowcake trade "in Africa." It has never been claimed that an agreement was actually reached. What motive could there be for a forgery that could be instantly detected upon cursory examination?

There seem to be only three possibilities here. Either a) American intelligence concocted the note; b) someone in Italy did so in the hope of gain; or c) it was the product of disinformation, intended to protect Niger and discredit any attention paid to the actual, real-time Zahawie visit. The CIA is certainly incompetent enough to have fouled up this badly. (I like Edward Luttwak's formulation in the March 22 Times Literary Supplement, where he writes that "there have been only two kinds of CIA secret operations: the ones that are widely known to have failed—usually because of almost unbelievably crude errors—and the ones that are not yet widely known to have failed.") Still, it almost passes belief that any American agency would fake a document that purportedly proved far more than the administration had asked and then get every important name and date wrapped round the axle. Forgery for gain is easy to understand, especially when it is borne in mind that nobody wastes time counterfeiting a bankrupt currency. Forgery for disinformation, if that is what it was, appears at least to have worked. Almost everybody in the world now affects to believe that Saddam Hussein was framed on the Niger rap.

According to the London Sunday Times of April 9, the truth appears to be some combination of b) and c). A NATO investigation has identified two named employees of the Niger Embassy in Rome who, having sold a genuine document about Zahawie to Italian and French intelligence agents, then added a forged paper in the hope of turning a further profit. The real stuff went by one route to Washington, and the fakery, via an Italian journalist and the U.S. Embassy in Rome, by another. The upshot was—follow me closely here—that a phony paper alleging a deal was used to shoot down a genuine document suggesting a connection.

Zahawie's name and IAEA connection were never mentioned by ElBaradei in his report to the United Nations, and his past career has never surfaced in print. Looking up the press of the time causes one's jaw to slump in sheer astonishment. Here, typically, is a Time magazine "exclusive" about Zahawie, written by Hassan Fattah on Oct. 1, 2003:
The veteran diplomat has spent the eight months since President Bush's speech trying to set the record straight and clear his name. In a rare interview with Time, al-Zahawie outlined how forgery and circumstantial evidence was used to talk up Iraq's nuclear weapons threat, and leave him holding the smoking gun.

A few paragraphs later appear, the wonderful and unchallenged words from Zahawie: "Frankly, I didn't know that Niger produced uranium at all." Well, sorry for the inconvenience of the questions, then, my old IAEA and NPT "veteran" (whose nuclear qualifications go unmentioned in the Time article). Instead, we are told that Zahawie visited Niger and other West African countries to encourage them to break the embargo on flights to Baghdad, as they had broken the sanctions on Qaddafi's Libya. A bit of a lowly mission, one might think, for one of the Iraqi regime's most senior and specialized envoys.

The Duelfer Report also cites "a second contact between Iraq and Niger," which occurred in 2001, when a Niger minister visited Baghdad "to request assistance in obtaining petroleum products to alleviate Niger's economic problems." According to the deposition of Ja'far Diya' Ja'far (the head of Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear weapons program), these negotiations involved no offer of uranium ore but only "cash in exchange for petroleum." West Africa is awash in petroleum, and Niger is poor in cash. Iraq in 2001 was cash-rich through the oil-for-food racket, but you may if you wish choose to believe that a near-bankrupt African delegation from a uranium-based country traveled across a continent and a half with nothing on its mind but shopping for oil.

Interagency feuding has ruined the Bush administration's capacity to make its case in public, and a high-level preference for deniable leaking has further compounded the problem. But please read my first three paragraphs again and tell me if the original story still seems innocuous to you.

And it's the interagency feuding which has been the source of most of the problems for the Bush administration. From the undermining of the case for war by the CIA bureaucracy to the State department's wrestling control from DOD in post-war Iraq...

Meanwhile, Joe Wilson's on Tim Russert saying that the word "uranium" never came up at the meeting between Iraq & Niger (according to secondhand sources). And Russert doesn't bother to ask the all important follow-up question: "Well, what was the purpose of the meeting between Iraq & Niger?"

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Profiles in (French) "Courage"

Well, it's become quite clear that the French are living up to their stereotype as being cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys. When the Muslim youth rioted last fall, Chirac was quick to offer as much welfare assistance as he could, hoping that the problem would just go away.

Now, with a sensible (and in my opinion too modest) proposal to give employers the ability to make hiring & firing decisions within the first two yeas of employment for youth under 26, the French youth has rioted again. Which we noted here.

Friday's St Louis Post-Dispatch had this good article on the subject and the economic ramifications of not doing anything. (Kudos to the P-D for standing up for capitalism!)

A bas le capitalisme!
Friday, Apr. 07 2006

Nearly a quarter of France's young people are out of work. Yet millions of them took to the streets this month to protest a new law that might actually produce jobs for them.

The French, it seems, would rather not work at all than work like Americans. Or Chinese, or Poles, or Mexicans for that matter.

During the protests, strikers snarled transit. Perhaps 3 million people were out chanting and sign-waving. A minority turned to rock-throwing, and 500 policemen were injured.
[...]
Most French workers enjoy something close to lifetime job security -- a fast-disappearing anachronism in today's global economy. Once hired for most jobs, it's next to impossible to get fired. If they are let go, booted workers can appeal to the government for reinstatement. Companies must give three months' notice of layoffs, pay fines and provide severance benefits for up to three years.

So, faced with the high cost of firing people, French employers are reluctant to hire. A hiring mistake could hang around smoking Gauloises and gossiping in the hallway for 40 years.
Thus the French unemployment rate of nearly 10 percent, double that in the United States. For French young people who haven't yet elbowed their way onto the job gravy train, unemployment is 24 percent, compared to 11 percent among young Americans aged 16 to 24. For restive minority youth in France, mainly those of Arab descent, the joblessness rate is close to a whopping 50 percent.

A hog-tied labor market is one reason, among several, that economic growth in France and Germany has lagged America's for years.

Along came Mr. de Villepin with a modest proposal: Employers would be free to fire workers under the age of 26 during their first two years on the job. Given that freedom, employers might actually hire some young French people, instead of moving jobs to Eastern Europe and Asia.

[...]Out into the streets came youth by the millions, denouncing the Anglo-Americanization of France.

There's no danger of that. If America suffered a 10 percent unemployment rate, voters would throw out the government. In France, they want to throw out the fellow trying to bring down unemployment.

The pressures of globalization -- with goods and services available from everywhere -- make French job security obsolete. To meet global competition, countries need flexible labor markets. Eventually, the French will be compelled to work like Americans, or fewer French will work at all.

And Chirac's response?

To cave and offer more taxpayer money to subsidize the inefficient labor market...
France to replace youth job law
French President Jacques Chirac has announced that the new youth employment law that sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests will be scrapped.

He said it would be replaced by other measures to tackle youth unemployment.

Millions of students and union members have taken to the streets over the last month in protest against the law, which made it easier to fire young workers.

Union and student leaders said it was a "great victory" but it is not clear if protests set for Tuesday are still on.
[Well, that's good to know that they've received the right message... if you don't like something, riot.]

[...]
The new package of measures includes offering state support for employers hiring young people who face the most difficulties in gaining access to the labour market.

Well, if they can't even stand up to ruffians in the streets over a simple proposal like this, it's pretty clear that Europe is doomed, save for a few outposts of liberal economic policies, such as the UK.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Monday, April 10, 2006

Removing all doubt

One of the problems the left has is that they have the idiots in the Hollywood Left spouting off nonsense. The latest is excerpted thanks to Newsbusters.

Bill Sammon, Washington Examiner: “A lot of critics are conflating the two and are saying that because Bush disclosed this piece of information, they're implying that Bush leaked the name.”

Ben Affleck: “He probably also leaked the name. There's just no proof of that.”

Sammon: “Even the prosecutor, even Fitzgerald is saying Bush didn't leak the name. So let's be clear, Bush didn't leak Valerie Plame's name -- not that we know of.”

Affleck: “Because if he did, you can be hung for that! That's treason!”

Bill Maher: “That is treason.”

Affleck: “You could be killed. That's not a joking around Tom DeLay 'I'll do a year, I bribed the state officials with corporate money.' That's like they shoot you in the battlefield for doing that. Don't you think we should find out who leaked that name?”

Come on, Affleck. You obviously have only been reading the New York Times. First of all, Plame wasn't outed by anyone (with the exception of perhaps her husband through David Corn of the Nation and previous to that, Aldrich Ames). Second of all she couldn't have been outed. She wasn't a covert agent. It's one of the things that Fitzie won't provide to the defense. Trust me if she had been covert, he'd be chomping at the bit to provide that in trial.


Second if he's going to accuse someone of treason, least of all the President of the United States, he'll need to provide more evidence than bloviating on Bill Maher. Do some research. Start with the Senate committe that looked into Wilson's Niger allegations and found them to be the hogwash they are.

The whole Plame mess is an attempt by Wilson to put his detractors on the defensive.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian

Consultants are behind the decline of (Democratic Party) politics

Saw this great article in Time from Joe Klein. I'm not sure that Joe intended it to be humorous, but it is... here's a snippet:

Sunday, Apr. 09, 2006
Pssst! Who's behind the decline of politics? [Consultants.]

On the evening of april 4, 1968, about an hour after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy responded with a powerfully simple speech, which he delivered spontaneously in a black neighborhood of Indianapolis. Nearly 40 years later, Kennedy's words stand as an example of the substance and music of politics in its grandest form and highest purpose—to heal, to educate, to lead. Sadly, his speech also marked the end of an era: the last moments before American public life was overwhelmed by marketing professionals, consultants and pollsters who, with the flaccid acquiescence of the politicians, have robbed public life of much of its romance and vigor.

Kennedy, who was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, had a dangerous job that night. His audience was unaware of King's assassination. He had no police or Secret Service protection. His aides were worried that the crowd would explode as soon as it learned the news; there were already reports of riots in other cities. His speechwriters Adam Walinsky and Frank Mankiewicz had drafted remarks for the occasion, but Kennedy rejected them. He had scribbled a few notes of his own. "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, rather formally, respectfully. "I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening because I have some very sad news ..." His voice caught, and he turned it into a slight cough, a throat clearing, "and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee."
[...]
Listen to Kennedy's Indianapolis speech on Time.com and there is a quality of respect for the audience that simply is not present in modern American politics. It isn't merely that he quotes Aeschylus to the destitute and uneducated, although that is remarkable enough. Kennedy's respect for the crowd is not only innate and scrupulous, it is also structural, born of technological innocence: he doesn't know who they are--not scientifically, the way post-modern politicians do. The audience hasn't been sliced and diced by his pollsters, their prejudices and policy priorities cross-tabbed, their favorite words discovered by carefully targeted focus groups. He hasn't been told what not to say to them: Aeschylus would never survive a focus group. Kennedy knows certain things, to be sure: they are poor, they are black, they are aggrieved and quite possibly furious. But he doesn't know too much. He is therefore less constrained than sub, sequent generations of politicians, freer to share his extravagant humanity with them.

It is true that in an error where so much is scripted and poll tested, extemperaneous remarks such as Bobby Kennedy's seem strange. Joel continues:
In early 2003, I had dinner with several of the consultants who advised Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign. I asked them why Gore, a passionate environmentalist, had spent so little time and energy talking about the environment during the campaign. Because we told him not to, the consultants said. Why? I asked. Because it wasn't going to help him win. "He wanted to talk about the environment," said Tad Devine, a partner in the firm of Shrum, Devine & Donilon, "and I said to him, 'Look, you can do that, but you're not going to win a single electoral vote more than you now have. If you want to win Michigan and western Pennsylvania, here are the issues that really matter—this is what you should talk about.'"

Gore won Michigan and Pennsylvania, but he lost an election he should have won, and he lost it on intangibles. He lost it because he seemed stiff, phony and uncomfortable in public. The stiffness was, in effect, a campaign strategy: just about every last word he uttered—even the things he said in the debates with George W. Bush—had been market-tested in advance. I asked Devine if he'd ever considered the possibility that Gore might have been a warmer, more credible and inspiring candidate if he'd talked about the things he really wanted to talk about, like the environment. "That's an interesting thought," Devine said.

But apparently not as interesting as all that: Devine, Bob Shrum and Mike Donilon fitted Senator John Kerry for a similar straitjacket in the 2004 campaign. In some ways, the Kerry campaign was even worse. After all, the Senator was a student of politics. He had spent his entire life hankering for the presidency. And then he proceeded to make precisely the same mistake as Gore, allowing himself to be smothered by his consultants. Perhaps the worst moment came with the Bush Administration torture scandal: How to respond to Abu Ghraib? Hold a focus group. But the civilians who volunteered for an Arkansas focus group were conflicted; ultimately, they believed the Bush Administration should do whatever was necessary to extract information from the "terrorists." The consultants were unanimous in their recommendation to the candidate: Don't talk about it. Kerry had entered American politics in the early 1970s, protesting the Vietnam War, including the atrocities committed by his fellow soldiers in Vietnam. But he followed his consultants' advice, never once mentioning Abu Ghraib—or the Justice Department memo that "broadened" accepted interrogation techniques—in his acceptance speech or, remarkably, in his three debates with Bush.

"We're going to meet the voters where they are," Shrum had told me early in the Kerry campaign, which sounded innocent enough—but what he really meant was, We're going to follow our polling numbers and focus groups. We're going to emphasize the things that voters think are important.

Now, this isn't news to anyone who's been awake long enough to witness a Democratic campaign. Every word is poll-tested and the result of numerous focus groups. It's just the way things are for the Dems... the lack the courage of their convictions and will devise a stance based on what 12 people in a room tell them they want.

But is this also the case for the GOP? Joel's lead seems to indicate that consultants are the cause of the demise of politics, so one would assume that this applies to both parties. Well, apparently not - at least not to the degree that you see in the Democratic Party:
In Austin, Texas, the political consultant Mark McKinnon watched the Gore and Kerry campaigns from a unique perspective. He had spent his life as a Democrat and now he was working, as a matter of personal loyalty, for his friend George W. Bush. Very much to his surprise—and to his wife's horror—McKinnon was in the midst of a conversion experience, not so much to the Republican philosophy but to the Republican way of doing campaigns. It was so much simpler. Maybe it was because Republicans were more businesslike and saw their consultants as employees, rather than saviors (and paid them accordingly—with a flat fee, rather than a percentage of the advertising buy). Maybe it was just the way Bush and Karl Rove went about the practice of politics. But this was, without a doubt, the tidiest political operation he'd ever seen. There was none of the back biting, staff shake-ups or power struggles that were a constant plague upon Democratic campaigns. There was little of the hand wringing about whether the shading of a position would offend the party's interest groups. Issues, in fact, seemed less important than they did in any given Democratic campaign. And McKinnon had come to a slightly guilty realization: maybe that was a good thing. Rove's assumption was that voters had three basic questions about a candidate: Is he a strong leader? Can I trust him? Does he care about people like me?

Politics was all about getting the public to answer yes to those three questions. Of course, an integral part of the job was aggressively—often stealthily and sometimes disgracefully—painting the opposition as weak, untrustworthy and effete. McKinnon was amazed the Democrats had never quite figured this out. In fact, they had it backward: the character of their candidate, they believed, would be inferred from the quality of his policies. But in the television era, fleeting impressions mattered far more than cogent policies. Presidential politics had been reduced to a handful of moments and gestures. In fact, the 2004 campaign came down to two sentences. Kerry: "I actually voted for the $87 billion [to fund Iraq] before I voted against it."

Bush: "You may not always agree with me, but you'll always know where I stand."

Presidential campaigns are, inevitably, about character. In 2004, at a moment of real national consequence for the United States, character was expressed in the most limited, nonpositive way imaginable: I know you don't agree with me—in fact, most polls showed the public thought that Bush had taken the country in the wrong direction—but at least I'm telling some version of the truth as I sort of see it. Oh, and by the way, you can't trust a thing the other guy is saying. This was the clinching argument at a time of war in the world's oldest and grandest democracy.

This just highlights that the Dems have no core convictions and, given the various interest groups which make up their coalition (groups that are organized and often have diametrically opposed positions on the issues), each and every position taken must be poll tested and reviewed by a focus group. Because, if you slip up extemperaneously in a discussion on environmental policy you could lose the Greens AND the Unions. And when each groups' leadership decides to withdraw that organization's support, you're done for.
Finally, Joel gives us a description of his ideal candidate:
Consultants are unavoidable, given the complexity of modern communications. But I have a vague hope that the most talented politicians now realize that the public has come to understand what market-tested language sounds like, and that there is a demand for leadership, as opposed to the regurgitation of carefully massaged nostrums. To be sure, the old tricks—the negative ads, the insipid photo ops—still work, but only in the absence of an alternative. What might that be?

I hate predictions. Most pundits, like most pollsters, get their information by looking in the rearview mirror. But let me give 2008 a try. The winner will be the candidate who comes closest to this model: a politician who refuses to be a "performer," at least in the current sense. Who speaks but doesn't orate. Who never holds a press conference on or in front of an aircraft carrier. Who doesn't assume the public is stupid or uncaring. Who believes in at least one major idea, or program, that has less than 40% support in the polls. Who can tell a joke—at his or her own expense, if possible. Who gets angry, within reason; gets weepy, within reason ... but only if those emotions are real and rare. Who isn't averse to kicking his or her opponent in the shins but does it gently and cleverly. Who radiates good sense, common decency and calm. Who is not afraid to deliver bad news. Who is not afraid to admit a mistake. And who, above all, abides by the motto that graced Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Oval Office: let unconquerable gladness dwell.

Now, the preceding paragraph describes George W. Bush exactly, but for a few items. Let's review:
  1. Refuses to be a "performer" - Check
  2. Speaks but doesn't orate - Check... Bush could use a bit more oratory skills
  3. Press conference on aircraft carrier - woops violated that... but at least the cause was the end of major combat ops in a #$%$ing war, not some launching of a presidential campaign (ahem).
  4. Believes in a major idea that polls below 40%. I seem to recall Social Security as being the 3rd rail in American politics. And what are the poll numbers on illegal immigration again?
  5. Tells jokes as his own expense? Check - Almost every presser or speech
  6. Gets angry - check (Helen Thomas will fill you in, Joe
  7. weepy? Yes, I remember a presser in the Oval just after 9/11... and yes, they were real emotions
  8. Kicking the opponent in the shins, gently & cleverly? Well, that's a fine distinction, isn't it? Who's to judge? The Leftist press?
  9. Good sense, common decency, and calm - check
  10. Not afraid to deliver bad news - check
  11. Not afraid to admit a mistake - half-check... If the opposition party & their allies in the media weren't such ankle biting sissies, he'd probably admit more mistakes than he has.
Well, Joe... it looks like you're suggesting that we get another Bush-style Presidency for 2008?

Great recommendation. For some reason, I don't think that's what Joe had in mind. One of the items on his wish list that he left off was a "D" behind their name. It seems that for Joe, consultants ruining the Democratic Party (but not having the same impact on the GOP) results in the decline of politics - because only Democratic politics matters to him.

Regards,
ARC: St Wendeler

Presidential "Leaks"?

The "big news" last week was that the president "leaked" classified information via Scooter Libby.

Joe Wilson (no relation, thank God), penned an article for the New York Times. The article, in part, dealt with the yellow cake uranium issue mentioned in the State of the Union in 2003. Wilson asserted that what the president said was false. The vice president's office was aware of classified information that contradicted what Wilson said.

Rallying public support for the war in Iraq is part of the president's job. What Wilson did was detrimental to the war effort. The vice president counseled that some of that classified information should be made public in order that the nation would have a more complete picture of the facts than was presented by Wilson.

What remains classified is clearly in the president's authority to decide, he is the commander in chief. Someone needs to make that decision. When the vice president took the matter to the West Wing, the president authorized its release in order that the public have a more complete picture of what had happened.

Was it more important that the information remain classified or was it more important that the public know? A cost/benefit analysis is made, probably rather quickly in this case as it appears no sources were at risk

It seems that whenever the administration takes any steps to protect itself or the country from attack or to correct misinformation, the first reaction on the part of the media and other administration foes is to look for some impure motive, corrupt purpose or illegality. Such was the case last week. While the issue will fade away, mainly because nothing wrong was done, another cut of the thousands of cuts thus inflicted over the last three years or so will remain.

A fine lawyer from Massachusetts once asked Senator Joe McCarthy, "Have you no shame?" I think the same can be asked of much of the main stream media and many in Congress. They seem to be willing to say and do anything for no better purpose than to inflict yet another cut on this president.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: MontereyJohn